Traditional Chinese Medicine Therapies & Wellness Practices


Traditional and Complementary Medicines (T&CM) play a huge part in treating and healing patients for all kinds of ailments. Unlike modern-type medicines and practices, most T&CM practices have been handed down from generation to generation over hundreds of years.

According to the Traditional and Complementary Medicines Division of the Ministry of Health Malaysia, traditional and complementary medicines can simply be defined as a form of health-related practice which has been thoroughly designed in order to prevent, treat, and/or manage illnesses and/or preserve the mental and physical well-being of individuals.

Among the most practised and well-known traditional practices and complementary medicines in the country include homeopathy and complementary therapies, traditional Indian medicine, traditional Chinese medicine, and traditional Malay medicine. However, any medical or dental practices utilised by registered medical or dental practitioners are not included in the same category.

T&CM has been gaining popularity around the world and today, not just the older generations prefer to seek T&CM to treat their illnesses. However, there are some basic things which you must know before seeking treatment at a T&CM premise or centre to safeguard yourself or your family from unscrupulous people who claim to be certified practitioners. The following information is a useful guide for anyone who wishes to try out T&CM treatment:

1. Registered practitioner Before establishing a T&CM practice, it is compulsory for all foreign practitioners to register with the Ministry of Health (MoH), while it is also highly advisable for local T&CM practitioners to do so as well. You can check the official webpage of MoH's T&CM Division or contact the division to find out whether a practitioner is legally registered. You might be putting yourself at if you get treatment from an unregistered practitioner.

2. Practicing certificate There are about six practitioner bodies (which have all been officially appointed by MoH) representing the different types of T&CM practices available in Malaysia. The six practitioner bodies comprise of one Homeopathy practitioner body, one Indian practitioner body, one Malay practitioner body, and three Chinese practitioner bodies. All practicing certificates issued by these six practitioner bodies are recognised by MoH, and practitioners who are registered under these bodies are valid and qualified to practice (subject to the requirements and regulations set by MoH).

3. Title (sifu, professor, doctor, etc.) Watch out for the practitioners' title in front of their name as it may be tempting to believe that it is a valid title. In Malaysia, individuals who are not registered under the Malaysian Medical Council or Malaysian Dental Council are not allowed to use the title 'doctor' as part of their name. Be extra careful with the other titles as well. It would be more helpful to enquire about the practitioner's experience and where he/she received training than to rely on the title they may use.

4. Registered product When using products or consuming medications that your practitioner has given you, it is good to know how to identify whether the product has been registered with MoH. There are two identification marks that every registered product should have and which you should look out for:

a. Registration number
• Traditional Products:
Example: Gingko Biloba extract - MAL12345678T
• Over the Counter (OTC) Products:
Example: Multivitamin tablet - MAL12345678X
• Cosmetic Products:
Example: Whitening cream - NOT01234567KE

b. Hologram sticker
All registered products must have a hologram sticker on its packaging or on the product itself. Listed below are some of the characteristics of a genuine hologram sticker:

i.) Hibiscus flower - very visible to the naked eye
ii.) The word "PBKD" or "DCA" upon tilting the sticker

The word "KKM" should be at the end of the sticker. The word "KKM" will disappear when checked from its decoder which can be found at any retail pharmacy. This is a good test for the public in determining whether the sticker is genuine. If the sticker is a fake, chances are the product is also a fake. You are advised to consult MoH for more information if you are ever in doubt.

T&CM Practices in Malaysia

As listed on the Ministry of Health Malaysia's website, the following are some of the Traditional and Complementary Medicine (T &CM) Practices in Malaysia:

1. Islamic Medical Practice
2. Complementary Medicine:
-Biological Based Practice
-Mind Body Soul Therapy
-Energy Medicine
-Manipulative Based Practice
3. Homeopathy Medicine
4. Traditional Indian Medicine
5. Traditional Chinese Medicine
6. Traditional Malay Medicine

• Traditional Chinese Medicine:

a.) Type of practice: Traditional Chinese medicine
b.) Type of modality:

i.) Qigong
Qigong has a wide variety of traditional cultivation practices that involve methods of accumulating, circulating, and working with qi, breathing or energy within the body. It is mostly practised for health maintenance purposes: as a therapeutic intervention, a medical profession, a spiritual path and/or as a component of Chinese martial arts.

ii.) Tuina
Tuina is a 'Chinese Manipulative' therapy which is often used in conjunction with acupuncture, moxibustion, fire cupping, Chinese herbalism, tai chi, and qigong.

iii.) Chinese Herbs
Herbs are used as a complement to various physical diseases/conditions or for wellness, based on the Chinese community beliefs as well as the Chinese 'Materia Medica'.

iv.) Acupuncture and Moxibustion
Acupuncture is the technique of inserting and manipulating fine filiform needles into specific points on the body to relieve pain or for therapeutic purposes associated with or without moxibustion that involves the burning of mugwort (a small and spongy herb) to facilitate healing.

