The Colonialism of Chinese Medicine Skepticism
Live Draft: Debunking Colonialist Skepticism of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture in the Covid-Era
Latest Update: 07.16.22
Greetings! This is my workspace to consolidate and refine points of contention I have with the skepticism/misunderstanding of TCM I encounter from the capitalist biomedical community. Rather than commenting diatribes, or private mumblings I see it more worthwhile to have something to refer skeptics to while I hammer out my exhaustive (exhausting) thesis essay and ohh the references to come.
As I write in the intro to my Covid Resources page: “… As Western/modern medicine grappled with developing these vaccines under extreme pressure, I also strongly feel that little to no actual individualized immune system supportive measures remain being discussed broadly, despite the fact that we do have tools to help at our disposal. This cannot be stressed enough — especially for at-risk populations. We need both vaccines — and deeper education on improving our overall health, especially now that we face the shadow Long Covid pandemic — something which TCM is extremely adept at managing. Traditional Chinese/Eastern Medicine (TCM) is indeed capable of being an assistant method of prevention and treatment (alongside, of course, all standard CDC/WHO/local governmental guidelines — this goes without saying!). We’ve been at this in an unbroken tradition, now backed by modern science — for millennia. A brief glimpse provided below (our textbooks are significantly more detailed and not available online). So I’m not talking about fringe quack supplements here.”
The upcoming additions will add dozens of pages of discussion and citation as well as general reformatting.
TABLE OF CONTENTS/UPCOMING ADDITIONS
(Items in bold are completed “enough” to be posted here publicly, italics are in “upcoming” private drafts to be merged here when finished)
- PART ONE: Demystifying TCM Terminology
- Systems Theory & “Wholism”
- My “Acupuncture Flavours” Theory
- PART TWO: Misinformation in the Covid-19 Era: Herbs & Hypocrisy
- On “Boosting” Immunity
- TCM for Long-Covid: A Pristine Research Opportunity
- PART THREE: Colonizer Medicines
- “Witchcraft” and Patriarchal/Dominance Culture against Barefoot Medicine… and Safe Abortions
- Medical Ethics & Limitations: Building towards true “Complementary” Medicine
Iwill call myself out right from the beginning: Yes, I have a clear vested interest in Chinese medicine working. My current livelihood depends on it. But is this all one giant attempt at rationalizing myself (and others) into an impossible intellectual loop so that I can sleep soundly at night? Absolutely not. This is my attempt at learning a foreign/ancient medicine and sussing out what is superstition from effective “systems theory” based medicine.
This is precisely to combat & compliment the gaping inferiorities in our current biomedical/pharmaceutical system (and if you’ve been following my work, you’ll know I’m extremely pro vaccine.
What I am seeing from both sides is that both the anti-TCM and the and anti-vax communities think that because they have learned the alphabet, they can now speak the language.
These discussions require more nuance, especially when capitalist medicine is a) a leading global killer (also this, this, this, this, and this, and this — much more coming; if you brush these aside you are falling victim to the very hypocritical logical fallacy the rest of this piece dissects), b) is almost useless in curing basic chronic health conditions such as IBS, PMS, depression/anxiety I can go on but again, draft; and c) has lead us down the path of literally — pardon my language — decades long ass-backwards nutritional advice. Sure — we are living longer (or are we?) but we are aging terribly — especially when compared to the vitality seen in the elderly populations of indigenous cultures. [Advanced citation coming for each of these points, but also explored further down.]
TCM only begins to become “clinically alive” when practiced for at least a decade — are skeptics suggesting that we leave it in history rather than practice? Is the suggestion that there is zero merit in examining herbal combinations and acupuncture, or that we’ve seen enough and should drop it? Calling TCM "magical thinking" or an "appeal to tradition", meanwhile ignoring the herbal knowledge that identified the antimalarial potential of Artemisinin centuries ago. What else might we find if we remain actually unbiased?
Just like it takes years of training to understand advanced virology/immunology/vaccinology textbooks, which otherwise look like complete jargony gibberish to the untrained reader, the same logic applies to advanced TCM. Thus, promoters of vaccines trying to dispel myths to the general misinformed public are at risk of blatant hypocrisy if they do not apply the same standards of educational clarification from experts from the TCM field, and — like misinformed anti-vaxxers, they should also assume they do not have enough training to come to any concrete conclusions and being able to suss out flaws in studies, which I dissect below.
So no, this is not an attempt at rationalizing my own blindspots. This is an attempt of a Westerner to study an ancient medicine, to tease out what works, then translate it effectively to a modern audience while preserving and respecting the accumulated knowledge of the tradition. Rather than — you know, writing the whole thing off as inferior pseudo-scientific drivel. Aka colonialism. And after my years of studying & practicing — as each day passes, it is our own modern profit driven medical system that begins to look more and more primitive. And of course it is — get back to me once it has been refined for millennia. As was done with the traditional Chinese master physicians — as that was indeed what they were and continue to be (check your colonialism): the medical experts of their time, writing truly impressive scholarly — especially herbal — textbooks. How much do you, dear skeptic — *actually* know of these?
This is my existential attempt at legitimizing a comparatively mainstream “indigenous” medicine (as TCM/CCM is) to then redirect the narrative to respecting other indigenous cultures as the treasure troves that they are. To underscore the importance of alternative economic models, of sustainability principles, of medical ethics.
This explains why, especially here in Toronto, many English-speaking practitioners often come from and lead highly adept activist and grounded political (non “social justice warrior”/New-Age/reactionary) backgrounds.
TCM has survived as a monolith in the complementary scene when compared to another large tradition, Ayurveda. TCM is rooted in philosophy and principle not religious dogma — why we utilize natural concepts (rather than divine beings) such as Yin and Yang — seen every day in electrical polarity/particle physics, in seasons, in the pH spectrum, sleep/wake cycles, matter/antimatter, essentially all levels of physics and biology great and small… In other words, both our internal “Yin” worlds, and our external “Yang”.
These are not gods and goddesses (which I might does add an extra element of “sacredness” much needed in today’s society where nothing is sacred and old growth forests are bulldozed, tender species decimated), but when not elevated to religious levels this allowed the ancient medical texts to be critiqued and refined through the ages rather than seen as “biblical” texts that remain relatively frozen in time (to my understanding) such as those found in Ayurveda.
The traditional Chinese were known to be a much more pragmatic people (a quick glance at Confucianism or Taoism reveals this, with their emphasis on family and direct experience rather that divine worship). Because how can one improve and modify with changing times and updated methods when central texts are considered holy? This is an issue not found in TCM with its centuries of “commentaries”, volumes which preserve the original texts by the leading physicians of the time but dissect and improve on the shortcomings, a legitimate precursor to the modern scientific method. Discussions which continue unbroken, to this day, now shaped by modern science rather than generational correction.
And these medical refinements exist/ed outside the capitalist pharma pseudo-science staining our modern era, that on record kills tens if not hundreds of thousands of people every year while we turn a blind eye. Meanwhile relatively safe legitimate complimentary medicines such as Chinese medicine or the herbal medicines of First Nations peoples in general are under disproportionate scrutiny. To me this is a form of class warfare: these traditional medicines were created by barefoot doctors for the sake of the people, not the bottom line.
Thus bringing us to the question of trust… and the root of the problem in our anti-vax era.
But wait — am I not being hypocritical by on one hand, writing in my previous essays completely backing the world-wide vaccination program, and then in an about face, now deriding that same system that produced these same vaccines? Is it not hypocritical to refer people to “Science Based Medicine” websites — and then in another swoop, dismantle those same websites as I do below?
No. Are we not allowed to support science-based vaccines *and* still critique the capitalist pharmaceutical industry? As I’ll demonstrate I am simply asking everyone to stay in their lanes. If you come across an anti-vax conspiracy, be inquisitive to learn more from peer-reviewed evidence. Vaccines are science-based medicine — to which I turn to science-based peer-reviewed experts. If you come across TCM — be inquisitive to learn more from peer reviewed evidence based TCM professionals such as those I reference below. I am simply debunking misinformation in both directions. No gaps in logic, here.
The biggest arrogance from the western biomedical community is simply a refusal to admit that they simply have no idea what they are talking about. This is excruciatingly frustrating for us TCM practitioners. Watching as they equate Qi with some mystical force and then proceed to dismantle a scarecrow of their own making. At that point, who are they even talking to and what are they even talking about? Instead of approaching a topic with minds made up, perhaps you could listen to the experts in the field who are also biomedically trained.
This is what you do when you aren’t a colonizer — you listen, first.
Regardless of the seemingly at times superstitious pseudo-scientific theory masks of these medicines (including traditional western such as Greek, etc.) the key here is irrelevant to the theory (“humours” etc), the applications of the treatments — especially herbal — still worked. Further, it takes trained professionals today such as myself, to suss out what could actually have unrecognized scientific merit not yet commonly accepted in the mainstream medical community. I will continue to refer to the “brain in your gut” (and will add numerous others, I have a whole Pocket database — fack I wish I could share it directly) for this phenomenon — once thought total hogwash, traditional medicines have recognized this connection for millennia, and thus, have millennia worth of treatment options continuing to this day. This is not an appeal to tradition, (which may easily slide into conservative values) — not when considering the number of studies being performed, discussed later.
Need I remind skeptics that as a primary example, meditation — once regarded with skepticism, now backed over and over by science — originated in the ancient far East? Not to mention the advanced mathematics involved in building ancient temples, or the sustainable eco-social principles of the First Nations peoples whose governance system we modelled the U.S. from? Why then do we outright discard the medicines utilized by these peoples, in a parallel time frame when westerners were bloodletting and letting religion define disease? (These points will be thoroughly expanded.)
And yet fail to give credit to these contributions to our modern paradigm, taking them out of context from the traditions they originate from, while dismissing the often far more valuable medical contributions practically begging for examination in this Covid-19 era. Cultural appropriation.
And keep in mind: there are quacks in every medical field. But why do we brush aside biomed quacks, then minimize the voices of legitimate TCM doctors? Because when it comes to traditional Eastern or indigenous medicines, is this not thinly veiled hypocritical colonialism in action?
So in order to begin the process of decolonization — again, shouldn’t we instead seek to listen, first? Let’s begin by clarifying semantics before we dissect the science, keeping in mind there is much more I’ll be adding.
Demystifying TCM Terminology
Aren’t the TCM “organs” or the concept of “Qi” just primitive/don’t exist/are unscientific?
ON THE “SPLEEN”
In TCM the ‘Spleen’ is the central Organ of digestion, and it only takes a quick internet search to reveal that the anatomical spleen has absolutely nothing to do with this process. While many skeptic types scoff at this, and then proceed to throw the baby out with the bathwater, the explanation is quite simple: When referring to the Spleen in the traditional sense, TCM practitioners are more accurately naming the digestive organ the pancreas.
This has been shown to be a pesky mistranslation that continues to pervade English TCM translations. This is most clearly illustrated in Five Phase theory, where the Element or Phase associated with the Spleen is ‘Earth’, which is positioned in the centre of a system — where the pancreas is physically located (among numerous other associations). This is a direct manifestation of “Yin/Yang pairing” when looking at the Pancreas “Yin” (vital) organ “paired” with the “Yang” (hollow) Stomach. (This again will be examined deeper later).
Some authors correct this misnomer by referring to this system as the “Spleen/Pancreas system”. When seen in this light, a great many TCM functions of the so-called “Spleen” begin to make perfect sense, when examining the functions of the anatomical pancreas.
This is simply a case of broken telephone.
Further, the traditional Chinese regarded the anatomical spleen as an extra lobe of the ‘Liver’, in the same way we have two kidneys and two lungs. This is in a way actually close to accuracy due to the deep associations with the Chinese ‘Liver’ function and the blood — similar to the anatomical spleen. It seems they likely simply combined the functions of both blood-related organs, and collectively called them “the Liver”.
