This book explains the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and interprets them from a biomedical perspective.
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TCM concepts have puzzled scientists because they involve abstract entities like qi, jing and ‘meridians’ that are ambiguous and ill-defined. The functions of the vital organs in Traditional Chinese Medicine theory are at odds with those of modern physiology. For example, the ‘spleen’ in Traditional Chinese Medicine governs digestion, and the ‘kidney’ controls growth, sex and the warming of the body.
Equally hard for the modern scientist to accept are methods of therapy based on the yin-yang principle, the model of the five ele- ments, and the classification of illnesses not by etiology but accord- ing to constellations of symptoms (Traditional Chinese Medicine ‘syndromes’). The validity of these methods and their usefulness for therapy have yet to be satisfactorily proven by the methods of modern evidence-based medicine.
Traditional Chinese Medicine has an important contribution to make to health care, both as complementary medicine and also as an alternative system of therapy for many illnesses. As such it is important to explain the concepts and principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine for better understanding and acceptance by scientists and the informed public. This is achieved by: (a) Treating Traditional Chinese Medicine entities like qi and meridians as abstractions and constructs that relate to observable physiological func-
tions, much as the notion of ‘utility’ in economic science is used to build models for explaining and predicting consumer behavior; and
Interpreting Traditional Chinese Medicine theory not as natural biological laws but as comprising heuristic models that were developed from clinical experience. This is tantamount to a reconstruction of TCM theory, but not one that would violate the main tenets of ancient Chinese medical theory. Instead, concepts and principles inTraditional Chinese Medicine are interpreted in a manner that avoids the alleged incompatibility between Chinese and Western systems of medicine. More importantly, the argument is made that Traditional Chinese Medicine models for diagnosis and therapy are testable using the methods of evidence-based medicine.
However there are methodological difficulties associated with randomised controlled trials, partly because Traditional Chinese Medicine treatments tend to be individualised and syndromes are dynamic in nature. Observa- tional studies using past clinical data may be more appropriate in many situations. It is also possible that, for patients who are more culturally attuned to Traditional Chinese Medicine , the placebo effect is strongly at play and may render the real effects of Traditional Chinese Medicine treatments harder to tease out in clinical trials. While these present real practical difficulties to the researcher, they are not insurmountable.
A distinction is made between testing Traditional Chinese Medicine theory and its meth- ods of therapy on the one hand and clinical trials conducted onChinese herbs for drug discovery purposes on the other. The former revolves around the differentiation of Traditional Chinese Medicine syndromes and their treatment by Traditional Chinese Medicine interventions such as herbal formulations and acupuncture. The latter should be regarded as pharmacological explorations of herbal sources for making new drugs.
After the main postulates of Traditional Chinese Medicine are put to rigorous test, the result may be a leaner but more robust theory, with those parts that do not stand up to the test being rejected or modified, and the acceptance of its more modest therapeutic claims for a range ofpathological conditions, likely to include pain, most chronic ill- nesses, and some idiopathic conditions. A reconstructed Traditional Chinese Medicine theory with more realistic claims backed by clinical trials may well provide a pragmatic and acceptable basis for the selective adoption of Traditional Chinese Medicine interventions by modern physicians. It is hoped that this book will make a contribution to a better understanding of Chinese medicine by the scientifically trained public and professionals in biomedicine who, befuddled by the ambiguities of Traditional Chinese Medicine concepts and perplexed by the abstruse lan- guage of Chinese therapies, have either ignored or dismissed Traditional Chinese Medicine and in so doing are the poorer for it.
Free Books PDF: Principles of Chinese Medicine: A Modern Interpretation – 2015