벌침 치료법, 중국에서 화제

  • Published : Aug 13, 2013 - 17:55
  • Updated : Aug 13, 2013 - 17:55

병을 치료하기 위한 목적으로 벌침을 찾는 중국 환자들이 급증하고 있다.

약 2만 7천명 이상의 사람들이 고통을 감수하고 벌침을 이용한 치료를 받았다.

하지만 문제는 벌의 독성이 질병 치료 효과가 있다는 의학적 근거가 존재하지 않는다는 점이다.

서양에서는 이러한 치료법을 일명 “돌팔이”라고 일컫는다.

“벌을 잡고서 몸의 한 부분에 갖다 댄다. 그 다음엔 벌의 머리를 잡고 침이 나올때까지 누른다” 왕씨가 설명했다.

왕씨는 이탈리아에서 수입해온 벌을 사용한다고 말했다. 이 벌은 침을 쏘는 순간 죽는다.

“우리는 관절염부터 암까지 질병을 가지고 있는 많은 환자들을 치료했다. 그리고 그 결과는 전부 좋았다” 그가 말했다.

왕씨는 벌의 침이 질병의 예방에도 도움이 된다고 했다.

폐와 뇌 암을 진단 받아 살 날이 얼마 남지 않았다는 판정을 받은 왕씨의 환자 중 한 명은 벌침으로 치료를 받은 후 자신의 수명이 연장되었기 때문에 벌침 치료법을 신뢰한다고 했다.

“작년부터 지금까지 내 자신이 건강해졌다는 느낌을 받는다” 환자는 AFP와의 인터뷰에서 말했다.

반면 미국 암학회는 “벌의 독이나 꿀벌을 이용한 제품이 암을 예방하거나 치료하는데 효과가 있다는 임상연구는 존재하지 않는다” 고 했다.

이어 “이런 부류의 치료법에 의존해 정통적인 치료를 받지 않는 것은 훗날 건강에 심각한 결과를 가져올 수 있다”고 덧붙였다.

한편, 환경운동가들은 작물이 자라나는데 중요한 역할을 하는 벌의 수가 감소하고 있는 현황에 대해 우려의 목소리를 냈다.

이들은 벌 개체수의 감소가 농산물에 악영향을 끼친다고 말했다.

벌침 치료법은 동물이나 식물을 이용해서 치료를 하는 중국한의학 치료법 중에 하나다.

이러한 치료법은 야생동물의 멸종을 야기할 수 도 있기 때문에 비난을 받는다.

중국한의학은 정부로부터 막대한 투자와 지지를 받고 있는 급성장 산업으로, 중국 의료시스템의 주요 부분을 차지하고 있다.

(임우정 인턴기자 / 코리아헤럴드)


<관련영문기사>

Bee sting therapy causing a buzz in China

Patients in China are swarming to acupuncture clinics to be given bee stings to treat or ward off life-threatening illness, practitioners say.

More than 27,000 people have undergone the painful technique – each session can involve dozens of punctures -- at Wang Menglin's clinic in Beijing, says the bee acupuncturist who makes his living from believers in the concept.

But except for trying to prevent allergic reactions to the stings themselves, there is no orthodox medical evidence that bee venom is effective against illness, and rationalist websites in the West describe so-called "apitherapy" as "quackery".

"We hold the bee, put it on a point on the body, hold its head, and pinch it until the sting needle emerges," Wang said at his facility on the outskirts of the capital.

The bee -- Wang said he uses an imported Italian variety -- dies when it stings.

"We've treated patients with dozens of diseases, from arthritis to cancer, all with positive results," said Wang.

Bee stings can be used to treat "most common diseases of the lower limbs," he added, and claimed they also work as a preventative measure. But sciencebasedmedicine.org, a US-based website, says that such claims of panaceas and cure-alls are "always a red flag for quackery".

"There is no scientific evidence to support its use," it says of "apitherapy", or treatment with bee products.

One of Wang's patients said doctors told him he had lung and brain cancer and gave him little over a year to live, but he now believes he has almost doubled his life expectancy and credits bee stings for the change. "From last year up until now, I think I'm getting much stronger," the patient told AFP.

But on its website, the American Cancer Society makes clear: "There have been no clinical studies in humans showing that bee venom or other honeybee products are effective in preventing or treating cancer.

"Relying on this type of treatment alone and avoiding or delaying conventional medical care for cancer may have serious health consequences."

It adds that there is a Koranic reference to the medicinal properties of the liquid produced by bees, and that Charlemagne (742-814), the first Holy Roman Emperor, is said to have been treated with bee stings.

In the West bee stings have also been used by sufferers of multiple

sclerosis (MS), an often disabling disease that attacks the central nervous system.

But the National Multiple Sclerosis Society of the US says on its website: "In spite of long-standing claims about the possible benefits of bee venom for people with MS, a 24-week randomised study showed no reduction in disease activity, disability, or fatigue, and no improvement in quality of life."

The use of bee acupuncture comes at a time when colonies of the insect around the world are mysteriously collapsing. Environmentalists warn that dwindling numbers of bees, which help pollinate crops, could have a serious effect on agricultural production.

Bee venom is one of the many traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) treatments derived from animals and plants -- some of which are blamed for endangering particular wildlife species.

TCM is a major part of China's healthcare system and a booming industry which continues to receive significant investment and support from the central government.

Many people in China cannot afford to buy the latest orthodox pharmaceuticals as national health insurance is limited.

Older people -- who are more likely to fall ill -- also favor traditional remedies because of deep-rooted cultural beliefs in the power of natural, rather than modern, ingredients.

Most hospitals in China have traditional medicine treatments available.

It can be a lucrative field for companies and practitioners -- in 2012, the TCM industry in China produced goods worth 516 billion yuan ($84 billion), more than 31 percent of the country's total medicine output, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. (AFP)
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