Last updated date: 11-Mar-2024

Medically Reviewed By

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Lavrinenko Oleg

Originally Written in English

Oriental Medicine Facts - Viewpoints from Expert Doctors

    For thousands of years, a medical system has been utilized to prevent, diagnose, and cure disease. Oriental medicine strives to restore the body’s balance and harmony between the natural opposing forces of yin and yang, which can block qi and cause disease. 

    Oriental medicine is the world's oldest medical system that has been formalized. It promotes health and well-being by treating illness and disease with the six Major Branches of Oriental Medicine: acupuncture, nutrition, herbal therapy, meditation, physical exercise, and massage.

    Oriental medicine, often known as Chinese medicine, is an ancient medical system that applies a thorough grasp of nature's rules and patterns to the human body. Acupuncture and eastern medicine are recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) as effective for over 43 diseases in the nine primary health categories.


    History of Chinese medicine

    Between the 29th and 16th centuries BCE, Chinese medicine went through four key eras. The first, from the 29th to the 27th century BCE, was the period of the three emperors, largely an age of myth and mythology with only approximations of dates. The events of the following 2,000 years are unknown, but a steady increase in medical knowledge and modifications in medical practice can be expected.

    The second phase was a combination of mythology and reality centered on the career of Bian Qiao (Bian Que)—anecdotal information about whom dated back to the first half of the 5th century BCE. The third period, from around CE 150 to 300, was that of the great practitioners, including the doctors Zhang Zhongjing and Wang Shuhe, as well as the surgeon Hua Tuo.

    The people and events were genuine, yet tales sprang up around them. The following 1,300 years saw the compilation of encyclopaedic books and the production of comments on previous authors, but there was little originality. The character of Chinese medicine began to alter in the second half of the 16th century, when tenuous connection with medical representatives from the West began. 


    Traditional Chinese Medicine

    Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) originated more than 2000 years ago as a system of medical practice from ancient China based on practical information as well as beliefs and notions that have yet to be mapped by scientific counterparts. Despite the growing popularity of TCM and acknowledgment of its therapeutic advantages across the world, a lack of strong evidence from an EBM viewpoint is impeding TCM's adoption by the Western medical community and incorporation into mainstream healthcare.

    TCM must show its efficacy and safety through high-level data in line with EBM in order for its advantages to be rationally harnessed in the best interests of patients. However, significant disagreement continues on the validity and practicality of applying the EBM model to this ancient therapy.

    Despite the rising popularity of TCM and global interest in its therapeutic advantages, the primary barrier to its adoption by the Western medical community and incorporation into mainstream healthcare remains a lack of strong evidence from EBM viewpoints.

    TCM must show its efficacy and safety by high-level evidence utilizing techniques acknowledged in the evaluation of mainstream medicine, that is, in line with evidence-based medicine, in order for it to be sensibly utilized for patients who may benefit from it.


    Efficacy of oriental medicine

    To restore balance, the Chinese healer may employ any of a dizzying number of traditional treatments. Acupuncture or acupressure, moxibustion (moxa therapy), or cupping may be used to treat the patient (in which hot glass cups are placed on the patient to draw blood to the skin).

    The Chinese healer may prescribe a brew made from one (or a mixture of) the hundreds of therapeutic plants or dried animal parts (e.g., snakes, scorpions, insects, deer antlers) in the Chinese pharmacological armament.

    Various Western scientific fields have performed investigations to discover how Chinese medicine works, but measuring Eastern medicine using a Western yardstick is challenging. Many acupuncture studies, for example, involve research attempting to establish that this method may remove or lessen pain or alleviate specific diseases.

    This simplistic approach, however, misses Chinese medicine's deeper understanding and experience that the human body has limitless healing capacity and that the complementary energies of health and sickness represent the yinyang principle inside the human body.

    The TCM practitioner will inquire about your medical history and do a physical check to search for symptoms of imbalance. The TCM practitioner will inspect your skin, tongue, and hair, as well as various areas of your body, from the color of your eyes to the color of your nails, and will check 6 pulses on each of your wrists.

