There was a time, for thousands of years, where we didn’t have conveniences of modern medicine. Western or allopathic medicine has indeed made life-saving technologies and drugs which have benefited billions, but as one of my professors once professed, “without the use of electricity, machines, or a pill, would a western doctor be able to make a patient feel better?” To this, the answer was more often than not, a resounding “no.” And therein lies the beauty of Chinese Medicine. Of all the benefits of Chinese Medicine, what perhaps is the most attractive aspect to me is the versatility, simplicity, and sustainability of it. If catastrophe struck and we couldn’t sustain the electricity, machines, or pills needed for patient care from the western medicine lens, eastern medicine would still function. We could call this “apocalypse medicine.” While we potentially couldn’t manufacture the perfect, sterile, packaged needles we see today, we could still recycle and sterilize current ones, or create them as they did in history, or even then a skilled practitioner could still affect change in a patient without actually penetrating the skin, using non-penetrative or vibrational therapies. Herbal medicine would become crucial in the absence of pharmaceuticals, as plants will always grow given the right environment, water, and light. And even without an ensuing catastrophe or apocalyptic event, we could find the framework of Chinese Medicine useful in other minimal-resource situations, such as in the wilderness. How useful would it be to know to moxa Sp-1 or apply Yunnan Bai Yao powder to a wound to stop bleeding? Or to know the use of the Resuscitation points if a friend loses consciousness? These are simple and lightweight modalities that could be profoundly useful in the outdoors, until other help comes. Even without the exact right materials at hand, the versatility of Chinese Medicine theory still holds up, can still provide relief to the suffering, and this is truly what makes Chinese Medicine an “apocalypse medicine.”
Sarah Moeser is a student of Chinese Medicine at the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine in Portland, OR.