Friday, January 28, 2011

He Loves to Pay for Being Beaten Up

A Chinese man, between 30-35 years old, came in with a question: “Can the doctor beat me up?” Everybody laughed. But he continued, “I am serious, I would like to pay!” I said, “Your request is not funny!” He said, “Oh, but I am very serious!” I said, “Because you have this wish, it means your body is telling you to do so.” He responded, “I don’t dare tell this to other people because I don’t want people to think I am crazy.” I said, “There is no need to feel strange!” He looked at me seriously and with curiosity then asked, “Can you tell me how come?” I said, “Before I tell you, I want to explain something. If I really want to have a piece of candy, it should be due to the fact my body needs some sugar, right? In the TCM medical books we have one term which means “likes-to-be-pressed” which describes your situation, although the books have never said “likes to be beaten up!” He seemed to accept my explanation, but still harbored some doubt.

I said, “Listen carefully, please help me ship a document to another state.” He asked, “How come?” I said, “I don’t want you to do anything, but I have a question for you, shipping must mean shipping out by ship?” He said: “No.” I said, “Can something be shipped by railway or even air mail?” He nodded his head. I said, “That’s it.” He continued, “ I want the medical explanation for my desire, not your story!” I said, “I already told you.” He said, “I seem to understand, but I feel I am in a land of five-miles fog. I said, “Likes-to-be-pressed means deficiency.” I began to beat him up as though I were hitting the drum in lion dancing.

After the ‘beating’ he felt better, but he still asked questions. He wanted more medical explanations in order to comfort himself. I told him, “’Likes-to-be-pressed’ means there is a deficiency in your body; “refusing-to-be-pressed” means there is an excess in your body.” He seemed to understand but requested me to give him a sample case. I said, “A patient came in with a stomach ache and told me they had gone for a medical examination and had received a negative finding. I took the pulse for him; it was weak, and the tongue had a white coating. I pressed his abdomen for a minute, and asked, “How do you feel? Are you feeling better or worse?” He answered that he felt better. I told my patient that his stomach was weak and cold.” After listening to this example, the man felt satisfied and left.

Everyone Has a Different Gift

A middle-aged Caucasian woman, a teacher by profession, called me about her son who was trained in mountain sports and belonged to a team.  The training was so strict that her son had become exhausted and was unable to recover his energy.  The son, however, could only feel the disgrace of defeat, and refused to accept his situation. He kept thinking he was able-bodied.  The mother hoped I could help her boy.
The young man came in with a bitter look on his face and was somewhat unwilling to talk.  As the examination began, I asked him a question, “Have you ever seen a Chinese senator?”  He answered, “Why do you ask this question?”  I said, “It won’t hurt you to answer me, will it?”  He responded in a low voice, “No.”  I said, “I have seen a black man break the world record in track and field.”  He answered in a very low voice, “Yes, I‘ve seen that too.”  I asked, “Have you seen a black man break the record in swimming?”  He shook his head to indicate “No.”  Then I continued, “Everybody has their own gift and different body constitutions. Also they need to make themselves suitable for society.”  He responded to me with impatience:  “How come you have so many questions and so many stories?”  His mother became anxious, and worried about the success of treatment.  I raised my voice a few levels higher and said, “Although you don’t see a Chinese senator, you can see many Chinese engineers take charge.  Although you don’t see a black man win the world championship in swimming, you can see a black man break the world record in running.  Probably your body was not born to be a sportsman, but you could be a champion in another field, and maybe even be in a top position one day.”  He sighed, then said, “Hmmm, o.k! Now I understand.”  I raised my voice again, “Let me treat you right away.”

Spiritually better, the blockage removed, I just simply tonified his body.  He began getting stronger and stronger as no longer over-exerted himself in sports.  Finally, his body went back to normal, and sports became a pleasure, not a pressure.

Everyone Was Frightened of the Noble Middle-Aged Lady

A noble middle-aged lady who is dressed professionally should be welcomed and attract people, right?   But in this case, when her subordinates met her, after saying, “Hi,” they often said, “Excuse me, I forgot my coffee,” or “Excuse me, I left something in my car,” and they would immediately move away.  The reason was that she always yelled at her subordinates, and the reason for her yelling was that she was always exhausted; she felt really awful, and had no power to do anything.
A well-known professor recommended her to me.  She was a health facility director in Silicone Valley.  After conducting the TCM examination for her, I realized that her energy was low, and her job responsibility was too much which is why she felt so awful and yelled at her subordinates.  I comforted her: “Take some treatments, your are going to get better.  Of course, that is not a guarantee.”  She said,  “I understand.  How come I feel so weak?”  I told her, “There are a few major causes: first, born to be weak; second, working too hard; third, for your degree, you studied quite hard to get your title.  Your body was damaged during that time.  You were young, and it is just like driving a new car, but not handling it properly.  It is being worn out but the problem does not become evident until later.”  After listening, she shouted, “Oh! I see.”  But she still doubted how I would be able to make her better.  I told her, “In the beginning don’t think so much, lie down and take a nap, let me insert a few needles; if you feel tired you don’t even have to respond to me.  I turned off the light, kept the heat lamp on, and probably she was so exhausted, the red color of heat lamp made her eyes tired, and she fell asleep. 

