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Joint scientific research drives traditional Chinese medicine westward

(China Daily) Updated: 2016-07-25 08:05

Joint scientific research drives traditional Chinese medicine westward

Students practise point massage, a traditional Chinese medical care solution to relieve patients' headache during a TCM training in Chengdu, Sichuan province. [Photo/China Daily]

How often is acupuncture applied in pain treatment? How effective is traditional Chinese medicine in infertility treatment? Such questions were passed by doctors from Hanover Medical School to a delegation of TCM experts from China earlier this month.

The delegation from the China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences paid a visit to Hanover Medical School for TCM cooperation with Germany where they discussed academic research and clinical practice in areas including pain treatment, gynecological diseases, and rehabilitation therapy.

Both academic institutions plan to explore scientific TCM research with concerted efforts in areas such as kidney disease, hypertension, gynecological diseases, and pain treatment, as well as training and exchange programs of medical personnel in TCM.

Zhang Boli, the president of CACMS, said that the international cooperation was an effective way to promote TCM development and introduce China's TCM research achievements to the rest of the world.

At the same time, advanced technologies in other countries could be used to work towards the modernization of TCM.

The delegation, headed by Boli, was here to implement a memorandum of cooperation signed with MHH during German Chancellor Angela Merkel's visit to China in June.

Zhang said the medical community in Europe was gaining deeper insight into TCM. "I notice such a trend. In the past, TCM conferences in Europe were mostly attended by Chinese, but now, things have changed; most of attendees are Europeans."

"An increasing number of German doctors are beginning to accept TCM," Liu Yang, project representative of the German Association of TCM said. "If Western medicine does not work in some cases, they would seek help from TCM."

Owing to Germany's import restrictions on Chinese herbal medicine, acupuncture plays a key role in TCM therapy in Germany. Currently, the German Doctors' Association for Acupuncture headquartered in Munich has over 8,700 members.

"At least 9,000 practitioners of Western medicine with prescription rights are applying acupuncture as a therapy in Germany," said Zheng Wen, a gynecologist of Hanover Medical School.

Zheng has been treating patients using acupuncture for over five years. As the number of patients has risen, her work time has increased from half a day per week to five days per week and she now has a room set up exclusively for TCM.

However, it is still a great challenge for TCM to gain full recognition from the medical community in Germany. Despite a huge number of successful clinical cases, the theory behind it still remains inexplicable to Western science. "This is one of the hurdles in the way of TCM development in Germany and one immediate consequence is the exclusion of TCM from the medical insurance system."

At present, medical insurance companies in Germany only cover acupuncture fees for knee pain and back pain treatment. All other TCM treatments must be paid for by the patients themselves. Therefore, TCM can be too costly for Germans whose Western medical treatments are usually fully covered by insurance.

Zheng said cooperation with top medical schools and universities on scientific research could help boost the general recognition of TCM. Both sides can start with areas where TCM demonstrates good curative effects in clinical practices. Joint efforts should be made to conduct research on the functioning mechanisms behind it and publish related academic papers.

"TCM boasts a long history of development. In many cases, how it works cannot be explained. Through cooperation from both sides, we may have some new findings," said Christopher Baum, the president of MHH.

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