Is Chinese Medicine a Science?
Trusting your doctor is ESSENTIAL in any chronic illness…
The scientific research on Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), especially Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine, has been clearly positive for many years.
As a speaker, I often share this way of understanding how modern science sees medicine and how ancient traditions see medicine. In most clinical experiments, the standard for trust is causation. If a person takes drug B for disease C and gets better, you could say that drug B causes a reduction in some aspect of disease C. It would be more honest and accurate to say that there is a correlation between B and C because the cause is unknown. Anyone would agree that there must be some kind of association between B and C.
It is those three words, causation, correlation and association that encompass most of the thinking about medicine since humans have had language.
The best way to prove that there is a causative relationship between drugs and diseases is the proverbial Double-Blinded-Study. This involves placebos and specific groups who do not know if they are giving or getting any actual medication. This is often used to decide if a new drug is allowed on the market. This kind of research is also used to determine specific causes of disease and prove which biochemical pathways cause which metabolite. It is all about technical knowledge and proof. Good to have!
Correlation is much easier to demonstrate. People who meditate are usually more relaxed and adaptable to stress. There is some causal research to prove this, but most of us are comfortable with the obvious correlation. There is some correlation between eating less red meat and a reduction in some conditions, but those people are also more likely to be focused on multiple opportunities to improve their health.
There is very little ‘double-blind’ causative research to prove the connection though.
This makes some research challenging because you can show a correlation between many things. It amazes me that Traditional Chinese medicine has found so many accurate correlations between specific internal organs, certain kinds of plants, and specific foods without the use of microscopes and modern research.
Chinese medicine is also fond of seemingly general Associations between the seasons, certain emotional states and specific patterns of illness. A looser and more symbolic approach to clinical reasoning, yet still very effective.
The funniest part of all of this is modern biochemistry started because of traditional healing wisdom and their ‘beliefs.’
If you were to go back in time and learn the initial ways herbals medicines were found. For example, Devil’s Club Root grows in dark and wet forest regions. From a TCM perspective, any plant that thrives in damp and bug-infested places is going to be good for swollen, infected and painful conditions.
This gets into the subject of Signature Theory – the ancient way of predicting the clinical use of a plant.
I can’t go deeper into that here, but modern research shows that Devil’s Club is effective as an anti-inflammatory and pain reliever, especially in chronic conditions like Rheumatic Arthritis. (Rheum = swollen with fluid or abundant mucous. In TCM, Dampness also relates to the wear and tear of high carbohydrate diets. And yes, Devil’s Club has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity and help with Diabetic Neuropathy.
One more example!
Imagine you are an early chemist. You are sure that there ‘chemicals’ at the root of how life works. Your Grandmother is a traditional healer and gives you some Passionflower to learn from. This plant medicine is famous for helping people stay calm and get a good night’s sleep. Now, all you have to do is figure what chemical actually makes people sleepy.
My point is, modern chemistry and our ability to do causal Double-Blind studies on different chemical extracts began with correlations and associations that are thousands of years old!
Good Medicine is Good Medicine!