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Traditional Chinese medicine complements Western methods

Donelda Rose poses with some acupuncture needles in her hand at the offices of Dr. Louise Demorest, who also practices traditional Chinese medicine which is largely rooted in the use of herbs to cure ills. - Martin van den Hemel photo
Donelda Rose poses with some acupuncture needles in her hand at the offices of Dr. Louise Demorest, who also practices traditional Chinese medicine which is largely rooted in the use of herbs to cure ills.
— image credit: Martin van den Hemel photo

Dr. Louise Demorest has had a bird’s-eye view of how the Western world’s opinion of traditional Chinese medicine has slowly shifted over the years.

As a pioneer in the area of traditional medicine and acupuncture, Demorest saw the benefits of Eastern medicine long before it was legally acceptable in B.C.

Before the 1980s, practitioners were persecuted by the government and some people were charged with practising medicine without a licence, Demorest said from her office near Ironwood Plaza.

But things certainly have changed for the better, she said.

Today, there’s Medical Services Plan coverage for users—introduced three years ago—meaning greater access for low-income families, she said.

But more importantly, the coverage is a professional acknowledgement of the benefits of the Eastern philosophy of dealing with what ails you.

Demorest said traditional Chinese medicine can work well in conjunction with prescription medication, but it’s important that there’s full disclosure of what’s being used. This is so medical doctors and traditional practitioners can avoid negative interactions.

“That is an issue and a problem, and that is one thing that the alternative medicine community is seriously involved in and wants to have dialogue with the Western medicine establishment,” Demorest said.

Traditional Chinese medicine is now regulated in five provinces, with Newfoundland and Labrador the latest addition. But B.C. is the only province where herbology is regulated.

In coming up with a solution for a patient’s ailments, some eight to 12 herbs can be used in a formula, she said.

During the current election, medical health care costs is a big issue, and Demorest said traditional Chinese medicine offers a relatively cheap and effective treatment option.

For example, with patients awaiting hip and knee replacements, Demorest can provide treatments that will keep them functional and on their feet until their operation.

And while Western medicine doesn’t have a strong grip on preventative health advice, Demorest said Chinese medicine is “excellent for heading things off at the pass.”

Donelda Rose, a Richmond teacher, said acupuncture has done wonders for her.

Needles inserted at various depths in key locations along the body can be used to treat asthma, digestive problems, acid reflux and irritable bowels, as well as arthritis. It can also assist in dealing with anxiety, stress and insomnia.

There are currently 2,000 practitioners in B.C., and Demorest has seen the number of annual treatments she’s performed increase each year.

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