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It seems the more mankind evolves and moves forward rapidly, the more it is slows down and finds merit in the teachings of the past. This is especially true when it comes to matters of holistic health, owing to the relatively recent backlash over the effect that the chemicals we consume in our food, medications and even the air that we breathe have on our overall wellbeing. While this may remain a topic of heated debate, we cannot ignore the increasing voices calling for a return to a slower and more natural way of life.


Globally, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Traditional Medicine Strategy 2014-2023 sees that traditional and complementary medicine (TCM) is growing, as more and more countries are including aspects of it in their national healthcare plans. WHO sees its goals as twofold: to support member states in harnessing the potential contribution of TCM to health and wellness, and to promote its safe and effective use through regulation.

Traditional Chinese Medicine

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is a 5,000 year old form of natural medicine derived from Taoism. It has four aspects: acupuncture, herbal medicines, Qigong energy healing and Tui na massage (a form of Chinese manipulative therapy, often used in conjunction with acupuncture). Each aspect can stand on its own or in conjunction with the others, depending on the specific case.

Acupuncture is defined as “a form of ancient Chinese medicine in which fine needles are inserted into the skin at certain points in the body,” and has become widely practiced globally. It is now recognized by the WHO and TCM herbs have recently been gaining the approval of the US Food and Drug Administration.

There are 30,000 acupuncturists in Britain alone with TCM syndicates or associations in many European countries. Acupuncture in these countries is covered by insurance, though it is still met with opposition from those who believe that there is not enough research to prove its effectiveness, believing it might be a placebo.

Acupuncture is used mainly for the treatment of chronic cases such as aches or digestive problems. “Acupuncture can be used for acute diseases as well, so long as it is not an emergency or an operation is needed,” explains Edmond Ibrahim, founder of the Chinese Medical Center in Lebanon and a trained doctor of Chinese medicine. The number of sessions needed for effective acupuncture treatment varies but no less than ten sessions are recommended for the patient to benefit, explains Rasmig Azezian, a physiotherapist and representative of the Pranic Healing Middle East and Africa Association (PHMEA) in Lebanon — who also has a diploma to practice acupuncture.

Acupuncture is prevalent in Lebanon and Ibrahim explains that while there are only three doctors — himself included — in the country who have completed eight years of Chinese medical schools and are therefore fully trained and certified, there are many other conventional medicine doctors who have taken acupuncture courses and have a diploma in the practice which they use to compliment their main practice. He estimates that this number is close to 100.

In fact, St. Joseph University (USJ) has been offering a 150-hour university diploma program in acupuncture for its medical and physiotherapy students since 2010. This is in collaboration with the Confucius Institute, a joint institute between Shenyang Normal University and USJ, which helps them bring doctors from China to Lebanon. Although this program was not offered this year due to security issues in the country that prevented Chinese professors from coming to Lebanon, the physiotherapy department says demand for courses was high and they regularly had more than 25 students enrolled.

The Lebanese University Medical School and the Antonine University are also interested in establishing ICM studies in their faculties — a sign that the Ministry of Education in Lebanon acknowledges acupuncture — but Ibrahim says there are regulations and procedures that need to be followed to be affiliated with a quality Chinese university.

While Ibrahim encourages this merging of acupuncture and conventional practices, he warns against doctors using it outside their professional expertise, which could lead to malpractice and a tarnished reputation for acupuncture in the country. “This diploma should be used to aid practitioners in their main major of choice. So, for example, physiotherapists should only use acupuncture to treat physical pains, not fertility or digestive issues, or a gynecologist can use it to treat polycystic ovaries.”

The number of patients who have had acupuncture in Lebanon is growing and Azezian, a physiotherapist, says more than 50 percent of his patients come to him for it. Ibrahim keeps a full schedule of patients who come to him for TCM and says that some have already tried the procedure abroad while others are looking for a more natural approach to their healthcare.

As acupuncture is spreading in Lebanon, it becomes even more important to have government regulation. “We ask that the Lebanese government helps us form an association or syndicate for TCM practitioners in Lebanon. This will encourage more control and patients will know which practitioners to trust,” says Ibrahim, adding that there should be coordination among professional Chinese doctors and conventional medical practitioners in Lebanon as they complement each other.


Alternative Healthcare On The Rise Worldwide

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