To many, Eastern medicine seems (at face value) quite a culture shock to those who are used to traditional Western medicine. However, amidst all the differences there are still many similarities.
First, the Chinese medical doctor evaluated the complete medical history and takes the pulses just as a Western medical doctor does. The Chinese practitioner also arrives at a diagnosis and treatment protocol which the Western physician does. Both practitioners have several years of training and internships at medical colleges. Both Eastern and Western practitioners must pass a strict State Board Medical Exam for a license to practice their preference.
However, there are also many differences in the treatment of patients between Eastern and Western Medicine. First, the primary difference is that Chinese Medicine diagnoses and treats on the basis of the vital force energy within the body called “chi”, whereas Western medicine diagnoses and treats on the basis of physiology and biochemistry.
This vial force energy, called “Chi”, definitely affects the physiology and biochemistry of the body; for example, it stimulates the red blood cells, enzymes, hormones and many other physiological/biochemical processes. However, this energy is a very subtle one and problems such as liver, gall bladder imbalances can be detected much sooner than when a biopsy can detect cirrhosis of the liver or gall stones.
Another difference is that Eastern medicine treats the whole body and not just one symptom at a time. In other words, 3 people may come in with a headache, but 3 different treatments may be given to the patients, depending on their other associated symptoms. the treatment protocol is much individualized, and each person will get a completely different treatment than the other two for the same initial symptom.
This leads us to the third difference between Eastern and Western Medicine; more feedback between the patient and Chinese doctor. Sometimes the treatment protocol is changed 2-3 times per week. This is because, as the body gets stronger, the previous treatment program must be adjusted to accommodate this change.
Another big difference is, that while Western medicine treats mainly the symptoms of a disease, Chinese medicine treats the underlying root causes of a disease while also treating the symptoms. One can possible raise the argument that killing a bacteria or parasite is treating the cause of the problem; however, the Chinese doctor will delve more deeply into why the patient was susceptible in the first place to being infected. They may have a deficient spleen or kidney, or hyperactive liver, which acupuncture or Chinese herbs can correct so that the patient is no longer susceptible to getting infections.
Finally, one last difference is that combining herbs increases their effectiveness. This is contrary to Western medicine, where side effects are increased, when more drugs and medications are combines. In Chinese medical theory, there is one emperor herb which carries the main function of the formula, and there are servant and assistant herbs which help the emperor herb to carry out the main therapeutic function of the formula. This allows the patient to have more than one imbalance treated at the same time, so that the root cause of the problem is more directly addressed and treated.
In summary, there are both differences and similarities of Eastern and Western medicine. It is thus important to realize and understand the various advantages that each type has to offer so they can be used to complement one another.