Sunday, November 17, 2013

Similarities of Chinese and Ayurvedic Medicine

Similarities of Chinese and Ayurvedic Medicine

What are the characteristics of Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine? How are the philosophies of these two eastern medical traditions similar?


1. Chinese Medicine by Brandon Polley

2. Ayurvedic Medicine by Keriane Angress

3.Similarities by Caraline Stephens

4. References

Chinese Medicineacu.jpg

Chinese medicine has a long history of over 3000 years, and is still used today. The way of diagnosis is very different from the Western medical perspective. The Chinese believe in a method of individualizing patients if you will, meaning that each patient receives a different diagnosis, even if the symptoms of the two patients are very similar. Dr. Kenneth Chao says it best in his article, Traditional Chinese Medicine, "In TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine), the understanding of the human body is based on the holistic understanding of the universe as described in Daoism, and the treatment of illness is based primarily on the diagnosis and differentiation of syndromes."

There are two different methods of treating patients through the Chinese method. Acupuncture and herbal medicine are the two key methods. Acupuncture revolves around the idea of Qi or "life energy", and is used to balance this energy throughout the body. According to the Chinese way of medicine, every human being has several meridians spanning across their entire body. Twelve of the meridians connect with the organs in the trunk of the body. Each of the twelve is named for the organ it is connected to. The meridians that flow to the front and rear mid-line of the body contain the acupunctural points. The names and uses of different acupuncture points vary with the specific school or nationality of acupuncture. Acupuncture is used to isolate pain and make the brain aware of an "intruder" of the body. This is done by inserting needles into the skin and either flicking or rotating the needle to create this awareness of the brain. The Qi energy is then concentrated on the area where pain is located and the natural healing then takes effect.

Another key method of Chinese medicine is herbal medicine. This medicinal technique is very different from the acupuncturist technique. The oldest book of Chinese medicinal herbs is the Huang Di Nei Jing. Expert opinions date the book back to between 800 BC and 200 BC. By 220 AD, medical services were established. Professional titles included prescribing physicians, senior physicians, junior physicians, apprentices and pharmacists. By 500 AD, the Materia Medica was published, which contained the first references to properties of herbs and the first classification system for herbs. There were three major categories of herbal classifications:

-Superior Herbs- those which nourish life
-Middle Herbs- those which correct constitution
-Inferior Herbs- those which expel disease

The Materia Medica also sorted herbs by different tastes and temperatures and it warned of toxicities in herbs. Many different plants, animals and minerals were included into the Materia Medica over time.
In 659 AD the first illustrated text of herbs was published. By 1108 AD there were over 1558 entries in the Materia Medica, and by 1596, there were 1892 entries. There are now over 7,767 entries listed in the Encylopedia of Traditional Chinese Medicinal Substances.

Chinese herbal medicine deals with individual diagnoses. The patient visits with the doctor and the doctor then determines the many different symptoms the patient may have. The doctor uses the collaboration of all these symptoms to give the patient their individual diagnosis. For each individual symptom, the Chinese have adopted a way with herbal medicines for each symptom. The caregiver uses the collaboration of symptoms and an enormous library of traditional herbs to treat his/her patient.

Ayurvedic Medicine

Ayurvedic medicine is a whole medical system that began in India about 3,000 years ago. The word Ayurveda is made up of two Sanskrit words. Ayur, which means life, and veda, which means science or knowledge. Thus, the word Ayurveda means "the science of life." Ayur includes the body, senses, mind, and spirit where this comprehensive system of health care is derived from the Vedas. In the United States, Ayurveda is considered complementary and alternative medicine. Many therapies used in Ayurveda are also used on their own as complementary and alternative medicine, such as herbs, minerals, massage, and yoga.
Elements of Ayurveda
Elements of Ayurveda

Ayurveda is a whole medical system that is based on various theories about health and illness and on ways to prevent, manage, or treat health problems. In particular, it seems to me that Aurvedic medicine does not treat symptoms like Western medicine does. The aim in Ayurveda is to integrate and balance the body, mind, and spirit ("Ayurvedic Medical System," 1999). This is believed to help prevent illness and promote wellness. Ayurveda also has treatments for specific health problems.

