Breakthrough as Cleveland Clinic begins using Chinese herbal medicine

Monday, May 05, 2014 by: Ethan A. Huff, staff writer
Tags: Cleveland Clinic, Chinese herbal medicine, acupuncture

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(NaturalNews) One of the leading academic and research hospitals in the country has just opened its first Chinese herbal therapy center, a breakthrough in the mainstream advancement of what is commonly referred to as "alternative," or natural, medicine. The Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, according to new reports, will now treat patients for pain, indigestion, inflammation and many other chronic health issues using traditional Chinese remedies, affirming the legacy of this holistic approach to healing.

Much to the chagrin of America's pill-pushing "skeptics," the new center will rely on herbs and combinations of herbs rather than pharmaceuticals to provide long-term healing and relief. Patients who have found little success in Western medicine's drugs and surgery approach will now have access to remedies that have been safely and effectively used for thousands of years in the Far East, but that are only just now catching on here in the West.

Having first opened its doors back in January, the center currently has one herbalist on staff who sees patients every Thursday. In order to access the center, patients have to be referred by their doctors and agree to be continually monitored for any interactions or complications that may arise, particularly if these patients are also taking pharmaceuticals in conjunction with the herbs.

"Western medicine does acute care phenomenally.... but we're still struggling a bit with our chronic-care patients and this fills in that gap and can be used concurrently," stated Melissa Young, an integrative medicine physician at the Cleveland Clinic, to The Wall Street Journal (WSJ).

Integrative medicine making huge inroads into Western medicine

The new center is part of the Cleveland Clinic's larger Center for Integrative Medicine (CIM), which also offers acupuncture, holistic psychotherapy and massage therapy. These unconventional approaches to medicine, though slighted in the past, are becoming increasingly popular even within the mainstream medical community. Many conventional doctors who have been unable to figure out what's wrong with their patients are sending them over to places like CIM for integrative therapy.

"I'm getting more and more physician referrals [for herbal treatments], which to me is a sign of greater acceptance," stated Leslie Mendoza Temple, medical director of the Integrative Medicine Program at NorthShore University HealthSystem. This hospital is one of just a few others in the country that has a Chinese herbal medicine clinic.

"When I first started here we were pounding on doors to prove we're not crazy and we're legitimate and safe."

Synergistic herbalism breaking the restrictive confines of allopathic medicine

Still, Western medicine has a long way to go in fully accepting Chinese herbs as legitimate medicine. While some studies do exist showing their efficacy, randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind studies involving many individual herbs are lacking. Besides the fact that funding for such studies is minimal, as Chinese herbs cannot be patented, the Chinese herbal protocol is built on the idea that herbs work synergistically with one another, an elusive concept in Western thinking.

"Traditional Chinese medicine is an experience-based medicine, which has existed for millennia," explains a 2007 study on the synergistic effects of Chinese herbal remedies that was published in the Asian Journal of Chemistry. "[S]ome, particularly in the West, doubt the effect and synergy of traditional Chinese medicine as its mechanisms are less definitive than western-style scientific medicine."

But the system works because it approaches health from a holistic perspective that addresses physical, emotional, mental and spiritual elements. The goal of Chinese herbal medicine, in fact, is to restore balance within each of these unique states of being rather than just treat individual symptoms, something in which an increasing number of patients are eager to take part.

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