Use of Traditional Medicine Appears Ubiquitous among Chinese Immigrants

Article excerpt

SAN FRANCISCO -- Nearly all Chinese immigrants living in San Francisco have used at least one form of traditional Chinese medicine in the past 12 months, Amy Wu and Dr. Samuel LeBaron reported in a poster session at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Family Physicians.

Self-medication with herbs was the most frequent form of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) used. It was used by 93% of the 198 patients who were surveyed within the past 12 months. Overall, 68% reported self-medication with topical preparations, 33% reported use of herbal medications prescribed by a TCM doctor, and 7% reported use of topicals prescribed by a TCM doctor.

Also, 14% of the patients reported using acupuncture, 12% massage therapy, 11% tai chi, 7% qigong, and 5% other modalities.

In a parallel study, Ms. Wu (who is a third-year medical student) and family physician Dr. LeBaron of Stanford (Calif.) University found that the physicians serving those patients frequently failed to inquire about their use of traditional Chinese medicine. Of the 17 physicians surveyed, 24% said they asked about TCM rarely, 58% sometimes, and 18% usually.

Ms. Wu and Dr. LeBaron advised all physicians to routinely ask all patients about use of TCM. They also recommended that medical education incorporate a basic introduction to complementary and alternative medicine, emphasizing common treatments and those associated with adverse effects.

Since conducting this study, "I find that I'm asking all my Chinese patients now about their use of TCM, which I had not done before," Dr. LeBaron said in an interview with this newspaper. "And I find that easily more than half of them say yes; they've already been using it for whatever ailment brought them in."

"I think most family physicians are open [to TCM]," Dr. …

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