A key differentiator in our treatment is our proprietary medicine, and that is the focus of this week’s “Why We’re Different” post. For readers who are not familiar with YAPCHANKOR’s treatment for chronic pain and serious muscle and joint injuries, we use a combination of proprietary chinese medicine patches made from herbs and modern physiotherapy to tackle these problems. These medicinal patches are applied externally onto the affected area and worn by our patients for a period of time. They work to reduce inflammation and to improve the circulation around the injuries, thus expediting the body’s own healing process. It bears repeating that the medicine is externally applied and there is nothing that is ingested or injected.

The history of how our medicine developed is quite interesting. Since the beginning of the 20th century, modern drugs have been developed in university or pharmaceutical company laboratories. Some of these drugs have plant origins, but others have come from chemical synthesis or biotechnology. However, before the advent of modern drug laboratories, experiments to develop drugs took on a different form. Almost every civilisation in history had its form of folk medicine. The Chinese, in particular, have one of the oldest and longest running medicine systems in all of human history, stretching back thousands of years. Even today, Chinese medicine is widely used all over the world. In China, for example,  over 70% of healthcare consumption is with Chinese medicine.

It is important to realise that not all of the medicine that was developed in ancient times have any value. Indeed, some of them had bad effects not just on the human body, but on the environment. Our world continues to suffer from the Chinese predilection for animal parts in their medicines. Rhinos, tigers, and bears have all been hunted to close to extinction because of the superstitious belief the ancients had in connecting an animal’s “spirit” or character with the quality of the ailment they were treating. Sexual dysfunction is a case in point. Since the virility ‘spirit’ must exist in the genitals of animals, therefore, if one were to consume these parts, that spirit would pass on to the human body….or so they thought.

Painless, non-surgical alternative for chronic pain

Painless, non-surgical alternative for chronic pain

But there is still much value to be gained from folk medicine. The treatment for malaria, quinine, was discovered from Amazonian folk medicine. The big question is – how did these ancient folk doctors discover quinine? One of our favourite scientists, American astronomer and popular science writer, Carl Sagan, explained it best:

“Quinine comes from an infusion of the bark of a particular tree from the Amazon rainforest. How did pre-modern people ever discover that a tea made from this tree, of all the plants in the forest, would relieve the symptoms of malaria?

They must have tried every tree and every plant – roots, stems, bark, leaves – tried chewing on them, mashing them up, making an infusion. This constitutes a massive set of scientific experiments continuing over generations – experiments that moreover could not be duplicated today for reasons of medical ethics. Think of how many bark infusions from other trees must have been useless, or made the patient retch or even die. In such a case, the healer chalks these potential medicines off the list, and moves on to the next. The data of ethnopharmacology may not be systematically or even consciously acquired. By trial and error, though, and carefully remembering what worked, eventually they get there – using the molecular riches in the plant kingdom to accumulate a pharmacopoeia that works.

Absolutely essential, life-saving information can be acquired from folk medicine and in no other way.”

We believe that this same process of trial-and-error experimentation happened for the development of YAPCHANKOR’s herbal medicine for muscle and joint pain. Ancient Chinese physicians must have experimented with many different herbs and combinations thereof and tried it on injuries. This particular medicine system also developed in a subfield of Chinese culture, martial arts. Martial arts or kungfu in China, started around 2,000 years ago, and the injuries sustained during training or battles had to be addressed, which led to the development of a specialised field of Chinese medicine.

It is likely that kung fu and medicine for treating musculoskeletal injuries developed hand-in-hand. There have been stories of ancient grandmasters who were also healers, and these anecdotes have been popularised in Hong Kong movies like Once Upon A Time In China, where Jet Li played the role of Wong Fei Hung, a kungfu sifu and also master healer. These grandmasters kept the medicine formulas secret, and typically passed them on to their direct family heirs.

Yap Shu Shen treating school children

Yap Shu Shen treating school children

The founders of YAPCHANKOR come from a line of martial arts grandmasters. Yap Shu Shen, who is the father of the Yap Chan Kor, was a grandmaster from Northern China who was sent by the Chin Woo Martial Arts Association in China to what was then Malaya, in the 1930s to spread the art of kungfu. His ancestors were themselves sifus, and trained with various notable masters in China, including the famed martial monks of the Shaolin Temple. In the Chin Woo history of the Yap masters, it is said that the head monk of the Shaolin Temple passed on various secrets to an ancestor of Yap Shu Shen, which may also have included certain healing secrets.

Nonetheless, it is rare in today’s modern world for these formulas to have survived because during Mao’s Cultural Revolution, much of China’s intellectual history was destroyed, including the knowledge of these kungfu masters. Yap Shu Shen escaped this period because he had made a life for himself in Malaya, and so managed to preserve the healing secrets that were passed down to him. These secrets are what form YAPCHANKOR’s trademark use of proprietary Chinese medicine in combination with physiotherapy.

One final note worth mentioning – although there are many other “sinsehs” in Malaysia who use Chinese medicine to treat injuries, almost all of them do not come from an authentic line of martial arts grandmasters, and so do not have a really differentiated medicine. What they do have and normally use, are generic formulas that are found in today’s Traditional Chinese Medicine textbooks. Based on our observations with patients who have been treated by sinsehs elsewhere, it is clear that the efficacy of these generic medicines pales in comparison to the proprietary Chinese medicine used at YAPCHANKOR.