When I was growing up as a Korean-American in Philadelphia, my mother used to give me Chinese herbal medicine for all kinds of ailments, ranging from headaches to stomachaches. For my college-educated parents, the efficacy of Chinese herbal medicine was unquestionable. When I asked my father about why he trusted the practice, he would say, “Thousands of years of Chinese herbal medicine’s effectiveness cannot be wrong.”
Today, researchers have found that Chinese herbal medicine can be brought into the fold as a legitimate supplement to Western medicine. Even advanced medical schools and scientific researchers are touting the merits of Chinese herbal medicine as a complementary treatment for cancer, acute asthma, ADHD and other serious health conditions.
Georgetown University has joined the nationwide push behind the use of complementary and alternative medicine in conjunction with Western medication and treatment. In fact, Georgetown has developed a Master of Science in physiology program with a concentration in CAM, which was launched over 10 years ago with funding from the National Institute of Health. In fall 2005, the Georgetown University Medical Center launched a five-year MD/MS track, with the MS in CAM followed by the four-year MD curriculum.
For many Asians, this institutionalized progress follows a legacy of widespread personal testimonies in favor of herbal remedies.
The usage of Chinese herbal medicine has been increasing in the United States; a growing number of immigrants from Korea, China and Japan have opened up Chinese herbal medicine practices in Asian-American communities, such as Koreatown in Los Angeles and Chinatown in New York City.
Even scholars in the science and medical communities are documenting the benefits of herbal medicine. Chinese herbal medicine can, for example, reduce the toxicity of chemotherapy and radiation, slow the progression of cancer growth, and minimize pain related to cancer, according to a 2018 study.
Similar to its positive impact on cancer patients, Chinese herbal medicine is scientifically proven to be effective for acute asthma. In a recent clinical trial using a Chinese herbal medicine formula called Pingchuan Yiqi granule, patients with asthma who had received PCYQ showed marked improvement in their ability to exhale when breathing compared to asthma patients who were not given PCYQ. Besides the breathing test done using advanced scientific machines, blood tests showed the PCYQ reduced inflammatory agents that exacerbated asthmatic attacks.
Chinese herbal medicine has also proven effective with ADHD. Chinese herbal medicine used rehmannia root for thousands of years to treat kidney problems by wine-steaming the root and extracting a substance that reduces inflammation, protects nerve cells and slows the aging process. Recent scientific studies showed that the root can help patients with ADHD as well by reducing nerve cell death and preventing the failure of important body metabolism, which often occurs in ADHD patients.
Natural components that help solve serious and common health conditions make Chinese herbal medicine an ideal complement to Western medicine. The wisdom of thousands of years of Asian health care solutions is becoming more accessible in the United States. Evidence-based medical research helps to provide confidence for using Chinese herbal medicine as an effective complementary medicine alongside Western medicine.
College students who are suffering from asthma, ADHD and other health conditions should look into supplementing their current illness treatment with Chinese herbal medicine to help achieve maximum health.
Heerak Kim is pursuing a Master of Science in nursing. Dissecting Health Care appears online every other Tuesday.