Lincoln and Chinese medicine | Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln and Chinese medicine

Here’s a surprising excerpt from Doris Kearn Goodwin’s phenomenal book “Team of Rivals“:

“In Lincoln’s time, this combination of symptoms—feelings of hopelessness and listlessness, thoughts of death and suicide—was called hypochondriasis (“the hypo”) or “the vapours.” Its source was thought to be in the hypochondria, that portion of the abdomen which was then considered the seat of emotions, containing the liver, gallbladder, and spleen. Treatment for the liver and digestive system was recommended.

How interesting that, in the absence of today’s Western medical knowledge back in the 19th century, Lincoln got a diagnosis much like what Chinese medical practitioners would have given today. For depression, we automatically consider Liver* pathology. One of the most common patterns is called Liver Attacking Spleen.

It only proves to me that Chinese medicine has deep theoretical foundations that modern science does not have the tools to understand… or, as this little gem of information suggests, perhaps Western civilization has simply forgotten how.

*as in the organ system, not necessarily the liver itself