Does Traditional Chinese Medicine Work in Western Countries?

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Traditional Chinese Medicine

While Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) expands its market all over the world, it has always been doubted whether the treatment can work for people in western countries.

It is of little doubt that TCM works well for Chinese people, partly on account that they already know some basic concepts of how it works; drinking hot water being a good example. On the contrary, it is a common opinion amongst the Chinese that westerners drink icy-cold drinks too often, and this is viewed in TCM circles as leading to a hoarse voice, inflamed throat and upset stomach. With such big culture differences, can TCM really work for Westerners?

The answer is Yes. Xu Guojie, as doctor of acupuncture in the 2nd Affliated Hospital of Southern Medical University, explained to The Nanjinger. “It all depends on people’s lifestyle, as TCM sees the human body as a system that needs constant fine-tuning and medico-chemical measures to help avoid diseases”. That is to say, TCM identifies a person’s body condition first, then implements the appropriate treatment.

“It is not the difference between Westerners and Chinese, but the difference from every individual,” said Dr. Xu. A large amount of young women from western countries who suffer from irregular menstrual cycles, for example, cannot be cured by western pills, and it is the same case in China. Xu argues, “Irregular menstrual cycles result from irregular lifestyles, such as staying up too late or an unhealthy diet. TCM helps adapt every part of their body to run regularly”.

Indeed, Xu is going to Malta this summer with her medical group to help local women with period problems through the use of TCM, sponsored by the Jiangsu Health Commission, in order to promote TCM abroad.

Chinese people are also arguably better treated by TCM than westerners on account that they are more likely to be aware of the connection between health and food, through their observance of “cold” or “hot” warnings for food.

According to bodily reaction after eating, TCM divides food into four kinds; cold, cool, warm or hot. Cold and cool foods can be used to cure fever, thirst, cough, phlegm and other symptoms, functioning by clearing heat, purging fire, detoxifying and cooling the blood. Common cold foods include coix, mung beans, winter melon, tomatoes, apples, pears, crabs, duck blood, honeysuckle and balsam pear tea. Warm or hot food is suitable for ailments relating to constitution and disease, such as cold, runny nose, abdominal pain, vomiting and rheumatic arthralgia. Common warm foods include chestnut, glutinous rice, coriander, pepper, litchi, carrot and leek.

In addition, TCM belief also links emotion to body parts. For example, did you know anger can result in liver problems? Such a concept is generally known by Chinese people. Xu backs up this argument by citing the example of one of her patients, a Korean in his 30’s, who had serious insomnia caused by anxiety, and was cured by Xu’s acupuncture.

Thus the theory behind Traditional Chinese Medicine relates a great deal to emotional treatment. Foreign or Chinese, we are all, at the end of the day, emotional beings.

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Kristen Wang
A Nanjing local, Kristen studied Media and Public relations in Newcastle University (UK), has researched social media and online publishing and previously worked for different new media platforms. She is passionate about discovering new stories and helping expats involved in this city. 南京人Kristen毕业于纽卡斯尔大学,媒体与公共关系硕士学位。她的研究专注于社交媒体和网络发行,在不同的新媒体平台工作。她喜欢发现新鲜事,也希望帮助在南京的外国人融入这里的生活。