Thursday, 22 June 2017

"In Pursuit of modern (yet rooted), holistic form of health and wellness"

"In Pursuit of modern (yet rooted), holistic form of health and wellness"

(Or all after the idea of integrating both eastern and western modalities in healthcare,
its benefits, and its relevance amidst opposition by interests)

"Chinese Medicine and Pharmacology are a great treasurehouse, and efforts should be made to explore and raise them to a higher level."

These are the words Chairman Mao Zedong stated in 1958 in urging medical workers to develop a new medical theory and practise by combining the bests from both eastern and western methods. And also according to him, the key to that fusion was for western-oriented medical practitioners to learn from the eastern, specifically the Chinese system. It may sound difficult at first knowing that these two medical systems are quite difficult to understand and hence, difficult to merge all its "bests"; but with the demand for better health care, one would say that it was necessary to combine in order to improve health care and to contribute in China's efforts in modernisation. And in it somehow also provided an inspiration to those whose idea of integrating the so-called "bests" from both eastern and western methods as necessary as part of meeting the demands for better healthcare and wellness.

Looking back from an old article

In an article from "China Reconstructs" made last November 1972, a Chinese kid named Kuo Pin was suffering from Pneumonia and was running a temperature of 39 degrees celsius and having a bluish discoloration on her face and around her mouth. She was having a shortness of breath as her respiratory rate is 98 per minute, whilst her pulse rate was 200 per minute, and was extremely fretful. It was also according to the article that from every symptom Kuo Pin hath suffered it end pointed to a severe case of bronchopneumonia of a spasmodic type. And in it doctors immediately administered oxygen, intravenous drip, and intravenous injections of a cardiotonic and an antispasmodic which was of the Chinese traditional type. They also gave her some Chinese medicine orally but no antibiotics of any kind. And in it made her breathing easier while her respiration and heartbeat had slowed down four hours after given the first treatment. She was continued to be given several more injections of Chinese medicine by her doctors, that in another three hours having the patient's face showed good color and in good spirits. However, in spite of relief doctors kept her under observation for four days and discharged her on the fifth day fully recovered from her illness.

Sounds propganda-ish isn't it? But China's idea of utilising both eastern and western methods somehow created a modern way of treating patients. It made immense efforts in producing medicines coming from traditional sources and using modern manufacturing methods, of some cases seeing doctors using acupuncture instead of anaesthesia during surgeries, these are somehow driven by the fact that they are serving the people using their knowledge;
And since truth exists in an objective reality, the sole criterion of gaining truth is through practice. But to think that instead of merging the "bests" in pursuit of attaining truth rather seeing everyone "building walls" and competing against each other, will the health issue be properly resolved and attain a higher level? No! As more and more people are in demand for better healthcare and improving wellness, then it is necessary to merge all the "bests" and create an improved form of integrative medicine that is applicable for everyone.

Remember, the Chinese, Indian, Filipino, or any other people have learned from personal experience over the years that their brand of traditional medicine cures a wide range of disorders and improved their well-being. It may sound strange to most practitioners of western medicine whose views are rather based according to western pharmacopoeias and other texts, yet still that western medicine is a medical system crystallizing healing wisdom gained by peoples from the West over centuries of their struggle against disease, and it is still useful to these eastern people all for the abundant experience, theoretical knowledge, and the sophisticated technology it embodies.

And although it is impossible in many instances to explain in modern scientific terminology the healing powers of traditional medicine, this does not mean they are not entirely scientific, both eastern and western medical systems has its limitations and shortcomings, and it is quite wrong to totally affirm or negate either. Therefore it needs to take time and effort to translate into western, scientific interpretation; and that interpretation can improve modern medicine even better, the way traditional Chinese medicine very often fills certain gaps in Western medicine.

It was also in then-Maoist China wherein cooperative medicine has taken root in every province and region; and millions of "barefoot doctors" are rising from their provinces trying to practise their craft of healing. Large numbers of urban medical personnel had gone on medical tours both in rural and in frontier regions, and most of them skilled in both traditional Chinese and Western-type methods in treating commonly-seen diseases. All of these measures have created the conditions for promoting the general use of Chinese medicinal herbs, alongside new methods of treatment and better application of combined Chinese-Western medicine as encouraged those times. For one of the tasks in confronting China's medical and health workers during that period was to carry out Chairman Mao's instruction of "making the past serve the present and making foreign things serve China".

Again, sounds propaganda-ish but still relevant especially in times everyone is demanding better healthcare and wellness.

