Advances in medical research, the consumer empowerment, and rising cost of health care have demonstrated the need to treatment models that are holistic and client driven. Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) offers consumers choices. It includes traditional healing practices, medical systems that are thousands of years old and new or innovative treatments that may be consider unconventional. Well known examples of CAM include herbal remedies, mindfulness, meditation, manipulative/movement therapies, and Chinese Medicine. Knowledge of CAM offers social workers in all settings the opportunity to provide education and advocacy in seeking client centered and culturally competent treatment options.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Traditional Chinese Medicine

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is based on the philosophy of Tao which dates back to Ancient China in which the path or way of life involves harmony deriving from balance within the self and the environment.  The purpose of medical treatment is to restore harmony in the mind, body and behavior.  According to Freeman (2009), Chinese medical theory rests on certain assumption about the nature of the universe.  The yin and yang theory, two polar opposite forces that reside within living beings that complement each other and must be in balance.  The yin and yang form part of the eight principles theory of Chinese medicine which also include interior and exterior, deficiency and excess, cold and hot.  Other principles of the yin and yang theory include the five elements wood, fire, earth, metal, and water.  The physician in TCM observes the relationship between these elements, the yin-yang, and the three treasures, qi (life force),  shen (spirit) and the jing (substance of organic life) to diagnose and treat the individual. The shen brings light and joy to life.  The jing is the essence of being. When the flow of qi is blocked illness occurs.  Qi flows through 12 channels known as the meridians.  Each meridian corresponds with an organ or organ function including the lung, large intestine, small intestine, urinary bladder, kidney, pericardium, gallbladder and liver.  The meridian system also includes nerves, blood vessels, and lymph nodes, microscopic tissue gaps or spaces in the entire living organism (Xutian, Zhang, & Louise, 2009).  There are 365 points along the meridians. 
TCM includes acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, Chinese therapeutic massage (tuina), but also other modalities such as moxibustion and t’ai chi (Xue, Zhang, Greenwood, Lin, & Story, 2010).  It has been commonly used in China, Korea, and Vietnam and is gaining popularity in Western Countries.  Studies conducted in Italy, Canada, Australia, Japan, United Kingdom and the United States indicates that acupuncture is the most popular TCM intervention (Xue, et al).  Despite growing interest from the Western countries and increase in funding, research in TCM remains difficult.  Xue et al cite problems with lack of standardization of TCM medical practices, safety concerns in the uses of herbs, lack of evidence or efficacy in clinical trials, and limited number of random control trials.  Some areas of promising findings include the use of herbs for cancer treatment (Xue-Juan, L., De-Xin, K., & Hong-Yu, Z. (2010) and acupuncture (Barad, et al, 2008).


Barad, A., Maimon, Y., Miller, E., Merdler, S., Goldray, D., Lerman, Y., & Lev-ari, S. (2008). Acupuncture Treatment in Geriatric Rehabilitation: A Retrospective Study, Journal of Acupuncture and Meridian Studies, 1(1), 54-57. doi:10.1016/S2005-2901(09)60008-X
Freeman, L.W. (2009) Mosby's complementary & alternative medicine: A research-based approach (3rd ed.). Mosby Elsevier Press.
Xue-Juan, L., De-Xin, K., & Hong-Yu, Z. (2010). Chemoinformatics Approaches for Traditional Chinese Medicine Research and Case Application in Anticancer Drug Discovery. Current Drug Discovery Technologies, 7(1), 22-31.
Xue, C. L., Zhang, A. L., Greenwood, K. M., Lin, V., & Story, D. F. (2010). Traditional Chinese Medicine: An Update on Clinical Evidence. Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine, 16(3), 301-312. doi:10.1089/acm.2009.0293
Xutian, S., Zhang, J., & Louise, W. (2009). New Exploration and Understanding of Traditional Chinese Medicine. American Journal of Chinese Medicine, 37(3), 411-426.

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