“Many diseases, one treatment. One disease, many treatments”

Hi Everybody,

One of the reasons modern medicine has such a hard time understanding Chinese Medicine is due to the completely opposite ways the two methods categorize diseases.

Let’s say you have encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), thyroiditis (inflammation of the thyroid gland) and bronchitis (inflammation of the lungs).

In western medicine, where diseases are categorized by anatomy, each disorder above would be in a different category, and you would need a different specialist to treat each one. You would need a neurologist for the encephalitis, a gastrointestinal doctor for the pancreatitis, an endocrinologist for the thyroiditis, and a lung doctor for the bronchitis.

In Chinese medicine though, all of these disorders are categorized as the same category- inflammation, or what the Chinese would call “Heat”.

Yin Yang

These examples were extreme examples, most of them requiring emergency medical attention. I used these examples merely to point out how different the categorizations were for the two different systems.

Modern medicine categorizes diseases and disorders anatomically, whereas the Chinese categorize diseases by functional imbalance. This is why ten people going to a medical doctor with bronchitis can get the same treatment (like an antibiotic) for the bronchitis, yet if these same ten people went to a Chinese Medicine practitioner, they may all get completely different treatments.


One person’s bronchitis may present with mostly “Heat”, so “anti-heat” herbs would be given. But the next person may have bronchitis due to a build up of phlegm, causing the infection, so they would be given “anti-phlegm” herbs. Still another person may have bronchitis because their lungs are weak and cannot fight off the infection- that patient would be given “lung strengthening” herbs.

On the flip-side of the coin, and confusing to modern medicine, people with seemingly different diseases and disorders are often treated with the same herbs and acupuncture points in Chinese medicine. For example, if five people enter a Chinese clinic with five different diseases, but all the diseases are being caused by excess heat in the body, all five might receive the exact same treatments.

Let’s say one person presents with a headache, another with a cold, another with arthritis, another with gout, and the last one with heartburn. All five of these patients could receive the exact same treatment if they were all caused by “Heat”.

“One disease, many possible treatments. Many diseases, often one treatment.” is a common and popular saying in Chinese Medicine representing this thought system.

Hope this helps,

Dr Robin Barnes

mattandrobin@yahoo.com (email)

This week’s bit of Useless Information: Humans rule the world at long-distance running. We can outrun any other animal on the planet over long distances, and we canrun in conditions that no other animal can run in. 

This email is courtesy of Robin Barnes, D.C.  Neither this nor any of our emails are intended to be medical advice and should not be taken as such.  They are opinion and are for informational purposes only.  None of the nutrients discussed here are meant to diagnose, treat, or cure any disease.

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