Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM):
A True Holistic Approach

by Joseph Demers, D.V.M.

In this article I would like to discuss a form of medicine used in Holistic Veterinary Medicine called Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is over 3,500 years old. It consists of Acupuncture, Acupressure, Herbal Theraphy, Message, Food Theraphy, Meditation, and Exercise. In our animal medicine we use everything except the last two therapies. TCM is a complex form of medicine. Western Medicine (conventional medicine) is only recently recognizing the usefulness of this ancient form of medicine.

Veterinary Traditional Chinese Medicine has been used for centuries. It was used on horses, cows, pigs, and chickens. Today TCM is the largest part of the Holistic Veterinary medical field.

The concept of TCM is that disease is due to an imbalance of the energy flowing through the body, which we call Qi ("Chi"). This energy flows through canals or meridians which have been mapped out on the body for over three centuries. It is only recently that science has been able to measure this low energy flow. Acupuncture points are created from this map of flowing energy, and are exactly where the ancient texts have stated they should be. Let's look at disease from the TCM point of view.

TCM is truly a holistic theraphy. It revolves around the belief that all organs and their energies are interrelated. If one organ becomes ill then the others are also affected by this illness. For example, an eye disease called conjunctivitis in Western medicine is due to an infection of a microorganism (viral, bacterial, or other) of the conjunctivia (membranes around the eye ball and under the lid) creating inflammation and discharge. In TCM this eye disease is referred to as Wind Heat of the eye. It is due to external pathogenic wind causing obstruction of Qi circulation in the meridians thus creating heat. The heat creates inflammation and discharge. The second possible cause is due to preponderance of fire (heat) in the liver and gall bladder, which flares up along the related meridians causing Qi stagnation and blood stasis in the meridians around the eye. The disease is due to the relationship of the eyes to the liver. In TCM the external organs have a relationship with internal organs. The eyes with the liver, the ears with the kidneys, the nose with the lungs, the mouth with the heart. All this may sound strange to us who ar only exposed to Western medicine terms and conditions. But in China, this is very easy to follow.

The idea of microorganisms causing disease is a modern idea. Because of the age of this practice of medicine, TCM recognizes different external pathogens called six evils: Wind, Heat, Cold, Dampness, Dryness, and Extreme Heat or Fire. When Exposed to these evils and having a low "Wei Qi", disease will occur. The ancients recognized a protective energy system ("Wei Qi") which we have only known of for 50 years or so called the immune system. 

Now back to the eyse disease. In Western medicine the treatment is to kill the pathological organism with eye drops containing antiviral, antibacterial or other antimicroorganism treatment. In TCM the treatment is to increase the blood flow and energy around the eye. We also treat the internal organs that are connected because of the relation of internal organs to the external organs. Remember in TCM everything is interrelated. So we would treat the liver which is significally related to the eyes and holds the blood. We would dispel wind heat by treating acupuncture points that move wind out of the body, move Qi in the meridians and disperse local accumulated heat around the eye. We now know that some of these acupuncture points increase the immune system's response in these areas, by increasing white blood cells and increasing the release of humoral antibodies to fight disease. There is nothing better to fight disease than the body's own immune system. If an infection got into the eye in TCM, it is because there was an imbalance in the area of the Wei Qi and to correct the problem the balance must be returned to normal with the internal and external organs. TCM does work very effectively to treat conjuctivits without changing the normal microflora of the eye or intestines. If the balance is not returned to normal the condition returns and becomes a chronic problem.

It is at this point TCM is so valuable to my Holistic practice. It is very good in treating chronic disease. I use TCM for chronic liver disease, chronic kidney disease, chronic reoccuring infections, chronic colitis, autoimmune disease and many other disease we see in veterinary medicine. It is well known to be helpful for musculoskeletal diseases. For example, intervertebral disc disease, arthritis, hip dysplasia, muscular and tendon pain, and spasms. TCM is helpful for nerological diseases like epilepsy, nerve damage, and partial paralysis.

As you can see, TCM is a wonderful form of medicine. The best part is that there are almost no side effects compared to convetional drugs used today. 

At the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society there is a list of all certified Acupuncturists in your area. Their phone is (303) 258-3767. 

You may find TCM to be a valuable part of your pets health care service. 

Kaptchuk, Ted.
The Web That Has No Weaver.
New York: Congdon and Weed, Inc; 1983.

Schwartz, Cheryl DVM.
Four Paws, Five Directions.
Berkeley, California:
Celestial Arts Publishing; 1996

Xinnong, Cheng, ed.
Chinese Acupuncture and Moxibustion.
Bejing: Foreign Languages Press; 1987

Joseph R. Demers, D.V.M., President of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association as well as Sparky's vet, is a certified Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and a graduate of Texas A & M. He has been in private practice for twenty-three years (conventional and holistic), and is a certified Acupuncturist and Homopath who has studied Advanced Veterinary Chinese Herbal Medicine and Masters of Homepathy. Dr. Demers is the owner of Holistic Aminal Clinic, a practice devoted 100% to Holistic Medicine.  

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