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British Columbia regulates Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) as an official professional practice. Similarly, the country widely accepts Western medicine as a conventional healthcare approach. While both practices aim to deliver effective patient care, there are differences to expect when seeing a TCM practitioner compared to a Western medical doctor.

Treatment Philosophies of TCM and Western Medicine

One of the significant differences between Traditional Chinese Medicine and Western medicine lies in the treatment philosophy. TCM practitioners evaluate the patient’s body as a whole, considering their physical, mental, and emotional states. In contrast, Western medicine focuses on symptoms and aims to treat them with targeted medications or interventions. Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners use natural remedies and techniques such as acupuncture, cupping, herbal medicine, and lifestyle changes to help the body heal from within. Meanwhile, Western medical doctors follow a science-based approach and prescribe medications, surgeries, and other conventional treatments to cure illnesses and diseases.

TCM taking patient's pulse

Diagnostic Techniques of TCM and Western Medicine

TCM practitioners use various manual diagnostic techniques to establish a patient’s underlying pathologies, including assessing the pulse, tongue, and body temperature. Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners often diagnose invisible blockages in the flow of Qi, which is the life energy within the body. Western medical doctors’ diagnoses typically involve laboratory tests, imaging scans, and physical exams to detect specific diseases or ailments.

Timeframe and Treatment Length

Western medicine often offers quick-fix solutions to address symptoms and illnesses. In contrast, TCM practitioners take a more holistic approach, focusing on preventative care. Their treatment plans aim to strengthen the body over time, addressing the underlying causes of ailments and improving patients’ overall well-being. Traditional Chinese Medicine treatments, such as acupuncture and herbal medicine, typically involve multiple sessions spread out over time. This duration can range from a couple of weeks to several months.

TCM Chinese Herbal Medicine and Western Pharmaceutical Medicine


Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners use natural remedies, including herbs, minerals, and animal parts, which they prescribe in the right combinations to treat various ailments. However, natural remedies may have side effects and possible allergic reactions. In contrast, Western medical doctors use drugs that have undergone clinical trials, regulated by the pharmaceutical industry. These drugs may also have significant side effects and may interact with other medications.

Safety and Health Concerns 

Safety and ethical concerns often arise with TCM practitioners due to their traditions, methods, and approach. However, the BC College of Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners & Acupuncturists oversee and regulate Traditional Chinese Medicine in British Columbia. Similarly, Western medicine may also come with risks, such as complications from surgery, side effects from medication, and infections from hospital care.



Traditional Chinese Medicine and Western medicine are two different approaches to healthcare with varying philosophies, diagnostic techniques, treatment lengths, medications, safety, and health concerns. Patients should always do their research and ask questions when seeking healthcare options.

If you have more questions about TCM, book a free consultation with Gloria.

Written By: DeVera Nybo, MBA, CEO/Owner, Newleaf Total Wellness Centre.

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