TCM and Other Traditional Medicines

TCM stands for Traditional Chinese Medicine. There are many different kinds of traditional medicines in use the whole world over, with more and more people starting to realise the health benefits of combining conventional techniques with tried and tested remedies that have stood the test of time. Traditional medicine is also sometimes referred to as folk remedies, alternative medicine, complimentary healing, or indigenous medicine. These traditional healing and curing remedies come from different ideas, beliefs, cultures knowledge systems, before the time of what we call modern, or conventional, medicine.

In some countries, most specifically within the African and Asian continents, the vast majority of the population use traditional medicines to take care of their every day health needs. In Western countries, there is a growing number of practitioners due to an ever increasing demand for services. In Europe and the Americas, traditional medicine is often used alongside treatment within the health services.

Some people believe completely in the powers of traditional remedies, whilst others have no faith in it at all. In the middle, there are people who believe in certain aspects of it, and those who doubt its effectiveness, yet will try it in times of crisis. 

Traditional Chinese Medicine incorporates various different elements, to address the mind, body and soul as one.  It takes a truly holistic approach to healing. Most forms of traditional medicine from all around the world look at the bigger picture and take a multi-targeted approach when presented with a health problem. They are used for both physical and mental health problems. 

Other traditional medicine practices from different disciplines include traditional Korean medicine, traditional African medicine, Siddha medicine, techniques from Ayurveda, Unani, traditional Iranian medicine, Muti, Ifa, traditional Vietnamese medicine, Islamic medicine, and various others.

Herbs have been used for medicinal purposes for at least 5,000 years. There are records of herbs having been used in ancient Egypt, and the Old Testament makes reference to the usefulness of herbal remedies. Many renowned Roman writers have written about the use of herbs in medicine.  Herbs are still used today in TCM and other traditional practices. 

Massage and muscle manipulation is used in various systems. It is often believed not only to promote well-being by relaxation, but also to help the body to release various toxins in order to be free from them. Foot massages, also known as reflexology, are thought to be highly beneficial, with different parts of the foot relating to a specific part of the body.

The use of different smells, usually by way on incense, is often used. There may be certain incantations, rituals, or rites that are meant to accompany various medicinal practices.

Acupuncture is used within different systems. The use of heat and coldness is also a common feature across different disciplines.  Diet and exercise feature in almost every form of medicine; for complete wellness one must be aware of what they are putting inside their body, and only ingest those things that are beneficial to health. Stimulants and depressants are almost universally discouraged.

Some practices may require either the user or healer entering an almost hypnotic trance. Meditation is very similar, in that is calms the body and mind and allows the brain to slow down and the body to be more receptive to treatments.

Some traditional methods have grown from a merging of different belief systems. For example, Arabic traditional practices incorporate ideas from the mystical healing of the wandering Beduin tribes as well as translations of spiritual and religious texts. This set of beliefs then continued to influence Spanish practices.  Unani also draws some influences from Arabic practices.

Within a group of people, the knowledge and wisdom of traditional practices is generally passed down the generations orally.  Some communities all use various remedies, whereas others will seek out the services of a person who has the assumed the role of healer. These people may be referred to by different titles, for example a shaman. 

In some countries various animals may be used, including their different parts, to create medicines. The use of endangered species often leads to criticism, so in many western countries these parts of the system have been replaced with something different, or omitted altogether. 

There are many similarities between different systems, and very often, elements from different systems can be incorporated together and used in harmony.