TRADITIONAL CHINESE MEDICINE IN THE EYES OF WESTERNERS
‘High-tech’ Western Medicine (WM) and modern medical treatment are on one side and acupuncture, moxibustion, Tuina and herbal medicine on the other. These two approaches to health care have led to many heated discussions regarding the efficiency of TCM and the difference between the two.
Western countries have increasingly accepted TCM, putting emphasis on Chinese herbal research, in particular the preparation of medical herbs, as well as the more conventional acupuncture and massage, which have gained popularity among westerners in recent years. In contrast, growing numbers of Chinese people prefer going to hospitals offering western medical treatment. Many of them choose to take a western pill instead of herbal medicine because they cannot tolerate the smell of cooking herbal medicines and they believe that the cure is too slow.
There is a fundamental difference between WM and TCM. WM concentrates on treating the area where symptoms occur, whereas TCM focuses on the concept of balancing the entire body to regain and maintain good health. The fundamental theory of TCM is based on the principle of “Yin-Yang” balance. According to this theory, everything holds two opposite but mutually complementary aspects. "Yin" is associated with being dark, female, relatively static (negative) and "Yang" being bright, male, active (positive). The balanced body achieves harmony, which in turn gives strength to fight against diseases.
When treating diseases, TCM first takes into account the set of presenting symptoms to differentiate the syndrome related to the disease and then a treatment plan can be established. Generally speaking, TCM mainly focuses on chronic diseases and disease prevention, so herbs, nutrition, life style suggestions, acupuncture and Tuina are the main treatment tools of TCM. In contrast, Western Internal Medicine may look for pathogens (bacteria, viruses, and fungi) to eliminate whose strength is the intervention of acute and emergent diseases.
The language used in TCM is adopted from that of ancient Chinese philosophy and daily life. The functions of herbs and formulas are also described in these terms. TCM syndrome differentiation is based on the Eight Principles in order to determine the root cause and to analyze the condition of an illness. Moreover, The Five Elements theory and Zangfu-Organs theory are more abstract and philosophical. They provide an interesting perspective on the relationships and development of diseases.
The main diagnostic tools of TCM are as follows:
1. The Eight Principles: These principles permeate and underlie all diagnoses
Exterior/ Interior · Heat/ Cold
Excess/ Deficiency · Yin/ Yang
2. Six Evils or External Pathogenic Factors
· Wind · Heat · Cold · Dampness · Dryness · Summer-heat
3. Methods Used to Gather the Clues for Diagnosing a Disease
· Inspection - Observing
· Listening and Smelling – Such as differentiating sounds (types of coughs, quality and power of the voice, etc) and scent.
· Questioning –Getting disease’s condition, history and other useful facts from the patient.
· Palpating – Feeling pulses and touching areas of the body.
4. The Collected Information is Analyzed According to:
· The conflict between healthy Qi and evil Qi
· Which organ in the Zangfu organ system is involved
· Nature and strength of the pathogen and the condition of healthy Qi.
· Severity or course of the disease
The difference between TCM and WM is nicely summarized by a foreign expert, and The following part is the comment on the difference of WM and TCM in his eyes.
“Ever seen that drawing of two silhouettes looking at each other? One moment you see two faces, the next moment, it’s a vase. Obviously it is just a matter of your perception or the way your brain links together visual clues.”
That's the difference between WM and TCM. Diagnosing the same patient with a breast lump, the western doctor will see either a cyst, lesion, fibroid or cancer, whereas the doctor of TCM will see a stagnation of Qi, Blood, or Phlegm. The western doctor will seek to prove the diagnosis with a biopsy of the hardened tissue. The TCM doctor will feel the pulse at the radial artery, which may feel ‘wiry’ or ‘kind of hard’, like a guitar string bouncing up and down beneath your fingers (as opposed to a normal pulse that feels softer and more flowing), observe the color and shape of the tongue (looking for purple in particular) with possibly a thick yellow coating. In addition, the TCM doctor will also look for other symptoms, which may appear unrelated to the diagnosis for a western doctor, such as a stuffy sensation in the chest, abdominal distention, irritability and frequent headache at the top or the sides of the head. These symptoms will allow the TCM doctor to establish and confirm the diagnosis of ‘Qi, Blood or Phlegm stagnation’. Consequently TCM and WC organize the information in very different way when facing the same patient with the same symptoms and signs.
One concept, central to the understanding of TCM in which the scientific world continues to find hard accepting is an internal substance that the Chinese call ‘Qi’ (pronounced ‘chee’, sometimes spelled "Chi"). A parallel concept for ‘Qi’ in the West, however, could be described as bio-electric energy. You cannot look at it under a microscope or detect it with any scientific instruments, nor can you isolate it from a substrate. One of the underlying philosophies of TCM is that everything in the universe can be described in terms of Yin or Yang. The Chinese characters for Yin and Yang literally means the sunny side of the hill and the shady side of the hill. Yin represents the feminine qualities in the universe, while Yang is the masculine qualities. When this concept is applied to generally comparing TCM and WM, WM is viewed as acting on the Yin of the body, that is, the actual cells and chemical substances that make up the body. In contrast, TCM works more on the energy that animates those cells.
Although WM and TCM are based on different theoretical systems, growing numbers of foreigners accept TCM and are interested in learning the art of practicing TCM. They believe acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicines are effective for some disorders, although not as broadly as claimed by its practitioners. There are, however, foreigners who do not believe and even reject TCM. Their criticisms can be summarized to three key issues: an archaic nonscientific language, research lacking double-blinded, placebo-controlled studies and a lack of modern scientific explanation of how it works.
Although from a WM viewpoint TCM has a long way to go before being widely accepted, we have inherited an established system that has benefited many people worldwide. We need to further develop the credibility of TCM so that it can stand up to its critics and continue to evolve and service humanity for another 2000 years!
※<WORD AND EXPRESSION>
n. 症候群, 综合征;（中医）证型
adj. [医]急性的; 敏锐的
n. 营养, 营养学
n. 真菌; (复数) fungi or funguses
adj. 致病的, 病原的
vt. 使恶化, 加重
n. 侧面影象, 轮廓
n. 囊肿；[生物]包囊, 膀胱
n. 损害, 病变
adj. 纤维性的, 纤维状的
adj. 桡骨的; （ n. radius）
n. [医] 外伤, 损伤
adj. [医]急性的, 剧烈
adj. 古老的, 古代的, 陈旧的