Chinese Medicine: The Common Misconceptions

Complementary medicines such as Chinese Medicine have been growing in popularity in recent years, but a few misconceptions remain. At the Sydney Institute of Traditional Chinese Medicine, we have over 35 years of experience in providing traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) education and continue to contribute significantly to the development of traditional Chinese medicine education in Australia. As a leading institute in the industry, we have decided to address a few common myths about Chinese medicine.


Misconception #1: Chinese Medicine is Unregulated

Traditional Chinese medicine in Australia is regulated by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency through the Chinese Medicine Board of Australia. Practitioners must complete education requirements, pass the VIVA exam, register and complete regular training requirements.

Those who are looking to become licensed practitioners have the option to study TCM in Sydney at SITCM through one of our available degrees.


Misconception #2: Acupuncture Is Not as Effective as Prescription Medicine

Acupuncture can be highly effective at managing certain kinds of illness, particularly those relating to chronic pain. It has the added benefit of not involving any chemical substances.

Misconception #3: Acupuncture is Painful

Just because it involves needles, does not mean that the process is painful. The insertion of acupuncture needles is typically accompanied by a mild tingling or numbing sensation.


Misconception #4: Chinese Medicine is Exotic

Some people associate traditional Chinese medicine with exotic foreign ingredients for herbal dispensing. However, herbal ingredients are regulated by Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration and many are commonly found in kitchens, including ginger, cinnamon, orange peel and ginseng. Moreover, herbs form just one component of Chinese medicine, which focuses on the body and energy from a holistic approach. Treatments include acupuncture, herbal medicines, massage, lifestyle changes, exercise, and diet.


Misconception #5: There is No Research Supporting Chinese Medicine

Chinese medicine has been developed and refined over thousands of years of practice and remains popular today. The 2015 Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded to a Chinese medicine researcher for finding a treatment for malaria using traditional herbs. Modern research shows that acupuncture is beneficial in adult postoperative and chemotherapy nausea and vomiting as well as postoperative dental pain among many other issues such as tennis elbow, fibromyalgia, asthma, and addiction.


Misconception #6: Chinese Medicine is Expensive

Traditional Chinese medicine treatments are not expensive relative to other medical treatments. All major private health insurers in Australia cover Acupuncture and some also cover herbal medicine treatments.

At SITCM, our teaching clinic offers many affordable Chinese medicine treatments. The combined price of a consultation and treatment is typically only $15 dollars; patients can book online today!

What Are the Benefits of Chinese Cupping?


There is a famous Chinese saying: “Acupuncture and cupping, more than half the ills cured.” The wealth of knowledge within traditional Chinese medicine has been valued in China for millennia and has recently gained global popularity with celebrities like Jennifer Aniston and Michael Phelps drawing attention to its benefits.

Cupping is an especially pleasant experience and has been documented in many books that go back to 300 AD. There are even records that are three thousand years old which recommended cupping for the treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis, based on the belief that illnesses can be sucked out of the body.

Cupping is one of the many therapies that is taught at SITCM as part of the different courses and degrees offered. It is also one of the treatments offered at our teaching clinic in Sydney due to the benefits for the human body.


What Is Chinese Cupping? What Does it Do for You?

Cupping refers to the technique that uses small glass cups as suction devices that are placed on the skin to relieve stagnation and congestion by drawing congested blood or energy to the surface.


There are two techniques for cupping: dry and wet. In dry cupping, the therapist will simply place the suction cups on the skin, while in wet cupping, the practitioner will make a small incision on the skin and then apply the suction cup to draw out small amounts of blood.


There is more than one way to induce suction in the cups, such as swabbing rubbing alcohol onto the bottom of the cup, then lighting it and putting the cup immediately against the skin. Another way is to place an inverted cup over a small flame, or by using an alcohol-soaked cotton pad over an insulating material (like leather) to protect the skin, then lighting the pad and placing an empty cup over the flame to extinguish it.

There is a technique called “gliding cupping” which refers to cupping where the cups are gently moved across the skin – which could include the application of massage oils to facilitate the process.


In a way, cupping is the opposite technique of massage: massage involves applying downward pressure to muscles where cupping uses gentle pressure to pull them upward.


What Are the Side Effects of Cupping?

Cupping triggers a release of toxins that creates marks on the skin. These marks disappear within 10 days of treatment.

Rare side effects of cupping include mild discomfort, skin infection, or burns. However, a trained Chinese Medicine practitioner will know exactly what steps to follow to minimise the chances of these side effects.


What is Cupping Used For?

Pain could be a result of stagnation or congestion, so if we remove these we can eliminate or relieve the pain by restoring the body’s natural flow of energy.

Cupping is used to relieve back and neck pains, stiff muscles, anxiety, fatigue, migraines, rheumatism, and even cellulite. It can also clear congestion from a common cold or help to control a person’s asthma. Cupping can also be beneficial for the digestive system as it could improve metabolism and relieve constipation.

If you would like to schedule a Chinese cupping session, book an appointment at our clinic today.

Acupuncture: What You Need to Know


Acupuncture is one of the various treatments that fall under the umbrella of Traditional Chinese Medicine. By inserting needles into specific points along the body, acupuncture practitioners believe that the body’s energy flow will re-balance.

This concept has existed since ancient times. Today, many Western acupuncture practitioners view acupuncture points as places to stimulate nerves, muscles and connective tissue and believe that this stimulation boosts the body’s natural painkillers.

Whatever the mechanism, acupuncture is typically used by patients to treat pain or boost overall wellness. As a key component of Traditional Chinese Medicine, SITCM students study acupuncture in the classroom and practise it in the SITCM Teaching Clinic.


When to Seek Acupuncture?

Acupuncture is mainly used for pain relief, especially the pain associated with conditions such as dental pain, lower back pain, neck pain, osteoarthritis, labour pain and menstrual cramps. It is also sometimes used for some chronic issues such as chemotherapy-induced and postoperative nausea and vomiting, headaches, migraines, and respiratory disorders such as allergic rhinitis. No special preparation is required before acupuncture treatment.



Acupuncture is a low-risk technique that is provided by a certified traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practitioner, or under the supervision of a practitioner when done at our Teaching Clinic. Practitioners use single-use, disposable needles to minimise any risk of infection.

Possible side effects of acupuncture include soreness and minor bleeding or bruising where the needle is inserted. Those at higher risk of complications include people with a bleeding disorder or those on blood thinners – since the chances of bleeding or bruising from the needles increase. Other people at higher risk are those who have a pacemaker since some techniques involve applying mild electrical pulses to the needles which could then interfere with a pacemaker’s operation. Pregnant women should also consult their gynaecologist since some types of acupuncture are thought to stimulate labour, which could result in premature delivery.

TCM practitioners at SITCM will always ask you for your medical history before performing any treatment.


What to Expect?

Acupuncturists insert very thin needles into specific spots on your body, which typically produces a tingling or numbing sensation in the patient.

The initial evaluation may take up to an hour, and subsequent appointments usually take about 30mins. The number of treatments will depend on the condition being treated and its severity, with six to eight treatments being the most common practice.

Your practitioner will explain the planned treatment and whether you need to remove any clothing – in which case a gown, towel or sheet will be provided. The treatment is done on a padded table, similar to the massage table. At the SITCM Teaching Clinic, heat lamps are also provided for patient comfort.

Generally, 5 to 20 needles are used during a session. Depending on the condition and practitioner, the needles may be gently moved or twirled after placement, or heat or mild electrical pulses may be applied. These needles remain in place for 10 to 20 mins.

You should feel relaxed and energised after the treatment. If you don’t feel an improvement within a few treatments, let your practitioner know so they can consider alternative treatments or referral to another medical professional.

If you wish to attend an acupuncture course in Sydney, check out the accredited degree available at SITCM. If you are looking for TCM treatment, book an appointment at our clinic today.

Massage: What Are the Benefits?


Massage has many benefits that have been researched and stated for many decades. People may seek massage treatments for relaxation and improving function and health-related quality of life. The benefits of massage have been supported by current research evidence (1-3).

This is why massages have long been offered as part of physical therapy practices and holistic medicine. Many renowned educational institutions offer massage degrees, diplomas, certificates and courses for those who are wishing to study massage in Australia, including the Sydney Institute of Traditional Chinese Medicine. SITCM has proudly been producing industry-ready practitioners in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) in Sydney since 1984 and teaches one of the oldest versions of massage, Tui Na, which is sometimes referred to as ‘Chinese massage’.


What is ‘Chinese Massage’?

