There is no question about the benefits and importance of medical advances in the Western world over the last decades, but it is not without its failures. Many modern medical treatments are, in some aspects, not as effective as the centuries old practices of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM).
Western medicine tends to deal with a patient’s physical symptoms and disregard a patient’s mind, emotions and spirit. Since our body is made up of a whole interconnected network of hundreds of systems functioning together, treatment plans as such are incomplete.
Inadequate understanding of TCM has lead to misconceptions, but its 4 foundational principles are anything but outdated:
- Your body is an integrated whole structure made up of a multitude of physical, mental and spiritual systems.
- You are connected to nature, not in a Avatar way, necessarily, but your body is aware of, and responds to changes in its physical surroundings: changes in season, weather, altitude or even the time of day.
- Your body has incredible self-healing capabilities.
- Prevention is always better than treatment. Living your daily life in a way that will prevent diseases and degeneration is easier than trying to treat problems after they arise.
With these four key principles in mind, it’s not surprising that TCM relies on many herbal remedies for prevention and treatment. Typically there are five ways of administering these herbal remedies:
Chinese Herbal Decoctions are the most traditional form of Chinese herbal treatment. Decoctions often involve a lengthy preparation process that results in a strong, aromatic tea. The time it takes to create these teas make them less popular in the West.
Herbal Powders can be mixed into hot water to create a similar result as the decoctions. They may be less potent, but also easier to drink and less time consuming to make.
Patent Formulas are the vitamin equivalent of TCM vitamins. They are pre-made herbal formulas in a pill or tablet form. This type of therapy is the most used outside China.
Syrups, viscous, sweet liquids, are an easy way to administer treatments to children. These formulas are often use to treat cold symptoms, like sore throat.
Liniments are the external applications of TCM. Plasters, compresses and salves are used to apply treatment formulas containing various essential oils. These are widely used to treat joint and muscle pain.
Medical students today increasingly are taught the importance of the mind-body connection for treatment and prevention. A recent survey found that approximately half of medical practices in the United States planned to integrate the use of alternative medicine. It is the hope that this holistic approach will enhance the effectiveness of today’s Western medicine: mens sana in corpore sano.