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An Introduction to Oriental Medicine


The term "Oriental medicine" signifies a peculiar medical field of study developed and practiced by Orientals, which is in sharp contrast to the Western medicine practiced in many Eastern parts of the world.  It may be thus contrasted with the term "Occidental medicine" which has been developed in the Western world.

Oriental medicine holds that phenomena that mark between health and sickness are related on the whole to the universe.  Thus, health and disease are due to the balance or imbalance of the living forces which make up the universe.  The theories of Oriental medicine are based upon Oriental Eum and Yang, or negativeness and positiveness.  Oriental medicine derives from a synthetic theory characterized by the harmony of macrocosm (sky), Earth, and microcosm (human being).  These factors can be called the "Trinity Theory." That is, Oriental medicine belongs to the sphere of metaphysics, and only through metaphysical approach could the vital phenomena of that particular medicine be studied.

Diseases stem from how we manipulate our physical environment, and how we react to an altered environment--a view embodied in the ancient Chinese philosophy of Taoism developed during the century before the birth of Christ.

Hwang-Jae (Yellow Emporor) was an emporer of China more than 4,006 years ago.  He discoursed with his minister, Gi-Baeg, upon topics of such as extensive range of medical knowledge as physiology, pathology, diagnostics, acupuncture and moxibustion (acupuncture meridians), herb as well as basic common principles of Oriental medicine.  This discourse was duly recorded in Nae-Gyeong, a book written by scholars of the Han Dynasty about 25 centuries later.  Hwang-Jae was beyond doubt a pioneer in the field of Chinese medical science.

Oriental medicine maintains that health depends on the proper balance among various influences origination from different organs of the human body, while, if this normal equilibrium is disturbed, illness results.  According to the Hwang-Jae Nae-Gyeong (Yellow Emporor's Classic of Internal Medicine), disease results when man is out of balance with his environment.  His recovery depends upon adjustment of the ration between Eum, or the negative cosmic force, and Yang, or the positive.



Major Theories of Oriental Medicine


Western orthodoxial medicine, which belongs to natural science, looks into and explains the structural and functional phenomena of the human body by means of a materialistic and analytical approach, while Oriental medicine strives to do the same thing through a psycho-metaphysical, integral approach.  This psycho- metaphysical approach could eventually be systematically advanced into psycho-physical science by future researchers.


The important theory of Oriental medicine is the primary five- element doctrine of the Eum and Yang.  These five elements represent water, fire, wood, metal, and earth.  They are, when viewed from the standpoint of Oriental medical science, the symbolizing representation of "life energy" of nature in the process of evolution, formation, and individualization of all creatures.  The human body can be observed as microcosm, when compared with macrocosm; that is, a spot in the nature. And the above-mentioned five elements are thought to represent essential "life energy" for the activities of the human body.  In other words, they each represent one of the five viscera (parenchyma): water corresponds to kidney; fire the heart; wood to liver; metal or gold to lung; earth to spleen.  At the same time, these five primary elements correspond to the functional systems of the human body (respiratory, digestive, circulatory, negetative nervous system, etc.).  


Since the physiological functions of these five viscera respectively correspond to each of the life forces represented by the universal primary elements and relative to the Eum and Yang, the Taoist concept of universal opposites existing throughout nature, diseases are treated and cured by means of appropriate adjustment of the imbalanced state of the Eum and Yang.  When such a treatment is applied, the five elements are automatically adjusted in accordance with the "antagonism law," which instantly regulates life forces mechanism.  However, in normal conditions of the body, these five elements are kept adjusted according to the "synergetism law," which help to maintain the normalcy of the elements. The "synergetism law" refers to the mutual cooperation of the various organs and functional system of the human body. An explanation of the antagonism and synergetism laws is also possible in modern physiological terms.

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