The term ‘Chinese massage’ has been used for many decades but is not entirely accurate as Chinese regard Tui Na and massage as two different things. In fact, the name ‘Tui Na’ is translated into English as ‘push-pull’.

Tui Na can be described as therapeutic Asian bodywork rather than a massage. It is more than just a relaxation session, as it involves twisting, pulling, turning, pushing, kneading techniques often goes beyond the muscles and joints to work on the body’s energetic level. Tui Na falls under the umbrella of TCM and is usually part of TCM degrees. TCM involves many other practices that share some principles, such as acupuncture, moxibustion and gua sha, and benefit from the wide range of knowledge and history that TCM provides. All these treatments and more are offered at the SITCM clinic, with treatments starting at $10. The clinic has many patients coming in every day, and massage and Tui Na therapies are growing in popularity (4) as an alternative or complementary treatment to a variety of health conditions.

The principle of acupuncture is used in Tui Na since it follows acupressure points, which are the same as acupuncture points. Those points are targets along the human body that are around clusters of nerve endings, mast cells, lymphatics, and capillaries, all capable of triggering biochemical and physiological functional changes in the body, which have many health benefits if done correctly.

So, what are the health benefits?



Acupressure points, when triggered, push the body to release the endogenous opiate, the naturally occurring feel-good chemical that the body forms, just like serotonin, dopamine, and opiates. They also down-modulate the sympathetic up-regulation, turning down the body’s fight-or-flight response (5).

Eases pain

Tui Na has many proven benefits when it comes to easing pain (6), and this is one of the most common reasons for people to seek the SITCM clinic. Chinese massage can help alleviate chronic pain with regular sessions, especially when combined with other treatments such as acupuncture.

Faster injury recovery

Those who study Tui Na understand that the therapy is commonly used alongside physical therapy to aid in the recovery process, so they work closely with physiotherapists to complement the treatment since massage helps reduce inflammation, which improves recovery rate.

Improves balance

Research has found that patients with Parkinson’s benefit from Tui Na acupressure as an adjunctive of usual care, showing improved overall performance (7). Parkinson’s disease causes sufferers to have impaired coordination, resulting in imbalance and frequent falls.


There are many other benefits to Tui Na and other traditional Chinese medicine treatments, with each treatment customised based on the requirements of the patient by qualified practitioners at SITCM. If you are looking for treatments, you can book an appointment at our clinic in the heart of Sydney. Those who wish to find a course to study TCM, massage or other degrees offered at SITCM, talk to the team at SITCM today or check our upcoming open days to talk to one of our friendly staff.



Reference List

  1. Chou R, Côté P, Randhawa K, Torres P, Yu H, Nordin M, et al. The Global Spine Care Initiative: applying evidence-based guidelines on the non-invasive management of back and neck pain to low- and middle-income communities. European spine journal : official publication of the European Spine Society, the European Spinal Deformity Society, and the European Section of the Cervical Spine Research Society. 2018;27:851–60.
  2. Field, Tiffany. Massage therapy research review. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice. 2014;20(4):224–9.
  3. Crawford C, Boyd C, Paat CF, Price A, Xenakis L, Yang E, et al. The Impact of Massage Therapy on Function in Pain Populations-A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials: Part I, Patients Experiencing Pain in the General Population. Pain medicine (Malden, Mass). 2016;17(7):1353–75.
  4. Moyer CA, Rounds J, Hannum JW. A Meta-Analysis of Massage Therapy Research. Psychological Bulletin. 2004;130(1):3–18.
  5. Au DWH, Tsang HWH, Ling PPM, Leung CHT, Ip PK, Cheung WM. Effects of acupressure on anxiety: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Acupuncture in Medicine. 2015;33(5):353–9.
  6. Kong LJ, Fang M, Zhan HS, Yuan WA, Pu JH, Cheng YW, et al. Tuina-Focused Integrative Chinese Medical Therapies for Inpatients with Low Back Pain: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2012;2012:14.
  7. Zhang, Guoxin, Xiong, Nian, Zhang, Zhentao, Liu, Ling, Huang, Jinsha, Yang, Jiaolong, et al. Effectiveness of Traditional Chinese Medicine as an Adjunct Therapy for Parkinson’s Disease: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. PLoS ONE. 2015;10(3):e0118498.

What Can Traditional Chinese Medicine Treat?


