A Pioneer in Exploring the Wisdom of Oriental Medicine

The Unique Development of Kampo (Japanese herbal) Medicine

Western medicine plays the central role in the current medical field. At the same time, Japan holds a long tradition of Oriental medicine that has been passed down through countless generations. It is Oriental medicine that is attracting a great deal of public and medical-affiliated attention with the advent of the aging society, changes in lifestyles, and the increase of allergic diseases. In a recent survey, over 90% of doctors responded that they prescribe Kampo (Japanese herbal) medicine or have prescribed it in the past to its patients.

What then, is the characteristic of oriental medicine?

Oriental medicine in Japan is referred to as "Kampo". While Kampo is often thought to be Chinese medicine, in actuality Kampo points to the medical practice that was originally brought to Japan from China around 5th -6th century, which then underwent unique developments within Japan. The word Kampo itself was created in Japan during the Edo period to distinguish from "Ranpo," or western science, which had originated from the Netherlands.

After undergoing numerous arrangements and modifications, Kampo has become an independent system from the traditional Chinese medicine on multiple grounds, including examination methods and the prescription of medicine.

The History of Kampo

5th-6th Century Chinese Medicine is brought to Japan 
Unique advancements are made through modifications and developments such as the  creation of Kampo schools
1883 The government officially declared Western medicine as formal medicine, and Kampo  moved into a decline
1950 Japan Society for Oriental Medicine (JSOM) was established Gathered momentum for the  eappraisal of Kampo
1972 Kitasato University Oriental Medicine Research Center was established as Japan's first  comprehensive research institution for Oriental medicine
1976 40 types of Kampo extract preparation were recognized to be made available under health insurance
1989 Japan Society for Oriental Medicine established the Kampo medicine specialist system
2001 Oriental medicine is integrated in the curriculum in all the medical schools in Japan

Defining Characteristics of Kampo- Mibyou and Shou

The human body is considered to be an assembly of parts including bones, skin, and organs in Western medicine, and identifying and repairing the bad part is the treatment method. In contrary, Kampo views the human body as a whole, even including the soul, and aims to strengthen one's natural healing abilities by adjusting the balance between the soul and the body. For example, when a patient feels ill and undergoes examination at a hospital, Western medicine practitioners will not diagnose the patient with a disease unless a "bad part" is not found, but Kampo practitioners will perceive it as a "mibyou (presymptomatic disease)" and treat it accordingly. Symptoms lying in the grey zone between disease and health, such as being sensitive to the cold or becoming tired easily, is in the playing field for Kampo.

Since Kampo treats "mibyou," practitioners do not diagnose the patient's with a specified disease like in Western medicine after examination. Instead, they value an evaluation system based on the condition and health of the entire body named "sho (proof)," a method unique to Kampo. From the diagnosis, numerous "sho" are decided, and the improvement of the balance becomes the foundation of treatment; examples include a patient that is sensitive to heat with a fast pulse being evaluated as "positive proof", one that is always cold as "negative proof", one with a strong immune system as "substance proof", one that is becoming weak as "fake proof".

The Concept of Mibyou and Disease

Kitasato University Oriental Medicine Research Center, the Pioneer of Medical Treatment and Research in Oriental Medicine

40 years ago in 1972, Kitasato Institute established the Oriental Medicine Research Center as Japan's first comprehensive research institution for Oriental medicine on the soil of Shirogane, Tokyo. Shining light on Oriental medicine, which had no organized research after its exclusion from mainstream medical science in the Meiji period, this research center aimed to provide treatments utilizing the advantages of both Western and Easters medicine, and to reveal the science of Oriental medicine. Through such efforts, they have established significant achievements as a leading figure of Oriental medicine.

The Oriental Medicine Research Center's activities revolve around the Clinical Examination Department, comprised of herbal(narrow-defined Kampo) treatment centering on infusions created under our country's Kampo theory and acupuncture treatment utilizing traditional techniques, the Research Department which is centered on basic research, clinical research, and medical history research, and lastly the Education Department. Such wide-ranged and advanced efforts of the Center have been recognized internationally, including Japan's first appointment as a WHO Collaborating Center for Traditional Medicine in 1986.

The Kampo Acupuncture and Moxibustion Treatment Center, Where Kampo Specialists Provide Treatment

The Kampo Acupuncture and Moxibustion Treatment Center is where patients are actually treated within the Oriental Medicine Research Center. As a kampo acupuncture and moxibustion treatment facility with the longest history in the nation, patients from as far as Hokkaido to Okinawa visit, proving its nationwide recognition and popularity.

It has gained considerable credibility through its unsurpassed history and achievements, as well as its strong foundation made by excellent physicians. Each of the physicians possess abundant experience in a specialized field of modern medicine with 3 years of training as a Kampo specialist. Further, most are top-notch experts who are certified attending doctors. Needless to say, they are able to make accurate diagnoses based on both the perspective of Western and Oriental medicine, but it is also safe to state that they are of nation's top-level with their knowledge, skill, and experience.

In addition, only the custom-ordered Kampo crude drugs of the highest quality are used for treatment at the Center. They maintain an uncompromising attitude towards the quality of crude drugs since it directly influences the healing effects. Since the types of Kampo crude drugs allowed for use is limited under the healthcare services provided by the nation's health insurance, physicians are unable to prescribe ones of high quality. Therefore, all the herbal treatment of the Center is conducted under the patient's own expense.

Acupuncture and moxibustion treatment is the other mainstay of the treatment center, with their most notable feature being their rich medical team arrangement constituted of more than 10 distinguished staff members. There are no other acupuncture and moxibustion treatment centers that are on equal footing in quality and scale.

The current director of Oriental Medicine Research Center, Toshihiko Hanawa emphasizes, "Kampo and acupuncture and moxibustion exert effects on a wide-range, from the treatment of chronic diseases to improving inner health, even to acute symptoms of a cold. As we age, all of us develop one or two chronic diseases, but I am sure Kampo and acupuncture and moxibustion will be effective in maintaining the quality of life."

Kampo Medicine, Made from Blending Natural Crude Drugs

Kampo medicine is made from a blend of dried and crushed crude drugs, or herbs, animals, and minerals with medicinal properties. The infusion type can be taken in as a drink after decocting for 30-50 minutes, and the extract is made available as a granule or a pill. While the infusion type has stronger effects, the extract type enjoys the merit of being more convenient, allowing for it to be covered by health insurance.

Q&A How does Western Medicine and Oriental Medicine differ?

What are the areas of specialties for each?
Western medicine specializes in treating diseases with high urgency such as acute myocardial infarction, early-stage cancer, and serious infectious disease. On the contrary, Oriental medicine's forte lies with treating poor health resulting from a naturally frail body, problems stemming from aging, allergic diseases, psychosomatic diseases and general malaise, and gynecopathysuch as irregular menstruation and cold constitution.
What are the characteristics of prescribed medication?
While Western medicine is highly effective in treating a specific symptom, Kampo medicine is effective in treating numerous symptoms such as poor circulation and constipation with just one medication, by working on both the mental and physical sides of the body. Further, Kampo medicine produces fewer side effects in comparison to Western medicine.
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