What is the cause of disease? A Chinese medicine perspective
by Christopher Vedeler —
Western allopathic medicine has a deep cultural bias that may be part of the reason it fails to deal well with so many chronic illnesses. This bias is the very concept of cause and effect. In the West, we look for the cause of disease so we can design drugs and therapies to alter the cause-and-effect chain of events.
The Chinese medicine perspective looks not for a chain of cause and effect, but rather seeks the web of interrelationship. Rather than trying to reduce all the components of biology and physiology down to their most fundamental levels to effectuate a better understanding of life, traditional Chinese perspective examines the whole of the individual within all of nature. Nothing ever happens in isolation from the rest of the universe, so there is never really a single cause for any disease.
When the disease process is viewed from the perspective of cause and effect, the drugs and therapies developed tend to ignore everything that is not viewed as causal. Because of this bias, drugs developed to control symptoms often ignore the underlying root of the problem, since the root is rarely a single cause. Also, drugs inevitably cause any number of undesirable side effects because they focus on only one single link in the whole web, even though the effects are widespread.
By viewing disease from the Chinese medicine perspective of interrelationship, a sacredness of health and the healing process is the natural result. Herbal medicines are used in place of pharmaceutical drugs because they are complex, organic, living components that occur naturally within the web of life. As a result, they have few, if any, side effects and often approach health challenges from many angles simultaneously. Acupuncture is used instead of surgery and other highly invasive techniques to help restore the body and mind into a state of harmony and balance, as well as to alleviate pain.
The patient is not viewed as a walking pathology in Chinese medicine, but as an integral and essential part of life that is out of balance and harmony. The ultimate goal isn’t so much to alleviate symptoms directly, but to restore balance and harmony between the patient and their world and to restore a deeper zest for and purpose in life by restoring their original nature. As a result, the patient’s symptoms are often relieved, but at a much deeper and more meaningful level.
Just as allopathic medicine has blinders and biases that inhibit its ability to effectively treat many diseases, Chinese medicine also has blinders. When looking at a patient from within this sacred web of interrelationship, immediate and heroic life-saving medicine is sometimes lost. This is where allopathic medicine excels. Therefore, in the throws of a heart attack, for example, it is critical to return the physiology of the heart to a basic functional state so the person can live another day. At that moment, the heroic and incredible effectiveness of allopathic medicine is needed most.
Each approach has its strengths and weaknesses. Chinese medicine is quick to acknowledge the power and effectiveness of allopathic Western medicine as it relates to acute trauma, surgery and lifesaving drugs. But there appears to be an arrogance in much of Western medicine toward alternatives like Chinese medicine. Because Chinese medicine treats from such a fundamentally different perspective, it is often viewed as unscientific or “folk medicine,” and as a result, this different yet powerful perspective on the treatment of disease is dismissed.
The results in people’s lives, however, can not be dismissed, and many Western-trained doctors are beginning to open their minds to the vast healing potential of alternative methods. Chinese medicine focuses on the whole person, not just the disease, leaving the patient feeling connected, cared for and listened to — something often missing in a busy M.D.’s office. And because treatments do not rely on high technology, Chinese medicine is typically a more affordable option as well.
Chinese medicine works very well for many conditions that Western medicine has little or nothing to offer, such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome and chronic pain. Chinese medicine is also highly effective in the treatment of conditions such as depression, anxiety and ADD/ADHD.
Christopher Vedeler is a licensed acupuncturist in Scottsdale, Ariz., with a Master of Science degree in Oriental Medicine. He is the owner of Oasis Acupuncture, an Oriental medicine clinic where he operates a general family practice that specializes in psychological and emotional disorders including ADD and ADHD in children. www.oasisacupuncture.com or 480-991-3650 or email@example.com.
Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 24, Number 2, April/May 2005.