    The practitioner will also examine your shen (spirit) by listening to your speech and working to discover if one or more of your organ networks are impacted. The practitioner will next use a mix of the therapies mentioned above to try to address imbalances in your body.

    Herbs and acupuncture have received more investigation than other therapies. However, studies indicate a lot of promise:

    • Acupuncture is widely acknowledged as a treatment for a variety of ailments, including pain alleviation and minimizing chemotherapy side effects.
    • A variety of TCM medicines are now utilized at well-respected Western medical clinics to treat everything from insomnia to arthritis to menopause.
    • Tai chi appears to enhance balance in Parkinson's disease patients.
    • Cupping may help relieve pain from shingles.


    What is TCM good for?

    TCM has been utilized to treat a wide range of ailments over the years. Western experts are continuously researching its efficacy in treating various illnesses. If you have a serious ailment, consult both a conventional doctor and a TCM practitioner. Inform everyone on your health care team about any medications, herbs, or supplements you are using. TCM has been shown to aid with the following conditions:

    • Obesity
    • Diabetes and its complications, such as retinopathy 
    • High cholesterol
    • Depression
    • Arthritis
    • Back pain
    • Male and female fertility disorders
    • Alzheimer disease
    • Parkinson disease
    • Digestive disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome
    • Recurrent cystitis, inflammation of the bladder
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Heart disease


    TCM may also be useful in treating the following conditions:

    • Allergies
    • Asthma
    • Cancer, especially colorectal cancer
    • Stroke
    • Sinusitis
    • Addictions
    • Pain, including childbirth and abdominal
    • Menopausal symptoms
    • Osteoporosis
    • Infections (respiratory, bladder, vaginal)
    • Sleep problems
    • Stress
    • Constipation
    • Diabetic neuropathy
    • Epilepsy


    Is there anything I should watch out for?

    Take Chinese herbs under the guidance of a doctor, especially if you are pregnant or nursing. Chinese herbal goods, particularly those made outside of the United States, are frequently mislabeled, with vital information missing. Some Chinese herbal remedies include medications that are not stated on the labels.

    Some Chinese herbal lotions used to treat eczema, for example, contain steroid medicines. Also, keep an eye out for Chinese herbal medications that contain aristolochic acid. This acid, which is produced from a plant, has been related to renal failure and even cancer.

    In addition, heavy metals such as lead, cadmium, and mercury have been found in several Chinese herbs. In recent years, there has been an upsurge in adverse responses to Chinese herbal therapy and TCM. Acute liver damage induced by Chinese herbal medication accounts for about 22% of overall injuries.

    Herbs that are safe to ingest can be identified by a skilled and registered TCM practitioner. The practitioner should also discuss the potential negative effects of the herbs they recommend. Always inform your doctor about any herbs or supplements you use.


    Who Should Avoid TCM?

    Doctors generally advise against using it to completely replace Western medication, especially if you have a severe ailment like as cancer or liver disease.

    They also urge caution, especially with herbs, if you’re:

    • Elderly
    • Pregnant or breastfeeding
    • Scheduled for surgery (some herbs could lead to bleeding problems)
    • Taking other medicine 
    • Treating a child


    Safety of Traditional Chinese Medicine

    • Some Chinese herbal products have been found to contain undeclared plant or animal material; drugs (such as the blood thinner warfarin and the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug diclofenac); heavy metals (such as arsenic, lead, and cadmium); pesticides or sulfites, which can cause asthma or severe allergic reactions; or incorrect herbs, some of which have caused ophthalmological problems.
    • Acupuncture has been linked to a small number of problems. Despite this, problems have arisen as a result of the use of nonsterile needles and incorrect therapy administration. Acupuncture can have significant side effects if it isn't done correctly, including infections, pierced organs, collapsing lungs, and central nervous system damage.
    • Tai chi and a related method known as qi gong appear to be safe. While tai chi is unlikely to cause major damage, it is possible that it will cause mild aches and pains. Pregnant women should consult with their doctors before commencing tai chi, qi gong, or any other fitness regimen. 


