I recently caught up with a relative whom I have not met for a long time. During our conversation, she reminded me how sick I was most of the time, usually respiratory conditions. I recalled all the visits to my uncle’s TCM (traditional Chinese medicine) clinic whenever I fell ill.
I had to climb a steep and dimly lit staircase to his clinic on the second floor, usually waking up a few times in the late night or early hours to drink a dark unpleasant liquid my uncle prescribed. No wonder as an adult, I tried as much as possible to sweep those memories into the recessive areas of my brain.
After I grew older, my family moved away. It was too far from my uncle’s clinic, so my parents explored the vicinity and got me treated at allopathic (Western) clinics when I fell ill. I soon learned as a child, all the names of the medications, such as paracetamol, antibiotics, antihistamines, cough syrups, and so on.
However, when I was really feverish, my dad still insisted to taking me on his motorbike to my uncle, who would lovingly treat me with TCM all over again. And yet, every time drinking down those TCM medicines, I could not understand what they were.
Lo and behold – TCM school!
I slowly grew up, combating episodes of illnesses, until I resolutely decided to wrestle the health demons myself – I decided I would become a TCM physician. It took me 5 additional years of study after I did an unrelated university degree, but the moment I stepped through the halls of the TCM college, I knew I made the right choice. The very first day, all the mysteries in my youth were unraveled by my TCM lecturer. I was elated!
As a TCM practitioner, I now find myself treating some conditions even allopathic medicine is still struggling with, and I find great joy in being able to help my patients get better, and respecting my vocation even more.
Why TCM is relevant even today
TCM is a perfect complement to allopathic medicine. There are some conditions where TCM may even be advantageous. TCM addresses often the root of the condition, rather than simply the symptoms.
These include skin problems, chronic and immune system issues, pain management, fertility issues, bleeding gums, plaque build-up, sub-par health conditions, etc. The beauty of TCM is that the same set of prescription can be used to treat different health issues as they may be arising from the same root causes. For example, if you persistently have bleeding and sore gums, bad breath, constipation and acne, you do not need separate visits to the dentist, your family doctor and the dermatologist. Your TCM physician may just be able to solve all these conditions at one go, and perhaps even spend a lot less and deal with lesser agony and anxiety.
There was a young adult who complained of muscular weakness and lethargy that had plagued him for months. His doctor was unable to solve his problems, and referred him to a neurologist who did various tests that all turned out negative. During his final visit to the neurologist, the specialist suggested that he should perhaps see a psychiatrist. Feeling somewhat insulted, he ended up trying TCM. Upon diagnosis, it turned out that his condition was due to poor diet that led to a condition of “damp-heat” in his body. He recovered from just 3 sessions of acupuncture and complementary TCM medicine, together with a change of diet.
What keeps us looking forward
This is just one of the many cases that continue to inspire and motivate me as a TCM physician. There are great leaps in human and technological innovation, and yet, there are still many mysteries allopathic medicine are confronted with.
The ancient medical system of TCM has evolved over thousands of years, and continues to unravel ancient wisdom to practitioners and patients alike. While some still harbor prejudices, I would challenge someone to consider all medical options, allopathic or TCM alike. After all, reality has to be experienced, not merely debated on paper.
(by Tan Shiau Tse, TCM Physician)