Eastern medicine refers to the more ancient and close to earth forms of medicine that are still practiced. Eastern medicine is a form of medicine that is dichotomized from Western medicine, and represents the more organic but also the less scientific of the two branches of medicine. Western medicine is more recent and focuses on the science of a particular condition, as well as treating it through pharmacological methods.
Eastern medicine originates from ancient societies, such as India, China, Japan, Greece and other Asian and European cultures. The methodologies of these medical practices included the use of herbal and plant remedies to treat disease and dysfunction, and the application of preventative medicine by examining the patient’s inner and outer life to treat their entire person instead of merely their illness. This metaphysical examination of a person, in addition to a physical examination, is what Western medicine called “unscientific.”
The idea that Eastern medicine is less scientific than Western medicine is becoming a dated notion. Throughout the 19th century and for a majority of the 20th century, Eastern medicine was largely regarded as quackery in Western culture. As the marriage of science and medicine commenced in the Western world, Eastern practices became somewhat obsolete. However, in the latter part of the 20th century, value began to be restored to Eastern philosophies of medicine. Physicians and the populous alike began to observe the value of a medical practice that examined the person’s entire life rather than only their illness. This, along with the value on sensible preventative medicine, is returning Eastern medicine to a place of respect in Western culture.
For decades, even centuries, a bias has existed against Eastern medicine and favored Western medicine, but that is changing with the emergence of homeopathic and naturopathic practices across North America. Participating in medical treatments that are natural and organic have never been so popular in North America.
The term “Western medicine” does not refer to a specific area of medicine but rather a broad spectrum of medicine that is commonly polarized from Eastern medicine. Of all the divisions in the medical world, this one is the most well known. In theory, Eastern and Western medicine are umbrella terms that all other forms of medicine fall under. They do not refer to the regions they came from as much as they refer to the philosophies that inspired them. Western medicine is more recent and focuses on the pharmacological treatment of illness while Eastern medicine is older, more natural and treats the whole person rather than merely their symptoms.
Western medicine rose to practice in the 18th century when the burgeoning scientific method was applied to the medical industry. Previous to this era, the philosophies of Eastern medicine has championed the medical industry. Eastern medicine uses natural, organic remedies such as herbal treatments and plant medicinals, but it also is associated with treating the ethereal qualities a person possesses. Western medicine did away with notions of treating the whole person, physical and metaphysical, and focused strictly on treating specific symptoms with chemical remedies. This approach to medicine was championed in the 18th century and has carried into the present time as the most credible way of treating disease. Only in the last several decades has Eastern medicine been contesting Western medicine’s position as the dominant view of medicine.
Western medicine promotes the use of pharmacological agents and remedies as ways of treating specific symptoms. Western medicine does less looking at the person’s way of life and state of mind and more at focusing intently on a specific symptom and remedying it singularly with synthetic chemical medicines. Western medicine is controversial in how it operates as many are beginning to ask how effective a medical practice is that does not explore preventative, natural medicine.
The Difference Between Western and Eastern Medicine
There are many terms and phrases in the English language used to identify the difference between Eastern medicine and Western medicine. There is no one way to characterize the difference between the two types of medical practice. They entail different philosophies, ethics, practices and bodies of knowledge. This article explores some of the different terminologies that are applied to both Western medicine and Eastern medicine, and what those terminologies mean.
- Allopathic vs holistic. A number of homeopathic medical professionals use the term “allopathic” to refer to any type of pharmacological medical agent or practice, meaning Westernized medicine. When the term was coined, it had positive connotations and was used to refer to the more well-respected practice of medicine. “Holistic” is a term that is often employed to describe the practice of medicine using all natural agents. In medicines, the terms refers to organic remedies. In practice, the term refers to treating the whole person in order to eradicate a singular health ailment.
- Evidence-based vs natural medicine. The term “evidence-based medicine” is becoming colloquial as Eastern medicine is gaining a lot of mainstream credibility. Still, this term is sometimes used to describe Western medicine in a way that deems it the more credible science among medical practices. In contrast, the term “natural medicine” in reference to Eastern medicine paints this type of medical practice in a more universal yet a more unscientific light.
- Traditional vs alternative medicine. Ironically, the term “traditional medicine” is applied to Westernized medicine, despite Western medicine being the more recent medical practice between the two ideologies. Again, this term awards Western medicine more credibility by titling it as traditional, meaning it has the sturdier foundation of the two. “Alternative medicine” is used to describe Eastern medicine as being a type of fringe science. Clearly, a bias still exists against homeopathic medicine, but time is altering this perception in the minds of the mainstream populous.
Western vs. Eastern Medicine
Western and Eastern medicine are on the opposite ends of the spectrum from one another. The origins of Western medicine as it is discussed today date back to the colonizing of the western world, while Eastern medicine has ancient origins. Western medicine was influenced by native medicine to some degree, but its philosophy took shape around wanting to be a new kind of medicine, one that deemed itself more scientific than traditional medicines. They are not actually opposites but rather two unique approaches to the practice and prescription of medicine.
Several ways that Western medicine have been described historically are allopathic, evidence-based and traditional. The term allopathic is a way of describing Western medicine as mainstream and a recent trend. “Evidence-based” is a term that has become irrelevant in recent years as naturopathy and holistic medicine have gained an enormous amount of credibility, but the term still reflects a cultural attitude toward the practice of medicine. And lastly, traditional may seem like a misused term when referring to Western medicine, but Eastern medicine was actually thought of as a radical, fringe form of medicine for many years in the Western world, assigning itself the label of traditional.
In Western culture, Eastern medicine has labels such as alternative, holistic and natural medicine. This is somewhat ironic, considering that much of Eastern medicine has stood a longer test of time than Western medicine. The term “alternative” is used in juxtaposition to the term “traditional” to mean that Eastern medicine has long been regarded as an underground way of using medicine in Western culture. Holistic and natural are the more fitting ways of describing Eastern medicine as they utilize many more organic substances and practices than Western medicine does.
Similar values apply to the mental health practices of the east and west. Western health philosophy states that physical health and mental health are not related, where as Eastern health philosophy states that they are inseparable. It is a value of Western health to not intermingle mental and physical health since mental health cannot be quantified, and it is a value of Eastern health to treat the whole person, both their physical and their mental being.
The way we think of Western medicine as opposed to Eastern medicine is changing dramatically right now. The more we learn about the value of plants, organics and intuitive knowledge of the human body, the more we realize that natural medicine deserves as much attention as allopathic medicine does.