The Comparison of Eastern Medicine and Western Medicine Foundations

Discover Key Differences And Similarities Between These Two Distinct Practices

Humans have been treating illnesses and taking care of their health and well-being in various ways for thousands of years. As our knowledge of medicine evolved over time, two unique, but distinctive systems emerged in different parts of the world: Chinese medicine in Far East and conventional medicine in the west. Western medicine approach is based on scientifically proven methods and prescribing drugs for symptoms of a disease, and holistic Eastern medicine treats a person as a whole – body, mind, and spirit. While Western medicine treats the physical body, Eastern medicine focuses on subtle energy and self-healing. Both of these healthcare systems have their pros and cons. This article will analyze the origins, main differences, types of treatments, and whether they can be combined for an improved overall patient care.

Chinese Medicine VS Western Medicine: The Origins

Let’s have a look at the origins of Chinese medicine and Western medicine.

Holistic Eastern medicine evolved thousands of years ago throughout Asia, when people started experimenting with herbs and plant blends to see how they affect human wellness. Dozens of herbs have been used for healing or to improve energy flow, beauty, and the mind. Earliest-found writings show that disease is described as an imbalance of energy or blood flow. Over time, Eastern medicine has progressed into a sophisticated, holistic approach which has been gaining attention in recent years even in the Western world.

Western (or mainstream) medicine originates from ancient Greece and Egypt. Hippocrates of Kos is a Greek physician who is considered to be the father of Western medicine. He was among the first who studied human health through bodily fluids (‘humors’) — blood, yellow bile, black bile, and phlegm. However, conventional medicine, in its current form, appeared only in the 19th century, while synthetic drugs were developed in the mid-20th century. Throughout history, Western practice evolved into medicine that relies on evidence and science to treat diseases.

As you can see, even though both of these systems have the same goal of improving well-being, they have developed from two opposing philosophies.

What Is Eastern Medicine?

Eastern medicine is one of the oldest holistic practices in the world that focuses on restoring balance and stimulating the natural flow of Qi (“life force”) through our bodies. Instead of standardized guidelines, Eastern medicine therapists utilize ancient wisdom to create custom-tailored treatment plans specific to your condition. The treatment plan is designed with body, spirit, and emotions in mind, and the main principle is to treat the person as a whole, instead of treating the symptoms only. The sophisticated regimen intended for you can include various procedures, such as exercise, lifestyle changes, meditation, or herbal therapies. All of them are combined together to promote harmony, balance, and natural healing powers.

Common Eastern Medicine Treatments

Some of the typical traditional Chinese practices used to create or restore Qi balance are listed below.


Acupuncture is a type of treatment that includes administering super thin, sterile needles into specific acupoints through the skin. These needles stimulate the nerves and activate self-healing by achieving the balance of Qi and improving body functions. Acupuncture is used to help recover from various conditions, such as back or neck pain, infertility, arthritis, anxiety, insomnia, high or low blood pressure, etc.


Moxibustion, also known as ‘moxa treatment’ or ‘heat therapy”, is a type of Eastern medicine practice that is typically combined with acupuncture. Moxibustion is used to boost the flow of energy by burning Moxa plant dried leaves (made into wood sticks). Moxa is usually burned near or on acupuncture needles.

Chinese Herbs

Herbal remedies therapy is one of the most popular Eastern medicine practices, which uses herbal teas, ointments, liquid tinctures or plant-based pills to treat illnesses and improve overall well-being. Qualified herbal therapists prepare custom-tailored herbal remedies and use healing properties of plants to improve your welfare and cure the disease while promoting uninterrupted Qi flow. Chinese herbal therapy can treat allergies, headaches and migraines, digestion issues, menopause side effects, menstrual cramps and many other conditions.


Cupping involves using small plastic or glass cups to remove Qi blockages and boost natural energy and blood flow throughout the body. There are two ways to administer the cups: either by warming them up and placing on your skin or by using suction force. Cupping pulls on your skin and draws blood to that specific area by creating a suction. It is believed to be a successful therapy for headaches, migraines, knee pain, shoulder pain, asthma, arthritis, and many other health issues.

Tai Chi

Tai chi, or ‘meditation in motion”, is a form of gentle, noncombative martial art that is suitable for people of all ages and fitness abilities. It involves a number of slow movements, controlled, deep breathing, and meditation. Tai chi is typically practiced outside to take maximum advantage of nature’s energy. Tai chi has been proven successful in handling Parkinson’s side effects, cancer-related symptoms, depression, fibromyalgia pain, and so on.

What Is Western Medicine?

