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The Use of Alternative Medicine Among Hong Kong People

Generally, health has changed over the years and has become a global social goal. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), health refers to a status of total physical, psychological, and social well-being rather than the traditional definition, which considers health as just the absence of ailments and disabilities. Psychological processes affect individuals’ interaction with their physical and social environment, their perceptions of life, and their relationship with other people. Healthcare workers are advised to understand a client’s health beliefs to better provide an intervention strategy that aligns with the client’s beliefs. A person’s health is influenced by environmental factors and other people, including family, friends, and coworkers. Therefore, in an attempt to achieve perceived good health, individuals have integrated complementary and alternative medicine and Western medicine to prevent and cure diseases. The role of traditional Chinese medicine and its combination with Western medicine will be discussed extensively in this paper.

Yin-Yang Theory

The yin-yang theory is a fundamental concept of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Similar to how Western medicine is based on rationalism, Traditional Chinese Medicine is founded on the yin-yang concept. The Yin-Yang theory offers a framework for examining and comprehending the human body, as well as its internal workings and connection to the outer world (Lu, & Busemeyer, 2014). The yin-yang theory is useful in medicine because it explains how discrepancies in the body can result in malfunction. Additionally, it offers instructions and a system for treating diseases and such imbalances (Lao et al.,2012). The theory proposes that all things on earth are guided by opposing but independent factors. Yin stands for the passive, whereas yang stands for the active. It can also be described as night and day, cold and hot, or sunny and shady sides of the mountain.

Notably, the interaction of yin and yang is controlled by certain traits such as opposition, interdependence, mutual consumption, and inter-transformation. Opposition means that the yin-yang forces operate oppositely and can therefore function to generate balance or imbalance. Additionally, yin and yang influences are interconnected and can impact one another. Mutual consumption typically means that even though yin and yang are naturally balanced, they are consistently changing, and this change is usually mutual (Lao et al., 2012). Lastly, the concept of inter-transformation demonstrates the ability of yin to change into yang and vice versa, for instance, in the day and night cycles, whereby the day changes into night and night changes into the day.

The concept of yin and yang can enable one to comprehend the interrelatedness of various body parts. A balance is usually achieved when yin and yang forces are in conflict with one another. All objects in the cosmos can be thought of as having a yin and yang balance. For instance, the autonomic nervous system and the somatic nervous system can represent yin and yang correspondingly. It helps in comprehending the causes of illnesses, disease progression, and treatment (Lu, & Busemeyer, 2014). The broad application of the yin-yang concept in the body not only assists in analyzing function and disease but also lays a system for a holistic attitude to the treatment of illnesses (Zhang & Wang, 2014). There are various forms of traditional Chinese medicine being practised today in conjunction with Western medicine. They include acupuncture, Chinese herbs, cupping and scraping, Tai Chi, and the Chinese diet.


Acupuncture is an act of stimulating certain points in the body by inserting needles into the skin. The human body has up to 2,000 acupuncture sites, which are linked by twelve major meridians in TCM. Acupuncture is thought to maintain the harmony between Yin and Yang, enabling the regular flow of energy all across the body and regaining both physical and mental health. Recent studies reveal that acupuncture triggers the release of the body’s biological pain relievers and impacts parts of the brain that usually process pain (Zhang, & Wang, 2014). Additionally, a body of literature indicates that acupuncture is effective in relieving certain types of pain, particularly chronic pain resulting from low-back pain, osteoarthritis pain and other joint pains. Further, acupuncture is effective in reducing the occurrence of anxiety and migraine headaches.

Chinese herbs

Chinese herbs have been used widely in the management of stroke, heart conditions, mental illnesses, and respiratory diseases. Many distinct leaves, roots, stems, blossoms, and seeds of plants, including cinnamon bark, ginger, ginseng, licorice, and rhubarb, can be used by TCM specialists (Lu, & Busemeyer, 2014). The herb that is used for the widest range of therapies is ginseng. The herbs are blended into a recipe and given out as a traditional tea, pill, liquid extract, granule, or powder if a practitioner suggests Chinese herbology as a remedy. Chinese herbal medicine’s efficacy is still not well understood. The use of green past tea in fever management has been documented.

Cupping and scarping

Cupping is a form of Chinese massage that involves putting multiple glasses or plastic cups on the body. Traditional practitioners usually warm the cups with a cotton ball or any other flammable material before completely purging the cup of oxygen. After that, the doctor takes the material out and presses the cup against the patient’s skin. The pressure inside the glass decreases as the air cools, thus leaving a vacuum that facilitates adherence of the glass to the skin. Cupping is used in relieving pain due to osteoarthritis. Similarly, scraping is a method that utilizes a bone or animal skin or horn to scrape the skin to eliminate blockage and toxins trapped on the skin surface.

