Alternative Medicine in Context

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Alternative Medicine in Context

Alternative Medicine in Context

When President Xi Jinping visited WHO headquarters for the first time in Geneva in 2017 he brought along a bronze statue showing acupuncture marks on the body.

China has been promoting TCM on the world stage, both as away to burnish its global image and influence, and for a slice of a growing market internationally. In China, TCM is worth $130 billion. The country’s 2016 “strategic plan” on the Development of Traditional Chinese Medicine supports the expansion of Chinese medicine overseas and advocates the use of Beijing’s Belt and Road global economic initiative to promote TCM.

But WHO’s move has left some scientists perplexed. The effectiveness of Chinese medicine is in most cases unproven, and only a few herbs have been tested systematically for toxicity or carcinogenicity in the same way Western medicines are in the United States and Europe, said Grollman.

In his research, Grollman looked at Aristolochia plants that have long been used for medical purposes and found they can cause cancer and kidney failure. “Empirical knowledge based on tradition should not be permitted to “trump” the scientific method in matters of public health,” he wrote in 2016 in the journal EMBO.

David Colquhoun, a professor of pharmacology at University College London, said that the evidence that any form of traditional medicine works is “negligible.”-“We’ve looked at acupuncture as its gained the most traction in the West,” he said. Some studies have found a small effect but it’s not clinically significant,” he said. “There’s endless evidence it makes no difference where you put needles. These imaginary meridians are baseless, he added.

Plus while most people assume that acupuncture is a system of medicine that has its origins in China, in 1991 evidence surfaced indicating it might even have a European or Eurasian origin (or has been spread more widely early on that previously accepted). In 1991 two German tourists, Helmut and Erika Simon, were hiking across an alpine glacier in the Otz valley near the border between Italy and Austria when they encountered a frozen corpse. At first, they assumed it was the body of a modem hiker, many of whom have lost their lives due to treacherous weather conditions. In fact, they had stumbled upon the remains of a 5,000-year-old man.

Otzi the Iceman, named after the valley in which he was found, became world famous because his body had been remarkably well pre­served by the intense cold, making him the oldest European mummified human by far. Scientists began examining Otzi, and soon a startling series of discoveries emerged. One of the more unexpected avenues of research was a series of tattoos that covered parts of his body. These tattoos consisted of lines and dots, as opposed to being pictorial, and seemed to form fifteen distinct groups with 80 per cent of the points corres­ponding to those used in acupuncture today.

Various acupuncture experts agreed that the majority of tattoos seemed to lie within 6mm of known acupuncture points, and that the remainder all lay close to other areas of special significance to acupuncture. Allowing for the distortion of Otzi’s skin in the past 5,000 years, it was even possible that every single tattoo corresponded with an acupuncture point. Bahr came to the conclusion that the markings were made by an ancient healer in order to allow Otzi to treat himself by using the tattoos as a guide for apply­ing needles to the correct sites.

The majority of tattoo sites are exactly those that would be used by a modern acupuncturist to treat back pain, and the remainder can be linked to abdominal disorders. In a paper published in 1999 in the highly respected journal Lancet, F. Bahr, L. Dorfer, and S. Suwanda, presidents of the German, Austrian, and Swiss academies of acupuncture, wrote: ‘From an acupuncturist’s viewpoint, the combination of points selected represents a meaningful therapeutic regimen.’ Not only do we have an apparent treatment regime, but we also have a diagnosis that fits the speculation, because radiological studies have shown that Otzi suffered from arthritis in the lumbar. region of his spine and we also know that there were numerous whip­worm eggs in his colon that would have caused him serious abdominal problems

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