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Rhino horn use in traditional Chinese Medicine.


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#1 Game Warden

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Posted 08 April 2012 - 06:42 PM

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The following article has been prepared by Susan Barrett, following an interview conducted with a retired Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner, on the basis that his name would not be published. Thus the article has been prepared from his responses.

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The TCM doctor we interviewed is a man of +-70 years old. He has many years of practice and was trained when rhino horn was commonly used. He is Han Chinese, born in Hong Kong and immigrated to the UK where his children were born. Chinese is his first language, so his English was understandable, but there was probably more subtle meaning in some of his answers than he was able to express. I've copied his answers only, not our questions:

He had never seen a case in his entire career where rhino horn was used as an aphrodisiac. But rhino horn "is medicine, especially for very young children as an emergency medicine." A tiny bit of powder is mixed with other herbs and gypsum to "save a life and lower temperature". Buffalo horn can also be used the same as rhino horn; they have a similar ingredient, and people in China use both buffalo and rhino horn.

We asked about the story of the Vietnamese who was cured of cancer and he said "many herbal medicines could be used to treat cancer; it's never a case of using just one thing." He then used an old textbook to look up info about rhino horn and its uses. There were over 500 different herbs in the book in addition to animal remedies.

The character of rhino horn is very cool and is used for curing the heat. The character of the remedy brings the healing; rhino horn is cool, salty, bitter. Viruses create heat (high temperature) and because ancient medicine didn't know about bacteria, they would use the character of the illness for diagnosis and treatment.

Rhino horn would clear the heat in the blood and de-toxify the blood in the body. It is also used to treat conditions causing the blood to "go the wrong way" such as nosebleed. It can also be used for conditions like boils, also causing heat (blood coming to the surface). Only a small amount of horn is used, mixed with the other ingredients (herbs, gypsum), or tea. These remedies have been used for over 500 years, as well as Chinese buffalo horn.

The rhino is not a symbol of power that has nothing to do with it. It's nothing spiritual. The Chinese people believe in many gods, including ancestry – he worships ancestry – the Indians worship cow or buffalo but the Chinese don't worship any animals.

As far as the manner of the death and suffering of an animal; to an un-educated Chinese as long as a medicine can save children they don't care where it comes from. "But many things can save children with a dangerous high temperature". His mother used to dig roots; you don’t have to use rhino horn.

Westernized Chinese people use western medicine, but most Chinese people just don't trust what (western) people say, they just stick to the old books. As far as he knows, the use of rhino horn isn't taught in China today, but it is the history and that's why it's still used in many Chinese families. But children don't suffer as much now from dangerous diseases now.

Any Chinese family who has knowledge (is educated) will know that their ancestors, like their grandfathers, used rhino horn and elephant ivory for chop sticks, because ivory will change colour if it touches something toxic - like jade, the Chinese people wear jade; if you have a dangerous fall the jade will break and save your life.

He feels angry about publicity that gives the wrong information about Chinese medicine to destroy its reputation. Twenty years ago people gave out the wrong information about acupuncture, which was seen as voodoo and black magic, even lower than homeopathy, and homeopathy isn’t real. He stressed again the botanical TCM substitutes for rhino horn, and said that’s what people should concentrate on.

Susan Barrett

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#2 Game Warden

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Posted 08 April 2012 - 07:02 PM

So some of the issues Susan's article bring to light:

That rhino horn is not, (or rarely), used as an aphrodisiac despite many misguide claims in media and social networks.

That traditional TCM users will not trust the words of Westerners when it comes to medicinal advice. (Note: then such approaches in PSA's must use a Chinese voice, and one which is trusted, preferably with a medicinal background.)

That there are botanical TCM substitutes.

That some won't care how or where there rhino horn comes from, as long as they think it is curing their children etc.

