Across the country, millions of people hold various thoughts on Herbal medicine. Some claim that there are no scientific mechanisms behind herbal medicine, while others used it when they were not satisfied with western medicine. Many might think that only Easterners use herbal medicine as Westerns have their own medicine. However, almost 80% of the people all around the world have used this therapy. There’s no separation between the two, for a combined therapy is most effective. Due to the high percentage, it can be an indication of its beneficial usages. However, there are many individuals who have yet to experience herbal medicine because of its lack of scientific explanations as to how they are helping the body.
Gorski mentioned in an angered tone about how Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is so personalized that it is hard to perform clinical trials to determine the effectiveness of the therapy. Personalized medicine in TCM prescribes different herbal combinations and dosages for different patients according to their sickness. Since it is hard to conduct a clinical trial for TCM, instead of shutting down TCM as a possible therapy, scientists can observe the treatment in other ways. A possible way to determine the effectiveness of TCM is through retrospective studies. In this case, scientists can look at the effects of the patient after he or she has taken the treatment and compare it with another patient who did not take TCM in his or her therapy. In some cases, it is hard to determine the effects of TCM since most of the time, it is taken in conjunction with Western Medicine.
Lu mentions in his article that most people combine the usage of TCM with Western medicine. The result? As opposed to Gorski, Lu determined that while Western medicine treats the infection or illness, TCM are used to improve on its treatment while also decreasing its side effects. While Gorski passive aggressively undermines the effectiveness of TCM solely based on its unclear scientific mechanisms, many have seen positive results with the addition of TCM. According to Table 1, there is a list of herbs that Lu had complied to denote each herb’s benefits. TCM is used to treat a wide range of illnesses from AIDS to diarrhea.
Find Figure 1 here. **
Westerns have tried to purify an herb to one chemical compound to see its effect on the disease. As Gorski suggests, there are many compounds in an herb and its medical abilities cannot be explained in that one ingredient. Herbs work together to create a holistic effect. Without the combination of these herbs, it is hard to see any medical benefits with just one ingredient. Of course, I am not trying to say that these combinations only lead to benefits. Many herbs, if combined in a different way may result in toxicity of the body and become very harmful, which explains why TCM can sometimes be unpopular. Herbal medicine effects are so different for every human that it is skeptical for patients to indulge in this therapy, just because of the risk of toxicity. For example, Lu describes both the benefits and detriments of the herb, ginseng. It has antibiotic effectiveness, but it can also increase blood pressure, which is why it may be very dangerous for a patient to intake the ginseng before a surgical procedure. Therefore, herbal medicine should be thoroughly understood before prescribing it to patients.
Gorski did not mention the reasons why some patients only intake herbal medicine in some parts of the world. He did not point out that herbs are much more assessable and cost-effective that those tested Western drugs. In this sense, it is easy to see why herbal medicine is so popular even though it may not be understood. He did mention, however, that TCM is widely used because it has been around for thousands of years. Thus, he believes that TCM is more suspicious than Western medicine because, in ancient history, there was no advanced knowledge of illnesses and its medication. However, I think if the therapy had been passed down from generations to generations, then it should hold some beneficial value if it is still in use today. Nonetheless, it should have even more value than modern drugs because the herbal medication had been effective for many generations.
The last aspect that I want to talk about is Gorski’s language in writing his article. In many sentences, he used the word “woo” to describe herbal medicine, in general. Woo is used to describe pseudoscientific explanations on a topic which, in this case, is TCM. To the reader, it is a word that completely diminishes the importance of the subject, which I thoroughly disagree. TCM is very significant in many lives across the world. It is not only a medical therapy, but it is part of a nation’s culture. In using woo to describe TCM, Gorski essentially criticizes Eastern countries. Although Gorski had some great points as to why he does not believe in TCM, there also many contradicting arguments that can be made to support it.
Gorski, David. "Shilling for Traditional Chinese Medicine: Nature Leaves Its Readers a Lump of Coal before Christmas." (2011). Science-Based Medicine. URL: http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/shilling-for-traditional-chinese-medicine/ Lu, Winston, and Dominic Lu. "Impact of Chinese Herbal Medicine on American Society and Health Care System: Perspective and Concern." (2014). Hindawi. URL: http://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2014/251891/ ***Figure 1. Lu, Winston, and Dominic Lu. "Impact of Chinese Herbal Medicine on American Society and Health Care System: Perspective and Concern." (2014). Hindawi. URL: http://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2014/251891/tab1/
**Figure is private by the owner and cannot be duplicated in the text. However, the URL can take you to the image.