Origin of Chinese Medicine

A Brief History of the Origin of Chinese Medicine

Chinese medicine came to America when the immigrants migrated to this country in the 1820s. However, it did not make its official debut into the mainstream consciousness until the 1970s.

Chinese medicine goes back for centuries, as ancient lure has promised numerous benefits for various ailments. The oldest compilation of Chinese medicine suggests that the whole body and the cosmos are involved in natural healing. Western medicine has long been skeptical of these theories.

In Chinese medicine, the balance of yin and yang and chi energy is believed to impact overall health. If you have some curiosity about the world of alternative medicine, check out this article for a brief history of the origin of Chinese medicine.

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What is the Difference Between Traditional and Chinese Medicine?

There are many differences between traditional western medicine and Chinese medicine. It starts with how each of them evaluates and treats its patients.

Western medicine is an evidence-based practice where the doctor diagnoses based on evidence collected, such as blood work. Any disease or ailment is isolated and seen as separate from the individual. In Chinese medicine, the condition is believed to be an imbalance in the whole person.

A doctor who practices Western medicine will investigate certain things in each person:

  • Blood pressure
  • Weight
  • Body temperature

A doctor who practices Chinese medicine may look at these things. Still, they may also be interested in other parts of the patient’s life, including their relationship with their family, their stress triggers, and how they practice their spiritual living to accomplish living with purpose.

The Five Essential Elements Must be in Balance

A Western medicine doctor will typically treat an illness the same way in each patient. However, a Chinese medicine doctor will treat the patient as an individual. Chinese medicine is unique, as it comes from a different culture from ours. Doctors of Chinese medicine examine the person in terms of five essential elements:

  • Water
  • Earth
  • Wood
  • Fire
  • Metal

These elements are part of the chi, which is the life force energy flowing within the body. When an element becomes unbalanced, problems arise within the body that can cause illness.

Chinese Medicine Uses Holistic Therapy

Chinese practitioner uses more natural forms of therapy to help the body re-establish its chi or balance:

  • Food
  • Herbal medicine
  • Massage
  • Acupuncture
  • Exercise
  • Meditation

Western medicine is more pharmaceutical-focused than attempting to heal someone with natural medicine. Compared to Western medicine, Chinese medicine has fewer, if any, side effects. Another exciting bit of information is that Chinese medicine considers the imbalance of Yin/Yang rather than the illness itself.

The spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical qualities of the patient are viewed as being interconnected. In Western medicine, the doctor is more likely to be prescribed medication to treat high blood pressure. However, in Chinese medicine, emphasis is placed more on exercising and healthy eating.

Where did Chinese Medicine Originate from?

Chinese medicine originated from the Shang Dynasty in ancient China and is at least 23 centuries old. The oldest compilation of Chinese medicine, known as “The Yellow Emperor’s Inner Canon,” made the connection between a person’s well-being, illnesses, and the cosmos. The Treatise on Cold Damage Disorders and different conditions was about drug prescriptions physicians could use for treatment.

In the late 1500s, a book was published called Bencao Gangmu. In the book, there is an extensive list of Chinese herbal medicine. When collaborating with Chinese medical practitioners, they work with a form of traditional, complementary medicine. There are many Chinese medications that you can find to help with different ailments.


This root plant is popular to help you with low energy. It can give you an excellent lift when you are feeling run down by illness or if you are exhausted. You can also use it to balance hormones and help with healthy brain function. It may also help improve immune function.

Lotus Seed

The Chinese use this seed or kernel in many herbal remedies, and the seeds contain valuable minerals, such as magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. Lotus seeds are often added to soups for extra nutrition in China. They also contain flavonoids that combat inflammation. Lotus seeds have also been known to lower blood pressure.


Ginger is beneficial for proper digestion, and it also eliminates nausea. It assists with the flow of chi and fluids in the body and can strengthen the immune system. It may also decrease inflammation and help ease premenstrual pains.


Scientists believe that dandelion root can help treat diabetes. It contains a fiber called inulin, which encourages the growth of healthy bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract. It may also help cleanse the liver and helps to lower blood pressure.

What is Chinese Medicine Based on?

Traditional Chinese medicine is based on symptom observation. The Chinese practitioner utilizes Chinese medicine to treat illnesses and rebalance the body’s yin, yang, and chi. Chinese practitioners believe chronic illness signifies too much yin, and acute illness indicates too much yang.

Chinese medicine is also based on the four pillars of diagnoses. It is often used during acupuncture treatment and for the patient’s overall evaluation.


Coming to the proper diagnosis of a patient, the practitioner will look at the color of the face and skin throughout the body. The eyes and ears can also provide information concerning a diagnosis.


The sound of someone’s voice can speak about their overall health. Each type of verbal communication involves different organs and can indicate signs of illness.


The practitioner will feel various pulse points, including the radial artery. This examination will demonstrate the health of the pulse and offer insight into the patient.


Who understands their body better than the patient? A couple of the questions the practitioner may ask include information about everything from sleeping habits to appetite.

What Religion is Chinese Medicine Rooted in?

Traditional Chinese medicine is built on the Ancient Chinese religion called Taoism. The central doctrines of Taoism include:

  • Tao is the idea that the universe has a distinct inherited orientation
  • Ziran is that which is effortless and entirely in a natural state
  • Wu-Wei is that one’s actions should please the Tao
  • Three jewels are living in natural harmony with the Tao
  • Cosmology signifies cycles of change in the universe

Everything that exists in the universe results from the chi, or energy, and Taoism sees human beings as microcosms of the cosmos, creating this belief that everything is made of energy.

When Did Traditional Chinese Medicine Come to America?

Chinese immigrants began practicing Chinese medicine in America sometime in the 1820s. However, most Americans did not know about Chinese medicine until acupuncture became popular in the 1970s when President Nixon took an excursion to China and learned of the ancient practice. In 1972, the first legal acupuncture facility in the United States opened.

The US Food and Drug Administration recognized acupuncture needles as medical equipment in 1995. In 1997, The National Institutes of Health recognized acupuncture as beneficial for many different ailments. Since then, insurance companies have slowly but surely been starting to pay for acupuncture for patients.

Final Thoughts

Chinese medicine is far different from Western medicine. There is a solid history of Chinese medicine in our country. Many people do not believe that complementary medicine works. However, it does offer a promising and hopeful alternative to pharmaceutical medication.