During the treatment, she said she felt like a drunk person.  After I pulled out the needles, I told her not to get up all at once, but to first move a little.  She asked, “May I know why?”  I replied, “Acupuncture treatment regulates and tonifies your body.  Your body has to repair many things and this also requires energy; that’s why you have to move around a little before getting up.”  After getting up, she felt a little better, but still felt lethargic. 

I said, “Your herb tea is ready. Enjoy your tea; it will energize you.”  After finished her herb she asked, “Am I getting better right now?”  I replied, “Since it took a long time for your condition to develop, it will also take some time to get better.”  She said, “I understand that, but what I meant is, what about today and tomorrow, will I feel better?”  I said, “There are two possibilities: one, you just simply feel better, or secondly, you might feel very sleepy and awfully tired.”  She said, “Yes, but what if I have to do many things?”  I said, “You are feeling tired because your body is now repairing itself; it may shut down some service in order to repair a major organ, but if you struggle, you can manage.  The body won’t be able to repair as much or as quickly if the conditions necessary for repair are not allowed.”

Because of her education and personal character, we had no arguments during her many treatment periods. She began to feel better and better with each succeeding treatment, and she began to smile more often. Her subordinates very seldom forget their coffee. When she said good-bye to me after the last treatment, I gave her a guarantee that her subordinates won’t leave anything in their car. She said, “Excuse me, Dr. Ng, please don’t laugh at me! Thank you -- so long.”

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Back Pain of Non-Mechanism

A very busy stockbroker came in for treatment, saying aloud, “My wife told me to see you.” (Meaning that it was not his intention to have treatment because his schedule was too tight.)  I asked him, “Sir, what can I do for you today?”  He said, “You tell me.”  I replied, “I know what you mean, you want to test my skill.  Some of my patients are like this; not long ago two teachers did just that to me.”
I looked at his tongue and took his pulse. I began to talk to him, and he suddenly interrupted me: “My leg and back feel about the same.”  I said, “ Excuse me, let me take a look at your chart.”  I said, “According to your chart, you did get some improvement.”  He replied, “I did not mean NO improvement.”  During the treatment, he mentioned two of his colleagues had died, and he was under tremendous pressure and stress. His wife worried about his health.  He also told me that he had seen a medical professor who was already certain that his back was o.k.  His medical professor told him that because he worked so hard, his back did not get enough energy to support it.  I applauded and said, “That’s a good diagnosis which is why I am going to make your body stronger and reinforce your back.”  His wife was my patient too.  She used to argue with me very often, but after I treated her problem, she was very often grateful to me.

The man managed to come in a few more times.  His wife called, telling me her husband would come for more treatments to prevent something bad from happening, but he did not have time; his schedule was too tight.  This is a normal occurrence in my practice.  I am able to help my patients only when they come.

The 100-Mile Drive

A very nice Caucasian gentleman about 70 years old told me his shoulder pain had been unbearable for a long time.  The pain was so bad he kept a gun next his bed, often putting the barrel in his mouth, but always in the end, failing to pull the trigger.  
One day his neighbor committed suicide.  He saw the suffering of the surviving family members.  He also realized that even though he may have suffered more than his neighbor, he had chosen not to kill himself.  The entire episode was a wake-up call for him and decided he must try earnestly to remedy his condition.  It was this situation that caused him to drive 100 miles from the Sacramento area to see me.

The shoulder pain was especially acute at night.  He asked me, “Why? Why can I not enjoy my retirement?”  I said, “Probably you worked very hard in the past and the strain wore out your body.  It is just like using a credit card.  You don’t feel anything while you are spending the money, but when it comes time to pay, then you really feel bad.”  “Oh, I see,” he responded.

He continued to ask why he felt pain at night.  I said, “Good question.  This is why we talk about yin and yang.  Let me take a look at your tongue.”  His tongue looks very white.  I continued, “Your warming up energy is not enough. When the sun is up in the sky you don’t have to use much energy.  When the sun sets, then your energy need is greater; it is nature’s law.   Your body has to burn more energy to warm you up.  In young people there is a good supply, but your body doesn’t have the same amount of resources. It cannot produce the amount of heat that it needs, and you feel cold.  When there is not enough money in the State treasury, local agencies tighten up their budgets.  So, your shoulder will tighten up because the muscles are not getting enough blood circulation, and that is why you feel pain.  After listening he said, “Oh boy, I see.”

