Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture – Recent Research and its Relevance to Western Medical Practice

Published in Medical Book 2000
by Professor Man Fong Mei (梅万方教授)

It is common knowledge that 2000 years of recorded medical experience of Chinese Medicine presents us with the clinical knowledge that is invaluable for the treatment of diseases in our modern age. However, for the purposes of validation, especially in the eyes of our Western medical colleagues, Chinese medicine must go through a process of research and trials (according to the current protocols and accepted scientific principles) in order to transform itself into a modern system of medicine.

Immunological diseases such as HIV, cancer, allergies, gynaecological and metabolic diseases (infertility and diabetes mellitus, for instance) menopausal syndromes and indeed many disorders in dermatology and neurology, are in need of a new treatment approach. Chinese Medicine is well suited to this role.

There are two major theories on which many researchers now focus. Firstly, neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters such as endorphins, encephalin and serotonins are being released not only by the mechanism of acupuncture, but also by Chinese medicinal herbs. This demonstrates the two-way regulative effects of acupuncture, both with needles, electro stimuli and photic stimuli (laser). For example, 5HT is released by photic stimuli on the acupoint 146 Hz, with 200mw laser; endorphins are released at 2.5 Hz respectively, according to some Western experts.

The second important aspect of Chinese Medicine is the effect on the metabolic and hormonal systems of the body. The two-way effect of acupuncture in hormonal balance, and in regulating hypertension and low blood pressure, is of great importance. This is particularly true when dealing with gynaecological, cardiovascular and other diseases involving internal medicine. Acupuncture also produces an increase in the release of components within the blood stream that break down the cluster of dead cells – viruses remaining in the body due to the over-usage of antibiotics. This is a prime example of the use of Chinese Medicine in the treatment of immunological and metabolic disorders.

Chinese Medicine and Research

Over the past 40 years, interest in acupuncture and its mechanisms has stimulated the development of acupuncture related techniques. Electro-acupuncture and clinical research into the use of different frequency pulse trains and wave-forms, has produced a body of knowledge and observations that will induce further research.

Eczema and its treatment with Chinese herbal medicine caught the interest of Western dermatologists, as Western medicine could only mainly rely on steroids in treating dermatological disorders, including psoriasis. Consultants at the Royal Free Hospital, London, and the Western pharmacological laboratories are investigating the effective action of Chinese Herbs.

The discovery of indirubin as an inhabitant of DNA synthesis in cell lines thus inhibits the proliferation of a large range of cells and its implication in the treatment of Chronic Myelocytic Leukemia (CML), is indeed, an advancement in the research of Chinese Traditional Herbal formulae. The responsible herb in which indirubin comes from is Qing Dai (Indigo Naturalis), a herb within the formulae Dang Gui Long Hui Wan, part of eleven different herbs. Qing Dai has an action of eliminating internal heat and to detoxify the body according to Chinese Medicine to purge fire in treating the Cinese medical syndrome of excessive heat in the liver and gall bladder. Liver in Chinese Medicine, being an organ responsible for emotion, the stagnation of Qi within the liver may lead to manic depression which according to Chinese Medicine depresses the body’s immune system.

The American report on the use of Chinese herbal formulae for the treatment of HIV (in San Francisco) along with the research in China of cancer treatment with Chinese Medicine, the management of cancer pain with acupuncture, – Xu Shuying – and the treatment of carcinomous abdominal pain by needling Zushanli (International Journal of Acupuncture, Vol.2, No. 1) are all pointers to exciting research fields. That Prof. Zhu of the China Academy of Chinese Medicine successfully developed Qinghaosu for the treatment of malaria, and the FDA approved Danshen extract for heart disease, are further examples of the success of Chinese medicine combining with modern research. But the inherent contradiction of complex medicine – i.e. multiple active ingredients and their mutual pharmacological reactions in producing clinical results, and against the background of conventional Western pharmacology in identifying and proving the effects of a single active ingredient, is proving to be a stumbling block for Chinese Medicine. It is impossible for Chinese Medicine to gain license with the current Western medical regulatory requirements, unless the framework is radically changed.

Acupuncture Is a Respected Treatment

According to a survey in the Times, more than 90% of British doctors recommend Acupuncture as a form of treatment. To the surprise of most doctors, Acupuncture is more widely practised amongst their own profession than they expected. In the UK, nearly 2000 doctors are now practising a form of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine. In France and Germany, there are 5000 and 4000 medical acupuncturists respectively. Indeed TENS technique in pain management used by most clinics is derived from Electro-Acupuncture. Dr. C.C. Gunns technique in Intramuscular Stimulation (IMS) for the treatment of neuropathic pain is another example.

Acupuncture is a component of Chinese Medicine with an evolutionary history of nearly 4000 years. This traditional system of healing is now adapted to deal with modern problems such as; allergic disorders, asthma, ME, MS and various pain syndromes. Newly publicised treatment of eczema and a number of gynaecological problems ensure continual interest by patients and doctors alike. With more than one third of mankind being treated, Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine should play a more important role in healthcare of the West.

In the face of recent controversy on the safety of Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture, we stress that it is safe only in qualified hands, as is the case with any other medical treatment. For this reason, a comprehensive PGEA approved diploma course, specially designed for doctors, is organised by the AcuMedic Foundation and the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine (one of the top medical institutions in China). The development of Chinese Medicine depends on high quality training and safety, to which this educational project will contribute.

As Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine are moving towards the 21st Century, a great deal of research and clinical trials are now in progress to provide a modern scientific explanation to this ancient medical system. We now know that Acupuncture induces the release of neurotransmitters, such as endorphins. Professor Zhu Zhong Xiang and his team at the biophysics department of Beijing University have proved conclusively the existence of meridians as an electrical energetic system of the body. A number of research studies are focusing on the use of Chinese herbs for the treatment of AIDS and related immunological disorders. To name one the American project Compound ‘Q’ is reported to have achieved some results in the Independent Newspaper. Indeed, many blue-chip pharmaceutical companies are now looking into Chinese Medicine as a future source for research and development.

AcuMedic Foundation

AcuMedic Foundation is set up to help bridging East and West in this process of medical synthesis. Founded for the purpose of academic exchange, bridging Eastern and Western Medicine, The foundation promotes the integration between Chinese and Western Medicine. To support this aim, a programme of education, research and publication is planned by the foundation.

Beijing University of Chinese Medicine and Pharmacology was founded in 1956 as the sole key institution for education in Chinese Medicine at the national level. Since then the university has trained more than 7000 doctors in Chinese Medicine with a current senior teaching staff of 395. The university is a teaching, research and medical institution of the highest academic standing in China.

The course syllabus is organised with the full academic collaboration of the teaching and research faculty, Acupuncture faculty and affiliated hospitals of the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine. The team of professors and lecturers are selected from the university, as well as from the existing team of AcuMedic clinical consultants. All are trained as doctors in Chinese Medicine with extensive knowledge of Western Medicine.

The academic team is backed up by Western medical co-ordinators who understand the needs of other Western doctors. Visiting professors and lecturers are also invited from other countries to bring the course up-to-date with the latest techniques currently practised by specialists throughout the world.