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A Chinese medicine approach

Published:Wednesday | April 18, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Tracey-Ann Brown, Complementary & Oriental Medicine

Oriental medicine (traditional Chinese medicine) is a 3,000-year-old system of medicine, which primarily involves the practice of acupuncture and herbal medicine. In recent years, traditional Chinese medicine has enjoyed increasing popularity in many parts of the world and is practised in numerous integrative medical hospitals and clinical settings as its benefits become more well-known.

How it works

While traditional Chinese medicine, and in particular, acupuncture, is most widely known for its benefits in pain management, persons seek out treatment for issues related to a number of systems of the body as it regulates a variety of functions.

It stimulates the body's self-regulating systems and natural healing abilities to promote physical and emotional well- being. In so doing, it assists the heart's ability to circulate and the liver's ability to store blood, the lung's function of governing respiration, the spleen's and stomach's control over gastrointestinal processes, the kidney's ability to regulate fluids in the body and the intestines role in digestion and excretion.

Other therapies used alongside acupuncture and herbal prescriptions include: cupping, moxibustion and nutritional counselling.

Herbal formulas

Herbal formulas are made up of several herbs, and are selected from a pharmacopeia of several hundred herbs to address a variety of conditions.


Acupuncture works along pathways (meridians) in the body which are associated with, and directly affect, specific organs and systems of the body. Along these meridians are more than 1,000 acupuncture points, each with a specific function and location. By gently inserting very thin needles at these points, acupuncture manipulates the meridians and their corresponding organs and systems.

Of these 1,000 acupuncture points, 100 are found on the ear, often used for smoking cessation and weight loss.

Conditions treated

Oriental medicine may be used in the management of conditions related to the cardiovascular/circulatory, respiratory, immune, digestive, endocrine, nervous, reproductive, urinary, muscular and skeletal systems of the body, to address health conditions such as diabetes, sinusitis/allergies, pain, obesity/weight loss, infertility, hypertension, cholesterol, menstrual problems, prostate disorders, depression, insomnia, sexual dysfunction and post-stroke support.

Course of treatment

The number of treatments will vary depending on the severity of the condition, ranging from one treatment to several over the course of several weeks or months.


In any treatment programme, a plan for prevention of illness and the maintenance of good health is key. Traditional Chinese medicine, within its areas of focus, places strong emphasis on this, so much so that in ancient China, persons sought treatment from their doctors routinely to prevent disease. So if one became ill, the doctor's reputation would likely come into question. In general, traditional Chinese medicine offers a mildly invasive option for maintaining good health and wellness.

Dr Tracey-Ann Brown is an oriental medicine practitioner, herbalist and doctor of acupuncture. Email: