Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is the oldest continuously practiced medical system in the world, having been relied on in East Asia for 4000 years. It is a highly literate system, something which makes it quite unique in the field of modern herbalism. Herbal knowledge in many other cultures was discontinued or decimated by colonialism, industrialization or other historical events. Most of these were strictly oral traditions, and as such could not be preserved beyond the lifespan and influence of their practitioners.

In China, this did not happen. Over millennia, TCM doctors and academics continued to refine, test and debate their medical theories, with one generation building on the well recorded accomplishments of the one before. Now, China offers a model of integrative medicine to the world, a national medical system that seamlessly combines TCM and modern western medicine. Many hospitals offer both, but some are strictly TCM. It is quite a sight for a westerner: a large hospital, much like any here, with the same multitude of departments -- dermatology, gynecology, gastroenterology,etc. The difference is that treatments consist solely of acupuncture, herbal medicine, massage, tai chi, and qi gong. The hospital pharmacy is typically a vast dispensary of hundreds of herbs, where compound herbal formulas are weighed and measured around the clock, then sent to the kitchen to be brewed for inpatients.

All of this happens across China, Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Singapore, and increasingly, Western countries, for one good reason: Traditional Chinese Medicine works, and in dermatology, Traditional Chinese Medicine works particularly well.