It’s the 21st century and more people are turning towards medicine that is over 5,000 years old in the form of East Asian medicine also known as Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). This form of medicine encompasses therapies such as acupuncture, cupping, gua sha, moxibustion, and herbal medicine.
So why is TCM gaining increasing popularity in recent years? Is it because Western medicine has failed us? There’s a greater need and desire to utilize a more natural approach, that doesn’t involve numerous negative side effects. While East Asian medicine has spent thousands of years developing and refining its approach to treating people, the more recent advancements of biomedicine are relatively young and still under development.
In Western medicine, the approach involves understanding the specific biological responses of how the body functions and responds to various forms of treatment. In the development of biomedicine, various drugs and treatments have been discovered to have certain effects on the body without explanation. As a result, you have medications that are prescribed for off-label use, such as antidepressant medications like amitriptyline and trazodone, that are used to help people sleep. The medication known as Chantix is used to help stop smoking without knowing how the biological mechanisms work. Western medicine can’t fully explain all the biological effects of TCM, which has resulted in some skepticism while promoting research.
As TCM has proven to be effective in helping treat people, Western medicine has adopted the various TCM therapies, often with different names. Western medicine implements dry needling, myofascial release, Graston technique, myofascial decompression, and nutritional supplements. Dry needling uses the same type of needles, points, and some of the principles of acupuncture without all the theories developed over the centuries as acupuncture. The down side to dry needling is that it’s often a course requiring about a hundred hours of training versus over the three thousand hours that licensed acupuncturists receive over the course of about 4 years along with the completion of in-depth board exams. Myofascial release done with specialized tools and the Graston technique utilize the same techniques as gua sha, just using different style tools and without the same theories and extensive training that acupuncturists receive. Supplements or nutritional therapies make use of individual herbs and vitamins that have specific effects on parts of a person’s physiology, used in a similar manner as medications. Chinese herbal medicine utilizes herbal formulas that have been developed over centuries where all the herbs work synergistically to have an effect to treat the whole person, while addressing the underlying condition without a multitude of adverse effects of the body.
There is a considerable difference of how Western medicine and East Asian medicine view and treat people. When it comes to treating people, Western medicine looks at a fraction of the puzzle. This is seen in drugs that affect specific receptors and not addressing the other problems that are connected and even cause adverse side effects requiring additional medications. When even adopting TCM, biomedicine doesn’t fully understand it and uses pieces that they feel that they can explain and deem beneficial. East Asian medicine looks at the entire person. The explanations in TCM are philosophical in nature but provide explanations to certain connections and responses in the human body that biomedicine doesn’t understand. The principles and concepts of East Asian medicine can be addressed with a scientific mindset that accepts the information in terms of a scientific theory. While TCM can’t be fully explained by science, it’s a medicine that has withstood the test of time over thousands of years. There are explanations in TCM that connect various symptoms and processes that is not fully understood by science. Some herbs are used in the development of medications, biomedicine doesn’t connect the side effects of the medications where it makes sense according to TCM.
If TCM is so great, then why did biomedicine develop? There is a place for both medicines. It’s a matter of knowing when and how to use each properly. If there is an infection, it’s important to utilize proper antibiotics instead of allowing the infection to spread and cause more harm. Pain doesn’t always have to be managed with addictive medications. Acupuncture is well known and accepted in the Western medical community to help alleviate pain. The additional benefit of East Asian medicine is that it gets to the root of the problem instead of masking the symptoms. Acupuncture and Herbal medicine can readily strengthen the immune system. It is effective in preventing the onset and decreasing the duration and severity of a cold. The benefit of the rising use of East Asian medicine is that people can integrate the different medicines as needed with the goal of achieving optimal health and wellbeing. TCM can be used to treat a multitude of conditions, while also being used as a natural form of preventative medicine.
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