    Difference between Oriental medicine and Western medicine

    The interconnectedness of the world and the human body is one way TCM differs from Western medicine. This viewpoint is based on the ancient Chinese belief that humans are microcosms of the greater, surrounding cosmos, linked to nature and susceptible to its influences. The human body is viewed as an organic organism in which the many organs, tissues, and other components all perform different roles yet are all interconnected. Health and sickness, in this perspective, are linked to the proper functioning of the organs.

    Another contrast between TCM and western medicine is the TCM diagnostic technique, which focuses on qi, or vital energy, abnormalities. Observing (particularly the tongue), hearing/smelling, asking/interviewing, and touching/palpating are all required for diagnosis (especially the pulse).


    Treatment to regain balance may involve:

    • Acupuncture
    • Moxibustion (the burning of herbal leaves on or near the body)
    • Cupping (the use of warmed glass jars to create suction on certain points of the body)
    • Massage
    • Herbal remedies
    • Movement and concentration exercises (such as tai chi)


    Oriental Medicine and Acupuncture

    Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese treatment that dates back thousands of years. Acupuncture is a kind of alternative medicine in which practitioners use tiny needles to stimulate particular spots on the body.

    Moxibustion, which includes burning mugwort on or near the skin at an acupuncture point, is frequently used in conjunction with acupuncture. The Chinese characters for acupuncture literally mean "acupuncture-moxibustion." "Available scientific data does not support claims that moxibustion is beneficial in preventing or treating cancer or any other disease," according to the American Cancer Society.

    Electroacupuncture involves applying an electric current to the needles after they have been placed to further stimulate the acupuncture sites.

    A analysis of patients found that actual acupuncture alleviated muscle and joint discomfort induced by aromatase inhibitors considerably better than sham acupuncture, according to the US National Cancer Institute. Acupuncture may trigger physical reactions in nerve cells, the pituitary gland, and the brain, releasing proteins, hormones, and chemicals that are thought to impact blood pressure, body temperature, immunological activity, and endorphin production in cancer patients, according to the review.

    Acupuncture, according to studies, increases the release of the body's natural painkillers and affects pain-processing regions of the brain.'

    The notion that acupuncture analgesia is mediated largely by the selective release of neuropeptides in the central nervous system is supported by research on the neurophysiology of acupuncture analgesia. Electroacupuncture with transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation can give effective pain relief at home and make cancer pain management with acupuncture expertise more realistic.

    Acupuncture needles are made to be painless and to glide through the body's tissues. The needle's tip is sharp but rounded, with no cutting edge that may slice tissue, and its tiny calibre (a typical size is 0.25 mm or 31 gauge) makes puncturing some tissues difficult.

    If the therapist knows the anatomy and uses a clean needle technique, there are no contraindications based on risk when considering acupuncture as a therapeutic option using single-use needles.

    According to White, the estimated probability of a major adverse event with acupuncture is 0.05 per 10,000 sessions, and 0.55 per 10,000 individual patients, based on 12 prospective studies that assessed over a million treatments. While the danger is modest, pneumothorax has occurred in the past. 


    Chinese Herbal Products

    Herbs and herbal formulations are used in TCM to maintain good health and boost organ function. The TCM practitioner may generate a therapeutic effect that goes beyond the chemical makeup and physical characteristics of the herbs by knowing the essence of diverse herbal components. The herbal mixture whose essence, or characteristic energy vibration, appropriately stimulates or modifies the body's own energy vibration is chosen by the practitioner.

    Many medical problems have been investigated using Chinese herbal medicines, including stroke, heart disease, mental disorders, and respiratory ailments (such as bronchitis and the common cold), and a nationwide survey revealed that one in every five Americans uses them. Because many studies were of poor quality, no solid conclusions concerning their effectiveness could be drawn.

    The majority of Chinese herbal medicines are made from plants, although some formulations also incorporate minerals or animal components. Depending on the herb and its intended purpose, they can be packed as powders, pastes, lotions, or pills. Herbs have diverse characteristics and can help to balance different sections of the body.

    Chinese herbal formulae, some of which have been in use for over 2,200 years, are made up of components that work well together. Medications are generally administered separately in Western medicine for a specific effect. Each plant in traditional TCM herbal formulations has a distinct purpose or function in helping the body attain balance.

