Oriental Medicine, also referred to as Traditional Chinese Medicine, is one of the oldest continuous systems of medicine in history, with recorded instances dating as far back as two thousand years before the birth of Christ.
Oriental Medicine is quite complex and can be difficult to understand, especially for Westerners. This is because Oriental Medicine is based, at least in part, on the Daoist belief that we live in a universe in which everything is interconnected. What happens to one part of the body affects every other part of the body. The mind and body are not viewed separately, but as part of an energetic system. Similarly, organs and organ systems are viewed as interconnected structures that work together to keep the body functioning.
Many of the concepts emphasized in Oriental Medicine have no true counterpart in Western Medicine. One of these concepts is qi (pronounced "chi"), which is considered a vital force or energy responsible for controlling the workings of the human mind and body. Qi flows through the body via channels, or pathways, which are called meridians. There are a total of 20 meridians: 12 primary meridians, which correspond to specific organs, organ systems or functions, and eight secondary meridians. Imbalances in the flow of qi cause illness; correction of this flow restores the body to balance.
Many people often equate the practice of acupuncture with the practice of Oriental Medicine. This is not entirely true. While acupuncture is the most often practiced component of Oriental Medicine, it is simply that – a component, an important piece of a much larger puzzle. Oriental Medicine encompasses several methods designed to help patients achieve and maintain health. Along with acupuncture, Oriental Medicine incorporates adjunctive techniques such as acupressure and moxibustion; manipulative and massage techniques such as tuina and gua sha; herbal medicine; diet and lifestyle changes; meditation; and exercise (often in the form of qigong or tai chi).
Although the principles of Oriental Medicine may be difficult for some to comprehend, there is little doubt of it's effectiveness. Several studies have reported on Oriental Medicine's success in treating a wide range of conditions, from nausea and vomiting to skin disorders, tennis elbow and back pain. More Americans are also using acupuncture, herbal remedies and other components of Oriental Medicine than ever before. The reasons for this vary, but the increasing interest in, and use of, Oriental Medicine is due in large part to its effectiveness, affordability and lack of adverse side-effects.