The Hope of Traditional Chinese Medicine

By Mark Borigini, M.D.

More and more patients are turning to so-called "alternative" medications, and more and more entities are becoming aware of this. The World Health Organization has published a “Traditional Medicine Strategy,” the White House Commission published “Complementary and Alternative Medicine Policy,” and the National Institutes of Health created the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

Traditional Chinese medicine is probably the most used of the alternative medications. A large percentage of these supplements have been used by patients with rheumatoid arthritis, showing the dissatisfaction—and perhaps apprehension—with which patients view mainstream prescription drugs in this country. It should not be forgotten that patients fail even the expensive drugs such as Enbrel, Humira, or Remicade. And while drugs such as Rituxan and Orencia have hit the market as alternatives for patients who fail these aforementioned “biologics,” these drugs also have their fair share of treatment failures.

Traditional Chinese medicine revolves around certain solid organs (heart, liver, spleen, lung, and kidney) and the following hollow structures: large intestine, small intestine, bladder, stomach, gall bladder, etc. All of these body parts are connected by vessels which have “qi” (energy) and blood coursing through them. “Qi” and blood are vital substances in life; the solid organs store the “qi” and the blood, and the hollow tissues act as reservoirs to regulate the circulation of these vital substances. The goal of traditional Chinese medicine is to keep all structures in the body functioning in harmony. You are in good health if every structure is functioning in harmony with the other structures and with the environment.

Traditional Chinese medicine diagnoses the individual, not a disease. The practitioner decides to what extent there is disharmony in the individual. From this analysis, the appropriate therapy is decided so that there is harmony within the body and between the body and the environment.

Western medicine researchers and doctors feel that it is essential that traditional Chinese medications should be studied rigorously before they can be recommended without hesitancy. Unfortunately, this is a difficult proposition, because such Chinese medications are part of a holistic approach, treating syndromes—not diseases. It is very difficult for Western researchers to measure holistic harmony.

Western views of illness are often not harmonious with the Chinese views, and thus there needs to more collaboration and cooperation between these two great st-rivers for good health. There are still too many patients who, despite access to all that modern medicine has to offer, suffer from arthritic pain; it would be narrow minded to ignore a form and philosophy of healing that has survived—and has helped a culture survive—many dynasties over many thousands of years.

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