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Combining Modern Medicine and TCM

Explore the synergy between modern medicine and TCM by learning about the holistic approach to using both in addressing both symptoms and root causes of illnesses.

Combining modern medicine and tcm 2

Modern Medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) may be two different systems of Medicine. And yet they share similarities, which leads one to wonder if they can be combined to reap even greater health and healing benefits.

In this article, we shall discuss the similarities and differences between Modern Medicine and TCM and examples when each system was combined for beneficial results.

Similarities and Differences

Symptomatic vs Holistic

Both Modern Medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) share a common goal which is to treat the underlying cause of disease.

Modern Medicine, or Western Medicine, has three key foundations which serve as the basis of treatment. These include the following:

  • Physical examination of the body and associated symptoms
  • Diagnosis of diseases and conditions using scientific evidence
  • Using treatments that have been clinically proven to be effective

Modern Medicine specifically targets symptoms and the affected organs as isolated from the rest of the body instead of as one whole interconnected system. It uses drug treatments, surgery, and interventions to treat disease.

On the other hand, TCM is also known as Eastern Medicine. Same as with Modern Medicine, TCM involves a thorough physical examination of the body. The difference lies in that the approach to diagnosis is experiential and holistic, focusing on imbalances in the body which are causing the symptoms. Their approach to treatment is by considering that the body is one whole interconnected biosystem. This makes treatment more personalized. Another difference is that TCM focuses on the prevention of disease recurrence as part of its holistic approach to treatment.

TCM herbs uses a range of herbs, each with its unique properties and functions. 

Onset Time of Drugs

Modern Medicine typically has rapid or immediate effects, making it highly effective in life-threatening conditions, such as infectious diseases. The main concern regarding these drugs, however, is the potential damage that they may cause to the overall wellbeing of a person, even if it’s a life-saving measure. It is a fact that some drugs can leave potential permanent damage to other parts of the body. A good example is the antibiotic tetracycline, whose adverse effect includes permanent staining of the teeth.

In contrast, TCM has a longer onset time of drug efficacy because it serves the dual purpose of treating the disease and preventing adverse effects. TCM is a more holistic approach that takes into account potential side effects.

Modern Medicine and TCM Combined

Numerous researches have been done on Modern Medicine and TCM, all of which demonstrated how these two systems combined can led to a more holistic treatment. 

Each TCM herb is combined into formulas tailored to address specific health concerns.

In a 2013 study, a Realgar-Indigo Naturalis Formula (RIF) – a combination of a mined ore and herbs with Modern Medicine – showed a 96.7 to 98 percent remission of Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia.

In a 2020 systematic review, acupuncture was found to be effective in treating nonspecific lower back pain, with greater effectivity noted when combined with modern medical treatment.

There have been a number of studies done on Tuina, a type of TCM massage. In another 2020 systematic review, it was found that combining Tuina with routine medical treatment reduced the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. The effects of the combined treatment were more effective than routine medical treatment alone. Such findings has led to more studies on Tuina and its combined effects with routine medical treatment for chronic low back pain, diabetes with obesity, and lumbar disc herniation.


In conclusion, TCM is a great supplement to Modern Medicine. It provides a more holistic perspective and approach to what can be an invasive treatment. That being said, always consult your medical practitioner on what are the best options for you.

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