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Philosophical Differences Between Western and Chinese Medicine:

Part 1: Western Medicine
Part 2: Traditional Chinese Medicine
Part 3: Modern Chinese Medicine

Liver Disorders
Hepatitis C
Liver Fibrosis
Alcoholic Hepatitis
Non-Alcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH) or Fatty Liver  
Auto-Immune Hepatitis
Cholestatic Hepatitis

Chronic Lyme Disease

IBS/Crohn's Disease


Modern Chinese Medicine and Supportive Therapies for Cancer Patients
Artemisinin and its Derivatives



Philosophical Differences Between Western and Chinese Medicine 
(Part 1-- Western Medicine)

Western medicine is based on modern biomedical science and is an evidence-based medicine. Its methodology is fundamentally analytical and reductive. This method is very powerful in understanding the structure and function of the human body and disease-causing agents such as bacteria, fungi, protozoa, virus, etc. Anatomy, histology, cytology, ultra-structure, molecular biology, and sub-molecular biology have given us a clear and detailed view of the physical and chemical structure of the body. The recently disclosed gene-map has even revealed our fundamental genetic make-up. These advances in health care have improved the quality of human life tremendously and because of this success, modern western medicine has become the predominant medical system in the world. However, no system is flawless and able to solve every problem. In the case of chronic diseases, the methodology of Western medicine is not always accommodating for three main reasons.

First, because no two individuals are the same, ideal medication has to be individualized. Unified therapeutic strategy (one disease one treatment, such as IFN-based treatment for Hepatitis C) used in western medicine cannot meet this requirement. Because of the great variability that exists among individual patients, properly prescribed treatment is still a mixed bag of science and art. Recently developed pharmacogenetics is trying to deal with this problem, but this branch of modern western medicine is still in its infancy and the present "one size fits all" method will only yield partial efficacy.

Second, although the analytical approach is powerful, being linear is also the weakness of modern western medicine. Because the human body is an open, large, and complex system, it is impossible to understand it by analyzing its subsystems alone. The sum of the parts will not add up to the whole because of the complex interdependencies that exist. The linear analytical approach of modern western medicine is accustomed to using the reduction method to simplify complicated clinical situations. One of the examples is the treatment of chronic hepatitis C. For this complicated liver disease, western medicine's linear equation is HCV +(infects) Body = Hepatitis C; Body - (eradication) HCV = Cure. Conventional western hepatitis C treatment strategy based on this type of linear method is solely focused the eradication of the virus and fails to address the numerous other changes that a patient experiences once he or she is infected. In the chronic stage, there may be many pathological damages present  and if a patient cannot tolerate or respond to the conventional anti-viral treatments, he or she is left with few options but to wait for newer anti-viral treatments.

Third, in this simplified model, human body's role in the disease pathogenesis has disappeared. In reality, viral infections consist of two sides, the invading virus and the body's reactions to this invasion. In the conventional western medical model, the human body's reactions and pathological changes are rarely taken into account. So, the treatment strategy for chronic diseases such as Hepatitis C rarely includes measures to help the restoration of the liver and other body functions. After 20 to 30 years of a HCV infection, the pathogenetic factors can have much more profound effects on the liver disease progression than the etiological factor (the virus). Unfortunately, conventional western medical treatment is still focused solely on the etiologic factor and does not address the other complications of chronic liver disease. So far, the clinical outcome of treating chronic viral hepatitis using a pure analytical methodology has not been satisfactory. During the recent hepatitis C consensus development conference held in Washington in June, 2002, experts expressed their belief that only about 30% of hepatitis C patients are eligible for the interferon-based anti-viral treatments due to the potential side-effects. Of these eligible patients, the estimated response rate is only around 50%, leaving the majority of patients without alternatives in the conventional treatment arena.

These three major deficiencies in western medicine are the main reasons Hepatitis C patients are turning to alternatives such as Chinese medicine. (Part 2 will explore Chinese medicine and its methodology.)



Copyright  2005 Sinomed Research Institute

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