Friday, November 30, 2007

Chinese medicine and acupuncture

To many Americans, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is almost synonymous with Chinese acupuncture. That misunderstanding is consistent with many people's views about herbs. Although it's changing, the public opinion about the effect of "grass" or "bush leaves" on healing has not caught on. I think it's partially because of the non-regulation of herbs, which are still treated as nutrition supplements and not medicine. As a result, a Chinese doctor trained in TCM in China finds it easier to become an acupuncturist in the US (after certification) and can't do the same TCM job as in China. Well, there's probably no government approved TCM profession in this country anyway; alternative medicine remains alternative. It's said that TCM students in China care more about pharmacology and kind of look down upon acupuncture. I guess they can't have that attitude here if they want to make a living with it.

I don't think acupuncture has as strong healing power as most herbs. But it is a wonderful thing, especially when it comes to improving the already healthy body. Recent hot books in China "人体使用手册" (Human Body: A User's Manual), "求医不如求己" (See a Doctor? See Yourself) and others all stress our inherent power in the human body, suggesting tapping the "dan" (gall bladder) meridian, for instance. Although I don't quite agree with the author placing the "dan" meridian in a more prominent position than others, the philosophy of taking advantage of our own healing power while the body is mostly healthy is an absolutely fabulous idea. In these cases, medicine, natural herbs included, is external and should be treated as a secondary medium.

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