I recently had the pleasure of having a catch-up session with a relative-cum-childhood playmate of mine whom I have not met for a long time. During our conversation, she brought up that as a child, I was sick all the time. The recollections of feeling or being sick during my early years have largely evaded me, but I can still recall the visits to my uncle’s TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) clinic whenever I fell ill. The image of a dimly lit staircase that I had to climb to reach his shop-house on the 2nd floor, and getting up 2 to 3 times in the middle of the night to drink a dark-coloured Chinese medicine he prescribed, brought back bitter-sweet memories. Considering I was sick “all the time”, I guess I must have spent a large part of my childhood taking medicine compared to other children.
My early encounters with Chinese medicine were largely those for treating respiratory ailments, particularly fever and cough. After I got slightly older, my family moved, and it became too far to go my uncle’s clinic. I changed to visiting the clinics near my place and taking Western medication. There were times when my fever would stay for days and refuse to totally go away. During these times my concerned father would have me ride pillion on his motorbike and take me to my uncle, who would once again do his usual trick to cure me.
Soon I began learning the names of my Western medications and what they were used for, the first being paracetamol a.k.a. Panadol, followed by the different antibiotics, antihistamines, cough syrups, etc. However what was contained in the bottles of TCM preparations from my uncle had remained a mystery to me.
Fast forward many years. After spending the later part of my youth searching for what I really wanted to do in life, and at the same time battling with episodes of health issues – my own as well as my family members’, I finally decided one day that I wanted to be a TCM physician. Thus, I enrolled myself into a 5-year TCM course. I still remember that fateful day in class, the mystery of my childhood’s unyielding fever was finally revealed to me by my teacher. It was like a lightbulb that suddenly lit up, and oh my, was I elated!
Now, years later, as a full-fledged practicing TCM physician, I find myself sometimes treating such conditions where Western medicine is still grappling with, and getting a sense of satisfaction from the profession that I never regretted getting into.
In fact, there are many diseases where using TCM is advantageous. These include skin problems, chronic and immune system issues, pain management, fertility issues, sub-health conditions, etc. Even dental issues like bleeding gums and recurring plaque build-up can be treated with Chinese medicine. This is where the beauty of Chinese medicine lies, that the same set of prescription can be used to treat different health issues as they can be arising from the same cause. For example, if you persistently have bleeding and sore gums, bad breath, constipation and acne, you do not need separate visits to the dentist, your family doctor and the skin specialist. Just a visit to the Chinese physician and he might be able to solve all of these in one go.
In our practice, it is not uncommon to come across patients that have spent a bomb on their myriad of “incurable” health issue(s), not to mention the anxiety or agony they must have felt trying in vain to get better.
There was a young patient in his early twenties that came to me a few months back, complaining of muscular weakness and lethargy that had plagued him for months. His doctor, unable to solve his problem, referred him to a neurologist who did various tests that all turned out negative. During his final visit, it was suggested that his next step should be to the psychiatrist. Having utmost confidence in himself that he did not have a psychological issue, he ended up visiting me to “try TCM”. Upon diagnosis, it turned out that his condition was due to poor diet that led to a condition of “damp-heat” in his body. He was made well with just 3 treatments of acupuncture and Chinese herbal medication, together with a change of diet.
Cases as such continue to inspire and motivate me. We have seen great medical advancement in the recent history of mankind, but there are still many things that modern medicine does not know and countless challenges that it also faces. This ancient Chinese medical system that has evolved over thousands of years has continued to reveal to me the wisdom of our forefathers and the power of nature. For people who are brought up with the mental conditioning that medicine equals modern (or Western) medicine, and one either “believes” or “does not believe” in Chinese medicine, is a total misconception to me. Having lived more than forty years in a country where the East and West meet, and having had numerous encounters with both Eastern and Western medicine, I would really say that, well, maybe sometimes you have to try it to believe it.