Recognition of Traditional Medicine and Practitioners Around the Globe: Recent Advances

Two interrelated media themes relative to traditional world medicines around the globe are, on the one hand, individuals or organizations of traditional healers calling for more recognition and regulation; and on the other, announcements from one country or another of some new formal status. A recent example of the former was in Cameroon when, on African Alternative Medicine Day, practitioners promoted regulation. More rarely, though not infrequently, one sees notice of governmental action.

The World Health Organization (WHO) called for such increased regulation and inclusion of these practices and practitioners in the Traditional Medicine Strategy: 2014-2023 as part of its mission to achieve primary carefor all. On Africa Traditional Medicine Day, Matshidiso Moeti, MD, WHO’s regional director for Africa, pushed the campaign. He issued a letter urging governments to strengthen regulatory bodies for traditional health practitioners: “The benefits of traditional medicine are evident to all, [but] there is no doubt proper regulation is essential to the provision of quality, safe and effective healthcare products and services.”

United Arab EmiratesA highlight of formal regulation in the past 3 months wasthe decision by the UAE (pictured) Ministry of Health to “adopt 90 new complementary medicines as part of a strategy to include herbal and traditional medicines into mainstream healthcare systems. The Zambian cabinet has reportedly approved a bill to regulate traditional medicines that the Traditional Healers and Practitioners Association of Zambia (THPAZ) is backing. At the state level, in Oregon, USA, the Medicaid plan to provide services to those less well-off is now covering integrative pain treatment from licensed acupuncturists, massage therapists,chiropractors, and naturopathic doctors. In the not-quite-there department, regulation of traditional medicine doctorsis said to be near in Botswana according to this article.

On the regulatory, rather than the legislative side, notice went out from Kuala Lampur’s Health Deputy Director-General (Medical) Datuk Dr Jeyaindran Sinnadurai that the Traditional and Complementary Medicine Act 2013 “is expected to be enforced “at the latest” by mid-2016. There are reportedly some 13,000 registered practitioners of traditional and complementary medicine in the country, 8000 of whom are Chinese traditional medicine practitioners.

HerbsOther government action, while neither legislative nor formally regulatory, saw an Indian state health department advisory offering recommendations for use of traditional medicines with cases of Dengue. In Rwanda, the official in charge of prevention of liver diseases at Rwanda Biomedical Centre called for more research on the ability of traditional medicine to cure Hepatitis B and C.” In Upper Pradesh, India, a governmental scientific council approved an Ayurvedic remedy for diabetes (including the herbs pictured) following clinical drug trials that found that “around 67% of patients showed normal blood sugar levels within 3 to 4 days of drug usage.” Also on the therapy side, in Heviz, Hungary, a lake’s healing waters were “accredited.” And notably, the state health department in Kottayam, India, is “planning to open Yoga training centres at Secretariat and Assembly complex for legislators and other staff.” Thes ewill be run by graduates in naturopathy and Yogic science. Another step toward inclusion in the direct involvement of traditional healers in dealing with Ebola in this story about hard-hit Sierra Leone.

On the other side of the ledger, The National Health Service in England is considering banning inclusion of homeopathy prescriptions under the national plan.

Comment: Taken together, these affirmative actions suggest an organic knitting together of forces for global health that have been estranged, mistrusting, and separated. As we in the global north approach the winter solstice, this rapprochement feels like a sign of the coming of the light.

Global Wellness Summit Declares Top 10 Global Wellness Trends

Deepak ChopraGlobal leaders in the wellness and spa fields met in mid-November in Mexico City at the Global Wellness Summit 2015. A key take-away was a set of a Top 10 Future Shifts in Wellness. The subhead of the organization’s media release on the list is, “Experts at Mexico City conference forecast that wellness will become more mandatory in more nations soon—that breakthroughs in epigenetics, stem cells and integrative medicine are near—and that ‘programmatic’ workplace wellness will disappear.”

Among the high-tech shifts is “From Cracking the Genome to Cracking the Epigenome.” Keynoter and author Deepak Chopra (pictured) explained that “the future is decoding the epigenome, that DNA which is ceaselessly modified by lifestyle choices and environment.” On the lower-tech side, Adam Perlman, MD, MPH, the director of the integrative medicine program at Duke University, spoke to a shift “From Medicine vs Wellness to Truly Integrative Healthcare.” Perlman spoke to the coming together of wellness and the complementary/integrative medicine movements: “We’re at an inflection point. If we saw a first wave of integrative medicine in the mid/late 90s, this time it feels different.” Others of the down-to-earth list included “From Diet Trend Hysteria to Sane Eating” and others related to “Wellness Homes/Real-Estate” and “Wellness Traveling.” A longer version of the report is here.

EllisComment: I first wrote on the leadership work the Global Wellness Summit in one of the early posts at the Global Integrator Blog: The Global Wellness Institute: Update with CEO Susie Ellis after Launch of Evidence Site. The industry group is an unusual combination of industry organization and mission-driven advocacy. I suspect some of this stems from the character of Ellis (pictured) herself.

This top 10 is an interesting compilation and definitely worth a read. Of course, in this challenged world in which we live, to think we are headed toward any shifts to wellness can seem a very ostrich-like act. Then again, with its activism, the group acts out the way that hope becomes a verb in this wonderful statement from the former Czech writer and political leader Vaclav Havel: “Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.” Inside these generally hopeful trends, there are a lot of wheels that will need a lot of shoulders at them to bring these shifts to pass.

Quick Links to Global News in Traditional, Alternative, and Integrative Health and Medicine for November 2015

This Global Integrator Blog Quick Links for November 2015 notes 68 accounts of global developments in traditional medicine and alternative and integrative health. On the recognition front, the UAE has adopted 90 traditional medicine as part of its own public system. And in Upper Pradesh, the government has approved an Ayurvedic medicine for diabetes following positive research outcome. The sad harm to wildlife of sourcing animal parts for traditional medicine popped up regularly this month. Finally, the Tu Youyou Nobel continues to stimulate significant reflection, and in the case of India, some concern that its own medicines were not respected. For quick links to developments in integrative medicine in the United States, click here.

