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Traditional Chinese Medicine

Treatment Overview

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is a system of medicine partly based on the idea that an energy, called chi (say "chee"), flows along pathways in the body called meridians. According to TCM, if the flow of chi along these meridians is blocked or unbalanced, illness can occur. In China, doctors have practiced TCM for thousands of years.

Therapies used in TCM include:

  • Acupuncture. This uses thin metal needles placed along the body's meridians.
  • Acupressure. During this therapy, direct pressure is applied to points along the body's meridians.
  • Chinese herbs. This combines herbs, roots, powders, or animal substances to help restore balance in the body.
  • Cupping. This therapy uses warm air in glass jars to create suction placed on areas of the body to help stimulate chi.
  • Diet. Yin and yang foods are used to help restore the yin-yang balance in the body.
  • Massage (tui na). Massage is done on specific areas of the body or along the body's meridians.
  • Moxibustion. This uses small amounts of heated plant fibre (moxa or Chinese mugwort) on specific areas of the body.
  • Qi gong. This therapy uses movement, breathing techniques, and meditation.

Why It Is Used

Some people use traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) for problems such as asthma, allergies, and infertility. TCM doctors may use several therapies to restore chi balance.


In the United States, the National Institutes of Health, through the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health and other institutes, funds ongoing research of many complementary therapies to determine their benefits and risks.

Traditional Chinese herbal medicines, like other medicines, may also cause side effects, trigger allergic reactions, or interact with other prescription and non-prescription medicines or natural health products. Before you use any traditional Chinese therapies, be sure to tell your medical doctor about any prescription, non-prescription, or other natural health products you are taking.

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