How Traditional Chinese Medicine Can Help You Stay Healthy

Today we have a post from our guest blogger, Seneca Dewbre, DAOM, LA.c, holds a master’s degree in acupuncture and oriental medicine and is currently completing her doctoral specialization in gynecology. Additionally, she is certified by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine and licensed by the Texas Medical Board. Oklahoma does not currently have licensing certification for acupuncturists. She has experience in private practice as well as in hospital outpatient services and has 3,700 hours of clinical training. Seneca offers acupuncture treatment at INTEGRIS Troy and Dollie Smith Wellness Center.

Hello everyone. I am Seneca.

We talk a lot about integrative medicine here on the On Your Health blog. But just what is this? A little reminder : Integrative medicine combines modern western medicine with established alternative therapies from around the world. By linking modern medicine with the ancient practices of other healing traditions, integrative medicine seeks to maintain a person’s health holistically and harness the body’s natural resistance to disease. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a set of practices related to integrative medicine.

What exactly is Chinese medicine? This is a question I get asked quite often. Usually the first thing people think of when considering Chinese medicine is acupuncture. But TCM is a complete health care system that includes acupuncture, but is not limited to it.

To put it simply, TCM is a way of looking at ourselves and our world that sees everything as a whole and considers everything in context. It is a set of ancient practices (established over 4,000 years ago) originating in China. TCM operates on the belief that all processes in the human body are interdependent and treats the body as a complete system. TCM aims to help the body achieve balance.

TCM practitioners look at the underlying imbalances behind an illness and look at the big picture to treat the patient, instead of just looking at the illness. TCM also believes that the body has an innate ability to heal itself. For example, acupuncture alerts the body’s nervous system and stimulates the body to release its own natural painkillers and endorphins.

The TCM perspective applies to everything that affects our health and well-being – from our diet, exercise and stress management to how we interact with our family, friends and environment. TCM not only identifies and treats disease and prevents disease, but, equally important, optimizes health, well-being and sustainability in our lives and in the world.

TCM has always been an important component of healthcare in China, but in recent decades it has also gained popularity in the Western world. Today, TCM practices are found in many health centers and scientific studies have shown promising health benefits.

TCM practices include

  • Acupuncture
  • suction cups, a practice an acupuncturist can use in conjunction with acupuncture to aid in recovery. The cupping therapist uses small glass cups placed on the skin and then heated or pumped to achieve suction. One way to achieve suction is to use a flame, which is quickly inserted and removed with a hemostat in the cup. The suction cup is then placed on the skin to perform suction. It is important to note that the flame is never directly on or near the skin.
  • Chinese herbal medicine
  • Tuina, a form of massage therapy that uses acupressure, where practitioners use finger pressure instead of needles, to stimulate the acupuncture point. It is frequently used in the treatment of superficial trauma and injuries and a wide variety of musculoskeletal problems.
  • tai chi, a graceful form of exercise that involves a series of movements performed in a slow, focused manner and accompanied by deep breathing. It is now used to reduce stress and anxiety and is often described as “moving meditation”, while it also helps increase flexibility and balance.
  • Qigong, a mind-body practice that incorporates posture, body movement, breathwork and meditation, designed to improve mental and physical health.

Today, the concept of health and wellness is increasingly integrated between Western and Eastern medicine. This is incredible news! As practitioners of all kinds of medicine, it is important for all of us to recognize the value of each other and learn to work together to achieve the best results for our patients.

One of the most recent examples of Western medicine valuing Chinese medicine: A researcher who focuses on TCM won the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2015. Chinese scientist Youyou Tu turned to traditional herbal medicine to raise the challenge of developing a new therapy against malaria.

Malaria was usually treated with chloroquine or quinine, but with much less success over the years. By the late 1960s, the disease was on the rise again.

Tu revisited ancient literature and uncovered clues that guided her to successfully extract the active component from the Chinese herb Artemisia annua (otherwise known as wormwood) which was first discovered by practitioners of TCM 1,700 years ago. Tu was the first to extract the active component of the herb, later called artemisinin, and helped to scientifically clarify how it works.

This research has not only helped in clinical treatments, but can now be studied and replicated on a larger scale. It is highly effective against the malaria parasite and has unprecedented potency in the treatment of severe malaria. According to the Nobel Assembly, “the discovery of artemisinin revolutionized therapy for patients suffering from devastating parasitic diseases”.

Returning to our premise of the importance of integrative medicine, this discovery would not have succeeded without a combination of an “East meets West” approach. Using clues from the history of TCM and using medical knowledge and equipment from Western medicine, an exciting discovery has been made that will impact many sufferers around the world.

If you would like to talk to Seneca about TCM or schedule an acupuncture treatment with her, Seneca can be reached at the Wellness Center at (405) 773-6600.