What is Chinese medicine?
Chinese medicine is the traditional medicine of China. It has two main characteristics: The concept of holism and the concept of syndrome differentiation to guide treatment.
The Concept of Holism:
We can split the concept of holism into two aspects. Firstly, Chinese medicine believes in the organic wholeness of the body. This means that the body is an inseparable whole, which is centred around the five Zang organs. Every part of the body, inside and out, has special relationships with the five Zang organs. Also, these Zang organs in turn have relationships with each other. The whole body is connected by the system of Meridians. The human body is an extremely complex structure and when treating a problem all aspects must be taken into account.
The other aspect of the concept of holism is the correlation between man and nature. Chinese medicine sees Mother Nature as a large universe and within that large universe, linked to it, is the human body, a small universe. An example of this link is seen in arthritis sufferers. Many will find that before it rains they already know, because their pain is exacerbated by bad weather. They are often more accurate than a weather forecast when it comes to determining when it will rain.
The Concept of Syndrome Differentiation to Guide Treatment:
A syndrome can be understood as a specific group of symptoms. All symptoms reflect disease and this symptomatic information is extremely important to a Chinese doctor. So, everything to do with what a patient feels (e.g. agitated, bitter taste in the mouth, easily irritated, sad etc), their sleep, their bowel motions and urination, their appetite, the appearance of their tongue, their pulse etc, are what Chinese medicine refers to as symptoms.
Syndrome differention uses the four diagnostic methods (namely inspection, enquiring, pulse-taking and palpation) to collect data about the symptoms. Then, through analysis and summarisation, the practitioner determines what nature of syndrome (Yin, Yang, cold, hot, deficiency, excess, external or internal) the patient has.
So practitioners take the results of the differentiation of syndrome and choose an appropriate treatment method according to the following principles: “Treat cold syndrome with hot-natured herbs”, “treat heat syndrome with cold-natured herbs”, “treat deficiency syndrome by nourishing”, and “treat excess syndrome by purging”.
o Szenan Phua, B.Med (Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine).