What is Traditional Chinese Medicine?

June 19, 2024

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a form of traditional complementary medicine that dates back thousands of years. Its treatments include acupuncture, cupping, herbal medicine, remedial massage, mindful movement and breathing practices.  Its focus is on balancing energy in the body to prevent illness and disease.

As more people strive to live long, happy and healthy lives, it's no surprise that TCM’s holistic approach to supporting health and wellness has nearly 3 million Australians visiting a TCM practitioner.

Here at MedAdvisor, we are passionate about empowering people to make better decisions about their health and wellness. We know that to do so, they must have the facts. So, let's look at the principles that underpin Eastern and Western medicine, how they differ, the safety and potential adverse interactions of the two, and how medical practice is regulated and monitored to ensure that you are making a safe choice.

How Is Traditional Chinese Medicine Different to Western Medicine?

TCM focuses on the person as a whole. Its treatments aim to keep the mind, body, and soul in harmony and balance to promote health and longevity. This differs from Western medicine, which looks at individual things going “wrong” in the body.   Western medicines treatments focus on specific issues, individual body systems, and treating problems.

  • Traditional Chinese Medicine
    TCM’s interventions work on two opposing energies in the body: yin and yang. Together, they make up the essence of life, Qi. Qi is believed to run through the body in a series of meridian channels. For Qi to move along the body's meridians and support health, yin and yang must be balanced.

    In Australia, the most popular TCM interventions are acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine. However, all TCM modalities, including massage, mindful movement and meditation, all work on the same principle of balancing the body to allow Qi to flow.

  • Western Medicine
    Western medicine follows systems and protocols focused on diagnosing and treating issues. Physical examination, diagnostic testing, and scientific evidence are used to analyse. Once a diagnosis is reached, evidence-based guidelines that have been scientifically tested are used to treat the issue.

    Treatments are mainly focused on prescription medications, procedures and surgical interventions. However, there is an increasing focus on diet, exercise, and lifestyle changes as the population ages and more people have chronic diseases.

Can You Mix Chinese and Western Medicine?

TCM’s focus on the body, balance and preventative medicine can make it a valuable addition to Western medicine's focus on treating issues. However, caution is necessary when it comes to taking herbal supplements and herbal medicines. Many believe that herbal medicines are safe because they are made from plants. However, herbal medicines can act as powerfully on the body as Western medicines.  They also carry the same risk of side effects and adverse drug reactions and interactions. 

It is essential to consult your GP before you commence TCM to check that it is safe for you. You should also tell your pharmacist about any herbal medicine you are taking to ensure it won’t interact with your regular prescription medications.

Is Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Safe for Me?

TCM practitioners must be registered with The Chinese Medicine Board of Australia.  The board ensures that Australia's TCM practitioners are well-trained and qualified.  In Australia, Chinese medicines are also regulated by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).  The TGA ensures that medicines meet quality and are safe.

As discussed, there are potential benefits to combining TCM with Western medicine. However, you must choose a TCM practitioner who is qualified to support your needs and ensure your safety.

How Do I Find a TCM Practitioner?

Need help finding a practitioner?  You can search for TCM practitioners here and check their registration status and qualifications here.

Is TCM Covered by Medicare or Health Insurance?

Despite its growing popularity, most TCM practices are not covered by Medicare.  The only exception is acupuncture.  However, the acupuncturist must be a general practitioner or registered by the Chinese Medicines Board of Australia. Some private health funds pay for consultations with a TCM practitioner or TCM treatments like remedial massage and acupuncture.  However, your coverage will depend on your insurance policy, so always check with your insurance provider.

In summary, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) offers a holistic approach to maintaining balance and preventing health issues, while Western medicine focuses on diagnosing and treating specific problems. Both have their unique benefits and can complement each other when used safely.

At MedAdvisor, we are committed to empowering you with the information and tools you need to make informed decisions about your health. Our app helps you manage your medications, track your health progress, and provides valuable insights into both Eastern and Western medicine practices. Take control of your health journey today with MedAdvisor, and discover how a balanced approach can lead to a happier, healthier life.

Download the MedAdvisor app now and start your path to wellness.

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