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20 December 2010

Traditional vs western medicine

Posted by: Brigitte Rozario Post(s) by this blogger

In Malaysia, a lot of people rely on western as well as traditional medicine and herbal remedies. Some swear by a particular concoction to get rid of the flu. Others insist traditional medicine is not safe at all.

Here, we have a mother and a paediatrician sharing their personal opinions on the matter.

Luie Chong, mother of one child aged 4+


Chong and her daughter.

I usually don't give my daughter antibiotics. I just let her try to recover on her own if it's a slight cold. I just give her more water, barley to drink and vegetables to eat.

My daughter also likes to eat cooked garlic. She can even eat one whole clove. I was very surprised but I've been told it's good for the immune system. Hopefully that will keep her healthy, too.

Plus, she loves to eat vegetables. She eats a lot and all kinds too - broccoli, cabbage and other types. She also likes to eat fruits.

If she can recover fast, then it's okay. If it looks like her cold is getting worse, then I will consult the doctor. If after five days, she's not getting better, I'll take her to the doctor, that is if there is no fever.

However, if she has a fever then I will give her paracetamol but still no antibiotics. This is because I was advised by the paediatrician not to give my child antibiotics so soon as it will only make her immune system weaker.

I follow the doctor's advice. I also try not to give her too much medicine and hope that she can try to heal herself but of course if she's getting worse I will take her to the doctor.

I don't practise this for myself. I have sinus problems and I know the cause and what I need to do to rectify the problem. I have been taking antibiotics and western medicine from young so there's no point for me to stop now.

For my daughter, it's different. From the time she was a baby up till now we still haven't given her antibiotics in the hope that she will recover on her own.

How long we keep this up depends on how she is once she starts going to school. If she has to take the medicine and antibiotics then we will give her that.

Paediatrician Dr Hon Mun Cheng:


Dr Hon

I'm really not for traditional medicine because I myself don't take it. A lot of parents still use a bit of traditional medicine.

I would say if you want to, then do it with caution but definitely not for children below one year old. Every individual has a different reaction to traditional as well as western medicine. But western medicine has been tested and studied and so many individuals have already tried it - so it's recognised, there's evidence that it works. However, traditional medicine is not recognised, there's no big study done on it. So, you can try giving it to your child but with caution because anything might happen.

We have seen a lot of patients who have tried traditional medicine and there were some adverse effects, some even resulted in seizures.

Some children even had seizures after taking spirulina supplements.

The seizures were so bad that the child went into a coma. After a few days without that supplement, the child recovered. So, you just have to be careful. Don't overdo it.

The marketing people who sell these supplements tend to make claims which are not evidence based. They might say it's perfectly safe and they will be so convincing that parents believe them.

A child's liver and kidneys are not as developed as those of an adult. The blood-brain barrier which protects the brain is not as formed as adults'. So, what happens is a lot of these supplements don't get metabolised by the liver because the liver is already overloaded. As a result, toxins are generated and they pass into the brain and cause seizures.

I think it's better that they don't try traditional medicine before going to the doctor. I would advise them to see the doctor first and determine what is the problem. If the doctor says you can continue with your traditional medicine, then carry on.

Traditional medicine doesn't go through any drug administration authority like the US FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and supplements don't go through stringent testing.

So, it's very dangerous because a lot of things are just classified as supplements and they are not scrutinised.

Some of the chinese traditional medicine specialist put everything in powder form and some of these formulas have steroids.

What happens is if an asthmatic child takes it, it will reduce his asthma. But if he takes it over a period of time, you will be able to see the effects on the child - he is chubby but that fat is not healthy fat, it's steroid-induced chubbiness, and the skin is thin.

It's not good in the long run because it causes Cushing's Syndrome which leads to high-blood pressure and other symptoms.

A lot of people are misleading the consumers. It's not true that traditional medicine is safer than modern medicine. You have to be careful. Check with your doctor if it is safe and especially stay away from any traditional medicine which is in powder form.

Nobody can claim that taking a supplement will prevent you from ever getting cancer or heart problems. We cannot predict that and neither can the traditional medicine specialists. We are not God.

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