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TCM plays role in fighting pandemic

By Prime Sarmiento in Hong Kong | China Daily | Updated: 2020-04-09 10:14
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Villagers work with herbal planting in Chongqing on April 8. [Photo/Xinhua]

Traditional Chinese medicine has been gaining more attention in Southeast Asia as people seek ways to maintain and improve their health and fitness amid the novel coronavirus outbreak, according to health experts.

"As the pandemic persists, Southeast Asian consumers want to protect themselves and turn to preventive health solutions like traditional and alternative medicines," said Michelle Teodoro, associate director for food science at market research firm Mintel.

She cited studies published in peer-reviewed journals that showed how a combination of TCM and Western medicine helps in treating COVID-19 patients.

"Case studies and small clinical trials have emerged that appear to be successful in treating COVID-19 using traditional Chinese medicine alone or in combination with Western medical treatment," she said.

Traditional Chinese medicine's established presence in Southeast Asia is an offshoot of the region's centuries-old relationship with China. But more than that, TCM's strong focus on plant-based medicines and the mind-body connection find resonance in indigenous Southeast Asian healing systems.

In countries like the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand, traditional Chinese medicine is officially part of the national health system. There are designated agencies that oversee it and other complementary healing practices. Practitioners are required to undertake rigorous studies and obtain licenses. Top-notch universities offer graduate courses in TCM.

In Thailand, applicants for the two-year TCM practitioner license have to complete professional and ethical training.

In the Philippines, the Philippine Institute of Traditional and Alternative Health Care is leading efforts in the development of traditional Chinese medicine and accredits practitioners and companies.

In Singapore-and across Southeast Asia-the health and wellness trend has not only spurred demand for TCM, it has led to its acceptance in mainstream approaches. It is considered a complement to Western medicine, with practitioners required to get accreditation and training, and TCM courses are offered at prestigious universities.

"Traditional Chinese medicine supports the immune system in a holistic way," said Susanna Santhiram-Hofherr, a Kuala Lumpur-based veterinarian.

Hofherr decided to become a TCM practitioner after acupuncture healed her chronic back pain. She said at a time when the coronavirus outbreak is causing anxiety, TCM's integrative approach can heal both body and mind.

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