Herbal Medicines Help Patients with Eye Conditions in Viet Nam
Dr. Pham Thi Thu Ha is a clinical doctor in Viet Nam who cures patients with specific eye conditions using drinkable herbal remedies. Dr. Ha, also a researcher, is working to develop new formulations of her treatments in tablet form with the aim of expanding overseas.
Dr. Ha's interest in traditional herbal medicines began at an early age. "I started school when I was five years old, and by the time I was 10, in 6th grade (middle school), I had already begun specializing in biology to study the biological characteristics of plants," she said. She studied at the Vietnam Academy of Traditional Medicine, graduating as a doctor of traditional medicine.
Her primary focus is eye conditions. After years of research, she founded Son Ha Pharmaceutical Oriental Medicine in 2017, establishing a clinic specialized in conditions such as strabismus, ptosis (droopy eyelid), double vision, presbyopia, and exophthalmos (bulging eyes).
Dr. Ha treats these eye conditions with tailored combinations of Vietnamese herbal decoctions in the form of potions prepared at the clinic. She explains that the clinic operates with the necessary licenses and adheres to Vietnamese law. The treatments offered by Son Ha Pharmaceutical Oriental Medicine are not classified as medicines; they are prescribed only to clinic patients and are not mass-produced.
She elaborates that traditional medicine remedies "aim to restore healthy nerves and muscles from inside the body." Son Ha Pharmaceutical Oriental Medicine combines acupuncture, acupressure, and medication to cure specific eye conditions.
WIPO Capacity Building
Dr. Ha participated in WIPO IP capacity-building sessions and found the program helpful, saying it provided her with valuable information about IP and how to protect her inventions. She is hesitant to patent her products due to concerns about disclosing her formulas, instead relying on trade secrets. She also applied for a trademark a year ago.
She is expected to receive further WIPO advice on trade secrets and branding strategy.
Restoring Yin and Yang, Qi and Blood Balance
"The essence of traditional medicine is to restore yin and yang balance and the qi and blood balance," Dr. Ha explains. "When the body is in balance, there is no disease. Diseases appear only when there is an imbalance of yin and yang, qi and blood, and of the organs."
She notes that according to the concept of what she calls "Oriental medicine", the eye can be divided into five parts that correspond to the five senses (sight, smell, touch, hearing, and taste) and are correlated with the five organs (heart, liver, kidneys, brain, and lungs). "That is why we treat the eyes by restoring the balance of the body with medication."
Based on the same concept, she says that Oriental medicine can successfully treat many diseases, such as those related to muscles, bones, joints, and nerve damage, including paralysis of some cranial nerves. Furthermore, according to Dr. Ha, Oriental medicine can also address metabolic disorders in the liver, kidneys, and urinary tract, as well as conditions like headaches, insomnia, and depression.
Avoiding Surgery for Eye Conditions but Requiring Patience
According to Dr. Ha, she is the only doctor in Viet Nam, and possibly in the world, who treats eye conditions with herbal medicine. The most common approach to conditions such as ptosis, strabismus, and diplopia (double vision) is surgery due to the lack of specific treatments targeting those conditions and awareness of Oriental medicine's solutions.
Dr. Ha combines Oriental medicine with acupuncture to activate the external nerves. In some cases, she supplements these methods with herbal steam, application of medicinal herbs on the skin, and specific eye exercises to achieve the highest treatment efficiency.
Dong y Son Ha manufactures all the eye treatments prescribed by Dr. Ha and they are only available at the clinic.
She mentions that since 2017, she has cured several thousand patients, mainly from Viet Nam.
According to Dr. Ha, patients treated with Eastern medicine often do not heal as quickly as those treated with Western medicine. "Oriental medicine takes time, so patients need to be persistent, as each person’s ability to absorb the medicine is different, and so is the healing speed." The treatment duration for patients usually ranges between 12 and 60 days, with 97 percent of cured patients remaining free of relapse, she says.
Dr. Ha also offers online consultations and mails medication to patients. Online consultations allowed Dr. Ha to treat many patients during COVID-19 and the lockdown. She adds that consultations are also available to patients unable to travel to the clinic, those living abroad, or those with time constraints.
In the next five years, her goal is to launch the production of tablets for her treatments to make them accessible worldwide, particularly for ptosis.
Other Herbal Treatments
In addition to eye treatments, Dong y Son Ha also produces various herbal combinations, including hygiene solutions to help prevent and treat vaginal and genital infections for both men and women, and a tonic syrup to alleviate intense coughing. These products are manufactured and commercialized by a partner company, Fresh Life Pharmaceutical Joint Stock Company. The Vietnam Food Industries Research Institute manufactures Xa Lien Thao, tea bags containing a combination of Vietnamese herbal medicine to detoxify the body, a formulation developed by Dr. Ha. She specifies that the products manufactured by these companies are barcoded and licensed in accordance with Vietnamese law.
Farmers Essential for Herb Production
The medicinal herbs used by Son Ha Pharmaceutical Oriental Medicine come from different regions of Vietnam, as each area has geographical and climatic characteristics suitable for specific herbs. The company collaborates with many farmers from different locations to cultivate medicinal herbs on their land. Son Ha Pharmaceutical Oriental Medicine is also working with the Sapa National Institute of Medicinal Materials to develop dedicated planting areas for specific herbs.