The myth about ‘Traditional’ Chinese Medicine

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For those who know about the subject, this is an old hat, of course. But for many readers of this blog, it might be news: ‘Traditional’ Chinese Medicine (TCM) is not nearly as traditional as it pretends to be. In fact, it is an artefact of recent creation. The man who has been saying that for years is Professor Paul Unschuld, one of the leading sinologist worldwide and an expert who has written many books and journal articles on the subject.

During an interview given in 2004, he defined TCM as “an artificial system of health care ideas and practices generated between 1950 and 1973 by committees in the People’s Republic of China, with the aim of restructuring the vast and heterogenous heritage of Chinese traditional medicine in such a way that it fitted the principles–Marxist Maoist type democracy and modern science and technology on which the future of the PRC was to be built…[the Daoist underpinning for TCM] is incorrect for two reasons.  First . . . TCM is a product of Communist China.  Second, even if we were to apply the term TCM to pre-revolutionary Chinese medicine, the Daoist impact should be considered minimal.”

In a much more recent interview entitled INVENTION FROM THE FAR EAST which he gave to DER SPIEGEL (in German), he explained this in a little more detail (I have tried to translate his words as literally as possible):

What is being offered in our country to patients as TCM is a construct that was created in China on an office desk which has been altered further on its way to the West.

Written By: Edzard Ernst
continue to source article at edzardernst.com

13 COMMENTS

  1. We need to start a campaign that says panda bear teeth are a sure cure for cancer, and arrange hunting parties to go to China. Maybe THAT will stop them buying elephant and rhinocerous ivory.

    • In reply to #1 by rod-the-farmer:

      We need to start a campaign that says panda bear teeth are a sure cure for cancer, and arrange hunting parties to go to China. Maybe THAT will stop them buying elephant and rhinocerous ivory.

      It might be more politically correct to suggest Communist Party Leaders make an excellent medicine when finely ground. The world would miss pandas but not professional politicians.

      • In reply to #2 by alaskansee:

        In reply to #1 by rod-the-farmer:

        We need to start a campaign that says panda bear teeth are a sure cure for cancer, and arrange hunting parties to go to China. Maybe THAT will stop them buying elephant and rhinocerous ivory.

        t might be more politically correct to suggest Communist Party Leaders make an excellent medicine when finely ground. The world would miss pandas but not professional politicians.

        Ha. We can begin by trying this on our home-grown overpaid corrupt moronic defective politicians.
        And to replace them, let’s import some Chinese politicians to do their job. At an appropriate “Chinese salary” of course.
        Walmart should start selling them!
        Bonus: New politician would finally admit: “Why yes, I AM an Atheist! Is this strange in the west?”

    • In reply to #1 by rod-the-farmer:

      … rhinocerous ivory.

      Ahem… elephant tusks are ivory, which is similar to human dentin, but rhinoceros horn is composed of keratin, not unlike human fingernails.

      Steve

      • In reply to #8 by Agrajag:

        In reply to #1 by rod-the-farmer:

        … rhinocerous ivory.

        Ahem… elephant tusks are ivory, which is similar to human dentin, but rhinoceros horn is composed of keratin, not unlike human fingernails.

        Steve

        Sorry. I was rushing to make sure I included them, and forgot to spell out the difference. Mea culpa.

        • In reply to #11 by rod-the-farmer:
          >
          >

          Mea culpa.

          “Just because you say it in Latin doesn’t mean you get forgiven!”

          Sorry, Rod… I saw that as a caption on a cartoon somewhere recently, having to do with catholic priests. :-)

          Steve

  2. I’d heard this recently as well. I think it was mentioned in episode #374 Skeptoid. Apparently Mao strongly advocated TCM though personally used modern western medicine. One rule for the rich….as they say.

  3. I like the way they charge up to £50 for a bag of shite from inside their vacuum cleaners as ‘herbal tea’ and tell you it will cure baldness, gout, eczema and haemorrhoids and when you drink it, it makes you fell so ill you forget all the other ailments. You gotta admit it’s great business!

  4. I remember reading the original article back in August and at the time wished for an english version of the interview. An interesting point raised at the end of the article was that in 2007 the Chinese government invited the Health Ministers of 50 (western ) nations to clarify that the future of Traditional Chinese Medicine lay in molecular biology. I think that says it all. So much for all the Bull shit (excuse the pun). jcw

  5. You would wonder if traditional Chinese medicine was like feng shui, a device to con gullible westerners if it was not for the fact that it involves gutting countless animals for no medical benefit.

  6. I lived in Hong Kong for a while and TCM was really big business there at the time.

    As I was writing that first sentence, BBC radio 4s Today programme reported that the H4N9 strain of bird flu has crossed to a human in Hong Kong; a perfect opportunity to utilize TCM!?

    If they would be good enough to donate their corps, a combination of dried, ground politician and creationist would do very nicely; two birds with one stone.

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