Chinese Medicine and Men's Health - by Tim Davis

(Chinese medicine refers to traditional Chinese herbs and acupuncture)

Chinese medicine provides a comprehensive theory and practice, through herbal medicine and acupuncture, to treat many illnesses including specifically male related diseases. Tim has treated men for many different health problems in his practice.

The treatment of specific men’s diseases in Chinese medicine is known as andrology - this refers to specialised knowledge that describes the physiology of men, as well as the prevention, pathology and treatment of men’s diseases. Very few medical fields have specialised in men's health.

Modern Chinese andrology has its roots in ancient literature. It did not truly emerge in China as a recognisable clinical speciality, with its own professional and systematic literature, until about 30 years ago. Since its establishment, however, it has continued to develop. Today there are a number of specialists and researchers of Chinese language sources on andrology.

Andrology as a specialist discipline is usually practised by modern Chinese doctors who practise integrated Chinese-Western medicine, seeking to blend the best of both medicines while striving to maintain the conceptual integrity of each. The conceptual seeds of andrology in Chinese medicine sprouted over 2000 years ago and many of its ancient root theories still inform the daily clinical practice of modern Chinese andrologists. The principles that are used in practice today in both the East and West have been refined and distilled through use, trial and error, extensive research and development handed down and recorded from generation to generation.

It is interesting to note that the publication of texts on Chinese gynaecology and obstetrics (female reproductive health) in the English language has been happening for many years now. Yet, apart from one out of print book on urology and male sexual dysfunction, there has not been until now a single English language book on male disorders and men’s health. This is probably due to the fact that men are more reluctant patients and therefore practitioners have less opportunity to become experts on men’s diseases.

In my practice, very often it is wives or partners that initiate men coming for treatment. Once here, they often commit to a longer-term course of treatment. However it is arguably true that a general reluctance to talk about and address health issues exists among men. The possible reasons for this reluctance provoke an interesting discussion and probably in themselves merit a specific paper.

Recently research has been proven showing the effectiveness of Chinese medicine in the treatment of female infertility and in supporting IVF. This has led to an influx of both woman and men into our practice for infertility treatment.

Having practised Chinese medicine for 20 years I have treated a lot of men for a wide-ranging variety of conditions I have found that Chinese medicine offers practical and effective help.

The increasing availability of texts on Chinese andrology in the English language coupled with an increase in men coming for treatment opens up an exiting new area in men’s health. This is excellent news since the above disorders are extremely common. Benign prostatic hyperplasia, for example, will give rise to distressing symptoms in half of men in their fifties and up to ninety percent in their eighties. Also, male sub-fertility can be a factor in half of all couple infertility. In the USA MDs are advised to ask all men over the age of 25 about their erectile health, since erectile dysfunction is often the first, and for a while the only, sign of cardiovascular and other major diseases.

The theory of Chinese medicine is expansionist and inclusive and recognises connections and networks within the body called meridians or channels. With Acupuncture the main intervention is with very fine needles into points on these channels. Point selection, frequency of treatment and prognosis all depend on the nature of the problem and how long it has been there as well as the overall health and constitution of the patient and how the patient lives. Stress, diet and lifestyle etc. all play a part.

The actual disease, be it prostatitis or low sperm motility, will define to some extent the treatment received (the points used or the herbs prescribed). However the overall health and medical history of the patient is taken into account as it is impossible to separate the disease from the person. Conversely, it is inadvisable to only treat constitutionally and ignore the disease and this is where the new material from China makes an important contribution. Diseases are categorised (as above) and treatment strategies are outlined; this provides a valuable framework (based on clinical experience) for treating men’s diseases.

In order to illustrate how Chinese medicine can help with the above problems, I will explore two areas in more detail; Male Infertility and Andropause (male Menopause).