Over the last few decades, there has been an emerging trend to use functional and alternative medicines, including Traditional Chinese Medicine, as many are claiming that the traditional western doctors not proving lasting treatments for certain chronic conditions. In general, people do not visit a doctor until there is a serious issue or disease, this is why Traditional Chinese Medicine looks beyond the walls of traditional clinics to investigate and help treat certain chronic conditions to reverse them when possible.


So, what is Traditional Chinese Medicine?

To answer questions that we are frequently asked we have spoken to our TCM educators at SITCM, who have been teaching the Bachelor of Traditional Chinese Medicine at our Sydney-based institute.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) holistically approaches several issues to help alleviate problems such as pain, IBS, colitis, infertility, neuropathy, arthritis, insomnia, stress and depression. This includes the acute and chronic phases of these issues.

TCM has a long history of treating numerous conditions through a range of treatments that come under the umbrella of TCM, such as acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, Chinese herbal dispensing, and biomedical sciences. All of these treatments are taught in the various courses offered at SITCM, with a teaching clinic that provides hands-on experience for students under staff supervision since herbal dispensing requires in-depth knowledge of hundreds, if not thousands, of herbs used in TCM.

Of our patients, many are attracted to TCM because they believe natural remedies to be healthier while others seek treatment after they find no success with Western doctors.


Is TCM suited for everyone?

TCM is not exclusive for any ethnic group or demographics. It has been used all over the world by different people for various purposes. From our experience, we believe that Western medicine is crucial for emergencies but that TCM has an important role to play for chronic conditions.


Why herbal dispensing?

Herbs are great for not only treating symptoms but also boosting nutrition in the body thanks to their antioxidants, immune boosters, adaptogens and anti-inflammatories.

TCM has been popular for many years, especially since celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Aniston, and Michael Phelps have been publicly vocal about the benefits of its role in their lives. A good first step to take for those who are looking for TCM treatments is to start their research about the benefits of the various treatments and how they can benefit from them. Those who are looking to study TCM in Australia can get in touch with SITCM’s team or register to attend one of our open days.



Our Census day is almost here, you still have time to enrol for the Bachelor Course of Chinese Medicine at Sydney Institute of Traditional Chinese Medicine (SITCM)

Fill out the form to your right if you want to request a call from one of our staff members. We also encourage anyone who is interested in the course to enrol now by clicking on this link:


Q: How is Traditional Chinese Medicine recognised in Australia and globally?

A: TCM had been nationally registered in Australia in July 2012. And from then on, many countries in the World followed: They are Hungary, South Africa, Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, Swaziland, Philippines, Chili, etc. Swaziland has included the acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine into their national healthcare system.

46 out of 50 states in the USA and 6 out of 10 states in Canada have recognised TCM. Within 196 countries in the World, there are 184 countries are with the practice of acupuncture and Chinese Herbal medicine. China and Australia signed the MOU on the development of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine in Australia on Nov 2014, and the related item also included into the Free Trade Agreement in 2015 for both countries.

There will be 11 government hospitals join-together to take a clinical trial on the treatment of Dementia and Alzheimer disease with Chinese Herbal Medicine (SE LUO TONG capsule) in Canberra, Sydney and Brisbane in 2018. We can see TCM industry as ready for further development in Australia.

Q: Why do we need Traditional Chinese Medicine?

A: Because people look forward to healthier and longer lives as their life quality has improved in the modern time. TCM centres around health maintenance, disease prevention, longevity, natural therapy, harmonising between environment and human beings, natural lifestyle, harmonising between physique and mental, diet, body constitution improvement, treating functional diseases, etc. which the medical and healthcare principles fulfil the demand for the people in the modern society.

Q: How do we learn Traditional Chinese Medicine?

A: As Chinese Medical philosophy originated from ancient time, firstly we need to know the concepts of the philosophy. Then we learn the channels, acupuncture points and the herbs which would heal the different kinds of diseases. Then practice is the most important part in SITCM for the students who master the basic skills and gain the initial clinical experience for their future practice. In the junior classes, we learn the theory, basic concepts and principles, in the senior class we learn from clients by combining knowledge and practice. TCM is not only a health care system; it changes your lifestyle. You do not only treat clients, but it also benefits your family, your friends. You will feel very accomplished when you help clients recover from diseases.