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October 2021

Can Fam Physician. 1998 May; 44(): 1009-15.

Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture. How do patients who consult family physicians use these therapies?

Wong LK, Jue P, Lam A, Yeung W, Cham-Wah Y, Birtwhistle R.

Queen's University, Kingston, Ont.

OBJECTIVE: To determine how a population of Chinese patients consulting family physicians in Vancouver use traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), specifically Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture. DESIGN: Bilingual survey (English and Chinese). SETTING: Four family practices with predominantly Chinese patients in metropolitan Vancouver. PARTICIPANTS: The 932 patients or family members who visited one of the practices. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Demographic characteristics; frequency and reason for visiting a family physician, Chinese herbalist, or acupuncturist; choice of practitioner if affected by one of 16 common conditions. RESULTS: The study population was mostly Chinese and immigrant to Canada. Chinese herbal medicine was currently used by 28% (262/930) of respondents (more than one visit in the last year), and another 18% (172/930) were past users. Acupuncture was currently used by 7% (64/927) and had been used in the past by another 8% (71/927). Use of Chinese herbal medicine varied significantly (P < .01) according to age, sex, immigrant status, and ethnicity. Acupuncture use varied significantly only by age. The main reasons for consulting Chinese herbalists were infection (41%, 157/382), respiratory problems (11%, 42/382), and rheumatologic problems (10%, 38/382), whereas acupuncturists were consulted almost exclusively for rheumatologic problems (80%, 45/56). CONCLUSIONS: Using TCM in conjunction with visiting family physicians was very popular among this predominantly Chinese study population. Patients with acute conditions, such as influenza, consulted both their family physicians and Chinese herbalists in quick succession. On the other hand, those suffering from more chronic conditions, such as rheumatologic diseases, were more likely to start using TCM after repeated visits to their family physicians.

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