How successful was ancient China medicine

Chinese medicine

It is said that in ancient China doctors were only paid when their patients were healthy. For each sick patient, the therapist hung a red lamp in his window so that everyone could see whether he was a good doctor.

We do not know whether this actually happened, but we do know that Chinese medicine did indeed develop a preventive approach: the doctor advised on diet, exercise and lifestyle, and only when an illness had developed despite all efforts , he began to work with what we generally know today as Chinese medicine: acupuncture and herbal therapy. Chinese medicine is a deeply holistic therapy from its very roots.

Today we hear the greatest stories: of operations without anesthesia, in which the patient was only anesthetized with acupuncture needles, or of chronic pain that disappeared after the needles were inserted and the like. As fascinating as these stories are, they do not tell about what makes Chinese medicine so valuable to us Europeans today.

Western medicine has developed a reparative approach based on anatomy and surgery. Generations of medical professionals have accumulated vast amounts of knowledge in this field, the importance of which is indisputable. Nevertheless, Western medicine has its methodological limitations.

• Diseases that cannot be associated with an anatomical change, that is, functional disorders, largely elude western diagnostics. They are classified accordingly as "psychosomatic" and Western medicine has difficulties with the treatment - despite often considerable physical complaints.

• There is a lack of understanding of symptoms that appear as a warning to the organism in the run-up to illness.

Chinese medicine is a great and useful addition to our western medicine, because this is exactly where it has its strengths: in the treatment of functional disorders and in the treatment of symptoms that conventional medicine cannot (yet) treat or can only treat symptomatically. Chinese medicine is not just about making a symptom go away, but also about identifying and treating the underlying disorder and thereby initiating a real healing process.

Until the middle of the 19th century - until Western medicine came to China - there was no other healing art besides Chinese medicine. Accordingly, there is no disease for which there is no treatment concept in Chinese medicine. But no one will want to ignore or want to miss the great achievements of Western medicine such as penicillin or surgery. Fortunately, we can remove a festering appendix today. Fortunately, we can prescribe an antibiotic for acute inflammation. And yet not every cystitis has to be treated with an antibiotic.

For more than two millennia, doctors of Chinese medicine have observed the human immune system. They have developed formulas and treatment strategies that address both acute symptoms, such as a burning sensation when urinating, and the underlying imbalance. If you take an antibiotic, the intestinal flora and thus the immune system are weakened. It is not uncommon for patients in particular to complain of recurring infections. Chinese medicine combats the problem (the burning sensation) and at the same time ensures that the immune system is strengthened. The infections become less frequent or do not occur at all. Instead of suppressing symptoms, a healing process is set in motion. Body and mind (psyche) are seen as a unit. The treatment therefore always includes physical and psychological aspects in equal measure.

In the west, Chinese medicine is best known under the acronym TCM. TCM, traditional Chinese medicine, is a creation of communist China under Mao Zedong. After the arrival of western medicine in China, around 1840, Chinese medicine fell into oblivion, especially in the big cities. It was only when Mao came to power in 1949 and there was insufficient conventional medical care, especially in the poor rural population, that the "treasure" of Chinese medicine should be unearthed. Mao had Chinese medicine, which comprised a variety of very different traditions, systematized and re-taught. On the one hand, the new system makes it easier for us western learners in particular to grasp and understand this complex medicine, on the other hand, this process fell victim to numerous approaches that contradicted the communist model of thought and life. The development of the individual was subordinated to the importance of the collective. In my practice, I therefore speak explicitly of Chinese medicine and not of TCM, to make it clear that in my work I also refer to the medical traditions that have fallen victim to the communist party.