Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is one of the world's oldest medical systems, having a history of several thousands of years. It is a system of healing based upon the Chinese philosophy of the correspondence between nature and human beings. Its theories refer to yin and yang, the Five Elements, zang-fu, channels-collaterals, qi, blood, body fluid, methods of diagnosis, the differentiation of symptom-complexes, etc. TCM has two main features: a holistic point of view and treatment according to a differentiation of syndromes. The therapeutic methods of TCM involve different approaches, such as acupuncture, moxibustion, tuina bodywork, herbal medicine and qi gong, in order to allow the body to heal itself in a natural way. Western medicine was first introduced into China from the middle of the 17th century. During the first two centuries several different views, related to the future of TCM and the relation between TCM and Western medicine, emerged. Some advocated ‘complete westernization’ of Chinese medicine, others were in favour of keeping it intact, whereas again others recommended the ‘digestion and assimilation of TCM and Western medicine’. Nowadays, more and more people realize that each of the two medical traditions has its own merits and advise that the two systems should benefit from each other's strong points. We offer an argument for integrating Western medicine with TCM. In the 20th century China has maintained and developed three kinds of medical science, that is, TCM, Western medicine, and ‘integrated medicine’. Much has been achieved in clinical, experimental and theoretical research. The development of any science can be furthered by cross-fertilization based on absorption and fusion of whatever useful theory and experience. It is our dream that, in the future, diverse modalities – including TCM, Western medicine and possibly other variants – can work in conjunction with each other as part of a unified team rather than in competition. This integrated approach will ultimately lead to safer, faster and more effective health care.
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