Traditional Chinese medicine. Pros and cons of Eastern and Western medicine

We all get used to common medicines, tests, and procedures. Oriental medicine includes the established traditions of China, India, Tibet, Japan, and some other countries. It comprises not only information about the causes and methods of treatment of diseases, but also a whole philosophy.

The similarity between these two types of medicine is that both see the connection between the structure and function of the body. That is, damage to the structure (or symptom) is secondary, and you need to influence the cause of its occurrence. In addition, both concepts believe that it is necessary to balance all the physiological processes in the body to prevent the occurrence of the disease.

There are differences. For example, it is better to resort to classical, western medicine, in emergency cases, including surgery and other means. Eastern medicine is more focused on the prevention and treatment of chronic diseases, on restoring balance and harmony between all the processes occurring in the body. Preference is given to natural products and methods of physiotherapy. Medicines are made of plants, animals, and sometimes minerals. In contrast to modern drugs, which are overwhelmingly synthesized artificially and can be completely alien to the human body. It is this naturalness that draws attention to Oriental medicine.


All the nuances of Eastern medicine

Tibetan and Chinese medicine are often confused. In fact, these are two completely different systems based on different principles, philosophy, and religion.


Basics of Tibetan medicine

The main philosophy of Tibetan medicine is Buddhism. This doctrine speaks of the inseparable connection between all elements and organs, body, spirit, and energies. Changing this delicate balance leads to illness.
In addition to medical procedures, Tibetan medicine offers rituals and spiritual practices that also help to get rid of diseases, especially those related to the spirit and consciousness. In other words, these rituals are used to treat psychosomatic and mental disorders.

Tibetan medicine has adopted some philosophical concepts from other cultures. It took the system of five astrological elements from Chinese medicine. The concept of three doshas (in Tibetan medicine, nyespa) was borrowed from Ayurveda.

The two fundamental to Tibetan medicine treatises were written by the doctor Yutong Yondan-Gonpo, who lived in 1112–1203 AD. He managed to systematize all the knowledge accumulated by that time in the four-volume Zhu-shi with commentaries to the texts.

Later there were two historical schools of Tibetan medicine: Zhang and Zur, which subsequently merged into one. Zur School is considered more consistent, since its founder, Zurkhar Nyamnyi Dorje, edited both treatises and numerous comments to them, combined these practices and structured them. It can be said that modern Tibetan medicine is the result of its activities.

In the 12-13 century, Tibet’s medical science spreads to the surrounding areas: first to Mongolia, and then to Buryatia, where it is still practiced along with modern medicine.

The first information about Tibetan medicine appears in the West in the 18th century. In the 20th century, after the wave of forced emigration of Tibetans, the Western world was able to learn more about not only the unique Buddhist culture but also the Tibetan medical system itself.


Traditional Chinese medicine

Chinese medicine is not only a national treatment system but also an important component of Chinese culture. This is part of the science of life education, which also includes dietology, religious, psycho-physiological practices, various types of gymnastics. Moreover, the main approaches have not changed for almost two and a half thousand years.

Two provisions of Taoism are fundamental in Chinese medicine: the theory of the elements and the unity of opposites. They help to find the cause of the disease and act immediately.

The doctrine of the elements says that all organs are associated with an element. For example, muscles, tendons, gallbladder, nails, and eyes are associated with wood. Their pathologies are exacerbated in spring when a tree wakes up from winter. And if a disease of one of these organs is detected, then all the others should also be treated.

Yin and Yang form a single whole, passing one into another. This means that every patient has a healthy beginning that can be developed.

Chinese medicine has been developing for more than one thousand years. One of the fundamental milestones in the history of Chinese medicine is the creation of The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine. Even today modern doctors refer to this classic text.

Other outstanding texts were written, such as The Canon About Canals, entirely dedicated to the Qi meridians. A treatise on Chzhen-Ziu Therapy talks about acupuncture and moxotherapy. The Thousand Golden Recipes treatise has 60 volumes.

