Traditional Chinese MedicineWhat is the History of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Acupuncture?

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has a history of about 3000 years. Among the earliest literature are lists of prescriptions for specific ailments, exemplified by the manuscript “Recipes for 52 Ailments”, found in the Mawangdui tombs which were sealed in 168 BC.

The first traditionally recognized herbalist is Shénnóng, who is said to have lived around 2800 BC. His ‘Shénnóngbencaojing’ is considered as the oldest book on Chinese herbal medicine. The Treatise on Cold Damage Disorders was collated by Zhang Zhongjing during West Han Dynasty in ancient China, which is one of the most important TCM classic work. It was the first medical work to group symptoms into clinically useful “patterns” (zheng) that could serve as targets for therapy.

Li Shizhen wrote the Compendium of Materia Medica (BencaoGangmu) during Ming Dynasty, which summarised most of the herbal theories before Ming. There were also various other famous TCM masters and their established theories during Ming and Qing Dynasties, which facilitated the development of TCM then. Qinghao herbal extracts, one of the most effective anti-malaria medication, are among the modern TCM inventions.

Acupuncture was originated from China. The history of acupuncture can be dated back to over 3000 years ago. From Neolithic Age Chinese ancestors started to use sharp stone to stimulate certain points of body for releasing pain. It was called Bianshi therapy. Gradually they improved the sharp stones in stone needles and then made jade and bone into needle shape for point stimulation.

According to literal recording, the first series of bronze acupuncture needle was invented by Fuxi Emperor when he was in power at 2400-2370 BC. Some other classical text recorded nine kinds of bronze needles which were invented by Yellow Emperor (2337-2307 BC). Many acupuncture theories and treatments were recorded in the Yellow Emperor’s Canon of Medicine (Huang Di Nei Jing), the most important classical text in traditional Chinese medicine. In the history some great masters of Chinese medicine had published their monographs on acupuncture. The acupuncture knowledge was handed down from generation to generation.

Since the sixth century AD, acupuncture was spread to Korea, Japan, Indonesia and Vietnam and other neighbouring countries which had similar culture. Only after the sixteen century AD, along with maritime trade, diplomat and preacher exchanged, acupuncture extended to Netherlands, France, England, Italy and Germany. At that time acupuncture only practiced in a small range, it never getting popular in Europe until 1970’.

In 1971, an American journalist was given acupuncture during recovery from an emergency appendectomy in China. He described the experience in the New York Times. This promoted a new acupuncture heat in US and western countries. A lot of people came to China from different countries to learn acupuncture in the universities of Chinese medicine. Acupuncture became popular in the world. Currently there are 182 countries and districts using acupuncture. In 2003 World Health Organization (WHO) published a report about clinical trial research, 91 diseases and conditions were listed as indications of acupuncture.

What is the History of TCM in the UK

Although contemporary interest in the healing needle is often perceived and presented as a new phenomenon, or as part of peculiarly modern trends and circumstances, acupuncture, in fact, has a long history in Britain, extending back to the seventeenth century, when the first medical and literary descriptions of Chinese medicine were published in London and other European capitals.

The TCM practitioners from mainland China with their significant efficacies have influenced the general public in the world in 1970s and 80s, causing a global TCM climax and TCM clinics to emerge everywhere in the world including the UK. Currently there are about 1000 TCM  acupuncture clinics in the UK.

In the last couple of decades, acupuncture has become a British medical madality. Acupuncture treatment is advertised everywhere including shop windows on every high street, and its popularity has drawn attentions from population of higher education. The beauty of TCM has been recognized as the root and most developed theory for acupuncture.

What is the Difference Between TCM and Western Medicine?

Being an approach of natural remedy, incorporating acupuncture, cupping, moxibustion and herbs, TCM works with the body’s own energies to combat illness, which aims to restore human body’s balance and harmony on all levels—physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. Chinese Medicine differs from western medicine in two major aspects:

Firstly, Chinese medicine has a holistic understanding to combine all aspects of an individual, to include climate, season, geographic location and emotional factors in a form of a true integrated health system. TCM Chinese medicine seeks to combine treating the root cause side by side to its symptoms (manifestations). The aim of TCM is to treat the disorder at all its levels and by doing so to enable a deeper healing of the body rather than a relief of the symptoms.

Secondly, TCM emphasizes differential diagnosis based on various patterns characterised by different groups of symptoms, so called the “辨证论治 BIAN ZHENG LUN ZHI”, Although results of western medicine examinations being widely acknowledged and referenced by our TCM practitioners, the diagnosis of TCM treatment relies majorly on the differential patterns of “证Zheng”, by means of the four diagnostic methods, the observation, hearing and smelling, interrogation and palpation.

The differential diagnosis gives Chinese Medicine distinct capacity to treat many conditions before they fall into any particular disease category in western medicine, for example the pre-diagnosed fatigue or body pains of fibromyalgia or M.E. In this sense, TCM takes prevention much more important than the cure, because the signs and symptoms can be detected and thus accordingly treated by TCM much in advance of the formation of the illness.