Traditions, Adaptations & Challenges– TCM Today

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Over spring break, I had the opportunity to visit a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) clinic in Xi’an opened by a friend of my parents. After my research and blog post on medicine in China in the Late Modern Era, I wanted to see how TCM has adapted to the modern world in which Western Medicine is dominating, pushing TCM aside as “Alternative Medicine.”

The roots, stems, leaves and flowers of medicinal plants have distinct effects on the body, and therefore are placed separately.

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Medicine Chest

In the clinic, all  the herbs, insects, minerals and other substances essential to TCM are categorized and arranged into different drawers in the medicine chest. The roots, stems, leaves and flowers of medicinal plants have distinct effects on the body, and therefore are placed separately.

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There are many strange and rare substances including dried scorpions, centipedes, snakeskin, deer antlers, just to name a few.

According to the doctor, substances obtained from similar plant species or have similar medicinal properties are grouped together to avoid potentially serious consequences should the doctor makes a mistake while filling a TCM prescription.

A complete TCM prescription could be composed of as many as 20 ingredients or more. Ingredients of a prescription are taken from the medicine chest and placed on the table. Then they are put into a gauze bag. Their active compounds and the medicinal values are then extracted by machines and made into potable medicine pouches.

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The doctor himself has studied both Western Medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine. In his opinion, the biggest challenge for TCM to gain more acceptance and to be more widely understood lies in the use of traditional Chinese terminology in the practice of TCM. Unlike medical terms in modern medicine, certain terms like Qi (气), Yin (阴), Yang (阳), Jing (精), Fire (火) and others in TCM should not be taken out of context for direct interpretation. (TCM)

In this article, the author provides a thorough analysis of the terminology that is the core of TCM practice. I believe that reading and understanding this article can help dispel the negative stereotypes on TCM practice as merely placebo treatments.

In the next blog post, I will look at medicine in the early 20th century. Potential topics include battlefield medicine, the influenza pandemic, the discovery of penicillin,  the pharmaceutical industry, heart diseases and polio.

Works Cited

“TCM Terminology.” TCM Terminology | Acupuncture Integrated,

3 thoughts on “Traditions, Adaptations & Challenges– TCM Today

  1. sabrina.schoenborn

    This is fascinating! I’m so glad you got the opportunity to visit a TCM clinic! I feel liek you had a fantastic use of photos, and I love how the doctor you talked to studied both Eastern and Western medicine. I’d love to hear more about those who use one, the other, or both and how that translates into different treatments. Great job!

  2. baitingz

    TCM is certainly a big thing for the world just because it has existed for thousands of years! I am glad that you are touching base on it. Since my dad is also working in a TCM-related industry, I heard that many TCM would cause kidney failure in long term. So I am curious what is your opinion on that? I know your project is on medicine history, but if you want to spend more time on TCM, I think researching on why many TCM are not explainable by pharmacology may be an interesting topic! Lastly, you said TMC are now taken as an “alternative,” could you please give me more explanations on this? I am curious to know why!

  3. ninayichenwei

    Really interesting post! It’s great to read about your experience at the clinic and your understanding of the prospect of TCM in our society. It would be great if you could explain a bit more about the stereotypes of TCM and some challenges it faces. You could also point to a specific section of the article in the link that you shared for the readers to quickly locate the key points:)


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