Monday, December 27, 2010

A Beauty Crying for Her Hair

A tender, beautiful Caucasian lady was crying and sobbing.  She was told she had cancer.  Her medical doctor told her that she must undergo chemotherapy treatment which she knew would cause all her beautiful hair to fall out.  I told her that acupuncture and herbs could probably give her some help.  She responded wide-eyed, “Really?!”

I replied, “You can take advantage of both ancient and modern science.”  She was eager to find out about this and asked, “Please tell me how you are able to help.”  I smiled and told her, “Don’t get excited or amazed; it is not a big deal.  While chemotherapy destroys the cancer cells for you and causes side effects, I can enable your body to create new cells, chemical fluid (in TCM it is called yin), and also make your body stronger.  Then your body can absorb more nutrition from the food you eat.”

Things came out as she expected.  She recovered from the medical treatment looking as beautiful as before the treatment, and without losing any hair.

Water Chicken

An elderly Chinese gentleman came into my office walking heavily and complained that it was awfully difficult for him to breathe. He also reported that there was an odd sound coming from his upper chest, a sound like a duck.

I responded to these complaints by telling him that instead of saying “duck” we should call that sound “water chicken,” after a description of his condition written in a medical book almost 1,800 years ago.  I took his pulse and I let him know I could not find the lung pulse. I concluded that phlegm was blocking both the meridian and the pulse.  I looked at his tongue, but at that moment could not make up my mind as there just was not enough evidence to give a definitive diagnosis.  I examined his complexion which was pale. While we talked his eyelids partially closed.  His eyes began to roll back in his head until all I could see were the whites!  This occurred because his phlegm was blocking his bronchi, and he was not getting enough oxygen.  (In TCM we say, “the mucus puzzles the orifice.”) 

I asked him quite seriously, “Do you prefer hot water or cold water?”  He answered, “I drink lots of hot tea.”  By then, I realized what I could do for him, but I also asked, “What is the color of your phlegm?”  He said, “Green.”  I began to realize that the nature of his problem was cold but there was also some heat because too much phlegm already blocked his lungs.  So I used the 1,800 year-old prescription and changed it accordingly. I gave him three packages of herbs to try.

Three days later he came again.  He told me that he felt much better.  His face looked better than before and his complexion was no longer pale.  He walked with more ease, and the water chicken sound was gone.  I gave him two more packages of herbs with slightly different ingredients.

After he finished those two packages, he reported that he was even better.  He told me, “The first three packages of herbs were not good enough.”  I said, “But it chased out the water chicken for you.”  He asked again, “How come there were so many ducks or water chickens in my chest?”  I responded, “The excessive amount of mucus or phlegm that had accumulated created that noise.”  I also told him, “The first day you came in for treatment your pulse should have been “superficial” and “slippery” according to the nature of the problem but that day you did not even have a pulse!”  The patient asked, “Why?” I told him that the mucus was blocking the passage.  But in TCM we say, “Even without the pulse evidence we can sill act according to the symptom.”  His condition can be classified as a flu, in which case the pulse can seem superficial because the defensive power of the lung is being attached, the mucus has blocked the passage, and it becomes narrower.  The pulse will then have a slippery sensation.

“Let’s say you have a flu, but a medical check-up is negative and you feel o.k. If I take your pulse, and it is slippery, then accordingly I will say, ‘You sometimes feel dizzy, have a bad memory, and get angry easily.’  You might not admit it at the beginning, but later, after treatments you will admit it, and will say, ‘No wonder.’”  “Now I understand!” he said. “How were you able to you make up your mind?”  I laughed, “The only way is to learn widely and listen broadly.”

Diagnostic Principle:
Reading the Slippery Pulse.  Visualize a rubber pipe with fluid moving through it.  The sensation of the fluid moving through it is smooth and steady.  But, if you clog up the pipe with gelatinous stuff (e.g., mucus), the fluid will have to move around it in order to get through the pipe.  Slight pressure will build up as the fluid first encounters the mucus and then pushes against it before managing to course around it.  The pulse sensation produced for the doctor is one of ‘rolling,’ and as if the pulse is ‘getting away from you.’

