The practice of Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture
Traditional Chinese Medicine is foundered on a culture that emphasised cultural experiences, family values, leadership, loyalty, social ecology and interdependence. The mind and body are parts of a continuum; diseases are seen as being and imbalance in the whole being.
Diagnosis in Chinese Medicine involves taking a full case history, listening to the patient’s pulse and looking at the patients tongue. In Five Element acupuncture we are also looking for a dominant colour or hue to the complexion, sound of the voice, odour of the body and reflex emotion. The aim is to diagnose the constitution of the patient as well as the pattern(s) of imbalance that have given rise to the current symptoms. Treatment usually involves acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicines and life style advice.
Acupuncture works by influencing the nervous system of the body Fine needles are inserted into neuro-vascular nodes that, through peripheral nerve pathways communicate with the brain and effect changes in neural signalling and blood flow.
Acupuncture activates the ‘rest and repair’ or ‘calm and connect’ aspect of the nervous system.
The autonomic nervous system is responsible for regulating our ability to respond to a stressor and then recover. In health we can move easily between the sympathetic ‘fight or flight’ state and the parasympathetic ‘rest and repair’ state. A competitive culture with stressful, demanding lifestyles and broken communities can lead to habits that sustain living in ‘fight or flight’ dominance. In chronic fight or flight, our bodies lose their flexibility and depending on our constitution, we may move into unrelenting inflammation and eventually a depleted, exhausted state.
Acupuncture regulates blood flow.
Blood is life giving, it carries oxygen, nutrients, hormones, neuro-transmitters and immune mediators around the body. It gathers information and removes waste. It is our inner resource for nourishment, communication and instruction. Acupuncture has a regulating influence on the nervous system and the nervous system regulates blood flow. Acupuncture can influence how blood flows through the lungs and heart gathering oxygen and momentum before moving on to receive resources and clear waste products.
The Chinese carried out medical dissections of the human bodies hundreds of years before the West and had ancient texts that describe a detailed understanding of anatomy and physiology. This knowledge grew during a time when our connectedness to our family, community and nature was still valued and so the interdependence of the organ systems was easily accepted.
Unfortunately when Chinese medicine was brought to the West in the 1900’s there were many mistranslations made and as a result there are many misunderstandings about how Acupuncture works and without a full biomedical explanation it was reduced to something slightly mystical.
Chinese Herbal Medicine
Chinese herbal medicine involves the use of plant combinations to treat imbalances and diseases. They are prescribed in the form of tablets, capsules or teas and their names usually describe their action.
For example, Honeysuckle and Forsythia Powder is also known as ‘Exterior Heat’ disperses wind-heat, clears heat and removes toxin, which means it is used to treat influenza, tonsillitis, hay fever and conjunctivitis.
Another formula, Bupleurum & Dang Gui is also known as ‘Free and Easy Wanderer’ and is used to treat premenstrual tension and irregular menstruation that is aggravated by emotional stress.
While many of the ancient formulas such as these still have clinical value today, our toxic environment and chronic life-style diseases present a challenge for us as practitioners. Chinese medicine continues to evolve and in my practice I make use of The China Herb formulas developed by Professor Zhang and Dr Li and the Dui Yao modular system developed by Dr Daniel Weber with Wang Jing Shanghai TCM University.
Some Chinese herbs are suitable for long term use, some are designed for a short course to expel a virus or clear a bacterial infection. Some work well with pharmaceutical medicines and others do not. Each case is dealt with on an individual basis.