'Regulate Chong channels': Read the TGA's new list of alternative medicine indications

Others include activating blood and replenishing essence
complementary medicines

The TGA has drawn up a curious list of official clinical indications for complementary and alternative medicines (CAM), including “warm your Yang” and “regulate Chong channels”.

The medicines watchdog came up with the list in what looks like an attempt to prevent manufacturers selling treatments for bogus, non-existent health problems.

But while the list does include indications such as “itchy eyes” and “mild bronchial cough”, the TGA appears happy to also lend certain health issues — largely unknown to Western medical science — a measure of verisimilitude.

Among the usual clinical indications listed are the following:

'Moisten dryness in the triple burner'

Australian Doctor does not know what the triple burner is but it plays a significant role in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and apparently has something to do with the pancreas and metabolism in the body.

One website — the result of a quick Google search — says that the triple burner was not “physically orientated” while another said it was the “fire-energy yang organ”. 

'Open gate of vitality'

The Gate of Vitality, also called a “Ming Men”, is a phantom organ located between the kidneys.

'Regulate Chong channels'

The Chong Channel is another TCM concept. You can find it on the face, head, trunk and lower extremities, we’re told, rather than on Foxtel.

'Warm Yang'

Eating too much ice cream can cool your yang, Australian Doctor discovered. This can result in back pain, poor circulation and a pale tongue.

'Tonify kidney essence'

This purports to ward off hearing loss, weak bones and grey hair.

'Stimulate stagnant liver qi'

If you are stressed and constantly craving caffeine, you may have stagnant qi. (Differential diagnosis: You work as a GP.) According to one website, this can worsen into "Liver Fire Rising" or even "Liver Invading the Spleen" which is not a 1950s B Movie.

'Clear damp heat from spleen'

Damp heat slows down the spleen’s functions, according to some websites. Furthermore, a slow spleen produces more damp heat. 

'Activate blood'

Activated blood is apparently more likely than inactivated blood to keep menstrual cycles regular and relatively painless.

'Replenish essence'

This essence that sometimes requires replenishment is apparently found in the liver and kidneys.

The list means that if a CAM product claims it can stimulate stagnant qi, it can be listed on the therapeutic goods register, as long as it poses a low risk to patients.

The TGA's clinical indications list for complementary medicines is one of several reforms contained in a Federal parliamentary bill currently under scrutiny from a Senate committee.

The RACGP has taken a more robust approach to ensuring patients are not misled by quack claims, suggesting in its submission that any complementary medicine without scientific evidence should carry a “lack of evidence disclaimer”.

“Very little in the proposed Bill would prevent the manufacturer continuing to claim that X may help arthritis, insomnia or anxiety, based on tradition.

The RACGP preferred ‘default’ position would be to restrict therapeutic claims to those supported by scientific evidence. However, we are aware that such a regulatory outcome is unlikely.”

The college proposed this disclaimer:

“This product’s traditional claims are based on alternative health practices that are not accepted by most modern medical experts. There is no good scientific evidence that this product works.”

The Senate committee will report in February.


Read the draft list