Traditional Chinese Medicine Bristol RI
Traditional Chinese Medicine
By focusing on energy imbalances, this ancient healing
By Lisa James
A visit with health practitioners at a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) clinic begins with questions—lots of questions.
The practitioner then carefully examines your tongue and notes your pulse, not just in terms of beats per minute but also whether it shows qualities such as “wiry” or “floating.” You’re told you have “kidney deficiency” but are reassured that the actual organs are not diseased. Perhaps you are given instructions in such gentle Chinese exercises as tai chi. Or you might receive acupuncture, which could involve sticking fine needles into your ankle and leg.
Finally, you’re given a list of herbs that you take to an herbal formulary. On one side shelves hold row upon row of glass jars containing dried stems and leaves; on the other side sit similar rows of plastic bottles filled with powders. The herbalist behind the counter places material from the jars in a bag with instructions on how to brew them into a decoction. If you don’t have the time to do that you might receive the powdered herbs instead.
Though experiences such as these still seem a little exotic to most Americans, more Westerners are coming to Chinese medicine to reap its benefits, says Yun Li, MD, LAc, Dipl Ac & Chinese Herbal Medicine (NCCAOM), Oriental sciences chair at the New York College of Health Professions in Syosset ( www.nycollege.edu ). The differences between Chinese medicine and its Western counterpart start with how each views the body.
Energy in Motion
While Western physicians see the body as cells organized into tissues, organs and systems, Chinese healers see it in terms of energy flows organized into sets of paired opposites, most notably yin (cold, inward, passive) and yang (hot, outward, active).
This elemental energy is called chi (or qi), which circulates along defined channels called meridians through “organs” that carry familiar names—liver, kidney, heart—but which refer to specific functions rather than physical masses of tissue.
“When I diagnose someone with ‘heart blood deficiency’ one of the possible Western medical diagnoses is anemia,” says Bill Reddy, LAc, DiplAc, vice president of the American Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (AAAOM). “If a woman is not ovulating the diagnosis may be ‘kidney chi deficiency’; in Western medicine, the kidney has nothing to do with reproduction.”
Health problems stem from imbalances in the flow of energy. “You take a symptom like hot flashes,” says Bryn Clark, LAc, Dipl OM, cofounder of New Harmony Wellness in Beverly, Massachusetts. “The body is no longer in a peaceful state of oneness—there is an exuberance of yang that shows up as heat.”
Needles and Herbs
Naturally, a TCM practitioner asks about the patient’s symptoms. But there are also questions about the person’s background—everything from sleep patterns and diet to...