ON “THE TRIPLE BURNER/WARMER”
In regard to another favourite scapegoat for skeptics to (arrogantly) skewer is the concept of the “Triple Burner” organ. This is again easily explained if one makes an effort to look beyond a passing glance.
The Triple Burner (lit. San Jiao) commonly refers to two functional aspects: a division of the body into 3 cavities (or ‘Burners’), which are largely direct equivalents to the thoracic, abdominal, and pelvic anatomical cavities. Think of the “Lower Burner” as the collective functions of the digestive tract as a whole, and the “Upper Burner” as the combined circulatory functions of the lungs and heart which are indeed codependent in blood oxygenation as a unit. Sounds like a reasonable grouping to me — since no organ system is truly independent. The second function relates to the movement of Qi (discussed next) and fluids — which in modern TCM texts is now theorized to directly correspond to the interstitial fluids which transport biological constituents and water/lymph throughout an organism.
So together, what can be seen here is that the ancient Chinese were essentially describing the functions of all non-visceral/extracellular cavities of the body. I have only skimmed over this topic; it should be known that the amount of detail regarding these functions is advanced and fills entire textbooks — certainly not something to brush aside. [Again, references and expansion to follow]
ON “QI” AND THE “CHANNELS”
Finally, the most commonly eviscerated term in TCM is likely “Qi” as “it doesn’t exist”! To begin — I challenge anyone to think outside the box as even within the last decades or last century, entirely new understandings of our phenomenal universe have been discovered that were not only theoretical — but further, hadn’t even been conceived of to begin with [citation to follow].
That said, the traditional Chinese were a pragmatic people. Qi was never some mystical otherworldly concept, but right in front of you, seen in biological function (the breeze the blows the trees) and experienced directly in meditation and “altered” mind states.
Specifically in medical applications Qi is a simple convention in language as we simply do not have an equivalent term in English. For this, I have coined the term “Vital Inertia” meaning the optimal continual functioning of any physiological system. I have also termed it “Functional Vitality”: Are all immuno-modulator markers (T-cells, NK cells etc) in their ideal range? Then “Wei Qi” is vital. Is the digestion operating smoothly without complaints of bloating, constipation or loose bowels; all enzymes and gland secreting correctly? Then by definition “Spleen (Pancreas!) Qi” is sufficient. Are menstrual periods flowing smoothly without pain, clotting, or mood swings? Then ipso facto, “Liver Qi” (in its aforementioned relationship to blood, alongside its Channel pathway) is coursing correctly.
Is it working, or is it not?
Thus, in itself Qi is a valid but more importantly workable concept, an umbrella term that transcends and includes the science-based terms skeptics are talking of. Some acupuncture points have a more vascular flavour in their action. Others more purely muscular. Others such as PC6 are more notably working on the nervous system. (Acupuncture is discussed in part 2 below.) All of these combined are enhancing their respective systems, which as a convention in terms we simply call Qi: “Functional Vitality”.
Further — this applies to the “Channels”. These transcend and include vascular pathways, trigger point relationships (“activation of the channels”) fascia train pathways, trajectories of the nerves; and according to Jason D. Robertson, flows of interstitial fluids just beginning to be recognized by science. The channels are early illustrations of all of these systems both in their individual components but also combined pathways of function — which can be actively utilized and directly explored in martial arts and meditation. And it is these pathways with which the ancient masters worked — and thus should not be taken out of this context.
To elaborate, Qi is also an experience, something that cannot be pinned down by science in the sense that in Qi Gong and martial arts, sublime states of flow state/mental focus, presence and even almost predictive intuition can be both experienced and developed by dedicated practitioners. Something that if even the most skeptic of scientists decided they would study Kung Fu for 30 years to understand what is meant by Qi, would eventually “find it”. That “mystical” flow-state. Mystical only…. because currently poorly understood. Once experienced first-hand, then seek to make physiological links in their research. How many martial arts films begin with a hardened skeptic only to find them open to direct experience and deeper understanding later? Might there be truth to these tropes? There is a great deal of research now showing the links between meditative/stress free states of mind, and overall optimized bodily functions [again this is a draft, but most people have heard these links by now, citation on its way.]
The key point here, and likely most interesting to future research, is that when “unblocking” Qi “stagnation” in an acupuncture channel or organ system, the patient’s experience of life begins to flow with more ease. Less irritability, more adaptability. More acceptance, less rigidity — both in body and mind. This is the key premise of the renowned herbal formula “Xiao Yao Wan” — smoothing the functions of menstrual, digestive, and mental-emotional producing resilience & ease. Taken as a whole herbal formula, a new unit in and of itself greater than the sum of its parts, not as simply a collection of herbs.
So not only is it the scientifically recognized “flow state” it also has the aforementioned physiological aspects. So yes, each these can be divided, each of these is science-based in and of themselves — neurological, endocrine, etc. We are working with all of these together and at times in variating ratios. So, we are not just talking about the digestive aspect, nor just the muscular trigger points, nor just the flow state. All of which we quite simply call Qi. And this is with which we work — not the watered-down fragments that suit the limited understanding and restricted experience of modern bio-medicine, and subsequent cherry picked isolated indeed imaginary research targets.
At this point, by definition, because of a staunch refusal to look deeper and respect the tradition in its own terms, skeptical researchers are framing the argument — and thus the studies fail before they even begin. This, by definition, is not science.
There is simply no English equivalent word that encapsulates these concepts, which is why I use the two I have coined above (Functional Vitality/Vital Inertia) when talking down to skeptics. So if one prefers to do the usual western thing of fragmenting and dividing wholistic concepts and systems and taking them out of their original context (ecology would like a word with you), isolating aspects, fitting things into narrow terms rather than seeking to understand the term in its own valid context them go for it. That is your personal state of Qi and I’m not here to block it, just guide it.
Because as ecology confirms (and is the same logic in nature-reflective TCM) — organic systems, including our own physiology are indeed wholistic and can rarely, if ever, be studied in isolation.
Quite simply — Stop isolating terms without taking the tradition, translations, and conventions in language into consideration!
Just as it is hard to translate from one language to another without losing subtle connotations, the same is true for these concepts. We work with the ‘Kidney’ which is defined in our TCM terms, and then use herbs which treat the ‘Kidneys’ — which from a Western point of view these herbs may be cerebral tonics, hormone regulators, or tonics which strengthen the bones. The key here is that the tradition defines and dictates the functions of these systems and should at no point be taken out of this context — unless to draw overlapping similarities between the two medical systems. The herbs work. The needles work. It is the outcomes that must be studied, not the theory mapping.
The takeaway here, is to not get lost in translation. Just because something speaks a different language, even an ancient one — does not mean they are not describing the same physiological functions. Physiology is physiology, TCM may map and describe functions from a more metaphorical perspective and combine them in different sets but the terrain itself remains the same — the human body, mental health, and experience. The treatments are what matters, and the results speak for themselves: 1, 2 (I will provide more citation here as again this is a public draft).
Especially when the modern approach so heavily reductionist and simply never takes the whole human experience of both mind and body, together. A psychologist for that — a GI specialist for this. I personally prefer to work with a system that has acknowledged for centuries the interwoven “systems” nature of our beings and has produced effective medicines that treat it as such. (Again, Xiao Yao Wan is an excellent example). This is only recently beginning to be explored in fields such as psychoneuroimmunology — a field established centuries ago in TCM.
Quite simply — We do not have to speak your language.
Misinformation in the COVID-19 Era: Herbs & Hypocrisy
For further reading:
Let’s dive in. For anyone skeptical of Herbal Medicine in general in this COVID-19 era, I invite you to consider:
- One of the leading antivirals being tested early on was originally extracted/synthesized from herbal medicine:
2. While not being used specifically in this outbreak, note that one of the most common anti-malarials today was also used extensively for centuries by Chinese herbalists, before its modern-day Nobel prize winning status.
3. Do I need to continue the list of all the clinically proven active chemicals discovered in plant medicines, and used for centuries? And more importantly how did such ancient physicians correctly identify which herb for which condition? Was there a field of theory that both helped to discover these, and helped to apply which, and when?
And next — what happens if we respected tradition, and combined the isolated ingredients in custom TCM-based pharmaceutical combinations, tailored to the individual? You know — the way pharmacists used to actually “compound” medications?
Further, as I mentioned in my video, epidemic disease was a major killer of ancient/traditional cultures who became well equipped with methods of prevention & care for the sick. To scoff at these is simply colonialist/racist — I’ll explain.
So, ask yourself, how much do you actually know about the in-depth history of advanced TCM and how science has barely scratched the surface on its millennia of refined experience? Do you deem it “primitive”? Do you ignore the fact that while science may not currently prove the effectiveness of some of these specific formulas (technical combinations of herbs, thousands of formulas to choose from), who is to say that in a mere decade from now incredible new research comes out proving the efficacy of these formulas as more research becomes available? Yet these formulas have been used safely by medical professionals for centuries (yes, professionals — check your colonialism). Do we wait?
Discussion of Cold Damage (Shang Han Lun)
A major new translation of the Chinese classic Shang Han Lun by scholar and medical doctor Guohui Liu makes this…
Warm Disease Theory: Wen Bing Xue
In Chinese medicine there are four classics that all serious students are required to study. These include the Classic…
These bold statements are a direct response to what I see far too commonly on the internet. Chinese Medicine is a beast of “alternative medicine” that stands alone when compared to homeopathy, naturopathy etc. relative newcomers on the scene of which even I am highly skeptical. Instead of respect, I see blanket dismissal without taking the time and effort to learn the nuances of what is required for effective individual-based research & translation of terms. Hence my Misinformation series. Once again, let’s examine the word “Qi”: All too often I see skeptics immediately see the term and then without looking any further, throw the baby out with the bathwater.
I define Qi as functional vitality. Do you have a strong stomach? Well, then you have good stomach Qi. We all know colloquially what a “strong stomach” means — the Chinese literally built a language and medicine around agreed upon pictographic, referential imagery such as this — the total opposite of phonetic language. Preciseness is the antithesis, context is everything.
In Western terms we might say sufficient stomach acid, enzymes etc, but either way prescribed herbs will be treating the same thing, albeit using a different language, to achieve the same results. Hence when I see people writing it off without taking a moment to take a deeper glance, I see this as no different as writing off indigenous peoples when they were first discovered as “savages” needing to be “civilized”. To understand something, we must acknowledge the validity of its language, on its own terms, before we can begin fluent translation. I will link an incredible essay on the topic (from a textbook) if I can either find it online or get permission from the author [this is a public note to self]. The point here is — do not dismiss or attempt to “convert” something because you do not understand it — this is the same modus operandi of the missionaries and residential schools…
The height of Western/”Science-Based” arrogance, right here:
“”TCM mixtures can be toxic, contaminated or adulterated with prescription drugs; they can also interact with prescription drugs,” Ernst said. It can also give patients a false sense of security, leading them to neglect proven medications or therapies.”
You mean, like nearly any pharmaceutical drug? Any herbal formula in the developed world undergoes testing, in Canada, we have NPN’s to protect from this. And remind me again — which “proven therapies” are we speaking of, here? Ventilators? A little too late, don’t you think?
Would you go to the pharmacist and take a random drug off the shelf and take it? Instead of fear mongering, shouldn’t you be educating people on the importance of working with a trained professional?
“We need to know which specific product is claimed to work and what is the evidence”
Okay so keep twiddling your thumbs waiting for research in formulas perfected over centuries — research which so often is the exact antithesis of how *individual-based* TCM formulas are prescribed — while people are dying.
I will clarify this admittedly off-the-cuff statement. No one is claiming cures. We only aim to ensure most cases remain “mild” or asymptomatic through preventative measures (especially based on TCM diagnostic methods to determine a patient’s “weak points”), and should cases become full blown — to reduce the severity of the symptoms.
