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Articles and References



Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) as A Viable Medical System

By Xingwu Liu*
As a huge country with different natural settings China has been subjected to many epidemics in history. But unlike Europe and other places where the toll amounted to millions or even tens of million, such as the case of the Plague, China got out with comparatively much less loss of life. Research identifies Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) as the effective defense. During the SARS scare in 2003, TCM again played an outstanding role with flying colors with high effectiveness, very low cost and without side effects as compared to conventional medicine.

What is TCM?
In recent years more and more TCM products have broken their confinement to Chinatowns and made their appearance in mainstream health food stores and clinics. Since very limited information on TCM has trickled into the US, most people do not know what is TCM, what do their do and how to use them for good health.

As a matter of fact all peoples of the world have had their own medical systems as accumulation of their health experience, using resources available and known to them, mostly the use of herbs and minerals. Industrialization made it possible to produce, synthesize mostly, pure chemicals that are used as drugs, leaving their native practice in oblivion.

TCM is a unique Chinese medical system that has been going on for thousands of years. Sense of social responsibility of the Confucian ethics (To be a good governor or to be a good physician, has been the objective in life for Confucian scholars) the Daoist emphasis on natural way of life and, paradoxically, the upheaval and poverty, all contributed to the upkeep and enrichment of this great tradition that has served the health needs of the Chinese nation. Today two officially recognized medical systems exist: conventional medicine (Chinese call it “western medicine” or “ modern medicine”) and TCM. All doctors are trained in both systems and all hospitals offer both treatments. Statistics showed that the annual per capita expenditure for health care in China was only 18 US Dollars in the 80s and Chinese life span is close to the US figure, due largely to the extensive use of low cost and effective TCM prevention and treatment.

TCM is also practiced some Asian countries including Japan, Korea, Vietnam, etc.

TCM has its own theories concerning the universe, the world, the human body and health. There has been a great deal of literature accumulated over the centuries. The Yellow Emperor ‘s Internal  Medicine (Huangdi Neijing) dated back to China’s Warring States Period (about third Century BC) is the most important and has an extensive international impact.

TCM relies upon the rich natural resource endorsed by mother nature. So far, according to statistics, it uses 12,807 single medicinal materials including 11,146 herbals, 80 minerals and 1,581 from animal sources. Over a million formulas with endless variations are available to practitioners. It is indeed a great resource for health care.

In the US, the history of TCM products began with the first immigrants from China and remained one of the most important businesses in Chinatowns. They have played a crucial role in health care among Chinese Americans. However, TCM is not recognized as a medical system though acupuncture as an integral part of it has achieved some legal recognition. Though the FDA recognizes traditional Chinese herbal remedies as a category in its ban of Ephedra, TCM products are allowed to be sold only as dietary supplements without medical claims and with very limited functional explanations on labels and other materials. It is quite difficult for the mainstream to fully understand what TCM is and how to use its products.

* Professor Liu taught Chinese and South Asian cultures at several universities. He and his wife Joanne founded Health King Enterprise, Inc & Balanceuticals, a small but vigorously growing business trying to offer the best TCM products from the source. He can be contacted at , or 773-927-9848