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#3 Lion Aid

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Posted 09 April 2012 - 09:32 AM

Thanks for posting Matt. I do have some problems with this "interview". Susan requested information from one (!) practitioner of TCM, she did not speak Mandarin or his dialect (so says his answers in English might not have been correctly communicated), and had not done her homework about the uses of rhino horn in TCM. We need a lot more interviews and information to discover what rhino horn is used for, preferably conducted by a TCM practitioner who can evaluate the answers in Chinese. Otherwise it remains hearsay?
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#4 Game Warden

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Posted 09 April 2012 - 10:27 AM

It was good that she was able to speak to one TCM practitioner, under her own initiative: I can see it being very difficult in this current climate having an interview conducted by a fluent Chinese TCM practitioner on another - but of course agree that the whole issue needs more indepth investigation. This is just something "breaking the ice", an overview/introduction offering a greater insight into TCM than most layperson possess.

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#5 Lion Aid

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Posted 09 April 2012 - 12:17 PM

Agree completely. Let's have many more interviews and input from TCM practitioners. There are many cattle slaughtered on a daily basis all over the world and their horns are not used... or do they also go the the glue factory with the hooves?
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#6 PeterGermany

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Posted 14 April 2012 - 11:44 AM

So some of the issues Susan's article bring to light:

That rhino horn is not, (or rarely), used as an aphrodisiac despite many misguide claims in media and social networks.

That traditional TCM users will not trust the words of Westerners when it comes to medicinal advice. (Note: then such approaches in PSA's must use a Chinese voice, and one which is trusted, preferably with a medicinal background.)

That there are botanical TCM substitutes.

That some won't care how or where there rhino horn comes from, as long as they think it is curing their children etc.


Matt,

this to me is proving, that any initiative trying to convince TCM users, that Rhino Horn has no impact whatsoever and that it would be critical for the survival of a species to use botanical substitutes would take a few generations of modern Chinese people, in other words decades. Look at what has been done to control drug consumption by education & co.. The consumption of any kinds of drugs in ever increasing. May be a bad example, hence showing the limited impact education may have in specific areas, even if communication is un-controlled and in full force.

Taking the communication censorship in China into account I can only come to the conclusion, as stated several times before, that trying to control demand is a lost battle right from the beginning.

Lets assume the rhino horn mafia will be successful in legalizing the rhino horn trade, then those people will try to do everything to keep the legend alive and they probably will buy some TCM gurus to come up with proper rhino horn promotion?

I still believe it is critical to try everything to get better control over supply, without legalizing the trade of rhino horn.

But it is of course very interesting to learn more about TCM and the role of Rhino Horn. But to me it is more an academical thing, rather than part of the solution. Just my point of view.

#7 Game Warden

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Posted 14 April 2012 - 12:24 PM

Peter, there I think you are right: in the generations it would take to change that tradition and mentality, the uncontrolled poaching see the wild rhino extinct. But we cannot disregard it, and whilst more visible work is being done on the ground, in law etc, engagement and education still has to take place.

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#8 PeterGermany

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Posted 14 April 2012 - 12:37 PM

Peter, there I think you are right: in the generations it would take to change that tradition and mentality, the uncontrolled poaching see the wild rhino extinct. But we cannot disregard it, and whilst more visible work is being done on the ground, in law etc, engagement and education still has to take place.


True! It would be a mistake to give up on that, or lets better say to start working on that. Sadly it will not ease the situation on the ground in the range states. And we could start to think about ivory as well. Probably an easier case as there is no voodoo related to it as far as I know. Ivory is just a status symbol, here education about the realities of sourcing would definitely add value. Elephants are slaughtered on a large scale to meet the growing demand in e.g. China. And again, those buying rhino horn and ivory are the so called elite and growing middle class, people having probably access to un-censored communication. And they are doing it anyway? We also have to take the culture and mentalitiy into account. There are just many people who don't care at all it seems.

#9 Game Warden

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Posted 14 April 2012 - 12:44 PM

Education can claim successes, at least that are reported, ie the decrease in use of rhino horn in Yemen for dagger handles. See for instance this report. However, such use was on a much smaller scale than that of TCM: but at least it offers hope. However, look at the time scale in that article - ten years. What position will the wild rhino stocks be in after a decade of sustained and increased poaching?

"Return to old watering holes for more than water; friends and dreams are there to meet you." - African proverb.

 

How to create your gallery album and upload images.

 

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Want to tag another member in a post? Use @ before their display name, eg @game warden






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