I began to treat him by tonifying his body.  The tonification reinforced his shoulder circulation.  He became much better and was finally discharged.

A Flu That Lasted for Several Years

A young Italian lady came in for a treatment.  Her complaint was that she was tired from having shoulder and back pain.  As I prepared to do an examination, I turned the heater on for awhile.  She said, “It is too warm for me!”  I turned the heater off, and a little while later she said, “It is too cold, can you please turn on the heat?”  
As I was taking her pulse, it began to tell me many things.  “Do you have a bitter mouth?” I asked.  “Yes,” she replied.  I added, “Is your throat dry?”  She again answered, “Yes.”  I said, “I am almost certain what is wrong with you.  I don’t know if you feel dizzy or not, but either way, my diagnosis would be the same.”  She said, “Dr. Ng, don’t scare me!  Tell me what is wrong.”  I said, “It is the flu.  In fact, it is a flu that you have been carrying for several years.”  She yelled, “No kidding!”  I told her it is a flu which resides between the outer and inner part of the body, that is, in the superficial area.

After I treated her a few times, her symptoms went away because the major problem settled down.  She began to conserve energy, and with acupuncture and cupping the back and shoulder pain got better.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Too Much Rich Food is Not Good

A wealthy middle-aged woman from Hong Kong often served her son rich food believing it would make him grow strong.  The son, however, often felt dizzy.  Through her friend’s referral, they came to see me for treatment.  After taking the pulse for him, I asked, “Do you feel dizzy?” Her boy answered, “Yes.”  I asked, “Does the middle part of your forehead feel uncomfortable?” The boy looked at me but gave no response.  I said, “Let me take a look at your tongue.”  He extended his tongue, which was white, and the coating was too thick.  I raised my voice: “Does your forehead not feel alright?”  He answered, “Maybe.”  I said, “If so, your dizziness is coming from your stomach.”  He asked, “How come?”  I said, “Your over-acting pulse and your coated tongue indicate your stomach is congested.”  He asked, “How come?”  Then I asked his mother about his diet. She told me that his nutrition is very good.  She cooks all kinds of good food for him and lets him eat however much he wants.  I continued: “Your son cannot absorb so much.” She replied, “But he is growing; he needs lots of nutrition.”  I said, “Enough is good, but too much is no good; you are giving more good food than your son can handle.”  Her manner indicated that she did not really believe this.  She was attached to the old thought, but not the ancient thought.
The boy came in for several treatments but he only improved a little.  His mother never really believed my opinions about her son’s diet, and each time I had to explain it until my mouth felt dry.  Sometimes we even debated.  I said: “These cases are not new to me; if you co-operate with me, your boy will be better soon.”  But she was still attached to the thought that nutrition is good for a growing boy.

After a few more treatments and continuous advice about her son’s condition, she began to accept my opinions. I also mentioned that in ancient times, people knew how to drink ordinary tea, and they did not ask for too fine tea; they ate light meals that were neither too salty nor too rich.  This practice is in accordance with modern science. We continued our talks during treatments, and the boy was the first to understand the situation.  He urged his mother to cook less rich food for him.  I also told him to do more exercise.

As time passed by, the boy’s dizziness decreased and the mother realized that I might be right.  But one day, the young boy called me and said, “Doctor, I feel dizzy and I am going to fall down!”  I said, “No!”  He said, “I really believe I am going to fall down now.”   I said, “Try to walk very fast around the house and you won’t fall.  Right now I am very busy, but call me back later.”  He did call back and reported that he did not fall down.  He asked, “Why?”  I told him that his dizziness was caused by his stomach congestion, but not energy deficiency.  The more they believed, the more they cut down on the rich foods, and the boy continued to get better and better until finally he did not need further treatment.

Treatment Principles:
Excessive energy

Kum Kwat Seeds for a Divorced Lady

A former Stanford professor finished her treatment session and met her friend in the waiting room.  She introduced her to me, “Dr. Ng, meet my good friend.”  After saying hello to her friend, I plucked a few fresh kum kwats from my tree which I bought to celebrate the Chinese Lunar New Year.
I explained the name “kum kwat” to them: “Kum means gold, kwat means tangerine.”  Both of them tasted the kum kwats.  They said that it tasted sweet and at the same time very sour.  They laughed loudly and asked what is the benefit of eating kum kwats?  I told them it can make the stomach better and regulate the qi better.  My patient asked, “Can it make my friend feel better? She just went through a divorce and she is not happy.”  I told her that she could also chew and eat the kum kwat seeds.  Her friend said,  “Really!”  I said, “Yes, sometimes when I don’t have time to cook herbs for myself (because I am being driven nuts by my patients), I eat kum kwats or oranges, and I also chew and eat the seeds.  I feel better.”  So her friend ate a few kum kwats and chewed the seeds.  As we kept on talking, the divorced lady said she felt better; I explained to her that the feeling of fullness in her chest is better and easier due to the qi (qi could also mean air) being adjusted.  But she was also doubtful and asked, “Could it be psychology?”  I responded, “Talk to your friend; she will explain it to you.”
This lady asked, “Dr. Ng, qi also means air?” I answered, “Yes, there are many kinds of energy, you can call it qi, and if you want to learn more, you can talk to your friend.  I have told her many things about TCM.”  She said, “By the way, how is my friend doing?”  I said, “You can get the answer from her smile.”

I told them that we often cook the seeds to serve to patients, but very seldom do I let my patients chew them, but since I myself did it once in awhile, it couldn’t hurt.  I also told them there are many kinds of herbs that I have tried myself so that when I give them to my patients I do so with the confidence that they are safe to ingest.

Treatment Principles:
¨     Energy that is “stuck” can be understood as gas.
¨     Kum Kwat seeds can neutralize gas.

Heart Palpitations but No Heart Problem

A medical student’s wife came to see me for acupuncture treatment.  She said: “I have a heart palpitation problem, but when I checked with a medical doctor he said my heart is ok.” After I conducted the TCM examination, she asked me: “Dr. Ng, do you find anything?”  I laughed and laughed, just like a hungry monkey who all of a sudden gets lots of fruits.
She eagerly asked, “Can you help me doctor?”  I said, “Fortunately I can help you.”  She asked, “Why did you laugh?” I replied, “Because the skill required to detect your problem was so difficult to obtain that now I can use it to help you.”  She said, “Doctor, I hope you can prove it to me.”  I said, “ Yes, but this treatment is never a guarantee.”  She replied, “I understand. Nobody can give such a guarantee.”

I told her that her chest (the heart and lungs) can be compared to the upper part of a river, below the chest (the liver and stomach) can be compared to the middle part of a river, and the abdomen (the kidneys and intestines) can be compared to the lower part of the river.  Without explanation, she already seemed to know what I was going to say.  I continued, “You have energy stagnation in your liver; when the middle part of river is unable to flow, the upper part of the river will be affected.  She said, “ Oh, that’s why I suffer!”  I replied, “Yes.”  I inserted the needle to guide the adverse liver qi downward.  (This qi means energy, and it also means air; you can also call it a gas.)  She felt better.

Then I also told her, “Your liver also interferes with your stomach activity;.”  After each treatment, she told me that she felt better.  She felt something changing inside her body, and although she did not know how to express her feeling, she knew she was improving.
She continued to come for treatments, and one day as she came in she told me she was really better.  With more care, she improved even more, but before I discharged her she moved to another city.  I hope one day, I can transmit this skill to many doctors or explain to someone who is really interested.

Treatment Principles:
Excessive in this case means that the energy is “stuck.”

Monday, January 10, 2011

A Diagnosis of Cancer at the Time of Retirement

A highly accomplished designer found out he had cancer just as he was about to begin his retirement.  He was very upset, even terrified, I encouraged him and said “Don’t worry!  With the M.D.’s help and my treatment, you will be o.k.”  He replied, “I hope so, but I have two kinds of cancer, and I feel awful.”  I comforted him by saying, “You have to accept the fact.”  He replied with sadness, “I know.”
While undergoing chemotherapy, his mouth felt very dry and his energy was very low. I treated him with acupuncture that enabled him to have more defensive power and enabled him to get more nutrition from the food he ate.  Also, I let him drink an herb mixture that helped provide energy and promote the creation of more fluid in his body.  So basically, he did not suffer much from the chemothera and the other operation, and his mouth did not really feel as dry.  He said, “I can live normally.”

As time passed, he suffered some pain in his back.  He said that according to the M.D., after his operation (he had two kinds of treatments) some muscles were not able to recover completely so that when the weather changed, the muscles did not get enough blood circulation.  By treating him according to TCM principles, i.e., reinforcing the local muscles and tonifying his body, I was able to reduce his back pain to a minimum.

A year or more after the above-mentioned treatment he returned for more treatments stating that his back pain returned when weather was very cold.  After I conducted the TCM examination for him, I told him, “This time, I really have to suppress your blood pressure and cleanse your blood vessel; probably you eat too much rich food.  He knew what I meant: that his present condition could cause a stroke. (He had been educated by me.)  He said, “I should cut down on the rich food.”  I added, “I don’t want you suffer.”  He responded,  “I know; thank you.”  I provided him with more treatments, and he got better again.

It is a burden for me to have to tell a patient that excessive food can cause a health problem or even a stroke.  They might understand or not understand.  They might understand but not do anything about it, or they might understand but not want to admit it.  I usually say, “Your pulse indicates that still you eat too much good food.”  Then they begin to change…but how much time do I have? 

When I took the pulse for this patient I realized it was more important to calm the liver and suppress the yang in order to remove the possibility of a stroke; after that I could treat his back pain.

Treatment Principles:

  • Sometimes it takes a while for the patient to realize what the doctor is trying to convey.
  • In this case, the doctor needed to (a) create more fluid to deal with the yin deficiency (b)  increase the energy of the patient, and (c) expel the excessive _______________.

The Englishman Who Was Unable to Sleep

An Englishman came in for treatment and said, “Dr. Ng, I am suffering!  I hope you can help me.”  I asked, “What is your complaint?”  He said, “My leg is very painful, so I can’t sleep.  But if I raise my leg, I don’t feel pain, but then, physically and mentally I am alert, and I cannot sleep at all.”  He allowed me a period of time to help him improve until finally, he could sleep. He wrote a letter to President Bill Clinton asking him to include acupuncture on the Medicare list.

The Lady Who Loved Movies but Couldn't See

A lady who loved to go to the movies had to give them up because if she kept her eyes open for more than a few minutes at a time it resulted in considerable discomfort.  She came to see me after being referred by her friend.
First of all, I asked her: “Have you seen a doctor or a specialist?” “I did,” she replied.  “Any findings?”  I asked.  “No,” she responded.  Sometimes people are told by their doctors that nothing is wrong with them; this is because the best diagnostic treatments such as x-ray, MRI, or lab tests can give no indication that something is amiss.  Still the person does not feel well, and they end up seeking other ways to treat their dis-ease.  If they come to me, I must take the first step of diagnosis in Chinese medicine, which is to observe.  My naked eye cannot compete with sophisticated equipment, and I am always glad to get the assistance of test results that will rule out certain conditions.

I took her pulse, and found out that the stomach pulse was extremely over-active.  “Do you eat much meat?” I asked.  She replied, “Yes.”  I asked again, “Do you eat much meat everyday?”  She said, “Yes.”  “According to your pulse and what you have told me, I am going to tell you why you are closing your eyes so much.”  She said, “It is not a ‘must’ that I believe you.”  I replied, “And it is not a ‘must’ that I treat you!” 

We paused a little and I asked to see her tongue, which was white with a thick coating.  I said, “You always want to close your eyes because your stomach is no good.”  “How can I believe that?” she asked.  I replied, “Well, you can have a few acupuncture treatments plus some herbal medicines until your stomach gets better, then you will believe what I said.”  She agreed to try a few treatments and herbs.

After a few treatments, she told me that she could look at a book a little longer, but she was still unconvinced about the efficacy of the treatments.  At the beginning of the treatments she could read a book up to 10 minutes only with great struggle.  After some more treatments she began to read about 20 minutes, even though she still lacked confidence in the treatment.
After a few more treatments, she could see for longer periods of time, and her confidence in the treatments began to increase, but there was some doubt and fear.  I comforted her and said, “Getting well is not a big deal!” She said, “Well, don’t make me too happy!”  (When a patient has been suffering for a long time, the suffering casts a shadow over them). 

More treatments were performed, and she could read for longer periods of time.  She finally decided to go to a movie and was able to watch most of it.  Her confidence continued to increase, and her shadow got lighter and lighter with my encouragement and comfort.  She told me that even though she had run out of money, her health was more important and she decided to pay by credit card.  Finally she was discharged.  At the last treatment, I told her to cut down on meat, and don’t forget to exercise.  She was overjoyed!

Monday, January 3, 2011

A Patient's View

I have made several visits to the doctor’s office during the past 20 years in order to find out the cause of my occasional exhaustion and heart palpitations.  I worried that perhaps I would need a valve replacement like my father.  On one such visit the doctor told me, “There is nothing wrong with you.  Your blood tests are all negative, and your heart is normal. You do have an elevated level of the liver enzyme bilirubin – it’s called Gilbert’s Syndrome – but it’s nothing to worry about. You’re fine!” I knew that this man was highly regarded in the medical community and that he was trying to relieve my anxiety, but nevertheless, I felt like I had just received a diagnosis of hypochondria.

