Sunday, December 8, 2013

Traditional Medicine Still Gaining Popularity in China

By: Caleigh Bourgeois
Produced & edited by: Sandhya Kambhampati
  Three months to live. That’s all Jia Liang’s grandmother was told she had by doctors three years ago when she was diagnosed with stomach cancer. Things seemed hopeless, until Liang’s grandmother, a Beijing resident, turned to traditional Chinese medicine. After many months of daily herbal treatments, the cancer disappeared.
  This story is not uncommon, according to Dr. Yuk-Ming Sung, a Hong Kong based Ph.D. professor and author of numerous textbooks on traditional Chinese medicine, including, “Understanding the Ji Gui Yao Lue: A Comprehensive Textbook.”
  “Chinese medicine can actually take care of everything. I mean, really everything,” Sung said.
  According to the national Chinese newspaper, China Daily, the Chinese government recently allocated $242.67 million to support the practice of traditional Chinese medicine. While modern medicine is used and produced in China just as it is in the United States, most Chinese hospitals also include at least one traditional Chinese medicine expert on staff.
  In addition, there are numerous hospitals in China that use only traditional medicine, they are called, “Zhong yi yuan.”
Keeping traditional Chinese medicines alive
  Traditional Chinese medicine includes a wide range of products and practices that aim to keep balance in the body.
  “We basically address deficiency and excess,” Sung said.
  For example, an iron deficiency is a blood deficiency, while a tumor is considered excess. Methods include acupuncture, herbal remedies and tai chi, all of which are thousands of years old.
Acupuncture is widely used in Chinese medicine. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)
  These traditions are kept alive by both the elderly and young, with many treatments passed down through families.
  Xinrui Kuo, a college student in Beijing recently used herbal remedies to overcome the flu, and never once doubted their healing powers. The medicine was given to her by a regular pharmacy, but contains a mix of modern medicine and herbs that have been used in Chinese medicine for generations.
  “Nowadays we use both western pills and traditional medicine,” Kuo said.
  Kuo is open to both western and traditional Chinese remedies. 
   “If western medicine can’t cure a person maybe they will use back traditional medicine,” she said.
  Sung said modern medicine and traditional Chinese medicine have their unique advantages.
  “All medicine has one common goal. That’s to fix the problems. So if you can address the problem effectively, that’s all patients ask for no matter what medicine,” he said.
  According to Sung, while modern medicine works best in cases where surgery is involved, it cannot address common ailments and diseases as well as traditional methods.
  “For stroke patients, there is nothing western medicine can do at all. People can be paralyzed on one side, but acupuncture works wonderfully,” Sung said, adding that he has witnessed countless stroke patients improve their health through acupuncture.
Herbal remedies a valued tradition
  Keeping traditional Chinese medicine alive means more than just preserving health. For some Chinese families, herbal remedies are valued traditions, engrained in the culture.
  Beijing college student, Ban Yuyao’s grandfather is a traditional Chinese doctor, and has passed many traditions down to his family.  
  “Chinese medicine can cure and nurse one's health,” she said.
  Liang’s grandmother now continues to drink herbs every day, and her mother prefers traditional Chinese medicine to other methods. Her friend and classmate, Jinghan Zhang, said she learned to appreciate traditional Chinese medicine as she matured.
  “When I was a child, I hated traditional Chinese medicine so much because it tasted bad and must be taken for a few days,” she said. “I like it now, because I think it is much better than chemical medicine. It has very little side effects and is also flexible enough to focus on specific illnesses.”
  Dr. Zhu Ming, of the Zhongfang Red Cross International Hospital in the southern Hunan Province of China, said traditional methods not only cure patients, but also improve the body’s overall health to prevent future ailments.
  “TCM has long history in China which can not only cure kinds of diseases but also strengthen human’s body, because it is a kind of holistic medicine and based on individual symptoms and conditions,” Ming said.
Acceptance of TCM in the United States
  While traditional Chinese medicine is widely accepted in China, it is not popular in the United States.
  “I hate to say it but overall, the education of Chinese medicine for the United States has got a long way to go. They are undereducated to me,” Sung said.
  One of his former students, Frances Gander, now practices acupuncture in Athens, Ohio. She said cultural differences contribute to misunderstanding, especially in the case of acupuncture, in which needles penetrate the skin.
  “Americans in general have this squeamish thing built in about painful vaccinations as a child. Of course it is nothing like that,” Gander said.
  Kuo on the other hand, approached acupuncture without fear, “With pain is joy,” Kuo said.
  Westerners can participate in traditional Chinese medicine without even realizing it. Sung said many common foods hold healing powers, including blueberries and apricots.
  Traditional Chinese medicine is extremely broad, and includes forms of massage and emotional therapy.
  Gander said the United States sometimes neglects traditional practices because they define health differently than China.
Frances Gander said cultural differences contribute to the misunderstanding of acupuncture. (Image via
  “If you look at somebody’s face and they look happy, or their eyes are bright, all those sort of things, they greet with a smile, that’s what’s really considered wellness in China,” Gander said.
  Traditional Chinese medicine remains supported financially, by the Chinese government and culturally, by generations of citizens.
  “I think we really like Chinese medicine more than western medicine because our ancestors created it, and it really does effect us,” Zhang said.

1 comment:

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