Chinese Patent Medicine

Why I Feel they Don't Work

By Paul J.O'Brien
B.A., N.C.E.H.S., Dip. Acu., Cert Clin. Med. M.T.C.M.C.I., M.C.Th.A.

Chinese Patent Medicines are a staple of the "Mall or Shopping Centre Acupuncture Clinic". Now I am not sure what the situation is with these clinics outside of Ireland and England, perhaps in the States and Australia an acupuncturist in a shopping mall is a legitimate well trained professional. I can assure you that isn't the case here in Ireland. Certainly not in Dublin. 

While I won't get into the details of it here but, briefly, there is no regulation or protection of the term Acupuncture or Acupuncturist in Ireland. That means ANYONE, can set up shop and claim to be fully qualified, when they simply aren't. Hopefully this will change, however until it does sadly many people will have a poor experience of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture and worse still be "prescribed" boxes and boxes of Chinese Patent Medicines, or water-pills. 

And I have a problem with this and in fact with the concept of Chinese Patent Medicines entirely. In this article I'm going to tell you why and show you what to watch out for. 

In the West when people refer to Chinese Patent Medicines they are referring to ready-made, pre-made Chinese herbal formulas known as cheng zhong yao. Patent medicine is a completely inaccurate term firstly and secondly these formula themselves are often problematic as I'll explain in a moment. First to definitions...

Patent medicines in western use refer to the proliferation of all round cures produced in the 19th century for then incurable conditions like Cancer, Diabetes etc. We often known these remedies by a different term - "snake oil". And personally I find it offensive that such an association is made between a repeatedly proven and valid system of medicine such as TCM and such a denigrating term.

Unfortunately snake oil salesmen abound in our modern culture and in many aspects of "alternative medicine". (I don't include TCM in the alternative bracket. When something's proven it's just medicine and Acupuncture and Chinese Herbs are well established at this stage. They're just medicine). And snake oil salesmen and women abound in TCM. These Shopping Centre / Mall facilities are a great example. 

Every day I hear from new patients about their experience and how they are sold hundreds of Euro's worth of Chinese Patent Medicines. Often times these are nothing more than placebo's or worse contain unregulated pharmaceutical compounds that can cause severe medical problems. 

And there's the rub - CHINESE HERBS WORK. If properly prescribed and taken they can do wonders. If not, they can do great damage. But they DO, unequivocally have a big impact on our health. And this is why they NEED to be prescribed by a qualified professional. One that has done a complete diagnosis, taken a medical history, is aware of your current medication etc. 

And that brings me neatly on to my next point...It's all about you.

The beauty and power of Chinese Medicine is in it's individuality. Each patients has a UNIQUE blend of patterns and imbalances between the organs that have brought them to the clinic. And this is the KEY to TCM's effectiveness - understanding that these imbalances are unique in EVERY patient - unlike Western Medicine there is no one size fits all approach. Each diagnosis is different, because each person is too. We have a saying in TCM -

One Disease, Many Patterns.
One Pattern, Many Diseases.

This simple pharase speaks volumes of TCM's approach to the treatment of disease and allows the TCM physician to make a truly holistic diagnosis, one that encompasses all the symptoms present and see's the connection between that which Western Medicine holds is unconnected. 

Once a diagnosis is in place - treatment is outline and administered. And treatment - particularly the administration of Chinese Herbs is adjusted specifically for the person being treated. 6 people could walk into my clinic with the same condition and each one would leave with a different herbal prescription. One that is tailored to suit them and their patterns. 

And this requires the modification of a formula for the patient. 

Now in many cases a Chinese Patent Formula is used as a base for the patient however the formula must be adapted and changed to suit the patient. This may involve adding or subtracting a herb. It may involve changing how a herb or several herbs are preprepared. For example cooking a herb in vinegar moves it's action towards the Liver, dry frying or stir frying it in honey moves the herbs action to the Stomach and Spleen. 

Prescribing a Chinese Patent Formula without modification to suit the patient will produce lack lustre results if any. 

So here's my advice, if you're interested in getting treatment via Chinese Herbs you need to make sure that:

  1. The prescribing physician is fully qualified. 
  2. That the prescription is tailored to the underlying condition. 

The delight of Chinese Medicines is versatility. One single formula can be prepared to treat a condition such as infertility and resolve the myriad by products of that diagnosis such as PMS, cramping, muscular pain, frustration and depression etc. When the root cause of the disharmony is addressed all of the symptoms associated will improve and disappear but that can only be achieved when the prescription is tailored specifically to the patient. 

You can learn more about herbs, “How does Traditional Chinese Herbal Medicine Work?”

If you are in illness of any kind please contact my clinic today and let us help relieve you of your discomfort.

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Call my clinic at 087 901 9627 so we can discuss your needs and set up the first appointment.


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