Don't sniff at traditional Chinese medicine

It would be myopic for the medical world to reject alternative medicine as a form of treatment ("World can gain from more TCM research"; Jan 17 and "Integrate TCM and Western medicine to best benefit patients" by Ms Melissa Ong Zhi Lin; last Sunday).

If practitioners of modern medicine and alternative practices like traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) keep fighting among themselves instead of working together, the only ones who suffer are the patients.

China has carried out extensive research in the field of TCM. Many of its hospitals have successively integrated TCM with modern medicine to increase the efficacy of treatment programmes.

Take cancer treatment, for example. In hospitals with an integrated treatment programme, patients undergoing chemotherapy, radiotherapy or surgery would be prescribed TCM as well.

The statistics shows that not only does the efficacy of the chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments increase, but patients also suffer from fewer side effects and have lower chances of suffering from relapses.

China has even successfully incorporated arsenic, which has been known as a medicine and a poison, into the treatment of acute promyelocytic leukaemia.

In another case, a train crash near London in 2002 left Ms Tanya Liu, a TV anchorwoman of Hong Kong's Phoenix TV, fighting for her life.

She was airlifted back to Beijing, where she underwent an integrated treatment programme formulated by her doctors. It included surgery, Western medicine and Chinese medicine.

She woke up from her coma after about two months, could stand and walk on her own after half a year, and was back at work in two years.

It is time modern medicine took a look at TCM again and ask how it can be incorporated to help patients.

It is evident that most doctors have little or no understanding of Chinese medicine. This has to change. At the end of the day, the health and well-being of the patients should be the top priority for all medical practitioners, Western and TCM alike.

Kok Song Ling

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 07, 2016, with the headline 'Don't sniff at traditional Chinese medicine'. Print Edition | Subscribe