Traditional medical tours to China gain global popularity

China Plus Published: 2017-10-18 21:26:08
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A patient visits the TCM treatment department of the Eye Hospital affiliated with the China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences in Beijing on October 17, 2017. [Photo: China Plus]

A patient visits the TCM treatment department of the Eye Hospital affiliated with the China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences in Beijing on October 17, 2017. [Photo: China Plus]


A group of Norwegian patients with eye problems are receiving Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) treatment at an eye hospital in Beijing as part of a medical tour package.

Trips that combine tourism with medical treatment are said to be gaining popularity with foreigners.

Jan Cato, a 76-year-old the Norwegian patient diagnosed with AMD, talks with Ole Frydenlund, director of the TCM center in Tonsberg, and head of the St. Olav Eye Clinic during a medical treatment tour in Beijing on October 17, 2017. [Photo: China Plus]

Jan Cato, a 76-year-old the Norwegian patient diagnosed with AMD, talks with Ole Frydenlund, director of the TCM center in Tonsberg, and head of the St. Olav Eye Clinic during a medical treatment tour in Beijing on October 17, 2017. [Photo: China Plus]

Jan Cato is one of the patients from Norway who has come to Beijing as part of a medical treatment tour.

It's the third time he's been part of a medical tour to the Eye Hospital of the China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences.

He has been suffering from a chronicle eye problem called AMD for the past four years.

"My vision is –I'm a bit better. As you can see in Norway, when we visited to doctors, we were told slowly we would be blind. They cannot give us any clues on being better. That is a very depressing message to have," said Cato, adding that the TCM treatment he recieves in Beijing relieves his pain and also brings him hope.

Interior of a consulting room at the TCM treatment center at the Eye Hospital affiliated with the China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences in Beijing on October 17, 2017. [Photo: China Plus]

The interior of a consulting room at the TCM treatment center at the Eye Hospital affiliated with the China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences in Beijing on October 17, 2017. [Photo: China Plus]

"So it was a light in the tunnel. I took a lot of acupuncture. This is my third trip to China, and I'm very pleased because I'm one of the only few people who have the opportunity. Because there are 15,000 people who have the disease and 90% don't know they have the disease. I'm happy to be here," Cato suggested. 

Interior of a consulting room at the TCM treatment center at the Eye Hospital affiliated with the China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences in Beijing on October 17, 2017. [Photo: China Plus]

Interior of a consulting room at the TCM treatment center at the Eye Hospital affiliated with the China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences in Beijing on October 17, 2017. [Photo: China Plus]

The 76-year-old the Norwegian artist and teacher says he hopes the treatment will allow him to continue working and teaching for years to come.

Ole Frydenlund is the director of a TCM center in Tonsberg, Norway, as well as the head of the St. Olav Eye Clinic.

His clinic signed a deal with the Chinese Medical Sciences' Eye Hospital to establish the TCM center in Norway.

Ole Frydenlund, director of the TCM center in Tonsberg, and head of the St. Olav Eye Clinic and his partner Erik Vinje take a tour at the TCM treatment center at the Eye Hospital affiliated with the China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences in Beijing on October 17, 2017. [Photo: China Plus]

Ole Frydenlund, director of the TCM center in Tonsberg, and head of the St. Olav Eye Clinic and his partner Erik Vinje take a tour at the TCM treatment center at the Eye Hospital affiliated with the China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences in Beijing on October 17, 2017. [Photo: China Plus]

Stats compiled by the Acupuncture Research Association suggest that one in five people in Norway takes part in acupuncture treatments.

It's through this popularity that Ole Frydenlund decided to set up his TCM center.

He began his TCM training in the 1990s and said he's found the methods can be quite effective in helping people with chronic eye problems. 

"I started my study in acupuncture in 1996. Treating eye diseases is like seventeen years ago. (My partner) Eric and I have been traveling all around the world trying to learn different techniques how to treat patients the best way possible. Many of the eye diseases are difficult to treat and many doctors don't have solutions for it. I think the (traditional) method can help and give them hope," noted Frydenlund.

A doctor stands at the TCM treatment center at the Eye Hospital affiliated with the China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences in Beijing on October 17, 2017. [Photo: China Plus]

A doctor stands at the TCM treatment center at the Eye Hospital affiliated with the China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences in Beijing on October 17, 2017. [Photo: China Plus]

Mr. Frydenlund made the comments while attending the first International Symposium on TCM hosted by Eye Hospital at the China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences in Beijing, during which senior experts from a variety of medical institutions in the U.S., Norway and Denmark shared their views on the latest developments and application of TCM in their countries.

The event is part of an ongoing effort by the China Aacadmy of Chinese Medical Sciences to promote TCM medical tourism to China and to promote TCM outside of China.  

Since 2015, dozens of patients have travelled to the Eye Hospital in Beijing for short-term treatments, which generally last around two weeks.

During their down time, the patients also get the chance to explore Beijing itself.

Gao Yun, head of the Eye Hospital of China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences talks  with Ole Frydenlund,director of a TCM center in Tonsberg, Norway, as well as the head of the St. Olav Eye Clinic at the Eye Hospital affiliated with the China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences in Beijing on October 17, 2017. [Photo: China Plus]

Gao Yun, head of the Eye Hospital of China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences talks  with Ole Frydenlund,director of a TCM center in Tonsberg, Norway, as well as the head of the St. Olav Eye Clinic at the Eye Hospital affiliated with the China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences in Beijing on October 17, 2017. [Photo: China Plus]

Gao Yun, head of the Eye Hospital of China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences, said personalized therapies are created for each patient, depending on their specific condition.

"Medical treatment tourism can benefit patients a lot. On the one hand, travel gives people time to re-adjust their body and mind. On the other hand, health maintenance is a critical part of the treatment. Treatment travel can help patients to relax, which will help enhance the effectivness of the treatments. The patients will enjoy long-term benefits from the treatment tours," noted Gao.

Many of Beijing's hospitals are now trying to capitalize on foreign interest in TCM by launching package tours to China that combine tourism with treatment.

It's estimated that Beijing receives around 170 million foreign and Chinese visitors every year, among whom an estimated 30 million are in search of health care.

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