Chinese herbs, do they really work?

Discussion in 'Health and Fitness' started by slide, Jul 27, 2009.

  1. slide

    slide Valued Member

    Ok, this has probably been done to death, however I dont watch this section much. So, do Chinese herbs really work or is it more mind over matter?

    If anyone has any experiences with them be it good, bad, or whatever I'd love to hear.

    Slide :cool:
  2. CKava

    CKava Just one more thing... Supporter

    Depends on the herbs... and depends on how they are prepared. Herbs often do contain active ingredients so they can often have effects. Whether the claimed effects are consistent with the active ingredients is another matter.
  3. Smitfire

    Smitfire Cactus Schlong

    I've also heard that many preparations and ingrediants coming from China can also be contaminated with many dodgy things, including heavy metals and existing real drugs (like putting viagra in a herbal impotency preperation for example). Basically because of the lack of any real governing standards.
    Let's also not forget the absolutely appalling record China has when producing traditional preparations. Keeping and torturing bears for gall bladder extract and the poaching of tigers and Rhino's for ridiculous medicinal claims.

    Personally...I wouldn't touch Chinese medicine (herbal or otherwise) with a bargepole.
  4. d8v1d

    d8v1d Valued Member

    I can only speak for Acupuncture which worked wonders for me. They did supply me with some herbal tea which i took one sip of and promptly threw up.

    As PASmith said there is a risk of contamination, but all civilizations regardless of race have used herbs for thosands of years and we still do.
  5. inthespirit

    inthespirit ignant

    I used Chinese herbal meds for a flu last year, worked pretty well, the drink part did taste pretty awful though. Effects comparable to your usual western cold/flu medicine, but made me feel less toxic compared to the paracetamol based stuff you normally get.

    One thing I was really impressed with was their throat lozenges, these things did not taste so nice, but worked very well. I had like 2 or 3 and that was enough.

    You also gotta remember that traditional Chinese medicine has a hell of a lot of history behind it and is the main form of medicine for a massive proportion of the earth's populace if not the largest.
  6. Smitfire

    Smitfire Cactus Schlong

    History and popularity count for nothing without evidence from double-blind, randomised, placebo controlled trials.
    Bear in mind that this is the same population of people that think eating some ground up Tiger penis will give you a hard willy.
    There's also something to be said for TCM being so popular because of policies enacted by Mao for providing cheap wisespread "healthcare" rather than any intrinsic worth.

    As I see it...the herbal medicine that has been proven to work becomes simply "medicine" (willow bark and aspirin being the most famous example) while herbal medicine that is not proven to work just becomes "pot pourri".
  7. inthespirit

    inthespirit ignant

    History and popularity in medicine usually means that it works, na? If that was not the case, well, dead people dont recommend anything. :D

    Seeing as over a billion people use it, there must be some merit to it. I think there needs to be much more scientific investigation and trials before we can form any informed opinion. But dismissing it on a whim is ignorant as is suggesting that over a billion people think eating some ground up Tiger penis will give you a hard willy, in fact what does my willy have anything to do with this? :D

    But yeah an ignorant western stereotype is quite prevalent, silly though, as in China they use both medicines side by side. I'm sure there is much to learn for all.
  8. inthespirit

    inthespirit ignant

  9. Smitfire

    Smitfire Cactus Schlong

    History and popularity in medicine usually means that it works, na?

    Erm...nope. Might work, might not. That's what tests decide. Everything else is just anecdotal.
    I hear there was a time when, if you had a head-ache, you'd be subjected to a nice bit of trepanning. It had history and was popular (although perhaps not with the people they did it to). Still didn't work though.

    But dismissing it on a whim is ignorant

    It's not a whim. I'm dismissing it because it's largely untested, it's unregulated, it needlessly uses resources worth saving, is associated with barbaric practices, is founded on principals that don't bear scrutiny, comes with a lot of cultural baggage AND there are better tested alternatives that we know do work.
    My example of the ground up tiger penis is an example that illustrates how TCM is not founded on rational scientific grounds but rather superstitious grounds (in this case eating the penis of a powerful animal will effect your penis and make you powerful too). As such any real efficacy is hard to determine.
  10. inthespirit

    inthespirit ignant

    LOL... funny, that you should give a western practice as an example..

    Have a look at the BBC links I posted..

    Can you provide references for these assertions, medical trials etc?

    That is a stereotype, TCM is mostly based on herbs.

    Here is an interesting article for you to mull over:
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2009
  11. Smitfire

    Smitfire Cactus Schlong

    Yes very interesting examples. But what do those examples show?
    They show people using western scientific methods to ascertain if these compounds actually work. I predict that if these compounds continue to show signs they work then western science will isolate the active ingredient and produce medicine that works better than the starting concoction. They'll probably find that 95% of all the other gunk the Chinese put in these preparations weren't actually doing anything.

    I'm not saying that NO chinese herbal preparations work...I'm saying that we have no real basis for knowing WHICH ones work and which ones are superstitious (or even dangerous) crap.
  12. Smitfire

    Smitfire Cactus Schlong

    So are you saying TCM doesn't produce side-effects (in the same way western medicine does)?
    Because the only treatments that don't produce side-effects are treatments that don't produce ANY effects (ie Homeopathy).
    Where's the study of how many people died through taking TCM?

