Top Hospital Tries Chinese Herb Treatment

The Cleveland Clinic, one of the nation’s top performing hospitals, has begun experimenting with Chinese herbs to help manage some patients’ chronic pain, according to a recent article in the¬†Wall Street Journal.

The hospital opened a small herbal clinic in January, which sees patients once a week. With one herbalist on hand, it is part of the hospital’s Center for Integrative Medicine. In addition to herbal medicine, the center offers other non-traditional pain management services, including acupuncture, holistic psychotherapy and massage therapy, wrote WSJ reporter Sumathi Reddy.

“Western medicine does acute care phenomenally…. But we’re still struggling a bit with our chronic-care patients, and this fills in that gap and can be used concurrently,” ¬†Melissa Young, an integrative medicine physician at Cleveland Clinic, explained in the article.

The Cleveland hospital is one of just a few in the country using these methods, more closely associated with Asian care. Others include Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at Northwestern University and NorthShore University HealthSystem, affiliated with the University of Chicago.

While these treatments are a signature of care abroad, their medical effectiveness remains somewhat controversial here, because there’s very little scientific research on using herbs as medicine in the U.S.

However, traditional Chinese herbology relies on thousands of herbs that can be taken in pill, powder or drinkable form.

Hospital officials say the jury is still out on herbs’ role in Western medicine, but that it could prove to be a weapon in the arsenal in the fight to ease chronic pain.

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