Please refer to the following practitioner bodies in Malaysia (registered with MoH) for more information regarding Traditional Chinese Medicine:

1. Malaysian Chinese Medical Association (MCMA)
2. Federation of Chinese Physicians & Acupuncturists Association of Malaysia (FCPAAM)
3. Federation of Chinese Physicians and Medicine-Dealers Association of Malaysia (FCPMDAM)

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) in Brief
Zhong yi or Chinese Medicine has a broad range of medicine practices which shares common theoretical concepts developed in mainland China. It is a tradition of over 2000 years with various forms that include dietary therapy, massage therapy, acupuncture, and herbal medicine. While they consider it as an alternative medicine in the West, all of the practices mentioned are considered a common and vital part of medical care throughout East Asia.

On the other hand, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) can simply be described as a holistic system of healthcare that comes with its very own unique theories. In TCM, while the treatment of illness is based primarily on the differentiation and diagnosis of syndromes, the understanding of the human body is based on a holistic viewpoint.

Most clinical diagnoses and treatment in TCM are based purely on the yin-yang balance and five elements theory. Acupuncture and herbal medicine are typical TCM therapies, with the aim of both therapies to maintain a person's health and restoring the balance of yin-yang. Acupuncture treatment works by stimulating the meridians or channels in the body, while herbal medicine acts on the human body (specifically the internal organs). There are a lot of medical conditions which can be treated effectively by TCM, such as:

1. Complicated illnesses: insomnia, depression, early stage cancer, early stage dementia, cardio-vascular diseases, hypertension, diabetes, stroke, and back fasciitis.
2. Common illnesses: knee joint inflammation, sprain of leg/hand, constipation, indigestion, asthma, cough, and flu.

TCM Therapies and Wellness Services
Among the readily available traditional Chinese therapies and services in the country you could try include:
1. Health Qigong
2. QiaoDanJing
3. TCM Pharmacy and Herbal Medicine
4. Traditional Chinese Scraping/ Gua Sha
5. Traditional Chinese Cupping/ Ba Guan
6. TCM Herbal Footbath Therapy
7. TCM Foot Reflexology
8. TCM Body Tuina Therapy
9. Traditional Chinese Moxibustion
10. TCM Chiropractic Care
11. Traditional Chinese Acupuncture
12. Traditional Pulse Reading and Chinese Diagnosis

The following section provides a brief description of these therapies:
• Health Qigong
If you'd like to decrease your high level of stress and enhance your immune system, you will need more energy. Since qigong is considered the art and science of using intricate breathing techniques, soft and slow movement, as well as meditation, it will all automatically circulate, strengthen, and cleanse your life energy (called qi) giving you more energy to do what you want. The gracefulness and the extended movements which are quite simple to master will give you the health benefit you crave for.

There is an extensive range of traditional cultivation practices with methods of working, circulating, and accumulating with qi, and energy or breathing within a person's body when it comes to qigong, and it is typically practised to maintain one's health, perhaps as part of a component of Chinese martial arts, a spiritual path, a medical profession, and/or as a therapeutic intervention.

• TCM Pharmacy and Herbal Medicine
The Chinese physicians stationed at a typical herb and traditional medicine centre will usually prescribe a patient with Chinese medication once they are done with the pulse reading session. Herbs are carefully picked and packaged for the patients along with detailed instructions on how it is to be prepared for consumption. Often, the herbs are boiled with the correct amount of water over a low flame for several hours. The herbs are used to rectify various physical diseases/conditions or for wellness, and are based on traditional Chinese community beliefs as well as the Chinese 'Materia Medica'.

• Traditional Chinese Scraping/ Gua Sha
Another healing technique used in traditional medicine is called gua sha. The technique works by repeatedly applying pressured strokes over lubricated skin with a smooth edge scraper which may lead to the skin having small red patches. The aim of this method is to help stimulate one's immune system, detoxify, remove blockage and pain, improve blood circulation to the tissues, muscles, and organs which are located directly beneath the skin's surface, and other health purposes.

