Traditional Chinese Medicine

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is built on a foundation of more than 2,500 years of Chinese medical practise that includes integrated forms of herbal medicine, acupressure, acupuncture, massage, exercise and dietary therapy. More recently it is also influenced by modern western medicine. TCM is the standard form of medicine in Asia and can help with all health-related problems and life-style choices. In the West it may more frequently be practised as individual therapies.

The doctrines of Chinese medicine are rooted in books such as the Yellow Emperor's Inner Classic of Internal Medicine probably written between 300 and 100BC. The treatment modalities within TCM were related to the geographical regions of China. So, for example, in the south where it was warmer, plants thrived making herbal remedies readily available. The coldness of the north fostered moxibustion, which is the burning of mugwort on acupuncture points. In the east where the diet was based on fish and salt, stomach ulcers were a problem. This condition responded well to acupuncture treatment. In the centre of China, many physical techniques, such as massage, breathing and exercises evolved. After the Opium war of ca 1840, western biomedicine introduced science and technology to China and the traditional medical modalities were marginalised. But since the formation of the People’s Republic of China in 1949 Chinese medicine has been actively encouraged and modernised.

Read more about: Chinese Medicine - A different paradigm

Main principles

The basic concepts of TCM state that all health problems are attributed to or involve:

1) imbalances in yin and yang

2) disharmony between the internal organs and

3) blockages to the circulation of Chi through the meridians.

One of the basic tenets is that the Chi of the universe circulates in the human body through 12 channels, called meridians, which have branches connecting the different levels of the internal organs to the skin and with the environment. The dynamic balance of Chi which is central to TCM in all its modalities can be expressed by the concepts of Yin and Yang, and disharmony in the body is recognised in patterns characterised by heat, movement, activity and excess (Yang) and by cold, sluggishness, inactivity and deficiency (Yin).  The observation is that disease arises when there is deficiency, excess or obstruction of the Chi within the organs or in the meridians. TCM diagnosis aims to trace symptoms to patterns of an underlying disharmony by measuring the pulse, inspecting the tongue, skin and eyes as well as looking at the eating and sleeping habits of the person.  A state of health can be re-established by enabling the free-flowing of Chi achieved by exercise regimes such as Tai Chi or by massage or needling as in acupuncture and also by clearing using meditation techniques.  A further refinement of Yin and Yang is the theory of the Five Phases (commonly mistranslated as the Five Elements) which is a system of correspondences and patterns which, for example, can be used to describe the annual cycle in terms of biological growth and development. This theory was expanded to include the organs, meridians, emotions, seasons and climates linked to the five elements of Fire, Earth, Metal, Wood and Water in a dynamic cycle, e.g. Fire : Heart / Small intestine, joy, summer, heat.  


As TCM is the standard form of medicine in Asia it can help with all health-related problems and life-style choices.


The main professional body in the UK is the Association of Traditional Chinese Medicine


State of health can be re-established by the free-flowing of Chi achieved by exercise regimes such as Tai Chi or by massage.