Western medicine is the standard, mainstream healthcare you receive when you go to a doctor’s, a clinic, or a hospital in the US. It is the most common type of medicine in different parts of the world, and it goes by the names: allopathic, biomedicine, conventional, orthodox medicine and traditional medicine. Western medicine relies strictly on scientific evidence and separates organ system to determine treatment plans.

Key principles of Western medicine are the following:

  • Physical exam
  • Advanced diagnostics (high-technology and imaging scans)
  • Curing a disease using scientific evidence
  • Alleviating or easing the symptoms for improved quality of life
  • Slowing or stopping disease development
  • Disease prevention

Healthcare workers practicing Western medicine include:

  • Physicians, practitioners, and surgeons
  • Nurses, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants
  • Dentists and pharmacists
  • Physical and occupational therapists
  • Mental health providers and psychiatrists

Conventional Western-Based Medicine Practices

Western medicine has evolved over time, and today it includes the following practices.


Advanced diagnostics, which includes high technology to perform blood and urine tests, imaging scans, X-rays, etc. Thanks to high-tech laboratories and imaging, the root of the disease, injury, or a medical problem can be determined within hours. This is highly beneficial in urgent situations or injured patients in emergency rooms, as their condition requires swift response and immediate care.

Prescription and over-the-counter medications

Modern medications are prescribed by healthcare providers in order to help alleviate the symptoms as fast as possible so that you can improve the quality of your life fast, with minimal disruption. For instance, over-the-counter (OTC) medication like ibuprofen can quickly relieve you from a headache, and flu medicine will clear up the cold symptoms.

Lifestyle Changes

Lifestyle changes are aimed at replacing unhealthy behaviors with healthier and more beneficial ones. These can include dietary changes, fitness level improvement, or learning how to cope with stress. All of these changes will allow people to live a longer and healthier life.


Since conventional medicine is evidence-based, the decisions about patient’s treatment are made based on scientific studies. Science-based treatment plan may also include surgery when other practices are not effective.

Radiation and chemotherapy

Radiation and chemotherapy are the most common practices used to treat cancer in Western medicine. Radiation therapy involves using X-rays, gamma rays, or subatomic particles (ionizing radiation) to destroy cancer cells. Chemotherapy means using chemical compounds to fight the disease. Chemotherapy for cancer acts by preventing cancer cells from multiplying. Chemicals travel via the bloodstream and attack tumor cells wherever they are growing. Surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy are used alone or combined to treat cancer. The exact type of treatment will depend on the kind of cancer, the progression speed, and the condition of the patient.

Is It Possible To Combine Chinese Medicine And Mainstream Medicine?

Chinese and Western medicine have often been considered opposing, as Chinese medicine is preventative, natural, and holistic, while mainstream medicine is diagnostic, scientific, and clinical. And although they have different approaches, they can combine really well to create a well-rounded and improved patient care plan. There are multiple studies that have proven that these two practices used together can be highly beneficial.

By blending these two types of practices together, patient care is enhanced, and the full benefits of both treatments are leveraged.

Examples Of Eastern And Western Medicine Integration

Although these two approaches differ in some key principles, they have similar goals and can complement each other to the advantage of the patient.

For instance, acupuncture has been proven effective in treating lower back pain. In fact, research has shown that integrative therapy of acupuncture with conventional medicine was more effective than a stand-alone mainstream approach.

Similarly, the oldest known form of massage originating from China, tuina (pronounced “tween-uh”),   has been quite effective in treating different conditions. This type of massage promotes balance and stimulates uninterrupted energy flow while helping with irritable bowel syndrome, chronic low back pain, diabetes, and lumbar disc herniation.

Certain traditional Chinese practices have been therapeutic for cancer patients. Furthermore, Chinese herbal remedies have anticancer properties and less side effects than chemotherapy radiation.

Some of the Eastern medicine therapies that can be integrated with conventional medicine include:

  • Acupuncture
  • Herbal therapy
  • Chiropractic adjustment
  • Reiki
  • Massage
  • Biofeedback
  • Meditation
  • Mindfulness
  • Music therapy
  • Vitamins

Chinese VS Western Medicine: Powerful Healing Combination Of Two Opposing Approaches

Chinese medicine is rooted in tradition, knowledge, and experience, while focusing on patient as a whole. Conventional medicine, on the other hand, is based on scientific, hard evidence, and addresses the symptoms of a disease. Even though they might seem completely opposite, in recent years, they are becoming complementary. Many techniques from Chinese therapy are being integrated into Western practice, such as acupuncture in back pain treatment alongside standard medical therapy. Or using Chinese herbal medicine to help improve digestion. Acupuncture, reiki, tai chi, or cupping can be a great supplemental option and provide more comprehensive care and improved well-being. If you do decide to leverage the advantages of ancient Chinese medicine, keep in mind that you should consult with your family doctor before undergoing any treatments.

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