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Pacific Prime’s guide to Traditional Chinese Medicine in Hong Kong

For expats, the world of Traditional Chinese Medicine, or TCM, may seem alien and intimidating. From funny-smelling herbs to sticking needles into your skin, it is unsurprising why many westerners today stay away from TCM treatments. However, this centuries-old genre of medicine has proven time and time again to be an effective and natural way to treat illnesses.

In this article by Pacific Prime Hong Kong, we will guide you through the different types of TCM in Hong Kong and the health benefits that they provide.

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Getting to know TCM in Hong Kong

TCM has made various global milestones in the past decades. From being the basis for malaria treatments to aiding in cancer treatments, there is no wonder why TCM is still a popular medical treatment option for Hong Kongers in the 21st century.

In Hong Kong, TCM shops and clinics can be found throughout the city. It is officially recognized as a form of medicine by the Hong Kong government. The government also plays a key role in regulating TCM practices in the cities. For instance, all practitioners of TCM must meet the standards of the Department of Health’s Chinese Medicine Ordinance.

TCM continues to achieve great strides in Hong Kong, with the city’s first state-funded Chinese Medicine Hospital to be opened in 2024.

Now that we have a rough idea of TCM’s prevalence in Hong Kong, let’s go through the key principles behind TCM and explore the benefits of TCM treatments available in the city.

Key principles

While various treatments in TCM have made their way into western medical practices, there are four key principles that separate TCM’s philosophy from its western counterpart. These principles are as follows:

  • Your body is an integrated whole: TCM practitioners believe the different parts of your body, along with your mental state and emotions, are fundamentally interconnected, forming a complex and intricate system.
  • You are completely connected to nature: At heart, this principle is a little less spooky than it sounds. It states that your environment, such as your geographical location, the weather, the time of the day, as well as your age and genetics, are all conditions that affect your body.
  • You were born with a natural self-healing ability: Self-healing is at the core of TCM treatments. TCM treatments are meant to unlock your body’s ability to self-heal instead of targeting and suppressing certain symptoms.
  • Prevention is the best cure: Various TCM treatments are meant to protect your body from health complications and treat it before the symptoms arise. From this principle, TCM practitioners often develop skills that allow them to interpret signs your body is telling you before illness symptoms appear.


Acupuncture is the insertion and manipulation of hair-thin needles at certain points in the body in order to ‘rebalance’ the body. It can be used by TCM practitioners to alleviate symptoms that are thought to result from ‘imbalances’ within the body, such as headaches, pain from labor, or even toothaches.

Nowadays, acupuncture is often used in conjunction with other treatments. For instance, it can be used to alleviate chemotherapy-induced nausea or vomiting as part of a cancer treatment program.

If you are still intimidated by the idea of having thin needles being inserted into your skin, remember that the practice has already been widely adopted in western medicine, such as the use of acupuncture techniques in physiotherapy to treat muscle pains.

Bone setting

Bone setting is the manipulation of joints, tendons, and ligaments to rectify the misaligned parts of the skeletal system. It forms the basis for the development of modern chiropractic and osteopathy.

Through manipulating fractured bones, ruptured sinew, and muscles, bonesetters are able to treat bone fractures, concussions, sprains, and even joint dislocations. The treatment can also be used to treat other symptoms that modern chiropractic or osteopathy do not primarily target, such as stomach ache, dizziness, and menstrual pain.

Keep in mind that some bone setting manipulations are not as gentle as western physiotherapy and can be very painful, especially if it’s your first time!

Herbal medicine

Herbal medicine is perhaps the least intimidating type of TCM treatment to expats because it is administered orally, much like western medicine.

Herbal medicine is the most common type of TCM available in Hong Kong, with countless herbal medicine stores to be found throughout the entire city. Ninety-five percent of Chinese herbal medicine is plant-based, another 5% is mineral- and animal-based. While TCM can involve the use of ingredients from endangered animal species, all endangered animal use is strictly prohibited in Hong Kong.

Being in line with TCM principles, herbal medicines are often not used to treat particular symptoms. Instead, they are used to treat the whole body by improving body-wide functions, such as blood circulation and the immune system.

Like western medicine, Chinese herbal medicine can be harmful to your body if consumed incorrectly. For this reason, herbal medicine shops in Hong Kong are required to obtain an official license from the government in order to sell certain types of herbs categorized as Schedule 1 and Schedule 2 herbs.

Schedule 1 herbs are highly toxic if not taken correctly and require a prescription from a licensed Chinese Medical practitioner to purchase. Meanwhile, Schedule 2 herbs do not require a prescription, but it is recommended that you consult with your physician or TCM practitioner before taking it yourself.

Does your health insurance plan cover TCM treatments?

Given the long-standing popularity of TCM in Hong Kong, it is unsurprising that many health insurance plans with outpatient benefits in Hong Kong also cover TCM treatments.

If you are looking to venture into the world of TCM, getting a health insurance plan that provides coverage for TCM treatments can be highly beneficial, as you will not have to make full out-of-pocket payments on your regular visits to TCM practitioners. Note that most plans will not cover all forms of TCMs available.

To get further advice you can consult our health insurance experts at Pacific Prime Hong Kong. As insurance brokers, we are not able to offer medical advice on whether you should seek TCM treatments. However, we are able to provide you with different insurance solutions, including group medical insurance and international health insurance, to help you find the best medical insurance option in Hong Kong.

You can visit our site for free plan comparisons or a free quote today.

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Content Creator at Pacific Prime Hong Kong
Phuwit is a content writer who helps inform readers on insurance-related issues through writing articles, blogs, and more. Phuwit strives to produce quality content that makes insurance easier to understand for readers.

In his free time, Phuwit enjoys reading and playing badminton. He also loves a good cup of coffee.