Introduction to Traditional Chinese Medicine

By Bill Reddy, L.Ac., Dipl.Ac.

Many of my patients ask me, "What's the difference between Chinese medicine and western (alopathic) medicine?" My answer is: "Everything". The tools of western medicine are primarily drugs and surgery. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is comprised of three major components: Acupuncture, Herbology, and Exercise/Lifestyle modification. TCM will initially approach a patient's health problem with analyzing their food intake. Once the patient's diet is modified, if there is still a complaint, then the doctor will prescribe herbs. Herbs, unlike western pharmaceuticals that only treat symptoms, go to the ROOT of the problem. Over time the herbs will balance the body, the symptoms will vanish and there will no longer be a need to continue taking them.

Most Americans believe that acupuncture is effective for back pain and migraines, which is TRUE. What they don't know is that acupuncture is effective for a variety of medical conditions from psoriasis to infertility. It can influence a person's endocrine function, neurologic system, gastrointestinal system, and respiratory system, just to name a few. The primary mechanism of action is allowing your body to heal itself.

Let's take an example. When a person is experiencing anxiety, it is usually a result of a reduction of serotonin (a neurotransmitter) levels in the brain. Most MD's or Psychiatrists will choose from a class of drugs called Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI). These drugs will influence an increase of serotonin in the brain and anxiety will decrease. The PROBLEM with this approach is that the patient may have to take the drug indefinitely. Acupuncture treatments ALSO increase the serotonin levels in the brain (demonstrated by NIH studies). The major difference here is that the body learns how to maintain a high level of serotonin over a number of treatments and no longer needs treatment and the anxiety levels remain suppressed. The beauty of this is there are NO SIDE EFFECTS to the treatment, and no pills to take.

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