Traditional Chinese Medicine – Part Two

Hong Kong survey on Traditional Chinese Medicine

Some background to the survey. It is valid because it was conducted scientifically.

T.C.M. has been practiced in China for over 2000 years.

Both Western medicine and T.C.M. are widely available in Hong Kong. Before the return of sovereignty to China in 1997, the British Hong Kong Government adopted a non-interventionist approach towards the practice of Chinese medicine in Hong Kong. Any adult of Chinese descent was allowed to be registered to practice any form of Chinese medicine. But, its development received very little government attention. And certainly no support. Western medicine was the only form recognised and supported. Hong Kong Medical College was established to provide Western medical training in Hong Kong over 100 years ago.

A Hong Kong survey on Traditional Chinese Medicine

The survey is valid and relevant because it was scientifically conducted. T.C.M. being better in curing the root of the problem but quite slow in action, while Western medicine is more powerful but sometimes has bad side effects.

Complementary medicine is gaining popularity in the Western world. In other societies, for example, China and India, traditional medical practices have been widely used by the local people for hundreds of years. The trend of international migration in recent decades means that medical practitioners in the Western countries are quite likely to see patients of different ethnic origins, who are also quite likely to be using traditional therapies from their countries of origin.

Despite the dominance of Western medicine in Hong Kong, which is considered a result of the favoured position enjoyed by Western medicine during the British rule, both Western and Chinese medicines are currently being used by the local population. The majority of the population understand and believe in Chinese medical concepts rather than Western medical principles. For example, weakness may be explained as lack of “huet hei” (blood and energy).

Food as a form of folk therapy within the Chinese culture has also attracted some research interest. Koo pointed out that proper selection, timing, and preparation of food were the most salient lay methods of dealing with the prevention and treatment of many common symptoms and illnesses. Food prescriptions are based on the traditional concept of maintaining body homeostasis. It is well known that not every ill person consults a health care professional. Lau explored this issue for Hong Kong Chinese patients. He pointed out that, like most patients, it is often certain “triggers” that bring the patients to their healers. Social and cultural factors may influence the pattern of symptomatology (the science of the symptoms of diseases) and phenomenology.

Throughout the past century, the Western medical health care system developed and flourished in Hong Kong. By 1999, there were over 9000 doctors registered in Hong Kong serving a population of almost 7 million. Most of the hospital care is provided in the public hospital system. On the other hand, over 80% of the primary care is provided by 3000 private general practitioners. The Government’s general outpatient clinics and other registered practitioners, including practitioners of T.C.M., provide the other 20% of primary care in Hong Kong. T.C.M. practitioners are widely available in Hong Kong, but they only need to acquire a business registration, without any assessment of their qualifications or standard of training.

For that reason, their standards vary. (This however will be changed when a new registration system, with well-defined assessment criteria, is to be introduced soon by the post-1997 government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.) Medical practices are often attached to a herbal medicinal shop. Their charges are often no more than US$2–US$3. Depending on the herbs prescribed, the total costs are often less than US$7–US$8 per consultation.

Chinese consider both traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and Western medicine to have strengths and weaknesses. They choose T.C.M. or Western medicine for the specific types of illness.

They may consider some Western medicines to have significant side effects that make them less compliant with the treatment regimen.

Both T.C.M. and Western medicine are used concurrently by many people in Hong Kong. Patients do, however, make decisions on which type of doctors they want to see, depending on the specific illnesses that they are suffering from.

T.C.M. is considered to be good for some milder illnesses, for example, coughs and colds. It is also considered to be better for “clearing” the disease. It is often used as a supplement to Western medication—that is, after consulting the Western doctor for quick recovery (see below), Chinese medication is used to “clear the root of the disease”.

Here are some Comments from Patients

“Herb medicines are better than Western medicines. They are good for coughs, if a person can stand the taste.

“Herb medicines cure diseases more slowly. Though more slowly, Chinese medicines are better at curing diseases completely.

“Chinese medicine is used only as an “alternative” when Western medication fails, or when you are so desperate to try anything. It is efficient in dealing with the side effects of  Western medicines.

“After I have taken Western medicines, I will see a Chinese doctor to clear the bitterness in my mouth. Chinese medicine is considered to be milder and does not have as strong side effects as Western medicine.

“When we cough, we make “gut beng” and “woo dau” and drink as a herbal tea. If it doesn’t work, we will go to a Western doctor.

“Chinese medicine does have some specific weaknesses. It is less convenient than Western medicine because we have to boil the herbs to make the medicine. We have to see the Chinese doctor many times before the disease is cured. Herbal medicine often has a bitter taste. On taking Chinese medicine, we have to avoid certain food. The medicine is often slow to act. That may worsen the disease. For example, the flu virus may go to other parts of the body, causing more serious diseases or even death.

“If you have a sore hand, it takes a long time to cure it with Chinese medicine.

“The disease won’t be cured by one dose only. We have to take several doses. On the other hand, Western medicine is considered to have some certain strengths. It is more convenient than herbal teas because there is no need to boil the herbs. It produces faster recovery: we can even choose injections to hasten the recovery.

“If I do not get well after I have consulted the Western doctor, I will see the Chinese doctor. It takes time to cure the disease by Chinese medication. Chinese medication is better at clearing the cause of the illness. For Western doctors, the emphasis is on giving immediate relief but not looking at the real cause of the illness.

“Western medicine is also considered better for certain illnesses, for example, tuberculosis, because injection is available.

“Western medicine does have side effects, such as bitterness in the mouth, sputum, weakness, and the “wind”.

“Western doctors prescribe too many pills. That’s not good for the body.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *