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Diagnosis

It must be realized that Traditional Chinese Medicine evolved around what was available and, even now, what is affordable. Obviously, there are things that herbs cannot touch because herbal medicine is not all encompassing. There are, however, plenty of ailments that do respond to treatment and, moreover, plenty of modern drugs are prepared from plant sources. The willow provides us with aspirin, the foxglove with digitalis. Even cannabis, cocaine and diamorphine are plant products.

The traditional Chinese physician looks at which organ is responsible for the problem. This is done by examination of the ‘meridians’ which are energy channels that can be related to particular areas on the surface of the body. In terms of what happens, pressure on an area that relates to the affected organ causes discomfort in the actual area of that organ. Theories exist as to why this may be so. The physician will also ask about the nature of the complaint be it pain, heat or cold, tiredness or disordered sleep, constipation and so on much like a Western doctor. Next the Chinese physician takes a general view of the patient by examining the complexion, demeanor, tongue and eyes. The smell of the patient can also help in diagnosis but finally examination of the pulse also gives much information about organs seemingly unrelated to the heart. This skill is learned over a long period of time.

The examination is thorough and meticulous and takes account of the whole body. Treatment is then given to match any imbalance. Part of their learned skill is to know their limitations just as the general practitioner attempts to or should do in Western medicine.

In China herbal medicine now has equal status to modern (Western) medicine to the extent that practitioners of both backgrounds are paid the same rates. Many have dual training either in medicine or pharmacology.

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