Welcome to Millwoods Acupuncture Centre

Millwoods Acupuncture Center
102, 2603 Hewes Way
Edmonton AB,   Canada

Phone: (780) 466-8683


How to learn Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)


That you have learned textbook TCM in TCM school, in or out of China, does not guarantee that you will be a TCM doctor in clinic. Especially for those who do not speak Chinese, you should know how long road you need to go in your future TCM career. If you feel that this is a tough road for you to go and if you want to learn something that allow you earn money easily, TCM should not be your choice.

  1. You should learn TCM in a TCM school, in or out of China.

At this movement, TCM school will teaches you basic knowledge about the TCM. It introduces a broad idea about the TCM, though it is not at all enough to allow you know the practice skills in clinic.

2. You should follow a TCM doctor in clinic for at least two years.

For people who do not speak Chinese, they usually have no enough chance to follow a TCM doctor in clinic to transform their textbook knowledge into clinic skill. Mostly, they will have only a brief time to watch how a doctor works in clinic but have no longer time for themselves to practice TCM under the supervision of an experienced TCM doctor. After graduate, they have to practice TCM by themselves without nice chance for consulting with an expert. To have a supervisor for years, say, at least 2 years, is much more important for a TCM student than a conventional medicine student.

In old time of China, to follow a TCM expert to learn TCM is the most popular way and efficient way. Now, after more than 50 years of adoption of the conventional medicine education system (hundreds of students sit in the same classroom), it is admitted that such large-scale education system is not at good for a TCM education. A TCM student has to follow an expert to really understand the TCM diagnosis and treatment. Many clinic things cannot be described by words in a textbook.

3. You have to know where you are now in the TCM area.

If you have just a textbook knowledge on TCM (you learned from your TCM school, no matter in or out of China), you still need further self-education for further improvement on TCM. As we said  before, you learned Ba Gang Diagnosis method, but it does not mean that you know diagnosis method introduced by Shang Han Lun ( or we call Shang Han Pai). Also, you learned Wei-Qi-Yin-Xue diagnosis method, but it does not mean that you really know how to use related herbs to treat the Wen-Bing.

For these reasons, everyone, the TCM graduators, must read more TCM books about the clinic experience of individual doctors in history.

4. You have to know and really understand Chinese Philosophy

The traditional Chinese Medicine is a complete medical system in which the philosophy, e.g. the way to look at the nature, the structure and the function of the body, the relationship between the structure and the function… is quite different. It can be said that the philosophy applied in the TCM is more comprehensive whereas the philosophy in the conventional medicine is more analytical.

The concepts about Yin and Yang, the Tai Ji, the Five Elements, all are new to person who grows up in the Western World. To learn TCM means that you have to learn to use a new way to view the world. If you wish to know only as what herb or herbal formula is good for what “disease” or “syndrome” but not pay much attention to the reason on the Yin and Yang level, you cannot be an expert. Your clinic result cannot be reproduced. In your way, you will have to remember every formula and the doses of each ingredient in it without ability to vary the formula and its ingredient freely. If this is you, you will feel that your clinic result is good some times for some patients but you cannot predict to whom it will work. If patients say good words to you, but you fail to others. If they say you are not a good doctors, but you have good clinic result on others.

5. You should learn Chinese culture

To be able to really apply the Chinese philosophy into your TCM clinic work, you need to know the spirits of the Chinese Culture, its characters, music, arts, martial arts, religion, believing, dressing, family structure, etc. For a Chinese student, he/she know this instantly from the environment he/she grow but for a foreign student not grow in China, everything is new to him.

For example, China is a geographic zone in which there are four clear seasons and it is unique place that allows to develop the Five Element theory. In that area, East is associated to Wind, South to Fire, West to dryness and North to Water (snow). In China, east of China has more wind (close to the sea) in weather, south of China is hot, west of China is dry, and the north of China, cold with lots of snow in winter. Such a big place cannot be seen in Canada or USSA, since it has no such typical South weather (not so hot). It cannot be seen in USA either, since it has no typical Winter weather with lots of snow (as in north of Canada). Similarly such clear four seasonal zones in China can not be seen in England, Italy, Sweden, Indian, Egypt….  For this reason, you have to visit China to experience the reason and how the old Chinese could develop such philosophy.

If you know the Five-Element theory, you may realize that USA is rich in Fire but lacks Water (Cold, Snow). Canada is rich in Cold but lacks Fire (Hot, Fire). From a broad view, people in USA have more disease in Fire and people in Canada have more disease in Cold. In the city where I am now (Edmonton), more than 90% of my clients belong to Cold syndrome. For example for the treatment of sinus problem or allergy, I have to use very frequently Hot herbs. But, if someone comes from USA, or from south of China, or from Vancouver (Canada), I have to be careful that their body constitution might be different.

If a TCM student/graduate does not realize that TCM is a time medicine, a geographic zone medicine, an association medicine[1], he/she is still a beginner on TCM.

6. You may have to learn Chinese

Now you may realize that you have to learn a Chinese language so that you can read lots of the TCM books in Chinese. It does not mean that to speak Chinese guarantee that you could be a TCM expert, as the fact that not many Chinese TCM students become an expert, but if you want be a TCM expert, you certainly should.

Now you may have an idea how long way you need to go, to be a TCM expert.

[1] We will discuss this concept later.