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A story about the subtleties of Eastern Medicine vs Western Medicine

Article By Julie Hatch LAc.

In her book Treatment of Infertility with Chinese Medicine, Jane Lyttleton writes:

“ An old Chinese professor friend of mine once compared the two systems [Western and Eastern medicine] figuratively in the following scenario:
Imagine our patient is a round table, which in its disease state has grown sharp corners. It now looks like a square table – oh dear!  The table goes to see the specialist in corners. ‘No problem at all, my dear table. We’ll have you round again in no time at all.’ Well, right he was, more or less. The operation was performed the very next day. The surgeon, wielding a saw, quickly removed the table’s corners. The procedure was quite painful but over and done with rapidly and efficiently. Unfortunately, he cut a little too close on the fourth corner and the table lost part of one of its legs. The top, however, while not entirely round and smooth, no longer had sharp corners.
But imagine if the table had come to see the old Chinese professor himself. ‘Tut, tut, how did this corner business come about?’ he would have enquired and then carefully and thoroughly felt the wood of the table’s corners, top, and legs. ‘Yes,’ he might say quietly after some time, ‘I can help you to be a round table again.’ Then he would pull out a small file, apply to one corner and begin to file. He would file and file. And even though it might be tedious and require a lot of patience on the part of both the table and the doctor, and it might take up to one year before the table would be truly its old round self again eventually it would be beautifully smooth and strong and
perfectly round again.

The side effects of Western medicine – the rough contours and the damaged legs – are sometimes a high price to pay for immediately effective treatment. But this promise of a fast and effective result is what makes us choose this type of treatment so often despite the risks.  Of course if having ‘corners’ is a life-threatening situation, then fast and effective is what we want. But where corners are not so critical, but are more of a threat to the quality of our life, then the slower and more subtle approach has it advantages”


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