Categories of traditional Taoist treatment methods

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Updated: 2011-07-15

Tao literally means ‘way,’ but can also be interpreted as road, channel or path. Taoists believe that the ‘way’ one can attain immortality is through exercise and self-cultivation.

Research dating back to the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) shows that there are more than 3000 daily practices and forms of self-cultivation. However, there are only 200 kinds of ways according to Taoist theory. They can be summed up in the following categories:

Guiding the breath and massaging

This category is a kind of Dynamic Qigong, aimed to strengthen the body and improve one's health. It includes directing techniques, massage skills, the skill of touching vital points on the adversary's body to cause internal injury, knocking the teeth, combing the hair with fingers, washing the face without water, rubbing the ears and eyes, wringing the center of the sole, and tapping the whole body.

Exhaling old breath and inhaling the new

The purpose of this category is to regulate breath. This can help the body fill itself with energy and to prolong life. This category includes gathering, digesting, obstructing, practicing, releasing, brewing, and regulating breath. In general, it can be divided into four kinds: digesting external breath, swallowing the vitality, considering, and finally arousing internal breath.

The alchemy inside the body

This means that we each hold individual energy and vitality or cultivate our own "medicine" that promotes immortality inside our body. Among varieties of skills that were developed in Taoism, Nei Dan (breath control and hygiene or internal alchemy) is the most well-known. This form is considered the symbol and essence of Taoist qigong.

The Nei Dan method means to choose and concentrate on one part of body to feel rested and relaxed.

The schools of this category can be divided into the South School, the North School, the Central School, the Western School, and the Eastern School.


This can also be called "refusing food", "discarding food", or "going without food", which means that people do not eat any foods including vegetables during a certain period or over a long period of time. This category can be divided into three main types: digesting breath after non-eating, drinking water after non- eating, and taking medicine after non-eating. There are more than a hundred ways to take medicine. However, the three main ways coordinate with the Static Qigong.


Taoists believe that it is vital to consume tonics for energy and blood nourishment. These tonics come in the form of herbal and metal medicines. Taoists believe that taking pellet medicine made of metal can make a person immortal and become a god, which has already been proved to be a fallacy. However, the herbal medicines do have a nourishing effect if you take the proper quantity and consume it the right way. For example, the appropriate amount of Ganoderma lucidum, Lycium chinense, Schisandra chinensis, Rehmannia glutinosa and date promotes well-being.

Sex life

Sexual intercourse is also called "sexual life in the bedroom" or "going into the bedroom" according to Chinese medicine. Ancient Chinese people believed that sexual life could nourish people as well as wear them out. Therefore, Taoists paid close attention to sexual health care. In fact, the ways of maintaining sound sexual heath was to maintain good hygienic knowledge and exercising its means. The Taoists believed in "conserving the sperms, consolidating the sperms and preserving the sperms". They have also concluded a series of ways to maintain vital power. In detail they are: "crouching in solitude", "techniques to control the desire", "taboo in the bedroom". No matter which school the technique belongs to, the key is "to nurture the sperms and nourish the brain".

Bathing in fragrant water

Among the various Taoist practices, there is one category that has always been overlooked by the public-bathing in fragrant water. However, this category does have some special effects. Various fragrant medical herbs are added to luke-warm bathing water, which not only cleanses the body but also edifies the mind.

There are five kinds of medical herbs that are mostly used. They are: the root of Dahurian angelica, peach bark, leaves of pine tree, fragrance of green wood, and lingling (another kind of wood). The root of Dahurian angelica contains a large amount of oil and fragrance. It is said that it has the effect of shunning evil things. The peach bark is taken from the insides of the cork. It contains the element of pomelo peel and orange, so it's very fragrant. It has a strong effect to invigorate the brain, kill the insects and eliminate measles. The leaves of pine tree have the effect of lessening pressure and resisting changing temperature. The fragrance of lingling has excellent effect to cure stuffy noses and toothaches. The fragrance of green wood can facilitate blood circulation. All of extracts generally relaxes the body and promotes good health.

Taoist magic figures and incantations

The Taoism fingerprint system is used when Taoist practice meditation and religious rites. There are more than ten types of gestures. Meanwhile, Taoist incantations come in three forms: the rhymed passage, the unrhymed phrase, and the Buddhist incantation. While Taoists practice Qigong, they say incantations and digest breath. When they begin or finish practicing, they count fingers and read an incantation.


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