Articles – Myalgic Encephalomyelitis

Healing from the Roots – A TCM Approach to ME

Prof Song Xuan Ke

Although many studies have proved that the causes of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) are related to a virus and that the damage caused by the virus is mainly to the immune and nervous systems, a “cure” has not been found and treatment is limited. Medical practitioners are frustrated that they are not able to offer better treatment and patients are left to struggle for themselves.

Why is it that even with very advanced science and technology we still cannot make good progress in terms of the treatment and possible prevention? Is it still because we lack the technology to combat each individual virus, or is it that we need much stronger antibiotics to fight it?

I think that neither is the answer. The real reason we cannot  “cure” the virus infection is that the way we approach the fight against the virus is wrong, or the fundamental philosophy to guide the research is wrong, i.e. too much attention has been concentrated in simply finding the pathogenic causes and where and how the body is attacked. Hopefully we will someday find a counter-attacking medicine, but the facts have demonstrated that these are very difficult or even impossible.

As we know, many viruses mutate much faster than we can produce antibiotics. Rather than trying to tackle the virus, we should focus on our body itself, to find out why our body accepts this attack which develops into the illness. A key point is that many people get M.E. after a flu or a flu-like infection, but not everybody who has flu or a flu-like infection develop into M.E.(Myalgic Encephalomyelitis). That is because some people are stronger in the body’s defense function than others. Even though they face the same attack they can protect themselves.

This is like the wind can blow down some trees but those trees with deeper roots and stronger trunks will not fall. If you blame the falling of the trees entirely on the wind, then we could argue the other way around, i.e. the trees have fallen down because of their deficient roots. Similarly if a building collapses due to an earthquake and others stay intact, we will automatically question whether the foundations of the building is too weak, and the architect or builder of the building is sometimes prosecuted.

So therefore the roots of a tree and foundations of the building are more important than the attacking force. This is the fundamental philosophy of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). In TCM we recognize that the M.E.(Myalgic Encephalomyelitis) is mainly due to the deficiency of the body and not the virus invasion. The deficiency of the body can weaken the defense i.e. immune system and then the body will be open to the attack by the virus or other viruses, sooner or later.