Stumbling through various health blogs, magazines and health symposiums, we are often bombarded with a wide variety of ‘health experts’ advertising their products or services. This, of course, includes Western Doctors, pharmaceutical companies, vitamin supplement companies and, as well, Naturopaths, Homeopaths, Chiropractors, Doctors of Chinese Medicine, and so on. It can often be quite hard for the average person to know what will actually work for them, with the decision made even worse when claims that a product or service achieves a ‘100% cure rate’, or a ‘95% success rate’ are made. Wow! What to do? Could these claims be true? 100% cure for all disease? Well, I will tell you what I would do, I would run away as fast as I could!
See, the thing is, the human body is incredibly complex. Every person has their own unique constitution that will manifest any troubles, i.e. disease, in its own unique way. What may work for one person, may make another person worse, and unfortunately some people may not actually get better at all. Claims that 100%, or even 95% or 90%, of people are cured from their problem, any problem, are just plain ridiculous. Rather than develop faith in a given treatment, such claims actually make me more skeptical.
One of the great Fathers of Chinese medicine is considered to be Zhang Zhong Jing, who wrote a couple texts 1800 years ago entitled the Shang Han Lun (Treatise on Cold Damage) and the Jin Gui Yao Lue (Synopsis of Prescriptions of the Golden Chamber) – both of which are considered masterpieces for clinical practice and have influenced many generations of physicians throughout the ages, including this present day. In the introduction to the Shang Han Lun, Zhang Zhong Jing writes, ‘Although this book cannot completely cure all diseases, it provides the means to understand the origin of illnesses encountered. If [the reader] follows the materials herein collected, [he should be able to] think out over half [of all medical problems].’ In that passage we can see one of the reasons that this text has been such a grand source of inspiration for so many hundreds of years – Zhang Zhong Jing’s humility. He knew that one cannot treat everything, and everyone, successfully. He knew that such claims are simply impossible and so did not even pretend to promise such things.
To my knowledge, Chinese medicine represents the second largest medical system in the world. It is practiced in major hospitals throughout Asia, and even Europe, right along side Western medicine. I personally have colleagues who are trained Western medical specialists who are now using Chinese herbal medicine as their primary treatment tool. They do so because they have seen tremendous results. They, like me, have seen many an individual (suffering with debilitating diseases such as psoriasis, atopic eczema, or even rheumatoid arthritis) become symptom free while taking properly prescribed herbal medicines, and even after stopping them. Doctors all around the world know that herbal medicine is a very powerful tool to treat disease and relieve suffering, but most know that the results are certainly not 100%, and are thus humble in their achievements.
In my own clinical practice of medicine I have noticed that certain disorders tend to respond to treatment better than others, which means that the overall success rate is most definitely related to the disease being treated, just as much as it is to the individual’s own unique constitution. For example, we can look at two different blistering disorders seen on the hands. Hand eczema, or pompholox eczema, tends to respond very well to herbal treatment (particularly when the patient also learns to take care of their hands). My Mentor, Mazin Al-Khafaji, has said in the past that he has found roughly 80% of patients with pompholox eczema overcome this stubborn problem, which is similar to what I see in my own clinical practice. But contrast this to something like pustular psoriasis ( some doctors think this is not really a form of psoriasis, but something else), which can look quite similar to the untrained eye, I myself have found a very low rate of success – perhaps only 20% or so (this could be related to many things, including: difficulty of the disease, availability of certain key herbal ingredients, my own skill level and experience). I would be extremely leery of anyone claiming they get a 100% cure rate with pustular psoriasis, as it is certainly a very stubborn and recalcitrant problem.
So basically we have different ‘success rates’ for different diseases. Personally, I am always cautious to use the word ‘cure’, as this represents a ‘forever’ disappearance of one’s problem. Rather, I like to say that we are trying to knock the condition into deep remission, with the hopes that it never comes up again. Gillian, my wife, was treated very successfully with Chinese herbal medicine for her atopic eczema, seeing her 22 year long itchy plague clear 100%. This effect lasted for a good 10 years after stopping the herbal medicines. But then when my son was born in 2011, a little bit of eczema came back up on her arms, most probably due to the stress of birthing a premature baby, as well as having to use the strong alcohol soaps at the hospital. Her skin quickly cleared after the stress settled down, stopping the use of the strong soaps, and with the help of a one of my ointments, and has now been clear again for the past year. So while I originally thought that Gillian was cured of her eczema problem, 10 years without any skin issue, I now understand that the disease was knocked into remission. Gillian still caries with her the tendency to have eczema, and probably always will, but herbal medicines (and some lifestyle adjustments) have helped her live a very normal life for many years.
So again, when is it a good idea to run away from that booth at the health fair? When you see two words being used together – 100% and cure. No matter how convincing the treatment may appear, I do not believe there is a 100% cure rate for any and all diseases. This is absolute foolish talk!
Wishing the best in your health decisions,
Dr. Trevor Erikson