Ayurveda is based on ideas from Hinduism, one of the world's oldest and largest religions, and ancient Persian beliefs. Now, it can also be seen that Ayurveda also shares Buddhist beliefs because Buddhism and Hinduism are closely paralleled religions, but in other ways divergent in theory and practice. In India, Ayurveda has long been the main system of health care, although conventional (Western) medicine is becoming more common there. Ayurveda and variations of it have been practiced for centuries in some other countries as well.

Philosophically, everything in the universe is composed of five elements or the "Pancha Mahabhutas." These include Space (Akash), Air (Vayu), Fire (Tejas), Water (Jala), and Earth (Prithvi). All of these elements combine into the three doshas (Tridoshas): Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. These doshas are the bioenergetic forces that govern our health and physical constitution or prakriti (Chopra, 2002). The prakriti is a person's unique combination of physical and psychological characteristics and the way the body functions to maintain health. Overall, our constitution refers to a person's general health, the likelihood of becoming out of balance, and the ability to resist and recover from disease or other health problems.

Essentially, Ayurveda teaches us to balance our doshas to preserve our good health. Each dosha is usually paired up with two characteristic elements of Ayurveda. For example, Water and Earth are characteristics of Kapha. Thus, its function is the energy of structure and it is concerned with anabolism, conservation, and stability of the body system ("Ayurvedic Medical System," 1999). With certain foods, activities, or even seasons, certain doshas can be increased or decreased. This will create an unbalance in the body and can possibly create disease. Also, certain bodily functions, organs, and health states are characteristics of certain doshas. In effect, treatments for certain dosha inequalities are specific for certain doshas. An imbalance of a dosha will produce symptoms that are unique to that dosha. Imbalances may be caused by a person's age, unhealthy lifestyle, or diet; too much or too little mental and physical exertion; the seasons; or inadequate protection from the weather, chemicals, or germs.

Ayurvedic treatment uses the most interesting diagnostic techniques and practices out of any type of medicine. It has an "earthiness." Usually diagnosis starts with taking the pulse and the observation of the tongue, eyes, etc. Practitioners confidently believe that there are medicinal qualities in nature and that we should use them (Nalin, 2001). This is mainly regarded in using plants, minerals, tree bark, mud, and other aspects of nature to treat the body. Ayurvedic treatment goals include eliminating impurities, reducing symptoms, increasing resistance to disease, and reducing worry and increasing harmony in the patient's life ("A Closer Look at Ayurveda," 2005). In eliminating impurities, a process called panchakarma is intended to cleanse the body by eliminating ama. Ama is described as an undigested food that sticks to tissues, interferes with normal functioning of the body, and leads to disease. Panchakarma focuses on eliminating ama through the digestive tract and the respiratory system. Enemas, massage, medical oils administered in a nasal spray, and other methods may be used. In symptom reduction, options such as physical exercises, stretching, breathing exercises, meditation, massage, lying in the sun, and changing the diet may be used ("A Closer Look at Ayurveda," 2005). Most interestingly, the manipulation of marma points, or energy points, can also provide an effective treatment to releasing toxins and tension. The patient may even take certain herbs with honey, to make them easier to digest. Often times, diets are restricted to certain foods. Very small amounts of metal and mineral preparations, such as gold or iron, also may be given. To resist diseases, a combination of several herbs, proteins, minerals, and vitamins in tonics to improve digestion and increase appetite and immunity may be given. Amazingly, these tonics are based on formulas from ancient texts. This gives this type of medicine credibility because of its practice for thousands of years. Opposed to Western medicine, Ayurveda provides mental and spiritual support of its own kind. More than the medicine itself, Ayurvedic medicine emphasizes mental nurturing and spiritual healing. Practitioners may recommend avoiding situations that cause worry and using techniques that promote negative emotions (Chopra, 2002).

Here is an interesting video from Frontline World that exhibits the diagnosis, treatment, and explanation of Ayurvedic Medicine:


Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurvedic have many commonalities, from something as simple as how long each has been around (about 3000 years for both), to diagnostic practices and teachings such as balance. Chinese medicine and Ayurveda also share medical treatments, for example both traditions use herbal remedies. Massage as a form of treatment can also be found in both traditions. Both traditions also share the common idea that healing is holistic and that symptoms can not diagnose a person, the whole person must be examined in order to obtain a proper diagnosis.

