For 40 years now, Chinese Medicine has been met with skepticism in American society. (Note - I say American because European society has embraced Chinese Medicine as valid therapy with a good many European MDs performing acupuncture today.) It has only been within the past 10-ish years that American doctors have begun to accept acupuncture as clinical trials have yielded positive results. This is fantastic news and there is no doubt that Chinese Medicine (or at least the acupuncture portion of Chinese Medicine) will be integrated into more and more hospitals and medical clinics. However, there is one thing that is overlooked about Chinese Medicine in modern culture….
Chinese Medicine has the longest running clinical research study in history, spanning beyond 2000 years.
Yes, 2000 years.
Starting in 300b.c. with the Huang Di Nei Jing (a collaboration of different texts discussing the fundamental principles in treating patients), the Chinese have documented and passed on information involving everyday cases. Each dynasty has sought to reflect on the previous century’s written cases and improve upon those findings. Reputable doctors of the time and, most importantly, the Emperor’s personal physicians noted in their records their patient’s symptoms or the current disease infecting the population as well as the therapy they performed and the results. A population is riddled with dysentery or a flu, for example, the physicians wrote down their equivalent of SOAP notes and the outcomes from previous trials. They tested herb after herb, acupuncture point after acupuncture point, blood-letting, cupping, massage, manual manipulation and other modalities and whatever worked, they took and made it better. They mapped out the entire nervous system, circulatory system, and musculoskeletal connections, then they documented physiological changes to those systems and the organs they affected when they treated their patients. That information was passed on generation after generation.
The question becomes why did they care? When other civilizations were burning books or neglecting writings from previous generations, why did the Chinese hold onto these physician manuals with such great care? The answer lies with the Emperor. The Emperor was seen as the direct connection with the Divine and it was the everlasting pursuit of the Emperor and his family to live forever. It was the royal physicians’ jobs to find a means for that goal or potentially fall out of disfavor. It is the natural tendency to look to the past and find what worked. So past physician manuals were very important. Case studies from the past were vital. Keeping the Emperor and his family alive and well was critical.
And thus, Chinese Medicine is the longest running clinical research study in history.
This is not something to dismiss lightly.