Traditional Chinese Medical Treatments

Healthy Foods for Dietary Therapy
Dietary therapy is one
common form of
traditional Chinese
medical treatment.

Once practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine make a diagnosis, they have the following options available to treat their patients: acupuncture, herbal medicine, moxibustion, cupping, exercise therapy, massage techniques, and dietary therapy.

The most common therapeutic modalities are acupuncture and herbal medicine, which have such a wide range of applications, they are appropriate for most conditions.

Moxibustion (the application of heat to acupuncture points or injured areas) is also widely used, while cupping (the application of suction cups to remove stagnation from an area) is often employed as an adjunct therapy for pain and stagnation.

A traditional massage technique known as tui na has a profound effect on the musculoskeletal system. The Chinese also practice sophisticated forms of exercise, or movement, therapy known as qi gong and tai qi, which direct healing qi to specific areas of the body.

Finally, dietary therapy is an important aspect of all healing systems, and Chinese medicine is no exception. Foods are grouped according to the organ systems they affect and whether they are hot or cold, damp or dry, yin or yang. Practitioners often advise patients about which foods to eat and which to avoid for their particular imbalance.

Learn more about moxibustion, one of the most widely used of the traditional Chinese medical treatments, in the next section of this article.

For more about traditional Chinese medicine, treatments, cures, beliefs, and other interesting topics, see:

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Moxibustion

Moxibustion Symbol
This is the moxibustion
symbol, named after a
Japanese word meaning
"burning herb."

Moxibustion, or moxa, is named after the Japanese word mokusa, meaning "burning herb." It was first recorded in medical texts during the Song Dynasty (a.d. 960), but it has most likely been in use much longer. It is an important therapy in traditional Chinese medicine; the ancient texts advise that moxa should be tried if acupuncture and herbs have failed to heal the disease.

The heat from moxibustion is very penetrating, making it effective for impaired circulation, cold and damp conditions, and yang deficiency. When applied to acupuncture points specific for yang deficiency, the body absorbs the heat into its deepest levels, restoring the body's yang qi and "life-gate fire," the source of all heat and energy in the body.

Moxa is prepared from mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris), which is a common perennial herb. The aromatic leaves are dried and repeatedly sifted until they are fluffy.

There are two heating techniques used to apply moxibustion: indirect moxa and direct moxa.

Indirect Moxa

In indirect moxa, the "moxa wool" is rolled into a long cigar shape and wrapped in paper. The cigar-shaped moxa stick is then lighted and held about an inch away from the desired area -- an acupuncture point or other area of the body chosen by the practitioner. Indirect moxa can be used on acupuncture points to achieve a systemic, or bodywide, effect or it can be used directly at the site of a problem.

For example, indirect moxa might be applied to a swollen, stiff area such as an arthritic joint. It is also appropriate to apply indirect heat to specific acupuncture points, such as Zusanli (Stomach 36) or Mingmen (Du 4), to create a systemic effect. The heat taken into these points raises the body's metabolism and immunity, so moxibustion at these points can also be used in preventive health care.

One ancient text declares that "one who applies moxa daily to Zusanli (Stomach 36) will be free of the one hundred diseases." Applying moxa to Stomach 36 has an energizing effect on the body, especially in regard to immune and digestive functions. Some indications for its use in Chinese medicine are to treat general weakness, anemia, indigestion, nausea, chronic fatigue, shock, allergies, and asthma. Modern research has confirmed that the immune system is stimulated when the point receives moxa.

Another type of indirect moxa involves rolling the moxa, placing it on the end of an acupuncture needle while the needle is in the body, and igniting it. The heat from the moxa travels down the handle and into the needle. The needle transfers the heat specifically to the desired point on the body.

Direct Moxa

In direct moxibustion, a small amount of herb is rolled into a cone and burned directly on the skin. This can sometimes cause a burn, so this technique is rarely performed in Western acupuncture clinics. In most cases when moxa is applied directly to the skin, some ointment is first placed on the point to avoid a burn. In other techniques, the moxa is burned on top of a slice of ginger, garlic, or aconite; this prevents a burn and also adds the therapeutic effects of those herbs to the treatment.

Moxibustion at Home

In all cases, moxibustion can be a very pleasant sensation, especially when the warmth spreads through areas that have pain and swelling due to cold. Indirect moxa is also easy to learn to do at home. Practitioners often show a patient the appropriate point for their condition, and the person can take a moxa stick home to perform daily treatments. Such treatment can be very empowering, since the patient then takes responsibility for his own healing.

