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Traditional Chinese Medicine and Bone Health

By: Michelle Fletcher

Ten million Americans over the age of 50 suffer from osteoporosis. In addition, 34 million are at a serious risk for developing this debilitating bone disease. The severe loss of bone mass and breakdown of the architecture of the bone, osteoporosis thins the bones to a point where a mere cough can cause a fracture. Twenty percent of those suffering with osteoporosis will die within a year after sustaining a broken hip. Within 15 years, half of all Americans over age 50 will be at risk for osteoporosis-related fractures, according to the Surgeon General.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) offers a holistic approach to preventing and eradicating the source of bone disease. TCM theory states that “The kidneys are in charge of the bones.” Essentially, the skeleton’s growth, development, and repair are closely related to the kidneys. These organs promote the growth of marrow and flow of vital energy (qi) through the skeleton.

Post-menopausal women experience both bone loss and kidney weakness. Studies performed at the Traditional Medicine Research Institute in China have found that “the increase of bone mass in amount and density and the increase of age have a close relationship with the abundance of, or decline of, kidney qi.” Individuals suffering kidney failure will also experience lower bone density, according to the study.

The second factor that contributes to bone disease is blood flow. Blood flow and qi circulation throughout the body are directly related. Promoting blood circulation may remove such stasis and encourage the production of new bone material. Like Western medicine, TCM promotes vigorous exercise for general well-being, and weight exercises for bone strength and health. An American study concludes that athletic and active women maintain bone mass longer later in life. Further, a study at the Department of Medicine, University of British Columbia, Vancouver suggest that, “Moderate physical activity in people with osteoporosis can reduce the risk of falls and fractures, decrease pain and improve fitness and overall quality of life. It may also stimulate bone gain and decrease bone loss.”

Traditional Chinese Medicine has developed time-proven remedies and formulas that strengthen health and longevity. Some formulas originating in the Yunnan province focus on strengthening the qi, the kidneys, and the bones. “The ancients were keenly aware that bone remedies, in addition to strengthening the kidneys and overall vitality (qi), had to include herbs that would specifically be directed to the ends of the bones, where callous tissue grows and new bone cells can contribute to bone growth.” Traditional Chinese Medicine may be the answer for osteoporosis.

Ancient Chinese remedies address the wide range of bone disorders plaguing our country. These herbs, as prescribed by a herbologist or acupuncturist, combined with regular exercise may help overcome osteoporosis and encourage health, vitality, and longevity.


Ross, Kate. “TCM Solutions for Osteoporosis and Bone Disease”. Acupuncture Today 2005 06(06).

Brewer, V. Role of exercise in prevention of involutional bone loss. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1983;15(6):445-9.

J C Prior, S I Barr, R Chow, and R A Faulkner. Prevention and management of osteoporosis: consensus statements from the Scientific Advisory Board of the Osteoporosis Society of Canada. 5. Physical activity as therapy for osteoporosis. CMAJ. 1996 October 1; 155(7): 940–944.

Ross, Kate. 1-2. 

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