For the people who are not familiar with it, I would like to introduce you to traditional, complementary, and alternative medicine (TCAM). And for those people who are familiar with it I would like to show you my reference point where I will start from.
This introduction to traditional, complementary and alternative medicine (TCAM) is an excerpt from the Abstract of the report “The Concept of Wind in Traditional Chinese Medicine”, authored by Mehrab Dashtdar, Mohammad Reza Dashtdar, Babak Dashtdar, Karima Kardi, and Mohammad khabaz Shirazi found on the National Institute of Health (NIH) website.
- The use of folk medicine has been widely embraced in many developed countries under the name of traditional, complementary and alternative medicine (TCAM) and is now becoming the mainstream in the UK and the rest of Europe, as well as in North America and Australia.
- Diversity, easy accessibility, broad continuity, relatively low cost, base levels of technological inputs, fewer side effects, and growing economic importance are some of the positive features of folk medicine.
- Different societies have evolved various forms of indigenous perceptions that are captured under the broad concept of folk medicine, e.g., Persian, Chinese, Grecian, and African folk medicines, which explain the lack of universally accepted definitions of terms.
- Thus, the exchange of information on the diverse forms of folk medicine needs to be facilitated. …
So much that has been written on this subject that it would take days or weeks to read it all. So once again I would like to provide you with a brief introduction to the subject area and then provide you with a link where you can read the whole article. I do apologize in advance that some of these websites do use advertisements to pay for the web page, but these are genuine, value-based web pages.
Brief Background of Traditional Chinese Medicine
A system of medicine at least 23 centuries old that aims to prevent or heal disease by maintaining or restoring yinyang balance. China has one of the world’s oldest medical systems. Acupuncture and Chinese herbal remedies date back at least 2,200 years, although the earliest known written record of Chinese medicine is the Huangdi neijing (The Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classic) from the 3rd century BCE.
In essence, traditional Chinese healers seek to restore a dynamic balance between two complementary forces, yin (passive) and yang (active), which pervade the human body as they do the universe as a whole. According to TCM, a person is healthy when harmony exists between these two forces; illness, on the other hand, results from a breakdown in the equilibrium of yin and yang.
Traditional Chinese medicine in the Chinese healthcare system
Trend of TCM professionals in China 1997–2006.
TCM professionals dramatically decreased from 800 thousand in 1911 to 500 thousand in 1949 due to the growing popularity of western medicine . The number of TCM professionals also dropped further after the Chinese government implemented medical professional licensing requirements in 1999.
In health clinics, doctors who practice western medicine comprise 50.3% of the total doctors, followed by 32.3% of doctors who practice TCM/western integrated medicine, and 17.4% who only practice TCM . Currently, about 12% of the licensed doctors are TCM doctors and only 6% of pharmacists are licensed TCM herbalists. Very few licensed TCM doctors or pharmacists work in township health centers or village clinics.
Clinical outcomes and research
During the epidemic of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2003, the SARS death rate in China (6.5%) is less than the average international death rate (9.5%) . Among the 5326 SARS patients treated, 3104 cases involved TCM treatment. This represents 58.3% of the total. Specifically, in Guangzhou, where the integration of TCM started the earliest, the death rate was only 4%. In Beijing, the death rate decreased 80% after integrating TCM treatments.
Currently, there are about 800,000 references and abstracts to literature on TCM in the Traditional Chinese Medical Literature Analysis and Retrieval System (TCMLARS). However, very few of them are regarded as “rigorous” scientific evidence of efficacy and safety of TCM treatment based on western medical methodology, such as randomized clinical trials (RCT). Although both Chinese and Western experts realize that RCT may not be appropriate to evaluate TCM since it requires individualized treatment based on the diagnosis of each patient, there is not any innovative evaluation design available . To fill the gap between TCM and evidence based medicine (EBM), efforts have been put on conducting systematic reviews and clinical studies in China . For example, as part of the international Cochrane Collaboration, the Chinese EBM/Cochrane Center was established in China in 1999. It provides both clinical control trial studies and meta-analysis reviews on the available studies of TCM.
Many government agencies are also involved and increasing their investment on TCM research. These agencies include the Chinese Ministry of Health (MOH), the State Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine of the People’s Republic of China (SATCM), the State Food and Drug Administration (SFDA), and the Ministry of Science and Technology of the People’s Republic of China (MOST). TCM research institutes received over 300 million RMB for their research and development in 2005, which increased from 80 million RMB in 1999. Many research efforts have been spent on integrating TCM with western medical treatment and developing information processing techniques for intelligent diagnosis of TCM .