Category Archives: alternative & complementary medicine

Tackling Rising Healthcare Costs…the Chinese Way

The current H1N1Virus epidemic illustrates how expensive healthcare can become. Apart from the increased manpower costs in conducting tamiflusurveillance checks globally, the individual senses some of the impact as well – take the cost of a course of Tamiflu, one of two antiviral drugs that can mitigate influenza in general.  At nearly US$6 a capsule, the complete course of 10 is going to create quite a dent in your pocket if you’re uninsured.

China has now come up with an affirmative program to reduce healthcare costs – the use of traditional medicines, which in general costs much less than Western medicine.

acupuncture4

Chinese Herbs - a popular form of Traditional Medicine

The State Council, the country’s Cabinet, pledged in a circular Thursday to enable every community and village health service center, at the lowest level of the program, to provide traditional medicine service for citizens.It ordered local governments at county level or higher to include traditional medicine hospitals in their health service networks. County hospitals were also encouraged to set up traditional medicine departments.

Traditional Chinese medicine has its unique theories and practices in areas such as herbal medicines, acupuncture, massage and dietary therapy, which is independent from Western medicine.

acupuncture2

Acupuncture - widely accepted in Western medicine nowadays

For some time, traditional Chinese medicine was sidelined as many of its theories could not be explained by modern medicine but it recently became popular among Chinese as an alternative way to keep fit. Indeed, acupuncture has found acceptability in many Western medicine circles nowadays. Costs for acupuncture treatment for chronic back-ache is now reimbursible by most private insurance companies in the US.

One important problem that may create difficulty in promulgating traditional medicine is the fact that a lot of valuable knowledge was not passed from the older generation to the younger due to lack of documentation and some important therapies have been lost.According to the circular, the government plans to register ancient medical books, develop a catalog and set up a digital data base for them. It will also support research and publishing of these books.

Its about time more countries sit up, take notice and develop their own initiatives to develop alternative and complementary medicine strategies – the cost-savings can be tremendous.

Share this Post

New On the Horizon – Medical Spas

It had to come soon enough – what with the emphasis on cosmetic surgery and medical tourism in recent times. Medical spas have sprouted in the last 5 years. In the US alone, the numbers have grown from  500 in 2004 to 2,500 today.

medicalspa_lobby

Medical spas have sprouted in recent years, not only in the USA...

medicalspa_thai

...but also in Thailand and other countries

According to the International Medical Spa Association, a medical spa is a facility that operates under the full-time, on-site supervision of a licensed health care professional. The facility operates within the scope of practice of its staff, and offers traditional, complementary, and alternative health practices and treatments in a spa-like setting. Practitioners working within a medical spa will be governed by their appropriate licensing board, if licensure is required. In short, a medical spa is a hybrid between a medical clinic and a day spa that operates under the supervision of medical doctor.

Medical spas can treat facial conditions like brown spots, redness, broken capillaries that cannot be treated at all or as effectively by a traditional beautician. Most specialize in laser hair removal,  Botox treatment and fillers and are usually run by cosmetic surgeons as an extension of their business. This is in addition to massage services for de-stressing, although the clinical atmosphere of most medical spas may make one somewhat tense!

medicalspa_botox3

Removal of facial furrows..

medicalspa_botox22

..with Botox therapy

Specialised services include laser treatments ( laser  medical devices used to remove unwanted hair, uneven pigmentation, and broken capillaries), microdermabrasion (removing the uppermost layer of dead skin cells from the face, chest and hands, usually with high-tech anti-aging skin products) and Botox.

The popularity of these spas and their subsequent proliferation has brought its share of problems too. Thousands of consumers may be put at risk by unlicensed and untrained providers. These account for a large proportion of treatment failures and blotches that one reads in the media.

The take-home message here is:  make sure the doctor is trained to do the procedure and that he is on-site!

Health Alert(2): Herbal Supplements Interfere With Success of Surgery

Before undergoing surgery, one important info which must be disclosed to your doctor is whether you are taking herbal supplements. This is often left out by patients when doctors enquire on what medications they are taking, as often many people do not equate medicines with supplements.

Many intensive care physicians including anaesthesiologists will tell you of their experience with patients who take a long time to wake up after surgery; develop fits upon recovery or bleed excessively after surgery; all due to the taking of herbals.

Incidents like the above used to mystify many doctors previously but evidence is now clear that several over-the- counter supplements can interfere with the various actions of medications used during surgery.

Take a look below at some common examples:

Herbal supplement Possible complications
Aloe vera May cause increased intestinal muscle movement to digest food (peristalsis), may decrease effectiveness of water pills (diuretics) given after surgery
Bromelain May cause bleeding or interact with antibiotics such as amoxicillin or tetracyclines
Danshen May cause bleeding
Dong quai May cause bleeding
Echinacea May interfere with immune functioning, may alter effectiveness of immunosuppressant drugs given after transplant surgery
Ephedra May cause abnormal heartbeat, may cause extreme high blood pressure and coma if combined with certain antidepressants and anesthesia
Feverfew May cause bleeding
Garlic May cause bleeding, may interfere with normal blood clotting
Ginger May cause bleeding
Ginkgo May cause bleeding
Ginseng May cause bleeding, may cause rapid heartbeat, may cause high blood pressure
Goldenseal May cause or worsen swelling and high blood pressure
Kava May enhance sedative effects of anesthesia
Licorice (not including licorice candy) May increase blood pressure
Omega-3 fatty acids May cause bleeding if taken in doses greater than 3 grams a day
Senna May cause electrolyte imbalance
St. John’s wort May increase or decrease the effects of some drugs used during and after surgery
Valerian May prolong the effects of anesthesia
Primrose plant

Evening primrose oil-stop taking this 2 weeks before surgery

The above list is not exhaustive. As more cases are encountered, the list gets longer!
Evening Primrose Oil (EPO) is now implicated in the cause of fits or seizures following general anaesthesia.
Some points to note if you are undergoing planned surgery:
  1. Remember that the list of medications that you need to reveal to your doctor includes all supplements, whether as pills or as a drink.
  2. Some of these herbals may have to be stopped more than 2 weeks prior to planned surgery.
  3. In emergency surgery, remember to reveal to your doctor and next-of-kin what you are taking so that some preventive measures may be undertaken beforehand by the doctors.
4.  People believe if something is natural, it is safe. That is not necessarily true. If in doubt, show your
care-giver the original container of the supplement.
%d bloggers like this: