Doubts about the effectiveness of traditional Chinese medicine remain.


One of the least known facts about traditional chinese medicine in western society is that it has several times been supported by the western medical traditions for the time.  


In fact, the first time we see evidence for this happening is during the 17th century, when French travelers and explorers were traveling through the orient, publishing books about their experiences in which they included the curious philosophies that Chinese doctors had, regarding pulse therapy, tongue diagnosis, moxibustion, their materia medica philosophy and their use of "accupuncture"–and how much it resembles their use of "fire", one of the four galenical elements, to define their four humours principle.  


Acupuncture and its various offshoots were practiced on and off as a variation on the increasingly popular form of electropathy methods of healing.  For much of the 17th and 18th century, it was the parallels that could be drawn between the ancient humoural theories, the discovery of the sympathetic nervous system, and the more recent "nervous energy" or excitement theory of the late 1700s that facilitated the addition of acupuncture into western practices by 1810-1820, in both western Europe and the U.S.  


During the late 1800s, early 1900s, Chinese medicine regained its popularity, due to the relatively large numbers of practitioners engaged in this healthcare tradition.  Not only were members of Asian cultures in the U.S. taking advantage of this form of health care, so too were some of the alternative healers of western allopathic medicine, ads for which appear in many US urban region newspapers.


The twentieth century has several periods when allopathy tries to first understand the philosophy underlying Chinese medicine, and then determine whether or not it fits into the western allopathic paradigms.  There are a number of interesting arguments posed by allopaths trying to explain the many who experienced acupuncture at work–the parasympathetic nervous system reasoning was following by the endocrine system paradigm at the turn of the century, which in turn has been followed by allopathic arguments trying to claim "natural opiates", enkephalins, neuroendocrine system, and most recently, psychoneuroimmunological reasons as to why this philosophy keeps finding new supporters.  Countering these were traditional claims regarding placebo effect, belief system related "cures", psychosomatics, and mindbody influences.  (Recall the popular point therapy faith now implemented for fibromyalgia treatment.)


This recent increase in interest in Chinese medicine is focused in part on the materia medica once again.  With Chinese herbal remedies, the world health belief system has transformed from its 18th century existence, relying heavily upon ginseng root and smilax root flour, to its late 20th, early 21st century period of curiosity about ginkgosides and their impacts on aging glial cells in the brain.


The most common feature to all of these periods of acceptance, withdrawal and change in traditional Chinese versus "traditional western" allopathic medicine is that a belief system is required and must be adhered to for the healing effect to take place.  In many cases, physicians have little to no control over what the body and its owner decide what to do, no matter what the cause might turn out to be–believe it, or not.





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