But essentially — if a treatment is not understood in their western based terms — it does not exist. Whitewashing at its best. Here is another perfect example (directly linked from Fb):
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TCM is a more complex issue to study than say, homeopathy (which I do not believe in and loathe that people often lump these approaches together). I’m not claiming the process of empirical research itself as excessive, I’m saying it is far more nuanced than people imagine when studying TCM, precisely because of the sheer number of variables when producing customized individual-based formulas — as is the tradition.
In other words, the tradition is based on variables.
This is the polar opposite of the “take a pill to make the headache go away without addressing the underlying factors that caused it to begin with (more often than not, simple dehydration)” approach in the west — which don’t get me wrong — is amazing! This is why I defended vaccines so hard in Part 3 of my essay series! Here, I am simply highlighting the difference & why quality research is still in its infancy: Whether with herbal formulas or acupuncture combinations, you simply cannot prescribe one protocol for large groups of people with the same condition (ex. acid reflux) — you must take the presentation of the entire individual into account. TCM never separates the symptom from the person, thus every prescription is individualized.
Is that not worth studying, in and of itself?
It is exceedingly complex, as trying to “standardize it” is akin to not researching it at all. My recommendation: Fund studies on the overall success rates of customized formulas, compared to a control group. Do not apply the same formula to an entire group of people to isolate variables — as this was never how the medicine was practiced. What are we studying then, at that point? The same is true for acupuncture.
No one is trying to “make” TCM sound scientific (well, perhaps Mao, I’ll get to that later), we are simply calling for it to be researched in its own terms as I have just outlined. At the very least — use this as the starting point:
Yes or no: Do customized TCM formulations/acupuncture protocols work, when prescribed by renowned peer reviewed TCM doctors trained in pre-Mao “Classical” Chinese Medicine (CCM vs TCM) methods* who check & confirm each other’s approaches to reach consensus on the individual formula prescribed, compared to a placebo, in a group with a large sample size.
*Mao standardized “TCM” taking it out of clinical context from the classical channel theory model, and countless other Westernizations that most “TCM” studies are now based on. I will elaborate this in a further section. Did you know that — dear skeptic?
The issue comes down to a) taking the medicine seriously to begin with and b) funding. That said, few skeptics take even a passing glance at the amount of research being done in China. Even a quick PubMed search reveals just how much is available in the west. Yes, the issue is quality — that we can all agree on, as I have made clear now. So, let’s improve the quality. Especially during a pandemic.
While I complete my draft, I will provide the following links and will add more in my followup essay. These are obviously geared towards acupuncture — the volume of herbal research is far beyond this, I will cite many more examples. Keep in mind these are samples of what is available in English.
- Wikipedia, We have a problem
- Acupuncture: An Overview of Scientific Evidence
- Dear Science Based Medicine, Just a Few Questions About Acupuncture
- The follow up on SBM: Mel asks and I do my best to answer. On acupuncture.
- Mel’s final followup (and what seems to be the last word, as Crislip admittedly [pathetically] taps out with “I have other things to do” at the end of his above piece): Acupuncture, Science based medicine, and UFOs
- Acupuncture: An Overview of Scientific Evidence (evidencebasedacupuncture.org)
- An impressive database of the most recent studies consolidated rather than scattered through PubMed
- Evidence Based Assessment Library (acupunctureresearch.org)
This needs to be taken seriously, and that is my over-arching thesis here: we acknowledge that more research needs to be conducted. However, in the meantime, people are dying, while a safe medicine (when properly prescribed) centuries equipped with handling contagious diseases is being dismissed.
Like anti-vaxxers, at what point does this denial become complicit in the deaths of millions?
The issue remains a) translation of what is already available in China, and b) taking it seriously to fund and confirm this research here. In either case this takes time, which is why I call it out as “twiddling our thumbs”. There is a stark difference between some internet quack recommending of “eating dirt will cure COVID” — this is millennia of advanced practitioners refining skills and passing on technical formulations for generations — especially ones that treat contagious diseases — the leading killer of the times.
