Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Bee sting treatments buzzing in modern China

Updated: 11:40 a.m. ET Jan 23, 2007

Ancient remedy believed to ease pain, curb diabetes, even cure cancer

BEIJING - With doctors urging amputation to stop the gangrene spreading upwards from his toes, Liu Guorong was skeptical when a friend said bee venom might save his foot.
“I was doubting this place,” the 58-year-old diabetes sufferer said in a raspy voice during a visit to the Xizhihe Traditional Medicine Hospital on the outskirts of Beijing.
“When I got here, I had no idea what I was doing and what the bee sting treatment was all about.”

As Liu found out, it was painful.

Bees were placed on his foot and provoked to sting him in a bid to rejuvenate the blackened, rotting flesh by flooding it with a rush of protein-rich blood.

A folk remedy for treating arthritis, back pain and rheumatism for 3,000 years in China, practitioners say that such pinpointed stings can repair damaged cells, stave off bacteria and ease inflammation.

Doctors at Xizhihe hospital believe they can even cure liver ailments, diabetes and cancers.
They admit, however, that they do not really know how it works.

“Our knowledge has increased over the years,” said Xu Xiaowang, Xizhihe hospital director.
“But there are still large areas that are unknown to us all... There are too many unanswered questions,” Xu said.

Western-trained doctors dismiss the treatment as unscientific and dangerous.
“It’s alternative medicine and has no basis in western medical science... I would doubt its efficacy,” Professor Christopher Lam, a chemical pathologist at the Chinese University in Hong Kong said.

“People allergic to bee stings can develop hypersensitivity reactions like a sudden drop in blood pressure, swelling of the airways, cold sweats... it may be life threatening,” Lam said.
Hazy science notwithstanding, at 20 yuan (about $2.50) a sting, the treatment offers a cheap alternative to mainstream medicine.

“Doctors at other hospitals were telling me that they needed to cut my foot off,” Liu said. “I’d spent loads of money.”

Liu has been to Xizhihe several times to get stung and is now on a course of orally-taken bee venom medication. He now expects to keep his foot.

“The flesh is growing back ... I’m feeling better,” Liu said.

Dying traditionBee venom is just one of an exhaustive catalogue of ancient folk remedies involving bugs, herbs, animal parts and massage that make up traditional Chinese medicine (TCM).

Incorporating elements of mysticism and based on a philosophy developed several thousand years ago, TCM is regarded as an alternative medicine in the West, but in China it remains a central plank of modern health care.

About 3,000 private clinics provided TCM treatments to more than 230 million people in 2005. Health officials say it generated 95 billion yuan that year -- more than a quarter of the medical industry’s total income — and revenues have grown an average 20 percent a year over the past decade.

The government, sensing an export-driven cash cow, ploughed 740 million yuan into research and development last year in a bid to bolster TCM’s scientific credistinbility and standing in Western markets where alternative remedies are increasingly welcomed.

Read the rest of the article here:


No comments: