Chinese medicine is based on the belief that the body will fight off and recover from illnesses when the body is in balance in terms of Yin Yang and the Qi. Despite a long history of practices, Chinese doctors in each generation guarded their knowledge as family secrets. Little of the knowledge was shared in public for peer reviews until the government of the Peoples Republic of China established modern research and education systems for the discipline. Many westerners considered Chinese medicine unscientific and some even equated it with Voodoo magic. However, recent academic researches in China may help to add some scientific insights on why some treatments are effective.
Herbs are used heavily in Chinese medicine. Each prescription is a cocktail of many herbs tailered to the individual patient. The herbs are simmered in water over several hours to reduce to a cup of concentrated herbal tea. The doctor usually designs a remedy using one or two main ingradients that target the illness. And then the doctor adds many other ingradients to adjust the formula to the patient's Yin Yang conditions. Sometimes, ingradients are needed to cancel out toxicity or side-effects of the main ingradients. Some herbs require the use of other ingradients as catalyst or else the brew will be ineffective. The latter steps require great experience and knowledge, and make the difference between a good Chinese herbal doctor and an amateur. Unlike western medications, the balance and interaction of all the ingradients are more important than the effect of individual ingradients.
Due to the emphasis on acheiving an equilibium of Yin Yang in the patient's body for it to heal itself, Chinese medicine is believed to be more suitable for treating chronic illnesses than medical emergency.
Many Chinese people trust Chinese medicine more than the western counterpart especially in the following specialty areas:
- Herbal treatment
- Die2Da3 (跌打 lit. fall & strike) - They are specialists in healing bone fractures and cuts, sports injury, bruises etc. Strictly speaking this is not a branch of Chinese medicine but a spin-off from a long history of Chinese martial arts.