Sunday, 4 August 2013

TCM For Better Health, Not Just Because Your Chinese Girlfriend Said So

Traditional Chinese Medicine, or TCM, is nearly as old as China itself.  There’s a reason it has withstood the tests of time and the rise of modern medicine; while many TCM concepts still don’t have a solid scientific foundation (mostly because science has only begun to explore them), actual positive results from their application, not only based on what historical records claim but also based on recent and current cases, prove that they are more than just old wives’ tales. 

You don’t have to subject yourself to any treatment that you’re not comfortable with; but there are plenty of TCM treatments and overall health maintenance concepts that you may find only slightly weird and a bit uncomfortable, and are interesting and popular enough that make them worth a try. 

If you’re willing to let a doctor point a laser at your eye, then having a TCM practitioner turn you into a human pin cushion should not seem so crazy!  While an eye doctor, of course, has a medical degree, TCM practitioners (the reputable ones) are also certified and have undergone years of training, much like MDs.

Acupuncture is used in TCM to treat pain and restore the balance of qi in the body.  In fact, modern medicine has already recognized the science behind the stimulation of the body’s nerves through the insertion of thin needles on key points all over the body, which then also stimulates blood flow and the release of the body’s natural painkillers.   

Or why not try cupping?  You will be sporting many bruises on your back afterward, but according to TCM, cupping draws toxins from the body, stimulates blood flow, and restores qi.  Cupping involves the placement of suction cups on the back and is believed to treat respiratory ailments, gastrointestinal disorders, arthritis, and physical tension. 

With the traditional cupping method, the inside of the cups are first set on fire by using a flammable substance.  But don’t worry; the cups are placed on the skin after the flame has died.  The cooling of the inside of the cup creates a vacuum which causes the suction effect.  More modern methods use silicone cups which can also be slid over the skin to create a massage-like effect. 

If you suffer from chronic pain, especially on your neck and/or back, you should give gua sha a try!  Medical research has actually discovered scientific evidence that supports the efficacy of this TCM treatment. 

The method involves the application of a lubricant, usually massage oil, on the area that needs to be treated.  A smooth-edged instrument is then used to make repeated strokes on the skin, which produces redness or bruises afterward.  These strokes actually increase blood circulation in the area and also stimulate the release of natural pain relievers in the body.  Many patients who have received gua sha treatment have reported significant relief from their pain.  

If you enjoy getting a massage and also love doing exciting activities, well you can actually combine the two!  TCM’s Chinese Knife Massage is actually more blood-pumping than it is calming, but the increased blood flow is what makes it an effective treatment for pain and other imbalances of the body. 

You can get a Chinese Knife Massage while lying on a bed or sitting on a chair.  The therapist rubs lotion or tiger balm on the neck and shoulders to promote relaxation, then a towel is placed over the body.  Two, stainless steel butcher knives are then used to pound along the body’s meridians, hard enough to release tension and energy and to promote better flow of the body’s qi, but not so hard as to break the skin. 

These are TCM remedies you can easily find practically anywhere in China.  Mostly, they promote overall well-being, so you don’t have to suffer from an illness to try them out.  If you do develop a cough or have an asthma attack, you can try natural medicines derived from carps; if you suffer from dysentery, boils, or nasal polyps, scarab beetles are often recommended. 

Surprise your Chinese girlfriend by asking her to accompany you when you go for cupping therapy or acupuncture.  She will definitely appreciate the fact that you’re immersing yourself in her culture through TCM.    

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