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Millwoods Acupuncture Center
102, 2603 Hewes Way
Edmonton AB,   Canada

Phone: (780) 466-8683



Traditional Chinese Medicine and the conventional medicine


What happens when the Traditional Chinese Medicine is used at the same time with the conventional medicine?

It has been a new situation in the past 50 years, especially in China, and now in the western countries, in which patients may see both conventional medicine and the Traditional Chinese medicine doctors. Question arises what may happen when patient takes both drugs from his family doctor and herbs from acupuncturist/herbalist, a situation that might be called the combination of the conventional medicine and the Traditional Chinese Medicine, though some times they are combined by the patient, and some times, by the doctors (especially in China). I doubt if there is enough number of doctor in the North America who practice both the conventional medicine and the Traditional Chinese Medicine the same time. There are much chances that it is the patient, who goes to the conventional medicine first, then turn to acupuncturists/herbalists, without telling his family doctor he is also taking herbs.

There could be several kinds of such “combined” therapies.

(1). Patient gets the prescription from both conventional medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine doctors for the treatment of the same diseases or symptoms. It sounds that the healing is doubled with the hope that the recovery should be faster.

This may not be true. With the both medical remedies focuses on the same treatment target, the time needed for the recovering depends on either the conventional medicine or the Traditional Chinese Medicine, which ever really works faster. We actually waste the medical source and create more chance of side effects due to the use of such “extra” medical drugs. Let’s see a example, for people with common cold, they usually need one to two days to get recover after proper diagnosis and treatment with the Traditional Chinese Medicine. With additional of extra antibiotics, the patient still needs one to two days to recover. 

(2). Patient gets main treatment, such as the use of antibiotics, from the conventional medicine but he also uses the Chinese Medicine to solve his symptoms, or to reduce the side effects caused by the conventional medicine.

Many times, this works. For instance, we have so many clinic cases in which it is very difficult for the conventional medicine to reduce the extreme high fever. With the use of the Traditional Chinese medicine, it is easy to solve the problem. Such cases can be observed in acute inflammation conditions, such as acute pneumonia, acute brain tissue infection and so on.

If the symptoms are the side effects of the conventional medicine, such as the constipation after the use of pain killers, or muscle pain after use of cholesterol reducing agent as Lipitor, the problem becomes difficult for the Traditional Chinese Medicine to solve, if the patient continues the use of the pain killer or the Lipitor. I had a patient with muscle pain in the leg. The use of acupuncture could release his pain, but it only lasts for one to two days. Only after he stop the use of Lipitor, could his pain gone completely.

This is also true with the bleeding, frequent infection, and anemia after chemotherapy or radiation therapy in cancer patients. The use of the Traditional Chinese Medicine, can, yes, be good to reduce the bleeding, increase the white blood cells, and red blood cells in circulation, but it is only a temporary improvement unless we stop the use of the chemotherapy and the radiation therapy completely. In china, we use the Traditional Chinese Medicine to solve the side effects of the chemotherapy and radiation therapy between the healing break period. After correction of the body overall conditions, the chemotherapy and the radiation therapy restart. It does not mean that with the continuous use of the chemotherapy, with the use of the Traditional Chinese Medicine at the same time, there will be no more side effects from the chemotherapy.

Similarly in the surgical treatment, if a patient has pain after knee replacement surgery, it is also difficult for the acupuncture to release it completely or for long terms (of course it is also very hard to solve it further more by the conventional medicine).

(3). Using the conventional medicine for diagnosis, and the Traditional Chinese Medicine for the treatment.

Some doctors claim that the conventional medical tools allow them to understand what disease is, then they use the herbs or acupuncture for the treatment. In this case, the point is how the doctor builds up their herbal formula.

If he build up the herbal formula according to Traditional Chinese Medicine concept, to know what is the name of the disease by the conventional medicine is useless in the treatment actually. It might be useful somehow if the doctor wants to have a research paper published, or want to show to people that he has broad knowledge about his patient. You see, the diagnosis in conventional medicine is actually a mask to him, not a weapon.

(4). Using Chinese herbs as the way of conventional medicine, but comments the results to the Traditional Chinese Medicine

If he builds up the herbal formula according to the conventional medicine, e.g. collect several herbs in one formula, the herbs that supposed to have healing effects to the current disease, he is actually not a Traditional Chinese Medicine doctor, but a conventional medicine practitioner using herbs as his drugs. I strongly doubt how good his clinic effects might be, and believe that he should claim that he uses Chinese herbs, but not the Traditional Chinese Medicine. This is, however, a quite common situation in China. Once the herbs did not work as expected, he may claim that the Traditional Chinese Medicine does not work and turn more to the conventional drugs for the treatment. How do you think if there is a man, who only drove car but not a moto before. One day, he tried to drive a motor, he failed, and he tell us that driving a motor is difficult than drive a car.

There are several examples in which a so called active compounds has been isolated from Chinese herbs and used as a drug. It was found that, once the herb is used as the purified form, it may show higher healing effects, but at the same time, with higher side effects too. We refuse to admit that it still belongs to the Traditional Chinese Medicine. Some people believe that this is a way to develop Chinese Medicine, but we feel that they are killing the Traditional Chinese Medicine. Your teacher touch you the English words. If you write something that hurt the society, can you claim that it is your teacher who touch you to write as it?

(5). Use the conventional medicine in the disease in which it is good at, and apply the Traditional Chinese medicine in the disease in which it is good at too.

According to our understanding to the both medical systems, the conventional medicine is good at some extreme clinic conditions, such as:

(a), to solve the sever trauma, especially the inside organ trauma that cause heavy bleeding and damage the life;

(b), to save life in acute myocardial infarction;

(c ), to have replacement surgery if there is only one or two organs are in a late stage, such as heart and/or lung transplatations, the liver and kidney transplantations, or bone marrow transplatations. (even in such cases, the disease is not “cured”, but the life is prolonged, since the patients have to take immune-suppressing agents for life);

(d), Jiao Xing shou shu;

The Traditional Chinese Medicine is good at the other clinic conditions:

(a), Acute or emergency conditions, such as in high fever diseases, the coma, the shock, bleeding, etc.;

(b) most of chronic diseases;

(c), most diseases in which there is drug-resistance phenomenon to the conventional drugs;

(d), complex or multiple organ diseases;

(e), diseases, in which the cause or the diagnosis is still unclear in the conventional medicine, or there is no effective treatment available yet;

In above clinic situations, the Traditional Chinese Medicine works well by itself without the intervention of the conventional medicine. It does not mean that with the addition of the conventional medicine the results will be much better.

(6) Current situation in the treatment of cancer and AIDS by the conventional medicine and the Traditional Chinese Medicine

Cancer is the most leading disease cause death in the world. Conventional medicine uses surgical therapy, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy mostly. Surgical therapy is suitable for stage I cancer; chemotherapy, is good for the early and middle stage cancer, or leucamia; the radiation therapy is used for isolated cancer mass. If the cancer cells have been spread all of the body, the chemotherapy is the only choice. Conventional medicine dare not to claim cure of the cancer, since it is hard to know if the cancer will occur after some years of treatment or not. They instead, tell the treatment results as five year survival rate, ten year survival rate.

Lots of reports from China suggest that, for early stage cancer, no matter what kinds of cancer, the Traditional Chinese Medicine is as good as the surgical or chemotherapy, in terms of the five year survival rate. However, patients taking the Traditional Chinese Medicine have higher quality of life (with less side effects) than the conventional medical treatment.

AIDS is still a big challenge to the conventional medicine. It fails to stop the spread of the diseases world wide. Patients lost their ability to live and to work. Reports from China suggest that Traditional Chinese may help these patients to maintain their ability to life and to work. They live as ordinary people though the evidence of virus, tested by the lab tests, is still positive.

