Other than pain relief, some of the most common ailments treated in our clinic on a daily basis fall under the category of respiratory diseases. These include common colds, allergies, asthma, emphysema, and acute & chronic bronchitis. Naturally, each of these problems is treated in different, very specific ways, using acupuncture, Chinese herbs and nutritional advice. However, the approach used by Chinese Medicine to analyze the causes of these diseases is very unique.
First of all, unlike Western Medicine, Chinese Medicine does not analyze the exact type of pathogen which has entered the body. Whether it was a virus or bacteria that caused the cold is not that important in Chinese Medicine. What is important is analyzing what effect the pathogen has on the body and then treating that problem. In Chinese Medicine, respiratory diseases are named based on what effect the pathogen has inflicted on the body, and pays little attention to the attacker itself. Why do we do that?
The simple answer is because the Chinese discovered that the same viral or bacterial invader could create a totally different group of symptoms depending on the constitution and health of the patient. In other words, the same virus can cause one patient to feel freezing and cold, and another patient to feel red hot with a high fever. Chinese Medicine treats the patient and the effect of the invader on the patient, and not the invader itself.
This approach opens up all kinds of new possibilities when it comes to medicine. Instead of just a diagnosis of asthma, as we have in Western Medicine, in Chinese Medicine there are several different kinds of asthma.
You can have Phlegm Cold Asthma, were the patient has wheezing with lots of loose, watery phlegm, interior cold, and fatigue and a thin, weak radial pulse.
You can have Phlegm Heat Asthma, where the patient is very hot, wheezing, has dry, thick phlegm, is agitated and radial pulses which are big and pounding. Both patients have been diagnosed with asthma, but the presentation of the same disease is totally different in each patient. The cold patient will be given herbs to strengthen the lung, warm the cold, dry the phlegm, and increase blood flow into the lung. The hot patient will be given herbs to reduce inflammation in the lung, clear the inflammation out through the urinary tract, thus cooling the patient off, and shrink swollen membranes in the lung, and moisten and loosen the phlegm.
Both patients will feel remarkably better even though they were treated oppositely. Left to Western Medicine, the hot patient would probably feel better since steroid hormones typically used to treat asthma tend to be cooling, but the cold patient would probably not be better at all, or even possibly feeling worse.
This highlights the underlying uniqueness of Chinese Medicine: it continually analyzes the patient’s responses to the environment and tries to bring the patient back to balance. Western Medicine is currently obsessed with killing any real or perceived invader in the human body. If an invader is not found, then the disease will be labeled autoimmune and immune suppressants are given, often with mixed results.
The reason I say Western Medicine is CURRENTLY obsessed is because Western Medicine is so very young. Modern Pharmacological Medicine is only about 80 years old, and Western Medicine itself goes back only 800 years. Contrast these facts with the 3800 years of Chinese Medicine. A medicine which has been developed and practiced by some of the greatest minds the Chinese culture has ever produced; a medicine that has been practiced and improved continuously for all these years, and a medicine which has very little side effects.
Are there weaknesses? Yes, most definitely. Western Medicine is far better at treating trauma, and has developed a more advanced knowledge of human physiology and anatomy. However, despite this, western doctors would serve themselves and their patients well by researching some of the amazing insights Chinese Medicine has to offer the modern medical world.