The health benefits of traditional Chinese medicine, which relies on herbal and natural approaches, may have as much to do with a patient’s spiritual beliefs that he or she will be healed as with a person’s physical response to treatments, new research suggests.
According to a new analysis – led by researcher Lin Shi of Beijing Normal University and Chenguang Zhang from Southwest Minzu University in China – traditional Chinese medicine is profoundly influenced by philosophy and religion, which may explain the mechanisms behind its effects.
The study, published in the journal Pastoral Psychology, noted Chinese medicine is not simply about treating illness, but rather about taking care of the whole person – body, mind, and spirit – which distinguishes it from Western medicine.
Shi and Zhang's analysis shows that the underlying premise of Chinese medicine is that the mind and body of a person are inseparable. Chinese doctors see "people" not "diseases" and equate "curing diseases" with "curing people," they said.
"Good health and longevity are what we pursue,” the authors concluded. “More and more people are concerned about ways to prevent disease and strengthen their bodies, which is the emphasis of traditional Chinese medicine. It pays attention to physical pains, and at the same time is also concerned with spiritual suffering.”