The History of TCM

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TCM stands for Traditional Chinese Medicine, it is the umbrella of Eastern medicine that includes acupuncture, cupping, Gua Sha, Tui Na, Qi Gong, as well as the wealth of TCM herbal formulas that continue to heavily influence the current herbalism and supplement industry today. 

Acupuncture is a therapeutic technique invented in China that dates back to its Stone Age over 4,000 years ago. Originally, crude arrowhead stones named “bian” stone were used to incise abscesses, drain pus, and let blood out for therapeutic purposes. By the Shang Dynasty (3,000 years ago), the ancient people began using “bian” stone as a more specialized medical tool to treat a wider variety of ailments such as abdominal pain that was common among northerners who subsided on animal husbandry, drinking mostly milk & living in cold weather camps. 

Acupuncture old book
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Traditional Chinese Medicine

By the Han Dynasty (206 BC - AD 24), China was introduced to iron and “bian” stone was soon replaced by metal needles, broadening development in the field entirely. It was during this dynasty that originated the first canon of Chinese medical literature, The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Medicine—Huangdi Neijing—its authorship ascribed to the ancient Emperor Huangdi. From there many other texts, philosophies, and styles of practice were born. If Hippocrates is considered the father of Western medicine, then the physicians who created the Huangdi Neijing during the Han Dynasty are the fathers of the East. 

Acupuncture was introduced to Japan & Korea during the 6th century AD, to Europe  during the 16th century, and to the United States in the early 1800s where an American medical physician, Dr. Franklin Bache, learned of it while vacationing in France. It didn’t come to the general public’s awareness, however, until the 1970s under President Nixon. In 1971, US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger traveled to China to prepare for a historical state visit between Nixon and Mao Zedong, in his travel party was Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist James Reston. While in China, Reston suffered a ruptured appendix and had to undergo an emergency appendectomy. Rather than prescribe highly addictive opioids for his post-operative pain, he was treated with acupuncture & moxibustion. The treatments worked well and left a large impression on him, and he wrote a piece in the New York Times upon his return which sparked acupuncture into the American consciousness. 

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