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TCM - Generally

Traditional Chinese Medicine
Read here to learn more about traditional Chinese medicine

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) has a history of several thousand years, with a written tradition for the past 2000 years. The essence of this system of treatment, which was developed empirically, was and is a systematic registration of the totality of bodily functions including both symptoms and their bodily manifestations. Physical examinations are performed as well. From all of this the TCM doctor gathers clues about the cause of the illness symptoms and can develop an individualized therapy on this basis. TCM works on the basis of one therapy per person: the treatment of given illnesses and discomforts is not the same for all patients. Rather than pills and injections, the focus is on individually prescribed teas and tuiná, acupuncture and breathing techniques as well as sensible nourishment.

Hamburg has assumed a pioneer role in this field and has now opened a TCM Center at the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE) – a unique chance to integrate individualized TCM into western treatment concepts and to research it.

Even in the west, traditional Chinese medicine is on the advance. According to one survey (Allensbach 2005) 61 per cent of Germans would prefer to be treated by a combination of western medicine and TCM in the case of sickness. Only 18 per cent preferred treatment limited to orthodox western medicine alone. Patients with TCM experience voted for the combination to an even greater extent – 89 per cent. TCM is also highly regarded in the USA: according to the 2002 US National Health Survey, 36 per cent of Americans use complementary and alternative medicine. It is estimated that over one billion people worldwide are treated by way of TCM.

Holistic approach of eastern medicine
Western medicine is largely successful, in particular when illnesses with a clear diagnosis are to be treated. This has to do with the use of modern chemical, physical and biological techniques from the natural sciences. These are primarily oriented toward monocausal and clearly provable relationships. Treatment according to with western medicine is in general focused on one or very few laboratory measurements (parameters) or X-ray findings. On the other hand, there are many illnesses that cannot be unambiguously diagnosed or that have a rather complicated background, i.e. are caused by several factors. This group is estimated to make up between 25 and 50 per cent, which results in a substantial financial cost to society.

Eastern medicine does not limit itself to just a few parameters but rather views the complaints and findings in connection with the total regulation of the body (“holistic approach”). Natural sciences only began working on theories of complexity in about 1970 (Prigogine Nobel Prize 1977). This was, for instance, incorporated into the discussion on ecology. Problems come about as a result of a complex interaction of many factors. The consideration of the complexes in medicine suits the TCM approach because it offers treatments for multi-faceted health problems. Research is now being conducted into aspects of complexity (e.g. Utrecht, Yale, Mainz).

TCM helps both the 10 per cent of people in Germany who are chronically ill and also those with so-called “functional” disturbances who cannot be healed despite an expensive (greatest doctor density in Germany) and highly technicalized medical system.

HanseMerkur Universitätsklinikum Hamburg-Eppendorf Freie und Hansestadt Hamburg

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