History of Chinese Medicine

Chinese medicine is a broad based form of treatment that relies on Chinese traditional practices dating over two centuries ago.

The basic concept of Chinese treatment includes exercise, diet and massage therapies. However, it is actually divided into 2; Acupuncture and herbal medicine.

The Chinese applied these concepts as part of their everyday life but did not isolate them as part of a medical discipline.

The basic idea of health to the Chinese was to have a well-balanced body and treatments were applied so as to reinstate the body balance.


The two balancing opposites

Chinese Medicine - Balance - Two balancing oppositesThe two concepts of yin and yang simply represent two opposite sides of things, literally, the side facing the sun (yang) and the shady side (yin). Whereas the rest of us may not understand how yin and yang worked, the underlying principle is that the body is uncomfortable in case of extreme conditions.

In the past, the Chinese were considered unorthodox in their practice because they would often make very precise diagnosis e.g. prescribing therapy because the feet were too cold or the person was sweating too much. But in fact, this what a modern physician would say. Yet it has been difficult to link the Chinese way of making a diagnosis with modern methods. 

Clues of long forgotten Chinese therapies began to surface when some people found needle-like apparatus made of stone and bone in tombs.

Noel Joseph Needham, alias Li Yuese, a renowned British scientist cum historian cum sinologist linked the needle-like items to acupuncture.

Needham did extensive scientific research and also wrote on Chinese science.

Though historians now associate the stone and bone needles to medical lancing, a form of blood-letting, it still confirms that Chinese therapies are quite ancient.


Comparison to modern medicine

The Chinese’ medical wisdom can be seen in the fact that their medication has defined ratios.

A certain amount of the main herb goes with specific amounts of ancillary herbs.

The ancillary herbs can be derived from two or three different categories.

This rings close to modern medicine where a chest decongestant can also contain some painkilling matter and possibly some anti-allergy substance.

Chinese medicine also embraces animal based medication. However, the substances are not as many as those that are plant based. In the 1941 Handbook of Traditional Drugs, of the 517 drugs listed, 30 were derived from minerals, 45 from animals, and the remainder were plant based. In modern medicine too, apart from medication for hormonal therapies, few others are animal based. Doctors usually recommend medication based on animal products as either fresh foods or wholly preserved products. For example, a doctor might prescribe some fish oil if the patient is in need of omega 3 or animal liver if the patient is in need of iron boost.


The Efficacy and Benefits of Chinese medicine

A 2007 Cochrane Review showed that acupuncture was effective in the treatment of tension headaches, neck disorders, migraines, and some forms of osteoarthritis. However for some ailments like the lower back pain, acupuncture needs to be supplemented with other interventions (herbs) to be effective, according to the review.

Although acupuncture is very popular, truth is Chinese herbs are also extremely effective in treating and managing certain medical conditions. The 2 types of Chinese herbs you can get are food herbs which can be used as seasoning in your food and medicinal herbs that have to be prescribed by a professional.

The benefits are numerous especially when dealing with a physical condition such as stroke, bronchitis, asthma and conjunctivitis. They are also extremely effective when dealing with mental challenges such as relieving stress, increasing mental clarity, overcoming addictions and phobias as well as relieving pain.

Many countries today are beginning to acknowledge the worldwide use and benefits of Chinese medicine. Subsequently, many have embarked on establishing some regulating bodies just as it is in modern medicine. The state of California, for instance, established an Acupuncture Board in 1976. Other states also have bodies to regulate Chinese Medicine.


Negative Aspects of Chinese Medicine

There is a downside to the use of Chinese animal based therapies.

Most of the products are acquired by killing wild animals. In fact, some have become endangered species worldwide.

For example, the Rhinoceros has become an endangered species due to its horn’s medicinal value.

Other animals are drawn from their natural habitats and confined in unsuitable conditions so that their keepers can earn money from the sale of therapeutic products.

Such species include the Asiatic black bears. It is said that 12000 of them are held in farms under cruel conditions due to the medicinal value of their bile. The manner in which the bile is extracted is also cruel. A hole is pierced into the bear’s bladder when the animal is not under any anaesthesia, and the hole remains open forthwith for recurrent extractions.

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Health Benefits of Chinese Herbs

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