Chinese Medicine treats the whole body. It looks at life-style, diet and emotional states. The most important and first line of treatment is always nutrition. They feel that what you eat and how you prepare it is the foundation for Health and Healing. Then after Diet and Nutrition comes Herbal Medicine. Asian people grow up knowing herbs and herbal formulas to treat common ailments and also to prevent disease. Acupuncture is last.
This is the exact opposite of how it is viewed in the United States. I have my Masters Degree in Oriental Medicine which includes Nutrition and Herbal Medicine in the curriculum; yet in New York State only acupuncture is licensed. In addition to my acupuncture license I went on to take the National Boards in Herbal Medicine and to become a Board Certified Herbalist. There is no uniformity in the US. Some states require both acupuncture and herbs to be licensed and some states have their own board exams.
Classically acupuncture is viewed as moving energy or Qi, that is why it is so successful in treating pain. There is a Chinese saying: “Where there is pain there is stagnation; where there is stagnation there is pain.” Classical acupuncturists will argue that for conditions that require more than just moving energy that you must employ Nutritional and Herbal therapies. I know that there are many acupuncturists that will argue that acupuncture can do everything – however I side with the Classical approach as this has been practiced for over two thousand years. Japanese acupuncture is another discussion for another time.
When we speak of Nutrition in Chinese Medicine it is not how it is viewed in the West. To begin with; food is never viewed as the enemy. There
is no bad food, but there are foods that are wrong for certain
conditions and constitutional types. The object is always to balance
your body. Obesity is not an Asian problem and not because they count calories or fats but because they view their body in its totality – strengthen what is weak and reduce what is in excess. It’s a much easier way to live.
In the 1970’s NY Times journalist James Weston accompanied President Nixon
to China. While in China he had to have his appendix removed and as is
common in Chinese hospitals he received acupuncture to ease
post-operative pain. When he returned to the US he wrote about his
experience and thus began the American interest in acupuncture.
Western Medicine has become very specialized so when American doctors started
to investigate Chinese Medicine many looked only at acupuncture. A
true education in Oriental Medicine takes thousands of hours ~ not a
seminar in acupuncture.
In Western Medicine we have migraine
medicines – most are variations on the same theme. There are many
acupuncture points for headache – yet the diagnosis is everything.
What kind of headache does the patient have? We don’t use a general
category like migraine; we look at the systems in the body to see which
one is not doing its job or is overacting.
annoying to see magazine articles that show an acupuncture point on the
hand in the web between the thumb and index finger and call it a point
to massage if you have a headache. That point is usually effective if
you have a frontal headache caused by stomach and intestinal
imbalances. If it doesn’t work because you actually have a liver headache then people say that acupuncture and acupressure don’t work.
It’s not about learning the location of some acupuncture points and how to insert a needle…the brilliance in this medicine is diagnosing and determining which acupuncture point to use. There
are, at the very least, four hundred meridian acupuncture points plus
dozens of classical points (handed down through families) to be
selected from. To be practiced correctly takes intensive study.
In many states dentists, podiatrists, chiropractors and medical doctors
are lobbying and in some states have successfully lobbied to be able to
practice acupuncture. This is not the platform for that discussion. I
just want people to understand the beauty and complexity of Oriental
Medicine and not confuse it with just another physical therapy modality.
In my next column I will discuss weight loss…tune in ~