Blake Griffin

Western and Chinese Medicine Working Together

In February of 2014, Bayer agreed to purchase the Dihon Pharmaceutical Group, a Chinese manufacturer, as a strategic approach to infiltrate the Chinese healthcare market and become the world’s largest non-prescription medicines group.

According to consulting firm McKinsey, China’s healthcare spending forecast is expected to triple to $1 trillion by 2020 from $357 billion in 2011.  These numbers have made China a magnet for makers of medicines and medical equipment.

In recent years, numerous Western companies have invested in Chinese medical research or products derived from Traditional Chinese Medicine.  Most of the companies have focused on using Chinese medicine to expand their market share in China, while a few companies, such as Nestle, have chosen to pursue FDA approval for botanical drugs.

Nestle, partnered with Chi-Med, is the first to start the final clinical testing trials.  This is the final step before approval for sale, for a botanical drug, which treats inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) including ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, based on Traditional Chinese Medicine.  If Chi-Med and Nestle succeed in gaining U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval, the companies will be at the forefront of exporting Chinese medicine globally.

Many widely-used drugs have been derived from Chinese herbal medicine. Most recently, artemisinin, which was isolated from qing hao, has been proven to treat malaria.  Despite success in the isolation of botanical drugs, recently revised FDA regulations may make it difficult to develop new plant-based drugs.  The greatest challenge lies in the ability to ensure the batch-to-batch consistency, given that plants-based components tend to vary based on soil, weather conditions, harvest time, genetics and various other factors.

Another problem that may occur with plant-based Chinese herbs, such as the case with lei gong teng for example, is even though it has profound pharmacological effects in treating pancreatic cancer and rheumatoid arthritis, it is also toxic to the liver.

New drug development has researchers strategically trying to pair the active ingredient with aptamers to form compound molecules that will allow the formula to target cancer cells while avoiding healthy liver cells.  This pairing of active ingredients with aptamers is similar to Chinese formula construction as a chief herb is paired together with a courier herb, where the courier herb directs the chief herb to the problem.

In everyday occurrences, Chinese medical practitioners frequently see cases where herbal therapy can achieve effects that cannot be matched by pharmaceutical drugs.  Nonetheless, Chinese herbs and traditional knowledge paired with Western research and technology may be able to identify how to create plant-based formulas that will be able to treat various troublesome diseases.

Health Concerns Gives Back at Local Food Bank

Part of Health Concerns’ mission is to be socially and environmentally conscious and to actively strive to make our community and the world around us a better place.  Every year, with this goal in mind, the Health Concerns team takes time to volunteer for a worthy cause and we lend our time and talents to the Alameda County Community Food Bank, a wonderful local non-profit and force for good here in the bay area. The ACCFB handles an incredible amount of food and relies on 12,000 volunteers each year to ensure they reach as many people in need as possible.  Collecting and distributing enough food for 49,000, the organization serves one in six residents of Alameda County.  The largest demographic served by ACCFB is made up of children and teens under 18, making up 42% of their clients.  The second largest group is made up of people aged 50 years or older.

Additionally, the Boy Scouts of America have a food drive, soliciting and collecting donations to benefit food banks nationwide.  Thanks to these efforts, ACCFB’s three acre warehouse is packed with 115,000 pounds of donated food that will be fully cycled back into the community within a few short weeks.  Health Concerns staff was there to help sort the many crates of fresh produce that will eventually find its way to local agencies that prepare and serve hot meals for those in need.  Many of us spent our time there sorting through freshly cut herbs to ensure their freshness and quality (you know how much we love herbs at Health Concerns!).  Because of a very strong storm here in the bay area, the ACCFB was left significantly understaffed as many were unable to attend when they were scheduled.  Health Concerns staff helped pick up the slack to ensure the food was sorted and processed in an effective and timely manner.  Seeing the volunteers and food bank staff cheerfully gathered, ready to work for a common good on a brisk winter morning was a truly inspiring way to spend the day.  If you are interested in making a donation to the ACCFB, you can find more information here.

During this holiday season, we hope you discover your own ways of finding the holiday spirit and spreading joy wherever possible.

Take a moment to check out our volunteer day photos!

Doing Good with TCM: Healing at San Quentin

The drive to help those around you to heal is nearly ubiquitous for any healthcare practitioner. What is particularly wonderful for those in the TCM discipline is the underlying approach to holistic health. A specialist such as, say, a gastroenterologist, has a tremendous capacity to help very specific problems thanks to an intensely narrow focus. It’s this same narrow focus that might restrict him from helping an individual achieve overall health. Branches of holistic medicine such as acupuncture and TCM have the benefit of addressing and encouraging progression towards overall health, which includes aspects of physical, emotional and spiritual wellness. This emphasis has helped many find solutions to lifelong problems, improved the lives of patients in ways they couldn’t have foreseen, and brought inner peace to those in need of it the most. These things considered, the following story is truly an inspirational reminder of the uniquely remarkable aspects of alternative medicine.

Students of American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine recently had the opportunity to attend a remarkable event unlike anything they experienced before. On Friday, August 22, 2014, they attended the 11th Annual Health Fair held within the walls of San Quentin State Prison to assist in providing healing modalities that can help those serving time in the facility with many of their issues. It was the first time ACTCM students attended the event. They joined other practitioners such as chiropractors, nurses, dentists, yoga and Tai Chi instructors to offer health education and services to life-sentenced inmates on a rare, once-per-year basis.

The fair is remarkably popular among inmates and lines for services stretched long around the practitioners. Many of the patients were receiving their first acupuncture treatments. For safety reasons, instead of using traditional needles, ACTCM students provided ear acupuncture seeds to accommodate the inmates’ chief complaints. The most commonly reported health issues included stress, anxiety, insomnia, depression, pain, anger, trauma, testicular issues and toothaches. The men were instructed to keep the seeds in their ears and to rub their ears. Inmates were calm, respectful and showed a sincere interest in making deep, personal changes. They showed an interest in the work and processes. Many profound moments were shared between the inmates and ACTCM students. One man commented “Thank you for looking at me with compassion and treating me like a human being.”

Feedback from the inmates regarding the effectiveness of the treatments offered was impressive and positive. Many reported their pain completely went away after a few days. Some reported sleeping better and feeling more emotionally and mentally healthy. One experienced a complete cessation in symptoms after years of severe hyperhidrosis (excessive hand sweating) that forced him to wear plastic bags over his hands when writing or eating. Their stories illustrate the power and beauty of acupuncture, truly a medical art.

One of the ACTCM students present, Courtney Clouse, remarked that the experience was a strong reminder that there is far more that people have in common than the perceived differences and judgments that too often divide us. The fair served as a reminder that often, the power to heal is found within ourselves. TCM modalities encourage our own innate healing abilities and bring us back to balance and ultimately to inner peace. Watching these men with criminal, sometimes violent, pasts embrace this, and take their first steps to recognize their inner strength to bring about personal transformation seems like a wonderful metaphor for what TCM is all about.


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