Medical sciences

The term medical sciences covers all aspects of our current understanding of how the body works. In the west we study Anatomy, Physiology, Biochemistry, Pathology, Pharmacology and Epigenetics under the umbrella of medical sciences. Theoretically there are three separate medical science paradigms which stem from ancient writings. Hippocrates (460- 370 BCE)) wrote about the science of healing by opposites which laid the foundation for conventional medicine, but he also wrote about the healing by similars which was the common modality of healing for centuries and from which homeopathy grew in the 18th century. Chinese medicine and Indian medicine have their foundations in different ancient writings with an emphasis on the healing power of Chi (Chinese) or Prana (Indian) into which all their practises are enmeshed.

Surely human enquiry powered the thirst for knowledge about how the human body works and it is interesting to look at how religions ‘owned’ the domain for centuries and how certain practises were outlawed by the religious hierarchies. Magic also played a part. Certain aspects of medical activity attracted revulsion from the general public and consequently slowed down progress. Clearly the first step in understanding the human body was to cut it up and for centuries Anatomy was the prevailing medical science studied. The invention of the printing press ca 1400 AD was instrumental in the spread of knowledge with the mass distribution of books throughout the world although most people couldn’t read them. Many were magnificently illustrated in gory detail. For centuries cures were based on knowledge of plants and surgical interventions and it wasn’t until the 15th century that chemical elements were included in medicines.

The Cell Theory of 1830s is seen as the foundation stone of both modern medical science and biology. (The term ‘biology’ was coined in 1801 and the term ‘scientist’ coined in 1833.) Bacteriology was the medical science with the most impact on the lives of ordinary people during the late 19th century and the development of antibiotics revolutionised medical science during the 20th century. Experimental physiology, which involved physiologists operating on living animals, produced an immense outcry- especially in the UK and in 1876 the Cruelty to Animals Act became law. So then the most important tool for the physiologist was the development of anaesthesia in the late 19th century and the development of aseptic and antiseptic techniques.

Read more about: Chinese Medicine - A different paradigm

Main principles

Hippocrates of Kos (460-377BCE) is universally recognized as the father of modern medicine, which is based on observation of clinical signs and rational conclusions, and does not rely on religious or magical beliefs. Hippocratic medicine was influenced by the Pythagorean theory that Nature was made of four elements (water, earth, wind and fire), and therefore, in an analogous way, the body consisted of four fluids or 'humours' (black bile, yellow bile, phlegm and blood). The physician had to reinstate the healthy balance of these humours by facilitating the healing work of 'benevolent Nature'.

Conventional medicine believes that disease is caused by something external and health is restored when that ‘thing’ is eradicated. The associated study of medical sciences is mechanistic in approach.

Holistic medicine believes that the body is the ‘soil’ in which disease states develop and ‘cure’ will only occur when the internal body state is in balance. Medical sciences are relevant to understand the direction of ‘cure’ and prognosis.

Chinese medicine uses both principles and training is in western bio medical sciences as well as extensive TCM study of diagnostics of diseases and syndromes by extensive physical examination. Additional principles of acupuncture, moxibustion, herbal medicine and Tu Ina therapy are essential to treatment.



Human enquiry powered the thirst for knowledge about how the human body works.