Root Treatments for GERD : Identifying Underlying Cause Vs. Symptom Checking

In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), "branch treatment" and "root treatment" are two approaches to treating health conditions like GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease).

1. Branch Treatment:

This approach focuses on alleviating the symptoms of GERD. It involves using therapies to directly address the symptoms, such as taking antacids to reduce stomach acid or using medications to reduce acid production.

2. Root Treatment:

Root treatment, on the other hand, aims to address the underlying causes of GERD. This approach focuses on restoring balance to the body's systems to prevent the recurrence of symptoms. It may involve dietary and lifestyle changes, herbal remedies, acupuncture, and other TCM modalities to strengthen the digestive system and address any imbalances that may be contributing to GERD.

In TCM, the root treatment approach is often preferred because it not only helps alleviate symptoms but also aims to address the root cause of the condition, leading to longer-lasting relief. However, in some cases, a combination of branch and root treatments may be used to provide more immediate relief while also addressing the underlying imbalances.

Over all, framing treatments around the ‘root’ cause of disease is at the core of Traditional Chinese Medicine principles.

In TCM, GERD is often viewed as a disharmony in the body, possibly involving the spleen, stomach, or liver. Here are some aspects of a TCM root treatment approach for GERD:

  1. Dietary adjustments: TCM often emphasizes the importance of a balanced diet. For GERD, this might involve avoiding spicy, greasy, and acidic foods, and focusing on easily digestible, bland foods. It may also involve eating smaller, more frequent meals and avoiding eating late at night.

  2. Herbal remedies: TCM commonly uses herbal formulas to help rebalance the body. For GERD, herbs like licorice root, ginger, and peppermint might be used to soothe the digestive tract and reduce acid reflux.

  3. Acupuncture: Acupuncture can be used to help regulate the flow of qi (energy) in the body, which TCM believes can help improve digestion and reduce symptoms of GERD.

  4. Lifestyle modifications: TCM often emphasizes the importance of lifestyle factors in health. This might include stress reduction techniques like qigong or tai chi, as stress can exacerbate GERD symptoms.

  5. Tongue and pulse diagnosis: In TCM, the tongue and pulse are often used as diagnostic tools to assess the overall health of the body and identify underlying imbalances that may be contributing to GERD.

Although a branch treatment may have rapid therapeutic effects and quickly resolve the issue, it does not provide the body with any opportunity to truly heal. It is like making a judgement about the health of branches of a tree, without considering what is happening under the soil. Merely trimming back the branches will not help a diseased tree if it is the roots that are infected or being attacked; they will continue to grow back diseased. The only way to thoroughly heal the tree would be to address its' diseased roots. Often branch treatment relies on an external substances (medications) to address a symptom, and upon cessation of the medication the symptom instantly returns. This is not a true correction of the issue.


By contrast, a root treatment approach may take a bit longer, but by nature of targeting the underlying problem it will resolve it more permanently. Root treatment approaches actually teach the body how to correct the underlying imbalances that led to to these problems. This creates a more resilient system that becomes equipped to heal itself in the future. Your body learns how to be its’ own medicine, instead of relying on something external to it.


In summary, the branch treatment is to give medication to get immediate symptom relief. Conversely, the root solution is to make your body stronger so that you are resistant to those things recurring.




As a Doctor of TCM, We don’t just consider the immediate symptoms that patients are presenting. Instead, We consider the underlying factors that are contributing to the manifestation of such symptoms. Treatment is then directed towards those underlying factors, which effectively leads to resolution of the presenting symptoms.


Interested in learning more about this approach to your health? Book an initial treatment with our therapists to see if TCM is the right treatment for you.



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