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The essence, philosophy and research methodology of Traditional Chinese Medicine

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“Human beings are an integral part of nature” is the central philosophy of Traditional Chinese medicine, which proposes that health and wellbeing is determined by the interaction between the human body with the environment (ecological and social) and human psychology. This integrative view of health is called the “TCM theory of pan-ecological medicine”. The orthodox western medicine, by contrast, holds a more reductionistic perspective, focusing more on the biochemistry and the physiology of the human body but less on how it interacts with the environment; but systemic views of biology and health is becoming increasingly popular both the academia and in general public: increasing emphasis is put on how individual elements interact with each other to give rise the corresponding phenomena.

Owing to the systemic approach of TCM (social, environment and psychological factors all taken into account) , treatments for each individual patient is highly personalised to obtain the optimum result. The systemic approach and the individualisation of treatments means that modified, if not totally different, methodologies of research must be employed to investigate the treatments and methods in TCM compared to the ones commonly used for the orthodox western medicine. This also means that clinical case reports should also be treated as an important source of information and insights for TCM research rather than being discarded as “unrepresentative anecdotes”.

Based on years of clinical observations, it is evident that TCM is effective in disease prevention and treatment. It is the responsibility of the scientific community to uncover the underlying mechanisms of the TCM treatments and methods. “Mechanism is not clear” should not be taken as the evidence to “disprove” the effectiveness of TCM , it should be taken as the motivation for further exploration into the field.

This talk is part of the Talks from the CU Society of Traditional Chinese Medicine series.

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