  • BumbogoA story on the smuggling of python for their gall bladders for medicinal and other purposes is here.
  • A medical fellowship in Shenyang Shashan Church “consists of physicians, Chinese physicians, pharmacists of Chinese traditional medicine, dentists, pharmacists,examiners, nurses, recovery massagists and medical college students” who together provide a free clinic.
  • The feature in Gardens for Health International offers a nuanced look at pros and cons of traditional practices. The writer notes that conventional practitioners in “Bumbogo (Rwanda) do not work “hand-in-hand” with traditional doctors, though they do convene biannual community meetings to facilitate dialogue among healers.
  • An exploration of why consumers continuing using homeopathy amidst campaigns against it is here at AlterNet.
  • The 21st International Conference on ‘Frontiers in Yoga Research and its Applications’ will bring together traditional and modern medical systems and will be organised by the Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana from January 3-7, 2016. India’s leaders in health and medicine and Prime Minister Modi are expected to attend.
  • The Chinese “PeaceArk” docked in San Diego and offers, among other things, acupuncture and cupping, to visitors.
  • This story details the life of a midwife in Zimbabwe.
  • In Rwanda, Amiable Ndituyumuremyi, MD, the official in charge of prevention of liver diseases at Rwanda Biomedical Centre called for more research on the ability of traditional medicine to cure Hepatitis B and C.”
  • A happy story from England of a child benefitting from an Ayurvedic practice to cure a crippling arthritis has led to the creation of aspecialty clinic. The focus was on diet.
  • The article in Arab News focuses on India’s failure to embrace of science in promoting its own integrative medicine with traditional practices, with reference to Tu Youyou’s Nobel.
  • US News & World Reports has declared, in a title to a story, that “The Point about Acupuncture: It Works.”
  • A “team of Indian scientists, using genomeanalysis, have published a paper in Nature journal showing this phenotypic classification by traditional Indian medicine  indeed  has  a genetic basis and ancient medicine in a way is personalised medicine.”
  • The Telegraph of Calcutta notes that India plans a global gathering on the value of Yoga in January 2016.
  • A Gulf News writer, Nidhal Guessoum, a professor of physics and astronomy at the American University of Sharjah, meditates on whether the Tu Youyou Nobel “vindicates” traditional medicines.
  • Sierra LeoneThis thoughtful piece looks at how traditional healers helped in dealing with Ebola in hard-hit Sierra Leone (pictured).
  • The International Congress of Naturopathic Medicine is open for registration for its July 1-3 meeting in Paris.
  • The International Congress on Integrative Medicine and Health has registration open for its May 17-20, 2015 meeting in Las Vegas. The event is sponsored by a consortium of 60+ North American academic medical centers.
  • An article at The Conversation seeks to sort fact from fiction on alternatives for cancer.
  • This published research looked at African traditional medicine practices for mental health.
  • In India, Manipal University and Aatreya Education Systems Private Limited signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to initiate a Centre for Integrative Medicine and Research (CIMR).
  • A good story from the South China Morning Post on alternative treatments that served adiver who was suffering from paralysis after the bends.
  • An action by the courts in Tanzania in favor of a tourism company offering safaris is presented as harming traditional practices of the Maasai: “As the company takes control of the land, community members say important water sources and plants which the Maasai have used for decades to extract traditional medicine will be inaccessible or lost.”
  • This article seeks to distinguish the good from the bad in herbal practice in Tanzania.
  • A feature in Canada’s National Post looks at issues surrounding choices of alternative medicine, herbalism and naturopathic doctors for cancer. A blogger follows-up with a negative view of alternatives.
  • A writer from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology authors a story in All Africa that begins with disproven natural cancer treatments then turns to some herbs with more science behind them.
  • GhanaAn excellent overview here of the development of the regulatory structure for traditional medicine in Ghana (see picture) with a useful chronology.
  • An open letter to the head of the Zambia medical association urges the association to explore the value of traditional medicines there.
  • The Arab News piece takes off from the Tu Youyou Nobel under a title “Promoting integrative medicine.”
  • This article at the Genetic Literacy project explores where research is finding TCM altering genetic expression: “Modern genetic techniques are showing some effects of traditional Chinese medicine on the genome.” The writer, Andrew Porterfield, concludes: “For Asian traditional therapies and therapists as well as for western medicine, it’s about a meeting of minds as much as matter.”
  • The National Health Service in England is considering banning inclusion of homeopathy prescriptions under the national plan.
  • A researched natural medicine/TCM formula appears to have some value in slowing HIV’s advance, has been developed and administered in Zambia and Kenya.
  • US-India collaboration on traditional medicines may be increasing according to this view of trade relations between the two nations.
  • This article speaks to the re-awakening of “the old China-India rivalry” following the Tu Youyou Nobel, with a chart breaking out various claims: “R.S. Thakur, 84, a scientist who worked on artemisin in in the government’s labs in the 1980s, believes this work deserves at least as much acknowledgement from the Nobel committee as Tu’s.” The article includes a formal comment from the Nobel committee.
  • Another feature, this at Fox News, taints traditional medicine for its links to the decline of the vulture population.
  • The UAE Ministry of Health has “adopted 90 new complementary medicines as part of its strategy to include herbal andtraditional medicines into mainstream health-care systems.”
  • Traditional practices for pregnancy are the focus in the piece on BaTonga practices in WestAfrica.
  • In India’s Economic Times the owner of TriMed argues that IM is “the answer to chronic disease.”
