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An ancient medical practice focused on health and prevention

As part of our Health & Wellness 2010 Series

“And while TCM can treat illness, say a common cold, it is more about going to the underlying issue, the weakened immune system that allowed you to get the cold.”

I experienced insomnia for over a year when I was living in the US. I tried common remedies (herbal relaxation teas) and more extreme solutions (a sleep therapist, sleeping pills, installing expensive black out curtains). And then I moved to Bangkok… insomnia prevailed. A friend suggested acupuncture, but I immediately rejected the idea as I often faint when it comes to needles. But after 6 more months of sleepless torture, I relented. Accupuncture was a last ditch effort – fear of needles seemed minor when compared to the size of the dark circles under my eyes and my perpetual crankiness. Something had to give…I had little hope it would actually work, but you know what, it did! Turns out the needles didn’t hurt at all, and after my first session I slept soundly for 7 whole hours – a miracle in those days. This was my initial exposure to one area of Traditional Chinese Medicine, also known as TCM. Today I know there is so much more to TCM than acupuncture and I continue to be amazed at its ability to complement and at times even surpass Western medicine.

What is TCM?
TCM is thousands of years old and its practice comprised of several areas including acupuncture, herbal supplements / dietary therapy, Tui Na and Shiatsu massage, bonesetting (similar to Western chiropractic), moxibustion, cupping, Quigong and Tai Chin body movement practices and more. At the risk of oversimplifying, TCM is at its core about the principle of balance, more specifically keeping the processes of the body in balance.

“TCM is about prevention and can correct imbalances before they turn into body disease” says Andre Tse, a TCM practitioner at Kamalaya Koh Samui. “And while TCM can treat illness, say a common cold, it is more about going to the underlying issue, the weakened immune system that allowed you to get the cold.” And for me, this is the amazing concept of TCM, it as a proactive way to take care of yourself – very different from the historical Western paradigm of treating symptoms and disease.

Yin & Yang
Balance in the body is, you guessed it, about managing yin and yang. Yin and yang are interconnected yet opposing forces in the body that must be balanced. Some (but not all) characteristics that define yin are female, nighttime, nourishing. Whereas some (but not all) characteristics that define yang are male, summer, heat. What does this all mean? Andre says, “Take the case of menopause. Blood is yin. So during menopause, when the yin is depleted, the yang rises up at and causes hot flashes.”

While this may sound a bit new-agey to some of you, consider that the current buzz word in Western medicine is also “balance” spinning out of the reality that the dominant focus in Western medicine today is treating a great many illnesses that are created by stress, bad diet and lack of self care.

Andre Tse, a TCM practitioner at Kamalaya Koh Samui