Most people who live in the United States grow up learning about the world, including their own bodies, through a “biomedical” lens.
“Biomedicine,” “Western medicine,” and “allopathic medicine,” are words used to refer to the conventional medicine ordinarily practiced in major medical clinics and hospitals. Like all medical systems, biomedicine relies on particular ideas of anatomy, physiology, pathology and therapeutics. Those ideas largely come from scientific understanding that began to emerge around the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and is continually being reexamined and developed to this day.
The concepts of biomedicine are quite familiar to us, as we begin to learn them at a very young age, in both formal and informal environments. Biomedicine has an impressive track record of enabling heroic medical interventions – such as the effective cure of Polio, or knitting your body back together after a major car accident.
Chinese medicine does not share the same roots.
It grew up in different cultural contexts, and continues to be rooted in concepts that were emergent more than 2000 years ago. While it shares some anatomical and pathological ideas with the science underlying biomedicine – most of its grounding is quite different. It has its own way of conceptualizing the human body and how it interacts with nature. For instance, in Chinese medicine the body is seen as fundamentally holistic – the whole of the unit is far more than might be guessed by looking at the individual parts. This makes Chinese medicine more likely to look at relationships, functional flows and interactions between the body and nature than biomedicine, which is somewhat more concerned with defining the parts with great specificity.
Some Chinese medicine practitioners integrate biomedical and Chinese medicine concepts together during diagnosis and treatment. There are even practitioners who learn protocols for acupuncture or Chinese herbs that are fully based on Western diagnoses. At Watershed Wellness, we tend to avoid this. Instead we take seriously the theories, diagnostics and treatment approaches that were used by practitioners of this medicine many centuries ago.
While the environment we live in today is quite different than in ancient China, the truth is that the human body still responds to its environment in similar ways as it did back then. So, while we may sometimes have to reinterpret certain passages in the classical texts to suit more modern pathogens or other problems, we find relying on the ancient wisdom of Chinese medicine to be quite effective overall.
Many patients find it interesting to learn more about the history and concepts underlying Chinese medicine treatment. Most practitioners also find that when patients learn more about the medicine, treatment tends to go more smoothly in part because patients begin to alter their lifestyle choices in accordance with Chinese medicine principles.
Because of this, we have developed a free library of information about Chinese medicine here on the website. If you’d like to learn more about Chinese medicine anatomy, physiology, pathology, history and cosmology – you can begin your exploration by clicking the button below.