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Under the dominance of modern Western science, practitioners of Chinese medicine have long struggled to define their medicine as something unique, valuable and worth retaining. In so doing they often emphasise the importance of the saying, ‘Chinese medicine differentiates patterns, Western medicine differentiates diseases’. While it is true that pattern differentiation is a core aspect of the practice of Chinese medicine, the differentiation and treatment of specific diseases has also been a major part of Chinese medicine since its inception, as shown in its earliest written records. This is particularly true for the practice of Chinese medical dermatology, for which disease-focused treatments can be found throughout the classical literature, right up to the present day. This article presents historical evidence of Chinese medicine treating specific diseases, and provides modern clinical examples showing the practical importance of defining diseases within the practice of Chinese medical dermatology.
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