Spotlight: Australians combine old, new medicine in pursuit of wellness

Source: Xinhua| 2019-05-13 17:10:41|Editor: Liangyu
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by Duncan Murray, Hao Yalin

SYDNEY, May 13 (Xinhua) -- More Australians than ever are looking beyond modern medicine in their pursuit of wellness, with many now turning to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to supplement a healthy lifestyle or bring relief from ailments.

The China-Australia Free Trade Agreement signed in 2015 included a Memorandum of Understanding between the Western Sydney University (WSU) and the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine.

The fifth anniversary of that agreement will be marked with the opening of a 71-million-U.S. dollar training and research facility run by the WSU, to advance the use of TCM in Australia and better understand it's efficacy and potential.

"As an Australian university we're very committed to complementary medicine, very committed to understanding the scientific basis for complementary medicine, and in particular, Chinese medicine," WSU Vice-Chancellor and President Barney Glover said.

The WSU is one of the few universities outside of China, which offers training in both Western medicine and TCM, taking a strictly integrative approach to combining the effects of old and new medicinal practices.

"I think integrative medicine is getting increasing attention around the world. It's recognizing the importance of (modern) medicine in the treatment of acute and chronic diseases, but also recognizing the value to patients of a holistic approach to their health and that's where complementary medicines, particularly Chinese medicine, can be so effective," Glover said.

Australia now has more than 4,800 registered TCM practitioners, and qualified and high quality graduates may have an expanding role to play in Australian healthcare with demand expected to grow as the population ages.

Beata Pieczywek, a third year student studying TCM at the WSU said that her interest came from having used Chinese herbs herself and seeing the results firsthand.

"I myself started to have a few serious problems with my health. I was trying, of course, the Western medicine approach but they unfortunately couldn't offer any cure for it -- there was no solution," she said.

"And Chinese medicine just came up in a few places ... so I started participating in treatments for myself for those things that I couldn't cure. Yes, it cured me."

What is firmly instilled by the university in its students and clearly affirmed by practitioners is that TCM should be used in conjunction with, or complementary to evidence-based treatment.

Concerns have been raised by some in the Australian medical industry as to the safety and ethics of TCM, stemming from the administering of potentially toxic herbs to patients or from avoiding all together proven medical treatments in favor of TCM.

Regulation of TCM by the Australian government and studies occurring at institutions such as the WSU seek to alleviate some of these risks by keeping practitioners accountable and properly trained.

"There is skepticism in relation to complementary medicine, more generally and some of it is very valid. It's very important that we have the scientific evidence, that we have done the clinical trials, and that we understand the mechanisms that are bringing about the beneficial outcomes," Glover said.

"Importantly, as well, we recognize the benefits of integrative health not to focus solely on complementary medicine, or on (modern) medicine, but to see how they can work together most effectively."

The WSU students are focused on the additional relief, which TCM can bring to their patients safely and responsibly, often stemming from their own experiences with complementary medicine which instilled them with a desire to share its benefits.

Erin Bayliss told Xinhua that she was prompted by her experience with TCM during pregnancy to dramatically shift her career from being a nurse working in a western hospital to using TCM to support women through the challenges of pregnancy and childbirth.

"Chinese medicine has a long, long history of supporting women in a more holistic approach," Bayliss said.

"For example, six weeks after a woman has a baby, they are nurtured, they are helped. The Chinese medicine helps to restore the woman so that she can be there, as a whole person, physically strengthened for her child and family."

Student supervisor Lisa Holden said that TCM had radical effects in treating her son's lung disease, prompting her to enter the practice and continue his treatment herself.

"His lung function went from (where it normally was), back up to 100 percent of predicted -- his doctor told me that was not possible, he would never get there."

"And he's just kept getting better all the way through his adolescence and now he's doing extraordinarily well, so I'm very happy."

Holden now supervises at the Chinese medicine center run by the WSU and tries to impart the harmony of old and new medicine and the part that different treatment types can play in keeping patients happy and healthy.

"The analytical approach from Western medicine, and the approach of balance and harmony from Chinese medicine -- if you can put the two things together ... they complement each other so beautifully. And it really works, put them together and it really works well," Holden said.

The greatest challenge for many WSU students is having to learn the Chinese names of remedies, which is one of the reasons why the university is engaging in extensive translation efforts to make sure that TCM is not just transferred to English but done so consistently and accurately.

"One of the most important parts of being able to spread the important knowledge of Chinese medicine and its health benefits around the world, is to ensure that we can translate those great texts from Chinese into English and other languages," Glover said.

"So there's a lot happening, it's a very exciting time for our joint venture with Beijing University of Chinese Medicine and our Chinese Medicine Center."