Saturday, July 21, 2012

Traditional Korean Medical Practices

In the culture of life column in the Peace Weekly, adoctor of oriental medicine answers a question he often hears. Why do we use more medicine than in the past? He feels, along with many of his colleagues, that the increased use of medicines that are mostly grown commercially, a cultivated product, as opposed to relying on medicines gathered from the mountains and fields in their natural state is one reason for the change. Another reason is that our health has deteriorated from what it was in the past. Because of the health advances in recent years, many more babies are living that would have died. Their resistance to infection is low and health is conspicuously weaker.

In former days in Korea, according to traditional books on care during infancy, "ten commandments of health" were recommended: Keep the back, stomach, feet and intestines warm to help digestion; keep the head and breast cool to prevent fever and distress; keep strange play things away from the hands of babies; do not breast feed until the baby stops crying, be slow in giving medicines to babies; and bathe infrequently.
It was said that it was easier to treat one man than 10 women, and 10 women would be easier than one baby. You can't ask a baby what is the problem, and taking a baby's pulse is no easy task. A baby's energy to develop is strong, which means that unless it is a serious matter, the body will take care of itself.

He mentions that it is not necessary to give medicine to break a fever, and he doesn't use a thermometer but touches the ears. If they are cold, the body will take care of the problem, he says. But if the ears are hot, it would be wise to use a fever breaker.

There are times when medicines should be used; if not, some conditions will get worse and even death is possible, or at least impede normal growth. This decision should be left up to the doctor.

Korean traditional medical practices go back to prehistoric times, and in one of their founding myths wormwood and garlic were used as curative herbs. The West would see much of this as the working of the placebo principle, and yet the East, in its medical practices, seems to be ahead of the West in its appreciation of the need to heal the whole person.


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