While there are not many solutions or options for gynaecological disorders in modern medicine, treating them with Chinese Herbal Medicine can be remarkably successful.
Gynaecology has been practiced as a specialty area way back in the history of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Enormous amount of gynaecological knowledge, clinical practice and herbal formula have been recorded, and they are still being used with great success today.
Working as a pharmacist, I have seen so many women who have to take pain killers or hormone pills for period pain. Most don’t like to take them but have no choice. Little did they know, period pain, PMS or irregular period are considered pathological and being treated and cured in China.
Although you may have been living with them most of your life, they don’t have to continue. With some patience and commitment, these symptoms can be improved with Chinese Herbal Medicine.
Why Chinese Herbal Medicine can handle some gynaecological disorders better ? The is mainly due to the fundamental difference in approach between Western and Chinese Medicine — the way each medicine looks at the body.
Western health science is focused on the microscopic view, looking in extreme detail at the chemical and structural makeup of the body. Hence, in Western Gynaecology, diagnosis is concluded by the result of ultrasound, blood test, biopsy and various medical technology. Although this is an accurate and ‘visible’ proof of the presence of a pathology, it often poses challenges to both physicians and patients — what do we do if all tests come back negative but patients still suffering from various symptoms?
How Chinese Medicine diagnose without technology?
In contrast, Chinese Medicine was developed in a time that has zero technological support. Diagnosis solely relied on the physician’s meticulous inquiry and observations of overall symptoms, and careful monitoring of patterns of illness.
Even if a patient comes in for period pain, other signs and symptoms may not seem directly related to the period pain will be inquired : —
— nature of the pain ( dull or sharp pain, location, frequency, time, can the pain relieved by warmth or pressure)
— bowel motion, urination, appetite, craving for particular food, cold or heat intolerance
— presence or absence of thirst, tinnitis, dizziness, sweating or hot flushes
— general personality/emotional tendencies (easily stressed or angry? overthinking, depression etc),
— a full picture of menstruation, history of pregnancy and labour : – regularity of periods, presences of blood clots in the period, PMS, accompanying symptoms that occur near period times, eg lower back pain, mouth ulcers, diarrhea/constipation, skin outbreak. Numbers of pregnancies and/or miscarriages, labour complications, overall child development etc.
If a patient presented with symptoms such as coldness and pain at the lower back during period or following period. This pain can be relieved by warmth and pressure. Menstrual flow is scanty with small dark clots. Patient’s facial color is pale, and generally feel cold and has frequent urination. Tongue body is pale with a thin white coat, and pulse is slow and deep. In Chinese Medicine, this patient would be diagnosed with ‘internal cold due to Yang Deficiency’.
Holistic view instead of Microscopic view
From the example above, we can see that Chinese Medicines looks at health condition at a wider perspective, incorporating physical, emotional and psychological factors into one view of the whole body. It also takes into account external factors such as lifestyle and environment. Even till these days, Chinese Medicine diagnosis doesn’t involved gynaecological examination although practitioners do take into consideration its results. The physician then combines all this information to understand the individual pattern of illness in the patient.
Chinese Medicine more concerns about the ‘functioning’ and ‘holistic’ view of the whole body, instead of the ‘microscopic’ view of a particular organ or tissue or cell. It listens to what our bodies tell us, how we feel, and what we experiences.
In Western Gynaecology, once a diagnosis made based on test results, usually a treatment that is fast and direct is applied. For instance, pain killer is given to relieve the pain, hormone is prescribed to affect the pathological process, and/or using mechanical surgery to remove any abnormal growth.
Comparatively, Chinese Medicine treatment is a much slower process, and it works on restoring the balance, and ‘wakening’ the organ to function properly again. (further reading – Length of Treatment)
Take the example given above, ‘internal cold due to Yang Deficiency’ is diagnosed. Then herbs that has warming function, and herbs that can boost Yang in the body will be given. Warmth encourages the smooth flow of Qi and Blood, this helps to relieve the period pain and cold lower back pain. With the aids of the herbs, our goal is to support body till it able to generate ‘warmth’ naturally, and period pain no longer experienced. This is quite achieable in Chinese Medicine.
As discussed in ‘How does Chinese Herbal Medicine work‘, Chinese herbs are rarely prescribed singly. Following a diagnosis, a formula will be carefully formulated and tailored to the patient’s needs and condition. The effect of the prescription is determined at the next consultation and the herbs again adjusted accordingly.
Chinese Herbs come in different forms – dried raw herbs that eventually decocted into thick soup, ‘instant’ preparations (granules that dissolve in water and drink as tea), pills, plasters, tinctures, and syrups. Depending on the conditions and individual preference, I will discuss with you and together we decide on a most appropriate choice for you.
For gynaecological conditions that can be treated by Chinese Herbal Medicine, please refer to this article.
Chinese Medicine or Western Medicine — Which?
Depending on the types of disorders you have and your personal preference, yet each medicine can handle some disorders better than the other.
For example, Western Medicine is very effective in treating abnormal growth by surgical removal. On the other hand, Chinese Medicine proves to be extremely helpful when a disorder has not affected the structure or chemical makeup of a particular organ/tissue yet. Or if there is a group of vague symptoms that can’t be categorised or explained in Western Gynaecology.
Chinese Medicine also provides a non-invasive, conservative treatment which can combine well with Western medicine in cases of structural disorders. It is especially useful if the patients experiencing side effects from the medication or drastic therapies, or patient starts to develop tolerant to particular treatment.
Generally speaking, Chinese Medicine can be safely used in combination with Western Medicine as long as you see a properly qualified doctor. Communication between two doctors, and monitoring from both medicine will also ensure the safety and effectiveness.