I Got Angry Because There was No Result For My Patient

An 80-year old patient came to see me. He had fallen off a roof sometime ago and still experienced pain.  I tried very hard to help him, but without result.  I consulted many medical books but none of them provided information that could help me treat him.  I am always able to break difficult cases so when  my patients do not get better I really feel it, and that is why I have chosen the word ‘angry.’  The Chinese character for ‘anger’ depicts a flower blossom fully extended, and this is how I felt, really – my frustration was extended to the extreme.

I kept trying to understand why I could not help my patient get better.  If there was a bone fracture, modern science could identify it, and if there was a bruise from the fall, my herb could disperse it. If poor circulation, acupuncture could improve it, if a tightened muscle, massage could release it.  There are many problems resulting from life in the modern world that I can help but in this case, how come my patient did not feel better?  (Of course, there are some patients who even though their pulse gets better and their face looks better, they can’t admit they are getting better; these patients need to see a psychologist.)

One morning I was in my back yard thinking about this difficult case.  I discovered a piece of water pipe that had already oxidized.  It looked like a piece of soil, and when I stepped on it and pressed it, it almost merged into the soil.  Suddenly I realized how come I was not able to help my senior patient.  Probably due to his old age, his muscles and blood vessels and tissues were already disintegrating.  They could not take the help from the acupuncture treatment and the herbs. In TCM, some herbs can make your energy better, some herbs can make your blood circulation better, some herbs can bring relief from pain, some herbs can even make even your tiny blood vessels better, and even if you have injured or bruised your bone, there are herbs which can help heal.

In ancient times, when the doctors use the words “difficult to treat” it meant that curing the patient’s condition was unlikely, and perhaps it was even beyond repair.  I believe that my patient’s body was not able to respond to the treatment due to old age, but I kept questioning myself.  Perhaps my skill was not deep enough to know what caused the pain, or perhaps my patient did not allow me enough time to improve his body and his circulation.  If his blood vessels gradually became better, who knows, maybe he could have become better, but as things stand, a high percentage of my patients do not allow me enough time to improve their condition; sometimes they live far away or are unable to afford prolonged treatment.

The old patient’s wife also had pain and had been unable to receive help from many different kinds of treatment.  A government agent gave special permission for her to take a certain kind of medicine which stopped her pain.  I remember that the liquid medicine came from a brown colored bottle which indicated it was for animal use only.  Through successive treatments I was able to make her body better, so she gave me the bottle of medicine to remember her by, and I kept if for many years.

Monday, December 13, 2010

When the Lion Danced

One day a young woman came into the office for treatment and in the process of treatment told me the sad story of her life.  At a very young age her parents had abandoned her, and she was brought up by her grandmother.  She had met a young man, fell in love, and was looking forward to a future in the land of everlasting happiness.  But one day her boyfriend left her, and it was at this time that she developed physical symptoms accompanied by much pain.
 I was able to treat her physical symptoms, but she kept telling me she did not feel well.  Finally I told her I could do no more, and that perhaps her problem existed in the mind in which case she should be treated with ‘mind medicine.’  How can acupuncture help in a situation like that?   Yet I still wanted to help her.
 I remembered the Chinese adage: You think your kung fu is good, but if you travel in the mountains where the gangs who have stronger kung fu live, what will you do if you meet them?  Though you remember what your teacher taught you, it is not enough to serve you in that moment.  Suddenly you understand you must rise to the occasion and create something new, and in that moment of “something new” you surpass your teacher.
Thinking in this way, I pounded the table and told her, “Look! Now you are at the peak of your young life.  You are enjoying your golden days.  These are your best times!  So this guy gave you up – what if you had married him and had four or five kids and through hardship became unattractive to him?  Then he would have ended up leaving you anyway!”  She understood this point, her mind opened up, and she was able to let go of her painful past. She became better, and to celebrate her victory, I performed the Lion Dance.  She joined in just like a Kung Fu master beating out the sound of the gong and drum: ching, duck tung, ching…tung ching duck ching!

"You Can Have My Wife!"

A world-renowned professor came into the waiting room and told me that he was suffering from an upper respiratory problem.  His face was excessively red and it reflected the fire from the internal organs which, from the TCM point of view, can affect your judgment.  His condition was such that it made him off balance mentally. He had no patience for anything, and he could not tolerate anything unpleasant.  His pulse was superficial, his tongue coating was very thick.  This indicated his lungs were affected by wind and the stomach was idle due to dampness.

He was talking too much, and I understood what was happening with him: his overheated body was affecting his nervous system and brain, and the talk was not for the sake of making conversation or to gossip, but was the psychological manifestation of his condition.  His wife, who was quite beautiful and looked much younger than her actual age, was suffering from non-specific medical findings and certainly kept making complaints, but in his condition, how could he handle anything?  “You can have my wife!” he said, and this of course was taken as a joke by the other patients who thought he had a great sense of humor.
Given his state, I believed him when he said he wanted to commit suicide.  I used acupuncture to calm him down, and gave him an herb to reduce his anger.  In my judgment, this professor had already accumulated too much trouble and suffering. He was working hard and under much stress and pressure. He could not even take care of himself, so how could he take care of his wife?
The worst thing was that the upper respiratory condition was affecting his brain.  If left untreated, it could even cause him to act in an extreme way, not unlike what we see in the movies when someone shoots someone in a rage or in desperation throws a baby away.
I recalled a patient who I treated long ago.  After the needle was inserted he laughed out loud, and his voice became higher and higher until he was laughing hysterically. (When a needle insertion activates the meridian, a patient who has been suppressing great unhappiness will feel inclined to ‘let go’ of the pent up emotions.)  I could feel the walls beginning to shake, and everyone in the treatment room was scared.  I assured them that I was physically and spiritually strong enough to control the patient.  (By ‘spiritually strong’ I mean I had the courage and the confidence to allow this patient to go through his crisis without feeling the need to intervene before it was over.)
When the patient stopped laughing, I asked him, “How do you feel?”  He said, “Much better, and not so angry...I could have killed a policeman if he had stopped me for a red light.”  I said, “If you did that, you would be in jail,” and he answered, “I’m sorry, I was not able to control myself.”  I said, “If you drive against the red light now, will you still feel like killing someone?”  He said, “No.  How come I had so much anger?”  I said, “You have too much heat in your body and it affected your nervous system and your brain.”  “Oh, I don’t believe it!” he responded.
As the professor was being treated he began to feel better, and he asked, “I have an infection.  Are you going to kill the germ?”  I said, “That’s not important.” and he said, “Why?”  I said, “Even if I kill the germ for you, the germ will still grow. If there is a pond or swamp formed by excess rain or flash floods, then mosquitoes will gather.  Just by slapping them off your body, you will not really get rid of them.  As long as the stagnant water remains, larvae will grow and hatch more mosquitoes.” He said, “And if you don’t kill the germ?”  I said, “I never said I don’t kill the germ.”  He was getting nervous and uncomfortable and asked, “Come on, tell me what you are going to do next!”
I said, “Because the wind invaded the exterior part of your body, the pores in the skin tightened up in order to block the wind from getting deeper.  When the tiny pores are closed your internal body heat cannot evaporate through the skin, so the heat goes up to your head and causes excessive heat.  From the  TCM point of view, the lung is in charge of the skin.  You can say that the lung is like the employer and the skin pores are like the employee.  Now the skin condition is blocking the inner heat from escaping, and it affects your lungs which are unable to function properly, so even if the germ is killed it will grow back, because the lung’s defensive power is not enough.”  I added, “Be patient.” 
As he came for more treatments, I liberated the exterior part of the body, and also helped clear up his lungs.  You can say I killed the germ in his system because he got better, but TCM is TCM, and modern ideas cannot be imposed upon it.  He face which had been so red became lighter and lighter, and his lungs’ defensive power positively eliminated the germ from his body.  Also, as he got better he recommended that his beautiful wife receive treatment from me, but this time he did not want to give her to me!

Rosewood-Like Feet

A woman from New York had been sick for almost twenty years.  She could not walk much and the skin from her knees to her toes was the color of rosewood.  She had already seen about 200 doctors, including Chinese doctors.  When she learned that a medical doctor was invited to see a government leader in China, she at once tried to see that doctor.  After talking to her, the doctor said, “You should see my professor.”  She did so and was able to improve somewhat, but she wanted even more improvement, so she went looking for more doctors.  Her relative recommended her to me.  
After conducting the examination, I asked how her doctors had treated her.  I knew that the doctors had done a good job but I knew I needed to finish what they had started.  I learned that her problem was from a germ, but I asked myself how come the problem had persisted for such a long time?

