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When you walk down the street in Hong Kong and in Singapore, you cannot miss them: Traditional Chinese Medicine shops. We hear a lot about it, but what is Traditional Chinese Medicine? Why is it getting so popular, also for expats?

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In this new episode of Abroad With Care, Andrea interviews Roxanne Issurdatt, a Chinese medicinal practitioner based in Hong Kong. She explains to us what TCM really is and how you could benefit from it. 

First, let’s explain what Traditional Chinese Medicine is. What are the key principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine? 
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a holistic, natural health care system that dates back at least 2,500 years. It is “holistic” and “natural” because it stimulates the body’s own healing mechanisms. It takes into account all aspects of a patient’s life, rather than just the more overt symptoms we experience.  

For instance, a TCM practitioner would not only treat your headache but also address what caused the headache in the first place. He would restore balance to the body, mind and spirit. 

What are the different elements of TCM?

The most well known is acupuncture. There are many more other elements: herbal medicine, cupping, Gua Sha (type of scraping), Tui Na (type of massage), acupressure. Qi Gong is a kind of medical exercise. Nutrition is also part of TCM.

What are the key benefits of TCM?

In general, it alleviates symptoms and addresses the root cause of an issue. TCM offers a greater sense of well-being and calm. TCM patients usually have a better peace of mind. Overall, it helps your body function better: digestion, menstruation, fertility, sleep. 

Most people associate it with recovering from injuries, such as back pain or knee pain. TCM is fantastic at those things and helps people get back to speed very quickly. But it is also great at treating not just the body but the mind as well. It is very effective with anxiety, insomnia, and even grief. Some patients are able to walk through life again with thrive and vigor thanks to TCM. 

Traditional Chinese Medicine is getting more and more trendy, with more and more patients being expats. How do you explain this trend? 

I think that people are now beginning to understand that everything is interconnected. TCM treats the whole person, not just their digestive system or their muscular system. Again, it helps alleviate symptoms while also tackling the root of the problem. We help alleviate the headaches but also improve your sleep and sense of calm at the same time. This is quite an attractive approach to most busy expats. 
Another reason for its rising popularity is because it is  natural and effective. The practitioner takes your whole lifestyle into consideration: stress, diet, emotions and symptoms… She gets the whole picture of you. This is an appealing approach for modern people.

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How can Chinese and Western medicine traditions be merged? 
TCM has been addressing concepts for over 1,000 years that Western medicine has only recently embraced. Western medicine is great with individual systems and Chinese medicine sees the interconnectedness of systems. So, they easily lend themselves to helping each other. 
Today, we see the merging of Western and Chinese Medicine happening in Hong Kong, Singapore and China with TCM in most major hospitals working side by side with western medicine. We see it in major US hospitals as well. For example, Johns Hopkins University Hospital in Baltimore uses acupuncture to help cancer patients with the side effects of chemotherapy. Both medicines can work together to help patients recover faster and stronger. 
How can Traditional Chinese Medicine be incorporated into our everyday life? 
The first way would be to take a herbal formula from your practitioner. Your practitioner can also teach you breathing exercise and exercises like Qi Gong or Tai Qi that help the flow of energy. You can live with the seasons of nature, this is what TCM is based on. 
What is your advice to choose a TCM practitioner? 
First, choose someone who is qualified. It is also good to get a word-of-mouth recommendation. But I think the most important thing is to find someone you connect with, that listens to your concerns and asks questions about your lifestyle and emotions. A TCM practitioner is like a general practitioner: they are part of your long-term support team. So even when you have recovered, the practitioner will be there in times of stress and to help you through any other injuries or issues in your life.  

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