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What is TCM, and why should We should care?

This is an exploration of TCM and how it answers questions about health that make life much easier for the average person.


Traditional Chinese Medicine, or TCM (from here on out), is a system for understanding the human body in health and in illness. Your body already has everything you need to live a meaningful and rich life, if you are willing to listen to and work with its strengths and weaknesses.

At its core is the idea that our bodies are made of oppositional and inter-dependent forces broadly categorized as Yin and Yang. I like to think of Yin as the physical and chemical elements of a body: structures, and hormones. Yang is much more conceptual, but we define these elements through time, and formulas: metabolism, cardiac output, thermal regulation, etc. Not only is this is a dramatic simplification of the two forces, but it's also a mixing of Western and Eastern concepts which is only meant to serve as a starting point for conversations.


TCM practitioners are trained to keep or bring these Yin/Yang forces into balance so that an individual can experience life with the full use of their body. Modern Western, aka Bio-medicine, aka Allopathic medicine isn't that different from this basic description of TCM. If your heart (a yin structure) gets too big, it's the doctor's job to bring it back down to size in order to maintain the flagging cardiac output (a yang product). Where the traditional and modern really diverge is in the second core principle of TCM.


Our bodies are not only dependent on nature's gifts, but they are also built to reflect nature's patterns. My first instinct was to say "our bodies reflect nature," but if they did there would be no problem: the observation would be indisputable. As a species we have created workarounds to our bodies' need to follow nature's lead: we have lights to keep us working after sunset, we have stimulants to keep us energized on empty stomachs, we have jackets to keep us outside when it's snowing, and the list goes on...


Maybe you see where I'm going with this. The case being made is that if we synchronized with global rhythms more, we would have a much healthier society. For example, using the long Winter nights to get more sleep and long Summer days to be more active. Instead we subject ourselves to one long never-changing back-breaking yearly grind. You can only break natural patterns so many times before it comes back to bite you in the form of some chronic pain, or dysfunctional body part. Then, you can only mask the pain or force the body part to work so many times before increasingly drastic measures need to be taken to continue your consumptive behaviors. So throw out your jackets, turn off your lights, and stop forcing the body to work on fumes. Well that's not completely realistic. Fortunately we don't need to go full hermit to find better health. If we only went half way towards a synchronization with nature we would feel unstoppable. Any efforts you invest into your health will make returns, you only need to make the commitment to begin the healing. This is just the surface- we haven't even touched on acute injuries, emotional health, or spiritual well-being either. When you see a TCM practitioner you are taking steps to seeing your body and life from the bird's eye view again. Lifestyle, mentality... Everything you do contributes to your future. What will you do to get your health back again?


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