If your house is damp or wet, germs, mildew or mold will grow.  Even a mushroom can grow!  My diagnosis for the problem was a yang qi weakness.  Yang qi warms up and mobilizes the body, but when yang qi is insufficient the body cannot create enough energy to clear up the excessive water.  If the body is damp, the excessive moisture takes the characteristic of water, which will gradually accumulate and like a stream or river try to flow downwards.  In this kind of environment, the germs can grow easily. Even after they are destroyed, if the environment is damp, their growth will again be easily supported.
So I helped the patient adjust her internal climate by decreasing the excessive water and energizing the yang qi at the same time.  As time passed, the color of her feet became lighter and lighter and the rosewood hue disappeared.  After a period of time I told her she could now walk more, but she was still afraid, and she and her husband continued to come by taxi.
One day after treatment, we called a taxicab for her as usual.  It was a nice day, there was no big event, and it was not a holiday.  It was a little bit passed 1:00 p.m.  First we called one cab company, but no car showed up.  Then we called a second cab company, but again no car showed up.  One hour later, we were all frustrated.  We kept dialing, but still no one came.
The woman’s husband became impatient.  He said, “Let’s walk back to the hotel.”  But the patient said, “I can’t!”  They argued back and forth.  Two hours had already passed yet still no cab showed up.  By now her husband was angry.  He said, “Let’s walk!” Finally he pulled her up to walk, and this anger made all the difference.  She began to walk back to the hotel.  The next day she and her husband walked to and from the office without a cab, and the following day they walked to Fisherman’s Wharf.  Finally, they were able to walk to the Golden Gate Bridge, and on the last day they said, “Good-bye!” and flew to New York.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Sending a Message

For the TCM practitioner, the mind and internal organs affect each other moment to moment through an unending exchange of psychic and somatic messages.        

A masterful TCM doctor uses needles and herbs to influence the cycle by sending a ‘directive’ to organs in need of assistance  thereby producing an energetic realignment which can even bring relief to mental conditions like anxiety, depression, or anger.

To Handle the Tiger

Like all endeavors, your skill level in TCM is related to the amount of practice you do.  You must spend a very long time practicing to become an expert.  If you just practice to have a convenient schedule or to make money, you will be unable to treat difficult cases.  When confronted with a challenging situation you may see the patient as a tiger about to bite or a snake about to strike.

The Shadow of Suffering

Many people who have been through trauma of any kind lose their capacity to deal positively with the challenges of life.  The pain of the experience seems to cast a shadow over every-thing in the patient’s life.  People like this who are not well, even though they want to be healed, will have a difficult time getting better.  They will always doubt the treatment and suspect the practitioner; they will always see things in a negative light.  Even after a problem is taken care of sometimes an unhappiness, a dissatisfaction, lingers.        

This situation challenges even the skilled practitioner: how can we help the patients open their minds so that the intention for happiness and healing dispels the shadow?

Don't Burn Your Diamond

Physical activities and emotional states – both require the body’s energy.  But digging a ditch with a pick-ax requires very little in comparison to being angry.  In such a state, the energy you are expending is enough to burn a diamond.

A Balance of Work and Rest

Sometimes you hear that just after retirement from a strenuous career, the person gets cancer or has a heart attack and cannot enjoy their retirement.

If we keep ourselves in a state of complete exertion, we will not even be aware of the aches and pains in our body.  We keep pushing ourselves in order to keep up with our work.  Then when we relax our mind and body, some problem will manifest and give us trouble.  It is just like when a house has a small problem but you don’t fix it.  The problem may not be causing too much trouble for quite some time, but the situation is steadily getting worse as time goes by.  At some point you will have to give it your full attention, because a major repair will be in order.

 It is important to remember to work, but not to overwork, and rest, but not get lazy.

Stone Not Bone

A very elderly lady came in for treatments, and she improved steadily with each successive visit to the office.  Even so, her husband remained skeptical about the efficacy of acupuncture, always thinking that I was just treating his wife in order to take her money.  Sometimes it is as if a person’s head is made of granite and no new ideas can penetrate.

Fear of Needles

Some people are afraid to take acupuncture treatment because of the thought of being stuck by needles.  They think the needle insertion will be like the action of a sewing machine needle.  Actually, the patient should ordinarily experience needle insertion as though they were making contact with a pine needle.  When the doctor inserts it quickly and not too close to the surface where it will really hurt, the patient will not feel pain.  Also, the experience of pain is relative.  For a person who leads a life of physical hardship, the discomfort of a needle seems minor, even nothing.