Is Chinese medicine gaining credibility in U.S. hospitals ?

I just saw an article on WSJ saying that the Cleveland Clinic, one of the country’s top hospitals, is now dispensing herbal medicine, a practice that is well established in China and other Eastern countries but has yet to make inroads in the U.S. because of a lack of evidence proving their effectiveness. Chinese herbal therapy center was recently opened by the Cleveland Clinic.The aim to establish this new clinic is to  fills in the gap of western medicine has on chronic-care. While acupuncture programs have sprouted across the U.S., there are only a handful of herbal clinics.  According to Jamie Starkey, lead acupuncturist at the Cleveland Clinic who got the herbal clinic started, this might be due to little scientific research outside Asia on using herbs as medicine. Ms. Starkey says she had to translate studies to convince the Integrative Medicine’s former medical director that an herbal clinic could be effective.

If you want to practice Chinese Herb in U.S., you need to get a license. But the license doesn’t allow the license holder to claim she treats diseases. She can only say that Chinese herbs can stop or alleviate pain.  Chinese herbal medicine is still being critically evaluated. “In the past it wasn’t even considered seriously,”A doctor at Cleveland Clinic says. “At this point there is a thinking, ‘Some of the things we’re doing now aren’t very effective. Should we really be looking at alternatives a little more seriously?’ I think the verdict is still out.” 

I don’t know what is ultimately preventing the Chinese herb’s widely usage in U.S. But lacking scientific research of the herb’s effectiveness is not convincing me. Chinese medicine exist for at least 2000 years and 1800 years before the invention of Western medical system. This is a practice that has been well tested and established. To speak frankly, those test is not done in medical lab with white mice and restricted conditions, but with 1.4 billion Chinese people living in an ever changing environment today.If it is not effective, how can the 1.4 billion people live in China before the invention and introduction of western medical system?

Chinese medicine established through practice and experience, not through theory and experiments, which is what western world definition of science is. Chinese traditional medical theory think the illness is part of us, so it must be cure with the help of our body. Medicine is just a mitigator or facilitator,  that can help our body restore its normal state.  It goes against the western medical system’s idea that if one part of our body is ill, we must fight with that part and even remove it from our body. This is, from Chinese perspective, as if we are fighting with ourself.

But I guess the ultimate reason why Chinese herb cannot go into U.S. is because it is so effective that it could be a huge threat to the existing system.




4 thoughts on “Is Chinese medicine gaining credibility in U.S. hospitals ?

  1. lippmanb

    Interesting post. I think that more research should be done on herbal treatments, so we can advance our knowledge of it.

  2. agolicz

    Interesting post. I think there’s a lot that western medicine could learn from Chinese traditional remedies, since many Chinese remedies have been found to be effective. And we already have learned a lot. For instance, western pharmaceutical companies were able to isolate ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, which are the active compounds in the Chinese medicine Ma Huang, to produce cold and asthma remedies. So western researchers have demonstrated that Chinese medicine can work. On the other hand, it’s important to conduct thorough due diligence before using any new product. Chinese medicine, just like western medicine, should go through strict testing before it’s brought out to the market to determine efficacy (is it better than placebo?) and whether it’s safe to use and at what dose. If we rigorously test it and find out it works, then western physicians will be celebrating Chinese medicine the same way our friends in Asia do; there’s no harm done by being cautious.

  3. cjamesj

    I see where you are coming from. Chinese medicine is probably being kept at bay because of stringent FDA testing not fear of collapsing the current system. If the herbs have use in the US and aren’t dangerous if misused then they will find a way through the FDA and become legal.

  4. nickcoll

    Interesting post. As mentioned in the comments, I think there’s just a general fear of a lack of quality coming out of China when it comes to exports. US has had issues in the past with Chinese exports containing led in the past so I feel that the US just wants to make sure everything is safe. Unfortunately China has a stigma in the US that its exports aren’t necessarily safe. While I believe in herbal medicine, I feel that the majority of the US is hesitant to accept it.

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