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kuenjato

Chinese Medicine - Has anyone used it? Opinions on effectiveness?

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Posted (edited)

8 hours ago, TerraPrime said:

My family use both traditional Chinese medicines (TCM) and western medicine. As an example: when I fell during PE class and strained my wrists badly, we went to get xray to show that it's not fracture. Then my mom took me to TCM to get a splint and a herbal dressing. In contrast, when my sister fell from a bike and broke her forearm it was a fracture and my mom let the doctors put a cast on her in the western style. For routine colds and fevers we went with TCM, unless it was a persistent high fever, in which case we went to western doctors. 

 

Was TCM effective? For the most part. There were clear effectiveness in many cases that I personally experienced. That includes herbal concentrates that we cooked up at home (you obtain the ingredients from the doctor's office first then you brew it at home), acupuncture, and traditional chiropractice. In some of the cases where it worked, it's possible that it's placebo, or coincidence. In some of the cases, I don't think so. I think something about the treatment did work as intended. Of course, there are cases where it didn't seem to work, too. 

 

In general, I am hesitant to draw equivalence in efficacy between TCM as used in China and chinese medicines as used in the West. In the West, most of what I see did not look like the TCM that's familiar to me. For herbal medications, I see a lot more of taking extracts of one plant or the other, instead of a full mixture. The acupuncture I saw was often very few in numbers. In my experience, the needles usually amount to about 6 to 10, but in the western use I more commonly saw about 4. Also, acupuncture in the west is more likely to focus on the area of problem, whereas in the TCM that I know it is less closely correlated. 

 

As for why it works - there are very few empirical studies done, though more recently than before. The old explanations from TCM relies on a completely different way of understanding the world. I don't know TCM as a whole can withstand scientific empiricism without having much of it fail to live up to that standard. But I do know that it's been used for millennia, and the side effects of toxicity to the liver are extremely rare. More likely is, imo, the treatment being ineffective. For many people, for many cases, it simply does work. But clearly there are variations and sham "cures" around, too. Then again, Western medicine doesn't empirical work on every person in identical ways, either, even if we are typically led to believe so. 

 

TL;DR: I recommend finding an actual TCM practitioner who's been trained in the traditional way and try not to Westernize it. 

Fascinating.  Or perhaps the human body and its interactions between "systems", with the universe around us is more complex than mere reductionist empiricism can fully explain by attempting to analogize the body with a machine?

Edited by Ser Scot A Ellison

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How do you think traditional chinese practicioners arrived at their formulations? It is probably through a process of 'reductionist empiricism', or to put it more crudely, trial and error. 

As long as they assume causality they should be operating in the same framework as 'western medicine'.

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18 hours ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

Is there an empiricial explanation for how Acupuncture does what it does?

Various trials have been done, especially comparing "sham" acupuncture and "usual" acupuncture to conservative management. There is a modest effect from some kind of intervention vs nothing, but no good evidence that "real" practice is any different from the "sham" equivalent. 

The modest effects that have been observed cannot be shown to represent anything more than a placebo effect. 

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1 hour ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

Fascinating.  Or perhaps the human body and its interactions between "systems", with the universe around us is more complex than mere reductionist empiricism can fully explain by attempting to analogize the body with a machine?

Physiology is not an "analogy". 

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1 hour ago, Aemon Stark said:

Various trials have been done, especially comparing "sham" acupuncture and "usual" acupuncture to conservative management. There is a modest effect from some kind of intervention vs nothing, but no good evidence that "real" practice is any different from the "sham" equivalent. 

The modest effects that have been observed cannot be shown to represent anything more than a placebo effect. 

What is the difference between "sham" and "usual"? I haven't had the actual needle route, and have been told (by TCM practitioners) that it won't do much for my particular condition.

 

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Posted (edited)

11 hours ago, TerraPrime said:

My family use both traditional Chinese medicines (TCM) and western medicine. As an example: when I fell during PE class and strained my wrists badly, we went to get xray to show that it's not fracture. Then my mom took me to TCM to get a splint and a herbal dressing. In contrast, when my sister fell from a bike and broke her forearm it was a fracture and my mom let the doctors put a cast on her in the western style. For routine colds and fevers we went with TCM, unless it was a persistent high fever, in which case we went to western doctors. 

 

Was TCM effective? For the most part. There were clear effectiveness in many cases that I personally experienced. That includes herbal concentrates that we cooked up at home (you obtain the ingredients from the doctor's office first then you brew it at home), acupuncture, and traditional chiropractice. In some of the cases where it worked, it's possible that it's placebo, or coincidence. In some of the cases, I don't think so. I think something about the treatment did work as intended. Of course, there are cases where it didn't seem to work, too. 

 

In general, I am hesitant to draw equivalence in efficacy between TCM as used in China and chinese medicines as used in the West. In the West, most of what I see did not look like the TCM that's familiar to me. For herbal medications, I see a lot more of taking extracts of one plant or the other, instead of a full mixture. The acupuncture I saw was often very few in numbers. In my experience, the needles usually amount to about 6 to 10, but in the western use I more commonly saw about 4. Also, acupuncture in the west is more likely to focus on the area of problem, whereas in the TCM that I know it is less closely correlated. 

 

As for why it works - there are very few empirical studies done, though more recently than before. The old explanations from TCM relies on a completely different way of understanding the world. I don't know TCM as a whole can withstand scientific empiricism without having much of it fail to live up to that standard. But I do know that it's been used for millennia, and the side effects of toxicity to the liver are extremely rare. More likely is, imo, the treatment being ineffective. For many people, for many cases, it simply does work. But clearly there are variations and sham "cures" around, too. Then again, Western medicine doesn't empirical work on every person in identical ways, either, even if we are typically led to believe so. 

