Sometimes TCM doctors treat patients mainly according to his or her illness/disorder, in other words, treating each illness/disorder the same. But most of the time, the treatments are individualized, especially when it involves using herbology or dietary adjustment. The same disease or condition may be treated differently depending on the individual’s constitutions and/or the individual’s illness stage; such that acute, chronic, and recovery stages all receive different treatments. Some patients may also have additional conditions to their primary condition, which would alter the formula recipe for the herbal tea.
Because Chinese Medicine uses more than one way to treat conditions or illnesses, one patient may receive acupuncture and Herbology, some may only receive Herbology, while others may receive just acupuncture, or other therapies such as Tui-na, Chinese therapeutic massage or bone-setting. Treatment is also dependent upon a patient’s preference and the provider’s training. For example, some providers may have only received training in acupuncture or herbology alone, while others may have had more extensive training within the whole context of TCM therapies. Therefore, some providers may have additional choices in applying suitable therapies to achieve quick, satisfactory results.
Patients with the same condition may have varied recovery times. When receiving treatment through herbology, it is beneficial to acknowledge that every person has a different constitution. The concept of a constitution in Chinese Medicine infers that every person has different organ function, structure, metabolism, and diverse personalities. Based on one TCM perspective, there are five main types of constitutions: Yang/hot type, Yin/cold type, Phlegm/damp type, Dry type, Neutral Type. Note that an individual usually does not maintain just one constitution; in actuality, people may have mixed physical and mental constitutions. With TCM doctors’ guidance, each patient is capable of choosing the correct diet for their type, along with prescribed herbal teas, to aim for a neutral constitution and maintain a balanced life.
However, just because two people have the same constitution or pattern, does not mean they will be treated the same. For example, two women may exhibit the same blood-deficiency type; also known was anemia in Western medical terms. Yet one of the two ladies is on her period, and one is not menstruating. The woman menstruating will receive a different herbal tea formula because her body is in a different state. In this sense Dr. Fan says that even if two people have the same illness, but one has a different pattern, you do not treat the two patients the same. Yet even though two people may have a different illness, if their pattern is the same, it is possible treat them both alike. However because many people have other issues in addition to their main illness, it is sensible to treat each individual differently; everything depends on a patient’s specific condition at that particular time.
Personality also plays a role in determining the correct treatment for an individual. Dr. Fan is excellent at noticing a patient’s personality type and then basing a treatment plan off that observation. For example, for those of us who have drunk the herbal tea, we know it doesn’t always taste delicious. Despite the many who do not mind, there are those that prefer not to. Dr. Fan finds alternative means to treat these sensitive patients by either informing them of diet restrictions/additions, or providing them with herbal pills, which are quite easy to swallow and do not bother the stomach like most Western pharmaceuticals. Also for many children, it may be difficult for them to drink the herbal tea because of the taste, so the herbal pills are very convenient for that reason. Sometimes Dr. Fan may use herbs with less bitter or pungent smell/taste to substitute the herbs used in the original formula to make the aroma and taste more acceptable.
Based on the cultural differences, Asian cultures such as China, Korea, and Japan consist of doctors and patients that use more herbology in their treatment plans. In Western countries such as America, doctors and patients are more hesitant to use herbology as a treatment, and lean toward more acupuncture treatment instead. It is beneficial for the doctor-patient relationship to be as open about this as possible to create a happy and positive experience for the patient. Some cultures or societies have specific habits or preferences which they do not wish to change. TCM doctors attempt to understand these cultural differences and respect. In doing so, their treatment or dietary guidance will cater to those who do convey different cultural or societal ideals.
Written and edited by Arthur Fan and Julia Rosenthal.