Traditional Chinese Medicine

Evidence of TCM practice originates around 2000 years ago, however its traditions and roots predate this, making it one of the world’s oldest medical systems still widely practiced today. It is a unique and independent medical system which originated from China and developed down through the centuries of clinical practice. TCM has directly or indirectly influenced the development of many herbal and alternative practices around the world.

TCM has a holistic approach to diagnosing, preventing and treating diseases. TCM practitioners will start (through consultation and examination) by identifying patterns and then applying the individual or combined therapies of acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, tuina – a therapeutic massage; and other techniques.

Most conditions, apart from those requiring immediate western medicine intervention and serious degenerative disease (although it can be used to subsidise and complement Western treatment, enhancing the patient’s quality of life). Acupuncture clinics tend to treat chronic ailments for which there is no conventional cure, such as migraine, chronic muscle and joint pain, asthma & allergies, IBS and other digestive system problems, PMS and menopausal issues and other gynaecological problems, but the therapy can also be used to treat acute conditions such as flu and colds and other viral or bacterial infections.

There are many different styles and ways of practicing acupuncture outside of traditional Chinese practice; such as Five Element acupuncture, trigger point acupuncture or dry-needles. The ATCM recognises practitioners who have an extensive training in Chinese medical theories and Chinese style of acupuncture (irrespective of any prior western medical training). Training of at least 3 years full-time (or the part-time equivalent) is required and includes the requisite western medical sciences.

Acupuncture should not hurt, however other sensations such as tingling or a dull aching sensation may be felt as needles are adjusted. Once the needles are inserted acupuncture should be calming and relaxing.

Single use pre-sterilised disposable needles, which are disposed of after each treatment are used. The Association of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture UK members observe the Code of Practice which lays down stringent standards of hygiene and sterilisation of equipment.

Based on the patients symptoms, state of illness, sex, age, constitution, occurring season of the disease and circumstances, the physician begins with the guidelines as delineated in classical texts to form a basic prescription. This is then adjusted by adding or deleting various herbs, or manipulating the dosages dependent on response. Such a prescription usually contains 5-15 substances and the dosages average 3-15 grams per herb.

Traditionally Chinese Herbs are made up in teas and decoctions, where the herbs are boiled in water to release their properties (detailed preparation methods are always given). Raw herbal powder in capsules, concentrated extracts and pills are also prescribed.

A typical course of treatment would involve taking an herbal formula daily for several months, depending on the nature of the case and the strength of the patient. The patient will be monitored regularly to ensure that the formula is effective and modified as improvements occur.

Chinese Herbs can be taken by all age groups from young babies to the elderly, though you must notify your practitioner if you are also taking other medicines, suffer from allergies, other conditions or are pregnant as this may affect your treatment and prescription.

Yes. Many people seek the help of Chinese medicine or acupuncturist because of dissatisfaction with drug treatment, mainly because it does not seem to be working or the side effects are too severe. DO NOT stop taking any medication without professional guidance.

This depends on how long you’ve had the problem, how ‘deep’ or serious the problem is, and on age and constitution. An acute muscle problem such as tennis elbow may only need one or two sessions but a more chronic case may take longer due to the knock on effect to other structures and tissues.

A chronic condition such as ME or Rheumatoid Arthritis will require long term treatment because many different aspects of the functioning of the body are involved, making treatment more complex.

The initial consultation is 75 minute long and includes acupuncture and a 15-20 minute traditional massage.

Follow up acupuncture appointments are 60 minutes and include a 15-20mins massage.
Herbal Medicines cost (based on 1 week’s supply):
• Pills – From £8
• Powders – From £20

Alex Qiao is a Chinese Medicine Acupuncturist who is registered with the Association of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture UK (ATCM), the largest regulatory body in the UK. Full members are fully qualified in the practice of authentic traditional acupuncture, as well as Chinese herbal medicine and tuina.

The ATCM works closely with the Department of Health (DOH) and Health and Care Professions’ Council (HCPC) and aims to establish a strong presence in the medical and patient communities. For more information visit


Alex Qiao