How to Moxa the Point "Leg Three Miles" (Zusanli, Stomach 36)

The point called Zusanli, or "Leg Three Miles," was named after its legendary ability to boost the vital energy of the body, making it useful for preparing for long trips on foot. Although the point can be activated by pressure or needling, moxibustion is the preferred method when the goal is to build energy, or qi.

The point is located under the knee on both legs, approximately the width of four fingers below the bottom of the knee cap (patella), and one finger width away from the shinbone (tibia), in an outward lateral direction.

After lighting a moxa stick, hold the glowing end about an inch away from the point, maintaining as much heat as possible without discomfort. After 5 or 10 minutes on each leg, carefully extinguish the moxa in a bowl of salt or sand or with water. Never try to put it out by crushing it in an ash tray, since it will continue smoldering and be a fire hazard.

For more about traditional Chinese medicine, treatments, cures, beliefs, and other interesting topics, see:

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Cupping

Cupping is a fascinating therapy in which a special cup or jar is attached to the skin by means of suction. The suction is created by heating the air inside the cup to create a vacuum, then quickly pressing the mouth of the cup to the desired area. There are also modern cups that can be applied with a suction device.

Interestingly, cultures all over the world are known to use this technique, making it virtually a universal practice. In ancient times, it was done with bamboo cups or animal horns, and it was often employed to treat external conditions of the skin and muscles such as sprains and strains and drawing out pus. It is especially effective for musculoskeletal pain, often relieving the pain after a single application.

The force of the suction draws stagnant blood to the surface of the body, sometimes leaving a round bruise in the shape of the cup. Since pain is caused by the stagnation of qi and blood, the goal of this therapy is to remove the stagnation, increase circulation, and allow healing to take place.

Cupping should not be used when the patient has broken skin, skin ulcers, edema, high fever, bleeding disorders, varicose veins, or convulsions. It should also not be performed on the abdomen or low back of a woman who is pregnant. Care needs to be taken to avoid burning the patient with a hot cup; using the cups with the suction device eliminates this potential problem.

While cupping is common to many cultures throughout the world, it is not as well known as many of the other traditional Chinese medical treatments -- exercise, for instance. Learn more about how exercise plays a part in traditional Chinese medicine in the next section of this article.

For more about traditional Chinese medicine, treatments, cures, beliefs, and other interesting topics, see:

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Exercise (Qi Gong)

The practice of qi gong is exceptionally common in China. On any given morning, parks all over the country are filled with people of all ages practicing the graceful movements of both qi gong and tai qi. While most people perform these exercises for their own benefit, a practitioner can impart healing energy to a patient's body through medical qi gong methods.

Qi Gong

Qi gong (pronounced chee guhng) has been practiced in China in its various forms for thousands of years. It consists of exercises involving specific breathing practices and/or movements, with the goal of enhancing and balancing qi.

The central principle involves meditating on a vital energy center known as the Dantian (pronounced dahn tyehn). Located about three inches below the navel, it is considered the root of qi in the body. By focusing on this area while moving the body, a person is able to build up a storehouse of qi and direct it to areas that need it.

Qi gong has a wide variety of forms, ranging from quiet meditative exercises that bring about a sense of peace and well-being to techniques that send powerful waves of energy flowing through the body. In its medical form, qi gong is used to build immunity, treat disease, improve strength, clarify the mind, and enable a person to tap into underlying reserves of energy.

The ancient Chinese physician Hua Tuo is quoted as saying "a running stream never goes bad," meaning that qi and blood will not become stagnant if proper exercise keeps them circulating. He developed a set of exercises known as "imitation of five animals boxing," which was an early form of both qi gong and tai qi. He and his followers were able to remain healthy into old age by practicing these exercises regularly.

As Chinese medicine grew more sophisticated over time, the practice of qi gong also became more focused on curing specific diseases. By the 19th century, it was used clinically for ailments such as indigestion, toothache, eye problems, headache, abdominal pain, and chronic degenerative diseases in general.

The practitioner of qi gong trains in order to master three groups of exercises: those that regulate the body, those that regulate the heart and mind, and those that regulate breathing. The purpose of these exercises is for the practitioner to learn to release muscular tension, strengthen the muscles and tendons, and circulate qi and blood to the various organs and regions of the body.

Different positions are assumed, depending on the desired result, but in all cases a profound relaxation allows the muscles and organs to rest and rejuvenate. Meditating on the Dantian also allows the practitioner of qi gong to become free of distracting thoughts, bringing about a state of inner peace and heightened awareness.

In medical qi gong, it is possible to direct the healing energy to specific organs and meridians. The patient can do this, and it is also possible for the physician to direct healing qi into the patient's body through his or her hands. When qi gong is combined with acupuncture treatment, the therapeutic results can be truly remarkable. For example, this therapy can be used to help stroke victims begin to talk or walk again, sometimes after only one treatment.

Much research into the physiologic effects of qi gong has been conducted in modern-day China. Studies have shown a drastic alteration of brain wave patterns and a radical decrease in adrenaline, a hormone secreted in response to stress. Heart rate slows, blood pressure decreases, cholesterol levels can drop, and the immune system is strengthened by increased production of blood cells.

Physicists studying the effects of qi gong at research institutes have actually discovered quantifiable changes during the practice of qi gong, such as the body's production of low levels of energy in the form of infrared energy, visible light, static electricity, and even ultraviolet and microwave radiation.

Much more research remains to be done in this fascinating field, but one finding is certain: Qi gong is a powerful therapeutic modality capable of promoting wellness and healing disease. It stands well on its own and is also an effective adjunct to other traditional therapies.

How to Do a Simple Qi Gong Exercise

The first step in performing a qi gong exercise is to locate the Dantian, a major energy center in the body near the solar plexus. The point is located below the navel at a distance equal to the width of four fingers. The acupuncture point located there is called "Gate to the Original Qi," and the Dantian is located inside the abdomen about a third of the distance between that point and the spine. This is the focus of meditation during qi gong exercises.

When performing qi gong, it's most important to relax and be calm:

  • Sitting on the floor cross-legged or with legs extended, shoulders relaxed and hands facing down in your lap, meditate on the Dantian as you inhale normally.
  • Continue focusing on the Dantian while you exhale normally, then slowly lean forward and slide your hands out in front of you on the floor. You should be fully stretched out by the end of the exhale, not forcing either the stretch or the breathing.
  • Gradually sit up to the original position as you inhale, continuing your meditation on the energy center.
  • Repeat for a few minutes, then discontinue the focused meditation and sit still with your eyes closed, breathing normally.

After a qi gong session, people typically feel energized and relaxed, ready to deal with the stresses of the world in a calm and grounded manner.

Along with exercise, massage plays a strong role in traditional Chinese medical treatments. Learn more about therapeutic massage in the next section of this article.

For more about traditional Chinese medicine, treatments, cures, beliefs, and other interesting topics, see:

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Therapeutic Massage (Tui Na)

No healing modality could possibly be older than therapeutic massage, since it is such a basic human instinct to rub a painful area. The Chinese have developed a sophisticated system of massage over a period of thousands of years that is used for numerous conditions.

Going far beyond the expected applications for musculoskeletal pain, this massage technique is taught in Chinese medical schools, and specialists in the art are able to treat a wide range of diseases effectively. By working with the meridian system, practitioners are able to treat internal conditions such as hypertension, peptic ulcer, insomnia, nausea, arthritis, and constipation.

Massage or Tui Na
Massage, as practiced in traditional Chinese
medicine, focuses on more than just muscles.

Pediatric massage is a field of specialty practiced in Chinese hospitals. It is especially effective on children younger than 5 years of age, and the younger the child, the more effective the treatment tends to be. The caress of a loving parent is the first sensation a baby experiences after birth, and recent research in the West has shown that infants who are routinely touched tend to be healthier and gain more weight.

Some of the conditions treated by pediatric tui na, or massage, are diarrhea, vomiting, poor appetite, common cold, fever, bed-wetting, and crying at night. As in adult therapeutic massage, pediatric massage involves a variety of manipulations, such as pushing, spreading, kneading, pinching, and pressing. The manipulations are chosen according to the level of stimulation desired and the nature of the area massaged.

The results of Chinese therapeutic massage can often be quite dramatic, bringing about an immediate sense of healing. It is especially effective when used with other modalities, such as herbal medicine. For example, in an injury, herbs are taken internally to reduce the inflammation, swelling, and pain.

In addition, a topical herb formula is combined with oil and massaged into the injured area to increase circulation and healing to the area, augmenting the systemic effect of the internal formula. This sort of three-pronged approach ensures a much faster recovery time, and it is one of the reasons that tui na practitioners are held in such high regard in China.

Another type of therapy that can help with prevention and curing of health problems is dietary. Learn about Chinese dietary therapy in the next section of this article.

