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The Meaning Behind The Idiom

 

同病異治 — Same disease, different treatments.

異病同治 — Different diseases, same treatment.

Doesn’t this idiom sound confusing or crazy? Let’s take a look at the context and how common this concept occurs in Traditional Chinese Medicine.

This is the core spirit, and the beauty, of the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) — Each individual has its own “inner environment”, different environments granted different kinds of treatment — even with the same kind of disease or syndrome.

Here’s a simple example of ‘same disease, different treatments’:

John, 35 years old, 6 ft/180 lbs, suffering from insomnia for 6 months. Physical check-ups and biochemical panels showed “normal”.

Jean, 35 years old, 5 ft/100 lbs, suffering from insomnia for 6 months. Physical check-ups and biochemical panels also showed “normal”.

In Western medicine, John and Jean are most likely given the same kind of sleeping pill, with pretty much the same kind of dose considering both are adults. But that’s not the case in TCM.

Through TCM’s clinical examination:

John’s tongue shows significant red on the tip and the sides. His pulses are forceful and he likes cold drinks.

Jean’s tongue is a bit pale. Her pulses are weak and deep. Jean tends to like warm drinks.

By following the teachings of TCM, it appears that John exhibits “heat” inside him while Jean shows more of “cold” inside her. And so their treatments are TOTALLY different.

John is given calming and cooling points in acupuncture, and the calming and cooling herbs for his insomnia. and Jean is given calming and warming acupuncture treatment with the calming and warming herbs for her insomnia.

Their acupuncture points are different, their herbs are different, because their body’s inner environment are different.

Now lets move on to an example of the second phrase, ‘different diseases, same treatment’. In this case, Jacky and Jean are roommates:

Jean has insomnia; her tongue is pale, and her pulses are deep and weak.

Jacky has been suffering from bloating with loose stools. Jacky’s tongue is pale, and her pulses are deep and weak, too.

Both are suffering from “Yang Deficiency” yet with different manifestations. Both Jacky and Jean can be treated with the same kind of acupuncture points and the herbs even though their health issues are totally different.

Of course, these are just simplified and idealized examples, but these examples deliver a very important message.

TCM focuses more on each individual’s inner environment than the outer diseases or syndromes.

Again, this is the spirit and the beauty of the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), and this philosophy has been working for more than 2,500 years.

Peace,

Benjamin Hsu