In recent years, traditional Chinese medicine has become an increasingly popular and widely accepted form of alternative medicine. CD Traveller reports on the rise of this ancient system of medicine
Traditional Chinese Medicine – known globally as TCM – is having a moment. Forget facials: men and women around the world are trying traditional Chinese therapies such as tuina (kneading and pressing to release qi, the body’s vital energy), acupuncture (inserting fine needles to remove blockages), cupping (a way to expel cold viruses), moxibustion (a method to improve blood circulation) and scraping (stroking a ceramic instrument across the body to cure fatigue).
It’s a trend that hasn’t gone unnoticed by Ken Rosen, a holistic health specialist at Shanghai Sun Island International Club: “I’ve noticed a real movement away from treatments that are designed merely for pampering purposes, towards more concrete therapies that go beyond the surface.” Step forward TCM – a Chinese medical system based on five interdependent branches compromising exercise, nutrition, herbal medicine, massage and perhaps the most familiar ingredient of all, acupuncture.
But why this sudden surge of interest in a medicine, that has been around for over 4,000 years? Celebrity endorsement – Victoria Beckham, Britney Spears and Scottish tennis ace Andy Murray have all been snapped sporting the tell tale giant spots from a cupping session, on their backs – no doubt accounts for part of TCM’s new found popularity. Similarly increased media coverage touting the benefits of various branches of TCM (the World Health organization recently published a report on acupuncture stating that it was beneficial for a wide range of conditions including stress, arthritis and insomnia while the Wall Street Journal revealed in April that military doctors in Afghanistan are using acupuncture to treat concussion) has also played a role in raising the profile of this ancient medical system.
There’s also little doubt that modern life, with its 60 plus hour working weeks, has contributed to the take up of TCM as Rosen acknowledges: “People are running around more than ever. Technology has made many things in life easier, but it has made it harder to switch off – resulting in yin deficiency. The go go yang world keeps calling us into the future: have you checked your email yet? A TCM consultation and treatment catapults people back into the right cosmological rhythm.” It’s a stance shared by Dr Karen Himlok, a holistic physician at Beijing’s Arha Na Clinic: “In our fast paced society, true TCM that follows ancient yin yang harmonising principles can achieve and maintain balance. A good TCM treatment helps people return to themselves.”
TCM also chimes perfectly with the twenty first century wellness mantra of illness prevention over the modern approach of cure. For while western medicine is high cost and high tech, something that in this age of austerity feels uncomfortably wrong, TCM is “generally low cost and low tech” says Dr Himlok. “The main objective is to encourage the flow of energy. It’s a safe, natural, non invasive and effective form of therapy that’s unlikely to cause any serious damage.”
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