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Eastern And Western Medicine: Is The Interstitium The Link?




Whether you believe in Eastern medicine or not, a new medical discovery could prove the effectiveness of traditional therapies.

In March 2018, using new microscope technology,  Dr. Neil Theise, and his research team discovered the interstitium. This network of fluid-filled spaces that line tissues in the body, allows for lymphatic fluids to migrate through the body. The interstitium lines the layers beneath the skin, the lungs, the digestive and urinary systems, and our muscles. The scientific world is torn over whether to call the interstitium a “new organ”, but if it is declared an organ, it will replace skin as the largest organ in the body.

Why Does it Matter?

The interstitium may seem like a minor discovery until you consider that its main role is to store water and lymphatic fluids. Water makes up more than half the human body and is essential to how our bodies function. At the same time, lymphatic fluids help fight infection and are the route cancerous cells use to spread throughout the body. The movement of lymphatic fluid affects conditions like edema, fibrosis, skin aging, and the functioning of our tissues and organs.

The Interstitium & Eastern Medicine

Dr. Theise theorizes that the interstitium could explain the effectiveness of acupuncture. As the needles puncture the skin and the interstitium, it might create a channel for lymphatic fluid to follow, spreading healing fluids to the areas where it’s most needed.

Dr. Shaista Malik, of Susan Samueli Center for Integrative Medicine at UC Irvine, was even more optimistic. According to Dr. Malik, the discovery of the interstitium could explain the systemic effects of therapies like massage, Tai Chi, and yoga.

As researchers continue to learn about the interstitium, it may bridge the gap between Eastern and Western medicine. The effectiveness of Eastern medicine has been apparent for thousands of years, but for many Westerners, the lack of scientific explanation for these therapies has stopped them from giving it a try.

East vs. West: A Different Approach to Medicine

Western medicine is rooted in science and looks at the body in terms of hardware: bones, muscles, and organs. It analyzes and tests symptoms to determine a correct diagnosis and uses modern technology to deliver treatment.

By contrast, Eastern medicine examines the body’s software, its flow of energy and balance. While this approach is less scientific, it considers the persons’ whole wellbeing, body, and mind. Traditional Eastern medicine is more concerned with alleviating systems than with finding the correct diagnosis.

Together, the East and West can have huge effects. After cancer treatment, patients often experience side effects like insomnia and night sweats. These symptoms can be alleviated by acupuncture, Qigong, and herbal therapies. Similarly, acupuncture works to alleviate the symptoms of hay fever and minor seasonal illnesses that Western medicine can do little to treat.

Eastern Medicine for Healthier Lives

Now that you know how effective these practices can be, you might want to try some for yourself. Here are some the practice that been shown to be effective:

  • Acupuncture: For headaches, muscle and joint pain, and osteoarthritis
  • Herbal remedies: For migraines, arthritis, and PMS
  • Tu nai (Chinese massage): For trauma, injuries, and muscle and joint pain
  • Tai chi, Qigong, and Yoga: For back pain, increasing grey matter, and asthma symptoms

Check out this infographic for more ways Eastern medicine can benefit you :


Brian Wallace is the Founder and President of NowSourcing, an industry leading infographic design agency , based in Louisville, KY and Cincinnati, OH which works with companies that range from startups to Fortune 500s. Brian also runs #LinkedInLocal events nationwide, hosts the Next Action Podcast, and has been named a Google Small Business Advisor for 2016-present and joined the SXSW Advisory Board in 2019. Follow Brian Wallace on LinkedIn as well as Twitter.