Introduction to Dr. Zheng Shu Hua, TCM Doctor and Immune Specialist
Dr. Zheng Shu Hua graduated from the Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine in 1986. She worked at the Shanghai Hospital of TCM and as a guest doctor at the Diakoniessen Hospital of Austria. Immunology expert Dr. Shen Pi An, who is one of the most famous and senior Shanghai TCM doctors, served as her mentor. Dr. Zheng has been involved in a municipal research project on systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). She focuses on disease prevention and enlists an array of TCM treatments to restore and maintain patients’ health.
Tell us why you decided to pursue TCM as your field of study and work.
My grandfather was a kind-hearted Buddhist. When I was about 4 years old, I often saw him use the knowledge of TCM and his medicinal wine to help neighbors and friends. People were grateful to him, which left a deep impression on me. Therefore, when completing the college entrance examination, I naturally chose to study at Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine. I wanted to learn the theory of TCM systematically and professionally, master the clinical skills, and help patients get healthy.
You were a guest doctor in Austria. Can you share a little about your work there?
I worked in the TCM Centre at Diakoniessen Hospital. Patients came in for a variety of reasons, such as colds, pain disorder, insomnia, anxiety, irregular menstruation, etc. I chose the best treatment plan, incorporating acupuncture, cupping, and/or Chinese herbal medicine.
Austrian people have a certain degree of understanding of TCM. Acupuncture is the most popular, especially for patients who seek natural therapy. Chinese herbal medicine is also commonly used in clinical practice. High quality Chinese herbal medicines can be purchased in local pharmacies. These herbs are specially grown by an Austrian pharmacist on a farm in China, for use in Austria and Germany. Pharmacies also provide decocting services.
Tell us more about working with TCM outside of China and the differences between TCM and western medicine and how they can work together?
There were some differences in practicing in Austria versus China, with certain controls on the number of herbs and dosages when prescribing and making sure to meet various EU regulations.
The experience provided me the opportunity to treat difficult and complicated cases. I had a patient with MS who had been treated with western medicine for years. When I met her, she was paralyzed in bed and only her fingers could slide on the bed. We used comprehensive treatment including acupuncture, Tuina massage, Chinese herbal medicine and psychological consultation. After nearly eight months, the patient could stand holding onto her husband's neck for about 3 minutes. Her happy smile is still fresh in my memory.
TCM and Western medicine are two completely different independent theoretical systems. TCM pays attention to holism, while western medicine pays attention to local health preservation (i.e. a particular area of the body/treating symptoms according to specialties), which reflects the different thinking modes. In diagnosis, TCM uses observation, listening, questioning and palpation, while western medicine uses interrogation, physical examination, blood examination, EKG, X-ray, ultrasound, MRI and other means.
Although TCM doctors can determine a TCM diagnosis and treatment without the aid of western medical examinations, as modern TCM doctors we also need to be able to make diagnoses using western medicine in clinical practice. Therefore, I can judge whether TCM needs to be combined with western medicine and measure the changes in clinical indicators before and after treatment. The physical and chemical examination of western medicine can provide an objective quantitative basis, not depending only on the sense of the patient.
There is a perception that TCM works slowly and is only effective for chronic or mild diseases. And, therefore, that western medicine is better for acute or severe diseases. But, this is not strictly the case. For example, Chinese medicine played a great role in the fight against Covid-19. There are also serious cases of high fever and abdominal distention that have proved difficult to treat with western medicine. After an enema with Chinese herbal medicine, the condition is greatly relieved. Chinese herbal medicine can effectively relieve symptoms, shorten the course of the disease, and reduce the severity and fatality rate.
Can you explain your work on immune diseases and the treatment of SLE?
During my work in the rheumatology department of Shanghai Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine, under the leadership of Professor Dr. Shen Pi'an, I participated in the municipal scientific research project "clinical research on the treatment of systemic lupus erythematosus with Chinese herbal medicine”.
SLE, prototypical of autoimmune diseases, is a difficult and complicated disease for both western medicine and traditional Chinese medicine. This study was dedicated to exploring the TCM theory related to immune diseases. Through the accumulation of a large number of cases, we found the TCM pathogenesis of SLE and screened out effective Chinese herbal medicine for immune diseases. We used only Chinese herbal medicine to relieve mild symptoms, such as joint pain, alopecia, erythema, low fever, etc.
Chinese medicine can help to minimize the use of steroids, shorten the course of the disease, and reduce the side effects of steroids, immunosuppressants and antibiotics. Most autoimmune diseases cannot be completely cured at this moment, but TCM can delay its recurrence and help prevent and treat organ damage.
Can you share 3 tips all patients should consider in their daily lives for better health?
In view of the main problems stemming from modern life, I have 3 suggestions:
1) Get enough sleep. It is ideal to go to bed by 11 pm to ensure 7-8 hours of sleep time. TCM pays attention to nourishing Yin in autumn and winter. Sleeping at night can nourish Yin and blood, which is also the best time for cell repair and renewal. Sometimes sleep is more important than eating.
2) Adhere to an exercise routine. Exercise 3-5 times a week, each time no more than 1 hour. Doing exercise can improve immunity and eliminate bad emotions. It is the best drug to relieve mental stress.
3) The third area is to focus on psychological adjustment. Today’s rapid pace of life, fierce competition, financial pressure, bad interpersonal relationships and other pressures may lead to psychological collapse, resulting in the emergence of many diseases. Therefore, it is important to adjust thinking and develop a healthy mental state.