‘Using Chinese medicine in a Western way’: Negotiating integrative Chinese medicine treatment for Type 2 Diabetes


  • Evelyn Y. Ho University of San Francisco
  • Chelsea Lalancette University of San Francisco
  • Genevieve Leung




acupuncture, biomedicine, Chinese medicine, diabetes, integrative medicine


Type 2 diabetes affects Chinese Americans at an alarming rate and many Chinese Americans use Chinese medicine principles to deal with their diabetes. In this article, we examine interviews with Chinese medicine practitioners about the best ways to treat diabetes and xiaoke (Chinese medicine’s closest equivalent to diabetes). These interviews were conducted to examine how practitioners would promote a particular form of integrative medicine – in this case, using Chinese medicinal principles to suggest food treatments for diabetes or xiaoke. Our research expands understandings of integrative medicine and Chinese medicine recognizing that in practice, the static categories of Chinese and Western diagnosis and treatment are not very useful for understanding how integration occurs. Instead, Chinese medicine practitioners negotiate between the poles of individual and standardized on one dimension and physical and energetic on another dimension as a way of practicing Chinese medicine and enregistering their professional identities here in the U.S. Examining these interviews from a language and social interaction perspective, we present integration as a performance and enactment of social personae rather than a product. We highlight the need to attend to differences in what oftentimes is treated as a monolithic community of Chinese medicine in the U.S.

Author Biographies

  • Evelyn Y. Ho, University of San Francisco
    Evelyn Y. Ho, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of Communication Studies at the University of San Francisco. Her scholarship focuses broadly on the intersections of health, culture and communication specifically examining holistic medicine in the United States. Recent projects include a study of HIV related neuropathy and holistic treatments, an ethnography of communication of an acupuncture clinic in the United States, and a study examining communication between holistic medicine users and biomedical practitioners. Address for correspondence: Department of Communication Studies (KA 340), University of San Francisco, 2130 Fulton Street, San Francisco, CA, 94117, USA. Email: [email protected]
  • Chelsea Lalancette, University of San Francisco
    Chelsea Lalancette received her Ba in International Studies with minors in Latin american Studies and Chinese Studies from the university of San Francisco. She currently works in immigration law as a Board of Immigration appeals accredited Representative at Catholic Charities of San Francisco.
  • Genevieve Leung
    Genevieve Leung received her PhD in educational linguistics from the university of Pennsylvania and is currently assistant Professor in the university of San Francisco. Her research interests include Cantonese heritage language maintenance in the San Francisco Bay area.






How to Cite

Ho, E. Y., Lalancette, C., & Leung, G. (2016). ‘Using Chinese medicine in a Western way’: Negotiating integrative Chinese medicine treatment for Type 2 Diabetes. Communication and Medicine, 12(1), 41-54. https://doi.org/10.1558/cam.v12i1.25993