    Each component of a plant has to be recognized for a distinct medicinal function in order for it to be included in the Chinese pharmacy. In the same manner, TCM considers the therapeutic qualities of foods. Different meals have various energies that may be sent directly to certain organs to aid in their healing.


    Tai Chi

    Other important aspects of traditional Chinese treatment that have been introduced into health and fitness programs to supplement contemporary medicine are the meditation exercises tai chi (taijiquan) and qigong (“discipline of the vital breath”).

    Tai chi was initially performed as a martial art and is characterized by purposefully slow, continuous, circular, well-balanced, and rhythmic motions. Qigong combines meditation, relaxation training, martial-arts methods, and breathing exercises to nurture qi and transfer it to all of the body's organs. It was known in ancient China as "the method to reject sickness and lengthen life."

    Many individuals across the world now do these exercises on a daily basis to improve their health, and they may benefit from the exercise and relaxation.

    Tai chi is a kind of exercise that includes certain postures, gentle motions, mental focus, breathing, and relaxation. Tai chi may enhance balance and stability in older individuals and those with Parkinson's disease, as well as lessen discomfort from knee osteoarthritis, assist people manage with fibromyalgia and back pain, and improve quality of life and mood in those with heart failure, according to research.

    Tai chi, which originated in China and combines balancing, strengthening, stretching, and body awareness, is a popular type of moderate exercise performed across Asia for general health and well-being. It has lately acquired popularity in Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States for usage in a variety of health problems, such as fall prevention and arthritis management.

    Tai chi has been found to have minor to moderate effects for decreasing pain and increasing physical function in people with arthritic pain, which is similar to other exercise-based treatments tested in clinical trials for this group. The included studies in the tai chi review, on the other hand, were generally tiny and of low methodologic quality, emphasizing the need for further high-quality research in this field.

    There has been no study assessing tai chi for patients with low back pain to our knowledge; nevertheless, being a moderate type of exercise that includes strengthening, stretching, and monitoring, it seems conceivable that tai chi could benefit this problem. This is the first randomized controlled trial (RCT) of tai chi for chronic low back pain, with the primary goal of determining the benefits of a 10-week tai chi intervention on pain bothersomeness and disability.



    Die-da, also known as Dit Da, is a traditional Chinese bone-setting method used by martial artists who are familiar with parts of Chinese medicine used to heal trauma and injuries such as bone fractures, sprains, and bruises. If a significant injury is involved, some of these doctors may also employ or prescribe additional Chinese medicinal procedures. Bone-setting is not a widespread technique in the West.


    Gua sha

    Gua sha is the process of abrading the skin with smooth jade, bone, animal tusks or horns, or polished stones until red patches and bruises appear. This therapy is said to be effective for nearly any illness. The red spots and bruises recover in three to ten days, and there is usually some pain in the treated region.


    Oriental Medicine in the Treatment of Patients with COVID19

    Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2, also known as 2019-nCoV, the causative pathogen of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)) has caused an outbreak of acute infectious pneumonia in China and across the world. For the treatment of this abrupt and deadly illness, no particular anti-virus medicines or vaccinations are available.

    Supportive care and non-specific therapy to alleviate the patient's symptoms are presently the sole choices. More than 85 percent of SARS-CoV-2 infected patients in China are treated with Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) in addition to conventional treatments.

    Current experiment studies that provide an insight into the mechanism underlying the therapeutic effect of TCM, and those studies identified novel naturally occurring compounds with anti-coronaviral activity are also introduced.


    To ensure that you get a comprehensive picture and understand everything regarding Oriental Medicine, we invited Doctor Lee who is a leading doctor at Nasaret Hospital in Incheon to address any questions you may have from an experienced point of view.



    Dr. Kangill Lee Interview


    1. We are here today to talk about epilepsy. Can you please explain what is epilepsy and how do you treat it in oriental medicine?

    Epilepsy can happen due to a variety of reasons. But young kids tend to be more prone to it, albeit there are adults with the condition. Many visit me with brain issues such as trauma or inflammation. Their heads tend to itch.


