Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is, as the name suggests, the ancient healing system of China.  It is complex, and encompasses a variety of practices, including acupuncture, tai chi, and its own system of herbalism.  Like Ayurveda, it is rooted the concept of balance, both balance of “yin” and “yang” (which translate roughly to something like our “feminine” and “masculine,” but with broader application), and a balance and constant cycling of five elements.

The Five Elements of Chinese Medicine are earth, wood, fire, water, and metal.  Each of these is associated with particular organ systems, seasons, times of day, colors, flavors, etc.  TCM World has a fuller explanation of the Five Elements here.

It is also TCM that offers us the meridian system used in acupuncture.  This is a system of invisible energy pathways believed to run throughout the body, similar in structure to the network of cardiovascular or lymphatic vessels.

Traditional Chinese Medicine developed alongside Taoism, and the two are often intertwined, but some aspects of TCM can potentially be employed separately from Taoist religious belief.  Chinese herbalism typically relies on a completely different set of herbs from those used in Western herbalism, and we may benefit from rediscovering some of those herbs and their uses.


American Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine
National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine