To say that Eastern and Western medicines are different is an understatement. They have fundamentally different views of mankind and our relationship to Nature. In the Eastern holistic health traditions, we are considered to be part of and made up of Nature’s elements. In the East, we hope to blend harmoniously with Nature; in the West–to conquer it.
Complementary Alternative Medicine (CAM)
Just because East and West medicines are different does not mean they cannot work together. More often Eastern energetic medicine is used for prevention of illness, stress reduction, chronic diseases affected by digestion and metabolism such as diabetes, to ease chronic pain and to enhance recovery from illness and surgery. It supports our innate life force. Western allopathic medicine is most often used for acute illness, trauma, surgery and research. But both approaches have a common goal, to enhance health and wellness.
Which came first?
Science including medicine has a long history in Middle and Near East and goes back to the ancient Mesopotamian period (Beginning with Sumer 3000BC). Cuneiform tablets from ancient Uruk (2500 BC) mention medical practices that have survived from Nineveh (668BC) Assyria. Although the oldest surviving treatises date to around 1600 BC, the information is an amalgamation of several centuries of Mesopotamian medical knowledge.
The diagnostic treatise is organized in head to toe order with separate subsections covering convulsive disorders, gynecology and pediatrics. To the non-specialist they sound like magic and sorcery. However, the descriptions of diseases demonstrate accurate observation skills. Virtually all expected diseases exist, they are described and cover neurology, fevers, worms and flukes, venereal disease and skin lesions. The medical texts are essentially rational, and some of the treatments, are essentially the same as modern treatments for the same condition.
Gods, Ghosts and Demons
Mesopotamian diseases were often blamed on pre-existing spirits: gods, ghosts, etc., and each spirit was held responsible for only one disease in any one part of the body. Ancient mythologies tell stories of diseases that were put in the world by supernatural forces. For example Lamashtu, a terrible she-demon of disease and death.
Malfunction and Aging
It was also recognized that various organs could simply malfunction, causing illness. Medicinal remedies used as cures were specifically used to treat the symptoms of the disease, and are clearly distinguished from mixes or plants used as offerings to spirits. There were two distinct types of professional medical practitioners in ancient Mesopotamia. One type of practitioner was called ashipu, who in older texts is identified as a sorcerer or the witch doctor. The other used surgery and plant medicines.
Mankind as Part of Nature
Chinese and East Indian medical theories define man as an integral part and made up of the same elements as Nature. Chinese traditional medicine recognizes our organs belonging to Fire, Earth, Metal, Water, and Wood. Ayurveda, the classical medicine from India, adds the element of air or space. This leads to health treatments that are influenced by weather, seasons, and natural life rhythms of sleeping and waking. It was believed that certain foods and herbs could help to avoid discomforts often associated with seasonal changes such as dampness in spring, heat in summer and cold in winter.
Seasonal Foods in early Eastern and Western medicines
Seasonal foods were also part of Hippocratic teaching. In “on Regimen” we are advised, in winter (warming and drying) roasted meats, few vegetables and wheaten bread should be stressed; in spring (cleansing) green foods, barley cake and barley water. However ancient Greek medicine’s great contribution to medical arts was the concept of Humours.
Mankind as Liquid Humours
Hippocrates (460 B.C. to 375 B.C) acknowledged by many to be the father of Western medicine, taught the early Greek theory of humours which understood the human body to be composed of fluids (humours) and all aspects of digestion and health were dependent upon them. Disease was regarded as a result of an imbalance of the four humours in the body: yellow bile, black bile, phlegm and blood. Yellow bile corresponded to Fire; black bile to Earth; phlegm to Water and blood to Air. These Humours were the main methods used in Western medicine, including homeopathy, until about 1900. See Food as Medicine
Ayurveda: The Dawn of Understanding
Long before Hippocrates, in 500 BC Maharishi Charaka wrote the famous Charaka Samhita or Physicians’ Handbook that described human anatomy, pathology, diagnostic procedures, and treatment for various diseases. Charaka defined eight major medical disciplines of Ayurveda: Surgery, head, eye, nose, and throat; mental health, pediatrics, toxicology, pharmacology, reproductive medicine. Charaka described the functions of the heart and the circulatory system in great detail. The Charaka Samhita was widely translated in various languages and Charaka was a respected medical authority in both the Arab and Roman empires. The first plastic surgeon was Sushruta as early as 600 BC who used cheek skin to perform plastic surgery to restore and reshape human nose, ears, and lips with incredible results.
Anatomy/Physiology and Testing
Eastern and Western concepts of anatomy/physiology are very different. They diagnose illness and view wellness using different methods. In general, Western traditions analyze separate organs, blood, cells, bone and fluid elements as separate entities each with symptoms that require appropriate treatments. Organ functions can be checked with sophisticated blood tests and injury and illness by a variety of Xray and ultrasound testing.
Eastern health traditions view organs, movement of blood and vital energy as fundamental. Energy called qi in China or prana in India control the functioning of organ systems connected with acupuncture meridians or nadis in Ayurveda. Change is the basis of life and movement of energy is the basis of health.