    2. What is the success rate of epilepsy when using oriental medicine?

    Epilepsy treatment in oriental medicine is done usually with acupuncture and cupping. Also, oriental herbs. Western medicine does not understand the role of acupuncture and cupping. In oriental medicine, acupuncture and cupping raises one’s energy levels. Through the method of re-energizing, the affected nerves revive and come back alive. In modern medicine there is no way to revive. In oriental medicine, we can use acupuncture, cupping and herbs to revive the nerves.


    3. Do we use new drugs and oriental medicine together to treat epilepsy?

    We can use oriental medicine methods such as acupuncture and cupping with modern medicine, but modern medicine does not seem to work in curing the illness, perhaps it is just a treatment for symptoms.


    4. For women who are pregnant, and young people that have epilepsy, they can also get oriental medicine?

    Yes, it is OK to get treated with oriental medicine. It is OK to take oriental medicine herbs, too. Oriental medicine does not harm the body.


    5. Patient can be fully recovered just by using oriental medicine?

    The results are excellent. When treated with acupuncture, cupping and herbs, epilepsy patients have a 90% success rate in fixing the issue.


    6. For brain stroke, can it also have positive effects using oriental medicine?

    There are three types of strokes - ischemic stroke, hemorrhagic stroke and transient ischemic stroke. As a result of stroke, a side effect can happen in which the body can become paralyzed. It can affect the lower body or impede swallowing. They can also be paralyzed from speech. Also, facial paralysis. In oriental medicine, we treat these symptoms with acupuncture, cupping and herbs. We treat the affected nerves this way.


    7. When is a good time for patients with brain stroke to undergo oriental medicine?

    Strokes should be treated right away. When treated right away with oriental medicine, there are very few side effects. It is important to reduce side effects, and that is possible when treated quickly after an incident. The treatment effect is better when done promptly.


    8. After being treated with oriental medicine, is it possible that the stroke reoccurs?

    Recurrence is rare. It can happen but is rare.


    9. Let’s talk about obesity. What is obesity and how is it dangerous to somebody’s health?

    Obesity is when someone is relatively too heavy. Normal body weights are calculated by multiplying one’s height, for example someone who is 1.7 meters tall multiplied by itself and 21 for women and 22 for men. The result is the normal weight. So, if someone is above the normal range, he or she should pay attention to reduce weight. If you are within the range, then you are not obese. If one is obese, he or she is prone to getting diabetes or high blood pressure, high cholesterol. These illnesses block the blood flowing veins. Obesity has to be controlled. 


    10. For treating obesity, what kind of oriental medicine can be used?

    There is an oriental medicine for that purpose. If one takes oriental medicine, it works. In one month, 2 to 3 kilograms can be lost. So, depending on your current weight, one can calculate how long it takes to take the oriental medicine to achieve the goal. So, if one wants to lose 10 kilograms, the course would be about three months.


    11. Undergoing oriental medicine treatment, is it also possible to work out and go on a diet?

    If it is combined with exercise, it is great. Combining exercise and eating well together with oriental medicine is good.


    12. Oriental medicine, it helps with obesity, but does it also help with other diseases that are related to obesity?

    High blood pressure or diabetes are treated automatically once obesity is controlled. Diseases like high blood pressure and diabetes can be solved once obesity is taken care of. 



    The goal of Oriental medicine is to rebalance and harmonize the body's natural opposing energies of yin and yang, which can impede qi and create sickness. Acupuncture, nutrition, herbal treatment, meditation, physical activity, and massage are all examples of Oriental medicine. TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) is another name for TCM.

    Acupuncture is a part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) that is extensively used in Western medicine and has received the most research of all the alternative therapies. Some TCM herbal therapies can work as medications and be quite successful, but they can also have major negative effects. 

    Due to complications such as heart attack and stroke, the FDA banned the sale of dietary supplements containing ephedra and plants containing ephedra group alkaloids. Ephedra is a Chinese plant that is used in weight-loss and performance-enhancing products. The restriction, however, does not apply to herbal preparations manufactured according to TCM recommendations that are meant for short-term usage rather than long-term dosage.