Instant Expert: Understanding TCM and Finding it Beijing

Instant Expert: Understanding TCM and Finding it Beijing
By Mark Turner ,

Traditional Chinese Medicine, from here on referred to as TCM, is something that fascinates Chinese and non-Chinese people alike. It is part of Chinas long legacy and, to many, constitutes a significant part of the country’s mystique. Along with feng shui, TCM has found popularity in Western countries, outside of Chinatowns, and has entered the public consciousness with a higher profile. Indeed, treatments such as acupuncture, one amongst the many incorporated in TCM, have found their way into the mainstream health systems in countries such as England.

Here is a brief rundown of some of the TCM treatments that are most popular, their intended benefits and targeted ailments, and some of the places at which they can be received in Beijing. As the efficacy and uses of TCM are subject to much debate, this article is a starting point or introduction to popular TCM treatments, and as a possible catalyst for your own research and exploration.

Chinese herbal remedies
Chinese herbal remedies are some of the most common form of TCM encountered in daily life. Pharmacies often stock herbal remedies alongside Western-style concoctions. Many remedies are ones which generations of a family swear by. The main problem with TCM medicine is that the substances supplied are often unregulated and this sometimes results in less than desired effects or, unfortunately, on occasion, detrimental effects. When wishing to go herbal with your treatment, it is best to try the services of a number of reputable institutions which combine the use of ancient Chinese medicine and modern Western technology, such as Beijing University of Chinese Medicine and Pharmacology Dongfang Hospital.

Beijing University of Chinese Medicine and Pharmacology Dongfang Hospital 北京中医药大学东方医院 View In Map
Add: 6 Fangxingyuan Yiqu, Fangzhuang, Fengtai District, Beijing
地址: 北京市丰台区方庄小庄芳星园一区六号
Tel: 010 6768 9653

Over a number of decades, acupuncture has received much attention in many countries is one of the most well known of TCM treatments and around the world. Acupuncture works around the theory of meridians – points on the body which are thought to be located along the pathways which qi, life’s vital energy, travels through. It is thought that when the skin at these points is lightly and strategically penetrated by needles beneficial effects can be achieved as the result of balancing of the qi.

Acupuncture is widely used as a means for treating general pain, in particular back and neck pain. However, acupuncture’s uses are not limited to that of pain control, with practitioners claiming it to be a treatment for ailments as diverse as depression, skin complaints, irritable bowel syndrome and even weight loss.

One practicality of acupuncture which is of concern to many is that of hygiene. It is legally required that acupuncture needles are of the disposable variety and people receiving treatment at most places can purchase their own needles in sealed packaging. Those wishing to try out acupuncture may do so in a number of Beijing hospitals. Non-Chinese speakers looking for an English speaking service may find Beijing International Medical Acupuncture Centre useful as a first port of call – they make modest claims about the illnesses they can treat, and mainly focus on pain relief. Treatment at the centre is carried out by experienced practitioners.

China TCM Research and Study Institute Acupuncture Hospital 中国中医科学院针灸医院View In Map
Add: 18 Beixincang, Dongcheng District, Beijing (south of Dongzhimennei)
地址: 北京市东城区东直门北新仓18号
Opening hours: Mon-Sat 24hrs
Tel: 010 6403 5769 

Tuina, guasha and cupping
Tuina is traditional Chinese massage. It is used as a means for relaxation and is commonly employed in alleviating the symptoms of a muscular strain and injury. Tuina is performed through the clothes and relies on the application of force to pressure points across the body. The actual process of tuina is much less relaxing than other more gentle forms of massage, such as Thai massage – its adherents tend to go by the motto of “no pain no gain”. The most skilled practitioners are commonly blind masseurs; trading on the loss of sense of sight, they are often more attuned to noticing fine differences in how a person’s body responds to pressure. More experienced masseurs having an uncanny ability to identify health problems using touch alone. Finding a good blind masseur is a process of trial and error not all masseurs even being blind as they claim to be – with the skill and levels of professionalism varying greatly from spa to spa and masseur to masseur.

Zuliao, foot massage, is believed to be most useful when treatment is undergone on a regular basis. Prices of massage vary greatly from location to location; from a mere 40 RMB into hundreds – costliness does not necessarily guarantee quality and as stated above, a certain element of trial and error is often needed in finding a good service.

Guasha and cupping are services offered by many spas and massage centres. Guasha involves the use of a smooth edged flat instrument being scraped along oiled skin on the back and neck, with the direction of strokes going along the pathways of acupressure meridians. The treatment can cause slight discomfort and because of the strength of the strokes it often leaves the skin red or pink. Almost immediately after the treatment is finished the recipient more often than not experiences a sensation of relaxation or release. Practitioners endorse guasha as an effective treatment for pain, fatigue, fever, and respiratory illnesses including persistent coughs and colds. It is also considered helpful in aiding general well being.

Anyone that has noticed people walking around with large dark perfectly circular marks on their backs and wondered what those were, can finally have their curiosity satisfied: they are the byproducts of a TCM treatment commonly known as “fire cupping”. In this procedure a glass or plastic cup is heated with a flame and the mouth of the cup applied to the skin creating a vacuum and resultant drawing of blood to the surface of the skin. As with guasha, the main aims of fire cupping are the treatment of respiratory complaints and aches and pains, particularly in the back and neck.

The list of massage centres that specialize in Chinese Tuina and related services in Beijing is impossibly long. It is worth trying centres near home if you wish to receive regular treatment. Paradise Massage Centre located in Sanyuanqiao is a good place to start exploring the world of traditional Chinese medical massages.

Paradise Massage Center 天舒足部保健View In Map
Add: 1/F, Shouqi Plaza, A3 Zaoying Lu, Chaoyang District, Beijing
地址: 北京市朝阳区麦子店枣营路甲3号首汽集团1层
Tel: 010 6508 1241

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