Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a complete ancient medical system that has been practiced for thousands of years and remains part of mainstream healthcare delivery in many Asian countries today. TCM promotes a holistic approach to health and aims to maintain physical, emotional, and spiritual balance in order to prevent and treat disease. The mind and body are seen to be interconnected and each disease and disorder is not seen as an isolated event but as an outward manifestation of the whole person being out of balance. TCM modalities include acupuncture, moxibustion, herbal medicine, Chinese massage, movement combined with breathing exercises (such as tai chi and qi gong), nutrition, and lifestyle modification.
TCM is based on three fundamental principles. The first is the idea that qi (pronounced "chee"), described as life energy, exists throughout the body and is responsible for maintaining normal physiological, psychological, and spiritual functions. Disease is caused by a disruption of qi and manifests as a unique collection of signs and symptoms. Qi also maintains the balance of yin and yang, the principle of complementary opposites that determines the world around us and is reflected within each of us; together, yin and yang represent a state of dynamic equilibrium that exists among all things in the universe. The third principle influencing health and illness is known as the five elements—earth, metal, water, wood, and fire—which are thought of as representations of the five elements that characterize the dynamic interactions of nature. The concept again reflects the inability to separate the individual from the environment that is fundamental to the TCM philosophy and belief system.
According to TCM, there are three major causes of disease: the external factors or environmental influences known as wind, cold, fire, dampness, heat, and dryness; the internal emotions of joy, anger, worry, sorrow, and fear; and the constitutional factors relating to diet, sexual activity, lifestyle, work, and exercise.