What is Traditional Chinese Medicine?
After seven years of study, Dayley Harper looks forward to returning home to Vernon to set up a Traditional Chinese Medicine clinic. She has a background in Buddhist psychology, and is already a Registered Acupuncturist and Medical Herbalist, so we talked to her about why she chose to earn her Doctorate of Chinese Medicine as well, and to learn more about the modality.
“One thing led to another,” laughs Dayley. “During my medical herbalist and acupuncture studies, I fell in love with Chinese Medicine, and the deeper I went, I could see how beneficial it is for people.”
At the heart of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), she says, is the question: What is health?
“In TCM,” she explains, “health is the dynamic state of harmony between what you eat, think and drink, and how external influences (like work, relationships, weather, injury) affect your physiology. It’s a very holistic perspective. TCM is a system that harmonizes the dynamic dance between these internal and external forces, and in doing so, eliminates disease and promotes health and vitality, and returns the body to a state of equilibrium.”
Evolved over 2,500 years, Chinese Medicine’s influence is widespread.
“How we approach modern medicine today, the holistic principles and herbal formulas used by naturopaths, using acupressure points to deal with stress and headaches, and balancing energy in the body are all Chinese Medicine. Based on Taoist theory that doesn’t see things as good or bad, it’s not about the elimination of disease, but the cultivation of a healthy environment that allows your body to thrive. For example, recognizing that we shouldn’t eradicate bacteria, and that we need inflammatory responses in the body. What you eat, drink, and think affect your physical health, and your mental and emotional patterns.”
Roadmaps to Health
Everyone is different, but on your first visit you can expect a lengthy intake, explains Dayley, with many questions to analyze the state of your constitution—about sleep, diet, energy levels, what makes you feel better, or worse. A TCM practitioner ‘reads’ and analyzes many signs to determine health, combined with two diagnostic tools, which form a roadmap of what’s going on and where, in your body.
Pulse: Six different pulse positions—three on the right side and three on the left—correspond to different organs in the body. These are checked for their quality, rate, and rhythm.
Tongue: Since different parts of the tongue correspond to different parts of the body, tongues are checked for colour, shape, texture, teeth marks, and coatings to determine the state of internal organs. For example:
- Bright red shows inflammation or heat, and purple insufficient blood circulation.
- Pale is a sign of blood deficiency, fatigue, dizziness, or blurry vision.
- Puffy and swollen is a Qi deficiency and a sign of gas and bloating, fluid retention, or fatigue.
- Scallops (teeth marks) show there’s not enough Qi in the body to maintain the form of the tongue.
Customized treatments can include acupuncture, herbal medicine, food, and Qigong energy work.
Shi lao, or ‘diet therapy’, is a system that looks at foods’ energetic qualities—such as hot, cold, dry, damp—rather than the quantitative (micronutrients), and how they influence the nature of someone’s individual constitution, to prevent and overcome illness.
“When digestion is hot with acid reflux,” suggests Dayley, “eating cooling cucumber quells the inner fire. Or eating warm ginger and cinnamon helps poor circulation.
“When you look at food from an energetic perspective, anyone can become in tune with how they are feeling, and choose foods more suitable to their health.”
Finding A TCM Practitioner
Regulated by the College of Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners and Acupuncturists of British Columbia (CTCMA), qualified practitioners have completed their studies and successfully passed a licensing exam. Look for these designations:
- TCMP: Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioner
- DTCM: Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine
- R.AC: Registered Acupuncturist
Article was published in The Good Life magazine