You have a headache. Your mom tells you to take a painkiller, but your dad tells you acupuncture might be a safer option. You trust both of your parents—and saying you’re torn is an understatement.
Story of your life? You are not alone. Many Filipinos wonder, which is the emerging winner—the East or the West?Fortunately, when it comes to health, it doesn’t have to be a contest.
Best of both worlds?
Integrative medicine, as its name implies, is the middle ground combiningEastern and Western practices. The conventional approaches of Western medicine cross paths with the alternatives common in the East.Ideally, integrative medicine is evidence-based. This means that a doctor practicing integrative medicine will recommend treatment based on his clinical expertise and on the best evidence available in current medical literature.
The danger lies in treatments that aren’t proven to work, regardless of whether they are Western or Eastern in origin. “When the regulatory environment is weak, non-evidence-based treatment thrives,” warns Anthony Leachon, M.D., vice-president of the Philippine College of Physicians.
In striving for balance between conventional and complementary medicine, the emphasis on evidence cannot be overemphasized. “The most expensive drug is the drug that doesn’t work,” says Dr. Leachon. “There is nothing wrong with offering treatment options from Eastern medicineas long as the treatment options are proven to be both effective and safe.” Regardless of whether a treatment hails from the East or West, research helps establish its safety and therapeutic profile.
“Chinese herbology is very concerned with side effects and interactions,” describes Philip Niňo Tan-Gatue, M.D., C.Ac., section head of Acupuncture Services at The Medical City. Because herbs and supplements can have side effects, licensed Western and Eastern medicine practitioners should be concerned with exact dosages of drugs and herbs.
Weighing risks versus benefits
About eight out of every 10 people rely on alternative remedies, according to a 2002 paper on traditional medicine strategy published by the World Health Organization (WHO). Just like Western medicine, complementary medicine comes with benefits and disadvantages.
The following are some of the well-known benefits of Eastern and traditional medicine: