In today’s approach, the terms Eastern medicine and Asian medicine are more commonly used. Many Americans quickly associate Chinese herbal remedies and acupuncture with Eastern “alternative” medicine; however, they are largely unfamiliar with other common practices from Asia. The philosophies of health and illness causation at the root of Eastern medicines are even less understood and just as important. Traditional Chinese medicine, TCM, is the best-known Asian medicine practiced in the US; that is not the only medicine worthy of our attention. Traditional Vietnamese medicine, TVM, actually evolved together with traditional Chinese medicine; with respect for all the differences, the development of the two, so twisted together, makes it impossible to separate them. Not very far from them is Japanese and Korean traditional medicine. Due to trade, migration and years of occupation, many Eastern and Southeastern Asian societies have been part of the Chinese cultural sphere.
The greatest trial for Western healthcare professional once they have learned the basics of different cultural remedies and treatments is to understand the beliefs and attitudes about sickness that drive these ancient practices.
The American Holistic Nurses Association (AHANA) suggests three ideas in its philosophy that relate to health: first idea is that mind, body and spirit have never been separate, that interconnectedness and balance to greater or lesser degrees are a part of the life process. If the connections are interrupted, the person is no longer healthy, and it is at that place when the nurse intervene to reestablish the rhythmic, flowing connected completely.
The second idea is that of “awareness”, or consciousness of the sense of the unity that is implies. Nurses use positive mental images in relaxation for strengthening the relation” body-mind”.
The third idea is that of personal responsibility for health. Because consciousness or awareness is an integral part of the experience of health, the individual is the only one who can give information about the current state of health. The ultimate authority on health is the individual.
Some authors equate health with the concept of wellness. One author attempted to differentiate wellness and health. Health is composed of five subgroups: mental health, physical health, social health, spiritual health, and emotional health. Wellness is the integration of all of these areas of health in a balanced way, so that if a person works on one area of wellness, all other areas must also be improved.. This is a useful way of looking at the two concepts, because it explains why one can feel “more well” on some days than on other days. The difference is not a matter of illness or disease but of levels of wellness.
James Bowman, D.C.,D.Ht., is a director of the American Preventive Medical Association, and an authority on alternative health care. According to him, although disease might result from injury or infection, this obvious event is not the true, original cause of the illness. The cause is loss of balance; certain underlying causes can make an individual more vulnerable to disease or injury. Native Americans (Indian culture) certainly believe that their emotions can have an effect on their health, and modern science is beginning to agree. We now know that emotional stress can affect your body’s physical health. Nerve and hormonal activity increases and muscles tense. Herbs are more effective when the mind and spirit are balanced and healthy. According to their teachings “Naturopathy traces its roots back to the approaches used by my great grandmother who emphasized prevention and use of combinations of remedies that act as ‘helpers’ for the body’s natural healing power.” Choices for wellness should be examined in each of the Four Directions with the question, “What does it take for me to prevent disease and to have wellness in my life?” For the Native American traditional Medicine the direction of the South embodies the natural way of youthful innocence represented by curiosity, playfulness and innovation or creativity. Natural wellness of the South is being able to enjoy life, activities with family and finding things to do that are enjoyable.
The direction of the West embodies the physical aspect of living and the strength that comes from knowing ourselves well; both of these inherently affect self-awareness and perceptions of autonomy. Physical wellness of the West is about eating the right foods and taking supplements to compensate for the lack of nutrition in our foods and diet.
The direction of the North embodies the mental aspect of inner consciousness and wisdom turned outward. North Medicine reaches us Good Medicine for calming our systems during stress and using the plants to make into teas for a relaxing sleep time.
The direction of the East embodies the spiritual aspect of living that is a part of both personal truths and interpersonal experiences. To me this sounds ,almost, like Feng shui, which is another ancient Chinese system believed to use the laws of both Heaven (astronomy) and Earth (geography) to help one improve life by receiving positive qi.
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