What is Chinese
medicine good for?
SOMETIMES YOU NEED A FRESH PERSPECTIVE
Most people in the West understand that Chinese medicine has been around for a very long time. Twenty centuries, at least — and we’re talking about an unbroken, archived clinical tradition running parallel with a scholarly literature maintained by some of history’s greatest medical and philosophical minds — 60 generations of doctors and academics. It has been, and remains, front-line medicine for a significant proportion of the world’s population. Consequently, Chinese medicine has come to understand a great deal about human health and illness — a lot more in a big-picture sense than biochemical medicine. Even in a modern Western context it can offer meaningful insights into and solutions for ill health. Firstly, as a generalisation, Chinese medicine excels in Western contexts when the problem is at a “functional” level. That is, when the body is not working well but the disharmony has not yet caused significant “structural” changes. This is when the Western paradigm comes into its own: when there is detectable, measurable change at a cellular or tissue level that can then be addressed surgically or with powerful drugs. When the problem is more functional, however, Western tests may show nothing conclusive and Western medicine is often powerless to do more than mask symptoms. Many ailments fall into the functional rather than structural category. In these instances, think of Chinese medicine. One example of its difference in approach is in treating colds, flus and other infections caused by invading pathogens. Chinese medicine seeks not so much to kill the germ, but to understand specifically where the pathogen is and how the body is trying to rid itself of it, then supporting this process — that is, by bolstering the body’s own natural mechanisms rather than seeking only to attack the invader while risking collateral damage. Secondly, Chinese medicine never considers symptoms, or diseases, in isolation. It always puts them in context with the individual’s constitution and lifestyle. This means the Chinese system traditionally put great store not only in coming up with remedies, but also in explaining why a person got sick — identifying the lifestyle factors that predispose one to ill health. The West is gradually getting better at this (and increasingly often lands in a similar place when it comes to lifestyle advice) but nevertheless overlooks factors of emotional, environmental and dietary health that Chinese medicine has come to appreciate and understand over 20 centuries of continuous inquiry and experience.
What does a consultation involve?
You should expect to spend up to an hour at the clinic for an initial consultation (which includes script design and herb preparation time). Follow-up visits are 30 minutes. The process involves discussion about your general health and specific symptoms, examination of your pulse and tongue, as well as in some cases gentle palpation of your abdomen and possibly hands and feet.
The clinic is open mornings and several afternoons each week.
What does it cost?
Initial herbal consultation: $65 (GST free)
Follow-up consultation: $30 (GST free)
Chinese herbs are relatively inexpensive, and whether in raw form (as tea), powders or pills, are cost-effective. As a rough guide, expect the cost to work out about the same as a daily coffee.
Shiatsu: $80 per hour (incl GST).
Health fund rebates
Most private health funds rebate for Chinese medicine consultations (although rarely the herbs) with Extras cover. To be certain, however, please check your own health fund.