I get this question all the time, but I think there is actually another question that is lurking beneath this one–
The real question being “is this stuff trustworthy?”
Acupuncturists commonly point to 1000's years of collective clinical experience, but this is a poor substitute for how our Western cultivated minds parse life through the filters of modern biology and pharmaceutically targeted molecular chemistry. We understand medicine to be a collection of laboratory facts and figures. But, Chinese medicine is not so concerned with the microscopic symphony, and therein lays one of its hidden powers– its ability to understand how interconnected life processes, unfold, evolve and change.
Western medicine is profoundly powerful at both describing life changes on a micro level and understanding the dynamics of disease processes. But, it is Chinese medicine's perspective on how life unfolds at the human level and its ability to access and treat both healthy and aberrant life processes that is its greatest strength.
Just as a garden is not simply a spreadsheet of nutrients, chemical interactions and temperature charts, but an act of ongoing cultivation and attention. And like a field biologist learns to dance between micro and macro views of the environment to understand how each interplays with the other, so too do Chinese medicine practitioners learn to connect the dots between observable phenomena and the underlying processes that influence our state of health and wellbeing.
Chinese medicine is not Western medicine. This seems obvious enough. But, when we start to think about Chinese medicine it is almost impossible not to bring along our Western map of the medical terrain. We know how to think about Western medicine– we swim in that ocean. The challenge is that using the Western mind to understand the constructs of Chinese medicine is not unlike taking the grammar of one language and forcing it onto another. Not only are nuance and precision lost, but the basic way we parse meaning gets terribly mangled.
How does Chinese medicine work?
It is like asking a gardener to describe what they do using the language only of organic chemistry. When the real question is how do you cultivate a delicious tomato, a strawberry bursting with springtime, or soil that can not help but bring forth vital life.
In truth, the issue is not “how does it work,” but “will it help me to live a better life?”
Want to know how it can help? Check out the Frequently Asked Questions about Chinese medicine for more on how you can benefit from this medicine!