12 Sept 2012
Earning a Master’s degree in bioscience enterprise from Britain’s Cambridge University and an undergraduate degree in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) in his native Hong Kong, Alan Koo has long had his finger on the pulse of both western and Chinese medical practices.
Dr Koo is a licensed Chinese medicine practitioner and member of the Modernized Chinese Medicine International Association. The group, along with the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, organise the annual International Conference and Exhibition of the Modernization of Chinese Medicine and Health Products (ICMCM), which was held last month at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.
In Six Questions, Dr Koo explains why he’s among a growing number of professionals and patients finding ways to bridge the gap between Western and Eastern medicine.
For those unfamiliar with the concept of traditional Chinese medicine, what would you say is the most important tenet of TCM?
I would say, don’t think about Chinese medicine strictly as a “medicine.” Think of it as a diet that you can incorporate into your daily life. Even using ingredients that you can get from the market, which are very natural without side effects, you can put something together just like cooking food. So it’s very easy and it works.
Tell us about “balancing” one’s energy and how that is reflected in TCM.
In Chinese medicine, we emphasise the balance of yin and yang. You may think about yin and yang as negativity or positivity of your body. So by taking in herbs and other important herbal medicines, we are trying to balance this yin and yang so you won’t be as susceptible to diseases.
How do you think traditional Chinese and Western medicine can work together?
I think the idea of integrative medicine – combining Chinese and Western medicine – really works. It’s proven that Chinese medicine works in many conditions, and Chinese medicine has a long history – over thousands of years – treating and preventing diseases. It’s a great idea for us to bring in some elements from modern medical science. For example, nowadays as a Chinese medicine practitioner, I also read reports from X-rays, CT scans and MRIs and laboratory tests. They all help me form a diagnosis and even treatment of diseases. Although I'm in general practice, I have strong interests in functional diseases, including menstrual disorder, allergic rhinitis, irritable bowel syndrome, which are not curable or poorly managed by Western medicine. So at the end of the day, I think integrative medicine is the way to go and it’s the best way to help patients.
How do you think an event such as the ICMCM furthers that approach, and what role does Hong Kong play in promoting TCM?
I think Hong Kong’s ICMCM is a great event for Chinese medicine fans or practitioners because it’s a place where West meets East. I believe Hong Kong should keep the role of holding these kinds of exhibitions in future because it draws the attention of academics, commercial and even practitioners, as well as people from around the world to come here and learn more about herbal medicine and its development.
How does your autumn herbal drink illustrate your principles about TCM?
I see many patients during the autumn season who often come down with illnesses such as sore throats. I thought it would be a great idea if we could have a tea that would help soothe their sore throats and keep them healthy.
What are the ingredients that go in the tea and is it easy to make at home?
I selected elements that are readily available in the market. I chose chrysanthemum, goji berry, green tea, rock sugar as well as American ginseng. All these ingredients help to soothe your sore throat and head off illnesses or conditions common during autumn or winter time. Some of these ingredients are also good for lowering blood cholesterol. So, just put them together. It’s very easy to prepare and it makes a herbal tea that works very well for everyone.