TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) works to turn around the slow processes that result in the body losing vitality and the gradual movement towards un-ease.
Don't think sudden. Think gradual.
Probably one of the most challenging aspects for patients to grasp is how Chinese Medicine actually works. Here we will try to go through some of the basic ideas to give you a better understand of the processes behind Chinese Medicine.
Chinese Medicine has evolved for over 3500 years. Chinese Medicine is an experiential medicine. This means that it has been learned and perfected by practice rather than theory. Slowly over time the medicinal value of herbs were learned, acupuncture meridians were mapped and the complex theories of the medicine were developed. Billions of people have used Chinese Medicine. Comparatively, Western Medicine with its few hundred years of history is young and relatively untested.
What often confuses people is the language that Chinese Medicine uses when describing the way that it works. Terms like ‘Qi’ and ‘Yin & Yang’ and ‘elemental fire’ etc can sound a bit esoteric and strange to a Western ear. What you have to remember is that this is a traditional medicine, developed over thousands of years and so the descriptions may sound a bit ‘old world’ but this does not mean that they are untrue. Scientists are working hard to try and explain Chinese Medicine with modern scientific terminology and there are already many studies where Chinese Medicine theories can be shown using Western science. This East-West translation will continue but in the meantime it is important that patients are not put-off by what sound like strange or mystical terms.
The fundamental difference in approach between Western and Chinese Medicine is the way that it looks at the body. Western science is focused on the microscopic view, looking in extreme detail at the chemical and structural makeup of the body. It treats disease by trying to isolate the microscopic processes involved and using synthesized drugs or mechanical surgery to affect these processes. It is a very direct medicine and can be very quick acting and effective but can also simply treat the symptoms and not the underlying causes of illness.
Chinese Medicine on the other hand looks at the body with a wider perspective, incorporating physical, emotional and psychological factors into one view of the whole body. Chinese Medicine also takes into account external factors such as lifestyle and environment. It then combines all this information to understand the individual pattern of illness in the patient and uses herbs, acupuncture, massage and lifestyle advice to reverse this pattern and bring the patient back to a state of good health. It can be fast acting or the process can require time, but the effects are long lasting and deal with the underlying causes of illness.
So which is the better medicine? Neither. Both are valuable. If I am in a car accident then I would want to be brought to a Western Medical hospital to treat any acute or life-threatening injuries. However, as part of my rehabilitation I would also like to use Chinese Medicine to relieve my back pain and Chinese Herbs to calm any post-accident emotional anxiety. The great news is that Chinese Medicine can be safely used in combination with Western Medicine as long as you see a properly qualified doctor.