Tai Chi

The Tai Chi technique integrates particular positions, tender movements, mental focus, and breathing. Studies indicate that the technique increases balance and stability in elderly individuals with Parkinsonism. Additionally, it decreases osteoarthritis pain, promotes quality of life, and enhances mood in individuals with heart failure.

Chinese diet

The Chinese diet is based on the cultural understanding of the influences of food on humans. Generally, a balanced Chinese diet encompasses all five tastes, namely, spicy, sour, bitter, sour, sweet, and salty. Diet is considered the principal defence against illnesses.

Combination of TCM with Western Medicine

TCM has been combined with Western medicine to manage respiratory diseases such as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which was first reported in 2002. SARS is a communicable disease that spreads first and progresses quickly. Combined Chinese and Western medicine helped markedly in the management of SARS. Chinese herbs such as ginseng and Shenghuangqi were combined with Western interventions, including antibiotics and corticosteroids, in the treatment of the infection. Patients presenting with SARS and receiving both TCM and Western medicine demonstrated improvement in the symptoms of SARS (Liu et al., 2012). Additionally, the combination was shown to increase the quality of life, enhance the absorption of pulmonary infiltrates, and reduce the reliance on corticosteroids.

Moreover, integrated TCM and Western medicine has been used widely in the management of sleep disorders such as insomnia. Chinese herbal products such as Gui pi tang and Wen dan tang can be combined with Western therapies such as benzodiazepines to increase a person’s quality of sleep and alleviate insomnia (Yeung et al., 2014). TCM practices such as acupuncture and Tai Chi can be combined with Western interventions to effectively treat insomnia.

Agreeably, both TCM and Western medicine are effective in the management of skin disorders such as eczema. Generally, eczema clinically manifests with redness of the skin, scaling, skin swelling, and chronic itching that eventually causes skin thickening. The disease is chronic and frequently impacts a person’s quality of life (Wang et al., 2022). Western medicines such as prednisolone and methotrexate that are used in the treatment of eczema present several side effects, not excluding abnormal glucose tolerance, high risk of infections, and eye abnormalities. Remarkably, research findings reveal the effectiveness of integrated Traditional Chinese Medicine and Western medicine in the treatment of eczema. In fact, the integrated TCM and Western medicine interventions treat and cure eczema more effectively that Western medicine alone, as shown in studies (Wang et al., 2022). Xiao Feng is an important Chinese traditional formula that can be combined with conventional therapy to treat eczema.

In conclusion, apart from the absence of diseases, health also encompasses the physical, mental, and social well-being of an individual. Maintenance of good health is fundamental for every human life, and that is why various therapeutic interventions are available. Yin-yang is essential in TCM, and it helps in understanding imbalances in the body. Integrated Western and TCM are promising in the management of several diseases and improvement in the quality of life of patients.


Lao, L., Xu, L., & Xu, S. (2012). Traditional Chinese medicine. In Integrative pediatric oncology (pp. 125-135). Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg. DOI: 10.1007/978-3-642-04201-0_9

Liu, X., Zhang, M., He, L., & Li, Y. (2012). Chinese herbs combined with Western medicine for the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, (10). DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD004882.pub3

Lu, M., & Busemeyer, J. R. (2014). Do traditional Chinese theories of Yi Jing (‘Yin-Yang’and Chinese medicine go beyond western concepts of mind and matter? Mind and Matter, 12(1), 37-59.

Wang, X., Meng, J., Wu, Q., Feng, J., & Jing, H. (2022). Clinical Efficacy of Integrated Traditional Chinese and Western Medicine in the Treatment of Eczema: A Meta-Analysis. Computational and Mathematical Methods in Medicine2022.

Yeung, W. F., Chung, K. F., Yung, K. P., Ho, F. Y. Y., Ho, L. M., Yu, Y. M., & Kwok, C. W. (2014). The use of conventional and complementary therapies for insomnia among Hong Kong Chinese: a telephone survey. Complementary therapies in medicine22(5), 894-902. DOI: 10.1016/j.ctim.2014.08.001

Zhang, H. J., & Wang, Z. X. (2014). Yin-yang and Zheng: Exported from Chinese medicine. Chinese journal of integrative medicine20(4), 250-255.


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