Since I came to China in 2012 I've come across Traditional Chinese Medicine numerous times and it has always captured my interest. In some way, every time I heard about TCM, I just knew it was something I would get familiar with at some stage in my life. Still, without investigating it deeper, I was sure it was too difficult for foreigners to get familiar with the subject in China. Local doctors mainly only speak Chinese, not to mention pharmacists and herb-authorities.
However, I've since had the opportunity to learn a lot about the basics of TCM right here in little old Shanghai. It has opened up a whole new world of understanding my body, health, balance, and food. I feel much healthier and happier. Its worth learning a bit about TCM while you live in Shanghai (or anywhere actually) and learn some vital things about your body & health - knowledge which you can take with you when you leave Shanghai and to wherever life may lead you.
My First Encounters With TCM In Shanghai
When I in 2013 heard that Sprout Lifestyle, one of my favorite health stores in Shanghai, offered a 10 week course in TCM taught in English, I was surprised. And even though I was too busy to attend weekdays and had too many trips planned for weekend classes I was excited to know about the opportunity.
In 2014 I had forgotten about the course and my little TCM vision when a Chinese colleague of mine started to see her local TCM doctor very regularly. I immediately pictured myself at a TCM consultation with my Chinese colleague translating but my colleague instead put me in contact with her former Australian colleague who is all into health in Shanghai and who knows a lot about TCM. This contact turned out to be Kimberly Ashton - the founder of Sprout Lifestyle, who had organized the TCM course in years before. Like this Shanghai is small sometimes and this coincidence also confirmed to me that TCM continuously crossed my path for a reason.
This was how I last year started my TCM journey by booking my first consultation at Humanity Hospital right next to Shanghai library on subway line 10. Per Kimberly Ashton's recommendation, I booked the consultation directly with Dr. Eva Zhang - my TCM doctor, later my TCM teacher and as I'd almost put it: my "Chinese mother".
The 1st TCM Consultation - Becoming Aware of Your Body Constitution
The first TCM consultation might just be the most important consultation of all: the consultation where you become aware of your constitution (can briefly be described as your body type or fundamental internal body status made up by 50% genetic and 50% lifestyle).
As TCM is about disease prevention and long-term sustainable health, you don't have to be sick before booking your first TCM Consultation. By becoming familiar with your body constitution, you can make daily choices that supports and promote your body-balance (in TCM terms: your Yin & Yang). In this way you can avoid daily uncomfortable symptoms you might have learned to live with through the years, such as head ache, in-digestion, cramps, tiredness, negative mental statuses and you name it... Symptoms you experience because of imbalance in your body (in TCM terms: too much ying or too much yang).
TCM diagnoses you on the background of your individual constitution as a basic and important element of TCM theory is that 2 people may experience similar symptoms but because of different constitutions the diagnosis, the treatment as well future prevention could be very different.
At the first consultation, the TCM doctor will measure your pulse, look at your eyes, look at your ears and finally your tongue. Furthermore, the TCM doctor will ask you simple questions about your lifestyle and general health. Don't expect any hocus-pocus or advanced equipment.
Later you can actively target some specific body & mind symptoms through acupuncture, cupping and food therapy (eating the right foods & herbs prepared in the right way). See some shots below from my consultations.
TCM vs. Western medicine
Basically, TCM wants to uncover the root of the problem of any symptoms/conditions we may experience and this root is deeply depending on who you are as an individual and your constitution.
To differentiate this from most Western practices (in a rough way): Western medicine wants to "identify the disease", meaning that if 2 people go to the doctor with similar symptoms and are diagnosed with the same "name of disease" the doctor will most like prescribe the same medicine to cure this "name of disease". Think about it, someone came up with this systematic naming of diseases & cures of same diseases so healthcare could become more efficient. Which is great. But it's my belief that even when we often overcome the diseases, when we leave the root, our symptoms will re-occur. I won't go too deep into this (in this post at least).
TCM Education in Shanghai
In the early spring Dr. Zhang shared with me that she was running a new course for foreigners - the 10 week "Introduction to TCM" and that since I had such a great interest for the topic (I always brought a list of questions with me to my consultations) I should join. It turned out that the course Sprout Lifestyle arranges every year is in cooperation with Dr. Zhang. I signed up for the weekend course immediately and surprisingly enough Leon was hooked as well.
This was how we for 10 weeks booked every Saturday for TCM theory. And believe me, that's quite a big sacrifice for travel addicts like us. But it was worth every minute!
Get into TCM in Shanghai
- TCM Consultations: book appointments with Dr. Zhang directly through Humanity Hospital (English): 021 64312600. Consultations are around RMB 600 for approximately 1 hour. Check your insurance for coverage..
- TCM Education: Sprout Lifestyle is soon running the autumn course with Dr. Zhang - 10 weeks of TCM theory 1 or 2. Classes are every Wednesday or Saturday for 10 weeks and total price is RMB 3200. Check the Sprout Lifestyle Website for more info or contact them firstname.lastname@example.org / 4008-215-190
Books And Further TCM Reading
These are some of the books I've acquired the last year in Shanghai - most from The Garden Bookstore on Changle Lu / Shaanxi lu except from my favorite by Dr. Zhang which I bought directly from her. Note that none of these are for the course - everything course related is free hand-outs.