Sunday, April 30, 2006

Eastern vs Western Medicine

I would like to make the difference between the Eastern and Western forms of health care very simple. We have all come to learn that food eaten in its most natural state is the healthiest for us. Eating a fresh vegetable salad verses canned vegetables offers more nutrients to keep a healthy body healthy (I say a healthy body because at one time my body was in a condition where it couldn’t digest a fresh salad). Applying this to medicine, while everything comes from some place in the universe, the Eastern form of health care uses more naturally occurring ingredients for their medicines. The Western form of health care is highly processing their ingredients to produce their medicines. It is healthiest for us to use the Eastern form as much as we possibly can. There is also a place for Western medicine when the condition calls for it.

Western medicine saves lives. I’m not sure I’d be alive if it weren’t for Western medicine. I’m not sure how many of my children would be alive if it weren’t for Western medicine but America made a mistake when Western medicine came on the scene. People were dying and Eastern medicine didn’t have an answer. It became a hero. Where the mistake was made was to then put Western medicine first. I’ll explain why this is a mistake by explaining the basic principle behind each approach. Eastern medicine is called “holistic” medicine. Holistic medicine considers a person’s mind, body, diet and exercise, lifestyle and relationships, work and leisure, achievements and problems. You may have a pain in your leg, a headache, or be suffering from stress, but these will not be viewed in isolation and treated separately.

The Chinese doctor has an ancient system which takes all of a person’s mind, body and spirit symptoms and locates the root of these problems and addresses all of them by giving the root what it needs to heal itself, working with it, using “homeopathic” (“same” “pathology”) remedies. Western medicine is also called “allopathic” (“different” “pathology”) medicine. The American doctor finds out all of your physical symptoms and gives you a drug for each one aimed at combating the problems by producing effects that are different than what the problem is causing. For instance, if you are coughing, have a runny nose and diarrhea, they are going to prescribe a cough suppressant, something to dry up the mucus and something to harden your stools, remedies designed to quickly stop each of the symptoms. Well, as the saying goes, “There’s no such thing as a quick fix.” So there was a catch and we are now suffering with the long-term effects of this approach and many are finding their way back to the ancient tradition.

The way we should have gone was to continue with the old approach and when a particular condition arose that natural medicine wasn’t strong enough to handle, then go to the new brilliant modern discoveries. I go to a holistic doctor first about a symptom and on the very rare occasions (twice!) that the natural medicine wasn’t able to handle the problem, I went to my allopathic doctor and got a processed medicine, a drug. I am not concerned about the side effects because I am not bombarding my body with them on a regular basis and I am on a holistic plan all the time keeping my body as strong as I can to handle anything negative. The Eastern approach is a whole different frame of mind. There was a time when you went to the doctor and paid him to give you what you needed to keep you from getting sick. Then if you got sick, you didn't have to pay him for that visit.

What is a holistic plan? It is a whole lifestyle of keeping balance in every area - body, soul and spirit. Religions grew up out of this concept of “balance”. Goldilocks was looking for it in the house of the The Three Bears. It was too hot, too cold, then just right. Then it was too high, too low, then just right and at the end, it was too hard, too soft, then just right. This is the Chinese Yin and Yang principle. You use it to compare. Papa bear’s porridge was too Yin and Mama’s was too Yang. If you’re having night sweats, you’re too Yin. If you have dry eyes, they are too Yang. These are terms used to describe an imbalance in the body one way or the other so that you have a way to articulate a problem and deal with it. Yin and Yang have been each assigned specific characteristics. For instance, Yang is activity and Yin is stillness. So a hyperactive person would be said to have too little Yin. Throughout the centuries, the Chinese kept records and were able to come up with a list for Yin and Yang. When they do an assessment by looking at your body structure, looking at your face, looking at your tongue, your nails, your hair, your skin, feeling your pulse, touching certain areas and asking certain questions, they will note that you are primarily Yin or Yang. This helps them know what your body needs in order to stay balanced or in “homeostasis” so you won’t get an illness or disease and also what it needs in the event that you are dealing with a pathology.

Taking this a little deeper, the hollow organs of our body are Yang organs and the solid are Yin. The meridians that are our spiritual life force, “chi”, circulatory system are organized in 6 pairs each with one Yin and one Yang organ. When an acupuncturist puts his needles along a meridian or you get a shiatsu or acupressure treatment along a particular meridian, two organs in particular are being unblocked so that chi can get to those organs and feed them to they can heal. Apparently, the body heals itself best using a system that is set up according to balancing opposites. The soul and spirit do the same thing. Our mind learns, we grow, and find our way out of an unhealthy life by being confronted with and comparing something that is too much this way and too much that way. “When extreme Yin or Yang reaches its limit, it transforms into its opposite.” If you overdo, you wind up in bed. If you run from one thing to another making mistake after mistake, you will hit a wall and be brought to a place of stillness where you will take the time to think before you are allowed to act again. There is a symbol representing Yin and Yang; two drops following each other in a circle. Also in the picture there is a small circle in each of the drops which show that nothing is all Yin/black or Yang/white. There is a moon and stars at night (Yin) and shadows in the day (Yang). There is some right brain activity in a predominately left-brained male (Yang) and left brain activity in the predominately right-brained female (Yin).