We TCM doctors in North America can already be in there helping to prevent or mitigate symptoms, with little to no side effects beyond possible looser bowel movements, but even then, a quick adjustment of a formula will correct that. That’s how TCM works. (Looser stools? Better correct that Spleen Qi — gotta be absorbing herbs & nutrients properly for Wei Qi to protect us!) This is why in most countries of the world, it is a legitimate governmentally regulated medical practice, simply because it works but above all is safe. Can that be said to be true of non-antipathogenic (ie antidepressants, statins, etc) pharmaceutical medicine, which most commonly either a) masks symptoms (which TCM formulas do not, they resolve the condition, so that once you stop taking the medicine, the condition remains corrected) and b) is again one of the leading causes of death worldwide — when properly prescribed (also this)?
But our ability to help on the front lines in the western world is rendered useless because the science available in the west is in its infancy and research from China not taken seriously. I provide preliminary data in my “advanced” section in my COVID resources page to demonstrate the complexity of what I am talking about.
Confirmed studies take time and are exceedingly complex when TCM is prescribed in its individual-centred, mind-body pattern-based diagnostic approach. Meanwhile it is being used liberally in China while scoffed at here. Now is a time to be taking it seriously and governments should be funding it and even advocating it as an adjunct therapy to ease burden on hospitals.
Honestly — skeptics can ahead and do essentially nothing because science hasn’t “confirmed” it yet, meanwhile I will take my advanced technical herbal formulations, adapted through centuries of clinical epidemic experience, as well as immunity “boosting” (yup I said it — because it is a legitmate medical term in our field) mushroom combinations, and numerous other traditional supportives, against the background of my already relatively pristine health based on TCM subtle symptomatology — and we’ll see who fares better. Both in this pandemic — and when experiencing chronic entirely preventable health concerns in general.
That is my appeal here, please provide us more funding and begin taking this seriously. While the science continues to emerge, instead of waiting for the vaccine, I implore the use of these traditional harmless methods (when administered by professionals), as essentially… what other choice do we have?
So, you can dismiss, rationalize and avoid TCM, while I continue to take my customized herbal formulas and diagnosis-based nutrition protocols and at the end of our lives, we’ll see who fares better. Because outcome is all that matters.
It is important to notice that pharmaceutical drugs loosely in their current form are yet another sequela of the colonizer mindset: they also colonize the body and command it what to do rather than learning to listen. Intervening on natural biological processes (we are, indeed, akin to a rainforest ecosystem) with literal insane side effects (like how is suicide an acceptable side effect of antidepressants?) Shouldn’t we be turning to what has worked for centuries at this point and studying those? (TCM, Ayahuasca — the work of Gabor Mate etc.). But no — we even went so far as to make many of them, such as cannabis and psilocybin, outright illegal.
The purpose of this website is to introduce people to my work: books, essays, lectures, scientific papers, etc., and to…
Further examples of this are our complete disregard for biodiversity — once again, rather than listening to, and working with nature, it is only colonizers who decimate landscapes to produce monocrop agriculture and front lawns requiring toxic pesticides and genetic modification (which I am not always opposed to, to be clear, but genetically modified to exist in monocrops rather than sustainable permaculture methods? Colour me skeptical). We are so used to the colonialist box they have put us in that we forget — we can encourage small scale farming, backyard gardens, and learn from the indigenous. This would then in turn encourage independent trade, sustainability, vital farmers markets, and would almost certainly wipe out starvation in large portions the population.
And the same is true for medicines. Cultivate their growth in your backyard. Teach the people. You know… the whole “teach a person to fish” thing.
That — or completely monopolize basic human rights to turn humans into modern anti-union machines (modern “boiling frog” slavery?) that work to build your capitalist anti-biodiverse empire so they can barely afford basic human rights keeping them dependant on the system. Or be homeless and die without universal truly socialized healthcare coverage.
In a pandemic.