Guest Author - Inci Yilmazli
Today’s modern medicine is evolving everyday with the advances in technology. New diseases are being discovered, new treatments and drugs are being marketed. However, modern medicine is not standardized anymore. Its trending towards personalized medicine. While the trend is towards personalized medicine, the strict rules of medicine are being changed as well by considering and accepting the alternative medicine approach. The main difference between traditional medicine and modern medicine is the way of treatment. Traditional medicine employs nature in treatments while modern medicine employs chemicals.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has a history of 5,000 years. It has its own, unique system in diagnosis and treatments of diseases. Having a foundational difference from modern western medicine, Chinese medicine is based on the understanding of the human holistically, just like the universe is explained in Taoism. The treatments are based on the diagnosis and differentiation of the diseases.
The principle of Chinese medicine is the treatment of the causes of the disease, not the symptoms. In other words, a person’s body, soul and feelings are accepted as a whole and the treatment is designed uniquely for that person. This is what modern medicine is trying to do nowadays, personalized medicine.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the organs are called zang-fu organs. The tissues and organs are connected to each other with a network of channels and blood vessels. Qi (chi), the energy of life, is the carrier of the information which is externally expressed through the jing luo (meridian) system. Jing luo (meridian system) can be thought of as a giant network which provides life energy by connecting the different parts of the body. Pathologically, a functional impairment in the zang-fu organs can be reflected on the surface of the body through this network and during this reflection, the body surface tissues can affect the zang or fu organs they are related to. The affected zang or fu organs can affect each other through internal connections. TCM treatment starts with the analysis of the whole system and continues by focusing on treating pathological changes by adjusting the functions of zang-fu organs.
The zang organs are “liver, heart, spleen, lungs and kidneys” while fu organs are gall bladder, intestines, stomach and bladder. Every organ system is responsible for a specific physiological function and responds to the body’s specific conditions. The organs are related to each other. Zang organs are Yin and fu organs are Yang.
The Phylosophy of Traditional Chinese Medicine
In the beginning, the diseases were thought to occur because of magic and spells. This belief has changed over time and has been replaced by the Yin-Yang theory. Yin-Yang represent two opponent forces and control everything. Everything happens in the universe by the balance of these opposing forces. This theory can be applied to disease and health. When the Yin-Yang balance is not maintained, diseases occur. Even though they seem to represent opposing forces, in fact, Yin-Yang represents two elements dependent on each other. Yang provides movement and change while Yin represents circulation, nutrition and growth.
Another doctrine is the “wu xing” which can be defined as “five-stages”. In this definition, the different physiological stages of the human body-wood, fire, metal, earth, and water- are described. The body’s normal and abnormal periods are closely related to Qi, Yin-Yang and five stages.
In China, Traditional Chinese Medicine is preferred especially for minor diseases while they use western medicine for serious diseases. The treatments can be very aggressive sometimes and there are side-effects. In the case of side effects of an agressive therapy, Chinese would still use TCM to reduce the side effects.