Integrating Chinese and Western Medicine

Integrating Chinese and Western Medicine is a Recipe for Good Health
By Lorraine H. Harris, L.Ac., Dipl. O.M., & MTOM
Dec. 27, 2004 3:13 p.m.

Chinese medicine is the fastest growing form of health care in the United States, moving from decades of relative obscurity to its current position beside Western medical practice. Although many people think Chinese medicine is limited to acupuncture, it is actually a complete medical system that also includes herbal remedies, diet, exercise and massage. This Chinese model has diagnosed, treated and prevented illness for over twenty-three centuries.

In the Western medical model, the body and mind each represent separate functioning systems. Western medicine postulates that disease is due to an external force, such as a virus or bacteria, or a slow degeneration of the functional ability of the body and that through the application of an external treatment, such as drugs or surgery, health can be restored.

Chinese medicine assumes the body is an integrated whole and that disease is caused by an internal imbalance of the body’s energy. By correcting this imbalance, the body can fight off infections, respond to ailments and strengthen the immune system.

It is wise to consider these two medical systems as mutually beneficial, rather than mutually exclusive. Each system has ideas and therapeutic methods that can be explained both scientifically and philosophically. In general, Chinese medicine is very effective in treating chronic conditions and those that often elude effective treatment by Western medicine. Western medicine, on the other hand, is highly appropriate for acute conditions, emergency situations and life-threatening injuries.

The collaboration of Chinese and Western medicine is evident in many parts of the country. Practitioners of Chinese medicine trained in California, for example, often consult with medical specialists in the development of a treatment plan for patients. A patient battling high cholesterol may benefit immediately from a doctor-prescribed medication and then – through the use of acupuncture, Chinese herbs and diet – reduce or eliminate their need for drugs. When life-prolonging surgery is required, Chinese medicine can help the patient effectively prepare for and recover from the surgical trauma. For people who have no outward symptoms of illness, a practitioner of Chinese medicine can often detect imbalances that could lead to more serious problems (such as heart disease) and then develop a treatment protocol with the patient’s physician.

Whatever the ailment, working closely with a physician and a practitioner of Chinese medicine provides the expertise of both worlds and holds great promise for life-long health and well-being.