People who have Gilbert’s Syndrome do worry about it because sometimes they can experience deep exhaustion which can last for up to several days.   And if they don’t understand their condition they will also feel confused because they are told, “There is nothing wrong.”  I continued searching for a way to help overcome the empty-gas-tank feeling that plagued me from time to time, and this is how I ended up in Dr. Ng’s office, or “The House of Ancient Science” as I came to call it.

With Dr. Ng’s treatments and teachings my situation gradually became clear to me.  Rather than the “You’re fine” line, Dr. Ng told me I have a constitution known as “born to be weak.”  Now this might seem like bad news to some people, and of course I felt a little sad at first having always had an image of myself as someone who was physically very strong.  But this feeling was quickly replaced by a deep sense of confirmation because someone had finally told me the truth about why I feel so tired when I overdo it with too much hard work or when I wake up with a headache if I’ve eaten junk food the night before or why I have a natural aversion to drugs. 

Outwitting the Snake King

Often my patients ask me if I can take care of an infection for them.  I say, “Yes and no.”  I say yes because I can help my patients to feel better, and I say no because curing an infection by killing the germ is not the TCM approach as the following story illustrates.

A young white female patient complained of having an infection.  She reported swollen joints and also redness and itchiness of the skin as well as pain in her right hand.  My first impression was that it was an infection which could be treated by traditional western medicine but she told me that she had tried this and did not get a favorable response so she finally gave up.  Her Tai Chi Chuan teacher knew about her suffering and recommended her to me.  When she arrived in the office her good looking face was clouded over by worry and anxiety.

I took a look at her tongue which appeared white indicating that her body was cold.  This condition allowed the germ to grow unhampered.  The tongue coating was also thick indicating her body was damp. This condition also produced a good environment in which germs could grow.

The front part of her tongue was red and had red spots, and the tip was also red.  This indicated her heart was overheated and that too much blood was jammed up in her heart system.  Just like a traffic jam where cars get packed together and cannot move easily, the jamming of the blood in her heart area prevents good circulation to every part of the body.  And both sides of the tongue were red meaning that the liver and gall-bladder were overheated.  With her body in such a condition how could she summon enough defensive power to fight the germ?  And having already taken medicine – which kills the good germs as well as the bad – there was the possibility that the bad germs would grow again.

I took the pulse for her left side.  It was rapid – about 90 to 92 beats per minute.  The rapid pulse indicated an overheated condition, and the pulse was tiny, which meant the blood wasn’t circulating sufficiently.  The right side pulse was 100 beats per minute, and it was tight and floating.  Tightness indicates coldness, causing the blood vessels to contract and hamper proper circulation, and the floating quality of the pulse indicated a type of flu in the body although the patient might not be aware of it.

There are so many kinds of flu that it is beyond imagina-tion. I reminded my patient her that she had a pain in her eyebrow.  If I had not reminded her she would only have known that she felt uncomfortable.  I inserted one needle to clear up the exterior part of her body and another needle to calm down her mind which had been stressed for a very long time due to an awfully unhappy marriage.

I used cupping to unblock the tight muscles in her back area.  She felt better after the treatment because the muscles in her back had relaxed and the lungs which are in charge of the skin and hair were clear.  The skin and hair, considered the exterior part of the body, are related to lung function in TCM.  If you have a flu, your nervous system can cause your tiny pores in the skin to contract, then your body heat cannot evaporate, and as the nature of heat is to rise, it goes to your head.  As the heat is rising and leaving the lower part of your body, your body goes out of order and that is why some kinds of flu make you can feel chilly and have a fever at the same time.

When she came in for the second visit her left side pulse was 80-82 beats per minute, and the tiny quality of the pulse had improved.  The pulse on the right side was 80-84 beats per minute, and the tight quality of the pulse had become easier.  Also, the floating sensation of the pulse had subsided, and by the fourth visit she felt much better.  The redness in the skin improved, there was not as much tightness in the back muscles, and the swelling in the joints had gone down.

One day my patient experienced severe pain on the right side of the abdominal area.  She went to the hospital for tests.  The doctors concluded that she had an infection and removed her appendix which was then found to be healthy.  Perplexed, she checked in with her physician, who threw up his in exasperation and said, “You need a doctor!”  My patient laughed while reporting this incident to me.  She was not bitter at having had the unnecessary surgery because her doctor was a sincere and humble man who had tried his very best in to cure her.

At a subsequent visit I took the pulse for her and noted that it was rapid, especially on the right hand stomach point.  I could feel that the pulse was overacting and bouncing back with too much power.   As I took the pulse, her eyes were closed but not completely closed because she was worried and wanted to see from my face if there was any hope.  Unfortunately, my face tightened up all the time, especially when she suddenly yelled, “Oh, my stomach hurts!”  I examined the area where the appendix had been removed and there was nothing abnormal, but still the pain remained.  From the pulse activity, I had to say it was an infection, even though the site of the infected area had been cleaned out through surgery.

After the surgery she had been feeling tired and nauseous.  I helped her clear up the exterior part of her body while helping her system eliminate an accumulation of water.  I used the “sedating method” of acupuncture treatment to help cleanse the blood and urination system.  Her nausea and tiredness lessened, and when she returned for another appointment the floating pulse in the right hand lung and stomach point was greatly reduced.  When her appendix area was very painful, I used oil and the “warm up and circulate” treatment to relieve her pain.

When she came in for another treatment, the right hand pulse was not as floating and rapid, the nausea was less, but she still had no appetite, and the tongue still tended to be white while the tongue tip and both sides of the tongue were still red, so treatments continued and so did her improvement.

As my patient’s condition changed, my treatment program changed accordingly.  As the rapid and floating pulse improved I began to warm up her body, which empowers it and allows the energy to move.  As I helped my patient clear up the excessive water and push out the toxins, the red color from both sides of her tongue became much better.  At the same time I let her drink an herb which tonified her liver and kidney in order to create more liquid.  Then her energy became better and her body became stronger.  I also used one kind of herb which worked as a glue to heal the patient’s appendix area.

I wanted to reinforce the patient’s body so that her defensive power could fight the germ and perhaps even conquer it and at the same time, I cleared up the heat in her heart system which improved the blood circulation, I also helped her body cleanse the excessive dampness which had allowed the germ to grow easily. I added an herb to the standard TCM protocol which pushed out the body’s waste and produced new strength.  And our continued talks together opened up her mind and she became much happier, and eventually stronger so that her pain disappeared. When she checked with her medical doctor, he told her to come back for an appointment in three months time.

If I just killed the germ that was giving her so much trouble my patient would feel worse.  Why?  In her case killing the germ would have required clearing up the heat and detoxifying her, but the fact was that her system was already too cold when she first came in for treatment.  If I had cleared up the heat the treatment would have made her even colder, and she would have gotten worse.  It is a TCM principle that the patient should not be made worse from the treatment. 

Please be advised, a germ found in the body reflects an imbalanced condition.  If the body is not warm enough then certain germs can grow, and if it is weak then its defensive power is not strong enough to fight the germ.  So, according to TCM, if I warm up her body, then the germ will not be able to grow easily.  (Think of the senior citizens who catch cold easily in winter, but if they keep warm, they won’t get sick so easily.)

Yet during the treatments I confessed to her that I really needed a superior teacher, not because I am humble, but in order to relieve my burden of insecurity.  As no standard program of treatment was available to me for her particular situation, I felt my skill was insufficient and my knowledge not profound enough.  Her problem was for me like the large and dangerous snake king which my kung fu could not conquer.

If a giant snake gets too close to me, surely I will feel terrified.  My heart will almost jump out of my chest knowing that it can kill me.  But due to my social experience and long term hardship I do not show my fear.  I raise my left hand and say, “Nice boy, nice boy!” My appearance is fearless and my eye is firm.  The snake king who is very clever and has vast experience due to old age decides to withdraw because it does not know what I will do next.

You may say, “Hey!  I believe your story, but if you don’t kill the snake king (germ) he can kill you.”  But I can reply that if I kill the snake king (germ), the one thousand snakes who live in his district can then come out and kill me.

You might think about killing the snake king because it is the way of thinking in western medical practice, but to tell you the truth, in ancient times giant snakes were respected due to their supreme powers.  Snakes have been known to protect babies and guard the saints.  They can even transform their bodies into a human body and marry a human being!  But these are legendary stories which you may not accept.  In the age of modern science a real example of snake power can be found in my home province. Due to many rats which were infesting the rural areas, the local government introduced the rats’ primary predator – the snake – to help re-balance the environment.

You may feel that the patient’s symptoms presented a confusing picture, and such a situation will generate many questions.  That is how I felt, too.  But as a TCM practitioner, if I show my confusion and fear, the patient will not be able to have confidence and may even feel worse.  But by proceeding with determination and having faith in the method, I was at last able to hear her say, “I don’t even know when my skin itchiness disappeared, and I can’t even remember the pain that I had.” 

We Were Brothers Two Thousand Years Ago

One day a Turkish man, full of warmth, came to see me.  Without waiting for an introduction he looked at me and said with a loud voice – and using these very words – “Two thousand years ago, we are brother!”  I knew what he meant, and indeed, he was historically correct.  At one time there were two huge groups of Turkish peoples, and one of them merged into the Chinese population.  The Turks have been trading and dealing with the Chinese for thousands of years, and now in China many people have Turkish heritage.

With this historical perspective, he already trusted that I would be able to treat him. Though I was joyful, I also felt the pressure of expectation, and I had to rub my chest to relieve the tightness. He explained his situation to me, and said that his ten fingers and toes were numb, and his heel and ankle were also numb.  He blamed the doctor in Turkey for this problem, saying that he had prescribed excessive drugs for him, but later he added, “Maybe before having this problem, I already had several strokes.” 

He also mentioned that he had gone to Chicago for a major medical check up, but received no specific finding. The fact that the major medical check up showed no medical finding saved me a great deal of energy.  I didn’t have to think about whether the problem was rooted in the spine or brain or other part of the body, although I would still need to be careful.

The patient’s face was really red.  To use an example, if an automobile does not have enough coolant, the engine will overheat.  In the language of TCM, if the body fluid is less and unable to control the fire, the heat will increase.   As the nerves also affected by the heat, the person will talk excessively and in a loud voice.  Conversely, when a patient is weak and cold, they usually feel lazy to talk, and talk in low voice.

As I took the pulse for him, I noted that it was floating, wiry, and slippery.  When I told him that his was a case belonging to the “over-active,” category he suddenly asked me, “Do you need to take a look at my tongue?”  I said, “I already did.”  He said, “Not yet.”  I said, “When you were talking to me, I saw your tongue, but now, please let me take a close and a careful look.”  He extended his tongue, and it looked old and red with a yellowish, greasy coating indicating his internal organs were excessively jammed up with heat and dampness.  Furthermore, mucus already occupied his body’s orifices and his blood vessels (in TCM, mucus is divided into two different kinds: seen or unseen), and that is why his pulse was slippery.  Thinking the examination was over he asked me if I could treat him.  I said, “Yes, I should be able to make you better.”  His eyes were also affected by the blood and energy that were jammed up in his body, and he looked at me like a tiger.

I let him lay down and helped him take off his socks.  I inserted the first needle in order to guide his blood and energy down from the upper part of his body and his brain where it was jammed up.  (Imagine, if two persons want to play on a see-saw, their weight should be about the same, otherwise the heavier one will be on the ground, and the lighter one will be in the air.)

I inserted a second needle to create more body fluid for him, and a third needle to drain the old, toxic material out of his body.  During the treatment, he began feeling better but was unable to express it.  While drinking my herbal tea, he told me that he already felt better and his head felt lighter. He laughed, and his family smiled.

When he came for a second treatment, he asked, “Did you find anything wrong with me, brother?”  I said, “Old brother, yes!”  He said, “How you going to treat me today?”  I said, “I am going to use a stone-aged method to help you!”  He said, “Really!  Can you explain my problem to me or give me some example?”  I told him, “You eat too much rich food including meat which your body cannot digest and which it does not need so much of.  It becomes garbage in your system, and the garbage blocks your blood vessels, meridians, and orifices. Since most of the channels (or you could call them meridians) become blocked, it causes heat. That’s why your face is so red, because the nature of heat is to rise, and the nature of cold is to stay low.  The heat also brings the blood up into the upper part of your body and your brain, where it stagnates and becomes unable to go down. That’s why you feel dizzy, and your fingers, toes and ankle feel numb.”  After listening, the old brother sighed, “Oh, big brother, I see.”

I quoted to old brother an original sentence from the ancient medical text, “If ill in the upper part, then choose a point in the lower part.”  Old brother asked, “What does it mean?”  I said, “In your case, your blood and energy are stuck in your brain.  I used one needle on your foot to guide it down to your feet and hands.”  He said, “Oh, brother!”  “I also put a second needle so that you could urinate better and clear up the toxins in your system, and a third needle to create more fresh body fluid to replace the toxic fluid that was eliminated.” 

He asked me a question, “Since my blood vessels are no good, are you able to change them? If I have blood clots in my brain, can you help me to get rid of them?”  I responded, “Yes, I can help you improve your blood vessels, and if you have blood clots in your brain, I can use some herbs to guide other herbs which will dissolve the blood clots for you.”

As the old Turk came for more treatments, his appearance improved, his face color was only a little red, his talking was no longer too loud, and he admitted that the numbness had largely disappeared. Sometimes he would even take a short trip instead of coming in for treatment.  Finally he said he was more than 70% better.  If I had said, “Brother, you are 79% better!” he would not disagree, but that kind of talk was not important anymore because he was overjoyed, and he needed to fly back to Turkey.  I reminded him not to eat too much rich food, and he promised with a smile and said, “Thank you, two thousand year-old brother.”