  • This article on traditional plants in Mexico notes that “more than 3,000 plants are in frequent use in this Latin American country to treat a broad range of health problems.” It notes that “an updated version of a catalogue [of plants notto be used], expanded to 200 prohibited plant varieties, was prepared by the current government of conservative President Enrique Peña Nieto in September 2014, but has not yet gone into effect.”
  • In Upper Pradesh, India, a scientific councilhas approved an Ayurvedic remedy for diabetes. In “clinical drug trials around 67% of patients showed normal blood sugar levels within 3 to 4 days of drug usage.”
  • This article is on a “doctor was is currently Colombia’s pioneering advocate of using maggots to help clean and heal wounds.
  • The BBC piece on traditional Anglo-Saxon medicine follows Tu Youyou’s award and shares a half-dozen herbs with positive value today in medicine.
  • An article in Peking Today argues that Tu Youyou’s Nobel will not be a win for TCM: “China’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released the 2014 Drug Approval Report earlier this year, stating that among the 149 drugs approved by FDA last year, only 11 were derived from Chinese medicine, a 5 percent drop compared to 2014.”
  • Some 40 sangomas are standing with a fellow sangoma charged with sexual abuse, Prophet Paseka Motsoeneng of Incredible Happenings (pictured).
  • Prophet Paseka MotsoenengA writer in the New Yorker takes on efforts to protect traditional medicines with a catchy lead about nutmeg. A focus is on the key role of the Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (TKDL).
  • This article focuses on Heviz, Hungary and the accrediting of that lake’s healingwaters.
  • Here is a good review of the new role of traditional practices in Switzerland follow ingrecent recognition of alternatives.
  •  A Swiss writer in New Zealand uses Tu Youyou’s award to write on the uses of plant medicine.
  • A TCM expert from Hong Kong is visiting Borneowith a product he’s promoting.
  • The Assam Tribune in Guwahati reports that Governor PB Acharya “has advocated use of ayurvedic and alternative medicines for treatment of various ailments. He was speaking at a World Diabetes Day programme.” He stated: “The approach of the allopathic doctors towards ayurvedic or homoeopathic medicine system has to be changed. Unfortunately, we have a tendency to regard our own culture, food habits and way of life as inferior.”
  •  In the USA, Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine Day was promoted by that profession on October 24,2015.
  • Some details here of animals used in traditional medicine recently seized by the Wildlife Alliance.
  • In “Chennai: Pointing out that ‘integrative medicine’ blends the science of modern medicine with the art of healing, health experts have said that it is an emerging specialty. They were speaking at a symposium organised here by TRIMED – Dr ESK’s Centre of Integrative Medical Specialties.”
  • In Kuala Lampur, the Traditional and Complementary Medicine Act 2013 “is expected to be enforced the latest by middle of next year, said Health Deputy Director-General (Medical) Datuk Dr Jeyaindran Sinnadurai.” There are reportedly some 13,000 registered practitioners of traditional and complementary medicine in the country, with 8,000 of them Chinese traditional medicine practitioners.
  • Clouded leopardThe clouded leopard (pictured) has increasingly been poached for the medicinal trade.
  • A practitioner of Korean TCM is a seeking support from his government in movingthis practice into Croatia.
  • This articlein Business Day reviews researchefforts in approach to TCM and notes “estimates that the biggest Chinesehospitals used 116-billion yuan (R261bn) worth of herbal granule medicines lastyear, up from 87-billion yuan (R196bn) in 2012.”
  •  Hundreds of traditional healers from acrossUganda met to explore their roles in stemmingthe AIDS/HIV epidemic. The article notes that “Elizabeth Birungi an official from PROMETRA (Promotion of Traditional Medicine) a non-state organization that advocates for the promotion and preservation of traditional medicine, said that they as herbalists are ready to take part inthe prevention of AIDS infection among the young girls.”
  • The University of Malta and the Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine (SHUTCM) have inaugurated the Centre for Traditional Chinese Medicine at the University of Malta’s Msida campus.
  • A meta-analysis of dozens of studies of traditional Chinese medicine and other nonpharmacological interventions meant to improve patients’ quality of life affirms that these approaches, on the whole, help alleviate depression, fatigue, pain, anxiety, insomnia and gastrointestinal problems in Chinese cancer patients. Another view is here.
  • Confusion abounds in this article that opens with a photo of an herb, St. John’s Wort, then speaks to the effort to “blacklist” homeopathy in England – concluding with a quote from a supplement company representative. Which way is up? Here is abetter look at the government’splanned consultation.
  • efforts to register sangomas Article speaks of a survey of people from Durban, SA on efforts to register sangomas (pictured). Six views of young people are the focus.
  • A study has found that a Chinese formula (14herbs) “YangZhengXiaoJi targets the formations of new blood vessels that supports tumorgrowth, blocks the pathway, and stops the spread of cancer cell, therefore stopping cancer metastasis.”
  • This article in the Straits Times speaks to government responsibilities to educate on pros and cons of medical alternatives.
  • This blog piece speaks to poisoning of a Chinese woman via a Chinese herb.
  • In Sydney, Australia one Ken Harvey an “EBM expect” speaks to the problem she sees in evidence for complementary medicine. It’s based on the “Review of Medicines and Medical Devices Regulationreport recommends that the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) step up its random testing of complementary medicines.”
  • Another warning in India, this from Nagaland, that “practitioners of AYUSH are not allowed to prescribe Allopathic Medicine and requested them to confine their practice to their system of medicine.”
  • The article focused on “the dark side of alternative health” reviews some negative stories around the globe including a patient of Kerryn Phelps, MD, “a supporter of evidence-based complementary therapies and a former president of both the Australian Medical Association and the Australasian Integrative Medicine Association.”
  • Anti-aging is part of Jakarta’s AnHo Premier Integrative Medicine.