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What is the cause of disease - a Chinese medicine perspective  (March 10th, 2005)

Western allopathic medicine has a deep cultural bias that may be part of the reason why 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 that we can design drugs and therapies to affect the chain of cause to effect. The Chinese medicine perspective tends not to look for a chain of cause and effect, but rather a web of interrelationship. Instead of trying to reduce all the components of biology and physiology down to their most fundamental level to understand life, the traditional Chinese perspective looks at the whole interrelationship of the individual within all of nature. Nothing ever happens in isolation from the rest of the universe and so there is never really a single cause of 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 are developed to control symptoms but often ignore the underlying root of the problem since the root is rarely a single cause. Also the drugs inevitably cause any number of undesirable side effects because only one single link in the whole web is focused upon but the effects are wide spread.

By viewing disease from the Chinese medicine perspective of interrelationship, a kind of sacredness of the process of health and healing is the natural result. Herbal medicine is used instead of pharmaceutical drugs because they are organic complex living components that occur naturally within the web of life. As a result they have few if any side effects and often work at health challenges from many angles at the same time. Acupuncture is used instead of surgery and other highly invasive techniques to help restore the body and mind to 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 who is experiencing a loss of balance and harmony. The ultimate goal of the Chinese medicine doctor 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 sense of zest and purpose in their life by restoring their connection with their original nature. As a result of this process the patients symptoms are often also relieved, but at a much deeper and more meaningful level.

Just as allopathic medicine has blinders and a bias that inhibits 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. In the throes of a heart attack for example, it is critical to return the physiology of the heart to a basic functional state so that the person can live another day. At that moment it is the heroic and incredible effectiveness of allopathic medicine that is needed most.

Each approach has it's strengths and weaknesses. Chinese medicine is quick to acknowledge the power and effectiveness of allopathic Western medicine in acute trauma, surgery and life saving drugs. However there appears to be a kind of arrogance in much of Western medicine towards alternatives like Chinese medicine. Because Chinese medicine treats from such a fundamentally different perspective, it is often seen as unscientific or "folk medicine" and this different yet powerful perspective on the treatment of disease is dismissed. The results in peoples lives however can not be dismissed and many Western trained doctors are opening their minds to the vast healing potential that exists within this different perspective. Chinese medicine focuses on the whole person not just the disease, leaving the patient feeling connected, cared for and listened to - something too often missing in a busy MD's office. And because treatments do not rely on high technology, Chinese medicine is typically a cheaper option as well. Chinese medicine works very well for so 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 and anxiety as well as ADD & ADHD.

Copyright 2005 Oasis Acupuncture.

Christopher Vedeler is a licensed acupuncturist in Scottsdale Arizona 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. Visit www.oasisacupuncture.com or call Christopher at 480-991-3650 for more information.