Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

Ancient wisdom intended to support your body’s ability to heal

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How can TCM nourish you?

Traditional Chinese Medicine, often abbreviated as TCM, is a complex and holistic system which addresses your overall health and wellbeing, rather than focusing on individual ailments as isolated incidents. TCM places as much emphasis on the prevention of illnesses as on their treatment.[1]   

Traditional Chinese Medicine evolved thousands of years ago, with the earliest comprehensive manual on the subject being Huang Di Nei Jing[2] (often translated as The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Medicine).[3] In Australia, it is regulated by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA).[4]

There are two foundational concepts which are central to understanding Chinese medicine. The first is the idea of qi, a vital energy that is believed to flow through the body[5] along invisible pathways called meridians. The second is the importance of equilibrium or harmony, represented by yin and yang[6] (the opposing elemental forces symbolising feminine and masculine energy, or light and dark). 

Each of the practices associated with Traditional Chinese Medicine plays a part in restoring the body’s inner balance and promoting a natural flow of qi. Through nutritional advice and herbal remedies, therapeutic techniques including acupuncture and massage, and activities which incorporate gentle exercise, such as tai chi, practitioners aim to correct qi imbalances and disruptions which are believed to cause ill health.

Popular treatments associated with TCM

Acupressure is a needle-free method of using fingertip pressure to stimulate key acupuncture points[7] along the body’s meridians.

Acupuncture involves the insertion of extremely fine needles into the skin[8] at prescribed locations, with the aim of affecting the flow of qi through the body.

Chinese herbal medicines are intended to have a holistic effect on wellness and are often prescribed for preventing ailments, not only treating them;[9] some traditional preparations also include animal extracts and mineral ingredients.

Chinese massage (tui na), possibly one of the oldest forms of massage,[10] involves rhythmic kneading, pressing and pulling motions on your body, intended to promote the healthy flow of qi.

Cupping therapy is the practice of placing cups made of glass or other materials on the body[11] for a suction effect, with the aim of relieving blockages or stagnation of qi.

Dietary advice plays a major role in traditional Chinese medicine,[12] with a focus on the prevention of ill health as well as choosing foods that are seen as having ‘cooling’ or ‘heating’ properties as ways of restoring wellness.

Moxibustion is the burning of mugwort, a special herb, on or near the skin, at the locations of various acupuncture points.

Qigong is a collection of practices intended to balance the mind, body and spirit as well as promote self-healing[13] through gentle stretches, repeated motions and breathing exercises.

Tai Chi, technically a martial art,[14] is most often practised today as a form of gentle exercise involving slow, fluid, mindful motions that promote flexibility of the body and improved mental focus. 

Acupuncture is arguably the best-known healing modality associated with TCM, and today it is practised not only by traditional Chinese acupuncturists, but also physiotherapists,[15] naturopaths[16] and other practitioners.

Benefits of TCM

As research continues into various aspects of Chinese medicine, scientific evidence suggests acupuncture may effectively support treatment for more than 100 reviewed conditions.[17] Several studies into cupping suggest the practice may offer benefits such as pain relief,[18] but more research is recommended due to the poor quality of existing evidence.

The results of a systematic review indicate Chinese herbal treatments may double the rate of pregnancies[19] among women suffering from infertility, and there is research to suggest Chinese herbal remedies may be more effective than Western medical treatment[20] in preventing the recurrence of endometriosis, as well as causing less side effects.

Some traditional herbal remedies have potent active ingredients which may be equally powerful as pharmaceutical medicines.[21] These ingredients may cause allergic reactions, could possibly interact with Western medication,[22] and their purity cannot be reliably guaranteed, so it is crucial to consult with your medical professional before using a traditional Chinese remedy.

TCM may assist in relieving symptoms related to:

Acne and spots Allergies Anxiety Asthma Autoimmune diseases Back pain Blood pressure Bronchitis Cancer Chickenpox and shingles Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS/ME) Concentration, focus and problem solving Constipation Crohn’s disease Dementia and alzheimer's Dermatitis Diabetes Diarrhea Digestive and gastrointestinal issues Eczema and psoriasis Endometriosis Energy and vitality Fatigue, burnout and exhaustion Fertility and reproductive issues Fibromyalgia Hay fever/rhinitis Headaches and migraines Hormonal issues Hypertension IBS and bowel disorders Immunity issues Inflammation and swelling Joint issues Liver issues Menopause and hot flushes Mobility and movement Muscular dystrophy Pain relief Parkinson’s disease PMT/PMS and menstrual issues Stress and tension UTI and urinary conditions Show all

What to expect from a TCM session

During a typical session, many Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners will start by inquiring about the state of your health, what ailments you might have experienced[23] in the past, and the history of illnesses in your family. The practitioner will diagnose possible imbalances in qi by checking your pulse, examining your tongue,[24] and looking for other physical signs of disharmony, such as your complexion.

