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In the past decade, Chinese medicine has gained substantial popularity and acceptance in Canada, as a form of alternative medicine. However although it has a history of over 5,000 years in China, it is still considered new by the general Canadian public. In fact, the average Canadian knows little about Chinese medicine, and thinks that the practice is probably similar to other professions in the Western world, meaning anyone in the profession is more or less the same compared to the rest of the group. In fact, that is not true, for reasons discussed below.
In fact, at the present time all over the world including in mainland China, the practice of Chinese medicine has been diluted in a sense that it has incorporated substantial Western concepts, such that from diagnosis to treatment, the spirit of Chinese medicine has essentially been replaced by its Western counterpart, to the extent that for most practitioners, it is impossible to provide service without the guidance of Western medicine. In other words, the service under the mask of Chinese medicine provided to a patient is in most cases a hybrid, in a sense that it is performed with Chinese instruments, but guided by thoughts in Western medicine. An analogy to illustrate the situation is for someone to drive a car on train tracks, and hope that it is going to work well. Obviously it is not going to work well, and if it does work it is going to be a bumpy ride. It is no wonder then that the service provided as Chinese medicine is often not very effective, in some cases it does not work at all. This makes people think that Chinese medicine does not work.
The truth is the contrary, not only Chinese medicine does work, it often works like a miracle, but you have to find the genuine practice. This may be puzzling to some, as in people’s mind, if two people have the same credential, they are more or less equivalent to each other. This is true with Western medicine, as everyone gets trained in a similar way prior to starting their practice. It is however not true with Chinese medicine, as practitioners can have very different background in the field, although everyone has the same qualification to practice. This is because during its long history, Chinese medicine developed many branches, and each branch has its own strength and weakness. The matter is further complicated due to the assimilation of Western culture into Chinese medicine, which produced a type of hybrid Chinese medicine that implements Western thoughts with tools in Chinese medicine. In fact most modern practice is a mix, very few practitioners still practice Chinese medicine that is true to its roots.
To be more specific, genuine Chinese medicine originated from the principles discussed by the Yellow Emperor, and it focuses on the Five Elements, the Ying and the Yang, the theory detailed in the Book of Changes, etc.; whereas the hybrid type of Chinese medicine is more concerned about the anatomy of the human body, the molecular mechanisms of diseases, the vitamins, cholesterol, etc., which really reflects Western thoughts and has no connection with genuine Chinese medicine whatsoever. The actions or remedies that stem from these thoughts are obviously going to be vastly different, despite the fact that both kinds use similar tools.
It is important to distinguish between these different streams of Chinese medicine, as the therapeutic effects are dramatically different. For example, a condition known as Frozen Shoulder takes about 14 sessions of treatment to be corrected, even by leading practitioners in China; however such a case can sometimes be corrected in a single session with genuine Chinese medicine. Facial paralysis known as Bell’s palsy can take more than 60 sessions for recovery with hybrid Chinese medicine, yet the same case can take as few as 7 sessions to achieve the same effect with the genuine practice. For simple problems it is a matter of sessions needed for recovery, for complex problems it is about whether the treatment works or not in the end.
It is worth noting that although in most cases such hybrid type practice label themselves as combining both Chinese and Western medicine in their offering, seemly representing a more advanced system, it actually only leads to a service that is inferior in terms of its effectiveness. Unfortunately most people get misled by its dual approach, thinking that it is more effective to combine the two. In fact it is just the contrary.
In a way, the discussion above is somewhat academic to the general public, but it is important to understand the difference in order to find the more effective treatment. The question then becomes, how does one find a practitioner that practices genuine Chinese medicine?
To answer this question, one should make sure that the spirit of the practice remain true to its tradition, in other words, it should be a practice that reflects genuine thoughts of Chinese medicine. For a layperson to the field, all that one can do is to make sure that the kind of diagnosis or treatment you are getting does not mimic Western medicine. In plain language, if the TCM practitioner you are seeing focuses on your blood glucose or cholesterol level and is going to take steps to lower the level to an acceptable range, or uses a blood pressure monitor or stethoscope for diagnosis, you know you are in the wrong hands. Alternatively, if your acupuncturist hooks up the needles with a machine that generates electrical current, you can tell they are infusing modern electrophysiology into the practice of acupuncture, which is not a part of genuine Chinese medicine.
It is important to stay loyal to the tradition of Chinese medicine, as then the service provided is the product of a 5,000-year clinical trial; on the other hand if the practice deviates from tradition and experiments with new ideas, then it has a maximum 50-year knowledge base. From this contrast alone, one can gain an appreciation as to why genuine Chinese medicine is far superior than the modern hybrid type: the reason is that the wisdom that has accumulated in its 5,000 years of history is an inherent part of genuine Chinese medicine, but it is not a part of the new hybrid Chinese medicine, no matter who the practitioner is.
Mark Ma is the principal at Acupuncture One, which is a clinic dedicated to practicing pure, original Chinese medicine. Mark inherited the knowledge and skills directly from Grand Masters in the field. This rare heritage enables Mark to provide exceptional services to clients.