Top 10 Ways Chinese Medicine Can Help You – Part 1


Ok, so there are 11. Deal with it! 😉

#1: It’s All Connected (Holistic Medicine)

If you’re interested in Alternative Medicine, you probably have heard this phrase over and over again. What is holistic medicine? Holistic health? What is a holistic veterinarian? Well, I’m not going to speak for everyone… What I can tell you is how Chinese Medicine is a holistic mind body medicine, and by that I mean: it is all connected.

Chinese medicine connects you with your environment. It integrates natural metaphors into its system of diagnosis. Cold weather can cause a cold condition (for example, a “cold” common cold where the mucus is clear and chills are stronger than the fever), and hot weather can cause a hot condition (e.g. a “hot” common cold with sore throat, or a worsening of inflammatory (hot) rheumatoid arthritis).

Chinese medicine connects your mind and body. Or maybe it’s better to say: Chinese medicine never disconnected mind and body. After centuries of mind body dualism, western medicine (biomedicine) has only recently begun to bring mind and body back together, most notably in an interesting new science called psychoneuroimmunology. Chinese medicine diagnoses according to patterns (groups of symptoms) and every pattern has implied states of mind and emotion. There are also Chinese constitutional types with their own particular mental and emotional tendencies. These are two pivot points for Traditional Chinese Medicine’s holistic mind body approach.

This is the reason I got into Chinese Medicine. A life-changing self-examination led to the realization that hidden parts of my psyche had controlled my thoughts, emotions, and decisions for most of my life. Then I saw that CM also had a way of relating body, mind, and emotion. I thought, “Wow, maybe I can find out more of the hidden things that are keeping me from maximum health, happiness, and effectiveness, and then help people too!”

When you come to see an Chinese Medicine Doctor as a patient, we listen to your symptoms, ask questions, look at your tongue (it’s the only muscle we can see and it provides us with clues about the state of your internal organs), take your pulse (not just your heartrate, but 6 positions on each hand that correspond to the state of the 12 major organs), listen to the sound of your voice, how fast you talk, look at the tint of your skin, the quality of your nails, and even note your smell! It’s said that the superior physician can diagnose you after just watching you walk into his office. Indeed, some practitioners only have to ask 4 or 5 questions to nail down your pattern and then can predict remarkable things about your health and emotions. The rest of us are still learning; that’s why they call it a practice!

Diagnosis is connected to treatment. Once we have a good diagnosis, we know the best food, exercise, lifestyle, herbal formulas, and acupuncture points for you. Biomedicine often has a name for your disease but no treatment; Chinese Medicine can take a look from another angle and find treatments based on your pattern or meridian diagnosis. For every disease, there is a treatment.

#2 – Chinese Medicine is Mysterious.

There are many systems and theories by which we practice CM (Chinese Medicine). They often overlap… 10 practitioners might diagnose the same patient differently. Perhaps 6 of them are just plain wrong- but 3 or 4 of them could help. There’s more than one answer? That challenges the western mind. This doesn’t mean there’s more than one reality- just more than one perspective on it.

Real people are complex- they could have a pain, emotional problems, and a digestive complaint at the same time. Sometimes, treating one aspect cures another one. Other times, all must be taken into account for there to be any permanent results. Yet the totality of a human being is always a mystery.

Symbolic Medicine

Chinese Medicine comes from a culture whose language is written in symbols… The Chinese language has a new symbol for every word, instead of building words from phonetic building blocks as English does. Because of this, the ideas are more symbolic and fluid. There is a logic to it, but sometimes the borders are a bit more blurred than in Western medicine.

The Mystery of How

How and why does Chinese Medicine work? We can describe in Chinese Medical terms how acupuncture and herbs work, but research is still clarifying how it works in biomedical terms (for a summary of what we do know, click here).

These are two different ways of decribing the same reality. Two angles on the same object. Think about binoculars… the two slightly different vantage points yield a three-dimensional view. Each medicine is incomplete and has strengths and weaknesses. Together they help us see the truth more clearly. Just as when our eyes merge the two binocular images into one, as western and eastern medicine become more and more integrated, we are seeing more and more of the three-dimensional picture of human health.

#3 – Chinese Medicine works – It’s Practical

The theories (however intriguing or mysterious) lead to treatments that usually work. Healing occurs to the amazement of MD’s and sometimes even to the new practitioner!