Western medicine is based on the scientific method elaborated by French philosopher Rene Descartes (1596–1650) who was a creative mathematician, a natural scientist and a metaphysician. He described how orderly steps could identify and solve a problem based on observation. Modern science uses controlled testing of a selected group and normalcy is considered with averages. For example, a blood pressure of 120/80 is considered normal because most people with that measurement have avoided heart disease and stroke.
In modern science exact diagnosis and treatment are based upon predictable, verifiable, reproducible treatments and outcomes. Whereas Asian medicine assumes that individuals are unique and appropriate treatments vary according to individual needs at the time.
A traditional Asian doctor may more likely observe a patient in terms of what their ideal health would be. They would take a patient’s pulse, observe their tongue, ask questions, palpate sensitive or painful areas of the body, listen, look, smell or observe the patient’s complexion, urine, or other signs of discomfort or malfunction. Such methods of observation make informal diagnosis by lay healers and cooks, and mothers more practical than rigorous medical testing. We can more easily see if someone looks flushed, seems agitated or is in pain. With training we may learn how to encourage balance and wellness in body and mind.
What is Balance in Eastern Medicine?
When a person is well, healthy, in balance, their organs and body functions work well and have enough vital energy and blood circulation; they are free of pain, inflammation, allergies and injuries; they present a picture of wellness based upon their condition which is not extreme. The pulse is not too high or low, coloring neither ruddy nor pale, their mood neither depressed nor anxious etc. They are within “the middle way.” In Eastern medical traditions there is a great emphasis placed upon prevention of imbalance—how to avoid extremes that may lead to illness.
Germs and Germ Theory
Germ theory came late to Western medicine. Until the 1900s doctors did not wash their hands after dissecting a cadaver and before delivering a baby. That is why large numbers of women died in childbirth. Ignaz Semmelweis, a Hungarian doctor working in Vienna General Hospital, is known as the father of hand hygiene. He insisted that doctors wash their hands in order to protect their patients’ health. Semmelweis discovered that the incidence of puerperal fever (known as “childbed fever”) could be drastically cut by the use of hand disinfection in obstetrical clinics. Puerperal fever was common in mid-19th-century hospitals and often fatal. Semmelweis proposed the practice of washing hands with chlorinated lime solution in 1847 when hospitals with doctors’ clinics had three times the mortality of midwives’ wards. He published his findings. As a result of his work, he was ostracized by the medical establishment, considered crazy and died in prison!
Germ theory existed in Chinese medicine, although it was called something else and described according to its effects in the body. There are many antibiotic herbs in the Chinese pharmacopeia. According to ancient texts such as the Shunghan Lun a treatise on epidemic disease and The Yellow Emperor’s Canon of internal medicine illness was carried by winds, which might well describe how mosquitoes carry disease or seasonal allergies are experienced. It also describes our current experience with COVID19 and such epidemic diseases. Infected droplets are carried by the wind when we speak, cough, breathe.
The Shanghan Lun has 398 sections with 113 herbal prescriptions, organized into the Six Divisions corresponding to the six stages of disease: In other words, illness penetrates the body from the superficial skin and meridians and penetrates deeper if the patient’s resistance is low. Here are the stages (and the pathway) of penetration according to the acupuncture meridians involved progressing from the surface to deep organs.—from yang to yin.
- Tai Yang (greater yang): a milder stage with external symptoms of chills, fevers, stiffness, and headache. Therapy: sweating.
- Yang ming (yang brightness): a more severe internal excess yang condition with fever without chills, distended abdomen, and constipation. Therapy: cooling and eliminating.
- Shao yang (lesser yang): half exterior, half interior half excess and half deficiency with chest discomfort, alternating chills, and fever. Therapy: harmonizing.
- Tai yin (greater yin): chills, distended abdomen with occasional pain. Therapy: warming with supplementing.
- Shao yin (lesser yin): weak pulse, anxiety, drowsiness, diarrhea, chills, cold extremities. Therapy: warming with supplementing.
- Jue yin (reverting yin/absolute yin): thirst, difficult urination, physical collapse. Therapy: warming with supplementing.
The ancient medicines track the path of illness and offer herbs to reverse the penetration and damage done by germs, or other extremes from weather conditions to lifestyle abuse. In that way antibiotic herbs can apply to specific areas of the body and can be combined in such a way to avoid side-effects.
This is very practical knowledge that we can apply today. For the first stage of a cold or hypothermia, (chills, stiffness, muscle aches) when the problem invades the surface of the body from the outside, we drink teas to encourage sweating, we reverse the direction of the illness. If the problem includes germs, (fever, etc) we include antibiotic herbs as well.
The Great Appeal of Eastern Health Practices
Why do our kids study martial arts and we decompress with yoga, acupuncture, a shiatsu massage or a fragrant herbal bath? Do you love Chinese teas or Indian spice tea? Do you have a favorite Asian or Middle Eastern restaurant? Why are Eastern beauty treatments and ingredients such as green tea, reishi mushroom or ginseng used at beauty spas? It is more than a desire for the exotic. Such healthy pleasures work to ease discomforts and improve mood.
