How is Chinese Medicine different to Biomedicine?

Chinese medicine has a long, illustrious and now well researched history that spans over three thousand years. With roots in China that spread to other parts of Asian cultures, it is now becoming one of the most sought after forms of therapy but how does it differ from Biomedicine (commonly called Western Medicine)?

When you have an appointment with a registered Acupuncturist/Herbalist you will notice that they ask to look at your tongue and request to feel your pulse. This is an integral part of the diagnostic procedure in Chinese Medicine and when combined with questioning, observation (skin, hair, complexion), smelling and listening – a diagnosis is settled upon before treatment.

Both systems of medicine have differential diagnosis (think Dr House minus the drama and charming British actor) but Chinese Medicine deals much more with the energetic value and balance of the internal organs than the actual physical structure. This means if your practitioner tells you that there is something wrong with your liver – it means the energetics and function according to Chinese Medicine; your physical liver should be fine so please do not run off to get a biopsy.

Energetics and balance are terms we associate with the body and how everything functions in Chinese Medicine simply because we did not have terms such as virus or bacteria in ancient China. In fact the idea of energetics and balance is commonly termed as homeostasis in Biomedicine – two different phrases for the same action.

It is because Chinese Medicine practitioners (Acupuncturist fall under this umbrella too) use our own system of medical diagnosis that we often get results where Biomedical practitioners assume there is no problem or allude to a mental fabrication. An example is the sensation of bloating and discomfort that arises from stress, organs may feel as if they are unhinged and “floating”. This makes sense to a Chinese Medicine practitioner and is treated successfully whereas a biomedical practitioner may have difficulty discerning cause and probability.

Students who undertake training in Chinese Medicine within Australia generally have 50% of their course units based in biomedicine. Things such as human medical science, neuroscience and pathophysiology (along with anatomy) are general standards depending on the university where you study. That is correct – Chinese Medicine is a university degree (tertiary as some colleges provide it also) in Australia.

So which is better?

Neither, both have a place in society and in the ideal world we would offer a cooperative medicine that works side by side as often seen in many Chinese hospitals.

Always remember that you should only seek out registered Chinese Medicine practitioners/Acupuncturist to ensure that you are getting the best, safest and beneficial care.

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