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Friday, June 30, 2006

Traditional Chinese Medicine Came To The West

How did it come to the west?
There has been a record of significant interaction between Eastern and Western medical systems for several hundred years.References to acupuncture and pulse diagnosis occurred in the writings of Dutch physicians in the 17th century.
Much of what is now known as Swedish massage originated from China and there has been a long history of exchange in herbal products with Cinnamon bark being exported from China to ancient Rome and herbs such as American Ginseng being incorporated into the Chinese tradition in the nineteenth century.
The first part of the twentieth century however was very much a one way flow of information as the developments in Western medicine flooded into China and, in the spirit of “progress” threatened to overwhelm what was then perceived as a rather dated looking system of traditional medicine.
Things slowly started to change in the second half of the last century and a process of government support and medical standardisation began which has now resulted in the current situation in China and other Asian countries where TCM now operates in large teaching hospitals, side by side with the latest developments of Western medicine.
So why is it so popular now?
In Western countries TCM was relatively unknown until President Nixon’s groundbreaking visit to China in 1971 and the accounts of the use of acupuncture for pain control appeared in the New York Times.
Since then there has been a rapid growth in the awareness and use of TCM in Western countries so that currently Universities around the world are now teaching degrees in TCM and in the UK there are several thousand practitioners offering herbal medicines, acupuncture and other techniques within a Western clinical setting. (links to UK unis and colleges)
There are several reasons for this rapid rise in popularity. The initial appeal of the exotic was replaced by anecdotal and increasingly research reports indicating the effectiveness of TCM treatments. The groundbreaking studies on the successful use of Chinese herbal medicines in the treatment of eczema at Great Ormond Street Hospital hit the national headlines and learned medical journals (Sheehan MP, Rustin MHA, et al. Efficacy of traditional Chinese herbal therapy in adult atopic dermatitis. Lancet 1992).
TCM is now frequently used for this and many other forms of skin disease. Alongside the evidence supporting the use of TCM there was also a growing sense of dissatisfaction with the limitations of modern medical treatments. The lack of a holistic perspective, short consultation times and the often debilitating side effects of pharmaceutical drugs have meant that more and more people are seeking additional forms of health care.
In recent years improved standards of education and professional organisation, and a new emphasis on quality control have meant that now there is a network of well qualified TCM practitioners offering the benefits of this ancient tradition to the Western public. Sen primarily works with the Register of Chinese Herbal Medicine who support Government efforts on self-regulation of practitioners.


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