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East and West: How They Understand Medicine

BY: Camila Loew

At Cokare, we strive to bring together aspects of ancient eastern and contemporary western views on health. This is no easy feat, given that both are quite different systems, each with their own philosophy, logical structure, and vision on health and the human body. These inherently different cultural codes have sent each medical system in very different directions throughout their evolution.

In what follows, we would like to offer an overview of what that means, so that you can understand our perspective and intentions, and get a better grasp on how we want to help you and your health.

Western medicine, also called biomedicine, is concerned foremost with disease as a unit that can be isolated. Western physicians strive to find the agent of disease, hone in on it, and isolate it in order to control it. In this sense, what starts out with a symptom then becomes revealed as a specific disease with a cause, all of them (agent, disease, symptom) relatively self-contained, even though they may be affecting different parts of the body. This becomes easy to understand when we think about how a general practitioner will listen to your symptoms, and most often send you to a specialist, who can give a more precise diagnosis and treatment.

A traditional Chinese practitioner, on the other hand, will always look at the big picture, and take into account not only the patient?s symptoms, but also more general characteristics, including physiological and psychological aspects. Signs a TCM practitioner will look at include constitution, complexion, personality, tongue coating, pulse, etc. WIth this panorama, they will construct a pattern of the imbalance or disharmony in the whole person's condition. This wholistic pattern becomes the framework for treatment, which always involves restoring balance in the person.

Both systems use signs and symptoms to reveal the cause of illness, but a Western doctor seeks to uncover an entity, a pathology (such as an infection, a tumor, an ulcer, etc.) that is separate from the whole person, whereas a TCM practitioner always examines the relationships among the signs and symptoms in the broader context of the person's being. Western medicine is more analytical, tracing a symptom back to a specific cause; Eastern medicine is dialectical, and uses the symptom as a manifestation of an overall pattern.

We are not claiming here that one is better or worse than another; they are different logics, which have developed under different cosmologies. Because at Cokare we see strengths in both systems, we bring together these different thought currents in our offering. We like the understanding of each person as a whole entity, but we also like to offer solutions for specific problems. Some of our products attempt to help you stay balanced and harmonious as a whole being; others are more geared towards relieving specific symptoms. We strongly feel that our contemporary world, in which we are fortunate to know about the history, context, and relevance of both medical traditions, allows us to use them to our benefit.

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