Understanding Traditional Chinese Medicine

Q: Welcome, Dr. Liz!
A: Thank you! I’m excited to share with you.

Q: Tell us about Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)?
A: TCM is an abbreviation for Traditional Chinese Medicine. TCM is a growing healthcare practice in the United States and around the world. It is used to help people heal from many diseases. The World Health Organization has now mandated that people who have extensive knowledge and who are licensed in TCM practice are known as physicians. Whereas they are able to effectively treat many diseases more effectively than biomedicine. It has been determined by the W.H.O. that best practices must include both biomedicine and TCM.

Q: What does TCM practice include?
A: TCM practice includes the use of many modalities of healing including but not limited to acupuncture, physical therapy (tui na), medications, herbs, gua sha, cupping, medical qi gong and more. To become a TCM doctor or practitioner in the United States, one must have a solid understanding of not only Chinese Medicine but also Western medicine.

Q: Interesting ... Is a TCM doctor the same as an acupuncturist?
A: No. A TCM doctor has a higher level of training including herbology and biomedicine. A TCM doctor must attend school for typically 10-11 years of training. This includes 4 years of undergraduate college, 4 years of Medical school, 2-3 years of post medical school specialty training. Not any less intense than regular medical school.

Q: I see! That's a lot of study!
A: Indeed it is.

Q: What is the difference between Folk Remedy vs. TCM herbs?
A: Great question! The primary difference between a Folk Remedy vs. TCM is that a Folk Remedy often uses one herb or one food to treat an ailment. In TCM, many herbs are combined to effectively treat the individual.

Q: Can you give me an example?
A: Yes. An example would be if a patient has pneumonia. An example of a folk remedy would be to boil red onions, limes and add honey, cool slightly, then drink. Whereas TCM would offer a variety of 34 different base formulas varying from Chai Hu Gui Zhi Gan Jiang Tang that can treat anything from bronchitis, pneumonia, influenza, hepatitis, cholecystitis to the common cold to Wei Jing Tang that will treat asthmatic issues, pertussis and pneumonia. How do you know which one? TCM takes into consideration the individual's constitution.

Q: What is a constitution?
A: A constitution is your nature. An example would be that some people run 'hot" vs. "cold". Meaning some people tend to feel warm more. They prefer cold water to drink, and to be indoors in the summer time to enjoy cool air. Others may have cold limbs. These people likely prefer the warm weather and war drinks. If both of these diverse type consitutions had pneumonia, each individual would need to be treated differently to effectively get results do to the difference in their constitutions.

Q: I can understand that. It is complicated. I can see now that there is a lot involved, and that TCM can be a very effective personalized solution to healthcare. Would you give us one more example please of Folk vs. TCM?
A: Yes. Turmeric.

Q: What do you mean by Turmeric?
A: Turmeric is good for you in the sense that it will benefit your circulation. It is a warm to hot herb. If you have a cold constitution turmeric will help your circulation and may well be a favorable choice. If you have a warm or hot constitution, too much turmeric will dry you out. This would not be good as our body needs blood and body fluids to stay healthy.

Q: Thanks Dr. Liz! Thank you for explaining the difference between folk medicine vs. TCM. I now understand that although both can be useful, TCM is a far more sophisticated solution to sustainable treatment of disease.

About Dr. Liz Perry
Dr. Liz is a primary care provider with a Doctor of Oriental Medicine and a Master’s degree in Business Management from Harvard University. For over 22 years, Dr. Liz has worked as an international healthcare consultant, has traveled the world, and has written hundreds of published articles as a health journalist.

Liz Perry