The Uniqueness of TCM

Historically, every nation has its own traditional medicine. For example, there was Indian medicine, traditional Western medicine, etc.  As soon as traditional Western medicine was combined with science and modern technology, the development has been growing exponentially faster and has affected the whole medical world. Traditional Western medicine came to China 300-400 years ago, but it was not well recognized until the last 100 years. In many other nations nowadays, you don’t see much of their traditional medicine practiced. It has almost disappeared. However, China does still use its traditional medicine in typical life. In China nowadays, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is used together with modern medicine when either of them alone does not help the patient. It has spread to other Asian countries and grew in popularity over the years. After industrialization and modernization, people eventually realized that maybe trying to stay “natural” is better than the other way around. That is why people started looking for a natural way of living including natural medicine worldwide.

TCM is one of the oldest natural medicines with good results for many diseases and conditions, and has been used in China for thousands of years. The natural medicine preference was mirrored in other parts of the world as well. In the past 50 years, more and more people in the world came to China to see and to learn the values and fundamentals of TCM. The spread of TCM is farther each year, and there’s always an increase of people who can reap the benefits of it. Because of this, many nations began to create legislation to standardize the practice of TCM and acupuncture in their respective countries. To understand why TCM survived and has increased in attention in recent times, it is a good idea to know how it all began.

About 3000 years ago in China, many new ideas and technologies had begun. According to ancient literature, the TCM system was not completely formed/finished until about 2000 years ago. At that time, there were many doctors who summarized the thousand years of medical theories. Those medical theories were a combination of medicine, ancient nature science and philosophy. For that time period, it was advanced knowledge. The key points were that they used the patterns of natural phenomena to describe what goes on in the human body, both physically and pathologically. Since everything in the universe affects everything else, they believed that human beings are part of the natural phenomena in the universe. Human beings are like small universes themselves. The ancient doctors drew parallels from what goes on in the natural world to what goes on within the human body – they essentially found humans to be like walking Earths with needs and processes akin to the real Earth.

They also integrated the philosophies like yin yang and five elements theory to examine and explain processes of the human body. Originally, the yin yang theory was developed by ancient philosophers to describe what goes on in the world.  In turn, ancient Chinese doctors borrowed this yin yang theory to describe what goes on in the human body as well. For example, according to ancient Chinese philosophers, the world is always changing. The concept of being “still,” as in unmoving, is relative. The theory to explain this foundational statement is yin yang theory. For example, the sky belongs to yang and Earth belongs to yin. The sun belongs to yang and the moon belongs to yin. The fire belongs to yang and the water belongs to yin. You can imagine the list is endless. To summarize, anything up, bright, moving, hot, outside, etc. belongs to the yang side. Anything down, dark, still, cold, inside, etc. belongs to the yin side. Yin and yang must be in cooperation with each other as a balance of powers like a governmental system. With this in mind, when one is too high in strength, the other is added to decrease the imbalanced ratio.

No part of the world is exempt from this philosophy but ancient Chinese doctors integrated it with their medicinal protocols and treated people with medicine that would correspond with the yin yang theory. The yin yang principle was especially crucial to prescribing herbal medicine and administering acupuncture to those lacking in yang or lacking in yin. Because humans are a part of the world’s natural phenomena, the treatment of the disease/condition of the patient must consider everything to do with environmental factors (climate, season, even the time of the day), not just the patient himself and not just the symptom itself. TCM treats the whole body because the symptom(s) is/are the whole body’s symptom(s) because everything affects everything. The ancient doctors also realized that nothing is exactly the same. From individual to individual, the reaction to natural phenomena is more or less different. When diseases or negative conditions occur in groups of people, they should be treated slightly differently according to individual complaints. For example, it’s common for people to enjoy the transition from winter to spring with flowers growing and having the sun out more often. However, there’s always the group of people who don’t like it because of the impending allergies they will have to deal with. Even if you give all of the people who have allergies the same allergy medicine, there’s a range of reactions. Some people may receive no benefit from that allergy medicine at all. That is why in Chinese medicine, the protocol for assigning a treatment is to make it in accordance with the patient’s individual complaint.

The point of the matter can be seen in the following distinction: there is a spectrum of symptoms that may be associated with the seasonal allergy. Diagnosis and treatment can’t be given only towards the complaint of an allergy, but it also must address its connection with the accompanying other symptom(s). The foundation of the patient’s body can be distinguished by their accompanying symptoms or complaints. Instead of giving herbal or acupuncture points for allergies only, TCM doctors also give herbal or acupuncture points to the patients’ other symptoms accordingly depending on the foundation of their body.

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