The Benefits of Eastern Medicine
When I was seventeen, I went to see a doctor about a numbness in my wrist. She said it might be some form of arthritis and told me to see a number of specialists who would fit me for wrist and neck braces. That would have run my family hundreds of dollars, which my mother didn't want to pay. I also hated the idea of needing a ton of special braces and seeing so many doctors.
So my mother took me to an acupuncturist/herbologist, who was able to heal my wrist in just a few weekly sessions. It wasn't a quicker fix, and not necessarily cheap, but in the long run it did more for me than a brace ever would have. He also gave me a series of exercises to do to prevent my wrist from cramping or going numb in the future, which I still use to this day. Since then, I've visited him for a variety of health issues and he's been able to help in ways I never would have imagined.
East vs. West
Now, I'm not knocking western medicine, not by a long shot. I have a primary physician I like and trust very much, and sometimes conventional medicine is a good way to go. But eastern medicine has ways of healing and mending the body beyond merely numbing pain or treating symptoms. Sometimes when traditional doctors can't figure out exactly why a patient has chronic stomachaches, why their leg feels stiff all the time, why their skin breaks out, all they can do is give them a prescription to temporarily stop the problems. "You're a medical mystery, treat your symptoms with this," it feels like they're saying, and it can get frustrating. Sometimes a patient can need hundreds of dollars worth of testing just to get anything close to an answer, and in the end feel forced to just live their life with constant stomachaches or a stiff leg. And all those doctor visits can cost hundreds of dollars even with medical insurance.
Eastern medicine is much simpler. Intricate, yes, and not necessarily cheaper. But rather than jumping through hoops to get all kinds of tests you visit one specialist who does a simple check without even having you get undressed. The procedures and examinations are very relaxed and non-intrusive; acupuncture is a bit to get used to and may sting depending on where you need it and you'll need to have several sessions depending on what the problem is but overall it's much less tense than having someone poke and peek around every orifice. When my stomach was acting up in 2010, the only other solution was to see a gastrointestinal specialist and have a colonoscopy. Needless to say, I called my herbologist right away and he was able to find a solution without even needing samples.
Benefits and Advantages
Thomas Edison once said: "The doctor of the future will give no medicine but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, in diet and in the cause and prevention of disease." This is what eastern and other alternative medicines are all about. To maintain the body's condition, to lessen the threat of disease, to keep the flow of energy going in the right directions and stimulate the body's natural defense against illness. Rather than a miracle cure, it's maintenance.
Eastern medicine has a long and involved history, but only in the last few decades has it become more accepted in western cultures. It used to be that acupuncture was treated as a scary thing (because of the needles, no doubt) and that only hippies and crazies went for natural cures instead of going to the doctor "like normal people". Certain TV shows even made fun of it and portrayed it as a bad thing so the characters would go back to "proper" conventional medicine in the end. Today, people are just as likely to consider alternative forms of treatment as they are to go to a traditional doctor. Some even prefer it to seeing a doctor, finding the environment overall much more relaxing.
Treatments range from acupuncture to massages to simple exercises to Chinese herbs and other supplements; the supplements are easy to find in health food stores or pharmacies, and most practitioners carry the herbs themselves or will give you the name of a store that sells them. And while my specialist tells me to take certain things at certain times of the day, in the end it doesn't make too huge of a difference as long as I take them And unlike prescription medications there's no risk of any side effects. This is because eastern medicine requires a more intimate knowledge of the individual body, all my practitioner had to do was check my tongue and my pulse to know what I needed.
Eastern medicine goes above and beyond just fixing what's wrong. It's more than taking an asprin to stop the headache, or putting ice on a sprain. Acupuncture helps redirect the body's flow of energy and stimulate the body's natural healing properties. Herbs and supplements correct enzyme imbalances and deficiencies, sometimes even a simple dietary change or adjustment can make all the difference. (For example, before I spoke to my practitioner about my chronic headaches I hadn't known that raw foods could play a part in sinus allergy symptoms.) And to me, it never felt like being "put on a diet", no restrictions or orders. Just a suggestion to cut back on certain things. It's not about simply treating a disease or an illness, it's about restoring and maintaining balance within the body.
Obviously, it's not a magic cure-all. It can't stop the threat of cancer dead in its tracks, but it can be used alongside conventional treatment methods for cancer patients or help protect against it by keeping the body's balance intact. Sometimes eastern and western medicine work together as a team; while a surgeon can remove an inflamed appendix or set a broken bone or perform a kidney transplant, eastern treatments can help ease the patient's recovery.
Eastern medicine may never replace traditional practices, but over time the former may lessen the constant need for the latter.