Basic theory of traditional Chinese medicine
央视国际 2003年05月12日 16:32
Section 1 Origin of Traditional Chinese Medicine
Traditional Chinese Medicine （TCM） has a long history. In remote antiquity， our ancestors created primitive medicine during their struggles against nature. While searching for food they found that some foods had the specific property of relieving or eliminating certain diseases. That was the beginning of finding and using herbal medicines.
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While warming themselves around a fire they discovered that the way of local warming with hot stone or earth wrapped in bark or animal skin would relieve or eliminate certain symptoms of diseases. They practiced and improved this method repeatedly and then gradually brought into being the therapies of hot medicated compress and moxibustion.
In the course of using stone implements as tools of production， they noted， by change， that the pain in one part of the body would be alleviated when some other part was pricked. Then treatment with bian shi （stone needles） and bone needles came into being. This gradually resulted in acupuncture therapy. Afterwards the therapy of channels was born.
The theories of TCM come mainly from practice and have been continually enriched and expanded through practice.
Section 2 Basic Characteristics of TCM
TCM has many characteristics both in the understanding of the human body’s physiology and pathology and in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases. These characteristics， however， can be summarized in the following two aspects:
1. The Concept of the Organism as a Whole
By “organic whole” we mean entirety and unity. TCM attaches great importance to the unity of the human body itself and its relationship with nature， and holds that the human body itself is an organic whole and has very close and inseparable relations with the external natural surroundings. The concept of emphasizing the unity within the body and the unified relations between the body and the outside world is known as that of an organic whole.
a） The Unity within the Body
The human body is made up of viscera， bowels， tissues and other organs. Each of them has its own special physiological functions. All these different physiological functions are a component part of the entire life process of the body. And this determines the unity within the body. Therefore， the component parts of the human body are inseparable from each other in structure， related， subsidiary and conditional to each other in physiology， and of certain influence upon each other in pathology. These mutual relations and influences are centered around the five viscera （the heart， the liver， the spleen， the lung and the kidney） and come into effect through the channels and collaterals. For instance， the heart is interior－exteriorly related to the small intestine， controls blood circulation， and has its “specific opening” in the tongue proper and so on.
b） The Unity between the Human Body and Nature
Man lives in nature and takes nature as his vital conditions for living. In the meantime， he is influenced directly or indirectly by the movements and changes in nature， to which he is bound to make corresponding physiological and pathological responses. For example， as the climate varies with the four seasons in a year， the normal pulse conditions （including pulse rate， rhythm， volume， tension， etc.） are also varied. The pulse becomes string－like in spring， full in summer， floating in autumn and sunken in winter. This provides a basis for doctors to distinguish abnormal pulse conditions from the normal ones during the clinical diagnosis. The occurrence， development and changes of many diseases are seasonal.
Based on the theory of the circulation of qi characteristics of TCM， the pathogenesis of the human body is often influenced by the periodic changes of the climate， which take place every 12 years or every 60 years. In recent years， scientists have realized that the law of these periodic changes has something to do with the cycle of sunspots， which is formed every 11 to 12 years.
TCM believes that different geographical surroundings produce different effects on the physiology and pathology of the human body. The effects are even so great as to extend or shorten human lives.
c） The Guiding Function of the Concept of the Organism as a Whole
The concept of the organism as a whole not only embodies TCM’s understanding of the human body itself and the relationship between it and nature， but also provides the medical workers with a necessary method of thinking in treating diseases. Such a concept penetrates through the entire theory concerning the physiology and pathology of TCM， and of great significance in guiding diagnosis and treatment.
2. Diagnosis and Treatment Based on an Overall Analysis of Signs and Symptoms
Generally speaking， the same syndromes are treated in similar ways. Take cold for example， if it manifests itself in more severe chilliness， slight fever， a tongue with thin and white fur then it belongs to the exterior syndrome caused by wind and cold， and should be treated with strong sudorific drugs pungent in taste and warm in property， to dispel the wind and cold； if its manifestations are more severe fever， milder chilliness， a tongue with thin and yellow fur， then it belongs to the exterior syndrome caused by wind and heat.
Of course diagnosis and treatment based on an overall analysis and differentiation of symptoms and signs should not remain at the present level or stand still or refuse to make any further progress， but instead， be enriched， renewed， developed and improved continually alongside the advancing of modern natural sciences.