A Note to Our International Friends
The Institute for Traditional Medicine (ITM) is located in the U.S. Most of the articles posted on the ITM website were written for a particular audience, mainly for practitioners of traditional medicine working in the U.S. who were also trained here. The purpose of the articles, for the most part, is to assist these practitioners in offering their patients the best possible services by enhancing the knowledge base of the practitioners. Because of this purpose and the intended audience, the articles will include jargon that is typical of that used in the practice of traditional medicine in the U.S., including naming of herbs, description of traditional medicine categories (for syndromes), and discussion of local issues.
The internet allows free access to all these articles and it is hoped that all visiting readers will find something in the articles they read to be of value to them. Often, the articles are encountered as a result of searches aimed at finding information about treatment for specific diseases. We have had quite a few inquiries, for example, about the articles describing Chinese therapies for ALS, scleroderma, avascular necrosis of the femoral head (AVN-FH), viral hepatitis, lupus, and vitiligo. Perhaps because my name is of Indian origin (though I am not), many of those who inquire are from India and neighboring countries.
In general, the therapies described in the articles are not readily available in the countries from which we get inquiries. Chinese medicine, the primary subject of the articles, is widely used in China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam; portions of it have been brought to major cities in Australia, New Zealand, Europe, the U.S., and Canada, but not to many other areas or for world or even to extensive rural regions in these countries. For those who are seeking treatments, one can easily feel disappointed about not being able to try it after reading about something that seems so promising.
Chinese medicine can be accessed with some difficulty. There may be Chinese immigrant doctors working in your area, or extension clinics of the major hospitals in China.
[Please note, that in the article on treatment of vitiligo, readers are directed to contact other clinics in China that specialize in treating that disease and who offer to mail remedies after you have filled out a medical questionnaire. The website contacts for those clinics are in the reference section of the article.]
Herbal remedies that are used at the ITM clinics can be obtained by mail for those living in foreign countries, but there are many issues to be considered prior to obtaining them. First, Chinese medicine is carried out as an art by its practitioners, who prefer to give remedies according to the results of a personal encounter with full diagnostics of the traditional type, and with ability to see the patient again and again to adjust the therapy as time goes on. Second, at ITM we have no one available to answer the numerous questions that often arise when someone tries herbs on their own: when should I take them, how often, how much, when should I stop, what reactions might I get, etc. We have a small staff that can provide the herbs, but not a medical staff available for answering questions or analyzing medical reports that you might have. Third, some countries offer resistance at their borders to import of these items, so that we can't be sure they will get through if we ship them directly. Usually, we recommend that friends in the U.S. obtain the items and forward them to you. Fourth, the cost of remedies in the U.S. can be rather high due to the high costs of labor, manufacturing facilities, and shipping. ITM is a non-profit organization and has low prices for the items it provides, but these are low only compared to other similar herb formulations available in the U.S.
In the U.S., we often compose a treatment regimen with both traditional herbal formulas and some modern preparations, such as vitamins, minerals, amino acids, purified extracts, etc. The total number of tablets, both traditional herb formulas and other supplements, to be taken each time and each day can become quite large (a common pattern involves 9 or more tablets each time, three times daily!). These tablets substitute for the Chinese preparations of decoctions (herbs boiled in water), which can involve very large amounts of herbs making up a bad tasting brew that must be consumed daily. The tablets, though numerous and more expensive, are much more convenient. In China, the herb therapies provided may be of considerably higher dosage than attained through large numbers of these tablets; these are employed in order to get a more aggressive treatment program.
The tablets that are provided by ITM and the remedies provided by practitioners around the world will usually not exactly match those described in the articles posted on our website. The information presented in those articles represents regimens that have been tried out in China, but each practitioner and supplier may have their own basis for making a prescription. Therefore, the information in the articles is merely a guide to the principles of therapy and not a recommendation to get a specific formulation. The formula ingredients lists reported in the articles may be incomplete because it is common Chinese practice to list only the main ingredients and to provide patients with slight variants of a basic formula. Some of the herb ingredients may not be readily available outside of China.
Despite all these barriers and potential problems, some people have obtained herbal materials from ITM or from other sources and have been very satisfied with the results.
It should be noted that the ITM clinics in Portland, Oregon are not the source of information for the treatments described in the articles, and the presentation of this information is not intended to imply that we have any experience treating these conditions at the clinic. Therefore, there is no reason to seek treatment at the ITM facilities. Indeed, the main advantage of our clinic applies to local residents who can visit frequently; the high frequency of visits over a prolonged period may have a valuable effect that cannot be attained by a single visit or short stay. Therefore, we never encourage individuals to simply stop by for a single visit to start off a treatment program. It is common for a series of several treatments to be required before a clear regimen for future use emerges.
Therefore, the steps that you should consider are these:
- Determine whether or not there is any local access to traditional medicine, either the tradition of your own land or traditional Chinese medicine offered at a convenient site. Unless local practitioners lack the minimal skills needed, they would be the best starting point.
- If there are no local practitioners, and if the disease condition is serious, consider visiting China, such as the Guang An Men Hospital in Guangzhou. It will be necessary to contact the hospital of choice and determine what arrangements need to be made; ITM does not have any contacts itself to offer for those wishing to go to China for treatment.
- If a visit to China is not possible, consider visiting relatives or friends in an area of the world where Chinese medicine is available so that a course of several treatments might be pursued (such treatments may include acupuncture and herbs).
- If these options are not available and if you are willing to experiment with the use of Chinese herb formulas, you may inquire of ITM about getting the herb formulas. You should try to find a U.S. visitor or resident who can obtain the products for you to avoid problems with shipments that might come direct from ITM.