If you are new to Traditional Chinese Medicine I suggest reading my other posts on the topic first (1, 2, 3, 4) For many Westerners “Traditional Chinese Medicine” brings to mind an image something like this However this is not what TCM looks like in most of China. At the hospital where I work there is a TCM department, their patients are mostly elderly and have been referred for pain management, not yin and yang disharmony. TCM is shifting from local practitioners who collected their own herbs to massive TCM pharmaceutical companies, the entire system is changing. I thought today we should wrap up our look at TCM by discussing its possible future. Medications It may surprise many of my western readers to learn that […]
“In Guangxi we eat everything with 4 legs but tables and chairs, everything in the ocean but submarines, and anything in the sky but airplanes,” a giddy student told me when I asked about local dishes. It turned out that this was much closer to the truth than I had imagined at the time. In my four years here in China, I have been introduced to a variety of foods: roast dog, snake soup, chicken ovaries, duck stomach, goose intestines, a variety of fowl flippers, and pig arteries, brain, and even urethra (my previous post on dog meat). I’ve seen so many animals served up that I doubt that there is even a Chinese word for kosher. Behind many of these strange dishes are concepts […]
When I tell other foreigners that I am working in a Chinese hospital, the conversation often takes a quick detour to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Often they tell me that TCM is a much healthier choice, the evil of big pharmaceutical companies, and how thousands of years of practice have made TCM more effective. There is a lot here to unpack. Today though we’ll just be building a basic understanding of some of the concepts central to TCM. Bear with me, understanding TCM is essential for understanding how Chinese culture views intricate systems, not just the physical body. Modern TCM generally traces itself back to a book from the 1st century BC called “The Yellow Emperor’s Inner Cannon.” This led Chinese medicine from focusing on […]
A few months ago my friend told me that she had a small tumor. The doctor said that it was benign and she could either have it removed with an operation, or try to reduce its size using Chinese medicine. She opted for the Chinese medicine. 3x’s a day for months she drank the thick brown bitter liquid which was distilled from bear bile, birds nests and shark fins. Now I try to keep an open mind about alternative medicine, and I think there are many things in Chinese medicine that have promise for medical applications, this however doesn’t seem to be one of those times. For four months my co-worker wasted her money on this concoction with no results. The sad thing is I […]
A few weeks ago I wrote “Can Culture Be a Problem?” in which I detailed some of the public health problems that are common in China, and how they are at least partially perpetuated by ideas in Traditional Chinese Medicine. This weeks story highlights one of the problems, tuberculosis, and it’s prevalence in China, and that many of the sufferers are not aware that they are carriers of the disease. Not surprisingly, People’s Daily failed to mention that TB is easily spread by spitting. According to one of the doctors at my hospital, China had actually largely eradicated TB just a few decades ago through a large medical campaign. This was done through the creation of large hospitals that specialized in treating this disease. That […]
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