Eastern Origins of Integrative Medicine and Modern Applications (Introduction)

Emaho, the Tibetan word for “wondrous,” aptly describes the history of healing. The
healing art of medicine is neither fixed in one theory of disease nor has its origins in
a single body of perceptions. Its roots reveal rich and fascinating strands to its heri-
tage. Each strand has developed potent theories and recommendations that inform
prevention, illness, and treatment. These differences profoundly influence the vi-
sion and values among the members of a given culture — how to live well and how
to address illness and health. Specifically, the contrasts in Eastern and Western ap-
proaches have been like strangers from afar, and now as of the twenty-first century,
have become increasingly aware of each other in the evolving field of integrative
medicine. Each has its advantages and limitations. Recognizing and skillfully com-
bining the best of both approaches is an ongoing challenge and a noteworthy, pos-
itive advance for humanity.
In the past 20 years, medicine in the West has begun to diligently examine and
resume its inclusion of indigenous traditions in medical practice. The term “integra-
tive medicine” emerged in the early 1990s to describe a paradigm shift in modern
medicine. Integrative medicine believes that drawing from multiple traditions
better serves people, rather than using only one medical system. At the core of the
integrative medicine movement in the West is how to examine indigenous healing
modalities with scientific rigor for safety and efficacy, while retaining respect for
their history and culture. With its emphasis on quality research evidence, integra-
tive medicine modalities have gained further acceptance in the West, while having
spawned a resurgence of indigenous medicines in their countries of origin.

Eastern healing traditions have made some of the greatest advances in integration
with modern medicine. In this chapter, the authors briefly review the historical origins
of Eastern and Western traditions and the contrast in their philosophies and examine
some Eastern healing traditions more closely to better understand the application of
Eastern healing modalities to modern medicine. Please note that the following is only
an introduction to healing traditions that have had some success in practice with
Western medicine. The authors encourage readers to actively engage in learning about
other healing traditions specific to their local community.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *