Traditional Chinese Medicine: History, Definition and Most Used Methods

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), also known as Chinese Medicine (in Chinese: Zhongyi Xue Xue Zhongao).

It is the name given to the set of traditional medicine practices used in China, developed over thousands of years throughout its history.

Chinese medicine originated along the Yellow River, having formed its academic structure long ago. It has been the object of many innovations throughout the centuries in different dynasties, having trained many famous doctors in different schools. It is considered one of the oldest forms of oriental medicine. This term also covers other practices in Asia, such as the traditional medical systems of Japan, Korea, Tibet, Mongolia, and India.

Chinese Medicine, or TCM (in English), is based on a systematic, broad philosophical, and theoretical framework. Based on recognizing the fundamental laws that govern the functioning of the human body and its interaction with the environment by the cycles of nature, try to apply this approach to treating both diseases and maintaining health through various methods.

The inscriptions on bones and turtle shells of the Yin and Shang dynasties 3,000 years ago show medical records and a dozen diseases. According to the records of the Zhou dynasty, there were diagnostic methods such as facial observation and hearing of the voice, which question possible symptoms, so the pulses were a method of observing the Zang-fu (organs and viscera), as well as indications for treatments such as acupuncture or surgery. Already in these times included in its principles the study of Yin-Yang, the theory of the five elements, and the circulation system of the energy meridians of the human body; these principles were refined over the following centuries. In the Qin and Han dynasties, several works were published as “Canon of the Yellow Emperor of Internal Medicine” (Huangdineijing), now considered the reference work of Chinese medicine.

Many famous medical classics came to us from the past: “Canon on complicated diseases,” “About various diseases and typhoid fever,” “On the Pathology of different diseases,” etc. The “Code of Sources of Medicines of the Divine Farmer” is China’s most famous and ancient work of medicine. The “Compendium of Medicinal Resources,” written by Li Shi Zhen of the volumes of the Ming Dynasty, is the most important in the history of China and the work of world reference in the field of medicine based on herbs.

Acupuncture as a form of MTC introduced essential reforms in AC – 1279 BC, driven mainly by the physician Wang Weiyi who published “Acupuncture points and the human body.” He created two bronze statues of the human body to teach his students acupuncture techniques, thus accelerating their development. In the twentieth century, Mao Tze Tung taught Chinese medicine in the university field and its dissemination throughout China, the creation of many universities and hospitals to practice it, at the time was considered a valuable and accessible resource for the health public.


Currently, there are eight main methods of treatment of traditional Chinese medicine:

  • Chinese herbal medicine
  • Acupuncture
  • Tuina or Tui Na (Chinese massage and osteopathy)
  • Diet therapy (china coma therapy)
  • Auriculotherapy (ear treatment)
  • Moxibustión
  • Windsurfing

Physical practices (integrates breathing exercises, energy circulation, and meditation such as Chi Kung, Tai Chi Chuan, and some martial arts) are considered for the maintenance of prophylactic health or forms of intervention methods to recover it.

The diagnosis in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is the legacy left by the ancient Chinese doctors. Over the centuries have been improving the anamnesis, overcoming some difficulties, and bequeathing their knowledge to future generations. The diagnosis of Chinese medicine, although simple, is very effective – the observations that are made include observing, listening, smelling, asking, and touching; they stand out in the observation of the tongue as a diagnosis and the examination of the pulse, a practice that It takes a few years to be entirely dominated by the MTC specialist. Still, they provide valuable and accurate information about the patient’s health status.

Chinese medicine, which is poorly known in the West, except for minimal aspects of acupuncture, deserves a special place in the vast and diverse range of alternative therapies. Let’s see why: It is the only medicine that has a continuous existence, its foundation more than 2,000 years ago, and is recognized by the Chinese State on a par with the practice of modern medicine. The WHO of the UN identifies its characteristics since it does not decompose in front of any other medical system. It is allowed to be within the philosophical and energy conceptions that supported it over time and integrated with validation methods—modern science.

Some Oriental medicines, such as Tibetan and Ayurvedic medicine, have a very ancient origin, and their interest is unquestionable. Still, they are practiced on a small scale, rarely in a hospital environment, and internal validations are rare in the countries of origin. Instead, TCM, while so old and traditional, evolved to adapt to the needs of the modern world. It is practiced in specialized hospitals that have been mixed or in parallel with all the services that one can find in a European hospital. There are scientific research units that allow the experience and validate it. Thus, for example, the State University of Traditional Chinese Medicine teaches future doctors theories and methods of parallel techniques for research or clinical care.

On the other hand, Chinese medicine has a wide field of application and as practiced for many centuries in the largest country in the world in terms of demographics. This gives you a unique empirical and scientific experience. Finally, Chinese medicine is a complete system and not just limited medical technology applications because the field of Chinese medicine is vast. They are practically the same as in the specialties of Western medicine; however, they are less restricted and more limiting due to their global approach to the disease and its compartmentalized causes. This allows us to say that Chinese medicine, like Western medicine, has an experience of an official nature and, at the same time, a more humanistic and integral approach to human beings, health and disease.