East meets West: The role of traditional Chinese medicine.

Etienne Voss looks medicine, mind, and body

East meets West and the role of traditional Chinese medicine.

Western medicine is relatively new and eastern medicine is relatively very old. The oriental medicine that we know about today is approximately 2500 years old and has been used to keep countless millions of people healthy.

Western medicine is young and with the energy of youth has managed to catapult the population of the planet into record numbers who are living longer than ever before.

Western medicine has the potent weapons of health, hygiene, machines, tests and statistics. Oriental medicine has medical metaphors describing powerful connections to nature and the road to our elemental wellbeing on this planet.

Western medicine treats only what can be proven and seen by specialists using specialized machines and tests, while the oriental tradition treats only what it can encounter and prove with the practitioners own senses. In the west the new graduate is seen to have had access to the latest scientific theories and medical equipment and consequently is to be trusted not to have outdated modes of practice. The oriental physician is treated conversely with the oldest practitioner being viewed as having had a lifetime to hone his skills and therefore is the more trusted and effective choice.

One only needs to look at the almost incomprehensible differences between the east and west’s written and spoken languages to see why it is not surprising that the two cultures approach the human body/being so differently. Fundamentally one must note that these two modes of medical science (and many others) have been created by man and should consequently be viewed as theoretical medical models that have proven to be useful by individual cultures.

We have grown up with the ‘magic’ of little white pills (as well as modern surgery) which we use for almost every possible ailment. The eastern population has grown up with the ‘magic’ of acupuncture needles (as well as herbs, medical chi gung, oriental massage and bone setting) that are used to take care of their many health needs. The strengths and weakness of both eastern and western medicine tend to fall on a predictable continuum that make them logical partners for the complete and thorough treatment of a patient.

Western medicine with its reductionist scientific nature is highly effective in dealing with all varieties of acute trauma with the casualty department in the local hospital being a prime example of this. The modern miracle of treatments like insulin for diabetics can also be seen as an acute trauma treatment since without this medication the individual would surely die. Modern hygiene practices can also be
viewed as one of the crowning glories of western medicine.

In contrast oriental medicine is at its most powerful in dealing with all disease before the symptoms manifest and is very effective in dealing with the complicated and often vague symptom pictures of what the west calls psychosomatic illness (relating to mind and body.) Effective pain relief and solving muscular-skeletal problems are however probably what acupuncture is best known for in the west. Another benefit of eastern medicine is its empowering patient centred approach which can be directly opposed to the disease centred and often disempowering approach of western medicine.

Very often there is a tendency to try and find a ‘winner’ when comparing different medical approaches. This can be seen to be ultimately pointless as all medical approaches are valid and necessary for the health of the world’s population. Furthermore the fact that there are a wide variety of medical systems still in use today around the world shows that each one is effective, in its own way, and has withstood the fundamental test of time.

Etienne Voss
(Licentiate in acupuncture, Reading UK)

Please feel free to contact him with any comments or questions ( etienne.voss@gmail.com )

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