Chinese Medicine Pushes Species Toward Extinction

This is not a trophy room; it is not a law enforcement evidence room. What is it? See below.

“Dubious benefits … no scientific basis”

By Liam Glen, May 6, 2019

The Pavlovic Today – Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), with treatments like acupuncture and herbal medicine, has been present in the West for decades.

But it has always been relegated to alternative medicine communities, outside of conventional science.

Now, the government of China is trying hard to bring it into the mainstream …

With its international reach and backing from a world power, TCM warrants a closer look, the results from which raise some serious questions.

“A cheap and convenient way to boost access to healthcare” in Mao’s Communist revolution

TCM advocates portray it as a coherent body of practices that have remained unchanged for thousands of years.

In reality, just as “traditional European medicine” includes diverse concepts like the four humors, leeching, and exorcism, traditional Chinese treatments have varied dramatically across time and place.

This shop is the Traditional Chinese Medicine equivalent of a pharmacy. Located at a market in Guangzhou, China, it peddles deer antlers, penises, and tendons used in traditional formulas.

The modern conception of TCM was standardized by the Mao regime in the 1950s.

At the time, Western-trained doctors were few, but traditional healers were plentiful. Embracing folk medicine was a cheap and convenient way to boost access to healthcare.

Whether these treatments actually work was not at the top of the government’s agenda.

Still, something should not be thrown out just because it has questionable origins. I mentioned leeching with derision, but modern doctors now believe that hirudotherapy can be helpful under certain circumstances.

In the 1970s, TCM-trained doctor Tu Youyou derived the antimalarial compound artemisinin from the folk remedy Artemisia annua, or sweet wormwood. For this, she was one of the winners of the 2015 Nobel Prize in Medicine.

The benefits of most TCM treatments, however, are more dubious. Acupuncture, for example, claims to affect chi energy by inserting needles along the body’s meridians.

There is no scientific basis for this, but the Mayo Clinic’s profile on acupuncture essentially extols its value as a placebo.

Chinese herbal remedies “could even contain toxic substances”

These types of treatments can be helpful so long as one does not spend too much money on them or use them as a substitute for scientific medicine.

Finally, by accident or design, TCM can be detrimental for one’s health. A 2012 study that screened TCM herbal treatments in Australia found that they often lacked proper labeling and could even contain toxic substances.

In addition, some forms of TCM require components from endangered animals. Entire species are at risk of extinction so they can be used for dubious medicine.

Read more. 

How can traditional Chinese medicine threaten wildlife?

The world’s oldest healthcare tradition has helped to drive some animal species to the brink of extinction.

By Jani Actman, January 2019

National Geographic – Traditional Chinese medicine, often referred to as TCM, is a system of health care that dates back to the third century B.C.

It grew out of the writings of ancient healers, who began recording their observations of the body, its functions, and its reactions to various therapies and treatments, including herbal remedies, massage, and acupuncture. Chinese Medicine Hoax Drives This Adorable Mammal To The Brink Of Extinction 

For more than 2,000 years, generations of healers and scholars added to and refined the knowledge. The result is a canon of literature dealing with practically every sort of health issue—from the common cold to cancer, pregnancy to old age.

Though China has long embraced science-based medicine, TCM remains popular throughout the country and is often offered in hospitals and clinics alongside science-based medical treatments.

TCM has also become popular beyond China’s borders and can now be found in more than 180 countries worldwide, according to some counts, and has an industry value of more than $60 billion a year.

Despite its long history and increasing popularity, TCM has been criticized by the medical community for lacking efficacy in many of its applications, by the conservation community for its use of substances derived from animals and its role in increasing the demand for species threatened by extinction.

TCM’s effect on animals

Growing demand for TCM products has had devastating consequences for many species of wildlife. In some cases, poaching animals to use their body parts for traditional medicine is the primary reason why an animal faces a risk of extinction.

Read more. Images: Fair Use, NationalGeographic.com

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