 

TL;DR: I recommend finding an actual TCM practitioner who's been trained in the traditional way and try not to Westernize it. 

From your experience, do you think that ingesting herbs can manipulate the body's ability to heal? I say this because last year, when the peripheral neuropathy began, it remained the same for many months without changing (8+months). The stress (multiplied by many other factors) grew to the point that I began smoking; by smoking, I could mediate (for a short while) the heat/pain. However, once I started this treatment plan (which is specifically tailored to my condition by someone trained in China + not a big fan of Western application), I've noticed that the nerve irritation, while not subsiding completely, has definitely changed in the past three months. But it's hard to tell if it is the herbal dosage, the massive lifestyle changes I've made (better diet, better sleep, quit smoking again), or some combination of the two. TCM doctors claim that the herbs will not be effective without the lifestyle changes. I'm currently spending around $60-70 a month on homemade herbal pills, which is pretty cheap compared to the bottled  stuff they sell (tends to run $100-150 a month, easy)

Obvious caveat: everything I've read about nerve damage states that it takes a really long time for irritated / damaged nerves to heal. I've had the condition for 15 months and it's only started to diminish recently.

Edited by kuenjato

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2 hours ago, Aemon Stark said:

Various trials have been done, especially comparing "sham" acupuncture and "usual" acupuncture to conservative management. There is a modest effect from some kind of intervention vs nothing, but no good evidence that "real" practice is any different from the "sham" equivalent. 

The modest effects that have been observed cannot be shown to represent anything more than a placebo effect. 

Is the same true of Chiropractors?  

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From personal experience I can state that one treatment option that has always worked for me is to ignore the health problem until it goes away. 

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On 4/13/2017 at 9:42 AM, kuenjato said:

From your experience, do you think that ingesting herbs can manipulate the body's ability to heal?

Yes. I've experienced it. Whether it's placebo or not. I believe that many (but not all) of the herbal mixtures are effective for what they claim to treat. 

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I'm not sure why we would assume an effect from herbs to be a placebo effect- after all, the plants in question have chemical properties. India in particular has successfully fought off pharmaceutical companies' attempts to patent the active ingredients in traditional herbs like turmeric and ashwagandha. The big drawback of herbs it seems to me is uncertainty of dosage due to variation in potency. Also a lot of specific formulations have been shown to be contaminated with heavy metals and other toxins, so the source/brand is important.

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You can't assume any effect from anecdotal evidence using entirely non-standardized "herbs". 

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3 hours ago, Weeping Sore said:

I'm not sure why we would assume an effect from herbs to be a placebo effect- after all, the plants in question have chemical properties.

What doesn't have chemical properties? Sugar has chemical properties, have all the studies that show a placebo effect using sugar pills just shown the sugar does everything?

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5 hours ago, Aemon Stark said:

You can't assume any effect from anecdotal evidence using entirely non-standardized "herbs". 

Wait... are you saying it's not possible to test herbal remidies? 

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Another layer of challenge is that TCM is highly personalized. 

Two people showing up with highly similar symptoms, like a persistent night coughing, might be given two different types of herbal mixture, by the same doctor. The main ingredients might be the same but the supplementary ones can differ according to the individual patient. This is a little ironic because the advances in genomics is heralding the era of personalized medicine, and yet, the ancient Chinese had recognized the individual differences in metabolism and the need to adjust treatment accordingly. 

 

Same thing with acupuncture. The same description of hip pain may get you 12 needles in one person or 16 in another. 

 

Then there's the variation from doctor to doctor. 

 

TCM just wasn't born out of the desire to standardize all practices to one set of criteria, and so it defies empiricism. 

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9 hours ago, Aemon Stark said:

You can't assume any effect from anecdotal evidence using entirely non-standardized "herbs". 

I love how you appear out of nowhere to argue against TCM. You've been doing this for ten years. I admire the consistent effort, no matter how misguided. 

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14 minutes ago, TerraPrime said:

Another layer of challenge is that TCM is highly personalized. 

Two people showing up with highly similar symptoms, like a persistent night coughing, might be given two different types of herbal mixture, by the same doctor. The main ingredients might be the same but the supplementary ones can differ according to the individual patient. This is a little ironic because the advances in genomics is heralding the era of personalized medicine, and yet, the ancient Chinese had recognized the individual differences in metabolism and the need to adjust treatment accordingly. 

 

Same thing with acupuncture. The same description of hip pain may get you 12 needles in one person or 16 in another. 

 

Then there's the variation from doctor to doctor. 

 

TCM just wasn't born out of the desire to standardize all practices to one set of criteria, and so it defies empiricism. 

Part of me... really likes that.  

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8 minutes ago, TerraPrime said:

TCM just wasn't born out of the desire to standardize all practices to one set of criteria, and so it defies empiricism. 

Only if it varies for no reason at all. You just said that medicine is becoming more personalized. That medicine uses empiricism, so why is TCM different? How is recognizing differences in metabolism and adjusting treatment accordingly not empirical?

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6 minutes ago, TrueMetis said:

Only if it varies for no reason at all. You just said that medicine is becoming more personalized. That medicine uses empiricism, so why is TCM different? How is recognizing differences in metabolism and adjusting treatment accordingly not empirical?

If the tailoring is really "individualized" how do you examine the effects on a group.  The groups are one person each.

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Posted (edited)

3 minutes ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

If the tailoring is really "individualized" how do you examine the effects on a group.  The groups are one person each.

By looking at people with similar backgrounds and analyzing. Same way we always have. Personalization doesn't require it be tailored exclusively to one and only one person, and if TCM claims it does that I call bullshit.

Edited by TrueMetis

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I have experience with the cupping massage when I had bronchial asthma. I was around 10, so I can't say whether it had some great success, but my mother swears that I was sleeping much calmer. 

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