Like many students, when junior Jonas Wang gets sick, he takes medicine. However, Wang, often times takes medicine that is different from that used by his peers.
Wang said, “In many cases, I’ve taken herbal medicine over Advil or Tylenol. I often use herbal medicine when I have a minor fever or a cold.”
Wang is not alone. According to the World Health Organization, herbal treatments are the most popular form of traditional medicine in the international marketplace. Furthermore, according to the National Center of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), herbal medicine is a part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which uses herbs, acupuncture and other methods to treat a wide range of conditions. The TCM view of how the human body works and how to treat illness is different from that of the Western medicine concept, which the NCAM defines as medicine practiced by medical doctor (M.D.) or doctors of osteopathic (D.O.) degrees and by their allied health professionals.
According to Weichen Yang, Carmel herbal medicine specialist, TCM applies the phenomena and laws of nature to the study of the physiological activities and pathological changes of the human body and its interrelationships. Herbal medicine, she said, is composed of a combination of different herbs and is created for each individual, unlike Western medicine, in which everybody who has the same condition will take the same medicine. She said, as a result, herbal medicine doesn’t usually have any side effects.
Yang said, “The herbal medicine I prescribe will be different for different people with the same conditions. It’s according to your yin and yang. Herbal medicine also does not have side effects because herbal medicine is natural since it comes from natural plants, whereas Western medicine has side effects because they add more chemicals.”
Wang said the reduced side effects are a reason why he often uses herbal medicine.
“I usually take herbal medicine over Advil or Tylenol because I take it right before I go to school, and I usually don’t get any side effects. Western medicines have side effects most of the times, like drowsiness,” he said.
According to Yang, although herbal medicines contain few side effects, they often take longer to work than Western medicine options.
Yang said, “Although herbal medicine can cover serious conditions like cancer, there are fewer resources in America, so in an emergency, you may use Western medicine because herbal medicine isn’t as fast.”
Wang said because Western medicine has worked faster than herbal medicine in his experience, he still uses Western medicine more frequently.
Wang said, “Most of the times, I take Western medicine because it tends to be stronger and gets you better a lot faster. I usually use Western medicine at night because the side effects don’t matter as much when I’m sleeping.”
Sophomore Anthony Ko, who also uses herbal medicine, agreed and said, “I use herbal medicine sometimes when I have a sore throat or when I have a cold. If I have a serious fever, I usually use Western medicine. I feel like a lot of other kids don’t use (herbal medicine), and the kids that do usually are Asian.”
Despite Ko’s thinking, Yang said she receives several non-Asian patients and using herbal medicine is common in America, but some may not believe so because herbal medicine is often used in combination with acupuncture, which is more popular among adults than kids. However, Yang said she agrees that many Asians use herbal medicine because herbal medicine originated from Asia.
Yang said, “Herbal medicine may not be as popular as in Asia because there aren’t many Chinese medicine schools in America. In Asia, countries usually have both a Chinese medicine and Western medicine department.”
Wang said he agrees that herbal medicine tends to be most commonly used among Asians. Wang said, “Many kids may not have heard of herbal medicine since there isn’t that much advertising for it here. I started using herbal medicine because my Asian parents gave it to me, and herbal medicine is an Asian tradition.”
Yang said, “Despite what type of medicine you use, everybody needs to watch their health, and it’s very important you get treatment.”