Chinese Medical History and the Beginnings of Scienctific Thought

Chinese Medical History, like the medicines of the ancient Eygptians, Hindus, and Sumerians goes back to at least 1200 BCE when the Chinese were already making Gold Acupuncture needles.

Eratosthenes in Greece, Zhang Zhong Jing in China

Modern westerners can act so surprised there was advanced Chinese Medicine in 200 B.C.E.; but why, when Eratosthenes in Greece was computing the circumference of the earth and devising a method for finding prime numbers in 240 B.C.? See link to article on Eratosthenes at the bottom.

Medical Wisdom: A Universal Historical Development of Different Societies

People did not only become smart and civilized in Europe after the microscope and telescope were invented….The development of medicine is a long process that has occured everywhere humans have grown. And the wisdom of ancient peoples, whether neolithic hunter-gatherers practicing trephination, modern hunter-gatherers and rural dwellers getting medicines from plants, to ancient civilizations like China, India, and Persia with advanced written theoretical systems has always including medicine.

What Is Medicine?

When a dog or cat eats grass in order to vomit; that is medicine. Chips and apes eat certain leaves when ill.  Neolithic stone age humanoids did surgery on the skull, removing part of the bone in a systematic way that people survived, called trephination, and they did this in various parts of the globe–South America, Europe, and Africa….Why they did this, we don’t know. Was it to relieve swelling in the brain from injury, or was it to release evil spirits?

Written Medical Systems–Chinese Medical History

Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda, and Greek Medicine were the first written Science based medical systems that understood disease has natural causes, including infectious onces, and is not due to the curses of malevolent ancestral or forest spirits. The foundational texts of Chinse medicine are early Science because they are empirical–based on observations of humans, and we get sick.

Wisdom of the Dr. Zhang Zhong Jing’s Shang Han Lun–200 C.E.

The earliest systematic herbal medicine text in Chinese Medical History, the Shang Han Lun, compiled single handedly by the genius medical doctor Zhang Zhang Jing was written around 200 C.E., during the great Han Dynasty.

The Shang Han Lun traces the progression of an epidemic of infectious disease (probably Cholera) systematically, documenting the signs and symptoms at various states of illness, from initial onset to death. It describes which Herbal formulas worked at which stages of disease. For example what to give when there are fever and chills with mild illness, versus what to give to save a life where there is vomiting and purging. The Shang Han Lun is still studied in Chinese Medicine, and its formulas are still widely used.

The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine–Huang Di Nei Jing –450 B.C.E.

The foundational Classic of Acupuncture and Chinese Medical Theory, the Huang Di Nei Jing, compiles what looks to be about 1000 years of medical wisdom already. The Nei Jing is logical, rational, and empirical. Amazingly, it describes how disease can be caused caused by lifestyle, mentality, emotions, and diet…This is also what we find in Ayurvedic medicine, a clear understanding of the fight flight freeze response, and how, when poorly regulated, it makes us sick. BioMed now calls this, e.g. “The Gut Brain Connection” and act is if its newly discovered. New to them!

Western BioMedicine versus Chinese and Ayurvedic Medicine–Don’t Miss the Forest for the Leaves

In Chinese Medical Histoy we see, over and over again, the close observation of how our bodies and minds respond to the challenges of living in a world of stressors, and how each impacts the other. Chinese Medicine looks at Human Being as an individual, we always want to treat the person, not just the disease or symptoms. , Whereas Western Medicine today, excels at telling you exactly which tissues, as named by Modern Medicine, are effected by a disease.

The Body Keeps The Score: Emotions, the Nervous System, and Physical Symptoms

But sometimes Modern Medicine misses the forest for the trees. In the modern world so much disease is internally generated, the complex interaction between our emotive states and our nervous systems. Humans are emotional beings with enormous cerebral cortexes that layer and filter our experiences into memories and judgments. This is how some folk get PTSD or ChronicPTSD, the sum of many small traumas. And everyone with Shell Shock, Combat Fatigue, PTSD, IBS, Tension Headaches, Gut Issues, even PMS have PHYSICAL symptoms that speak for our nervous system which in turn is effected by emotional responses.

The Gut Brain Connection in Chinese Medical History

Where modern western Biomedicine so often fails is in not treating the causes of disease. . A perfect example is with gut disorders. Patient A has chronic GERD, so the M.D. gives them Proton Pump Inhibitors and sends them on their way. But PPIs have terrible side effects, and do nothing to address the lifestyle and mental causes of the GERD. Diet and Lifestyle is very effective in curing GERD, from things as simple as relaxing when you eat and chewing your food well. But how can the MD know this is a factor if they dont take the time to ask. How many Americans rush their lunches, and then have the big meal at night?

The second fact is why is their Gut-Brain connection mis-functioning? Why? Are they overly intense, perfectionist, unforgiving, anxious, angry, fearful, nervous? And if so, what can they do to deal with that. This is where Chinese medicine and Ayurveda excels, because we have non-judgmental ways to describe the effects of excessive intensity on the body, for example, and can treat that with acupuncture, which unblocks the “stuck Qi” that it causes.

We can also use a wonderful herb fromula from the Shang Han Lun that that “relaxes the Liver Qi, clears Damp Heat” and improve gut function. But in the end, the cure for diseases that began with the nervous system comes from intervening at that level with relaxation therapies. Acupuncture is a great start, as it can “reset” the nervous system. But in the end, you make your own life, you have to pedal the cycle.

Functional Disorders and the Five Element Theory of Chinese Medicine

Many, if not all, functional disorders like IBS, Interstitial Cystitis, Migraine, GERD, Ulcerative Colitis, Diverticulitis, Tension Headache are the perfect storm of unregulated Body-Mind Type meets challenging life circumstances and possible poor diet and lifestyle. To learn what to do about your Body-Mind type, we can use the lens of the 5 Elements, a later historical devlopment in Chinese Medical history.  Dosha in Ayurveda, works the same way.

Wood or Pitta Types

Wood types, or Pitta in Ayurveda, will be naturall well organized, good at managing themselves and others. Natural born leaders, too. But they can be overly picky control freaks also, who make themselves suffer needlessly through over seriousness for one thing. So Wood types need to grow leaves and flowers. The tree that bends does not break. This is why you see the image of Bamboo so often in Chinese culture. It is so strong, so useful, yet so flexiblle. Wood element Pitta types struggle with rigidity.

Managing Our Nervous Systems Response to Stressors

Modern medicine can scope you, rule out cancer, and tell you you have inflammation in your gut. What it fails to do is describe to patients why, what is the mechanism by which “stress” leads to gut disorders, chronic constipation or diarrhea, migraines, even menstrual cramps. Chinese medical theory does describe both the cause and the treatment, this is the original Integrative Medicine.

What humans developed as medicine is an extension of our natural instinct to respond to not being well, and to keep from dying, which our nervous system is hard wired to want to avoid…that is why we have an innate fear of death, why illness can make some folk anxious, and why every society has developed methods to treat illness and prevent death. Chinese society, being highly literate, happened to develop the most advanced written system of medicine until modern times, with thousands of case studies over a two thousand year history, detailing the successes and failures of the same herbal medicine formulas prescribed to patients with similar and varied symptoms.

Eratosthenes in Scientific American


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