Traditional Chinese medicine or TCM as it is also known has been around for over 2000 years. However, for many westerners, the first time they come across this ancient practice is either in passing or when they take a job in China. Although not recommended as a cure for serious ailments, traditional Chinese medicine can help you live a healthier life day to day. Follow Eunice's story and learn more about how TCM can keep you healthy.
For most people, Chinese medicine appears somewhat mysterious. It was the same for me when I was growing up in Hong Kong. I had my first encounter with acupuncture when I was living in San Francisco. I discovered an acupuncture clinic near where I lived and owned by a Chinese medical practitioner from Shanghai. Since I was experiencing some discomforts at the time, I started visiting her clinic every week. During these visits that would usually last for about half an hour, she would open many packets of thin one-time needles (important to double-check) and swiftly strike them into different parts of my body and let the needles remain in my body for some time.
I remember being in awe that there was no blood flowing out when she inserted the needles into my skin (occasionally there would be a tiny red dot). What I also found interesting was that, if I was not in a good state mentally and physically when I visited the clinic, I would feel swelling and discomfort when she inserted the needles into my body, but if I was feeling ok, then the insertion of the needles almost elicited no feelings. I think this is consistent with the idea that bodily malfunctions are associated with the clogging of qi (life energy) in your body and acupuncture can help reset and adjust that life energy to let it flow properly again. If you would like to try acupuncture, it is best to ask local Chinese people around you for reliable recommendations.
If acupuncture seems too “out there” for you, I highly recommend a gentler and very soothing treatment called moxibustion (ai-jiu). In moxibustion, a cigar-like stick consisting of dried mugwort is burned and held over particular points over the body so that the heat can penetrate into that area. If you have neck problems or shoulder stiffness, hovering the burning stick over the acupressure on the base of the neck is extremely soothing and helpful. The last two times I visited a Chinese massage clinic, I slept surprisingly well after a neck and shoulder aroma oil massage followed by moxibustion treatment on my neck and shoulder.
Moxibustion has a long history and has recently started become very popular. Many massage shops are starting to offer them. There are also shops specializing in moxibustion, with a treatment usually costing about RMB200-300 per hour. Aside from visiting a clinic, you can also get moxibustion tins and boxes of short moxibustion stick on Taobao that allows you to operate the treatment safely from home on your own.
You would insert a short moxibustion stick inside the tin, light it up, close the tin and insert it in a special-made bag. You would then strap the bag onto the corresponding part of your body (you can look up the acupressure point associated with the specific discomfort you are experiencing) and the heat will last for about 40 minutes. A set consisting of a tin and 60 short moxibustion sticks usually costs no more than RMB 100 and is a very safe and economical alternative to visiting a clinic. There are certain acupressure points you can treat with moxibustion on a daily basis that will help keep you in good health. Have fun trying it out!
Interested in other ways to explore Chinese culture and keep physically and mentally active in China? Check out our teacher events gallery and see what cool free events our teachers go to. Click here to view the gallery.