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Ancient remedies find favor
2017-09-25, ZHOU WENTING in Shanghai

The number of young people seeking traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) treatments for illnesses at hospitals in summer has been on the rise in recent years.

Chinese generally believe that TCM treatments are more effective during summer, because this is when yangqi — the warm element in the yin-yang balance — is at its highest and, hence, allows the body to be more responsive to treatment.

Longhua Hospital and Shuguang Hospital, both of which are affiliated to the Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, reported that the number of patients in their 30s and 40s lining up to receive sanfutie plasters this summer grew by at least 30 percent from last year. 

However, elderly citizens and children still dominate the market for these herb-coated plasters that are placed on acupoints.

These plasters are commonly used to treat ailments such as rheumatism, asthma, chronic bronchitis and allergic rhinitis. The remedy was first documented in Zhangshi Yitong, a book published more than 300 years ago.

TCM practitioners said that the fast pace of life in megacities such as Shanghai has also contributed to the growing popularity of sanfutie plasters. 

They pointed out that the plaster can be used as a prevention against problems common among young white-collar workers, such as neck and shoulder pain, insomnia and gastrointestinal discomfort.

“Many white-collar workers in Shanghai have to deal with great pressure at work, get little sleep and often skip meals,” said Liu Jianguo, director of the TCM department at Shanghai Ren’ai Hospital. 

“This in turn affects their health in the long run.”

Cai Mengsha, 30, used to suffer from frequent stomachaches and nausea, a result of years of working overtime and excessive alcohol consumption. She said her health has improved after using sanfutie plasters for three years.

“The treatment administered over the last few summers seems to be effective in alleviating the discomfort. Doctors say the treatment would require three years of constant application in order to be effective,” said Cai, an employee at a foreign enterprise in the motor industry.

Over at Liang Gong Guan, a chain health institution that offers moxibustion therapy, TCM practitioners say 80 percent of their clients are aged between 30 and 45.

Moxibustion therapy involves burning sticks filled with dried wormwood leaves close to the body to warm meridian points and stimulate the circulation of blood and qi.

“The rise in the number of young people seeking treatment is due to the heightened awareness of health issues today and the preference for non-drug treatments,” said Xie Youming, a therapist at Liang Gong Guan. “For an acute health problem, such as neck or waist pain, results usually appear after just one or two treatments,” he said.

“For chronic issues like insomnia and period cramps, patients will need to receive treatment for at least three months or longer before they feel the difference,” Xie added.

The rise in popularity of moxibustion had driven 35-year-old Lu Ge to set up a company selling products related to the treatment. 

He said that many people these days are performing the treatment on themselves as it is cheaper. 

The most important part of the treatment is finding the right acupuncture points to warm using the moxibustion sticks. Lu said there are many books that teach people how to locate these points.

Lu has also since February been running a subscription service on a WeChat account to educate users about moxibustion. The WeChat account currently has more than 6,000 active followers. He explained that the treatment is popular because many perceive it to be a solution to many health problems related to qi, or life energy, that are brought about by modern lifestyle, such as staying up late, eating greasy food and being exposed to air conditioning all day.


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