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Differences Between Chinese Medicine and Western Medicine

11/09/2011

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) has been practiced for around 5,000 years while Modern Western Medicine(MWM) is considerably younger. Since WM is very powerful in understanding the physical and chemical structure of the body, it has become the predominant medical system in the world. However, no system is perfect and able to solve every problem. The two medical systems are very different and they are not a substitute for each other.

western medicine is science, chinese medicine is philosophy  about life

Western medicine is purely a science. It is based on standards and evidence made from laboratory examinations.  Its methodology is fundamentally analytical and reductive. This method is very powerful in understanding the structure and function of the human body. Anatomy, histology, physiology,  molecular biology, have given us a clear and detailed view of the physical and chemical structure of the cell of body. Pathology let us know all about agent of disease. Pharmacology let us know how the pharmaceutical chemical target the affected cells.

Traditional Chinese medicine is one of the most sophisticated medical systems in the world. It has been enhanced through thousands of years of experience and research. It is based on the understanding of universe and human being. In TCM theory, there is the most important philosophy concept: holism. All of the internal organs and body parts can not be seperated; If one part have problem, other parts are influenced.  the mind and body are not separate but in one; emotion play an improtant role in illness.  human body and universe  are not separate; Human being are affected by the change of nature and environment. So when Chinese medicine practitioner treat patients, they will concern not only the symptoms but also the body constitution and any environmental changes that might cause the symptoms.

Western medicine is advanced technology, chinese medicine is healing art

Western medicine uses advaned technology such as X-ray, CT, endoscope, blood tests,...to examine and know health condition of patients. Doctors make a diagnosis and treatment plan according to these results. These optics, optoelectronic and biological technology  make western medicine very powerful.
TCM believe that “Viscera inside the body must manifest themselves externally”. That means: if something changed inside the body, it must show outside. By observing tongue and pulse, color of face, behavior of patients and inquring detail symptoms, a Chinese medicine practitioner organizes all information into a coherent pattern that reveals the nature of the imbalance. As the observation and conclusions are objective and is kind of art,  it is important to find a good Chinese practitioner when you seek for help.

Western medicine treat “disease”, chinese medicine treat “person”

Western medicine is allopathic medicine -- ”a therapeutic system in which a disease is treated by producing a second condition which is incompatible with or antagonistic to the first”. Antibiotics can kill bad bacteria. Damaging radiation are used to  kill cancer cells.  However antibiotics kill bacteria but do not improve a person's resistance to infection; radiation kill the cancer cell and normal cell at same time.
TCM thinks that disease is a sign of disharmony and imbalance. Chinese medicine practitioner will use acupuncture needles and herbal medicine to correct the imbalance, improve the body constitution. For example, a female patient has fibroid in uterus. Convertional medicine will treat these conditions by removing the fibroid. But the problem is: fibroid will come back after surgery.  The recent advances in cancer stem cell model revealed the same dilemma, the chemotherapy and radiotherapy targeted the most proliferative cancer cells but may miss the multipotent cancer stem cells, and new tumors can grow out of them later. This condition is like the mushroom on the moistwood. Mushrooms can keep coming out again after you take them off. But if we do some job to “dry the piece of wood”, the mushroom will never come again. Chinese Medicine does such job. It helps rid the body of disease, but it also nourish and balance the body in very specific ways, thereby improving organ function and building up a person's constitution and immune system.

About side effect

All medication have side effects. Some people say that if you read about all of the possible side effects of commonly used over-the-counter medicines, such as Tyenol or Motrin, you may never take them. There have been many disasters stems from the unexpected side effects of modern western medicine, among them ZaoYunTing is one of the most notorious while phenylpropanolamine(PPA) may be one of the latest.
In contrast,Chinese herbal medicine is very safe if it is used properately.  In the  last 3000 years of practice, few of Chinese herbal medcines become out of date. Chinese medicine practitioners also know that every medicine has some extent of side effect, so when they prescribe the herbal formula, they will never prescribe them for long term, they always adjust the herbal ingredients according to the conditions of the patients.   and aother herb can be used together to reduce the side effect.