Turtle blood for stamina—just what the (Chinese) doctor ordered

Turtle blood for stamina—just what the (Chinese) doctor ordered

Modern Western science at the Australian Olympics caught many of the Chinese athletes in “lab lock”-high levels of stimulants and/or steroids in their blood.

The Chinese, like the Russians and the East Germans in the past, have an impeccable reputation for cheating. Most of the Chinese athletes busted for doping have taken performance-enhancing drugs developed in the West, such as anabolic steroids and diuretics. Now their 1,000-year-old herbal remedies are also under suspicion. Many of these are sold in packages that provide scant details as to ingredients or their chemical properties. One, called Dalishen Oral Liquid, is derived from seals’ penises and testes.

The most bizarre of the animal parts and fluids used to enhance performance are turtle’s blood and caterpillar fungus. “Soft-shelled turtle’s blood will restore the Yin,” an Olympic coach said. Scientists who tested the turtle’s blood formula found it to be a mixture of mainly water and sugar-no better or worse than fruit juice.

Defending criticisms of Chinese medicine, Zhang Shiming, director of the Sports and Injury Research Institute of Chengdu, said Western analyses betrayed a lack of understanding of Chinese medicine.

“Chinese medicine is very different from Western medicine,” he said. “If your red blood cell count drops, a Western doctor would give you a certain medicine to increase it. A Chinese doctor will seek to adjust the whole body according to the individual’s needs.”

That sounds cool, but it doesn’t tell you anything and is typical Chinese bunkum. A Western doctor would not “give you a certain medicine to increase it.” A Western doctor would first attempt to find the cause of the anemia-bleeding, malnutrition, drug reaction, neoplasm, hemolysis (destruction of blood cells), etc. A Chinese doctor who is scientifically trained would do the same. I think Zhang Shimin has overdosed on turtle blood.

The Chinese gave us acupuncture, which is a valuable addition to Western medicine. But with turtle blood, various ground penises, fungi, and rhino horn, we’re getting into murky water.

Reuters Limited, Jeremy Page, 9/3/00