Open mind to TCM will be rewarding for health
TheWestern world should learn to value the treasures of traditional Chinese medicine as a branch of science. Although Tu Youyou, a winner of the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physiology orMedicine, was applauded in Stockholm when she declared that “the discovery of artemisinin is a gift to mankind from Traditional Chinese Medicine”; not all agreed with her view.
Even some at home pointed out the Chinese pharmacologist and her team used bio-chemical means to extract the active compound artemisinin from sweet wormwood half a century ago.
Yet Tu’s inspiration is deeply rooted in thousands of years of TCM practice. The book that inspired her work, Handbook of Prescriptions for Emergencies (Zhouhou Beiji Fang), can be dated back to at least theHan Dynasty (206 BC–AD 220).
In fact, apart from treating viruses, TCM has been most effective in predicting diseases, cultivating fitness, treating chronic, difficult, multi-source illnesses, and using non-medicinal methods such as acupuncture and breathing exercises.
Its scientific theories of yin and yang, the five elements, jingluo cycles (meridian channels) and pulse feelings, though not necessarily proven by current technology, have been encapsulated in many popular Chinese sayings and idioms over the centuries.
One saying, “treating the head in case of headache and the feet in case of foot pain” refers not only to sub-par doctors but also ineffective problem-solving without tracing the root causes.
And the saying, “treating not the tumor after seeing a tumor”, reflects the holistic approach of TCM which upholds the principle of diagnosis and treatment on the basis of differentiating symptoms from a person’s overall condition.
The differences in approaches are fundamental. In the West, the term health often means bodily statistics within a normal range, but in TCM it means the sustainable condition of a healthy human body.
Western medicine believes in using surgery and chemical or biological compounds to remove and eliminate abnormal symptoms, the very target of its approach.
TCM takes the healthy body as a balanced and wellcoordinated whole, not only among its own parts but also with the living environment. In this sense, the human body may be seen as a supercomputer with the body parts as the hardware and the jingluo cycles as its operational software, all powered and orchestrated by the circulation of blood and qi (life energy force) through the body.
In treating sickness, TCM tends to cultivate the body’s ability to self-repair and recuperate.
It is common to see elderly patients take home dozens of kinds of medicine for multiple diseases from several hospital divisions after aWestern-style check-up and treatment. Yet a TCM doctor will likely prescribe a certain compound of herbs for all the symptoms with minor adjustments later depending on the changes in a patient’s condition.
The approaches and methods of TCM may seem strange to many in theWestern world; but the de facto primer of TCM, The Inner Classic of the Yellow Emperor (Huangdi Neijing), was written thousands of years ago, long before the establishment of many fields ofWestern medicine. The TCM methods thus derived have proven feasible and effective and deserve global reflections on their more widespread use.
What is common sense for ordinary Chinese is not excluded from the acceptance of experts and professionals in theWest as long as they free their minds of skepticism and prejudice.
They can easily find that TCM is conveniently accessible, ready to welcome outsiders, pleasant to apply and generous in its rewards to health.
The author is a senior writer with China Daily. firstname.lastname@example.org