Traditional Chinese Medicine has been practiced for over 3,000 years in China. The Chinese method is based on the idea that no single part, or symptom, can be understood except in its relation to the whole person. This philosophy of illness is directed by the complete physiological and psychological state of the patient. All relevant information, including symptoms as well as the patient’s other general characteristics, is gathered and woven together until it forms what Chinese medicine calls a “pattern of disharmony”. This pattern of disharmony describes a situation of “imbalance” in a patient’s body and this provides the framework for the treatment. TCM diagnostic technique does not turn up a specific disease entity or a precise cause, but renders an almost poetic, yet workable, description of a whole person. The treatment then attempts to bring the individual into balance, to restore harmony to the patient.
The Western physician starts with a symptom, then searches for the underlying mechanism - a precise cause for a specific disease. This diagnosis frames an exact, quantifiable description of a narrow area, it isolates one single entity or cause. The treatment of the Western doctor is usually aimed at symptomatic relief. This is considered a “branch” treatment, versus the Chinese physician who will treat the “root”. This means the Chinese treatment is directed to the complete individual - physically, symptomatically as well as mentally. No single part can be understood except in its relation to the whole. All relevant information about the patient is gathered, and woven together so as to determine the patient’s “pattern of disharmony”. Here, the question of cause and effect is always secondary to the overall pattern.
Chinese medicine considers important certain aspects of the human body and personality that are not significant to Western medicine. Chinese medicine uses terminology that is strange to the Western ear. Examples of this include “Dampness”, “Heat”, or “Wind” as the causes of the imbalance, which can lead to “patterns” that may include, “Liver Fire” or “Spleen Qi Deficiency”. Modern Western medicine does not speak of illness in this manner. The Western doctor will usually prescribe a medication or modality of treatment, while the Eastern practitioner will aim to negate the body imbalance by “Extinguishing Liver Fire”, “Leaching Dampness”, or “Preventing Liver Wind From Rising to the Head”. The perception of the two traditions reflect two different worlds, but both can affect and often heal beings regardless of the cultural affiliation.