Traditional Japanese Medicine

Traditional Japanese Medicine

If you’ve heard much about alternative medicine, you may have come to the realization that much of it is based in the traditional medicinal practices of various places around the world, often the Indo-Pacific region.

Traditional Japanese Medicine has given alternative medicine a strong foundation, but it is easy for its unique teachings and beliefs to get lost in the sea of “Eastern Medicine,” the traditional medicinal practices of Japan, China, Korea, and India.

The Basics

While most of this article will talk specifically about traditional Japanese medicine, touching base on some of the things that you might already know about “Eastern Medicine” may be a good way to get started.

Traditional Japanese Medicine believes that health comes from “balance” between different aspects of our lives, including diet, exercise, emotional and mental health, and some form of spiritual connectedness.

That doesn’t mean that you have to go to church to practice traditional Japanese medicine or that traditional Japanese medicine should be seen as in conflict with your faith. You just need to have some understanding of yourself as a small but important part and contributor in the universal system.

based on the concept of an “energy” that flows through the body from a number of centers, called “chakras” along energy lines around the body. Various imbalances in a person’s life can cause or be caused by a “damming up” of energy in the chakras which can manifest as physical, mental, or emotional systems. This energy can be redistributed by the individual or, in more severe cases, by a practitioner.


The great gift of traditional Japanese Medicine to the world is Reiki. This healing practice involves a healthy practitioner helping an unhealthy patient to regain health by rebalancing their energies. This is often done by the practitioner placing their hands on the patient in order to help redirect their energies.

It is both reminiscent of “faith healing” practiced by various religions in the Americas and is one of the ancient for-runners of modern Chiropractics.

While no one (at least not in the Americas and Europe) can get medical degrees in Reiki, there are institutions that certify Reiki practitioners. If you go to a Reiki practitioner, you may ask to see their certificate.

They may also have degrees in some other health field such as chiropractics, physical therapy, &c. That having been said, there is virtually no risk at all involved in Reiki. While there are stories of Reiki helping people, there aren’t a lot of stories about people blaming worsening conditions or the appearance of new conditions on Reiki done wrong.

A quick search on the internet can bring up a wealth of information on Reiki but if you prefer print sources, Diane Stein’s "Essential Reiki: A Complete Guide To An Ancient Healing Art” is a great start.


The other great pillar of traditional Japanese Medicine is Kampo. While Reiki probably predates Kamp, we know more about Kampo and from older sources.

While Reiki is largely spiritual and fairly mystical in nature, Kampo is more grounded in science. The largely herbal medicinal practice was largely adapted from traditional Chinese medicine and began to gain ground in nearby Japan around the seventh century.

Kampo maintains the focus on the body’s energy but acknowledges that the body’s energy is different from but related to other anatomical concepts.

The incorporation of the study of various organs, fluids, and temperatures make Kampo more similar to concepts that weren’t known in Europe until just before the Renaissance, giving Kampo a blend of both more traditional credibility and more scientific maturity than Reiki, though the two aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive and aren’t exactly substitutes for one another.

Just as Reiki can be seen as an ancestor of chiropractic medicine, Kampo can be seen as an early step towards today’s interest in herbal, holistic, and homeopathic medicine.

Like any school of traditional medicine, traditional Japanese medicine offers a great pool of resources and practices into which the interested person can easily dive in these days of easy information accessibility.

While Reiki is largely seen as harmless, you should probably talk to your medical care provider before diving into Kampo, especially if you are being treated for something already. Some of the herbs involved in Kampo, while perfectly safe for most users, can potentially interact with some prescription medications.

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