For generations, there’s been a spoken divide between approaches of the ‘East’ and ‘West’ towards medicine. Eastern methods typically imply a focus on the mind, body and soul as one interconnected thing, with a view to heal from the inside-out through finding the root cause of each physical or mental problem a person faces. Western ideas stereotypically involve close links with the use of pharmaceuticals, painkillers, tablets, surgeries and operations. However, it’s unfair to say this is the sole focus of medicine in the West: there has been a huge increase in the use of prescribed talking therapies and counselling referrals in the mental health sector, as well as referrals to physiotherapy for back problems, neck troubles and similar.
On the National Health Service’s (NHS) website, there is now more than ever before information about complementary and alternative medicines, or ‘CAMs.’ Examples include yoga, meditation, aromatherapy and acupuncture.
This is a more than pleasant advance in the Western approach to healing, as I expect many, at least in the U.K., will share the collective early memory of visits to the school nurse ending with a paracetamol (pain killer) in one hand and a glass of water in the other. This response to pain and health queries is somewhat of a metaphor for the worst side of Western medicine. If an illness was a crack in a wall, Western medicine would paint over it, maybe plastering it a bit too. Eastern medicine would find the cause of the crack, assess the structure over time, and carefully rebuild the wall to last much longer. In both cases, the illness is helped, but the longevity of the cures is strikingly different.
Another tenet of Eastern medicine is its aim to prevent illness and disease through continuous self-care and healing rituals. This is a sharp contrast to Western medicine which generally prescribes a chemical substance to remove pain and symptoms of any problem, rather than providing a real, long-term cure. The wall has been painted over again.
Side-effects are another issue that comes with the use of pharmaceuticals. Lack of adequate testing of products means that there are potential by-products of long-term pharmaceutical treatments that are unknown and pose a risk to users.
Some argue that as pharmaceutical companies are in fact a trading market; the inextricable capitalism at play makes the need for demand to always match supply. In that sense, these companies do not want consumers to be completely healed, it is not in their profit-orientated interest. Because of course, they wouldn’t need the product again, if so.
That said, it is unfair to criminalize the whole of the medical industry. There are many researchers and doctors absolutely committed to the health and well-being of humanity. Many medications that are made in a lab do work exactly for their purpose and provide people with lives they could not have had without. Things just get difficult when medicine becomes a profit-making industry.
For general pain, depression, aches, anxiety, colds, and migraines, it is fair to say that reaching for the doctrines of Eastern medicine is a safer option than the medicine cabinet. Exercise, fresh air, fruit, vegetables, social interaction and nature are the free healers luckily available to many of us.
This kind of ‘clean living’ is now more popular than ever in British society and across Europe and other parts of the world. Healthy lifestyle choices, with their miracle-success rates, have become one of the most positive epidemics the world has seen, since even before sliced bread. Although considering, it is probably better to make your own and slice it.
Thanks to the hard work and research of therapists all over the world, the NHS is now referring patients to complementary therapies such as yoga, craniosacral therapy and osteopathy. This is fantastic news for both therapists and patients. Because these practices have now gained recognition, beneficiaries are not limited to those who can afford to pay private prices. The publicization of holistic therapies is a huge step forward in truly making the world healed, and whole again.
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