How Traditional Chinese Medicine Can Improve Health

As the popular saying goes, prevention is better than cure – and it’s a philosophy very present in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). The same goes for the principle of self-care – or “Yang Sheng”.

“Unlike Western medicine, which focuses on solving health problems, Chinese medicine focuses on prevention alongside healing,” says Katie Brindle, author of Yang Sheng: The Art of Self-Healing. Chinese.

“For example, in Chinese medicine, a bad night’s sleep or thinning hair means the beginning of a deeper health problem. The principle of Chinese medicine is that if you eliminate small health problems as they arise, you will prevent bigger ones from occurring.

Brindle trained as a Chinese medicine practitioner after helping her recover from injuries sustained in a car accident.

She says self-care is integral to this approach to wellness, which taps into uncovering energy imbalances long before they turn into physical symptoms. “The theory is that you prevent the imbalance from taking a foothold in the body and turning into something more serious. Think of it like how we approach our dental care – we brush our teeth daily to prevent the plaque builds up and becomes a problem.

Energy, flow and balance

Brindle says there are three principles fundamental to the holistic body-mind approach to Chinese medicine. These are: ensuring the free flow of qi (energy) and blood circulation (good circulation is considered a foundation of health); purging and nurturing (if toxicity persists in the body, it causes stagnation of qi, which can eventually lead to physical symptoms and illnesses, so you work to eliminate what you don’t need and nurture the body to strengthen it ), and strengthening the five key organs (Chinese medicine says that poor health will always affect one of the five key organs – liver, heart, spleen, lungs and kidneys – so they all need to be balanced) .

Brindle thinks Chinese medicine is “brilliant for everything,” but says it works especially well for gynecological and fertility issues, and skin issues. “Depending on the person and the problem, sometimes it’s an instant fix and sometimes it’s a gentle process that happens over time,” she says.

And while she’s a big advocate for this approach to supporting your health and well-being, she’s not suggesting anyone stop seeing their regular doctor. It is always important to have any symptoms or health issues checked by your GP.

“You should always see a Western GP for everything,” Brindle points out. “In an ideal world, Western and Eastern medicine would work in symbiosis, because they work very well together.”

Here are some of the ways Brindle says Chinese medicine can help support health and wellness…

1. Stress relief through breathing

Brindle says the parasympathetic nervous system, which can help restore calm when you’re stressed, can be stimulated indirectly with the right breathing technique, calming the mind and heart rate, deeply oxygenating the blood, and suppressing emotional negativity.

“Breath is the antidote to stress,” Brindle says. “Performed slowly and consciously, deep breathing will also affect the nervous system to relieve stress and anxiety, triggering the release of neurohormones which inhibit stress-producing hormones and induce relaxation.

2. Boost your energy by tapping

The ancient Chinese therapy of “Pai Sha,” or tapping with bamboo, can “do wonders” for overall well-being, Brindle says. Because proper flow of qi and blood is fundamental to health in Chinese medicine, she explains, when the flow is disrupted or stagnant – due to a sedentary lifestyle, stress, emotional disturbances or injuries – this can lead to a variety of symptoms, including aches and pains, atrophy and weakness, lack of energy, skin problems, poor sleep, slow metabolism, lack of coordination and digestive problems.

“Tapping the skin daily allows this all-important circulation to flow freely,” Brindle explains. “In as little as one minute a day, full-body tapping can eliminate areas of stagnation, promote lymphatic drainage, release tension, and promote smooth circulation of blood and qi throughout the body.”

3. Reduce inflammation and improve sleep with self-massage

The ancient ‘Gua Sha’ self-massage technique uses a tool with rounded edges to press the skin. It’s said to benefit inflammation, muscle tension, sleep problems, cough and fever, according to Brindle, who says the technique improves microcirculation, helps release beneficial antioxidants and enzymes, and stimulates qi flow and lymphatic drainage.

“Gently encouraging the movement of lymphatic fluid, which cannot drain on its own, is great for reducing puffiness and congestion and helping the body eliminate excess waste,” Brindle says. “You can do it anywhere and anytime, either through your clothes or directly on the skin, using oil as a lubricant.”

4. Improve Overall Health Through Gentle Qigong Movements

Qigong – which means “life force practice” – involves slow, gentle, thoughtful movements combined with breathing and mental engagement.

Qigong fans often believe it can provide a host of general health and wellness benefits. The theory is that Qigong works the muscles and nourishes the organs but, more importantly, doesn’t tire them out – so it stimulates oxygen uptake and circulation while the body is relaxed.

“By strengthening your life force on the inside, you will see results on the outside,” says Brindle. “If you are tired, lacking in energy, out of shape or just not feeling well, Qigong is for you. As you do the exercises, you balance the whole body. Just because it’s gentle, don’t underestimate its power and effectiveness.

Always consult your doctor

Although complementary therapies and TCM may be something you want to explore, remember that it is always best to have any symptoms or health issues checked by your GP.