A Chinese longevity mirror
In the West, Chinese medicine is almost entirely associated with acupuncture. Perhaps the reason for this is because acupuncture is the most exotic and unique aspect of Chinese medicine. However, contrary to popular belief, acupuncture is not synonymous with Chinese medicine, but rather is just one aspect of it. Chinese medicine, being the primary healthcare system in China for over three thousand years, is a very comprehensive and complex system that involves a variety of modalities. In fact there are five main branches and all are equally valued in the process of healing.
The first branch is acupuncture—which is the insertion of micro-fine needles into points along pathways on the surface of the body called meridians. The second branch is Chinese herbology. This is the use of natural plant, animal, and mineral substances to treat illnesses. The third branch, is nutritional therapy, utilizing the concept of “food as medicine”. The fourth branch is manipulative therapy includes massage, tui na, and stretching. The fifth branch consists of what we consider qi exercises, otherwise known as tai chi and chi gong. These are static and moving meditations that harmonize the body and breath. These exercises are very revered in China. In fact, up until a few years ago, it was common in China to find a park full of people of all ages doing tai chi together at sunrise. It is believed that these exercises prevent osteoarthritis, stimulate immunity, hold the secret to longevity, and promote an overall sense of well being. Modern research is validating these beliefs. Although there are only five branches, treatment is not limited to these modalities. An acupuncturist may also recommend lifestyle changes if necessary.