Why are our medical universities leaving students with the impression that they should not be prescribing Tai Chi, since we know it can help lower high blood pressure for many, who if it is successful with them, may enjoy a lifetime free of chronic and costly medications?
Way back in 2003, the Journal of Alternative and Complimentary Medicine’s Oct. 9th issue reported a study finding that Tai Chi “could decrease blood pressure and results in favorable lipid profile changes and improve subjects' anxiety status. Therefore, Tai Chi could be used as an alternative modality in treating patients with mild hypertension, with a promising economic effect.” This study laid out a way to save our society, perhaps billions of dollars annually, and possibly save some patients with mild chronic hypertension the potential negative side effects of chronic lifelong medication. However, this largely hasn’t occurred.
I caught a glimpse why when I was staying in the beautiful mountain town of Otavala, Ecuador, with a woman known for her knowledge of traditional Indian medicines. A tour of young American medical students stopped here to listen and learn from the Indian woman’s tour of her herbal gardens. As I followed them, I asked a group of young bright medical students if they were aware that Tai Chi was found to reduce high blood pressure. One lovely young woman replied, “Oh, yes, I’ve heard that, but I would never prescribe it.”
I asked why, and she responded that she couldn’t because she didn’t know if it would work. Although Tai Chi studies do show that Tai Chi indeed helps lower high blood pressure, it is true that it does not reduce it in every person. However, it is also true that every drug prescription does not work on every person either. I suggested to the young medical student that she consider that many times I’ve been to the doctor, and he’s pulled out a prescription pad and explained, “Let’s give this a try, and see how it works for you, and if it doesn’t do the job, we’ll try something else.” Most of us are familiar with this, and by the confused look on the student’s face, I’m assuming her memory banks were bringing up similar images.