One of the more confusing terms in common use is "alternative medicine". It is common to hear of Oriental or Chinese medicine referred to as an "alternative" to Western medical practice. This is a misguided distinction based on economics and politics. For reasons unrelated to clinical effectiveness or scientific validity, some practices have become dominant in our society, and some, ignored.
The concept of "alternative" medicine is also illogical. One might draw the parallel of speaking of light, and "alternative" light rather than understanding that the issue is defining the difference between light and the absence of light.
So, instead of integrative or complementary medicine, the appropriate distinction is one of medicine and non-medicine. Aside from being logically unassailable, such a perspective allows us to focus on the factors that define medical practice, free of the cultural bias that normally corrupts such discussions.
Our own Western heritage, after all, has its roots in Arabic, Greek, and Persian roots in addition to those that came from European influence, and each of these medicines had also sucessfully "integrated" concepts and techniques from other cultures.
Techniques that have stood the tests of time and patient acceptance in other cultures are often rejected because they are unfamiliar and strange to physicians increasingly trained in a narrow industrialized model of medical care.
Aside from a few perfunctory references to Hippocrates and Galen, the origins of Western medicine are rarely taught systematically in medical schools in the U.S., so that most physicians are not aware of these origins at all. There is even less taught about Eastern medical systems and their history.
When I teach my electives on Japanese or Tibetan medicine at Case Western Reserve School of Medicine, I define medicine as the "science, art, and craft of understanding suffering, its causes, and its remedies". Having studied with some of the greatest living physicians of the West and East, I can assure you that no medicine can solve all problems, but also that effective techniques of diagnosis and therapy exist in each.
So, effective techniques which relieve suffering, regardless of their origins, are correctly considered "medicine", and those which do not, are correctly seen as "not-medicine". Whether the source of the physician's edification and the patient's relief is French, Arabic, Persian, Chinese, or Tibetan matters not at all.
The traditional medicines which developed in Africa, Asia, India, and Tibet are self contained systems with their own diagnostic criteria, pathophysiologic classification, and treatment regimens.
Modern Western disease categories and theories are not directly translatable into traditional concepts, so it is more correct to understand that each medical problem needs to be diagnosed in the traditional system and appropriate traditional remedies be applied for the best results.
From the viewpoint of physicians trained in the traditional models, medicine is not a commodity, but is the result of the relationship between a physician and patient. The responsibility of the physician is to serve the patient's best interest and skillfully diagnose and apply treatment.
The responsibility of the patient is to commit themselves to a path of healing, relying wholeheartedly on the physician for guidance.The experience of masters of traditional medicines confirms that the true medicine is the relationship between the physician and the patient. All traditional medical systems acknowledge the time-honored premise that for positive results in medicine, there has to be mutual trust, mutual responsibility, and a common commitment.
As in all relationships, the patient physician relationship evolves over a period of time, and requires effort by both the physician and the patient. Modern pressures to find a new doctor or clinic every few years because of changes in insurance and employment have weakened any chance that a long term therapeutic relationship can be established.
Dr. L.B. Grotte, M.D., was the first physician in Ohio to be board certified in both acupuncture and Chinese herbology. He has studied Oriental medicine since 1972 and has practiced Oriental medicine in Cleveland for more than 27 years. Our small practice specializes in creating individualized treatment plans combining Western and Oriental methods. Call us at 440-461-7488 to make an appointment or visit our website for more information.