Diagnostic Similarities
traditional-chinese-medicine-diagnosis-4.jpgBoth Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine treat ailments in the body from the perspective that when something is wrong there is a problem with the flow of energy, in Chinese medicine this energy is referred to as qi. Practitioners of both Traditional Chinese medicine and Ayruvedic Medicine employ many techniques for diagnosis, they will use their own senses to make some diagnosis based on looking, listening, smelling, asking and touching. (Natural Health Web)

Using the tongue as a diagnostic tool is common in both Ayurvedic medical practice as well as Traditional Chinese medicinal practices. Practitioners of both traditions will examine the tongue of a patient in order to completely diagnose the patient.

Another major diagnostic method, and commonality is the taking of the pulse at the radial artery. This taking of the pulse differs from a Western idea of pulse, in both Ayurveda and Chinese medicine the pulse is take to determine how the flow of energy is in the body. From this pulse the practitioner can determine if the patient has any imbalances. Both traditions see the morning when the body has been at rest as the best time to take a patient's pulse. The positioning of the practitioners hand on the wrist of the patient is the same in both traditions, Chinese medicine and Ayurvedic medicine also each distinguish between different pulses in the wrist. In Ayurvedic medicine for example there are different points on the wrist that correlate to each of the different doshas.

tridosha.gif yy_opposition.jpg
Similarities in Teachings

Chinese Medicine and Ayurvedic medicine have similar theoretical teachings. In Chinese medicine it is best when the body is in a balance, that is when Yin and Yang are balanced. Yin describes the cool, wet and feminine, while Yang describes the hot, dry and masculine. If the body does not maintain a balance between Yin and Yang, ailments will occur. The same is true in Ayurvedic medicine, however instead of Yin and Yang the balance is between Vata, Kapha and Pitta, or as group they comprise the three doshas. Like in Chinese medicine, Ayurveda relies on a balance, in this case a balance between the doshas. Just as an imbalance of Yin and Yang can lead to ailment, an imbalance in one of the doshas can lead to sickness.

Traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurvedic medicine also share the teaching that lines of energy or meridians connect the vital organs. It is these energy lines that play an important part in diagnosis as well as the flow of balanced energies throughout the body. In Chinese medicine this energy is the qi, the life force.

Similarities in Herbs

In terms of similarities as they pertain to herbs, there are some between the two traditions. The Ayruvedic dosha Kapha is very similar to the concept of Yin in Traditional Chinese medicine, both contain the qualities of moisture and phlegm. Pitta in Ayurveda has a correspondence to fire and qi, most especially the stomach qi in Chinese medicine in herbs both contain warming, supplementing and dispersing qualities. Finally Vatta can be said to correspond somewhat to the Chinese herbal concept of qi, most especially qi or the meridian, lung and kidney, as well as Yang. This is due to the belief that the herbs that invigorate Yang in Chinese medicine are similar to those that invigorate Vata in Ayruveda. (Institute for Traditional Medicine).


It should be noted that practitioners of both traditions are eager to point out the differences in each traditions and do not take fondly to the idea that these traditions are the same. It is not the implication of this site to imply that these two traditions are the same, we have just presented a few similarities between the two.

Reference and attributes

A Closer Look at Ayurvedic Medicine. (2005). CAM at the NIH, 12, Retrieved April
17, 2009 from

Atlas, S.and Palfreman, J. (2007 Nov). India: A Second Opinion [Television Broadcast]. United States: Public Broadcasting Service.

Ayurvedic Medical System. (1999). Retrieved April 21, 2009, from Science of Life Web site:

Ayurvedic Medical System [Image]. (1999). Retrieved April 17, 2009, Image from Science of Life: images/ayurved_elements.jpg

Chopra, A.and Doiphode, VV (2002 Jan). Ayurvedic medicine. Core concept, therapeutic principles, and current relevance.. PubMed, 1, Retrieved April 17,
2009, from

Nalin, Pan (2001). Ayurveda: Art of Being [Film]. United States: Kino International

"Article: Similarities of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda." Natural Health Web. 10 Apr. 2009 from

"Ayurvedic Herbal Medicine and its relation to Chinese Herbal medicine." Institute for Traditional Medicine | ITM | Portland, OR. 15 Apr. 2009 from

Shalom, Eyton (2006 Oct). Ayurveda, the Science of Life [Image]. Retrieved April 20, 2009, Image from Jade Dragon Online: