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Chinese Medicine for Western People

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Chinese Medicine for Western People

Not long ago, at the beginning of a course in Chinese medicine, I asked a large group of students were unsure how many get to practice as Chinese doctors. Imagine my surprise when looking at how the vast majority raised their hands. I wondered if the motivation had to do with the intuition of the wealth of Chinese medicine, or only, and it is not a minor thing, they were impelled by the need to work, or curiosity about the unknown.

These questions led me to a series of reflections on the place of Chinese medicine in our interests and the role it can play in our understanding of the therapeutic act.
Studying Traditional Chinese Medicine is not easy. It involves a complex mix of study, experimentation, rethinking, intuition, inspiration, observation.

I know that for many, one of the attractions of Chinese medicine is that it connects humans with nature. Chinese medicine is poetry and culture that transcends the doctor. And if poetry is characterized by proposing "alternative worlds", Chinese medicine would be a kind of poetry. It is puzzling that, observing and studying plants, minerals, animals; the Chinese over 3000 years ago knew that we are part of nature and to partake of the same order. How could they find the similarity between what happens in nature and what happens to humans? How could create an entire body of theory and practical, effective treatments, based on an interaction between man and the cosmos? Of course, their ability to travel back and forth from concrete to abstract, from experience to thought, must be important. Surely they must have skills that we try to meet today with technology.

In the West initially we went through something like that. The great difference, in my view, between the two therapeutic concepts is given by the disparate historical and cultural development; conceptual and logical therefore were subjected to two major geographical areas called East and West. In Europe, there is the period known as the Enlightenment and with Descartes is a path that is chosen and removed another.

It is curious that modern science is noting phenomena that somehow, they were discovered by the ancient Western also see, for example, how Hippocrates, Paracelsus and the currents of life in medicine, found that there is a real interaction between man and Cosmos and there is a constructive force in all that exists. Paracelsus, the Renaissance alchemist and physician, also said that this invisible force radiating from one person to another and could act at a distance. Mesmer called "gravitas universalis" the all-pervading fluid and related it to the magnetic influence. Field theories in physics, from the gravitational, electromagnetic, relativity and laws and principles based on the concepts of resonance, reinforcement and interference ... it seems they can now give some theoretical support to these ideas.

About Chinese medicine and focus on some of their specialties such as acupuncture, to put the needles have found the following effects:


As a result of raising the pain threshold level. So helps treating cases of arthritis, dental pain, headaches, backaches, and other painful conditions. The extreme case is its use in surgery and anesthesia. In terms of pain, the most accepted explanation is the "entry control" proposed by R. Melzack and P.D. Wall in 1965: the perception of pain is modulated by one or more entries in the functional central nervous system pathways. Under normal circumstances, these entries remain open and pain impulses pass freely, but when the needles are inserted, a second start pulse or pulses and upon reaching the entrance gates and leads the block closure. In other words, there is a competition between the impulse of pain and no pain, and the brain ceases to register the pain during the surgery.

They also seem to play an important role in the sympathetic and parasympathetic as there is experimental evidence that nerve fibers around the arterial vessels are responsible for sending the brain and spinal cord caused by impulses of needles.

Also chemical mechanisms are involved. The work of Bruce Pomeranz and his colleagues suggest that the natural endorphins play a role. Pomeranz believes that blocking the opiate receptors of brain cells through the endorphins released by acupuncture analgesic effect occurs. Research by Professor Chang Hsiang-tung at the Shanghai Institute of Physiology, indicates that 5-hydroxy tryptamine (serotonin) and norepinephrine are actively involved in the mechanism of acupuncture anesthesia. Endorphins originating in the pituitary and enkephalins in the midbrain have been studied in China as well as doctors in Canada, Sweden, and the U.S., have helped strengthen the credibility of this ancient technique.


Some patients go to sleep during a session with acupuncture and waking say they feel very relaxed. It was noted that during the time that the needles are placed, the EEG shows a decrease in delta wave activity and theta. This is used to treat insomnia, anxiety, addictions to snuff, alcohol, food, drugs in general, behavioral problems, etc.

Homeostasis regulator

Consists of an internal realignment of the balance of various body functions. Normally, the homeostasis is regulated by the sympathetic and parasympathetic, both part of the autonomic nervous system in combination with the endocrine system. I should add that there are homeostatic mechanisms that regulate breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, urinary excretion, metabolic activity, sweating, temperature, ionic balance in the blood, and other vital parameters.

Immune action

Increased gamma-globulin antibodies, leukocytoses have been observed and are perhaps due to a reactivation of the reticuloendothelial system. Sometimes acupuncture can treat antibiotic-resistant infections, or allergies.

Psychological effect

Calming and soothing. It appears to be due to an action in the midbrain. Changes have also been observed in the metabolism of brain cells and an increase in dopamine in the brain after an acupuncture treatment.

Motor recovery

As in patients with CP have shown improvement that can be explained, despite its complexity, antidromic effect (Dromio = carcinol) from anterior body cells of the spinal cord, reactivation as a " biofeedback through and Renshew cells of Cajal in the marrow, would act as head equivalents.

However, positive science is suspicious because there is an explanation that fits the theoretical body recognized by the scientific community.

But the reality is manifested stubbornly and increasingly more people who demand to be treated with Chinese medicine and alternative therapies to medical orthodoxy, and most of the time, to the surprise of his doctor, find ways to solve their problems. Other times are the same as the first Western physicians interested in studying treatments that require them to look the other way health and disease.

Two forms of medicine, in short, that should not be exclusive, since where one cannot reach, maybe I the other can. The question may lie in examining the effectiveness of one or another without comparing them. It seems that Western medicine is often more effective when it has a clear and definite idea of the etiology of the disease (bacterial infections, for example), but in chronic cases, Chinese medicine seems to work better especially because it avoids the problem medication side effects and iatrogenic diseases arising.

Chinese medicine considers important aspects of the human body that are not significant for the West and vice versa. The logical structure that guides the clinical insights of doctors and their critical thinking differ radically in both approaches.

Chinese medicine places special emphasis on diagnostic systems by questioning accurate, precise palpation, close observation, a keen sense of smell ..., and thus invites us to putting in place the resources of thought, experimentation, therapeutic communication through words, the potential for interference with our patients.

However, I have the impression that in recent years in our consumer society, we forget a precious commodity: time management, thinking and experience. We live in strange time ... a timeless time, which govern the rush, the urgency to be productive, the urgent need to quell the symptoms and not find causes of disease. We no longer sit quietly and talk or we let things slowly elapsed, on a human scale. We live need time to think, to talk, to read and write, to observe nature and learn from it, time to entertain us, time to the pleasure of being alive. And, as we do not we get angry and overexcited.

Amid these circumstances, however, increases the number of students who choose a medicine that restores the time of things, the measure the justness, the therapeutic task leisurely pace, time in which things reveal meanings ....

Lost man in harmonious relation with the natural rhythms is a formidable but final task in our world today: many diseases would disappear as by magic. Chinese medicine requires us to sit down and talk calmly with our patients, observing them, smell them, touch them, treat them as they did formerly our physicians. Today in our Western community, this do the diagnostic machines.

Nothing was further from my intention to propose a return to the caves. The proposal is in any case recover morality in our therapeutic activity, which was used and that we have neglected to forget them and then denying them. Chinese medicine commits us to regain ownership and participation in the therapeutic act, without rejecting it and taking advantage, of course, anything that puts technological advancement in our hands "to help" to interpret disease. A clinical trial shows parameters that are explanations, too, in the daily habits of the patient.

One might ask who needs in these times of human scale interpretation of diseases? If and diagnostic systems are protocolized!, and if all clinical trials and pharmacological armamentarium are scheduled for most diseases! A fundamental part of our social evolution in recent years depends on our computers and we are interpreting them to us!. The myth of progress is taking the form of the cult of technological novelty. The advanced technological society with its advantages and disadvantages. Gradually, the machines are becoming our senses, our eyes, our ears, our minds. Little by little our lives are being automated and respond according to a schedule of planned behavior ... Whoever wants to practice Chinese medicine will have no choice but to review some things, some quotes, some vital rhythms.

Perhaps the Chinese medicine can be a way to draw strength from that feeling of discomfort about what today's world offers... In this society ensconced in the assurances of the trivial, we suffer the "infectious event" of the rush to invade our social body. Those who work with Chinese medicine are no strangers to all this and often trivialized and simplified the theoretical framework of Chinese medicine to suit our Western way of understanding and clinical practice conforms to the rule of commercial needs.

I remember an old Chinese doctor, an expert also in the I Ching, who I asked, just finished my studies of Chinese medicine, "Doctor, do you think I will become a good doctor?” ... His response was:" you must study throughout life. And is that the apparent simplicity of the theory of Chinese medicine involves a complexity that continually invited to the review”.
In my humble opinion, we have the difficult task of fitting the trend with tradition and taking charge of our time and its progress, a drug not forget that to understand the suffering and the ability to treat, slow recovery time of human.

I conclude by answering the initial question what drives us to be interested in Chinese medicine? ... Perhaps other ways of living and understanding the human being?

Juliana Guzman Diaz

European Foundation of TCM - TCM College

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Tags: acupuncture chinese medicine chinese natural therapy

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2 Reviews about Chinese Medicine for Western People
on 23/04/2015
I think a lot of Western people (myself included) are beginning to see the ample wisdom contained in Chinese medicine, and really any ancient medicine, for that matter. Ayurveda is another great example of how old traditions have proven their wisdom over and over again. Soemthing we all can learn from!
on 05/05/2013
Wow, a very long article that explains very well why today?s human doesn?t rely on the alternative medicine because of useless facts and more, then you just have to study a Little bit to understand that human is more than just a machine made to work but to love and learn about the daily life

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