Traditional Chinese Medicine and acupuncture continue to gain popularity among the American public for the treatment of diseases where mainstream medical therapies have had little success. Traditional Chinese medical treatments are based on the mystical belief that a cosmic energy called chi, flows through the human body and when its' flow is blocked the result is pain and illness.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (primarily herbs) and acupuncture restore the body's normal energy flow (chi) which results in illness being cured by allowing the body to heal itself. Acupuncture attempts to restore chi by inserting needles into specific points on the skin or on the outside of the ear. Although, traditional thought of as very safe, with few or no side effects a few medical authorities have recently challenged the long held belief that both methods are free of risk.

Surprisingly, there are a number of risks associated with acupuncture. Improper needle manipulation and handling can cause convulsions, localized infections, fainting, punctured lung and hematoma, which is localized bleeding that can shift along an organ's length. In addition, if the acupuncture needles are not properly sterilized, Hepatitis B can develop. A few other risks include nerve damage and skin diseases. However, like any medical treatment if performed by a trained physician / practitioner, many studies have shown that acupuncture is virtually risk free. 

The standards of acupuncture and Chinese medicine have not been fully approved by the FDA but then again the FDA has shown a bias against natural methods of healing and so this fact shouldn't come as a surprise. Of course, acupuncture needles should not being used multiple times. Unfortunately, the attitude of many traditional doctors is that the certification process in becoming a certified acupuncturist is seen as a sham and that the whole field is more interested in making money by cashing in on the desperation of individuals who have not benefited from conventional accepted medical treatments. 

As a result, the National Council Against Health Fraud has declared acupuncture an unproven method of treatment whose approach to healing are backward and unproven with the perceived positive benefits being nothing more than the result of the placebo effect and the patient's own expectations. 

On the other hand, Chinese herbal medicine, unlike acupuncture herbal Chinese medicine has surprisingly found favor among some researchers. Studies have revealed that herbal medicines rarely evoke any adverse reactions. In fact, they are clearly much safer than the vast majority of most pharmaceutical drugs. Modern and traditional herbal formulas are now available commercially for those of most any physical condition and age.

Chinese herbal medicines are currently being used to treat a wide range of health issues from pain, psychological disorders, immunity, digestive and gynecological problems to allergic conditions, childhood illnesses, respiratory diseases and addictive disorders like smoking and alcoholism. 

An extremely successful aspect of Chinese herbal medicine is that pregnant women can use most with virtually zero risk. 

By Brian Winkels 

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