This article is from the Alternative Medicine Therapies guide.
Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is a system of health care based on the late-twentieth-century standardization of medical practices that originated in China some 2500 years ago. Two classic medical texts, the Nei Jing (compiled from 100 B.C. to 100 A.D.) and the Nan Jing (written circa 100 to 200 A.D.) were important early documents that presented the core concepts of TCM, and they have informed generations of scholars and practitioners ever since. These core concepts suggest that disease is the result of imbalances in the flow of the body's vital energy, or qi (pronounced "chee"), and that the human body is a microcosm of the basic natural forces at work in the universe.
As TCM evolved over the centuries, it came to include treatment of disease using acupuncture, herbal medicine, dietary principles, physical manipulation of the body tissues, therapeutic exercise and movement (tai chi), and the mind-body practice of qigong. TCM reached its apex during the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) then gradually declined to the status of a folk practice until 1949. It was then that the government of the People’s Republic of China began to exploit the remaining TCM practitioners as a means of making health care accessible to a suffering and underserved population.
While TCM was fading in China it was nevertheless migrating to the rest of the globe as traders, missionaries, and diplomats visited East Asia in the 17th and 18th centuries and returned home with reports and texts of the classical practices. Chinese immigrating to the United States in the 19th century brought other components of traditional practice with them.
It wasn't until 1971, however, that U.S. citizens really became aware of TCM--and of acupuncture in particular. This came about because James Reston, a New York Times reporter became stricken with appendicitis while doing a story on a ping-pong tournament in Beijing, and was treated for post-surgical pain with acupuncture. In a front-page Timesstory he wrote, "I've seen the past, and it works!" This exposure came at a time when many Americans were looking for a more holistic, naturalistic approach to health care, and caused quite a stir among the Western medical community. Since then, acupuncture has become a widely accepted form of treatment in the U.S., and other aspects of TCM are gaining supporters as well.