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What Makes Medicine Holistic?

Understanding Chinese Medicine

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) dates back several thousand years. During the Qin & Han dynasties (221 BCE - 220 CE) TCM developed a unified system of diagnosis and treatment.

During the subsequent two thousand years of scholarly analysis and clinical trial, Chinese medicine developed into the advanced system we have today. To date, TCM is one of the most thoroughly tested forms of medicine.

In China TCM was not “alternative medicine”, it was simply medicine. Thus, TCM developed protocols to treat every illness ranging from mild colds to heart disease, mental illness, pediatrics, geriatric care and everything in between. Chinese culture values good health and is famous for its longevity. In China, they put emphasis on daily practices to maintain vitality through all ages.

In the modern day, Chinese medicine has continued to advance and has developed protocols to treat illnesses that did not exist in earlier centuries, but are common today due to environmental and lifestyle changes.

Autoimmune disease, for example which is now commonplace, was virtually unheard of in previous generations. And while heart disease and cancer have always existed, the 20th century has witnessed a huge rise in these conditions. With these changes, doctors and scholars of TCM have developed diagnostics and treatments to address modern illnesses holistically.

What is holistic medicine?

The difference between allopathic (Western) medicine and holistic medicine can be understood by how they define a diagnosis. Let’s use some real-life examples to illustrate.

Hinda[1] was admitted to the hospital with nausea, vomiting, ringing in her ears, sensation of the room spinning etc. After a complete workup, including an MRI , she was diagnosed with Vertigo.

When she came to my clinic, according to TCM, she had not yet received a diagnosis. As far as holistic medicine is concerned, vertigo is simply the chief complaint. The diagnosis is the underlying pattern that caused the vertigo.

The diagnosis takes us beyond giving the symptoms a name and looks to determine what underlying constitutional imbalance provoked the disease. In the case of vertigo, the diagnosis may be a fluid (yin) deficiency, a blockage of energy flow in the liver, phlegm accumulation in the sensory orifices and more.

When Zelda arrived at my clinic, she had already gone through several rounds of IVF. She had experienced severe side-effects from the medications, including depression and sores on her legs that appeared during drug treatment, but did not resolve even after she discontinued.

The goal of Western medicine is to produce conception even at the expense of other bodily systems. Side-effects are basically the price to pay for ART. As far as Chinese medicine is concerned, side-effects are an indication that the treatment was not suited for her constitution.

In holistic medicine, the correct treatment will not only improve fertility, it will also improve overall health. No bodily system is sacrificed to benefit the end goal.

In this booklet, we will explore a holistic understanding of both the male and female reproductive system, and gain an understanding as to how TCM diagnoses and treats reproductive health.

Whenever applicable, I have provided information on simple home remedies and self-help ideas. These are more appropriate for uncomplicated, minor and new problems. For serious or chronic problems or infertility, self-help options are rarely adequate.

Shlomo came to my clinic about 12 years ago with severe insomnia. He had researched Chinese herbs on-line and had written himself an herbal formula. Since he didn’t know the first thing about prescribing Chinese herbs, his “DIY” treatment was totally ineffectual.

About Chinese Herbs

Chinese herbs are complex and formulating them requires a deep understanding of TCM theory, treatment principles, the medicinal effects of each herb and how to combine them.

Chinese herbs are not prescribed individually, but in formulas. The right Chinese herbal formula can be very effective. Furthermore, they are very safe. When properly prepared and taken at correct dosage under the supervision of a doctor of Chinese medicine, side-effects are rare.

Chinese herbs come in various forms:

· Raw herbs need to be cooked and strained. This method is the most labor intensive but produces the best results.

· Tinctures are alcohol extractions of herbs. They are extremely easy to take and in my experience are highly effective. Because of their convenience and the fact that they can be custom formulated, tinctures are usually my go-to choice.

· Granules/powdered herbs are also highly effective. They are easy to take and need only to be dissolved in a small amount of hot water

· Pills are ready-made and are not usually custom tailored to the individual’s presentation. They are a good option if someone needs to start herbs immediately and pills are on hand. They are also very convenient for travel.

In my experience, pills are the least potent form of Chinese herbs. They can be difficult for some people to digest and they are not suitable for babies or young children.

There are no “one size fits all” remedies in Chinese medicine. For example in the West, garlic and black pepper are lauded as natural antibiotics and favored as blanket remedies for many health conditions.

Both of the above are also Chinese herbs. However, TCM practitioners use a lot of discretion when prescribing herbs. Since both garlic and black pepper are very warming, they are not used medicinally for people with hot constitutions.

This is true for every herb. Its nature must be balanced against the individual’s constitution in order to improve the health of the patient. The wrong remedy, even if it has impressive medicinal value will not improve one’s health. The tailoring of herbal remedies to the individual’s constitution further illustrates what qualifies medicine as holistic.

[1] All names and some minor details have been changed.


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