All posts filed under: Chinese Medicine

An Outsider to Your Medicine: On Practicing Chinese Medicine

I am in a rare place in my life (as a primarily stay-at-home-mom) where I can spend time pondering my career path and calling in medicine. For a few months now, I have wondered if I will every truly understand one side of the medicine that I practice: East Asian medicine (a term I like to use for acupuncture and Chinese medicine). The answer deep inside me is a resounding NO. I will never really understand East Asian medicine. Because I am not of the culture from which the medicine is derived. It’s not of my ancestral line. And I haven’t been immersed in any aspect of Asian culture. I’d love to work at a hospital in China. I’d love to study the Classics with a knowledgeable teacher. I’d love to dedicate many years to learn a lineage of Qi Gong. I could read all the books and go to all the conferences and do all the things and get all the degrees…and I’d still never really know Chinese medicine. I can live with that. I …

Herb Samples: A Most Useful Study Aid

The last 4 weeks have been a whirl-wind. But I made out out on the other side! Yes, I officially graduated. My last board exam was the herbal one. I spent a week doing practice tests, reading through my notes and fondling my samples. My herb samples came from the free table at school. Some samples were missing, some had pre-made notes and some had lost their, um, freshness, but I didn’t care. They did the trick. It is much easier to memorize things when the thing you have to memorize is in your hands, or at least it is for me. I would’ve preferred to taste each one individually, see it growing, learn the botany, chemistry and ethnobotanic history in an attempt to really learn it. How much can you know about a plant by just reading about it? A lot, true, but so much can be gleaned experientially.

Let Me Tell You About Herbal Internship

  There is a clinical shift in my education program called Herbal Internship. Herbal Internship is solely dedicated to, you guessed it, herbal consultations. There are 4 one hour slots to treat 4 patients with herbs. Do an intake, take pulse and look at tongue, determine diagnosis and treatment principles, discuss a formula, send the formula off to be filled. Seems pretty basic, no? Despite the fact that I have elected to do extra Herbal Internship shifts and know the drill, it is a far cry from basic. First of all, people are complicated. There are often 3-5 major complaints. Rarely does someone have just one single thing as their chief complaint. Secondly, conflicting signs are commonplace. Heat and Yang Xu (deficiency). Dampness in the Middle Jiao (digestion), which is an excess condition, and Blood Xu (deficiency). Thirdly, we make it up as we go along. This is not a bad thing at all; it is simply challenging and pushes me to the limits and forces me to expand my way of thinking. There is …

Cool Surface-Releasing Herbs, East + West

It seems that there are a lot of cooling herbs in comparison to warming herbs, at least regarding what we need to know of Chinese herbs for class. There are cool herbs to release toxicity, cool herbs to clear deficient heat, cool herbs to resolve damp-heat and phlegm, and of course, cool herbs to release the exterior. Again, these are known diaphoretics and diuretics. And also again, they are working from a Chinese perspective to get some sort of invading pathogenic factor out of the body. We mostly think of pathogens as being microbes of some sort, in this case the common cold and influenza. But really, pathogenic factors can be all sorts of things – it just has to come from outside and make its way inside. An example of this is seen in people who are sensitive to eating a lot a sugar or drinking alcohol. They may start off feeling a scratchy, sore throat, drippy nose, gummed up ears, low energy, and if they continue to eat sugar over the next few …

Warm Surface-Releasing Herbs – East + West

The first groups of herbs students learn in Chinese herb classes are the warm and cool herbs to release the exterior. These herbs are active on the surface of the body and useful in externally-contracted conditions, like colds or the flu. Many are diaphoretic and open the pores to promote sweating, vent rashes, treat red, itchy eyes and sore throat in the case of a wind-cold or heat invasion, treat headache of carious causes, or drain dampness by being diuretic. One thing I love, love, love, love, love about learning Chinese herbs is the emphasis on the energetics of taste/flavor. I already mentioned this in my last post, but I can’t help but (over)state it again, because it has been so helpful in learning the herbs, and providing a bit of theory to base the use of these herbs in. Overall, the flavor and energy of these herbs goes up and out. Some are aromatic, most are acrid, a few are bitter or sweet. Most but not all of these herbs enter the Bladder and/or …

Learning Herbs – Chinese Medicine School Style, and Jing Jie

I am in 2 of 12 terms in school. The pace at which we learn things is incredible.  Study a subject  for one week and bam! you are expected to know everything (yes, this is an overstatement) about the muscles of the thigh, the Spleen meridian, the integument system, and (as luck would have it) certain categories of herbs. Tomorrow is out first herb test, which will consist of answering questions about the 14 herbs we learned in the “Warm Herbs that Release the Exterior” category. Starting in 2002, I regularly studied herbs in earnest. That meant that on most day of the week, I read about, tasted, looked at, sat with, thought of, gardened, identified and wildcrafted, and took notes about the herbs that I was studying. Since I was in a self-education situation, I tended to migrate towards herbs that myself or my friends and family needed. There is the time to sit and digest  (literally and figuratively) all the information and subtleties about the plants. With all the ways I studied herbs, …

Actions/Directions of Plant Parts

One of the first books I read on herbalism and health was Elson Haas’ Staying Healthy with the Seasons. There were many interesting little bits of knowledge and graphics in that book, including one relating parts of herbs to actions in the body systems. Here is how I remember it: A week ago, I checked out a neat book to help me learn more about Chinese herbal formulations. Traditional Chinese Medicine Formula Study Guide by Qiao Yi walks the reader through all angles of formulating and a bit about pathology. The more I read about Chinese herbalism, the more I see similarities with what I’ve learned studying Western herbalism. Take this categorization about plant parts and actions from the study guide: I have looked in a few other sources in attempt to find more information about plant part and action/direction for both Western and Chinese herbalism, to no avail. (If you know of a resource, let me know!) One aspect in particular I’d like to get more information about is the Chinese medicine view about …

Reflections on Chinese Medicine, Resolved

The reflections continues. This fall I will be starting a program in Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture. I am excited to start a new adventure down the healing path, but I also have a few points of concern. The main concern I have is a common one for me: local versus global. Western herbalism is present in my backyard and spice rack. I can walk three steps out my front door and harvest nettles (yes, I stupidly planted nettle right in front of my house), chickweed, plantain, yarrow and more. My family is of European descent, I live in the USA, I grew up acculturated in Western linear, rational thought, and have been studying Western herbalism for over eight years. My roots lie here. Chinese medicine is present around me too, but more in theory and than practice. Acupuncture needles don’t grow on pine trees, and even if I did have Chinese herbs growing around (which I do, actually), I don’t know a lot about harvesting or preparing them.  How do you make ‘raw’ versus ‘cooked’ …