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Is Chinese medicine safe?

Research in China and worldwide has shown Chinese medicine to be helpful for many types of illness. Because Chinese medicine differs from Western medical practice in diagnosis and treatment methods, it is difficult to apply Western scientific standards to it.

For example, in Western medical practice, any two people with a similar infection (such as sinusitis) may be treated with a standard course of antibiotics. In Chinese medicine, each person might receive a different treatment for the same illness depending on the person's own qi and yin-yang balance.

The United States accredits schools in Chinese medicine, so a practitioner certified by an accredited school has had extensive training in Chinese medicine.

The National Institutes of Health, through the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) and other institutes, funds ongoing research of many complementary therapies to determine their benefits and risks. Acupuncture has been the most studied of Chinese medicine treatments and has become accepted as a therapy for certain conditions in the United States. Promising results have been found for the use of acupuncture in treating nausea and vomiting related to chemotherapy, postsurgery pain, and pregnancy. Acupuncture also may be useful for other conditions such as addiction, stroke rehabilitation, headache, menstrual cramps, tennis elbow, osteoarthritis, low back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, and asthma. In general, acupuncture is safe when done by a certified acupuncturist. The treatment can be expensive and time-consuming.

Like conventional medicines, Chinese herbal medicines may also cause side effects, trigger allergic reactions, or interact with other prescription and nonprescription medicines or herbs. Before you use any Chinese therapies, be sure to tell your health professional about any prescription, nonprescription, or other natural supplements you are taking.

Always tell your doctor if you are using an alternative therapy or if you are thinking about combining an alternative therapy with your conventional medical treatment. It may not be safe to forgo your conventional medical treatment and rely only on an alternative therapy.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: June 11, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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