Controlling Blood Pressure the TCM Way
Although hypertension has been around for a long time, the causes and management of hypertension has never been mentioned in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) literature. It has, however, been a research area for TCM practitioners for the past 100 years.
"As we do not have equipment to measure blood pressure in the past, hypertension was not something that the practitioners of TCM recorded," says acupuncturist and Chinese physician Dr Yong Kian Fui, who is also a TCM senior lecturer at the INTI International University Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences.
"That is why it is only in the last few decades we have managed to come up with some basic theories about the condition, as well as the management of the disease," he says.
As TCM practitioners evaluate diseases or conditions based on their patients' symptoms, TCM practitioners in the past have categorised hypertension symptoms into vertigo or dizziness, or even stroke when it manifests.
"These are basically categorised under the 'wind' category," says Dr Yong.
"What we are doing now is working backwards. We are using our knowledge of modern medicine - which make up 40% of our current TCM syllabus - to identify the symptoms of hypertension so that we can relate those symptoms to those described in the TCM literature we have," he explains.
Today, TCM practitioners are able to measure blood pressure using sphygmomanometers, and hence identify hypertension. The theories of how hypertension develop and manifest in the body are parallel to conventional medicine. However, they still return to their symptom-based diagnostic method (what they call syndrome differentiation) to determine the appropriate advice and treatment to give to their patients.
"Based on the symptoms and disease progression of hypertension we learn in conventional medicine, we believe that in TCM, it involves symptoms we categorise under the 'wind', 'phlegm' and 'blood stasis' group. These groups of symptoms can be linked to the liver, spleen, and the heart respectively. So, we have to prescribe Chinese medicines to take care of those organs," says Dr Yong.
That said, TCM practitioners usually do not treat patients with TCM alone, and more research is going to be done to find out how conventional medicine and TCM can be integrated to provide patients with better care.
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