Modern medicine isn’t always the answer


While modern medicine is effective in treating many serious illnesses, I feel that traditional, native medicine can often be as powerful, and should be taken into account when looking for ways to cure these illnesses.

Modern antibiotics are usually seen as having a quicker effect, but traditional medicine aims to restore the long-term balance of one’s body. Because they both have their advantages, I feel justified in suggesting that we combine the two, thus integrating traditional medicine into the modern healthcare system.

Traditional medicine can be used to innovate the development of modern medicine, which can be highly effective in treating many illnesses and in allowing people to live much longer lives than in past generations. However, there is one major drawback to modern medicine: because most clinical medications are manufactured using synthetic chemicals, using them can often result in unwanted side effects.

Often, one may be forced to take drugs in order to counter the side effects of the original treatment. Modern medicine may seem more effective, but in fact, it often treats symptoms using direct methods, which usually further harms our bodies.

Among the 300 types of traditional medicine around the globe, Chinese medicine in particular has garnered increased attention from researchers. Traditional Chinese medicine treats the body as a collection of interconnected systems, and thus has great potential to treat more complex illnesses such as cancer, AIDS and Alzheimer’s.

Traditional medicine aims to restore the long-term balance of one’s body.

Traditional remedies usually use ingredients that come from the natural environment, and are therefore much less harmful to our bodies. Consequently, modern scientists can use traditional cures as a starting point from which to produce more effective, less harmful medicine.

For example, qing hao su, an herb that has been used to treat fever for over 2,000 years in China, was scientifically proven to contain anti-malarial properties and its active compound, artemisinin, was then isolated to make medicine.

One of the biggest concerns with traditional native medicines is that they have not been scientifically vetted. Unlike modern medicines, which filter through various tests before being mass produced, people usually doubt the trustworthiness of traditional remedies because the knowledge of their effectiveness only comes from cultural experience.

In this regard, it is important to adopt a more scientific approach to prove the effectiveness of traditional medicine. Chinese medicine, for example, is a system of traditional medical techniques that have been gradually incorporated into modern Chinese medical practices.

Outside of China, many researchers in Europe and the US are also becoming increasingly interested in using Western techniques to analyze complex biological systems, as part of the Chinese ideology that sees the body as a networked whole. They do this by studying how genes and proteins interact throughout the body when a disease develops, instead of just examining a single gene or molecule.

For many years these traditional medicines have been part of conventional academic teachings, and many universities in China offer degrees in traditional medicine. Many native cures do work; however, they lack the formal and systematic explanations for how they work.

While traditional medicine has so much history to support its use, I, like most people, turn to modern medicine more often than not. But when it comes to treating the root cause of certain illnesses, I feel that traditional remedies are the better answer. With more systematic study, it would be easier to integrate traditional medicine with the modern healthcare system — a move that would be beneficial for everyone.


  1. Medicine systems founded on values and philosophies of holistic health offer a great deal. The concept of ‘integrating’ such medicine practices into mainstream models is fraught with problems. Significant problems have resulted from ‘integrating’ other cultural practices into the western model. They can more honestly be called ‘assimilation’. These problems include indigenous knowledge theft, unethical research, and the corruption of value-centred ideologies. Use of traditional medicines needs to take into account respect for the people and philosophies that have developed them. A collaborative model of medicine is a more respecting approach than an integrative model.

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