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Traditional treatment options are not for everyone

By Liu Zhihua | China Daily | Updated: 2024-04-15 09:01

A pharmacist dispenses traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) at a health center in Qiaokou town, Wangcheng district, Changsha, Central China's Hunan province, Jan 17, 2023. [Photo/Xinhua]

Last winter I began seeing a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner once a week.

While I was certain I had not contracted any severe ailment, I had no appetite and felt a constant need to wrap myself in a heavy coat to stay warm.

On my first visit, the doctor checked my pulse, asked me to stick out my tongue and inquired about my self-perception of symptoms. After that, she asked if I had any other conditions, like itchiness in the throat or constipation. Then she formulated a diagnosis and prescribed an assortment of herbal medicines.

I decided to brew the medicine in my own kitchen as suggested by my friend, instead of taking prepared herbal medicine soup the hospital can provide. It usually took one hour to brew the medicine, and because I did not have the time, most of that work fell on my mother.

For the first two weeks, I felt no obvious improvement to my health. But about one month later, I started eating well and sleeping better, and not feeling so cold. It was beyond my expectations!

For years, I was quite skeptical about seeking advice from a TCM doctor. Although I believed TCM is effective in treating illness, I was not convinced I would be lucky enough to run into a responsible and well-experienced practitioner — a feeling that was reinforced by memories of a negative encounter more than 10 years ago.

I had a menstrual condition, which in Western medicine is not considered an illness. At the suggestion of a friend, I sought medical advice from a TCM doctor once a week. The problem was that after every visit the doctor prescribed a large number of herbal medicines and Chinese patent medicines, and after a month, while the menstrual condition improved, I developed stomach discomfort. I stopped seeing the doctor, and resorted to exercise, which proved to be more effective than the TCM medication.

My mother, a firm believer in TCM, told me that not every TCM practitioner is talented enough to treat illness effectively. She used to visit a private TCM doctor in my hometown, but after he retired and his son took over to the clinic, the quality of care and service greatly declined. I also asked friends for their impressions of TCM. Some said they have been exposed to more modern medical concepts and cannot stop being skeptical, while others perceive it as more time-consuming compared to Western medicine.

In my case, after two months of treatment and the improvement to my health, I find myself reluctant to visit the TCM doctor again — but now the fatigue and lack of appetite have returned, and I am considering seeking another treatment.

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