    Almost 3,000 people have died in the past three years after suffering serious side-effects or allergies to their medicines, say official figures.

    Can we compare that to how many people DIDN'T die because of western medicine in the same period?
  13. Smitfire

    Smitfire Cactus Schlong

    it's largely untested, it's unregulated

    it needlessly uses resources worth saving

    is associated with barbaric practices

    is founded on principals that don't bear scrutiny

    there are better tested alternatives that we know do work
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2009
  14. embra

    embra Valued Member

    Is Homeopathy not now a dicredited 'treatment' ?

    I suspect that TCM does have some usefull aspects for some conditions in some circumstances, but the codification and scientific trials will take decades, by which time conventional western drugs may have overtaken the usefull parts of TCM. That is not to say that Pharmaceutical Companies cannot learn a lot from TCM in the meantime. Whether the five elemnts theory, accupuncture, moxibustion and other ares of TCM offer anything is a different question.

    TCM originated somewhat from Taoism, which was as near as Science was possible in its time i.e. it providing a systematic basis for undertsanding the world we live in; hence it is not surprising that its limitations are apparrent today in medical terms.
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2009
  15. Smitfire

    Smitfire Cactus Schlong

    Is Homeopathy not now a dicredited 'treatment' ?

    Indeed yes. That was my point. If a treatment actually works it will have side effects. It's why every medicine you get from Boots will have a big list of known side-effects to look out for. Mr Spirit posted up a link about western medicine causing death's and illness. I'm asking if Chinese medicine also causes such side-effects (in which case his link has no point) or it doesn't (in which case it's because it is mostly ineffective).
    In a similar vein Homeopathy doesn't cause side-effects because it doesn't actually do anything (except where they sneak actual medicine into it).
  16. inthespirit

    inthespirit ignant

    I already made clear what I am saying in my previous posts.

    Simple as that ^^^

    In other words, we should not blindly ignore the potential value of TCM. I think this is clearly supported by the first two links I provided.

    And yes, bear bile, tiger penis and other animal products, particularly those derived from endangered animal species is awful, cruel and unnecessary. But as I already mentioned the majority of TCM is herb derived, and this is what should be investigated and definitely not ignored.
  17. Smitfire

    Smitfire Cactus Schlong

    I think there needs to be much more scientific investigation and trials before we can form any informed opinion.

    You seem to state the case for TCM far stronger than that sentence would suggest you should if that is your true feelings.

    Oh and suggesting lines for scientific investigation (in the case of your first two links) is different to recommending it to an individual.
    As such I would recomend we investigate as many lines of enquiry as we can scientifically.
    But I wouldn't then recommend that indivduals do such things with their own health.
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2009
  18. inthespirit

    inthespirit ignant

    Thats only cause I thought your view was particularly biased.

    I did not recommend anything.


    I would not recommend one undertakes anything of this sort without professional opinion. But, I do think an experienced doctor of TCM constitutes "professional opinion" in that particular field. However, I would only self experiment if the condition was trivial to minor. I know of cases where people who relied exclusively on TCM ended up suffering unnecessarily and in some cases died, whereas the problem could have been remedied with western medical knowledge. Blind faith in any system is not a good thing, and constitutes as ignorance IMO.
  19. Knight_Errant

    Knight_Errant Banned Banned

    A- HEM. HUGE difference between taoism and science. The one is a faith-based system. The other is based on empirical evidence.

    As for chinese herbs actually working, well, yes and no. It's like egyptian medicine- some of the herbs actually do something, but the basis for believing that they do so is flawed. It's a pick and mix and you'd be foolish to rely on it as your only source of treatment for a serious illness. Cancer? Chemotherapy every time. Vague sense of unease/more money than sense? Chinese herbal medicine's yer man.
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2009
  20. CKava

    CKava Just one more thing... Supporter

    I know I'm a bit behind but wanted to address some of this.

    As PASmith has said this is definitely not the case. There are many examples of medical treatments persisting for centuries despite being harmful or ineffective bleeding is one such example. You can find thousands of historical sources recommending it's use and yet we know now it actually weakens a sick person to drain them of blood.

    A billion people using something only indicates that something is popular not that it is correct. This is especially the case when many of the billion you are referring to have no other option for medical care. You know about modern TCM being largely due to Mao's promotional efforts, right?

    People aren't dismissing it on a whim. Thousands of studies have been done on Chinese herbs and certainly many more need to be done. However, it is possible to draw general conclusions about Chinese herbal remedies from the data already collected. General conclusions I would make include:

    - They are barely regulated. The same herbal remedy in different shops can contain many different ingredients.
    - Despite being labelled as herbal they often contain ingredients harvested from animals. And as PASmith has pointed out the harvesting of animals for 'traditional' medicine presents serious animal cruelty and preservation issues.
    - Some herbs are effective but more often than not the active ingredient is also available in a synthesised form which does not require the harming or animals/plants.
    - There is a need to pursue further research when there is good evidence for effectiveness.

    Personally, it seems more ignorant to me to accept something purely because it is perceived as ancient and exotic. If TCM advocates were also promoting leeching and bleeding I would be more understanding but it seems that a big part of the widespread admiration for TCM is due to it being foreign.

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