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Oriental Medicine – What is it? Oriental Medicine (OM) is one of the world’s most ancient healing systems, used to maintain and restore vibrant health to men, women and children of all ages for over 4,000 years. Today, prominent health organizations such as the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the World Health Organization (WHO) recognize the benefits of Oriental Medicine and endorse its practice as a safe, valid and effective form of medicine for many medical conditions. Oriental Medicine and Taoism Simplified The basic theories of Oriental medicine correlate to the Taoist view of the universe. According to Taoist philosophy, everything in existence is created through the union of two forces called Yin and Yang which function in polar opposition to each other, much as day and night, wet and dry, winter and summer, and cold and hot. When Yin and Yang are in balance within an individual and harmony exists, good health results. Disharmony or an imbalance between Yin and Yang produces disease and ill health. The aim of OM is to restore balance where it is lacking. In western science, the equivalent concept is homeostasis. Acupuncture, Chinese herbal treatments, nutrition and lifestyle recommendations as well as other specialized OM therapies are used to promote the healthy flow of vital energy throughout the body, called “Qi” (pronounced “chee”.) When the flow of Qi is disrupted, blocked, or out of balance, disease, illness or pain results. The restoration of the healthy flow of Qi brings balance that allows the body to naturally heal itself. Here are some of the unique characteristics of Oriental medicine: Gardener vs. Mechanic OM approaches health care in a very different fundamental way from Western medicines. To understand the difference, consider the job of a mechanic versus the work of a gardener. Western medicine views health care as if practitioners are mechanics whose job is to fix broken parts. This approach tends to focus on and try to cure individual symptoms, medical conditions or illnesses as if they are the result of a malfunction in one area or “part” of the body. Stomach conditions are treated by focusing on the stomach, just like a mechanic might replace brakes when a car fails to slow down or stop. While a brake job might be just what your car needs if your brakes don’t work, the body is much more complex than an automobile. The “practitioner as mechanic” model simply is not enough when it’s applied to human beings. Unlike cars, the systems and organs of the body work together rather than in isolation from each other. By contrast with medicine western, OM practitioners’ approach is to tend to the body much as a gardener would tend to a garden. OM addresses the “root” cause of medical conditions rather than just attempting to alleviate a symptom, or the “branch.” If the leaves on a plant are wilting, it isn’t because they are “broken” and need to be fixed. It’s usually a sign that the entire plant is suffering some sort of physical distress. Successful gardeners will look to treat and support the health of the entire plant rather than just focusing on the leaves. Wilting leaves are like medical symptoms. They point to deeper, root causes for health problems or diseases OM seeks to treat or alleviate. Oriental medical practitioners rely on tools such as acupuncture, herbs and other treatments to restore or sustain good health much as gardeners rely on irrigation and other farming methods to grow healthy, strong plants and flowers. Working together over time, OM doctors and patients cultivate the garden of good health each individual represents. Treatment of the Individual Another unique aspect of OM is that it treats each patient as an individual. Rather than treating a “disease” or a “symptom,” OM treats every patient in a personalized, specific and holistic way. OM practitioners address the unique imbalances of all patients and focus on treating the body, mind, and spirit with individualized treatments. OM practitioners evaluate each patient to identify the specific overall, big picture of their health. They can then alleviate the pain of indigestion, but also address the underlying cause that created the issue in the first place. In the case of three different patients with stomach aches, the end result will be the same – no more indigestion. But one patient may be suffering from stress inducing indigestion, another may be over-consuming food so his digestion is over-loaded, and yet another may have an underlying digestive weakness due to over-use of antibiotics. In each case, the root cause of each patient’s digestive upset will be treated according to his/her own personal needs, and they can all experience better digestion even though their treatments were not the same. Restores the Body’s Innate Healing Abilities Oriental Medicine relies on simple, natural treatments to correct patients’ imbalances and restore health. Treatments reflect OM’s natural approach to the body’s organs and systems and how they function and interrelate. In addition, OM tends to focus on the beginning of the chain of events physiology involves, so it stimulates and promotes self-healing. Ultimately, OM produces a much different long-term result than most western medicines. Western medicines often focus on the end result of medical treatments, or the final outcome of the course of healing. In the case of chronic pain, a doctor might prescribe a medication that will interfere with the way nerves transmit pain. The pain is alleviated, but not because the cause of the pain is treated, or the body has healed. Rather, it’s the sensation of pain – the end result of the problem – that’s actually the focus of treatment. While you might be relieved that your chronic pain is alleviated, you’re left in a predicament when you’re dependent on medication for pain relief. As soon as you stop taking your medication, your nerves start functioning normally again. You feel pain just as you did before you visited the doctor. By contrast, OM focuses on the beginning of the chain of reactions involved in your chronic pain, or where it really starts. Acupuncture and herbs treat the underlying or root cause of the pain. By starting at the beginning, OM can stimulate the body’s natural ability to self-heal right from the start. Instead of needing medication to interrupt nerve function to stop pain, your body heals itself, and chronic pain is resolved. Many patients find the unique perspective and individualized approach involved in Oriental Medicine healing a refreshing change. They prefer natural treatment options that allow the body to heal itself. Anyone who is interested in true healing rather simply treating or preventing symptoms will find Oriental Medicine an appealing and effective solution.