Asian medicine is a term that encompasses a whole system of medical practices performed in different countries in Asia, which include acupuncture, martial arts, herbal medicine, Feng Shui, and massage (i.e. shiatsu). Of these therapies, acupuncture and Chinese herbology are the most popular in the United States. Some additional therapies include diet, nutrition and lifestyle counseling, as well as tai chi and qi gong (physical exercise), and Tui'na (manual therapies). Since many of the Asian medicine therapies are rooted in the Chinese philosophy and the principles of Chinese medicine, the monograph focuses mainly on Chinese medicine.
Asian medicine describes a system of healthcare and maintenance comprised of an array of treatment modalities and interventions. At its most basic level, Asian medicine includes the use of acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, manual therapies, dietary guidelines and meditative exercises. These distinct modalities and treatment techniques share a theoretical framework defined by the interdependent relationship of yin and yang and arise from theories put forth in the canon of Chinese medical texts. Each technique is used to achieve a specific aspect of the treatment strategy, which is determined as part of the diagnosis at the onset of the session.
The concept of health in Asian medicine can be defined as the dynamic balance of yin and yang within the individual and between the individual and his or her environment.
The concept of illness in Asian medicine suggests a body's inability to respond and adapt to changes in the environment, diet, aging/development, or an inability to rid the body of an attacking pathogen. In Asian medicine, patterns of disharmony are used to diagnose illness.
General history of Chinese medicine: Chinese medicine has a history of thousands of years. Ancient herbology in China focused on potions whose function was part medicinal and part magical, and it lacked a substantial theoretical base. Sometime between the 2nd Century B.C. and the 2nd Century A.D., the theoretical foundations of traditional Chinese medicine were laid, but the focus was more on acupuncture than on herbs.Only by about the 12th century A.D. were the deeper principles of Chinese medicine fully applied to herbal treatment, forming a method that can be called traditional Chinese herbal medicine.
Chinese medicine continues to evolve over the centuries. Herbal medicine reached a high point during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), which is considered one of the most prosperous time periods for China.
This was further refined and elaborated during various periods of active theorizing in the 14th through the 19th Centuries.
The cultural revolution in China, which began in 1966 and lasted until 1976, also had a major impact on Chinese medicine. During the ten-year revolution, medical schools ceased to exist and did not admit new students. No formal medical training was given to students. When medical schools reopened in 1970, a new philosophy emerged. Students were now trained based on a curriculum that focused primarily onpolitical ideology and practical training over basic science.
Western disease concepts entered the picture in the 20th Century, leading to further changes.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is fully integrated into the Chinese health system as 95% of Chinese hospitals have special units for traditional medicine. Chinese herbal medicine is used alongside western medicine.
Transmission of Chinese medicine to other parts of Asia: In the sixth century, Emperor Liangwu sent medical doctors to Korea, thus officially introducing acupuncture and moxibustion outside of China. China reached out to Japan when the Chinese Government presented the book Canon of Acupuncture to the Mikado of Japan in 552 A.D. Also in the sixth century, Mi Yun from Dun Huang of China's Gansu Province introduced Hua Tuoís therapeutic methods and prescription to the Daochang State of north India.
Asian medicine, Chinese medicine, Eastern medicine, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM).
For more information on specific topics, please see Natural Standard's Herbs & Supplements Database and Complementary Practices Database.