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Many clinical studies have evaluated the efficacy of acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine, and numerous research papers have been published on their physiological and pharmacological mechanisms. However, critical appraisal of Chinese medicine’s explanatory and diagnostic models has been neglected in the literature. Ancient explanatory models are often uncritically accepted as fact by traditionalists, whilst being rejected as speculative oriental metaphysical nonsense by staunch biomedicalists. This paper examines this problem, focusing particularly on research that has explored Chinese medical theory using biomedical methods. It is argued that both credulous acceptance and uninformed rejection of the tradition represent flawed positions, and that rational investigation of the fundamental ideas of Chinese medicine is important if this holistic medical tradition is to claim validity in the future practice of medicine.
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