Blog : Herbal Medicine
Differences between Western and Chinese Medicine
Chinese medicine is a science and medicine in its own right, with its own stringency and strictness of diagnosis and treatment similar to Western medicine, with procedures and protocols based on centuries of observation of how the universe works The ways of understanding the body's relationship to health and disease are very different between Western Medicine and Chinese Medicine. Chinese medicine focuses on increasing health to unseat disease, and supporting the body's inherent qualities to regain health.
Much of Western science is the direct product of the reductionism of Grecian origin. The scientific approach assumes that one must break a thing down into its smallest component parts or behaviors in order to understand it. This way of looking a problem involves a deductive reasoning process. Western science attempts to assess its cause and effect relationships in a linear or sequential fashion in order to measure, quantify, describe and hopefully predict phenomena. The process of Western science looks something like this:Hypothesis/theory (guess) -> experiment (experience) -> Laws. (Quantitative). Whereas the process of Eastern science looks like this: Natural phenomena (laws) -> experience (experiment) -> Thesis. (Qualitative). Both yield highly accurate information about totally different aspects of reality.
Chinese medicine uses the method of inductive reasoning that is associative and synthesizes, recognizing the inter-relatedness of simultaneous events, to interpret and treat disease. The question in Chinese medicine is not, “what bug is causing this disease?” so much as “what weakness or interrelated conditions are causing this person to be susceptible to it?”.
To use an analogy, let’s suppose that we walk into a room in our house only to find lots of flies in that room. Western Medicine might apply some bug spray to control the flies. A solution in classical Chinese Medicine would be to examine what the flies are attracted to. Upon observation we notice that someone left a ham sandwich in the room, which the flies are feeding on. Treatment would focus on removing the ham sandwich, so the flies have nothing to eat. Then we would ask the question, how did the flies get into the room in the first place. We look around and see that there is a crack in the window, so we fix the crack.
The goal of Chinese medicine is simply to restore balance. Chinese medicine does not treat disease, it treats individuals whose imbalances manifest in certain symptoms as the body attempts to regain balance. Illness is seen as an imbalance between internal influences such as diet, exercise, rest, and emotions; and external factors such as weather, trauma, microbes or poisons. Health is not just the absence of symptoms, it is a state of being in balance.
The preferred ways of restoring balance and staying healthy are the simplest ones. A balanced healthy, nourishing diet, lots of clean fresh air, adequate rest and regular sensible exercise are all a healthy body needs to stay healthy. When we get further out of balance than our normal internal mechanisms can restore, outside means may need to be employed to restore that equilibrium. That's where acupuncture and herbal medicine come into play.
Causes of disease
Your body is designed, like any other living system, to stay healthy and in balance. All of its mechanisms are programmed for survival. This is called homeostasis. Although your body has many elegant mechanisms by which to maintain balance, it constantly encounters things in the environment which can upset that balance. Extremes of temperature, physical or emotional stresses, microbes and toxins, can throw the body out of balance. A healthy body is in balance and is able to resist disease.
Before looking at the causes of disease, it's important to understand the relationship between ones inherited constitution, immune system and harmonious functioning of the body and mind (ie, health), and pathogenic factors that can unseat health.
When the constitution is strong and pathogenic factors are relatively weak, we can more easily resist the harmful effects and not become ill. We are better able to remain unaffected by those around us who suffer from colds and can better handle emotional and physical stressors. Even if the pathogen is strong, a person with a strong constitution may be able to battle it vigorously with high fever, and rapid recovery. Note that a high fever indicates a the body is fighting the disease with vigor.
However, if our constitution is weak, exposure to even a mild pathogen may cause us to become ill. We may catch infectious disease more easily and may be more affected by emotional and physical stress. When we do become ill, the symptoms may be milder because we don't have the same strength to fight the disease. The illness may also last longer, and may be able to penetrate further into the body creating a more chronic condition.
Spring is a time of rebirth, sudden growth, and rapid expansion; an awakening of the life process. With that in mind, we thought this month might be a good time to talk about Fertility and Pregnancy.
So you want to have a baby?
Couples planning to have a baby typically put a lot of thought into preparing for parenthood. There’s putting together the nursery, planning for a college fund, and picking names - all focused on preparing for the arrival of the baby. These things are definitely important, but perhaps even more important is to prepare for the pregnancy itself. The health of the parents is arguably the most important factor in determining the health of the baby.
It’s important to prepare your body well before (at least 4-6 months) you intend to become pregnant so that it is strong, ready to conceive and carry the child through to a healthy birth. Chinese Medicine says we need to “tend the garden”, preparing the soil for a healthy baby. We look at diet and lifestyle not only for the mother but for the father as well. It takes a lot to make healthy baby-producing sperm, and we will want to make sure that the father’s “garden” is properly tended too. Here's a great recipe that will help you tend the garden...
It takes the body about 120 days to mature the eggs that will come to ovulate and the health and quality of an egg can be greatly affected during that time. For men, it takes about 70-90 days for a man’s sperm to mature. (reference: “Making Babies: A 3 Month Proven Program for Maximum Fertility,” Jill Blakeway, LAc and Sami David, MD). If a woman goes into pregnancy depleted from stress, health issues or other imbalances, it may take some time to restore balance so that she can sustain a pregnancy for 9 months. We stress that couples should take the time to address any imbalances before they try to become pregnant.
Eating a well balanced diet high in dark leafy greens and good quality protein can help to ensure that your body is making strong healthy blood, ideal for creating and sustaining a healthy pregnancy. Equally important is finding ways to reduce stress. Sleep, meditation and moderate exercise are great ways to do this. Regular sleep patterns that maintain the normal circadian rhythms also support healthy menstrual cycles. Regular acupuncture treatments and, if necessary, herbal therapy can also help balance hormones, reduce stress and strengthen the body to prepare it for pregnancy.
We look at fertility treatment as more than just helping a couple become pregnant. We view pregnancy as a natural process that occurs when there is a healthy mother and father, and we want to help the parents have a healthy child. That is, after all, what the mother and father really want. Right?
We see many patients that have issues becoming pregnant, and there can be a number of reasons for this. Many times this is due to menstrual issues (irregular periods), but it can also be caused by stress, illness, ovarian cysts, or other seemingly unrelated factors, Since the uterus is the environment where the baby will live, we look at the menstrual cycle to indicate where there may be an imbalance creating the inability to conceive and hold a pregnancy. Our goal is to create a nourishing and sustaining environment for the fetus to thrive.
Acupuncture and herbal therapies can improve ovarian and follicular function and increase blood flow to the ovaries and uterus creating a strong environment for the egg to be nourished and carried to term. As mentioned above, they can also help reduce stress and balance hormones, both of which can be key factors in fertility issues with both women and men. Chinese medicine can stimulate the endocrine system to produce hormones that stimulate the reproductive system, including sperm production in men. Moxabustion can warm the uterus so that it is the right temperature to allow implantation.
Difficulty getting pregnant can be stressful both emotionally and financially. Our goal is to help reduce this stress and provide a safe, effective treatment with no drugs or side effects. If you have had many failed attempts at pregnancy and are using IVF or other western medical treatment for infertility, Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine can provide additional support.