A few centuries Before the Common Era, eight surgeons, eight therapists, as well as two nutritionists and two pharmacists officially belonged to the court staff. These data were recorded in the book Rites of Zhou, which belongs to the era of the Zhou dynasty, XI-III in BCE.

Today, traditional Chinese medicine is spread far beyond the borders of this country. Reflexology as a method of treatment is recognized by modern science and has a serious pathogenetic rationale.


Methods of Eastern medicine

The philosophical concept of Eastern medicine largely dictates the choice of diagnosis methods and treatment. Six main areas are used in the diagnosis: a conversation with the patient, the examination of the patient, probing, smell of smells, the study of various noises and pulses. According to them, the doctor determines which system of the patient’s body need to be harmonized.

Treatment methods in Tibetan and Chinese medicine have both common and specific features. Following the Tibetan traditions, treatment is carried out with the help of herbal medicines, changes in nutrition, lifestyle and external treatment methods. All of them are used to restore the balance between different elements.

External methods of treatment include massage, cauterization (me-btsa), bleeding, acupuncture, baths, and compresses. Tibetan medicine borrowed cautery and acupuncture from the Chinese tradition without significant change.

Compresses can be hot and cold. They are used in diseases with excess cold or heat, respectively. Including with various bleeding, intoxication, pain, and diseases of internal organs.
Baths are prescribed for diseases of the skin, muscles, and joints. They are contraindicated in infectious diseases, pregnancy, heart disease. Similar indications and contraindications are present in modern balneotherapy.

We should also say about bloodletting. This method has successfully treated many diseases, including acute conditions, such as epileptic seizures, hypertensive crises, and asthmatic conditions. Small bloodletting was used for the treatment and prevention of chronic diseases. To date, research has confirmed the effectiveness of this method in the treatment of the respiratory system diseases, asthma, headaches and so on.

Atlases with descriptions of special points on the vessels through which bad blood must be removed have survived to the present day. They can find the location of 77 major and 13 additional points, which are located on all parts of the body, including on the head, neck and even in the oral cavity.


Methods of Chinese therapy:

Moxotherapy – cauterization or warming with a special cone or cigar. Despite the frightening name, this procedure is painless. Heating occurs either through a special plate, or 2 centimeters from the surface of the skin.

Acupuncture. This method is the effect of thin sterile needles on certain points on the human body. Acupuncture is used in almost any disease, as it allows you to increase or, on the contrary, slow down the movement of energy along certain meridians and influence various organs. Today the effect of this method has been proven in numerous studies. Acupuncture developed simultaneously with industry. Initially, stone and bone needles were used for this. Only with the development of metallurgy, it became possible to manufacture metal needles. And after the invention of paper, it became possible to create detailed illustrated atlases with dots and meridians printed on figures.

Herbal medicine or herbal therapy. The complex composition is typical for Chinese drugs. They can contain about hundreds of different active compounds that truly challenge the modern pharmaceutical industry.

Vacuum therapy. Oxygen is burned inside the vessel, which creates a reduced pressure. This provokes a rush of blood to a certain biologically active point and affects the energy meridians.

Acupressure. The effect of this massage is like acupuncture. This method will allow treating diseases through the activation of biologically active points.

Eastern and Western medicine differ in their very approach to diagnosis and treatment. For example, when examining a patient with a stomach disease, a western doctor will receive a clear diagnosis, the extent of the lesion, its extent. He will heal the lesion itself. The doctor of traditional Chinese medicine will determine what type of personality a patient belongs to, whether his illness is a consequence of disharmony of elements or feelings, fatigue, eating disorder, or changes in the season. He will try to fully restore the balance of the body, and not just cure the disease of an organ.

In acute conditions, it makes sense to immediately go to the hospital. But Oriental medicine successfully deals with the treatment of chronic diseases and their prevention. The methods of Chinese medicine that have been used for 2–3 thousand years now acquire a scientific evidence base. They help people regain lost harmony regardless of their beliefs and nationality.

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