Integrating Medicine with
Bindi Zhu, M.D. (China) Ph.D. and Ileana Bourland, MSOM, Lic.Ac.
Dr. Zhu's Speech at Women Partners in Health Conference
1. Today we'll talk about integrating Chinese and
western medicine. In the past couple of years alternative and integrated
medicine has received more and more media attention. Just last week Time
magazine featured one of the pioneers of integrated medicine, Andrew Weil, was
on the cover. He studied at Harvard and did research in South American looking
for medicinal plants. Many of you have probably already read many of his books
2. Conventional medicine and Chinese medicine work so
well together because their strengths are almost diametrically opposed. Like a
good marriage, each partner should complement each other's strengths and
weaknesses while maintaining the same goals, in this case, good health.
3. You are all familiar with western medicines
strengths. I'll mention a few of them: trauma, medical and surgical
emergencies, fungal, bacterial, and parasitic infections, replacement of
damaged hips, knees, bones and other articulations, and cosmetic and
4. Let's talk about Chinese medicine and how it's
different from western medicine:
a. One of the main things we talk about in Chinese
medicine maintaining the body's relative balance, or balancing the yin and
yang. Although certain syndromes have some characteristics in common,
you have probably seen that each person has their own unique way of presenting
symptoms. In Chinese medicine it's very important take into account the
individual's unique constitution when making a diagnosis.
b. The ancient Chinese medical doctors concentrated on
identifying how the body functions and how those functions depend on each
other. Chinese medicine treatment modalities stimulate the body's
natural healing potential by treating root causes of dysfunction, rather than
c. Another important concept we talk about in Chinese
medicine how to boost the immune system. We try to strengthen the body's
natural defenses to enhance the body's ability to maintain and heal itself. We
use Chinese herbs to do this. Recent research indicates that many of these herb
have large amounts of anti-oxidants. For example, gou qi zi, also known
as wolfberry and Lycium Barbarum, has the highest ORAC (oxygen radical
absorbance capacity) value of any other food by volume.
d. In many ways, western and Chinese medicine come from
two very different points of view. Chinese medicine originated from
experimentation with medicinal substances from animal, plant, and mineral
sources and pressure points, that is, exact three-dimensional points of varying
sizes located subcutaneously called acupuncture points. Empirical evidence
collected from these experiments combined with Daoist and Confucian philosophy
produced the body of knowledge that today we call Traditional Chinese Medicine
e. Daoism's influence extends not only to Chinese
medical theory, but also to its practice. It recognizes the limitations of
coercive power and encourages “leading, not dominating,” much the same way an
acupuncture needle guides Qi or an herbal formula supports the immune system to
fight off disease.
f. In China, acupuncture is a small part of traditional Chinese
medicine. Herbal medicine is used more and, often, in combination with western
pharmaceuticals. China has taken traditional Chinese medical philosophy and uses it side by
side with western medicine in hospitals today. If you go into any hospital in China you will see these two systems used together,
seamlessly. Chinese medicine is not considered "alternative medicine" in China but is a mainstream system that plays an important
role in providing health care alongside Western medicine. Maybe someday we’ll
adopt a system similar to this one.
g. This idea seems to be spreading to the West where 94
per cent of the 125 United States medical schools reported offering selective courses
in complementary or alternative medicine. In Austin we don't have a medical school, but we have a students who come up from
the University of Texas medical
school at Galveston for interenships at my clinic.
5. Although Chinese and conventional medicine
appear very different on the surface, in many situations they work very
well together. More and more scientific studies are being authored in the
West to support the large body of research already available in the East.
6. What other kinds of problems does acupuncture
help? Many, including women's health issues:
a. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) recognizes
womens’ health issues as pattern-related syndromes. Instead of treating
symptoms, the root cause is addressed by treating each person as a whole.
Women using TCM typically experience a dramatic improvement in all their
symptoms whether they deal with infertility, endometriosis, PMS, ovarian
cysts, or menopause.
b. Low back pain during pregnancy:
i. Several studies show the efficacy of acupuncture and
auricular acupuncture to treat lower back and pelvic pain during pregnancy.
ii. Yale University is currently conducting an NIH-funded study that
will last three years using ear acupuncture for lower back pain during
iii. In 2004 JAMA published a study from Brazil where acupuncture was used to relieve back pain
during pregnancy. Average pain reduction in the study group decreased by at
least 50 per cent over time and only decreased 15 per cent in the placebo
group. The researchers reported the use of paracetamol was also lower in the
acupuncture group. These results indicate that acupuncture seems to alleviate
lower back pain and pelvic pain during pregnancy, as well as to increase the
capacity for some physical activities and to diminish the need for drugs, which
is a great advantage during this period. (Guerriero da Silva 2004)
iv. You'll find a list of these studies on the page of
c. Labor pain/induce labor
i. In a study using electro-acupuncture a significant
increase in frequency and strength of uterine contractions was found in the
electrically stimulated women compared with the placebo-group women. Subjects
were randomly assigned to either a treatment condition, consisting of the application
via surface electrodes of a 30-Hz current to the points "spleen 6"
(lower leg) and "liver 3" (foot), or a placebo condition, in which
the equipment was attached but not activated. (Dunn 1989)
d. Breech presentation
i. In November of ’98 JAMA published a study where
moxibustion was used to correct breech presentation. After 1 to 2 weeks of
daily treatments with moxibustion 75 per cent of the fetuses in the
intervention group were cephalic versus 48 per cent of the control group.
ii. In 2004 an Italian group of researchers found that
the proportion of cephalic version was lower in the observation group, where 36
per cent of the infants were cephalic at delivery, than the active-treatment
group, where 55 per cent were cephalic. (Neri 2004)
i. The success rate of AP in treating PMS symptoms was
77.8%, whereas it was 5.9%. in the placebo group. The positive influence of AP
in treating PMS symptoms can be ascribed to its effects on the serotoninergic
and opioidergic neurotransmission that modulates various psychosomatic
functions. (Habek 2002)
i. Acupressure at Sanyinjiao (Spleen 6) has been shown
to be very effective in reducing primary dysmenorrhea. (Chen 2004)
ii. A study in 2003 used acupuncture to treat primary
dysmenorrhea. 93 per cent of the women who received acupuncture either did not
have reoccurance of primary dysmenorrhea, no longer needed medication for the
condition or did not experience symptoms 2 years after the acupuncture
treatment compared to 4 per cent of the women who used sham acupuncture. (Habek
i. In China, most menopausal women use Traditional Chinese
Medicine (TCM), particularly Chinese herbs, instead of hormone therapy. A
history of long-time use and thorough documentation make it the treatment of choice
for these menopausal women.
ii. The treatment protocol for reclaiming this hormonal
balance ties in to the individual's personal constitution, immune system,
stress level, emotions, and other illnesses. For example, although many women
may come into the clinic diagnosed as menopausal, each may demonstrate a
different combination of possible symptoms. Some typical symptoms include hot
flashes, night sweats, palpitations, insomnia, heavy menstrual flow, dryness,
alternating chills and fever, mood swings, depression, poor memory etc.
iii. The benefits of using Chinese herbal medicine seem
great when compared to possible side effects from hormone replacement therapy.
i. When discussing female infertility, in Chinese
medicine we describe the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis as a
responsibility of the Heart, Liver, Kidney, and Uterus
organ systems. These systems are responsible for fertility, pregnancy, and the
regualation of the menstrual cycle.
ii. Traditional Chinese medicine considers the Kidney the
foundation of fertility. Its main functions are to "store essence, dominate
human reproduction and development, dominate water metabolism and the reception
of qi, produce bone marrow to fill up the brain, dominate bone, manufacture
blood, manifest in the hair, [and] open into the ear."
iii. Chinese medicine prepares the body for conception by
bring it back in to balance. For different women this might mean fine tuning
and regulating the menstrual cycle, raising low sperm count and motility,
correcting hormonal imbalances, eliminating immune system incompatibilities,
easing tubal obstructions, relieving stress-related dysfunction, reversing
ejaculatory defects and correcting erectile dysfunction.
