For example, Chinese Medicine uses Acupuncture needles and a kind of massage done over the clothing, Tui Na. Ayurveda, on the other hand does not have needles, does have surgery, and strongly emphasizes a kind of warm oil massage done directly on the skin.
Like all systems of Medicine, including BioMedicine, Ayurveda and Chinese Medicine reflect the cultures they grew in. So some of the superficial differences between Ayurveda and Chinese Medicine reflect the differences between ancient Chinese culture and ancient Indian.
Treating Causes: How Ayurveda and Chinese Medicine Differ from BioMedicine
However, Ayurveda and Chinese Medicine are also very similar, in that, in differentiation from BioMedicine in the main, they are both based on treating the causes of diseases as well as symptoms. We always want to know the pattern of disharmony creating the disease.
In Chinese Medical language we might express this in terms of the internal organs, e.g. “Liver Disharmony and Kidney Qi weakness” or in terms of Qi, Blood, and Fluid stagnation. Ayurveda, on the other hand will express it in terms of Dosha elevation–Pittam Jasti (Pitta is high) and in terms of Rajas and Tamas, or in terms of the Dhatas, specific tissues in the body.
The strength of Biomedicine on the other hand, thanks to the microscope, is that it can hone in on fine levels of tissues, and for example differentiate, histologically, that Eczema is an allergic type disorder, while Psoriasis is an arthritic disorder.
The ability to see things at the micro level in BioMedicine that then leads to the development of very specific drugs and surgeries that effect very specific tissues. This is great if you have leukemia or a brain tumor. Bio med can save your life.
Where BioMedicine fails, is the flip side of that coin. Diseases begin to exist in the abstract. A patient is a brain tumor and not a human being with a brain tumor.
Worse, is the degree to which diseases that could be treated with diet, lifestyle, and physical medicine from acupuncture to Egoscue method, ART, Feldenkrais, Osteopathy, and Physical Therapy are instead treated with drugs and surgery, without regard to the side effects.
The simplest example is high blood sugar. You have high blood sugar? Boom! Glucophage. If it continues, you get insulin. High cholesterol and triglycerides? Boom! Statin drugs.
These are often lifestyle/diet disorders that can be cured naturally, but it takes a medical system set up for the M.D. to be able to offer referrals to people who can help with diet–education–and for the M.D.s to demand it. Too often none of that happens, especially with the poor.
Disease Occurs in Specific Humans Under Specific Conditions
And Bio med treats each disorder with very different drugs while never asking the what should be very obvious question, why this 17 year old boy has suddenly developed psoriasis, or why this 16 year old girl has suddenly developed eczema.
Ayurveda and Chinese Medicine, when practiced by the classical method, will always ask that question, what was going on in that particular person’s life at the specific time, and what pattern of disharmony was created inside the body that then developed into a skin disorders.
We are looking for stability or instability in the nervous system and life of the human being. The disease is a fruit on a tree. The tree and soil it grows in are the human. We look at the interior landscape.
I could give you scores of case histories of patients I have seen over the past 30 years who were failed, utterly, to be frank, by western medicine, b/c the MDs failed to ask the simplest questions, such as, “how are things going in your life”..or, “how is your sleep…” “how are things at home.”
The answer to those questions, along with tongue and pulse diagnosis and asking questions about the menstrual cycle, sleep, and gut, guide you to understanding the pattern that has caused the disease.
The language used by Ayurveda, especially with regards to the Three Doshas, is very different from the language used by Chinese Medicine (Yin Yang, Zang Fu, etc).
BUT, the underlying mentality of the two language systems is the same. Our shared frame of reference is Nature. Pathologies of pathological movement/lack of movement, cold/heat, wet/dry..
You can’t cure with a pill what you have created with a your nervous system and the lifestyle that engender it.
Getting back to Psoriasis and Eczema, and now lets add Acne and Hives..though each of these conditions is quite different in biological and histological terms, at the micro level, in Ayurveda and Chinese medicine what they all have in common is pathological heat, in Chinese terms, and Pitta elevation in Ayurvedic terms.
There are a lot of ways we differentiate them and have different herbs and treatments, but all the herbs and treatments will include “Clearing Pathological Heat from the Blood” as a methodology.
And, getting back to culture, its worth noting that much was shared between ancient India and China, like Buddhism and Tea, and that those two cultures resemble each other more than they resemble the west.
Another similarity between Ayurveda and Chinese Medicine is that they are both based on a world view that sees humans as micro systems of nature. So that disease arises when there are excesses of heat, cold, dampness, dryness, for example, that arise as a result of errors in Lifestyle, Mentality, and Diet.
They both understand that we come into this world with a particular body mind type that is a function of what we inherit from parent. This is now called DNA and also “Nature” (vs. nurture).
They also both conceptualize lifestyle and diet, and lifestyle includes all what you do with Mind…how you learn to manage your thoughts, emotions, and nervous system activity, as foundations of how you Nurture your Nature, over time.
The second prayer that Orthodox Jews begin the day with begins “the beginning of wisdom is to respect God….” One could also say that both these systems of medicine begin with, “the beginning of wisdom is to have a lifestyle that is in tune with nature and the seasons.” (There is no God in Chinese culture, in Taoism..there is just being in turn with “the Way” which has a lot to do with understanding the characteristics inherent to Nature).
Medically, in both systems, the beginning of health is Good Sleep, Digestion, Elimination, Diet, Lifestyle, Positive Mental Attitude.