How Chinese Medicine Can Contribute to Westerners' Health and Wellness
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How Chinese Medicine Can Contribute to Westerners' Health and Wellness

What is Chinese Medicine

Chinese Medicine works well on Americans, too:  there's little doubt that Americans enjoy the most technologically advanced medical care in the world.  Still, there's much we can learn from the Chinese system of medicine.  Scientific studies of China's ancient healing system are just beginning, and more are needed.  But a growing body of research suggests that acupuncture, herbal remedies and other components of Chinese medicine do provide relief for many common ailments, even when Western medicine has failed.  Chinese medicine is helpful for everything from asthma and arthritis to migraines and menstrual cramps.  It can help cure alcoholism and other addictions . . . and help alleviate nausea and other side effects of cancer chemotherapy. 

What is Chinese Medicine?  The Chinese system of medicine is hard for Westerners to accept, or even grasp.  More than a collection of exotic treatments, it's a unique way of looking at the world and the body.  The language Chinese physicians use to describe symptoms, diagnoses and physical processes is the language of the natural world.  It uses terms like earth, metal and fire instead of the technical jargon familiar to most Western physicians and their patients.  Whereas Western medicine focuses on the specific disease entities and diagnostic categories, the Chinese system views the body as both expressing and fueled by a basic animating force called qi (pronounced chee).  This vital energy circulates constantly through meridian--lines along the body on which the acupuncture points lie.  Chinese medical therapies are concerned with restoring the balance of qi.  Everything that takes place in the organs and elsewhere in the body is considered to be interconnected to the individual's psychology, the time of day, season of the year . . . indeed, to all phenomena in the natural world. 

The diagnostic techniques Chinese doctors use are alien to Western physicians.  They include:  touching and listening to the belly;  identifying imbalances in the body, by observing the patient's face and voice.  For example, dark circles under the eyes might indicate a kidney ailment long before lab tests reveal it.  Observing not just one pulse, but 12 different pulse points along the wrist.  Noticing the appearance, texture and moistness of the tongue.  A trembling tongue might suggest that qi is depleted. 

Acupuncture:  acupuncture has proved helpful for a variety of ailments - irritable bowel syndrome;  migraines;  hot flashes; and addictions.  It can even serve as anesthetic during surgery.  The Chinese maintain that acupuncture redistributes the flow of qi, thereby affecting the activity of organs.  In Western terms, acupuncture induces the body to release natural anti-inflammatory substances and painkilling opiates.  To find a qualified acupuncturist in your area, ask your doctor or your friends for a referral.  If your state requires licensing to practice acupuncture (about half of all states do),  call the state medical board to make sure the person you're considering is licensed. 

Herbal Remedies:  the Chinese use herbs; gold and other minerals; and animal products (such as dried fish, bile and bones) to restore balance to the body.  Example I:  Ginseng eases stress, boosts immune function and enhances mood.  Example II:  Certain mushrooms, including shiitake, strengthen the immune system.  Don't start taking massive doses of an herbal remedy just because you've read about it.  That can cause dangerous, and perhaps even fatal, side effects.  Chinese herbalists use tiny doses of many herbs.  This strategy ensures maximum benefit while minimizing side effects.  If your doctor, acupuncturist or chiropractor is unable to recommend an herbalist, visit the nearest Asian-American neighborhood.  The neighborhood pharmacist may be able to suggest someone.  Many states require licensing of herbal therapists. 

TAI CHI and QI GONG:  Tai chi (pronounced tie chee), consists of a series of smoothly connected postures.  There are many different "forms", or sequences, of these movements.  Performed with rapidity, tai chi is a martial art.  Done slowly and contemplatively, however, it increases energy, flexibility and mental clarity.  Tai chi instruction is offered at recreation centers, YMCAs, YWCAs and health clubs.  Qi gong (pronounced chee gong), is an integrated system of movement, breathing and visualization.  It involves fewer movements than tai chi, and greater use of imagery.  In addition to its calming effects, qi gong seems to lower blood pressure, enhance immune function, and ease breathing in asthmatics.  Many Chinese medicine practitioners are trained in qi gong, as are a growing number of Westerners.

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Comments (14)

Chinese medicine is amazing! I use it all the time...Excellent article Thomas and very well written!

excellent well written article, I think eastern medicine is just wonderful

Thanks for the excellent article. I agree that Eastern medicine can help with many ailments. I've benefited from acupuncture as well as acupressure (an alternative, especially for those who prefer a massage technique to one that uses needles). None of it hurts - so don't be afraid to visit a reputable and experienced Chinese medical practitioner. Some insurance policies now cover and some Western doctors understand Eastern medicine can be a good adjunct to treatment.

My son had sholder problem with his roatater cup. His doctor told him to try an acupuncturist. Great imformation. Darrell

Nice article! Another very popular Chinese belief is foot reflexology. Many Chinese believe the organs are closely connected to the pressure points in the feet. Through massage, they can help metabolism, improve health, etc. The shops are everywhere here in Taiwan and becoming more popular in America, usually I have seen them in various Chinatown districts. I've been told they hurt quite a bit the first time but the relief afterwards is completely worth it. I will try it soon and let you guys know how it is!

I've tried reflexology and it didn't hurt - although I guess that could depend on the therapist. I heartily recommend acupressure; it completely stopped a chest cold in its tracks.

SY, yeah I think it varies greatly on the region and the therapist - you tried it in the US or in China? My friends who have done it in the US said it did not hurt but everyone here in Taiwan (including the therapists) say it will hurt the first time. I watched a show on a flight over here once and the local host was in agony having it done! But afterwards, she said the relief was worth it. I think it's similar to like a Thai massage for example....they are known for very heavy handed massage techniques - I only had a shoulder and foot one in Thailand and it was twice as hard as a deep tissue massage. Once the soreness wore off after a few days, I've had no issues with my shoulders and the usual knots I get for almost 2 months now!

That was a really great explanation of Chinese medicine. I voted you up in the wellness category!

Hello Erin. Yes, I had reflexology in Denver from a massage therapist trained in the art (if that's what I can call it). I believe she was not as skilled, perhaps as those in Asia. I also had acupuncture from a Chinese doctor (in America) and he was able to stimulate my circulation once he found the blockage. He spoke very little English, but I benefited from his expertise.

Hello...I would like to personally thank you all... Susan McCord...Carol Roach...SY Kravitz...Erin De Santiago...Janet Hunt...& anyone else that viewed, commented or gave there vote of confidence. I'm also greatly appreciative of the fact you guys voted me the Buzz-it-up WINNER for yesterday, and it looks like I'm in the running for a repeat today with another article. Can not give or show enough gratitude. TY P.S. I will attempt to keep them coming. P.S.2 I won the Buzz-it-up contest almost three days straight my first week on Factoidz...Thanks Again!...

You are so welcome, you deserve it! xo

Very interesting article. I have always been interested in Chinese medicine but I have never plucked up the courage to try accupunture. Those needles make me cringe!

Well, Jan, try acupressure - no needles - just a form of massage that also can zero in on the areas that need energy release. I really find it helpful.

I always do acupuncture if I feel very tired or back pain. It is very helpful and keeping us away from consuming medicine. Great article..