Traditional medicine risky choice when life is at stake

An acupuncturist sticking needles into the stomach of a patient.
An acupuncturist sticking needles into the stomach of a patient.PHOTO: ST FILE

The basic tenets of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) - that building blocks of water, fire, wood, earth and metal comprise elemental qualities and that an imbalance of these is the basic cause of diseases, with dysfunctional meridians blocking the passage of qi playing a big role in our health - are pseudoscience (TCM gaining traction worldwide, by Mr Tan Jun You, April 22).

Nothing can be substantiated or replicated reliably in double-blind medical trials.

That TCM works, mainly for minor maladies, is also true.

This applies to ancient systems of medicine practised by the Greeks and the Romans, with their quaint notions of humours (bodily fluids), as well as the Indians, with their ayurvedic system.

Such is the power of faith, belief and trust in anyone who professes to heal.

This, of course, can bring the art of healing only so far and no more.

Whereas TCM is still manipulating ephemeral and non-substantive principles, and propounding "black box" theories which have brought no advancement in healing outcomes for millennia, the scientific approach has brought about much more than placeboic and faith effects.

Nevertheless, modern medicine is potent and harsh with inherent limitations in its scope as panacea.

It has not helped that big pharma companies are exploitative, and some doctors do not bear the Hippocratic Oath with pride anymore.

This has engendered more interest in alternative systems like TCM, as treatment is gentler and kinder, if not altogether ineffectual.

The traditional way is perhaps best for maintenance of health, but do not leave it to faith and dice around with ancient philosophical systems of cure when life and limb are at stake.

Yik Keng Yeong (Dr)