Breaking barriers and improving bridges

This writeup may sound "idealistic" knowing that mainstream medical practitioners insist that their methods are superior to those of the others. They do competing as if trying to show to its consumers which is potent and which is not; but then that kind of mentality fails to hinder those whose idea of merging the bests in both eastern and western medicine as necessary to create an improved, better form of medicine. However, that attempt does not mean that in seeing combining eastern and western medicine and pharmacology as just simply adding the one to the other, and certainly not replacing Western medicine and pharmacology by their native counterparts or vice versa.

What is meant is the organic combination of the two medicines coming from different schools, filling in the weaknesses of the one with the strong points of the other and raising the level of both, eventually evolving a new medical science incorporating the best features of both; as what happened in China, in India, and other countries including the Philippines as it recognises alternative medicine and in forming integrative medicine.

And to think that "wall mentality" continues to prevail alongside unhealthy forms of competitions under present-day Capitalism, does it resolve issues on rising mortality rates? New and deadlier diseases? Nope. That mentality hinders progress of genuine medical development no matter how big pharmaceutical companies insist their greatness in "improving the well-being of the people." Worse, that big pharma was researching medicines only not to be produced for the market! Of what is ensuring health if the motivation is plain and simple profit? Of thinking about plain and simple competition instead of cooperation in pursuit of development in the field of medicine, health, and wellness? Remember: there are numerous diseases that has to be controlled if not prevented, and ideally everyone desired to have their life extended and be youthful, so why to build walls instead of bridges in order to attain such lofty goals?

Again, it sounds idealistic but to build bridges and break walls is driven by a communitarian spirit and concrete reality. The latter, particularly in a form of demands for better health care and wellness, makes an impossible possible as those who practise eastern methods see the wonders of its western counterparts, and hence willing to merge its bests in spite of its contradictions. And to think that for more than a century traditional healing techniques, be it Chinese, Indian, Filipino, or any other nationality has existed side by side with western medicine in every country, and both are making salutary contributions to safeguarding the health of their people.

Let's make an example: In one of the adventures of the late Juan Flavier (loosely and roughly translated from its Tagalog original at "Pilipino Star Ngayon"), he met a medicine man commonly known by many as "albularyo". The latter was quite talkative that somehow made the city-bred doctor wanting to listen to his words.
"Believe you me", said the albularyo. "The patient has no problem in the lung, it was 'dry' when at first seen in the X-Ray".
'Dry' or "Tuyo" is the term commonly used by many in referring to the lungs of a tuberculosis patient. "But in spite of that serious problem I still afforded to cure him," said the albularyo.
However, I was not convinced about his statement and I asked him: "how did you cure him?"
Then the albularyo replied:
"I got nine eggs and I had it dried overnight, then I pulvurised it and mixed into the carabao's milk with ampalaya juice. I had it given to the patient three times a day all for three months until he recovered."
Then the albularyo's patient came to meet the two and said:
"Manong, dok, my lungs are cured! The doctors from the city failed to address about my situation before manong cured me!"
The doctor couldn't explain although he remembered about during his student days wherein Calcium was injected into the infected lung in order to calcify the affected part. But come to think of this, isn't it that eggshells are also consists of calcium?
Then the doctor asked the albularyo: "is most of your patients cured?"
Then the albularyo replied:
"Not all. Just like Jueteng, sometimes it is successful, sometimes not."

That simple conversation is somehow an example of bridge building between two different thoughts, and it requires understanding in order to get a grasp of a thought that is helpful in making a better cure. And although there are instances that both traditional and modern medical practises are sometimes not succeeding in recovering patients, does not mean And from it lies new steps towards combining the bests from both eastern and western medicine, of the folkish and of the scientific. Flavier somehow understood as well as recognises the need to learn from these so-called "quack doctors" who afforded to heal using herbs or massage that in 1992, during his term as Secretary of Health, a brochure of 10 medicinal plants (akapulko, bitter melon, garlic, guava, lagundi, niyog-niyogan, pansit-pansitan, sambong, tsaang-gubat, yerba buena) for common health problems was published and commercial production was pursued. And in 1997, with the TAMA (Traditional and Alternative Medicine Act) being passed, it provides a legitimizing boost to the alternative medicine movement in the Philippines.

Overcoming divisive challenges with unity

But in spite of these so-called "efforts" to unite in pursuit of improving healthcare, it does not lead to a better conclusion. For there are those who stubbornly thinking that "western medicine" as greater than the eastern one, if not equating its eastern equivalent to being fraudulent if not unsanitary; One example would be the idea of having a chemically-based cough medicine as superior to its rival that is based from a plant such as lagundi according to its advertisement, but, to think that two different schools are competing instead of uniting, did it address the issue on the mortality rate? Did it avert diseases? The stubbornness especially in big pharma has been a stumbling block in medical achievement that even themselves been rejecting new ones brought about by their own science just to keep profits going from their accustomed creations the way anti-flu drugs cannot be simply manufactured and distributed no matter how successful its results, for it competes with the usual anti-flu vaccine big pharma hath profited so much.

