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Traditional Chinese Medicine - Ethnoscience Glossary Terms and Abbreviations

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) may be one of the world's oldest medical systems. It was developed over 2000 years ago and has only recently become popular in western cultures. One of the key concepts in TCM is the notion of qi or life-force. In some ways this notion of a life-force is somewhat similar to the notion of the vital force in homeopathy but they are understood and treated differently. There is no doubt that TCM is fundamentally different from western medicine in many essential ways. As well, even with a small similarity to homeopathy, it is also distinctly different from any other form of medical treatment. It's important to take into account that TCM is a reflection of a specific culture, like Ayurvedic medicine which was developed in India. Some of the components that are essential to TCM include: personal observations of the physician, a subjective basis for diagnosis, healing as a way to balance the body's processes, measuring the outcomes of treatment qualitatively (versus quantitatively) and gearing the treatment to the individual and not the condition (Shea, 2006).
One of the criticisms of TCM is that it is based on a physician's subjective observations rather than an in-depth examination of the person. (Shea, 2006). This observation has even been made in China where many are beginning to question its efficacy. A second criticism has been the herbs used to treat the various conditions. A typical Chinese pharmacy has thousands of remedies made from an unbelievable combination of herbs, animal parts and other pharmacopeias.

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