The origins of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) exists before the advent of written language. Chinese written language was dated to 1766 BC, and medical practices are alluded to in the first written documents, over 2,000 years ago.

Chinese medicine consists of three most commonly used practice areas:

    1. Acupuncture and Channel Points
    2. Tai Chi Mind and Mind-Body Practices
    3. Herbal Medicines

Channels and Points:

The believes are that acupuncture points were discovered back in the stone age. The key to the idea of channels and points is that injury or sickness affecting one part of the body manifests itself in other, seemingly unrelated parts of the body. The codification and development of TCM were elaborated during a long history of empirical observation. It was early science.

  • During the stone age, primitive knives and sharp tools were believed to have been used to relieve pain and disease. When these sharp tools were used to lance boils, or used in primitive surgery, patients may have noticed the sensation of pain relief or sensations in other parts of the body.
  • Gradually bone or bamboo “needles” replaced the knives.
  • Some suggest that when warriors were shot by arrows, they noticed conduction of pain elsewhere or the spontaneous remission of pain elsewhere in the body.
  • When the disease was present, noticeable spots on the body became tender or discoloured.
  • When constipation was present, spots on the body became tender and manipulated these spots or piercing them brought relief.
  • Heat applied to one part of the body, pain in other parts of the body was relieved.
  • Monks noted energy is moving in specific areas of the body when they would perform particular meditation techniques. Over the centuries these energy movements were painstakingly noted, and a system of channels in the body was codified.


Ways of practices of acupuncture are observed everywhere in the Far East, not exclusively in China. The long-term systematic observation of ancient people was that individual body points could have been connected to different symptoms, where the symptoms, the pain or discomfort, was often located a distance in the body from the treatment point.

  • The systematic theory that points representing common pathologies were somehow related. Therapeutic potential extended over distances within the body. The pathways of effective needle sensation were mapped over the body.
  • The existence of channels and the flow of Qi along the channels ware inferred by the paths along which therapeutic effects could be achieved. As these locations and their therapeutic effects were identified, channel maps became more developed, and specific points were named. 

Tai-Chi and Mind-Body Practice

The martial arts practice of slow soft (yin or feminine) movements and hard, rigid (yang or masculine) motions represent a balance of psychological forces. It is a form of meditation long associated with physical and psychological wellness. The real origins of Tai Chi are obscure. Legend traces it to a Taoist priest named Zang Shenfeng in the 15th century.

Herbal Medicines:

The Chinese pharmaceutical system has also evolved empirically, by observation, over thousands of years. The Yellow Emperor’s Inner Canon, written more than 2,000 years ago was the first widely influential textbook. It described the Chinese view of the nature of the body, describing Yin and Yang forces, the five phases of nature (wood, fire, earth, metal, and water) and described the Qi. 

– The Treatise on Cold Injuries, written at the end of the Han Dynasty (about 200 BC) is the first known Chinese book on herbal and medicine. 

– The Bencao Gengmu is the most important traditional work on herbs and pharmaceutical. It was written in the 1500s by a physician named Li Shizhen. The work has a decidedly scientific quality, correcting the inaccuracies of older works and listing the medical benefits of hundreds of kinds of herbs and animal parts.

The use of TCM herbal remedies in the West is considered supplementary treatment. Unfortunately, many TCM remedies are sold in impure forms and often cause serious medical complications. The herbal remedies can also be really powerful medical agents that interact in potentially dangerous ways with western medicines.


The Sydney Institute of Traditional Chinese Medicine (SITCM) has been producing industry-ready practitioners in Traditional Chinese Medicine in Australia since 1984. SITCM was established to promote the growth and development of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) within our community and the health profession, by providing accredited courses of the highest academic standards. Please contact us to learn more.

 To book an appointment with the SITCM Teaching Clinic complete your details below.

SITCM Clinic