In Cordoba, Spain, Pilar Serrano uses Traditional Chinese Medicine to treat people with various illnesses or physical ailments. For example, people diagnosed with cancer or people with degenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis and Multiple Sclerosis come to her clinic. Covid-19 has burst into their practice, where they receive patients who have been infected with the virus and need to recover from the after-effects of infection.

By Diego Villagraz

REHUNO: We are going through a pandemic situation caused by Covid-19. Could you tell us if TCM (traditional Chinese medicine) has been used in a complementary way in the health system both in the West and in the East and if it has had satisfactory results?

Pilar Serrano: In our clinic we are mainly helping patients with post-Covid19 sequelae. They have improved their fatigue, muscle weakness, osteoarticular pain or respiratory and cognitive capacity.

In the West, I am not aware of TCM being used in hospitals on Covid-19 patients, but in China it has been the second pillar to help these patients out of their critical states. Not only with acupuncture but also with Chinese herbal medicine, in addition to conventional pharmacological treatment.

In fact, there are master formulas of phytotherapy that were already used in China in other decades. For example, in a meningitis epidemic there in the 1970s. This formula has been used with the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the results have been more than optimal.

REHUNO: Is the practice of Traditional Chinese Medicine in the West regulated by any body or legislation?

Pilar Serrano: In Europe it is not regulated. It is a struggle that, as a member of the European Foundation of Traditional Chinese Medicine, we are demanding its regulation.

There are many agreements at the health level with this medicine, so that there is a seriousness on the part of the administrations and the professionals who are dedicated to this, but it is a long way to go.

For example, the WHO (World Health Organisation) has endorsed TCM since 1979 and has been able to demonstrate empirically the benefits for 50 diseases.

REHUNO: Which diseases do you treat the most in your practice?

Pilar Serrano: The diseases I treat most often in my practice are neuralgia, addictions, anxiety and stress, insomnia, depression, fertility, vertigo, tinnitus, gynaecology and urology, oncology, neurodegenerative diseases, allergies, psoriasis, dermatitis, digestive disorders, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, infant colic, hypertension, circulatory lesions, organ weakness and fibromyalgia, among others.

We must begin to understand that TCM is just another medicine, with other protocols, diagnostic methods and techniques to be used, but with great efficiency and multiple health benefits.

REHUNO: In the West, primary care medicine has been developing towards a diversification of medical specialties according to the symptoms or pathology of the person. What is TCM’s vision of disease?

Pilar Serrano: TCM has a very different way of interpreting or diagnosing a sick person. The illness is the cause of a blocked system that we call Energetic Meridians; they are like channels through which Qi (energy) and blood (xue) circulate. They run through our whole body and where those points or resonators come together which we then activate with a needle, acupressure or moxa (activate with heat by burning the Artemisia plant).

These Meridians may be functioning incorrectly due to different causes such as the climate, food, rest, our worries, etc.

Therefore, our diagnosis is very rigorous, because the same illness can have different causes and symptoms, in order to arrive at the syndrome that is causing the imbalance.

For example, a lumbar pain can be caused by a weakness or fullness of Qi and if you continue diagnosing you will see what has caused that pain. Not everything is bad posture or protrusions and herniated discs.

Our treatment in clinical practice is not just about needling a patient, it is much more complex. We must correct eating habits, through Chinese Diet Therapy and, if necessary, advise a plant or Chinese Phytotherapy formula, so that recovery is quicker.

REHUNO: In your clinical practice, do you work in collaboration with public health professionals from primary care or different medical specialties?

Pilar Serrano: In particular, I collaborate with many medical specialists from different branches of health care, from fertility, psychology, psychiatry, gynaecology, pain unit, neurology, urology, rehabilitation.

I hope that in the not too distant future we will be able to collaborate and treat patients and their ailments together, primary health care professionals and specialists with TCM practitioners.

I would like to point out that Chinese medicine treats and improves health, but it works best as preventive medicine.

REHUNO: What is the benefit of TCM treatment for people diagnosed with cancer?

Pilar Serrano: More and more sick people are using this practice as a complementary treatment. For patients who are in the early stages of the disease, we can help them to strengthen their immune system and alleviate the adverse effects of the aggressive treatments they have to undergo.

And for those in more advanced stages of the disease or in palliative care, we can improve their quality of life and accompany them to the end of their lives. Especially when dealing with pain and mood. The physical-emotional part is essential to be as serene as possible in the last stage of a patient’s life.

REHUNO: Degenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s have a high incidence of diagnosed cases in our society. How can TCM help these diseases?

Pilar Serrano: For degenerative or neurodegenerative diseases, TCM plays a fundamental role. On the one hand, it slows down the process of disease progression and can even lead some patients to enter clinical trials for this reason and test new drugs that give them a longer life expectancy or better quality of life.

On the other hand, Chinese herbal medicine and TCM together can improve the most undesirable symptoms of the disease, such as improving short-term memory, calming the mood, making the mobility of the limbs more stable or increasing the quality of sleep. Therefore, it can be recommended in many other diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis.

REHUNO: What motivated you to train and dedicate yourself professionally to TCM?

Pilar Serrano: Despite living so far away from the Asian world, since I was a child I have been very curious about the culture, philosophy, gastronomy and medicines of China and Japan. I started to study oriental techniques and therapies, especially Shiatsu Massage, Sotai Postural Re-education, Kobido Facial Massage, Chinese Anma Massage, Tuina Massage, Hinaishin Acupuncture and my great passion, Traditional Chinese Medicine, I decided to study it and put it into practice. That is why I decided to open my own clinic, Kyushu Therapy Centre.

REHUNO: If a person wants to train in TCM, how can he or she develop this learning?

Pilar Serrano: It is a 3-4 year course with a thesis at the end. In Spain there are few quality schools to learn it. You have to have real passion when you decide to study something like this. I have such a great love for what I do that it doesn’t weigh me down, in fact, to this day, I continue studying and researching.

My three main training schools are the Escuela Superior de Medicina Tradicional China in Madrid, the Escuela Shiatsu Yasuragi in Madrid and the Escuela Internacional de Medicina Tradicional China Li Ping in Barcelona.

I am also a collaborating teacher of the European Foundation of Traditional Chinese Medicine since 2016 and I teach courses and seminars on these techniques.

REHUNO: We thank you for your attention and for bringing us the principles and vision of Traditional Chinese Medicine from your professional experience.

Pilar Serrano: Thank you very much to REHUNO for shedding light on Traditional Chinese Medicine, which is still unknown in the West. It has been a pleasure to collaborate with you. We must continue to grow like Bamboo.