(7) Ideal way to compare the clinic efficiency by the conventional medicine and the Traditional Chinese Medicine

There have been lots of studies reported from China comparing the clinic effects by the conventional medicine and the Traditional Chinese Medicine, alone or in combination. However, when the patients are chosen, they are diagnosed the same by the conventional medicine, and treated by the standard procedure as requested by the conventional medicine. However, when the Traditional Chinese Medicine is applied, the patients are the group as defined by the conventional medicine, and the herbs, are mostly a fixed herb formula with little modification from patient to patient.

This is not fare at all to the Traditional Chinese Medicine, since it depleted the Traditional Chinese Medicine of its principle: treat each patient according to the patient specific body and emotion condition! In the eye of the Traditional Chinese Medicine, each patient is different in many aspects and each patient needs the formula match their own body condition, though they are all affected by the same kinds of virus, bacteria, or there is same kinds and same size of tumor growing in their body. How can we let the basket ball player follow the rules of football game?

We suggest, if people really want to know which medical system is better, in the treatment of some kinds of diseases or most of diseases, we should create equal chance to both medicinal systems.

First, allow America Medical Association recommend a group of doctors, say ten of them, from their “expert” doctor lists. We also let the Traditional Chinese Medicine beareu in China recommend their expert group, the same number of doctors in the Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Let the doctors in the conventional medicine expert group chose a kind of disease, the disease is defined by the conventional medicine. After collection of a group of patients with such disease, allocate randomly half to the doctors in the conventional medicine expert group and give another half of patients to the doctors in the Traditional Chinese Medicine expert group.

Allow the conventional medical experts use their best ways to treat this disease, no matter what it is, ( I guess they may chose a kind of inflammation, by bacteria or by virus). We also allow the doctors in the Traditional Chinese Medicine expert group use their best ways to treat the same kind of diseases, also, no matter which ways they may use (they may use quite different herb formula to each patient, anyway, we should allow them to do their favorite way.)

Let’s compare (1), the time needed to release the symptoms; (2), the time needed for patient to recover completely (no any sign of the disease, chemical or physical, or even emotional and psychological); (3), the rate, the kinds and the severity of side effects; (4), the five year, or the ten year, recurrence rate, if there is any; (5), the cost for the whole treatments.

Return, we should also allow the doctors in the Traditional Chinese Medicine expert group decide a zhen to compare. Zhen is the “disease” concept in the Chinese Medicine. After collect a group of the patients with the same zhen, randomly allocate half to the doctors in the conventional medicine to treat, with which ever ways they want to use (they may have to also use largely various way to treat, even no way to treat!). The doctor in the Traditional Chinese Medicine expert group treat the remaining half of the patients, also with which ever ways they believe the best to treat these patients.

Let’s compare the same parameters as listed above.

What will be the results you expect?

I dare to say that the doctors in the Traditional Chinese Medicine will win, if we dare to allow them practice in their own and original ways. How can people race with us if we have their feet and hands tied? Are we doing thing fare?

I wish that there could be such a comparison studies.

People may argue that the conventional medicine can tell the reason of the disease, say, by bacteria, or by virus, but the Traditional Chinese medicine can not explain what is the meaning and what is the cause of the zhen. We say that if you know the reason, what is the use if you cannot treat it, or if you treat it but create more and new trouble (e.g. side effects)? (It is not true that the conventional medicine can tell the “reason” for most diseases. Do you know the reason for the type II diabetes? Can your doctor tell you what IS the reason for the given patient who has the type II diabetes? He may say that it is due to the block of the insulin receptors. But what is the reason for the block? His most possible answer will be: the reason for the given patient is hardly known, it may be caused by bacteria infection, by virus infection, by chemical damage, by ischemia, some time of his life…. You still DO NOT know what is the reason for THIS patient.). Medicine is a practice on life. We cannot wait for you to find the answer, then to get the disease. Our patients have the suffering and need help NOW!

When we go to a museum, we enjoy the paintings and we do not care what the chemical ingredients of the painting oil is! We pay attention to its function, its practical function and life meanings, not need to know WHAT IT IS.