TCM is based on an energetic model rather than the biochemical model of Western Medicine. The ancient Chinese recognized a vital energy, which they called Qi (pronounced “chee”), in all life forms and life processes. They also discovered a system of Qi circulation along specific pathways or meridians throughout the human body. Each meridian corresponds with a particular internal organ system.
It is important to note here that the TCM conception of the internal organs overlaps, but does not directly correspond with our current understanding of the organs. Disease is considered the result of blocked Qi flow or imbalances in other natural states of the body impairing the optimal function of the organs and/or musculoskeletal system. The meridians, which carry the Qi, “communicate” with the organs and musculoskeletal system through surface points on the body called acupuncture points.
Each point has a predictable effect on the qi passing through it and the associated organ. Herbal medicine and dietary and lifestyle recommendations also have predictable effects on the flow of Qi and on other natural states of the body. You might think of acupuncture, herbs and dietary and lifestyle recommendations as the tools of the TCM practitioner.