Alternative medicines usually get the back seat in the western world. Herbal treatments, shiatsu massages, and other faith-based treatments are not typically on the prescription after visiting a western doctor. But despite this, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is very prominent in Asia and has been since 200BC. And despite western classification of TCM as an alternative medicine, that is, that it’s not considered conventional, TCM is considered mainstream in China and even has undergone an era of modernization in the 1950s.
TCM operates around a spiritual concept that the body is a self-contained ‘universe’ of sorts, and an upset in the relationships between specific parts of the body result in illness and other ailments. The way ailments are diagnosed is similar to a typical doctor’s visit, where the patient is questioned for patterns and basic descriptions of what is wrong. But it’s the treatment where TCM varies greatly from western practice. Acupuncture, for example, is the process of inserting needles into the body at specific locations in order to circulate and evenly balance ‘energy’ through the body. Chinese herbal medicines are mixtures of typically 3-25 herbs that are chosen based on similar ‘energy’ qualities. While these ingredients are tailored to the individual, there is no chemical analysis put into it. So a majority of the treatment in TCM operates around a spiritual background.
While Western medicine and TCM are never seen to be directly in conflict, as people tend to be accepting of whatever works when it comes to their health, the grounding in philosophy and religion that TCM has make anyone who does not share that faith suspicious as to the effectiveness of TCM because it’s not created and brought to market in the same way as western medicine, which is grounded more in experimentation and science. Also, there is a lack of standardization with TCM that makes dosages and effectiveness different from one pill to the next, even when they are supposed to do the same thing.