Eastern medicine, or sometimes called Traditional Chinese Medicine, is an ancient system of medicine that has been in existence for more than 3,000 years. Its primary philosophy is to keep the body, mind, spirit and emotions in balance and in sync with our environment. Eastern medicine takes a deep understanding of the laws and patterns of nature and applies them to the human body. The core of Eastern Medicine is Qi, or “vital energy,” and can be thought of as another word for “function,” for example Lung qi is the lungs’ function of gas exchange.
It is believed that there are channels of Qi energy that run throughout the body called Meridians. If an area on one or more of these Meridians becomes stuck then disease or pain may result and an imbalance will occur. Once the energy is freed, disease or pain may decrease or cease to exist altogether. A practitioner of Eastern Medicine may use acupuncture, herbs, massage, diet, and/or exercise to balance the body and allow Qi to flow freely.
One of the main differences with Western medicine is that it focuses on a specific disease or symptom. In Eastern Medicine, the physical body and emotional well-being are both examined for an individual “constitutional” diagnosis. For example, two people can both be diagnosed with depression, but treated completely different based on their own unique “constitution.”
In the West, when something happens we ask, “What can we do about it?” In the East, when something happens they ask, “What caused it?” Eastern Medicine looks for the underlying causes of imbalances and patterns of disharmony within the body and views each patient individually.
Because of these differences, Eastern and Western medicine should be seen as complementary as opposed to alternatives to each other. Both have their advantage and drawbacks, which is why when utilized together, we can gain optimal results. Research has shown that Eastern medicine can effectively complement Western medicine when the two systems are used for acute, chronic or life-threatening disease. In China, a combination of Eastern and Western medicine has been shown to be more effective in treat certain cancers than Western medicine alone.
Many major hospitals across the United States now offer Eastern treatments such as acupuncture. Rehabilitation Hospital of the Pacific here in Honolulu is an excellent example where acupuncture is offered along with physical, occupation and speech therapy to help patients recover from orthopedic surgeries, stroke, trauma and other injuries.
As we transition through to the golden years, we are naturally more susceptible to an increasing number of chronic illnesses and prevention becomes critical to maintaining our most optimal levels of well-being.