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Recognise contributions of TCM to healthcare industry

A recent commentary by Dr Lee Wei Ling ("World can gain from more TCM research"; Jan 17) cast the spotlight on traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and sparked a series of debates, with arguments against TCM condemning it as pseudo-science with "placebo effects" ("TCM should make way for modern medicine" by Mr Don Ho Jia Hao; last Sunday).

Such discussions are beneficial, as they reveal the misconceptions people hold of TCM and the possible social stigma attached to it.

As a budding TCM physician with a biomedical degree, I believe I am qualified to say a few things on this matter.

Forget the cultural chauvinism or scientific superiority; give some credit to the contributions of TCM to the health industry.

Dr Tu Youyou's Nobel Prize in medicine for the discovery of the drug artemisinin was said to be the outcome of scientific methodology and have nothing to do with TCM.

But the fact is that Dr Tu is both an advocate of the holistic principles of Chinese medicine as well as a scientist. She stated in an article in Nature Medicine journal that it was a TCM text, A Handbook Of Prescriptions For Emergencies, that helped her make headway in the extraction process of the drug.

A lot of classical TCM literature is evidence-based and not steeped in mysticism. It usually analyses and offers conclusions on real clinical experiences and usage of certain drugs for the reference and research purposes of future practitioners.

Science and medicine are two overlapping entities, but it would be flawed to say that medicine is a complete subset of science.

Modern society has indeed witnessed huge scientific advancements that have proved to be empowering, but certainly not all-encompassing. Advancements in machines and laboratory techniques have led to modern medicine being skewed towards an increasingly molecular level.

It is certainly scientific to issue diagnoses based on lab reports and scans but, sometimes, these contribute little towards holistic patient care.

We should acknowledge that Western medicine or medicinal science is also in the process of development and has its limitations in many areas.

Consequently, it is not wrong for patients to want to seek a second opinion from regulated TCM institutions to complement their modern medicine regime.

Most registered TCM physicians are acutely aware of Western diagnostics and strive to provide sound advice based on tried and tested TCM principles.

Government subsidies for TCM treatments will lend robustness to our healthcare industry and relieve the burden of medical bills for patients.

Zhou Jing (Ms)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 21, 2016, with the headline 'Recognise contributions of TCM to healthcare industry'. Print Edition | Subscribe