Chinese traditional medicine (CTM) can be traced back to 5000 years ago, when people used herb to cure disease and protect them from epidemics. Different from the western medicine, which uses direct treatment, CTM prefers a dialectical analysis of the human body as a whole. Chinese medicine is rooted in ancient philosophy of Taoism: the human body is a miniature version of the larger, surrounding universe. Besides, in Taoism, harmony between yin and yang (two opposite forces) keep us healthy and the imbalance between them will result in disease.
Since Chinese medicine spread out to western countries, it has become increasingly popular. For example, according to the 2007 National Health Interview Survey, more than 1 million American patients chose CTM in 1997 and this number tripled until 2007. However, some of these herbal products may be harmful or inefficient because herb combination may have serious side effects. For example, the Chinese herb ephedra (ma huang) can cause serious complications such as heart attack and stroke. Chinese medicine has a large amount of recipes and complex combinations, so it is hard to find scientific evidence to prove whether it is useful in practice.
As professor He Yumin from Shanghai Traditional Chinese Medicine Institute said: “ International prognosis of pancreatic cancer is 4 to 6 months. However, 20 out of over 100 patients in Shanghai who receive the CTM methods have lived 3 to 5 years.” Even though we cannot insure the CTM is efficient and harmless, but it shows great potential that western medicine can’t achieve in treating more complex illness such as AIDS and cancer by adjusting and balance the whole body system.
- U.S. Department of Health & Human Service (March 2009), “Traditional Chinese Medicine: An Introduction”. Electronic document, http://nccam.nih.gov/health/whatiscam/chinesemed.htm#key, accessed March 13, 2014.
- Wang Jingwen, An Important Different Between Chinese and Western Medicine. The Epoch Times, May 9, 2011. Electronic journal, http://www.theepochtimes.com/n2/health/an-important-difference-between-chinese-and-western-medicine-55986.html, accessed March 17, 2014.