People ask a question: Why is Western medicine so backward when you compare it to traditional Chinese medicine?
Here is my answer that I would like to share.
Western medicine does not go backwards but just has lost the big picture. With advanced technology, we think as humans, we are able to know things and we should work with what we know. We forget that human is only a very small part of the whole, and there are too many things that we are not able to know. If you imagine it, the earth is so small within the multiverse, that it is actually neglectable with humans crawling on it. I’ve been reading a medical physiology book, and nearly 50% of the medical cases in the book with an ending sentence like, there is no known cause for … (diseases) and there is no cure currently. Still, Western medicine sees the body as a machine where each part can be understood. Disease is not something that occurs to the whole body of the unique individual, but instead a malfunctioning occurring in an individual's part. Highly skilled doctors can understand each functioning part and its malfunction, and treat it with great control and reproducibility. Diagnosis is made through a detailed and logical mechanism of action for the malfunctioning part. The treatment addresses this malfunction through research based on population statistics.
On the other hand Chinese medicine looks at things as they are all correlated within a whole existence, which then morphed into different things and forces that coexist in harmony and balance. The human individual is one that is part of the whole, and that is subject to influences from all and around. An individual is also a small scale of a whole within. Disease emerges from imbalance due to disturbing factors. The goal of a Chinese doctor is to find the disturbing factor/factors and try to negotiate with them, so the body can have a chance to rebuild the balance. It is a bit hard to describe the concept. The best analogy I can think of is the weather forecast. We can forecast the weather in a location fairly accurately nowadays as we know the global geographic characteristics, atmospheric concentrations, temperatures, humidities etc. We do not analyse each individual water molecule in the local cloud to see if it will be quantified enough to rain, which is more like what Western medicine believes that it can do. For example, if a patient has hypertension, the most likely action for a Western doctor is to prescribe statin as it is the most effective treatment for high blood pressure regardless of what causes it. Statin reduces the amount of cholesterol made by the liver. Statins may also reduce inflammation in the artery walls. This can lead to blockages that damage organs such as the heart and brain. However, what causes the liver to make more cholesterol is not addressed. What if the liver keeps making more cholesterol to compensate for the reduction by statin and exhaust itself? What other problems could arise with a weakened liver? What if the liver becomes so weak that it is not able to make any cholesterol anymore? That is why a lot of high blood pressure patients will never be able to get off statin even suffering the side effects. On the other hand, Chinese medicine is based on different philosophies and thinking. The following is a diary of a renowned Chinese doctor published in a Chinese Medicine journal, which tells a story of how he treated a hypertension patient. I’ve translated into English here:
One summer, a "weird" patient came to my clinic. It was June or July of the lunar calendar (summer in China), and it was almost noon, the sun was already very poisonous. I looked at this weird person, who was wearing a thick coat, a shirt, and a pair of trousers, while all the others were in shorts and T-shirts. This person is very afraid of the cold. I couldn't help but notice him at a glance.
When it was his turn to see me, he said: "I am 52 years old this year. I was diagnosed with high blood pressure five or six years ago. I have been relying on antihypertensive drugs to keep my blood pressure stable. But recently, I have found the drugs were not as effective as before, and there are side effects. My stomach starts to feel uncomfortable, I often have acid reflux, and I urinate more often. Also, my waist and legs always feel cold, and it's really bad if I catch a cold. So, you see I don't even dare to take off my clothes in summer." Normally, high blood pressure means the fire in the liver is too high. A lot of patients who have high blood pressure show red colour on the face, some also have red bloodshot in the white part of the eyes. They are prone to have bad tempers and are impatient. Fire is Yang in nature. When the liver fire is too high, it means Yang is rising in domination. To treat high blood pressure, Traditional Chinese medicine uses an approach that involves pacifying the fire and tonic the water. Calming or pacifying the fire in the liver is to restore the balance of Yin and Yang in the liver. It is to pull the liver Yang down, control and conceal it. When Yin and Yang are in balance, the liver fire is lowered, and high blood pressure can be relieved. However, when looking at this patient, I realized that the normal method of pacifying liver fire won’t work here. The reason is that he is scared of the cold, which means he doesn’t have enough body heat. Heat is Yang in nature, so he doesn’t have enough Yang in his body. His body is a manifestation of yang deficiency and cold both inside and outside. Why is that? I need to investigate further. First, he had the usual manifestations of hypertension: dizziness, tinnitus, headache, irritability, and insomnia. Second, he also showed the very typical manifestations of Yang deficiency: chills, sweating, lack of energy, and cold pain in the waist and knees. I asked him to stick out his tongue to take a look. The tongue coating was white and greasy, which showed that his spleen was trapped by cold and dampness. His hypertension is the manifestation of Yang deficiency deep within the organs, so the Yin and dampness were taking control. It is different from typical hypertension caused by surplus Yang in the liver. The normal treatment of calming the liver and subduing the Yang will make the patient more and more cold, and the situation will become worse. In other words, hypertension could be the symptom of both Yang deficiency and Yin dominating. In this case, it is necessary to use warm tonic Chinese medicine to help the Yang recover in the body, so the body can achieve the balance between Yin and Yang. After taking Yang-warming Chinese medicine for some time, this patient’s blood pressure recovered to a stable normal level. He is not so scared of cold any more. The chills in the waist and knees were also significantly improved.
Through this case, you may find that the treatment of diseases in traditional Chinese medicine is guided by the Yin and Yang theory, which is the foundation of Tao philosophy.