Your practitioner will then develop an individualised treatment plan[25] that might include several modalities, such as acupuncture, cupping and herbal medicine. You will usually be offered advice about diet and nutrition, and additional practices such as Tai Chi might be recommended. TCM sessions vary in duration, but on average, they are estimated to take about 30-60 minutes.[26] It might be possible to treat a minor complaint in just one or two sessions, but for more complex health concerns, a longer program[27] of treatment may be recommended.

Exercises such as tai chi and qigong are generally agreed to carry low risk, and acupuncture is usually safe[28] if performed by a trained practitioner utilising sterile single-use needles. As with any exercise or wellness program, please consult your medical professional before commencing Traditional Chinese Medicine treatment. This is particularly important if you are prescribed a traditional remedy by a Chinese herbalist, due to the potential risk of harmful interactions and the possibility of contaminants including heavy metals and pharmaceutical drugs.[29]


  1. Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine | Australian Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine Association | Advocacy
  2. A review on different English versions of an ancient classic of Chinese medicine: Huang Di Nei Jing | Journal of Integrative Medicine | ScienceDirect
  3. The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine | 
  4. Chinese Medicine board |
  5. The Benefits and Uses of Acupressure |
  6. Traditional Chinese medicine | Encyclopedia Britannica
  7. What is Acupressure? |
  8. How does acupuncture work? |
  9. Chinese Herbal Medicine | Australian Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine Association
  10. Benefits of Tui Na Massage | Pacific College of Health and Science
  11. The Many Benefits of Chinese Cupping | Pacific College of Health and Science
  12. Nutrition in Chinese Medicine-Food as Medicine |
  13. What is qigong? |
  14. What is tai chi? |
  15. Acupuncture |
  16. Acupuncture Sydney |
  17. The Acupuncture Evidence Project | Australian Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine Association
  18. What to know about cupping therapy |
  19. Chinese herbal medicine for female infertility: An updated meta-analysis | ScienceDirect
  20. Controlling the recurrence of pelvic endometriosis after a conservative operation: Comparison between Chinese herbal medicine and western medicine | SpringerLink
  21. Chinese herbal medicine |
  22. The quality and safety of traditional traditional Chinese medicines | Australian Prescriber
  23. What is Chinese Medicine? | National Institute of Integrative Medicine
  24. What Happens When You Visit a TCM Practitioner? | University of Minnesota
  25. Consultation Session |
  26. What To Expect? |
  27. Traditional Chinese Medicine |
  28. What the Science Says About the Safety of Traditional Chinese Medicine | National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health
  29. Heavy metals, pharmaceuticals ... found in traditional Chinese medicines |

Frequently asked questions

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a comprehensive system of healthcare that has evolved over thousands of years in China. It includes various practices such as acupuncture, herbal medicine, cupping therapy, qigong, and dietary therapy. TCM is rooted in the concept of balancing the body's vital energy, known as Qi, to maintain health and prevent or treat illness.

Acupuncture is a key component of TCM that involves inserting thin needles into specific points on the body to stimulate Qi flow. According to TCM theory, the body's vital energy flows along meridians, and disruptions in this flow can lead to illness. Acupuncture aims to restore balance by unblocking or regulating the flow of Qi, promoting overall well-being and treating various health conditions.

Herbal medicine is a fundamental aspect of TCM, using a vast array of plant and mineral substances to restore balance in the body. TCM practitioners prescribe herbal formulations based on an individual's unique constitution and specific health needs. Herbs are chosen for their properties such as warmth, coolness, tonification, or dispersion, and are often combined to enhance their therapeutic effects.

Yes, TCM can be used in conjunction with Western medicine. Many individuals choose to combine both approaches for a more comprehensive healthcare strategy. TCM and Western medicine can complement each other, addressing different aspects of health. It's essential, however, to consult with healthcare professionals from both disciplines to ensure safe and effective integration.

TCM is known for its holistic approach to health and can be used to treat a wide range of conditions. Commonly addressed issues include pain management, digestive disorders, respiratory conditions, stress-related disorders, reproductive health, and immune system support. TCM practitioners consider the individual's overall health and customize treatments accordingly.

TCM emphasizes the importance of diet and nutrition in maintaining balance and preventing illness. Foods are categorized based on their energetic qualities (hot, cold, warm, cool) and their effects on the body. TCM practitioners may recommend specific dietary adjustments to support overall health and address specific imbalances. This personalized approach to nutrition is integral to TCM's holistic perspective on well-being.

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