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Friday, June 17, 2005

Traditional Chinese Medicine

Few years ago the Federal News interviewed Stephanie Marriot , 52-year-old woman suffering from HIV, who supplements her medical program with traditional Chinese medicine including acupuncture, herbs and qi gong, breathing and meditation exercises. Fifteen months later, Marriot answered the phone with the question, "You called to see if I was still alive, didn't you?" Marriot, who had just finished recovering from about with AIDS-related pneumonia, sounded far from perky, however. "I almost died from the pneumonia, but the traditional Chinese medicine helps me live with AIDS."

There is no cure for AIDS, yet Marriot believes that traditional Chinese medicine can help people with HIV and AIDS live long and normal lives. "Traditional Chinese medicine does not focus on hunting down the virus. Instead, the body is made stronger so it can fight the disease on its own," said Mark Denzin, a licensed practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine and medical columnist for the San Francisco Sentinel, a gay newspaper.

Marriot discovered he was HIV positive in 1988 and was prescribed modern, western drugs, which may have helped block the replication of the virus inside his body, but they also produced side effects.

"AZT made me anemic," said Marriot. "It depleted my white and red blood cells and weakened my muscles. Traditional Chinese medicine has helped me relieve the side effects and boost my red blood cell count."

Marriot also suffered from HIV-related neuropathy, a painful numbing of the arms, legs and feet. One day, Marriot told a Western-trained physician friend about his horrible pain. The friend advised him to try traditional Chinese medicine as a supplement to his AZT program.

Marriot says at first he thought his friend recommended he "see a witch-doctor." But in 1991, Marriot contacted Misha Cohen, a practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine. Cohen treated Marriot's swollen left arm with heat acupuncture, in which dozens of acupuncture needles, attached to wires and electrodes, were inserted lightly into the flesh on his arm. Cohen flipped an electric switch and tiny pulses of heat flowed through Marriot's body.

"The [arm] pain has vanished, but it still lingers in my feet," says Marriot.

Many doctors are skeptical, and believe acupuncture does not work in most cases. Dr. Robert Kimmich, a San Francisco-based psychiatrist, says, "I have had patients who have tried it. Traditional Chinese medicine has helped a few: many others had no luck with it."

"These things aren't medicine," agrees Richard Lui, a male nurse.

"Eastern medicine is a little too closed-minded. You should treat the problem, not only the symptom," says Scott Kelly, sports therapist for the San Jose Sharks.

Mark Denzin, from the San Francisco Sentinel, argues the opposite. "Western medicine pumps up the body with chemicals," he says. "If you kill the problem [the virus] - you kill the patient."

"Today, traditional Chinese medicine is used by about 20 percent of the global population, making it the second largest medical system in the world," said Thomas Sinclair, executive director of the Immune Enhancement Project of San Francisco. Sinclair said that The San Francisco Department of Public Health AIDS office funds five San Francisco clinics that treat hundreds of HIV and AIDS patients with traditional Chinese medicine. These clinics are Health Center Nos. 1 & 2, Saint Anthony's clinic, the Mission Neighborhood Health Center and the South of the Market Health Center. All five clinics have long waiting lists for HIV/AIDS treatment.

Other cities, including New York, Boston, Austin and Chicago, sponsor similar programs.

Practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine undergo strict testing and licensing requirements administered by the Board of Quality Medical Assurance and the Department of Consumer Affairs. Future acupuncturists must undergo three years of post undergraduate study at recognized schools like the Quan Yin Healing Arts Center in San Francisco, named for the Eastern goddess of mercy.

There is more to traditional Chinese medicine than acupuncture. Licensed practitioners also prescribe herbal formulas containing such ingredients as licorice, ginseng and lotus seed for "internal strength."

"If your internal strength is low, you won't get better," says Marriot. "It's like bad morale at the office. If people have low morale they may still get the job done, but it's not done well or as quickly."

Cohen is working on a formula to terminate cryptosporidosis, a parasite that lives inside our bodies but is resisted by healthy immune systems. But the parasite can run amok in people with the weakened immune systems caused by HIV and AIDS. Cohen treats Marriot's cryptosporidosis infection with a salt "moxabustion" treatment.

Cohen places acupuncture needles on designated body points, then fills Marriot's navel with salt and puts a piece of burning piece of the herb mugwort on his belly. Cohen explains the salt prevents the skin from burning.

"I don't know if it kills the parasite, but I feel better," says Marriot.

Marriot also suffered from a case of yeast infection, commonly called thrush. Cohen used the acupuncture and acidophilous, a "friendly bacteria" that lives in the human colon and is added to some yogurts for its health benefits and tangy flavor. Typically for acupuncture, needles were not placed on the tongue; they were placed on the ears, legs, belly, hands and forehead.

"The infection is gone," Marriot says of his case of thrush. There is some evidence that traditional Chinese medicine may help. Francoise Barre'-Sinousi, an HIV researcher, studied the effects of Xia-chai-hu-tang, a formula that contains herbs such as ginseng. She has published the results of her experiments, concluding that high doses of Xia-chai-hu-tang inhibit the activity of an essential retrovial enzyme of HIV by 70 to 90 percent in test tubes.

An experiment at M.D. Anderson Hospital appears to demonstrate that certain polysacchrides from Chinese herbs (such as radix-astragulus) can restore immune system functions damaged by chemical drugs and radiation.

"Radix [root]-astragulus is an oriental herb used by many people for immune enhancing properties. It has been popular in Chinese medicine for thousands of years and supposedly boosts the white blood cell count," said Dennis Wagner, who buys herbs for the Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco.

Today, Marriot continues supplementing his treatment program with traditional Chinese medicine. He also sees Stuart Yee, a martial-arts expert and former California bodybuilding champion, three days each week for personal fitness training.

Yee said that traditional Chinese medicine is helping Marriot succeed in his muscle training program, and has taken him from 110 pounds to 145.

"Acupuncture gives you better response in your fingers nerve endings [so you can lift heavy weights] and increases the circulatory system. Chinese herbs enhance the immune and central nervous system. Chinese herbs enhance the immune and central nervous system," said Yee.

"Everything I have done [medicine, acupuncture, herbs and exercise] has helped maintain my health. I can't tell you how they all integrate, but it's important for those with AIDS and HIV," Marriot says.

by Jimmy Henderson
Article Source: Ezine Articles


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