Adaptation by A/Prof Teo Hwee Chin, Medical Director & Senior Consultant Physician
Medicine can be traced back to as early as the origin of mankind, since food and medicine are intertwined. Some foods can be used for medicinal purposes, and some foods with medicinal properties are also used as everyday foods, such as spices used in cooking around the world. This is very much true of herbal medicine around the world. When we are healthy, these medicinal foods can be consumed without restriction such as in daily eating, however when we are sick, the medicinal foods or edible materials are restricted and used as a drug in the traditional sense where the quantity used or consumed is regulated.
When we moved towards industrialization, advances in science and modern Western medicine became the dominant medical practices with penicillin as a key discovery in disease treatment and exploration. Since then, herbal medicine gradually lost its dominant position in disease treatment. With this significant achievement in treating infectious disease, more and more molecules have been synthesized for treating various known diseases. Life expectancy has since increased significantly, and we have been able to fight infectious and chronic diseases with newer, targeted medications.
With this increased life expectancy, we are facing new diseases associated with aging, and scientists have discovered that these single molecule drugs are no longer able to effectively treat more complicated conditions. A new way of dealing with age-related health issues is urgently needed, and so understanding the differences between herbal medicine and Western medicine can help us face this growing challenge. This is also evident in the pursuit of finding a treatment cure for Covid-19 virus where vaccination development strategies co-develop alongside TCM herbal prescription such as QingFeiPaiDuTang (清肺排毒汤) in an effort to combat the pandemic.
We are challenged by the choice of using traditional medicine or modern medicine. Traditional medicine, known as Traditional Chinese medicine, includes surgery, moxibustion, hot cupping, acupuncture, massage, herbal medicine and nutraceutical medicine. Modern medicine, known as Western medicine, includes surgery and most commonly single molecular drugs.
Here, we want to share our opinion with readers on these two approaches to better assist with choosing the proper method to treat a disease, especially chronic illness that we are targeting.
2. The major differences between western medicine and Chinese medicine
First and foremost, Western medicine aims to eliminate an existing problem.
Chinese medicine focuses on the body’s overall response to treatment and recognizes the body as one interconnected biosystem. Treatment changes the overall condition of the body including the immune system, but also takes care of the specific target problem.
|Western Medicine||Chinese Medicine|
|Onset time of drugs||
|The differences in mechanism||
3. Common goals between Western and Chinese medicine
4. Maximum treatment benefits combining western and Chinese medicine
5. Target effects or precision medicine and personal medicine
6. The connection between Western and Chinese medicine
We believe the best treatment approach for treating human disease should follow the principle of Chinese medicine “Jun-Chen-Zhou-Shi” and appropriately combining it with Western medicine (Jun) while carefully and wisely combining all other elements in the formula in order to prevent adverse effects for an optimal recovery outcome.