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Indonesia Expat - - CONTENTS - By Hans Roose­boom

Tra­di­tional Chi­nese Medicine and West­ern Health­care

Oh, East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet. Who hasn’t heard and prob­a­bly used this first line of Ki­pling’s Bal­lad of East and West. But who has read the full text?

And who has un­der­stood that it does not mean, as typ­i­cally in­ferred, that the opin­ions and prac­tices ob­served at the op­pos­ing geo­graphic points of the com­pass will never meet?

The more cor­rect in­ter­pre­ta­tion is that ir­re­spec­tive of ac­ci­dents of birth, when two strong en­ti­ties meet and re­spect each other, in­tegrity and char­ac­ter are the only cri­te­ria for mu­tual ac­cep­tance and un­der­stand­ing.

Mis­un­der­stand­ing, and even mis­trust of each other’s meth­ods, can be clearly seen in the mu­tual ap­praisal of eastern and west­ern ap­proaches to med­i­cal sci­ence. Un­til re­cently, both sides have shown lit­tle in­cli­na­tion to co­op­er­ate – or even lis­ten to each other with an open mind. A real waste, be­cause when mu­tu­ally ac­knowl­edg­ing the other’s achieve­ments and strong points, the two sci­ences could bring about a sym­bio­sis.

Tra­di­tional Chi­nese Medicine (TCM) is based on the con­cepts of balanc­ing yin and yang. Yin is the pas­sive fe­male prin­ci­ple of the uni­verse, por­trayed as sus­tain­ing and as­so­ci­ated with earth. Yang is the ac­tive male and cre­ative prin­ci­ple, as­so­ci­ated with heaven. Ac­cord­ing to TCM, ill health is caused by a dis­tur­bance of the yin and yang balance, which in turn af­fects the flow of en­ergy which is called

Qi (pro­nounced chee) along the body’s merid­i­ans. Acupunc­ture (in­sert­ing fine nee­dles into the skin at cer­tain points along the merid­i­ans) and herbal reme­dies aim at restor­ing the balance.

Li Shi-Zhen in his “Grand Ma­te­ria Med­ica” of

1596 iden­ti­fied 1,173 plants, 444 min­er­als and 275 an­i­mals from which he for­mu­lated more than 11,000 prepa­ra­tions for ail­ments rang­ing from back aches to bron­chi­tis – a truly amaz­ing feat, as the recipes are very spe­cific about the quan­tity and type of each sub­stance used.

West­ern med­i­cal prac­ti­tion­ers do, how­ever, opine that Chi­nese herbal medicine is a pseu­do­science and that its pre­sumed ef­fec­tive­ness can at best be as­cribed to the placebo ef­fect.

This neg­a­tive opin­ion likely re­sults from the widely re­ported and de­cried use of an­i­mal parts of en­dan­gered species such as rhinos, tigers, tur­tles, sea­horses and bears in cer­tain ‘med­i­cal’ po­tions with ques­tion­able ef­fects – rhino horn, for in­stance, has the same ef­fect as nail clip­pings (none). In Novem­ber of 2006, Merck, a large phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pany, made a deal with Chi- Med, a Chi­nese drug com­pany, to de­velop cancer treat­ments and con­sumer health prod­ucts based on tra­di­tional Chi­nese herbs. No­var­tis, a Swiss phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal gi­ant, also an­nounced plans to open a US$100 mil­lion re­search and de­vel­op­ment cen­tre in Shang­hai.

With Big Pharma show­ing a se­ri­ous in­ter­est in Chi­nese herbs and WHO list­ing acupunc­ture as a treat­ment for a large num­ber of dis­or­ders, it would ap­pear that a sym­bio­sis be­tween eastern and west­ern med­i­cal sci­ence is slowly form­ing.”

Re­gard­ing acupunc­ture, the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion has listed a to­tal of 37 dis­or­ders which can ben­e­fit from it. Uses can be al­le­vi­a­tion of pain to the treat­ment of al­ler­gies and acute bron­chi­tis.

In spite of this, a con­sid­er­able (but steadily shrink­ing) num­ber of west­ern med­i­cal prac­ti­tion­ers still place acupunc­ture on the list of pseu­do­sciences too.

But with Big Pharma show­ing a se­ri­ous in­ter­est in Chi­nese herbs and WHO list­ing acupunc­ture as a treat­ment for a large num­ber of dis­or­ders, it would ap­pear that a sym­bio­sis be­tween eastern and west­ern med­i­cal sci­ence is slowly form­ing.

Here in Jakarta, this fu­sion of west­ern medicine and eastern acupunc­ture and herbal cures has taken shape in Dr. Sisilia In­drad­jaja. After grad­u­at­ing as a med­i­cal doc­tor from Catholic Univer­sity Atma Jaya, Jakarta, In­drad­jaja gained her Mas­ter of Herbal Medicine at the Univer­sity of Syd­ney and de­vel­oped her knowl­edge of acupunc­ture with Dr. Alex Liew, a se­nior prac­ti­tioner of Chi­nese medicine in Ade­laide.

“After com­plet­ing my stud­ies at Atma Jaya and in Syd­ney, I was fairly scep­ti­cal about acupunc­ture,” In­drad­jaja told In­done­sia Ex­pat. “To di­ag­nose ail­ments, I was more in­clined to fol­low the sci­en­tific ap­proach of west­ern medicine rather than, what I called, the psy­cho- spir­i­tual ways of acupunc­ture. But after ob­serv­ing the pos­i­tive ef­fects of acupunc­ture I was con­verted and be­came an acupunc­tur­ist.”

In­drad­jaja be­lieves that the two ap­proaches need to be in­te­grated. She is a liv­ing em­bod­i­ment of an east-west sym­bio­sis. In her prac­tice she uses med­i­cal lab tests to­gether with pulse read­ings to di­ag­nose a pa­tient’s health – lab re­sults for choles­terol or glu­cose lev­els, for ex­am­ple, are used in com­bi­na­tion with pulse read­ings.

In­ter­est­ingly, there are be­tween 28 and 40 pulse char­ac­ter­is­tics to di­ag­nose a pa­tient’s whole biofield. The dif­fer­ing num­ber in­di­cates that dif­fer­ent prac­ti­tion­ers dis­agree on some ba­sic is­sues, a rather com­mon oc­cur­rence among spe­cial­ists.

As an ex­am­ple of pulse read­ing, In­drad­jaja ex­plains that “nor­mal pulse” in­di­cates good Qi and blood.

The pulse, both left and right, should be calm, smooth and nei­ther too soft nor too hard. It should be reg­u­lar and its qual­ity should not change very of­ten or eas­ily. Deep level and rear po­si­tions are felt clearly, which in­di­cates that the kid­neys are healthy. On acupunc­ture, she states, “The art of acupunc­ture de­pends on se­lect­ing the cor­rect acu­points and in­sert­ing the nee­dle at the proper an­gle and to the right depth. I check the nee­dles’ cor­rect po­si­tion with pulse read­ing, a soft pulse should have be­come stronger, for ex­am­ple,” she clar­i­fies.

“And al­though west­ern physi­cians are slowly be­gin­ning to be­lieve in acupunc­ture, they are dis­in­clined to ac­cept the tra­di­tional Chi­nese ex­pla­na­tions of how it works, mean­ing the stim­u­la­tion of spe­cific acu­points to re­di­rect and balance a pa­tient’s Qi,” said In­drad­jaja. “West­ern sci­en­tists in­stead spec­u­late that the nee­dles stim­u­late the re­lease of en­dor­phins, the body’s own mor­phine-like painkillers. Or that acupunc­ture re­leases neu­ro­trans­mit­ters, which are chem­i­cals that carry mes­sages be­tween nerve end­ings.

But nei­ther ex­pla­na­tion has been proven.”

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