Let’s go back to the Chinese medicine doctor. He has a list of symptoms from the physical tests, like your tongue where his knowledge of what is healthy and what to look for is applied to its six areas that relate to specific organs, and from your pulse, rather your 18 pulses that are the three patterns of six specific organs giving detailed information about that organ. You have also been determined to be too much Yin or Yang and he lines that up with the other lists. Now he’s going to move on to another area, the Five Elements. This is another cycle and they are likened to seasons making us aware that, as it circulates in the meridians, chi is passing through seasons (so we don’t feel stuck and stagnate and die). The things that are a part of what life is are always changing. One season brings on another season with all new things. In the regenerating/creative cycle, Fire is the action of heat on organic matter that produces Earth (think of ashes or composting), Earth forms Metal, Metal creates Water by giving it life sustaining minerals, Water makes Wood grow and Wood is fuel to create Fire. This is the controlling/destructive cycle; Metal controls Wood by cutting it, Wood controls Earth by holding it in place, Earth controls Water by containing or absorbing it, Water controls fire by extinguishing it and Fire controls Metal by melting it. Your Chinese doctor is going to decide if the chi flowing through your meridians are circulating in the creating or controlling cycle of the phase of Fire/Summer, Earth/ late Summer, Metal/Fall, Water/Winter or Wood/Spring. Each element has its emotional, spiritual and physical symptoms that are associated with points along a meridian pair. You may be asked to fill out an Architype questionaire because each element is associated with a kind of person. For instance, Earth is the Peacemaker Architype who is supportive of others and accommodating. Metal is the Alchemist who is neat or orderly and methodical in his work. Water is the Philosopher who is independent and prefers to work alone. Wood is the Pioneer who is the leader, enjoys adventure and competition. Fire is the Wizard who is intuitive, passionate and an optimist. (Note: You see these Five Elements show up in Feng Shui where these principles are used to construct a building, then balance it out with color, plants, crystals, water, wind chimes, etc, in such a way as to allow the best flow of “chi” for “health and happiness”.)

There is one more set of considerations called the Three Treasures of life: chi, jing and shen. "Along with Yin and Yang and the Five Elemental Activities, they form the theoretical framework for Chinese medical diagnosis and therapy along with martial arts and meditation." (The Tao of Health, Sex and Longevity, by Daniel P. Reid) The dynamically opposing forces of Yin and Yang create chi, the energy of life that binds all molecules together in both living and nonliving things. Chi puts and keeps things together so they can be and function as what they are. Nausea is chi moving the wrong direction. Jing is the essence of life, a manifestation of chi that makes something living. It's our inherited constitution, our development, our strength and vitality. Congenital defects are a disharmony of jing. Burning the candle at both ends and not resting and nourishing ourselves properly uses up the inherited treasure jing you were born with and shortens the length of your life that inheritance was going to give you. Shen is the spirit of life, a manifestation of chi that enables us to think, have awareness, emotions, personality, intuition and will. Forgetfulness is a disharmony of shen.

After the assessment is completed, the doctor has a full picture, all the tests revealing the same disturbances of the flow of chi. He can write up a program to correct the disturbances and you are on your way to restored flow bringing you continued good health or to wellness in the event that you had gotten ill.

There have been two Eastern medicine doctors that I have worked with for my physical body's needs. The one, a chiropractor and acupuncturist, took my pulse and is able to read the body energetically and he puts together the herbal remedies in his office. The other, a naturopath, determines what I need through blood tests and tells me where to buy the herbs or nutrients he wants me to take. Working primarily with these two doctors is what has worked for me. I got off the road a couple of times using someone else's doctor and it didn't work and I knew that I'd made a wrong turn for me. Follow your intuition and find which doctor is good for whatever it is that you are experiencing, wherever it is that you are along your path to the root of all your negative issues.


If the root is pulled out, whatever way the weed has grown, it dies.

The World Research Foundation has large libraries of health related books dating back from the oldest known medical writings to the present. The libraries are open to the public and they have also made available packets of all the information for each of hundreds of ailments compiled from this wonderful collection of books. So they have done the research for you for a very reasonable price as they are a non-profit organization. They also have consultants available for you. Contact www.wrf.org.

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