• Traditional Chinese Cupping/ Ba Guan
Cupping (without the use of needles) is considered an ancient Chinese technique which is said to help stimulate the flow of bodily fluids like lymph and blood as well as energy. Cups with partial vacuum created either by suction or heat are placed on the skin. During the cupping process, localised healing will occur and blood stasis is formed if the cup is left in its place on the skin for several minutes. Cupping not only allows deep relaxation, it also helps to calm sympathetic nerves. It is widely practised in the West as well as the East.

• TCM Herbal Footbath Therapy
Traditional Herbal Foot Bath is an effective remedy to revitalise the mind and body. The therapy is effective in removing toxins, promoting energy flow, encouraging blood circulation and calming the nerves. Among the nine types of herbal medicine available include:

1. Anti-Ageing
2. Skin Complexion Improvement
3. Hypertension Regulation
4. Immune System Improvement
5. Stress and Insomnia Relief
6. Blood Cholesterol Regulation
7. Stiffness Relief
8. Detoxification and Slimming
9. Joint Pain Relief

• TCM Foot Reflexology
If you fancy a quick improvement of your body's circulation, reflexology is an option that promotes circulation and relaxation. The non-invasive method of traditional foot reflexology rebalances the internal system of your body. It is considered a natural therapy and requires the application of a particular type of pressure on specific parts of your feet. The method is based on the principle that the reflexes that exist on the feet correspond to specific systems and organs of the body.

• TCM Body Tuina Therapy
The performance of this therapeutic method is done through a variety of hand techniques like roll/press, knead, rub, and brush. This method has the power to strengthen your body's resistance against disease, which in turn will prevent the invasion of pathogens, particularly in middle aged, elderly, and physically weak people. Simply put, tuina could definitely help either as a prevention or treatment of diseases. Additionally, tuina may also be used alongside acupuncture, moxibustion, fire cupping, Chinese herbalism, tai chi, and qigong.

• Traditional Chinese Moxibustion
This type of therapy is a form of treatment that dispels cold and damp by the burning of a herb known as mugwort. It is highly useful when it comes to treating an extensive range of conditions which may include poor digestion, cold, flu, and body aches/pain. Moxibustion is also regarded as the equivalent therapy to acupuncture, and is also believed to stimulate the flow points of qi within the selected areas of your body.

• TCM Chiropractic Care
The practice of chiropractic specialises in the management, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of health conditions that may have a connection to problems related to bones, joints, muscles, and nerves near the spine. Chiropractic especially helps in removing postural imbalance and structural misalignments.

• Traditional Chinese Acupuncture
Acupuncture was developed over 2,000 years ago in ancient China. It is a healing method which has been scientifically proven by modern medicine. Acupuncture works best by helping you to regulate the flow of vital energy and blood by inserting fill-form needles into certain points on your body with the purpose of relieving pain.

• Traditional Pulse Reading and Chinese Diagnosis
Pulse reading involves the art of Traditional Palpation and is combined with other traditional sensory-related skills done by a qualified Chinese physician. The physician will be able to analyse any body part that needs to be rebalanced by touching your pulse. The physician will then

prescribe a suitable Chinese herbal remedy for you. In addition, the physician may recommend other suitable therapies to help you unblock your qi and allow your body to regain its balance.

T&CM Courses
If you are interested in pursuing any of the courses listed in the traditional and complementary medicines (T&CM) category, you are advised to refer to the official site of MQA (Malaysian Qualifications Agency) for further information on the available programmes and to find out which are the approved providers for T&CM courses.

The Traditional & Complementary Medicine Division of the Ministry of Health in cooperation with MQA, the Ministry of Higher Education, and T&CM panel members (which consists of academicians/education providers as well as practitioners), have developed 13 programme standards for undergraduate levels (bachelor and diploma) which can only be offered by public and private higher education institutions. The programmes, which have been developed since 2008, are listed as below:

1. Diploma level
• Diploma in Reflexology
• Diploma in Islamic Medicine
• Diploma in Aromatherapy
• Diploma in Natural Medicine
• Diploma in Traditional Chinese Medicine (Acupuncture)
• Diploma in Malay Massage

2. Bachelor level
• Bachelor of Chiropractic
• Bachelor of Ayurveda Medicine
• Bachelor of Malay Medicine
• Bachelor of Homeopathy
• Bachelor of Complementary Medicine (Natural Medicine)
• Bachelor of Traditional Chinese Medicine
• Bachelor of Traditional Chinese Medicine (Acupuncture)