Western culture is largely construed by a deterministic approach to medical practices in which brash, isolated actions are taken in order to “boost” health, or “fix” things that are determined as being incorrect. For instance, obesity may be fought with the surgical alteration of one’s stomach; discipline and drastic lifestyle alteration are often only considered in hindsight. Traditional Chinese Medicine, along with many other more naturally-focused medical practices, involves approaching health and wellness more from a perspective of balance, rather than finding and eliminating fault.
The starkest contrast which may be seen between TCM and conventional medicine is the use of Herbal compounds by the former and highly commercialized prescription medication by the latter. Contrasts between the two could be drawn indefinitely, but perhaps the dynamics of Patent law can help to illuminate a difference in fundamentals. A TCM practitioner, or naturopath, or integrative MD all tend to “prescribe” herbal tinctures and compounds as they are found in their natural forms. While these compounds may be present in extremely concentrated “doses,” one could arguably be exposed to them, in the given form, through natural means.
However, patent law doesn’t allow natural compounds to be given exclusive rights by any single party—imagine holding the patent for dirt—and companies rely on competition in quality to drive their success. While every company is allowed to work freely with the same compounds, and every practitioner able to create their own remedies, the entire usage is incentivizing to be better.
Prescription medications are quite the opposite—they often are only able to be manufactured by a single party which holds the patent rights—and often rely heavily on marketing and sales representation. In other words, you don’t have to have the best version of the product to be financially and commercially successful, a company just has to have the product.
Conventional medicine has brought us powerful vaccinations and the ability to see immediate results from treatment. However, with such power to cause-effect comes the risk of powerful side effects. One of the most attractive facets of traditional medicine and natural approaches to health for new-comers is that there is little chance of dire effects. That is to say, you can try many different herbs, compounds, and therapies without running the risk of winding up in a hospital. Try finding 20 different prescription medications you could try—at once even—and not worry about tragic consequences.
While no herb will be replacing surgery for broken bones, large tumors, or structural abnormalities; herbal and natural medicine remains potently overshadowing in its ability to treat chronic illness and minor health concerns such as allergies, food issues, and emotional distress. Rather than seeking a quick fix through a Xanax-type drug, one may find solace after eliminating dairy or grains from their diet and supplementing with Ginko Biloba. Everybody is different and, ultimately every approach should be taken with the individual in mind. Dietary supplements place a powerful role in supporting optimal health and well-being.
10 patients may walk into a Naturopathic Doctor’s office with the exact same complaints, yet all 10 may walk out with a different list of treatment plans. Rarely in Western medicine would any two of them receive different treatments, and very rarely would life events surrounding their current state of health be considered. TCM and more natural approaches understand that every person is a complex dynamic of individual balance, conceived of through their individual life experiences. No two lives are the same just as no two patients are the same—natural medicine understands this, but Western medicine doesn’t.