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TCM for the West


TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) is continuously spreading beyond the countries of its origins. Individual methods from the rich medical "treasure of knowledge" have become permanent features here and there in our health system. However, the level of Chinese medicine practiced throughout the world differs greatly which makes it difficult to portray and to appreciate. Here we will only be dealing with the more sophisticated directions of TCM.
Chinese medicine is based on its own theory of disease. It does not look for the "factors that make ill" in individual substances and micro-organisms but in "climatic" (exterior) and "emotional" (interior) circumstances. The strength of this theory has been proved particularly in the case of chronic illnesses. The Chinese theory of disease contains concepts that can help to understand the development of chronic illnesses from seemingly harmless beginnings. The therapies are then based on these concepts. Strategies can then be designed that slow the progression of the illness and "turn the situation around" into a healing process. Chinese medicine is not satisfied with just alleviating one or another of the symptoms of an illness. Its goal is always to heal.
Chinese medicine proceeds in a very "individual manner"; it understands the illness as the result of an individual history of illness. Western diagnosis alone is thus not sufficient as an orientation for treatment; a Chinese diagnosis is required in addition. An extraordinarily detailed inquiry concerning the illness as well as special physical examinations, for example tongue and pulse diagnosis, are also needed. The observance of the state of the tongue and pulse go far beyond what even naturopathy practicing physicians in the West are familiar with. Chinese diagnostics can distinguish more than thirty pulse qualities at the sites on the wrist where the pulse is felt. This testifies to the perceptive faculty and accuracy of the clinical eye on the part of a Chinese physician. The physician does not penetrate the body nor does he screen the body. Instead, he is on the lookout for places where the disturbances in the interior have become visible on the exterior. The inner state of healthy persons is also visible on the exterior. Appearance, mobility and psychic vitality are, of course, products of interior processes. When these processes are disturbed, this entails changes on the exterior and it is here that the processes that have become unbalanced are tracked down.
Corresponding to the different diagnostics, therapy also takes other directions. The two most important methods are acupuncture and herbal medicine therapy.
Acupuncture is meanwhile also known in this part of the world. It consists of stimulating defined points on the surface of the body which dissolves "energetic" states of tension. Pain, restlessness and vegetative complaints can be alleviated, often even while the treatment is being carried out.
Much less known is Chinese herbal medicine therapy. It works with formulas made from crude drugs of plant, mineral and animal origin which are used in very high dosages compared to the herbal therapies used in this part of the world. Thanks to this, even serious illnesses can be treated with a good chance of success. To support the herbal medicine therapy, not only acupuncture but also acupressure and moxibustion, the manual stimulation and warming of acupuncture points, are used. Among the further external methods used are massages such as Shiatsu or Tuina and movement therapies such as Qigong. These are ways to promote the course of healing from the outside.
In Chinese opinion, most chronic illnesses develop because of disturbed immune behaviour. Credit for the insight of having raised a treasure in Chinese medicine must be given to the TCM physicians in the German language area who have joined forces in the DECA Group.
Many years ago, clinical observations in the field of immunology gave these physicians a reason to examine certain parts of the deeply rooted theory from China more closely. Surprising notes on questions that concern the problems of today's illnesses were found - a reason to investigate and reformulate Chinese herbal medicine therapy based on empirical data. The task of exchanging experience and critical review of treatment results which are necessary for such an undertaking led 36 years before to the foundation of DECA (Institute for the Documentation of Empirical Material in Chinese Herbal Medicine).
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