From Alternative to Complementary

by Mazimran Yusoff

I had to read up on Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to share with my students and it reminded me of what I have learned in one of the Science Communication modules.
I found it remarkable how TCM could withstand the test of time although a large part of the practice is not science based. In fact, many scientists and science practitioners would categorise some of TCM as pseudo science. Many of the other traditional treatment from earlier civilisations such as the Egyptians and Babylonians have died off but not TCM even with the staunch criticisms by science and health practitioners.
When I first practised as a pharmacist and even during my undergraduate days, I remember how many of the health practitioners back then felt that TCM together with other forms of ‘alternative’ treatment were barriers to safe and efficacious treatment by Western (Evidence-based) medicine. Patients on these ‘alternative’ medicine were difficult to treat due to reported interactions and adverse drug reactions.
As time passed, ‘alternative’ medicine evolved into ‘complementary’ medicine which indicates the greater acceptance of these forms of treatment in Western medicine. There are also more studies carried out on the safety and efficacy of these ‘complementary’ treatment. There are some who insist that the two are not synonymous but this is my point of view based on my observation.
While previously we used to tell patients to stop any form of ‘alternative’ treatment when starting a new treatment, with more knowledge of the efficacy and safety of ‘complementary’ medicine, western medical practitioners are putting in effort to coexist with ‘complementary’ medicines. The advice would be to be consistent in the use of different types of treatments in order to allow easier adjustment of treatment.
Many medical and pharmacy schools also include Complementary Medicine such as TCM as part of their curriculum. Many hospitals today also have clinics such as TCM, chiropractic, reflexology, etc.

Source: Rehealthify (2014, July 21) Complementary and Alternative Medicine – What You Need To Know [Video file]. Retrieved from

Personally, I have not really tried TCM but as I grow older and the ailments slowly creep into my life, I am toying with the idea of trying out certain complementary treatment. One that I would really consider is cupping which supposedly heals by improving blood flow to the injured or diseased area. Many has testified how they felt better after the treatment although it appears painful.

Source: ToHealth (2011, April 6) How To Do Cupping Therapy [Video file]. Retrieved from


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