Chinese medicine is a form of alternative medicine that has been in place for thousands of years and is popular with over a third of the world's citizens. Its main focus is to treat symptoms even before they appear – to be proactive rather than reactive.
Chinese medicine is a complete system that uses many different natural health methods including herbs, acupuncture, food therapy, massage and therapeutic exercise as well as less well known healing treatments known as cupping and moxibustion.
These last two treatments could probably do with further explanation
is used to remove toxicity as well as congestion and inflammation from the system. As the name suggests, circular shaped cups are placed on the skin where a vacuum forms an airtight seal. With its relaxation and therapeutic properties, cupping lifts toxins and impurities while increasing circulation and bringing blood and oxygen (rich in nutrients) to the affected areas. During the procedure, patients become so relaxed that they often fall asleep while the cupping does its work. The mark of the cup on the skin will often remain visible for some time after being removed – indicating the extent of the release of toxins. Chinese cupping therapy can be used on its own or in conjunction with other treatments and is said to bring relief to the pain of arthritis, joint discomfort, inflammation and stiffness. In a detoxification process, cupping draws wastes and impurities from the blood and can be helpful in certain skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis,
bites, boils and cellulite. Complaints of the nervous system such as headaches and migraines
, anxiety and stress can also be treated with cupping.
There are two types of moxibustion
which is a form of fire heat treatment that stimulates specific acupuncture points of the body.
is where a small, cone-shaped amount of moxa is placed on top of an acupuncture point and burned on the skin. This traditional technique is considered to be very therapeutic but is usually confined to use in Japan because of some undesirable effects such as blistering, burn marks, and even scarring at the moxibustion site. In an attempt to prevent skin damage, some acupuncturists place a slice of ginger or some topical paste between the skin and the burning moxa or extinguish the burning moxa just before it reaches the skin although the latter is not considered the same as the scarring direct moxibustion since the main effect of direct moxibustion is considered to result from actual damage to the skin.
Understandably, indirect moxibustion
is the more popular form of moxibustion in many countries including China because there is a much lower risk of pain or burning. A practitioner lights one end of a moxa stick (roughly the shape and size of a cigar) and holds it an inch or so away from the skin, usually around the inserted needles to bring mild warmth to the area without burning, until the skin becomes slightly red. The intensity of the heat is adjusted according to the patient’s condition and comfort. Indirect moxa is considered to induce a gradual localized vasodilatation response. In addition to increasing the local blood flow, skillful indirect moxibustion is extremely comforting and can create a deep relaxation response. Moxibustion therapy in conjunction with acupuncture can be very effective for many diseases and conditions including back pain, muscle stiffness, headaches, migraines, tendinitis, arthritis,
digestive disorders, anxiety and female health problems such as menstrual cramps, irregular periods and infertility.
Diagnosis in Chinese medicine
As well as differing from the West in the types of treatment offered, Chinese medicine also uses different ways of making a diagnosis. One is pulse diagnosis where the pulse at wrists and other points is felt to help assess the strength of the Qi, the lymph glands and bodily fluids as well as seeing how the organs are affected. The state of the patient's complexion, behavior and body language are also taken into account. The tongue, the voice, body odor, excretions and breath are further indications for the diagnosing of problems along with the usual symptoms, medical history, diet and any medication.
After making his or her diagnosis, a Chinese medicine practitioner will suggest treatment from the different methods at his or her disposal.
With thousands of years of practical experience and application, Chinese medicine has an excellent record for therapeutic interventions and interest from those in the West is growing.