What is Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine?

Acupuncture, Acupressure, Chinese Herbology and Food Therapy is part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), a complete medical system that has diagnosed, treated and prevented illness for centuries. TCM utilizes Acupuncture and Herbs to treat all ailments, especially those for which Western Medicine has little to offer or those with which Western Medicine causes undesirable side effects. Unlike surgery and medications, Acupuncture and Herbology have virtually no side effects, yet it yields excellent results for a wide variety of conditions. TCM also uses Auriculotherapy (Ear Acupuncture) as an aid in treating many conditions, as well as being an adjunct therapy to curtail smoking, treat eating disorders, and drug and alcohol addiction. Chinese Medicinal Cooking or Food Therapy is tasty and nutritional, and can be geared both towards your health and your tastes. Therapeutic use of diet and nutrition, tailored to the individual, is a powerful tool to supplement any healing process.

TCM also incorporates Moxabustion Therapy.  This is a therapeutic method that prevents and treats diseases by applying heat to certain points on the body.  The heat is produced by burning a particular species of the wormwood herb, known for its warmth and healing effects.  Another TCM method of treatment is Cupping Therapy.  With this method, small glass cups are used to stimulate blood circulation, usually to relieve pain.

What medical conditions does it treat?

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which is a combination of both Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine, is a complete medical system that can diagnose, treat, and prevent illness.  It is a system of medicine with a history of at least 2000 years!!  Most Americans think of acupuncture for the treatment of pain, when in fact it is used to treat all medical conditions, from acute, minor illnesses such as the common cold or influenza, or other viral and bacterial infections, to parasitic or fungal problems such as Lyme’s Disease or Candida, to more serious ‘incurable’ conditions such as hypertension, diabetes and arthritis.  Also, many Americans know about Acupuncture for helping in drug detox programs, to help stop smoking or alcohol abuse, or to lose weight.

 How does it work?  Or what is the theory behind TCM? 

TCM is based on a very strong theoretical foundation.  The Chinese medical theory is all based on the concept of ‘Qi’.  Qi can be generally translated as referring to Energy.  For example, we receive Qi from the air we breath and Qi from the food we eat.  Correspondingly, all organs and processes in the body need Qi in order to perform their functions in our bodies correctly.  It is said that there are energetic pathways or networks in the body, which correspond to various organs in the body such as the Liver and Spleen, etc.  Each organ network, or meridian as they are called, has corresponding tissues, emotions, and even seasons associated with it and therefore corresponding patterns of disharmony.  These patterns of disharmony are what cause pain or a certain disease.

How is a disease or disharmony diagnosed?

Diagnosis is based on determining the pattern of disharmony.  I first look into this by using what is called the ‘Eight Guiding Principles’.   These are four polar opposites by which I can interpret the data received from the examination.  These include ‘Hot or Cold’, ‘External or Internal’ and ‘Excess or Deficiency’, and ‘Yin and Yang’.  Hot and Cold signs and symptoms are easy to understand.  Someone may tend to be more Hot or Cold, such as in actual temperature of the body, or may prefer Hot or Cold weather or Hot or Cold drinks, or may have pain that has Hot or Cold sensations to it. External and Internal refer to the location in the body where disharmony lies.  An External condition affects the body’s superficial layers of tissue, such as the skin and external areas such as the eyes, ears and teeth, where Internal conditions affect deeper layers of tissues and the internal organs.   Excess or Deficiency refers to hyper- or hypo-function of any organ or physiological process.  A condition is of Excess when there is obstruction in any organ or increased reactivity to stress or infection, whereas a condition is one of Deficiency if there is decreased resistance to stress or infection.   

Secondly, I diagnose by taking the Pulse and looking at the Tongue.  In Chinese Medicine, we take the pulse at three positions and on three levels on each wrist.  This is because each position represents a different organ.

I also have patients show me their Tongue.  I look at both the shape and color of the tongue, and the location and color of the tongue coating.  A normal, healthy tongue should be pink, with a thin, white tongue coating.  The organs of the body are mapped on the tongue.  The front or tip of the tongue represents the Heart and Lung, the sides of the tongue represent the Liver and GB, the center of the tongue represents the digestive system and the back of the tongue represents the Kidneys/UB.  

A diagnosis of the patient is then the combination of what I have learned about the patient from discussion with them about their health, current signs and symptoms, and from taking the pulse and looking at the tongue.  A treatment plan is then based on this diagnosis, determining which points are treated on the body and what herbal medications are prescribed.  

What is Chinese Herbal Medicine?

In Chinese Herbology, over 360 plants, minerals and animal substances are used. Herbal prescriptions consist of combining several herbs customized to the patient's condition which are then traditionally prepared as a tea or decoction. In addition to a complete raw herbal pharmacy, for the convenience of the patient, I specialize in having herbal prescriptions available in tincture form.

Chinese Herbal Medicine is unique from other types of herbology in that it is based on Chinese Medical theory.  Using Chinese Medical theory, a diagnosis is made in order to determine what herbal formula to prescribe.

How are the herbs dispensed?

The Chinese Materia Medica includes thousands of herbs.  In my office, I have a complete herbal pharmacy.  Traditionally, a Chinese herbal formula is a ‘decoction’ or tea of 10-14 herbs, which is cooked and then drank at the usual dosage of 3 cups/day.  This is the most clinically effective way to take herbal medicine.  The tea is absorbed and distributed to the body by the digestive system in a more gentle and efficient manner than when an herbal prescription is taken in a pill form.  However, in order to make customized herbal formulas easier for my patients to take, I have also created a pharmacy of alcohol-extracted herbs, or tinctures.  In this case, a patient will take only a small dosage a day, which is almost as clinically effective as drinking an herbal decoction or tea.  And finally, I also carry standard Chinese ‘patent’ medicines which are already-made formulas in a pill form.  Some of these formulas are directly from China and have been used for many generations, and some are more modern-day equivalents from Chinese-American companies. 

What are the typical costs of herbal prescriptions?

In general, the cost of Chinese herbal prescriptions is very reasonable.  This low cost is mainly due to the fact that these herbs are coming directly from Taiwan or China.  The raw herbs I carry in my office, from which  decoctions or tinctures are made from, are all tested and are free from pesticides and heavy toxic metals. 

Herbs prescribed as a decoction or tea are priced at a variable rate, based on the weight of the herbal formula.  So if a complex formula is prescribed for a complex condition or disease, the cost will be more than one for a simple case.  The cost of customized tinctures are $15 for a month’s dosage.  Ready-made pill formulas from China are in the range of less than $10 for 100 pills, whereas American-made ones are about $25.

What about training to prescribe Herbal Medicine?

I am licensed to practice and prescribe in the state of California, after receiving a Master’s Degree in Oriental Medicine.  Additionally, I also have National Certification in Chinese Herbology (NCCAOM).  This training has encompassed botany, pharmacology, and herb-and-drug interactions.  Please feel free to call me with any herbal-related questions you may have!!

What is Homotoxicology?

Homeopathy is a natural healing method for treating all ailments.  It emerged in the late 1700's and is currently the alternative medicine of choice in Germany, France and India.  Homeopathic medicines are specially prepared doses of plant and mineral substances which are used to stimulate the body's innate healing mechanisms.  Homotoxicology is a form of Homeopathic Medicine based on the theoretical foundation that diseases are the expression of our bodies combating poisons or homotoxins,.  Correspondingly, complex combinations of herbal remedies are used to either neutralize or excrete these toxins from the body.