New test planned for asthma treatment

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 08 July, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 July, 2010, 12:00am

The Hospital Authority plans to conduct a second round of testing with the University of Hong Kong's School of Chinese Medicine to evaluate its Tian Jiu service, a traditional Chinese method of treating asthma by applying herbs to select acupuncture points. The authority is offering free treatment to more than 700 asthmatics who fit their criteria.

The first study, conducted after the authority started offering Tian Jiu last year, found that the service can reduce the duration of recurrences of asthma attacks as well as dependence on Western asthma treatments like inhalers during the recurrence of attacks.

According to HKU professor of Chinese Medicine, Dr Li Lei who is collaborating with the authority, the second round of tests will not only examine Tian Jiu's efficacy, but publicise the practice to a sceptical Hong Kong public.

'A lot of people are using Tian Jiu in mainland China,' Li said. 'We hope through this test to also open this up to Hong Kong people.'

In Tian Jiu, or natural moxibustion, a practitioner applies a small powdery tablet, made from a mix of traditional Chinese herbs, to a select number of a total of 11 acupuncture points on the patient's body. The treatment, which last for a total of two hours, is traditionally administered in the summer, based on the Chinese medicinal principle of treating winter diseases in summer.

Authority research suggests that asthma and allergic rhinitis, another respiratory disease, have major recurrence rates in autumn and winter. Five per cent of all Hong Kong people suffer from asthma, according to the authority, and the Tian Jiu service offers patients the opportunity to obtain lower-cost treatment without many of the side-effects of Western treatment using steroids.

The authority's 2009 tests revealed that before treatment, patients suffered from an average of 3.75 days of recurrence of asthma attacks, and after treatment only an average of 1.2 days of recurrence. The frequency of using Western asthma treatments also dropped from an average of 3.78 times per day before Tian Jiu treatment to 2.28 times per day afterwards.

'If you are constantly using an inhaler, it can become very expensive,' said Li, explaining that Chinese doctors only administer Tian Jiu services three times a year during the summer. A regular Tian Jiu session at the authority costs between HK$100 and HK$200.

Asthma sufferers who are over 13 are advised to contact the HKU School of Chinese Medicine at 2589 0458 to see if they fit the criteria.