Oncologists evaluate Chinese herbal medicine

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An innovative approach to test Chinese herbal medicine using Western research methods has been devised by oncologists in Hong Kong to evaluate the role of herbal medicine in a conventional treatment programme.

Speaking at the European Society for Medical Oncology Congress in Nice, France, today (19 October 2002), Dr Tony Mok from the Chinese University of Hong Kong said, "So many people in China are taking Chinese herbal medicine and we just don't know whether it is effective or safe to use at the same time as conventional medicine. We tend, therefore, to advise against it but we should know for sure."

Chinese herbal medicine looks at the universal interaction between an individual and the environment and aims to maintain a balance in the Yin and Yang (harmony in the body) in order to preserve health and combat illnesses. There are around 250 types of common herbs to choose from and a combination of any of these will be prescribed to restore the balance. "It is a different concept to conventional medicine which is based on 'one drug for one disease'," he said.

For people with cancer, it is a common belief that Chinese herbal medicine could reduce the toxicity of chemotherapy. "A lot of people in Hong Kong and China go for that," said Dr Mok. The herbalist prescribes a mixture according to the condition of the patient, taking into account his observation on the patient's clinical status.

Because the concept of Chinese herbal medicine is different to Western medicine, they are difficult to compare but Dr Mok and his team have found a way to assimilate research into

Contact: Gracemarie Bricalli
European Society for Medical Oncology

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