Traditional Chinese Medicine, or TCM, is literally the accumulated knowledge of the Chinese people’s traditional health practices.
At intervals in China’s history, medical scholars were sent out by the ruling dynasties to document the techniques and practices of the people, giving rise to such classics as The Yellow Emperor’s Cannon of Internal Medicine, compiled over 2200 years ago during the Warring States period (475-221 BC) as a dialogue between an emperor and a healer.
China recommended that the cannon be included in the UNESCO Memory of the World Register in 2011.
Today, Chinese medicine is widely practiced and researched world-wide and has become a primary example of traditional medical theories and practices still applicable today.
Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organisation, identifies Chinese medicine as an approach to lessen the burden on health services world wide.
According to China’s major newspaper China Daily, officials at State Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Beijing expect to see 30 overseas TCM centres and 50 TCM international communication and cooperation demonstration bases established in Belt and Road countries.
As a TCM doctor I am heartened by my colleagues at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital who report that one of the members of the medical team sent by China has had much success with acupuncture in the physiotherapy department.
I was a proud Barbadian Chinese Scholarship winner in 2004 which allowed me the opportunity to study clinical Traditional Chinese Medicine at the world’s first Chinese Medicine University, Nanjing for seven years. We studied a modern medical degree curriculum along with traditional Chinese medicine in a historical context as well as modern day applications.
Some of the hospitals in which I interned were not only outfitted with halls of Chinese medicine clinics, but also housed the clinics of the best western medical professionals in the province of Jiangsu.
Among the gems of Traditional Chinese Medicine are practices which put the health of individuals into their own hands.
Traditional Chinese Medicine has a strong supporting role to play in the control and treatment of non- communicable disease with which we Barbadians – a health loving people - are currently faced. Traditional methodologies include acupuncture, herbal prescription, dietary adjustments, exercise prescription, moxibustion, fire cupping and massage therapy techniques (known as Tui-Na), among others.
Traditional Chinese medicine pharmacology is extremely vast; in fact, aside from commonly used herbs, almost any food or substance can be categorised for its ingested or topical usage. Properties of herbs may also change depending on the method of preparation or location of production.
For example, the bodily reactions to consuming fresh ginger and dried powered ginger differ. Fresh ginger, aside from being known as the king of remedies for unwanted vomiting, is effective at opening the pores to cause beneficial sweating, thereby casting out surface-level coldness brought upon the body by exposure to environmental conditions, such as chilly winds or over- air-conditioned meeting rooms and offices. On the other hand, dried ginger is much more effective at relieving deep internal cold and dampness in the body due to weakness and fatigue or long-term exposure to a cold environment. Pickled ginger however, is used in formulas to treat excessive menstruation.
American, Korean and Chinese ginseng also differ, whereas American ginseng can be used as a tonifyrer for fatigue or dryness, Korean and Chinese ginseng are much more potent and should be used only under the correct conditions. In Barbados, we have practitioners adept in aspects of Chinese medicine, including acupuncture, acupressure, footmassageandQigongexercises. A limited range of Chinese medicine formulas are available. Knowledge of TCM formulas and how they are put together as well as knowledge of the oriental methodologies for understanding bodily functions are a great catalyst for re-igniting the Caribbean way of personal care through understanding the relationship between people, our natural environment and nature’s cycles. Allowing our own systems of wellbeing to develop alongside Chinese methods, traditional therapies have been and continue to be a vital part of our national health care.
Dr. Ché Leon C Corbin
Clinical Traditional Chinese Medicine