NANNING, Sept. 6 (Xinhua) -- Poonyaphat Siriteerathitikul carefully inserts hair-thin needles into her patient's back, while explaining that this treatment will alleviate pain and maintain balance in the body.
"When I was a child, I met a stroke patient who had been healed by acupuncture," said 28-year-old Siriteerathitikul. "I was astonished and have been attracted by the magical therapy ever since."
In 2015, the Thai student came to Guangxi Medical University in Nanning, capital city of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, to study traditional Chinese medicine (TCM).
Acupuncture is just one therapy included under the umbrella of TCM, which has a history of over 2,000 years. It involves insertion of fine metal needles on the body at specific points to help balance the body's energy flow.
"I study acupuncture with my classmates, and we insert needles into each other," said Siriteerathitikul. "That's the best way to master the technique."
In addition to acupuncture, she also uses cupping to help those suffering from back or neck pain. The therapy involves placing cups on the patient's skin to create suction which improves blood circulation.
"Foreigners are skeptical about TCM because they don't know much about this ancient healing art, and that's the major challenge for its development outside China," said Ling Jianghong, deputy director of TCM department at First Affiliated Hospital of Guangxi Medical University.
Ling said that TCM and Western medicine have different strengths, and the curative effects of TCM need to be promoted so that it can bring benefits to patients worldwide.
At present, governments of 86 countries and regions have signed agreements on TCM cooperation with China as the techniques gain more recognition globally.
Convinced of its benefits, a growing number of international fans have come to China on medical tours to experience the therapies
Located in the southern China island of Hainan, Sanya Traditional Chinese Medicine Hospital was the first Chinese hospital to carry out TCM medical tourism programs, beginning in 2002.
The hospital had treated more than 25,000 foreign patients from countries including Russia, Sweden, Norway and Austria by 2015, according to an introduction on its website.
In 2015, TCM medical and health centers across China received 910 million patient visits and TCM therapies have been given in 183 countries and regions worldwide, according to China's first white paper on TCM published by the State Council Information Office last year.
The World Health Organization said that 103 member states have granted approval for the practices of acupuncture and moxibustion, the burning of dried mugwort near the patient's skin, while 18 have included acupuncture and moxibustion treatment in their medical insurance provisions.
"I want to learn more about Chinese herbalism and work as a TCM doctor back in Thailand." said Siriteerathitikul.