i. Morning sickness
i. Acupuncture and acupressure are very effective
nonpharmacologic methods for the treatment of hyperemesis gravidarum for
ii. Habek showed in 2004 the efficiency of the morning
sickness treatment with acupuncture of Pc 6 was 90%, with acupressure of Pc 6
was 63.6%, with placebo "sham" acupuncture 12.5%, and with placebo acupressure
0%. CONCLUSION: Acupuncture (p < 0.0001) and acupressure (p < 0.1) are.
i. Migraine is a typical "women's disease":
the fluctuations of sex hormones, in particular estrogens, during woman's
reproductive life show a direct and major influence on migraine course. Even if
during pregnancy a high percentage of migraineurs report an improvement of
symptomatology, it is still controversial how to manage migraine crises
occurring during pregnancy, considering that almost all drugs are partially or
totally contraindicated during gestation. (Allais 2003)
ii. JAMA reports in 2005 that the Centre for
Complementary Medicine Research in Munich, Germany, conducted a study on migraine headaches where
acupuncture was found to reduce the number of days participants had headaches
by 50 per cent when compared to the control group. Their headaches were reduces
by 15 per cent. (Linde 2005)
k. Irritable bowel syndrome
i. Besoussan et al showed in 1998 that irritable bowel
syndrome responds well Chinese herbal medicine. In 1998, JAMA reported a study
where patients were divided in to 3 groups: individualized Chinese herbal
formulation, a standard Chinese herbal formulation, and a placebo group. Those
who received Chinese herbal medicine had significant improvements in bowel
symtom scores as rated by patients, compared to those in the placebo group. On
follow-up 14 weeks later after completion of treatment, out of those three
groups only the individualiazed Chinese herbal medicine group maintained
improvement. (Bensoussan 1998)
Allais G, Bosio A, Mana O,
Airola G, Ciochetto D, Terzi MG, De Lorenzo C, Quirico PE, Benedetto C.
Migraine during pregnancy and lactation: treatment of the acute attack and
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Bensoussan A, Talley NJ, Hing M, Menzies R, Guo A, Ngu M. Treatment of
irritable bowel syndrome with Chinese herbal medicine: a randomized controlled
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Moxibustion for Correction of Breech presentation: a randomized controlled
trial. JAMA. 1998; 18:1580-4.
Chen HM and Chen CH. Effects
of acupuressure at the Sanyinjiao point on primary dysmenorrhoea. J Adv Nurs.
Coyle ME, Smith CA, Peat B. Cephalic version by moxibustion for breech
presentation. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2005; 2:CD003928.
Cummings M. Acupuncture for
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K. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation at acupuncture points in the
induction of uterine contractions. Obstet Gynecol. 1989; 2:289-90.
Habek D, Barbir A, Habek JC,
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Habek D, Cerkez Habek J,
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Habek D, Habek JC, Barbir A.
Using acupuncture to treat premenstrual syndrome. Arch Gynecol Obstet.
Kemper KJ, Sarah R,
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Pediatric pain patients' experience with acupuncture. Pediatrics. 2000; 105:941-7.
Forrester M. Low back pain
in pregnancy. Acupunct Med. 2003; 1-2:36-41.
Guerreiro da Silva JB,
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Jones AE. Managing the pain
of primary and secondary dysmenorrhea. Nurs Times. 2004; 10:40-3.
Kvorning N, Holmberg C,
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late pregnancy. Acta Obstet Scand. 2004; 3:246-50.
Linde K, Streng A, Jurgens S,
et al. Acupuncture for patients with migraine: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA.
Neri I, Airola G, Contu G,
Allais G, Facchinetti F, Benedetto C. Acupuncture plus moxibustion to resolve
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Rosen T, de Veciana M,
Miller HS, Stewart L, Rebarber A, Slotnick RN. A randomized controlled trial of
nerve stimulation for relief of nausea and vomitting in pregnancy. Obstet
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A, Algotsson L, Akeson J. Acupuncture for lower back and pelvic pain in late
pregnancy: a retrospective report on 167 consecutive cases. Pain Med.
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