Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Traditional Mongolian Medicine reaches new borders

The practitioners of traditional Mongolian medicine want more people to know about the heritage of their healers, which dates back to the time of Xiongnu, the probable predecessor of the Huns, and they now want to take it abroad.

In February 2013, a six-member delegation traveled to the United Nations headquarters in New York and attended an international forum organized by the World Health Organization (WHO), where its members delivered a speech on the function and role China's TMM has played on the lives of its urban and rural residents.

The delegation was led by Ulaan, director of the State-owned Inner Mongolia International Mongolian Hospital that opened in Hohhot in April 2012. It is currently listed among the country's top hospitals, and almost 400,000 patients were treated in 2013, according to Ulaan. The total number of treated patients has now surpassed 700,000.

At the UN meeting, executive director of WHO Jacob Kumaresan applauded the delegation for bringing the first traditional Mongolian medicine from China to the UN podium.

Ulaan attributes this chance to good fortune.

"We were invited because WHO specialists visiting Inner Mongolian were dumbfounded when they saw how our physician put together a leg fracture within 10 minutes," she says. "And I used acupuncture to cure a patient's numb shoulder right under their eyes. It only cost 16 yuan ($2.60).

"They all thought I made a mistake when I used acupuncture on the patient’s feet. They could not understand why I did not use it on the shoulder. That is something hard to explain within a short time," she smiles.

Ulaan estimates the cost is generally 40 to 50 percent lower as TMM relies more on the doctor's experience than sophisticated medical instruments and expensive drugs.

"There is too much overuse of antibiotics and hormonal medication. We offer alternative, safer solutions," Ulaan says, proudly recalling the thunderous applause at the UN.

This year marks the 65th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China and Mongolia established diplomatic relationship, and Ulaan revealed the hospital will organize a “mobile hospital,” including a 10-odd person squad, in the summer to offer free service around the grassland in Mongolia for over 20 days. The event will also lift the curtain following a series of communication in medical service between Inner Mongolia and the two countries.

“We once went to Ulan Bator to provide free service,” she recalled. “A patient took a bus for two days to the country’s capital just to meet our doctor. That deeply touched us and made us decide to expand the service to a wider area in Mongolia, and benefit more people who may not have the chance to come to Hohhot.”

Ulaan proudly claimed that in several of the region’s border port city, like Erenhot and Manzhouli, has received “uncountable” patients from Mongolia and Russia, and her hospital has received more than 8,000 patients from Mongolia within less than 2 years.

International cooperation has been far beyond the northern neighbors.

The hospital has begun academic cooperation with laboratories from countries including the United States, the United Kingdom and Japan. It is also getting an increasing number of patients from overseas.

A joint project with the US using psychotherapy and naturopathy for the treatment of psoriasis has achieved significant results, she says.

Psychotherapy included "interactive talking sessions" combined with hypnosis, which seemed to help patients recover from their skin conditions.

"As we gradually establish international fame for Mongolian medicine, many high-level TMM doctors who switched to Western medicine have come back to join us, even some who were working abroad. In the past two years, more than 40 medical doctors have been attracted to the hospital.

"There was no provincial-level TMM hospital in Inner Mongolia before, and the ancient therapies were only preserved on the vast grasslands, some of which cannot be explained by modern science," she says.

"Once these practices lose inheritors, they will probably be forgotten. Now we have a chance to gather the knowledge. TMM is not only a medicine, and it also should be treated as an intangible cultural heritage item, and will make its unique contribution towards construction of our country’s cultural power. ”

"It's difficult to make Westerners fully understand TMM within a short time, and not everyone has the chance to come and see these practices with their own eyes.

"Those whom we have met have kept open minds toward TMM. Their inclusiveness creates a larger space for more cooperation in the future."

In 2013, the health department of Inner Mongolia reached an agreement with the US National Institute of Health to promote the study of Mongolian medicine.

Ulaan recalled what her WHO counterparts told her in New York, "If TMM was used at regular hospitals in the US, those hospitals may find that their medical expenses will plummet."

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