Quality Living Styles focuses on the subject of Acupuncture as an alternate form of medical treatment. Acupuncture together with Moxibustion, Acupressure, herbal medicine, various breathing, physical exercise and meditation techniques comprises a few methods of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
My interest in Chinese medicine was sparked by an acupuncturist friend, who willingly shared his knowledge, experience and expertise on the subject of Chinese medicine.
He explained that Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture are rooted in the ancient Chinese philosophical concepts of Yin and Yang. The Yin Yang School is closely associated with Taoist philosophy and its emphasis on attuning oneself to the cycles of nature. This school of thought also came to be known as the Naturalist School, and dates back to a time called the Warring States period (476-221 BC).
Traditional Chinese Medicine or TCM treats patients in the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual context and not just the presenting overt physical conditions. Patients are therefore helped to find harmony and balance within and without.
According to Christopher Hobbs, an acupuncturist, Western medicine emphasizes ways of curing disease and relieving unpleasant symptoms. This is because we tend to see “ agents of disease attacking us and causing symptoms like headaches, nausea, or stiffness in the joints“. The problems are seen as outside us.
TCM believes that the discovery of what brings our body and mind into harmony with the world will contribute to better health and prevention of disease. This includes changing diets to suit one's temperament and examining the role of negative thoughts which create negative emotions which in turn impacts our health.
Prior to my friend becoming an acupuncturist, he tried acupuncture himself as he had a persistent cough that reappeared every Fall, despite using anti-histamines and cough suppressants. He was amazed at the results. That nagging cough that he had endured for years was gone. He was so inspired by the improvement in his condition, that he researched this subject in depth. What he learned inspired and motivated him to become a practitioner of acupuncture himself.
He spent 3 years in Taiwan studying Chinese Medicine. Learning Mandarin helped to study this ancient art of medicine. He graduated from The American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in San Francisco and he is licensed to practice Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture in California and nationally.
A Brief Background with Related Acupuncture Terminology
Although there are many claims about the beginnings of Acupuncture, and that Chinese herbal medicine is traditionally considered to be “founded” by Shen Nong, most likely there was never any one person named Shen Nong. What the Chinese have, as do all traditional cultures, is a long history of using plants, minerals and animal products to treat human illness.
This history no doubt dates back to pre-historical times. Over time their understanding of which plants and minerals treated which illness grew. Chinese herbal medicine as we now know it, as with acupuncture dates back about 2000 years.
Diagnosis and Treatment
When an organism is healthy, its respective Yin and Yang energies are in balance and easily flow one to the other in appropriate amounts. When an organism is sick, these energies are out of balance and stuck in some way. One example is the balance between rest and activity.
When either of these is lacking or in excess it is easier to become ill. In the case of acute pain from a sprained ankle, the trauma to tissues in the local area lead to swelling and pain. This is considered a Yang condition, as it is characterized by rapid onset, acute pain and swelling due to the blockage of local circulation. The Chinese doctor will work to promote circulation in the area to lessen the swelling, clear inflammation and reduce pain. This is an example of helping Yang transform into Yin. It is a simple theoretical framework that explains the most complex mental, emotional and biological phenomena.
The 3 main diagnostic techniques are:
Treatment includes a range of conditions such as headaches, stomach ailments, kidney problems, hearing, vision and most body aches and pains. Practitioners believe that they may be able to help patients with Alzheimer's Disease by using acupuncture points on the head to stimulate the brain associated with cognitive functions like, reasoning, memory and language.
A recent study conducted by Y. Zhou et.al tested 25 patients with Alzheimer's Disease before and after acupuncture treatment at 4 acupoints on the head. Results after MRI showed “ activated regions in portions of both hemispheres of the brain,” This led researches to conclude that acupuncture may have a positive effect on Alzheimer's disease. For more information on this research check, TCM for Alzheimer's Disease
After reading this introduction to Traditional Chinese Medicine or TCM please use the links provided for further research should you consider Acupuncture as a form of treatment. Practitioners do not discount the placebo effect in seeing positive changes in patients condition as do physicians in the field of western medicine.
Recent surveys of some medical practitioners showed that a large percentage also believe in and employ the placebo effect in treating their patients. This shows the power of the mind to heal our bodies. But, just like with other medical systems, Chinese medicine and acupuncture produce very real and quantifiable changes in a person's physiological functioning. Otherwise Chinese herbs and acupuncture would not be as effective as they are. Patients who use acupuncture do not have to drop the practice of regular Western medicine. They can work side by side.
If you would like other perspectives, there are respected Western physicians who have researched the value of TCM. This may help you make an informed decision if this method of treatment is something you would like to try.
Here are a few links for further information.
Part 1, Traditional Medicine and Pseudoscience in China
Part 2, Traditional Medicine and Pseudoscience in China
There are many skeptics of acupuncture as well. It may be useful to read those articles. See A Skeptics View on Acupuncture.
Should you have any questions or comments, you may reach me, Nirmala, via this form.
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