By Maryanne Travaglione
Research n 1: careful or diligent search
2: studious inquiry or examination; esp: aimed at the discovery and interpretation of facts, or practical application of new or revised theories or of new facts, or practical application of such new or revised theories or laws
Research v to search or investigate exhaustively
I believe that research has always been, and must continue to be, a major component in the development of Chinese Medicine. Research as defined by the dictionary is neither a modern concept nor a tool rooted exclusively in a western worldview or Biomedical paradigm. Studious inquiry, whose goal is discovery of new ideas or interpretations, belongs to all scholarly traditions and is not the domain of a dominant cultural interpretation.
We our not lacking in research in Chinese Medicine, The East-Asian countries have been continually developing their medicine through exhaustive investigation which over time has produced an extensive literature of new ideas and reinterpretation of old ones. Scholar physicians have looked to the classics for inspiration and guidance in tackling difficult health problems of the day and have written reports of their trials and results, which they have left for subsequent generations to consider. As a living medical system, physicians have continued to seek out effective treatments strategies and the successful strategies were analyzed, recorded and passed on to following generations. This has been valuable for the glory of the renowned physician and for the benefit of the people who would follow.
As a community we can consider that the treatments which have survived this quantity of time as a type of “proof of the benefit “. We could use what has been successful in the past and simply hold onto tradition and consider that there was no need for further exploration. But, how sad would be if after these thousands of years we let this rich medicine die here in the 21st century simply because we could not be bothered to meet the challenge presented by the scientific community. Our classic texts explain to us that stagnation is a major pathological cause of disease and reminds us, that which is not growing is in active decline.
Scientific method n (1854): principals and procedures for the systematic pursuit of knowledge involving the recognition and formulation of a problem, the collection of data through observation and experiment, and the formulation and testing of hypotheses
We face many obstacles when meeting the biomedical community as equals the least of which is a problem in communication and vocabulary.
Research is based on facts. But it is very important to understand that frequently, what may constitute a fact is really based in a cultural paradigm. Chinese Medicine theory is based on “statements of fact”, such as; the emotion of the Liver is Anger. Anger will cause the Qi to Ascend. The biomedical community may not agree that these are proven facts on which to base a research analysis. This is an example of one challenge.
The Chinese culture, generally, will incorporate a change that proves itself a useful tool. I think we can take this exciting time, this period of expanding interest into Chinese Medicine and reclaim the research and learn to use the modern tools. We can learn to lead in the research, not perhaps in double blind studies, which I personally believe to be a dead end street, but by becoming proficient in research, we can open to the possibilities of ways of creating a valid experiment using methods and parameters as found in whole systems or translational studies research. These are areas where research and the use of validated means and methods can perhaps explore the real possibilities offered in an integrated medicine community.
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By Maryanne Travaglione