For more than 2,000 years Chinese healers have used herbal powders and tinctures, dust made from various animal parts and strategically placed needles to treat a host of human ailments. These are used in hundreds of nations globally, but the practice in China is perhaps the most extensive, documented and catalogued.
Over the past decade proponents of Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) have worked hard to move it into the mainstream of global health care – and it appears those efforts are coming to fruition.
Western cultures have preferred what is called “allopathic” medicine, also called biomedicine, conventional medicine, mainstream medicine, orthodox medicine, and Western medicine. Generally the term applies to a system in which medical doctors and other healthcare professionals (such as nurses, pharmacists, and therapists) treat symptoms and diseases using drugs or surgery.
Labor Code 4600 specifically authorizes acupuncture treatment. As of June 15, 2007, California workers injured on the job got an easier path to receive acupuncture treatment as part of their workers’ compensation treatment as a result of amendments to the MTUS. Previously the ACOEM guidelines only made a brief mention of acupuncture for shoulder complaints.
Now, the latest (11th) version of the World Health Organization’s list known as the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD-11) will include these remedies for the first time. ICD-11 will be presented at the Seventy-second World Health Assembly for endorsement by Member States in May. Following endorsement, Member States will begin reporting health data using ICD-11 by January 2022.
According to its own mandate, the WHO sets the norms and standards for medical treatment around the globe and articulates “ethical and evidence-based policy options.”
It categorizes thousands of diseases and influences how doctors treat them; how insurers cover those treatments; and what kind of research is done on which ailments. More than 100 countries rely on the document to determine their medical agendas.
China has been pushing for wider global acceptance of traditional medicines, which brings in some $50 billion in annual revenue for the nation’s economy.
However there is much push back allopathic medicine providers.
An extensive assessment was done in 2009 by researchers at the University of Maryland: they looked at 70 review papers evaluating TCM, including acupuncture. None of the studies proved conclusive because the data were either too paltry or did not meet testing standards.
A 2018 study in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology tested 487 Chinese products taken by sick patients and discovered 1,234 hidden ingredients, including approved and banned Western drugs, drug analogues and animal thyroid tissue.
And in 2012 a team led by Megan Coghlan, then at Murdoch University of Australia, identified the DNA sequences in 15 samples of traditional medicines in the form of powders, tablets, capsules, bile flakes and herbal teas. The samples also contained plants that produce toxic chemicals and animal DNA from vulnerable or endangered species (the Asiatic black bear and saiga antelope, for example) and other creatures protected by international laws.
The consunsus of these researchers is that to include TCM in the ICD is an egregious lapse in evidence-based thinking and practice. Data supporting the effectiveness of most traditional remedies are scant, at best.