Also to think that regardless of those trying to stunt developments in medicine, or rather say health and wellness, it is indeniable that Science is constantly advancing forward, and mankind's cognizance of the objective world knows no limits. While today's medical and pharmacological workers trying to accumulate some experience in clinical treatment with integrative medicine, these have in turn engendered many fresh subjects for research and development, especially concerning medical theory and practise. After all, as what Mao Zedong said:

"The law of the unity of opposites is the fundamental law of the universe."

Sorry to use Mao's statement given its political nature (and hence controversial), but as reality makes opposites united, or in case of this topic, uniting both eastern and western methods, one may drew a number of better conclusions in treating diseases/ailments the way Kuo Pin end recovered through that manner. The utilisation of Chinese herbs and its western manufacturing methods is one example of how the latter recognises the wonders of the former and how to utilise such "wonders" to create a modern yet still rooted type of medicine meant to cure if not to avert symptoms of a disease. Even surgeons had to use acupuncture instead of anaesthesia in undertaking operations as a preference;
but, as much as possible, in making integrative medicine, surgery has to be a last resort for there are possible treatments a patient has to undergo other than surgery nor chemical-based conventional medicine. If it can be resolved through detoxification then why not? During the Cultural Revolution and its encouragement of fusing western and eastern modalities in medicine, Chinese doctors took one of Mao Zedong's philosophical passages, such as from his writing "On Contradiction” that somehow helped these doctors to look at the matter with a more overall view. And it says:

"It [materialist dialectics] holds that external causes are the condition of change and internal causes are the basis of change, and that external causes become operative through internal causes."

In the case of pneumonia, the bacteria or virus is the external cause of the illness, the condition under which a patient passes from health to illness; lowered resistance and disturbance of physiological functions are the internal reasons for illness, the basis for the change. The presence of certain bacteria or viruses may cause pneumonia in some but not in others. Relating this to practice, the practitioner may realized that in the past when confronted with a case of pneumonia people had been concerned mainly with finding which type of bacteria or virus caused it, and with controlling the inflammation of the lung; that practitioner had not given enough consideration to the patient's general health.
But in the course of a study regarding Chinese medicine and its integration to modern methods, one may found that most of the Chinese herbal remedies used for treating pneumonia in children are not of much importance for inhibiting or killing bacteria. But instead, it is more of building resistance for with those herbal concoctions, some of them stimulate the heart, while others regulate, tonify the functions of the spleen so as to build up body resistance and further improve the patient's general condition. Chinese traditional medical theory, therefore, views treatment in a more comprehensive way than merely through the use of antibiotics. And also to think that there are many Chinese herbal remedies with antibacterial properties that can combat infections very effectively with no side effects. They do not weaken the body or immune system and attempt to restore the balance of the entire organism unlike antibiotics which can also cause subsequent infections due to the hit on the immune system.

Interesting isn’t it? Focusing on strengthening what the body needs and not just simply reducing bacteria or virus inside the body; And despite numerous positive results yet there are those who rather criticize badly about eastern-oriented medicine in spite of having its “bests” being offered. Admittingly speaking, this writeup that deals with medicine, health, and wellness has something to do with facing the challenges yet there are those who chose to oppose mainly because of subjective criticisms and debates, rather than constructive discourses leading to a possible integration of both schools into something that is, holistic. Come to think that according to the World Health Organisation, between 35,000 and 70,000 plants for medicinal purposes globally at one time or another- and in India, wherein Ayurvedic, Siddha, and Unani medicine is widely known, at least 20,000 species of plants are found, 2,000 of which are efficacious in Ayurvedic formulations.

But remember: none are easy to make such product or undertaking a technique. Does the product require fresh or dried ingredients? Does it undergone fermentation? Does it be processed with or without heat? Will it be taken internal, topical, or even both? Will it be by hand or by machine? In the end, behind integrative medicine is a centuries-old tradition that undergoes modern procedures, it lives in a present but draws from centuries-old traditions whose healing relevance makes it still necessary to continue all for the future.
Or for reality’s sake, that continuity lies in the people’s demand for good health, and in using both eastern and western modalities in medicine, its fusion leads to a holistic form of healing and wellness affecting both the individual and the society.

China Reconstructs, November 1972 issue
Creating New Chinese Medicine and Pharmacology, 1977