I had the pleasure of attending a weekend seminar at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in 2012. MD Anderson Cancer Center is a prestigious research hospital in Houston, Texas. What stood out to me was how much time, money, and energy they put towards researching Chinese herbs, acupuncture, and other healing modalities. At the least, they have witnessed and documented the importance of using complementary medicines like meditation, acupuncture, and yoga alongside chemotherapy, radiation, and other allopathic therapies.
MD Anderson’s website describes their pioneering work:
“One of our greatest strengths is our ability to translate today’s most promising laboratory findings into tomorrow’s new, more effective and less traumatic treatments. We’ve pioneered countless medical advances over the years. Our patients benefit from that quest by receiving not only the best treatments to minimize or eliminate their cancer, but those treatments that will also give them the best chance at a high quality of life afterwards.
New and innovative therapies generally are available at MD Anderson several years before they become standard in the community. Our clinical trials incorporate state-of-the-art patient care, while evaluating the most recent developments in cancer medicine. They also offer treatment opportunities for difficult or aggressive tumors.
MD Anderson ranks first in the number of research grants awarded by the National Cancer Institute. By studying how cancer begins and responds to various treatments, we can help patients overcome disease and prevent recurrence.”
So much incredible research is being done on acupuncture worldwide and I cringe every time I hear people dismiss Chinese medicine as being nothing more than ancient quackery or only a placebo. Despite (or maybe because of) these viewpoints, research institutes like MD Anderson are taking acupuncture and herbs very seriously.
In this episode of The Herb Walk, I cover a couple of the research projects MD Anderson is doing with acupuncture. Chemotherapy can cause severe dry mouth (xerostomia) and painful mouth sores. In a clinical trial of those with xerostomia, the acupuncture group initially didn’t perform any better than the control group. After six weeks, it was the only group that continued to show marked improvement. Researchers are in Phase 2 of a Randomized-Controlled Trial of electroacupuncture for reducing chronic pain from breast cancer treatments.
If you’re interested, you can keep up with all their acupuncture research https://www.mdanderson.org/patients-family/search-results.html?q=acupuncture&searchType=clinical%20trials#_
I witnessed myself the efficacy of acupuncture and herbs at Zhejiang University Teaching Hospital in Hangzhou, China. Patients in Hepatitis, Dermatology and Oncology clinics would get seen by a medical doctor that was also an herbalist. If they needed labs or X-rays, they were sent to those departments and would come back with labs or X-rays in hand, their tongues looked at and pulses taken, diagnosed, and given an herbal formula- all under one roof and one afternoon. If they needed surgery, they were referred to a surgeon. If they needed acupuncture or tuina, they would be referred to the Medical Doctor that also performed those specialties. To practice acupuncture, herbalism, or tuina in a hospital, you became a medical doctor first. There is no separation of medicine, traditional and allopathic are used in conjunction with one another because the health outcomes are higher with both.
I hope this episode encourages you to not see allopathic and traditional medicine as an either/or. Our health and well-being will improve when we utilize both traditional and “modern” medicine. Allopathic medicine has a lot to offer in emergency care, vaccines, and pharmacology when used appropriately. Traditional medicines, like Chinese herbalism and acupuncture, also have a lot to offer, especially with prevention and the reduction of stress, pain, and side effects of pharmaceuticals and traumatic therapies. Be discerning, be smart, and be kind.