As an intern, even before graduating from schoo, I:

  • Stopped a severe asthma attack… effectively preventing a trip to the ER 
  • Lowered a man’s blood pressure enough to get him kicked out of a blood pressure medication study (his BP was no longer high enough to qualify him) 
  • Prevented allergy attacks 
  • Eliminated pain and restored lost feeling from diabetic neuropathy 
  • Decreased the severity of PMS symptoms 
  • Alleviated lupus symptoms (quenched a “flare up”) 
  • Restored sleep to insomniacs
  • Chased away all kinds of musculoskeletal aches and pains 
  • Eliminated severe medication-dependent acid reflux vomiting; the man no longer needs medication or herbs and is fine

Since then, in practice:

A jet-skier had a severe case of hives for 6 months, had been to many MD’s, had spent about $11,000, and had gotten no relief. He couldn’t sleep comfortably, work, or be out in the sun. Doctors were ready to admit him to UCSD. He came to see me, and after 2 acupuncture treatments and 2 days of a 7-day herb formula, his skin was completely clear. When I lasted talked to him, he was getting ready to race in the world jet-ski finals at Lake Havasu. Oh, and his entire treatment cost less than $200.

A 9-month pregnant woman came to me because her baby was facing the wrong direction. Her MD wanted to physically turn the baby from the outside, or put her through the surgery, cost, and scar of a C-section. I heated an acupuncture point on each of her little toes 10 times for 3 days, and the baby flipped. She was ecstatic and thanked me profusely.

Several of my patients have had weakness and nerve tingling in their fingers that starts deep inside the shoulder (supraspinatus nerve impingement). The only alternative is surgery. This usually takes about 8 acupuncture treatments to cure.

Healed Healers Healing You

Many Chinese Medicine students decide to become an CM physicians after being significantly healed (and impressed) by it. About one-third of them come to the profession for this reason.

A friend of mine had lupus and was treated by MD’s with steroids- she gained 40 pounds. She was told to expect to live only another 10 years or so. She tried chinese herbal medicine, and it put her lupus into remission. She was so impressed that she decided to make chinese medicine her profession.

# 4 It’s Simple AND Complex

At first you are captivated by the simple poetry of CM – but in time you are nearly overwhelmed by its depth and complexity.

The Advantages of the Simplicity Option

You can diagnose and treat disease at varying levels of complexity. You can always go back to the simpler perspective if you get lost in the complexity- this is the advantage of CM- at times, MD diagnoses are complex and elaborate, but they lack a treatment to address them. Western Medicine is great at describing in minute detail what is wrong with you, but it can’t always fix the problem.

Nearly Limitless Complexity and Variation

CM also can be complex- there are 29 or so symptom-patterns which manifest in one or more of the 12 organ-systems, and there are dozens of pathomechanisms involved by which pathogens and organ dysfunctions affect one another. External influences can manifest in different ways in different people. We trace this by taking into account the individual’s constitutional excesses and deficiencies. There are thousands of herbs; about 400 are used commonly, and each has 3-4 functions. There are hundreds of acupuncture points, each with functions and empirical indications. These are only the basics- there is a vast amount of variation within Chinese Medicine… but just these basics map out a matrix of thousands of relationships and insights.

#5 – it’s Intuitive AND Intellectual

Knowing Hands

The 360 or so basic acupuncture points (and there are 100’s more extra points) each have a specific anatomical location. Clinically, however, we often treat the “ah-shi” point (literally “that’s it” – the most sensitive area nearby). Ah-shi points are found with help from the patient, but acupunturists often find that they “knew” where the point was (by feel) even before the patient said, “yeah, that’s it.” Massage therapists experience this too. Patients often say, “How did you know it hurt there?” or “I didn’t even know that was sore!”

What are these “knowing” hands? Intuition? A learned kinesthetic wisdom? Both? This goes back to #2, “It’s Mysterious.”

Both Sides of Your Brain

Most students of western medicine choose their profession for three reasons:

  • They want to help people 
  • They’re good at science (left-brained) 
  • They want to make good money 
  • The typical CM student, on the other hand, is more right-brained, and less money-oriented. In fact, practice management seminars for acupuncturists often focus on the idea that “it’s ok to charge your patients money!”

This distinction may change as the mainstream conception of CM changes; left brain facts and theories are indispensable to the practice of CM. As was said in #4, “It’s simple AND complex,” there is quite are quite a bit of facts and theories to learn, and integrating them in practice takes good analytical skills. And it’s becoming clear that CM practitioners can make a great living (see #10 below).

In a way, the practice of CM is more balanced than western medical practice or massage because it requires the usage of both left and right brains. Biomedicine can be too intellectual (left-brained). Massage can be too simple. In Chinese Medicine, there is an art to:

  • Pulse-taking
  • Communicating with patients about issues that include the mental, emotional and physical (in biomedicine, patients are often sent to specialists who can deal with only one part of them. CM in the U.S. attracts complex patients.) 
  • Integrating all the data into a comprehensive diagnosis (CM diagnosis is more syndrome-oriented and includes complex, often non-linear phenomena), and 
  • Choosing an applying a number of different treatment modalities.

Continued in Part 2!

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Author: Piyawut Sutthiruk

Losing weight will keep you healthy and have a long life. Cheer Up!

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