There are many healing systems used throughout the world. Medicine as we typically know it here in the west is called Allopathic Medicine. It has its own assumptions, theories, and modes of practice. But, it isn’t the only system of medicine out there. It’s good to know that medicine is a universal human need and that we have successfully created many different systems and theories to help restore health and wellness.
Medical systems tend to develop within cultural frameworks. Every tribe and culture throughout history had its own wise women, shamans, and the like. Today, three of the most widely practiced medical systems are from three great cultures: Ayurveda from India, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM,) and Allopathic Medicine from the west. Even within our western culture, we have sprouted homeopathic medicine, naturopathic medicine, chiropractic medicine and several others.
All of these types of medicine stand apart from each other in some of their major premises. Ayurveda and TCM both believe that disease is a result of imbalances within the individual. They have very different language and practices, but they share the assumption that health can be restored by bringing the body back into balance energetically. Allopathic medicine uses germ theory, genetic theory, and deficiency theories to halt disease and its symptoms.
Let’s take insomnia for example. One of homeopathy’s primary theories states that ‘like energy cures like symptom.’ So a homeopathic cure for insomnia where your mind, ‘just won’t shut off,’ would be a very dilute dose of something that stimulates your mind, like coffee. This is very different from a chiropractic theory of spinal alignment, which would work to adjust subluxations in your spine in order to calm the nervous system and reduce insomnia. TCM might look to balance your gall bladder or spleen meridians with acupuncture using meridian theory.
While we can’t define all the differences here, we can get a sense that there are very real and substantial differences between medical systems. Those differences can result in very different prescriptions from your doctor for the same health problem. Many times I have seen someone switch systems, from allopathic to alternative or vice versa, to great personal benefit. Their new doctor had different foundational assumptions that created a different framework of medicine, different diagnosis and different prescriptions for cure.
Caution: We often get into the ‘Ford vs. Chevy’ argument in regards to medical systems. While we may be firmly entrenched in our own beliefs, we must recognize that all of these different viewpoints on health and disease are being used in the real world. They have all been around for hundreds if not thousands of years.
Caution: Finding great practitioners who practice all these different medical theories… that’s another issue altogether.