THERE has been rising interest in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) in Singapore.
I recently asked two friends who practise Western medicine on their views of and experiences with TCM.
One said that when patients asked if they could seek TCM treatment while taking Western medication for certain conditions, he would not discourage them.
He thinks TCM can help as Western drugs have limitations.
However, he would advise them to seek help from qualified TCM practitioners.
My other friend replied that he is seeing an increase in the number of patients suffering from stress, tension and related chronic problems such as insomnia, irritable bowel syndrome and neckache.
Besides counselling them and prescribing medication, my friend would also teach these patients to perform acupressure on certain meridian points.
In China, it is common to treat patients with TCM and Western medicine. Why is this so?
Firstly, TCM can fortify the body's system to cope with some serious side effects caused by Western treatments, such as chemotherapy and the use of immunosuppressant drugs.
Secondly, TCM can also reduce side effects caused by medication for diabetes and high blood pressure, such as water retention.
Thirdly, TCM may enhance the intended effect of Western medicine, so that a lower dose of Western drugs can be used.
Lastly, TCM can treat the cause, while Western medicine treats the symptoms, of medical conditions, thus lowering the frequency of recurrence of problems.
While TCM has its benefits, there are concerns about whether patients will have adverse reactions if they mix TCM and Western drugs.
There is limited information on drug-herb interactions, but there have been few reports of people dying in Singapore because they underwent TCM and Western medical treatment at the same time.
Some TCM practitioners are guilty of giving TCM a bad reputation, with exaggerated claims and hard-sell tactics.
Should TCM prove ineffective, patients should be referred to a Western doctor.
Despite MOH's effort to recognise, professionalise and regulate the TCM industry, it is still seen poorly by some Western doctors.
To counter this, I hope that topics on TCM could be incorporated into the medical and health-care curriculum, as I foresee that more people will seek TCM treatment.
MR RICKY ANG SENG KOK
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