The Fascinating world of Traditional Chinese Medicine

Chinese-HerbsTraditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has been around for more than five thousand years. Traditional Chinese Medicine originated in ancient China but it has evolved greatly over the years and its reach today is worldwide.

Chinese medicine shops and Chinese medicine practitioners exist in most modern metropolises that have a substantial Chinese population. In modern-day Hong Kong Chinese medicine co-exists with western medicine and though the ideas and medical techniques of Chinese medicine date back to several centuries but they continue to be relevant.

The main philosophy of Chinese medicine is the achievement of yin-yang Qi balance of the human body and its organs. The basic forms of Qi are the Yin Qi and the Yang Qi (Chi[L1]  pronounced as ‘chee’), which need to balance out. Qi is the energy of life that flows through the meridians or pathways of a body. The flow of Qi through a body depends on the alignment of the body with its surrounding environment. Chinese medicine aims to find the perfect balance between these two elements to ensure good health. Chinese medicine practitioners use a combination of medical techniques and seemingly exotic medicinal preparations to achieve this balance in a person.

Dried abalone, birds’ nests, dried scallops and seahorses, ginseng, turtle shells are just some of the myriad animal parts, roots, and plants that feature as ingredients of Chinese herbal concoctions.

The Sheung Wan area of Hong Kong Island is renowned as the dried seafood and Chinese Medicine district of the city.


The area’s main streets and thoroughfares such as Queen’s Road West and Wing Lok Street team with numerous stores offering a wide array of high-quality Chinese herbs and various exotic ingredients imported from the Mainland and elsewhere.

However, Chinese medicine is not just about herbal concoctions and potions; Chinese medicine practitioners use various medical techniques to bring about an ideal balance of yin Qi and yang Qi energies:



Chinese Medicine refers to acupuncture as a technique to balance qi or life force that flows through the meridians in a person’s body.  Acupuncture practitioners insert very thin needles at key meridian points through the body to re-balance a patient’s Qi. Acupuncture is believed to be an effective tool for pain management.


This traditional Chinese medicine technique involves the burning of mugwort, a type of herb over a pressure point in order to promote healing. Moxibustion is of two types, direct and indirect. Direct moxibustion is further categorized as scarring and non-scarring. In scarring moxibustion, the practitioner ignites a cone of moxa on a pressure point and allows it to burn out complete[L2] . This healing method causes scarring and blisters. In the non-scarring version of the treatment, the practitioner removes the moxa before it burns the skin. However, indirect moxibustion is the most common form of treatment today, as it doesn’t carry the risk of scarring or burning. During this form of treatment, the practitioner holds a moxa stick close to the pressure point rather than placing it on the skin. This method generates heat under the skin’s surface and promoted healing. Another form of indirect moxibustion involves the use of a warmed moxa-tipped acupuncture needle. The needle is then inserted and removed when appropriate.

Cupping therapy

The Chinese version of cupping therapy features the creation of suction along the meridian points of a body. Cupping practitioners use cups made of bamboo, glass or earthenware to create suction for they believe the suction helps to mobilize blood flow and cures various medical ailments.  Cupping therapy usually complements other medical treatments such as acupuncture.

Chinese Massage Therapy

In a fast-paced city like Hong Kong, making time to have traditional Chinese massage therapy is hugely popular. Massage parlors dot every nook and cranny of the city.  Chinese massage therapy like acupuncture focuses on the energy points of a body in order to improve the flow of qi throughout its entirety. Chinese massage therapy constitutes a holistic way to promote good health. The main forms of Chinese massage therapies include forms such as An Mo massage and Tui Na massage.

The An Mo massage therapy employs a method of pressing and rubbing to calm, relax and balance the body. Whereas, the Tui Na massage method uses several repetitions of deep massage techniques to provide relief from chronic pain due to sprains, strains, arthritis and problems related to the digestive system.

Persistent pain is often the result of blocked channels or pathways. A regular traditional Chinese massage helps to unblock the pathways and regulate blood flow, which in turn enables recovery and rejuvenation. Regular 30 to 60-minute massage sessions are believed to boost immunity and keep degenerative diseases at bay as they regularize blood supply and improve circulation.

Chinese massage therapy is immensely popular with perennially stressed Hong Kongers and visitors to the city too. In addition to these therapies, meditation and spiritual forms of exercise like Qigong and tai chi also help to restore the yin and yang balance of a body.

Medicinal Chinese Diets

It’s a well-known fact that Chinese cuisine is extremely varied and has various forms. An important variant of Chinese cuisine is medicinal cuisine or ‘functional foods.’ The Chinese have for centuries believed that certain functional foods have biologically active components, which promote all round good health.

chinese-herbs (1)Chinese medicine doesn’t consider food as mere sustenance rather certain foods are said to have therapeutic properties. Chinese medicine practitioners believe that the first line of defense in the treatment of ailments is diet itself. Thus, Chinese medicinal cuisine includes dishes prepared with Chinese herbs and condiments. The ingestion of this type of cuisine is said to prevent and treat diseases as well as improve vigor and vitality and even slow down the aging process.

These various medicinal foods include cereals, fruits, vegetables, meats and marine products. The Chinese people believe that the consumption of a medicinal diet further helps to restore the yin-yang balance.

Cooling foods like bamboo shoots, tofu, bitter melon, mung bean, lotus root, green tea and others help clear the body of heat and toxins as they calm the blood and nourish the yin. Other foods like cherries; chestnuts, walnuts, ginseng, chives, prawns, ginger and garlic amongst others are considered to be warming foods. These warming foods help to improve circulation while raising the yang qi and banishing cold.

In addition to warming and cooling foods, are neutral foods like Chinese cabbage, taro, white fungus, goji berries, adzuki beans, lotus seeds and others. These neutral foods are suitable for every type of body.

Many of the foods mentioned above may appear exotic or strange to western folk. However, they are quite mainstream for Chinese people who have become familiar with their therapeutic and healing qualities over the years.

The Chinese Medicine Council of Hong Kong administers and regulates the services of Chinese medicine practitioners in Hong Kong. If you are intrigued enough to explore an alternative to western medicine do visit the council’s website to learn more and find an approved Chinese medicine practitioner.