The Eastern Mindset
There is no denying that part of the appeal of Eastern natural health practice is that it comes with a traditional lifestyle that includes, a tantalizing, health-minded diet, traditional herbal medicines and teas, many styles of exercise, meditation, a life dedicated to service for others, and a philosophy that touches upon spiritual practices and beliefs. The list goes on. Many people are attracted to the colorful customs, celebrations, and decorative aspects of Asian culture. Lunar New Year is a good example. During early spring, happy people from around the world enjoy special celebration foods, loud fireworks, and a bouncing dragon that enters the streets of Chinese and SE Asian neighborhoods bringing good luck and fortune.
Eastern Health Philosophy is:
- Approachable, personal.
Often based on folk cures, Asian medicine offers easy access to treatments and methods, including healing foods, incense, massage, and ritual .
Who is Asian?
Asian: A person having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian subcontinent including, for example, Cambodia, China, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippine Islands, Thailand, and Vietnam.
Asians brought their foods, medicines and customs
There are thriving Asian neighborhoods in cities around the world. A Chinatown in Bangkok will, in some ways, resemble one in New York, Boston or San Francisco. Restaurants and herb shops galore: Their medicine is an integral part of their culture and ethnic heritage. Who were the first Chinese in America? A handful of Chinese came, mainly as merchants, former sailors, to America around 1815. Subsequent immigrants that came from the 1820s up to the late 1840s were mainly men. Chinese immigrants flocked to the United States in the 1850s, eager to escape the economic chaos in China and to try their luck at the California gold rush. When the Gold Rush ended, Chinese Americans were considered cheap labor. The First Transcontinental Railroad, a 1,912-mile (3,077 km) continuous railroad line constructed between 1863 and 1869, connected the existing eastern U.S. with the Pacific coast at Oakland. Many Chinese workmen ended up on both American coasts.
It took an act of Congress in 1943 to allow Chinese to immigrate! Up to then America discriminated against the Chinese, our ally in world war II. The Magnuson Act repealed 61 years of official racial discrimination. Large-scale SE Asian immigration did not occur until the 1960s (and the Vietnam war) when the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 lifted national origin quotas.
East Indians in North America:
Between 1904 and 1908, over 5,000 Indian men arrived in British Columbia with approximately 3,000 of them continuing to the United States. This early immigration to Canada was met with much hostility and East Indian immigration to Canada decreased dramatically until the 1940s.
By now, many people who grew up watching Howdy Doody and eating Craft cheese have adopted tofu and soy sauce, green tea and curries. Some of them, as well as their kids and grandkids, have become holistic health experts.
About 40 years ago, a “kiwi” from New Zealand, Roger Green, began a holistic health school based on traditional Chinese energetics, macrobiotic diet, tonic herbal medicines and “Barefoot Doctor” home treatments to serve an international population. He had opened macrobiotic restaurants, even served health foods out of a truck in London and Sydney.
Mr. Roger Green is a pioneer in modern day natural healthcare incorporating both eastern and western themes, having presented in over 70 countries. He is the Founder and Director of the Academy Healing Nutrition based in NYC where he has assisted thousands in their recovery from disease through natural healing methods. Here is information on the New York Faculty.
Wellness cooking course: Simple, Delicious and Powerfully effective
Roger’s step-by-step Longevity Diet Program offers guidance and support allowing students to make the nutritional and lifestyle changes that will transform total health and well-being. Throughout the program, they stress the importance of taking responsibility for personal health and becoming our own natural doctor. The Academy is dedicated to a healthcare system that is holistic, compassionate and clever! The school believes, “IT IS POSSIBLE to rejuvenate, heal and create a healthy society by addressing our personal health.” By embracing the profound wisdom of the Longevity Diet as taught at the Academy, we become empowered to nourish and heal our self, family and community.
An International Menu
Patricia Lopez, originally from sunny Ecuador, came to the Academy in New York as a student in 2015. At the time she was suffering from very severe & chronic migraines and receiving medical treatments from a neurologist, including very strong prescription medication. She became interested in a holistic approach to health following an Ayurvedic retreat at an ashram. She was ready to take the next step and “everything about Academy’s approach spoke to [her.]” By the time she graduated from the Academy in 2016, she was no longer taking medication and the migraines were gone. She knew that she wanted to share this knowledge and the Academy’s “food as medicine” approach with others.
Patricia’s background running an advertising agency in New York and London helped her to open The Academy of Healing Nutrition, London in 2017. She incorporated the company and started to build the offering in time for the first intake of students which started in March 2018. In her words, “It has been a beautiful journey and I feel very fortunate to be able to do this work and help so many others access this healing knowledge through our incredible faculty and work with such a special team.” Here is the Academy of Healing Nutrition New York, London and online faculty.
We are natural health professionals dedicated to improving the health and wellness of the planet and especially to enable our students to reach their health goals.