We seem to be hearing more and more these days of traditional Chinese herbal products getting a bad rap and being called ”unsafe”, ”dangerous”, ”poisonous” or ”against animal rights”(see links below). Certainly, the bulk of Chinese herbal formulas do not contain animal products and the formula that due use them are mostly banned here in the west. Whenever a belief or tradition has held fast for thousands of years, as has Traditional Chinese Medicine, it is bound to come up for scrutiny and criticism from time to time. Science and technology change and develop, new discoveries are made and knowledge is gathered which then alters our global view of things. Does this mean that traditional medicine is no longer valid or effective in our present world? Certainly the medicine of the Yellow Emperor in his classic Neijing may not be recognized today, and most modern Chinese have never had a TCM treatment. The Chinese Nationalist government banned TCM in 1928, and since 1911 the dominant medicine in China is western medicine. Nowadays Chinese doctors are trained in that medicine first, then in TCM if they so wish. Doctors in traditional Chinese hospital clinics face restrictions in the number of herbs they may prescribe in herbal formula, and TCM is becoming specialized. Doctors are dealing with specific diseases, such as respiratory or circulatory. Like ”a frog in a well shaft seeing the sky”, they are losing sight of how to treat the ”whole” patient.
Despite its turbulent history in China however, and the many obstacles it must overcome, TCM still survives. It may not be in the exact same form as it was in 3rd century BCE when it first was practiced as emergency medicine. The time consuming methods of steeping, boiling and drinking herbs may have to give way to herbal pills and instant powders that can be taken quickly and more conveniently. But as long as people continue to seek harmony with nature’s rhythms through their diet, exercise and methods of healing, then Traditional Chinese Medicine will – in one form or another – come through relatively unharmed, and mostly likely safer for all.
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