For more about traditional Chinese medicine, treatments, cures, beliefs, and other interesting topics, see:

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Chinese Dietary Therapy

Chinese dietary therapy is an integral part of any complete treatment plan. The earliest written record is Sun Simiao's Prescriptions Worth a Thousand Gold, published in 652 A.D., in which he discusses the treatment of a variety of diseases through diet. For example, his treatment for goiter included the use of seaweed and the thyroid glands from farm animals. This early iodine and hormone replacement therapy predates Western discoveries by hundreds of years.

Rice as Part of Chinese Dietary Therapy
Traditional Chinese
medicine has included
dietary therapy since as
early as A.D. 652.

Similarly, in 752 A.D., Wang Shou published A Collection of Diseases, in which he describes his treatment for diabetes. He recommended the use of pork pancreas as a treatment, predating the discovery of insulin by 1,000 years. In the absence of laboratory tests, his method of checking for sugar in the urine was ingenious: The patient was instructed to urinate on a flat brick to see if ants would show up to collect the sugar!

In the traditional system of dietary cures, foods have been organized into categories based on their innate temperature, energetics (the direction in which they move qi and how they affect qi and blood flow), and the organs they affect.

For example, a person who has a wind cold condition with excessive clear mucus might be told to consume hot soup made from onions and mustard greens. The onions are warming, expel cold, and sedate excess yin. The mustard greens have similar properties, and they also help expel mucus and relieve chest congestion. Flavoring the soup with ginger and black pepper enhances the warming, expectorant action. With such a lunch, one can imagine that the person's herb formula would be much more effective.

On the other hand, if the same patient decided to have salad for lunch with a cold glass of milk, the cold and damp nature of this meal would make the wind cold condition much worse. Any herbal therapy administered at this point would be much less effective, since the therapy first needs to overcome the negative effect of the food before dealing with the acute ailment. For this reason, a patient is always advised about which foods could exacerbate the imbalance and which will help restore balance.

In general, grains and beans are considered to bring stability to the body. They build blood and qi, and they establish rhythm and stability. Vegetables, which are best if eaten in season, bring vitality. Leafy greens have an affinity for the upper body, while root vegetables give strength to the middle and lower body. Fruits build fluids and purge toxins, and they tend to be cooling by nature. They should be eaten alone, or they can cause indigestion.

Meats possess the full range of temperatures, and they are a simple source of blood. But they are meant to be consumed in small quantities; their overconsumption in Western countries has caused an epidemic of heart disease. Finally, dairy products are a good source of fats, but they should also be eaten in moderation. Overconsumption can result in excess dampness or mucus.

A healthy diet should consist mainly of a wide variety of organically grown whole grains, beans, and vegetables; fruits and animal protein should be eaten in smaller amounts. While it is possible to have a healthy, well-balanced vegetarian diet, people who eat no animal products at all (vegans) should supplement their diet with vitamin B12.

How to make Rice Congee

The food most commonly used for therapeutic effects is congee, a rice gruel that is soothing to the stomach and exceptionally easy to digest. It is made by slowly cooking 1 part white rice in 6 parts water until the rice is the consistency of a thick soup. A crock pot works especially well for this purpose.

In China, the previous day's leftovers are typically cooked into the congee in large pots. In the morning, people gather to have the congee for breakfast.

As a therapy, specific ingredients can be added for their medicinal effect. For example:

  • An elderly person who is experiencing constipation due to yang deficiency might add walnuts for their tonifying and lubricating actions.
  • A person who is experiencing weak vision due to blood deficiency could add Lycium fruit for its ability to nourish the eyes.

Dietary therapy will typically be just part of a treatment program. Learn how practitioners put treatment plans together in the next section of this article.

For more about traditional Chinese medicine, treatments, cures, beliefs, and other interesting topics, see:

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

A Typical Traditional Chinese Medicine Treatment Plan

A practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine may specialize in acupuncture only or herbal medicine only; other practitioners practice both. On its own, each therapy system can effectively treat a wide range of diseases.

However, most practitioners agree that a highly effective treatment consists of a combination of acupuncture and herbal medicine. A typical treatment plan might consist of an acupuncture treat­ment once a week with herbs taken between treatments.

This combination of acupuncture and herbal therapy is applied often in the West, where most people must pay out of their own pockets for acupuncture treatments. In China's socialized medical system, a person might receive free acupuncture daily for two weeks as a course of treatment, take a break for a few days, and then undergo another course of treatment.

But in the West, unless a patient's insurance policy covers alternative medical practices, this sort of treatment plan is simply too expensive for most people. Using herbal therapy between acupuncture treatments provides continuous treatment at a lower cost to the patient.

Acupuncture and herbal therapy also work in a synergistic fashion, supporting each other. In the case of a knee injury, for example, acupuncture needles are inserted at the site of injury to increase the flow of qi to the injured area. To accentuate the effect, herbs are prescribed that have a general strengthening and anti-inflammatory action.

As the inflammation subsides, moxibustion and massage are added to the treatment plan. As the patient's condition further improves, qi gong and tai qi exercises are added to the treatment plan to bring additional strength and qi flow to the area of healing.

There is no typical duration of treatment in traditional Chinese medicine, since each case is treated individually. A person with an acute, but simple, condition might feel completely free of illness and pain after just one acupuncture treatment, while another person with a chronic disorder might require weekly acupuncture and daily herbal medicine for a few months before the condition is rectified. In all cases, however, the practitioner chooses the treatment modality he or she believes will be most effective in view of the practitioner's experience and the individual receiving treatment.

While all the treatment methods described here are part of an ancient tradition, Chinese medicine continues to evolve. New treatment modalities have been tested and introduced, such as electroacupuncture (in which a mild electrical current is applied to the needles to provide a stronger and more continuous stimulation -- a useful technique when stronger stimulation is desired, as in cases of paralysis), magnetic therapy, laser acupuncture (in which the points are stimulated with a special laser, a technique favored by people afraid of needles), and various types of healing radiation.

With the wealth of knowledge from the past joining the ingenuity of the future, traditional Chinese medicine possesses a powerful set of tools for the treatment of disharmony and disease in all its forms.

In the next section of this article, learn how the properties of different foods help them to play a role in this arsenal of treatment tools.

For more about traditional Chinese medicine, treatments, cures, beliefs, and other interesting topics, see:
This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

The Energetics of Foods

Chinese medicine recognizes that foods have an innate temperature that can warm or cool the body, much the same way herbs can. The food we eat can have a profound positive or negative effect on healing.

For example, the condition of a person with chronic inflammation due to heat arising from yin deficiency is more likely to improve if this person eats cooling, moistening foods such as lettuce, cucumbers, and mung beans.

On the other hand, if he or she eats warming, drying foods such as chicken with ginger and onions, the condition will be more difficult to resolve, even if the person is taking cooling herbs. Since they don't affect the body's interior climate, neutral foods are appropriate in most situations.

The charts that follow list foods that have different innate temperatures.

Cold

Banana
Tomato Crab
Grapefruit
Seaweed Kelp
WatermelonClam Salt
Persimmon

Cool

Apple
Tangerine
Orange
Pear
Strawberry
Eggplant
Cucumber
Lettuce
Radish
Spinach
Barley
Mung bean
Tofu
Wheat
Sesame oil
Peppermint


Neutral

Fig
Grape
Olive
Papaya
Pineapple
Plum
Peanut
Cabbage
Carrot
Celery
Beet
Corn
Potato
Sweet potato
Pumpkin
Shiitake mushroom
Yam
Green beans
Rice
Soybean
Beef
Milk
Egg
Pork
Carp
Oysters
Honey
White sugar


Warm

Cherry
Coconut
Guava
Date
Peach
Raspberry
Chestnut
Walnut
Chive
Asparagus
Green onion
Leek
Onion
Squash
Mustard greens
Malt syrup
Sweet rice
Mutton
Chicken
Mussel
Shrimp
Vinegar
Wine
Coffee
Brown sugar
Fresh ginger
Fennel
Basil
Dill
Garlic
Clove
Nutmeg
Coriander
Rosemary
Spearmint

Hot

Soybean
Cinnamon
Dried ginger
Black pepper
Red pepper

Determining which traditional Chinese medical treatments, whether dietary or otherwise, are right for which ailments requires training and experience. For information on finding a qualified practitioner, see the next section of this article.

For more about traditional Chinese medicine, treatments, cures, beliefs, and other interesting topics, see:

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

How to Find a Qualified Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioner

Acupuncture

Acupuncture and traditional Chinese herbal medicine have been practiced quietly in Asian communities in the United States for more than 150 years. It remained "underground" as an isolated cultural phenomenon until 1971, when interest was sparked by the experience of The New York Times reporter James Reston. His experience of acupuncture in China led him to write an article in which he stated, "I have seen the past, and it works."

Acceptance of Acupuncture in the West: At the time Reston's article appeared, no states had any legislation regarding acupuncture. By 1976, eight states had legalized acupuncture and six schools had been established. Twenty years later, there were more than 40 schools of Oriental medicine, and 29 states and the District of Columbia have licensing laws that regulate acupuncturists. Legislation has been drafted or introduced in 12 other states.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) estimates that between 8 and 12 million people receive acupuncture each year in the United States, and its popularity continues to increase as more people hear of its effectiveness. No longer considered a fringe element, acupuncture has been endorsed by the American Osteopathic Association, the American Chiropractic Association, and the American Veterinary Medical Association.

It has been incorporated into the substance abuse treatment programs of more than 20 hospitals in the United States and is considered so effective that drug offenders in Florida's Miami-Dade County have a choice of either receiving acupuncture treatment or going to jail. In Portland, Oregon, drug offenders in the treatment program must receive acupuncture as a condition of their probation or parole. Gradually, hospitals and conventional medical practices are also adding acupuncturists to their staff as the demand for their services continues to grow.

Finding a Practitioner through Referral: Now that acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine are rapidly entering the mainstream of the prac­tice of medicine in North America, an increasing number of people are interested in finding a qualified practitioner. As with all professional services, the best way to find a practitioner is through a referral.

If a trusted friend or relative has had favorable experiences with a practitioner, many people will feel safe consulting that physician. Referrals are relatively easy to come by in places such as California, where there are thousands of practitioners; most people know somebody who has received acupuncture or herbal therapy. However, in many areas this isn't the case; it is necessary to find a practitioner without the advice of a friend or relative.

Finding a Practitioner through the NCAA: Fortunately, there are certifying agencies that establish standards that a practitioner must meet to be considered qualified. The most established is the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCA), in Washington D.C. After three to four years of training, a student is qualified to sit for a licensing exam.

The NCCA's extremely high standards for scholastics and clinical training become evident to any student who has been through this rigorous process. Since 1984, it has certified more than 7,000 practitioners of acupuncture and more than 1,000 practitioners of Chinese herbology. NCCA certification is used as the basis for licensure in 90 percent of the states that have set standards for the practice of acupuncture. The NCCA will provide a list of the certificate holders to anybody seeking a qualified practitioner.

Finding a Practitioner through an Association: A number of national acupuncture and Oriental medicine foundations also provide referrals. The American Association of Oriental Medicine advises prospective patients of qualified practitioners in their area. For those who have access to the Internet, an excellent place to find referrals is at the Web site www.acupuncture.com. The site lists practitioners all over the world in addition to North America, and it is also a good source of interesting information about traditional Chinese medicine.

Finding a Practitioner through the Yellow Pages: Generally, the yellow pages lists practitioners under Acupuncturists. It is well within your rights to call practitioners and ask them about their training and experience. If you have a particular condition, ask them if they have any experience in treating it. Like all professions, skill levels vary. It is also important to work with somebody with whom you feel comfortable. In some areas, other health care professionals might provide a referral to an acupuncturist, especially if they work in a holistic group practice.

Herbalists

If you're seeking a qualified traditional Chinese herbalist, the NCCA also provides a list of practitioners who have passed their exam on herbal medicine. Otherwise, a good place to look is California. As of this writing, it is the only state that requires a practitioner to be proficient in herbal medicine in order to pass the state licensing exam. For this reason, schools of Oriental medicine in California have four-year programs, while most schools outside of California have three-year programs. This is rapidly changing, and some schools outside of California now offer a thorough exposure to herbal medicine.

There are also many good herbalists outside of California who haven't yet taken the relatively new Herbalism exam. These practitioners can often be found by a referral from a satisfied patient.

In China today, patients are treated with both Western medicine and traditional Chinese medicine. Today in the United States, where the number of traditional Chinese medicine practitioners is increasing, more and more patients are also reaping the benefits of both healing systems.

Before choosing a practitioner -- any health practitioner -- it is important to discuss with them your needs and health problems, their treatment style and qualifications, fees for services, and similar issues.

For more about traditional Chinese medicine, treatments, cures, beliefs, and other interesting topics, see:

ABOUT THE AUTHORS:

Bill Schoenbart has been practicing traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) since 1991, when he earned a Masters degree in TCM. He teaches TCM medical theory and herbalism at an acupuncture school in California, and also maintains a clinical practice.

Ellen Shefi is a licensed massage technician, licensed acupuncturist, and registered dietician. She is a member of the American Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, the American Herb Association, and the Oregon Acupuncture Association.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.