Journal of Acuherb in Medicine


Four Tiers of Asian Medicine

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  1. Food Therapy
  2. Herbal Therapy
  3. Exercise: Tai Chi & Qi Gong
  4. Acupuncture & Cupping

I. FOOD THERAPY

File:The Su Wen of the Huangdi Neijing.djvu

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”

- Hippocrates circa 431 B.C.

Traditional Asian Medicine first employs food as a therapeutic tool. Why? Because we are very pre-occupied with food. Our stomachs will let us know that we are hungry, so most of us, unless we are imbalanced, will eat 1-6 times per day unless food is not available. Since we eat, its important to consider what we are eating due to the fact food has a major influence on the health of our bodies. If we drink pop, alcohol, eat desserts, cheese, candy, red meat, bread, processed foods, etc. then guess what happens to the body? It clogs up and gains weight and we get sick. If we eat vegetables, fruit, water, fish, then what happens? We open up, lose weight to balance and leanness and we can get well. The effective TAM practice will include food therapy with the knowledge of what food works best with a particular constitution. Ever heard of, You are what you eat? What that means, is that certain foods will definitely determine the cell quality in the tissues of your body. Food, ideally, provides substance to make energy from, benefitting the cells so they can do their job. The more energy, the more capacity your cells have to do their jobs. If they are obstructed with poor choices, that fit your wants, then the result will be illness. Foods that balance your ailing constitution, are essential to re-establishing your health. Master herbalists, sophisticated in this specialty, will recommend this strategy in order to form a foundation for other traditional Asian medicine. No matter what treatment methodology, allopathic or naturopathic, healing can be sabotaged, if food therapy is not seriously considered in the remedial process. Therefore, food therapy is critical to restoration of your health. Though food is a more subtle remedy, its gradual nourishing effect, has the power to restore, unnoticed, only because it takes more time. Thus, when we get sick, it is difficult, to connect the dots as to how we got in that condition.

II. Herbal Therapy

?There are three categories of drugs; the lowest one of which is poisonous, the second one is a little poisonous, the highest one is no poison. The lowest drug cures 6 out of 10 sicknesses, leaving poisons in the patients. The middle one cures 7 out of 10 sicknesses, leaving a small amount of poison. Even the highest medicine cure only 8 or 9 out of 10 sicknesses. The sicknesses that medicine cannot cure can be cured only by foods.??Nei Ching

The next tier of traditional Asian medicine is herbal therapy chosen because of its relevant affective strength on the human body. Herbal therapy is applied to open the channels with specific influence on the underlying cause of imbalance and related symptoms. Comprehensive knowledge of herbal medicine is necessary or harm may be done. Herbal medicines have the same strength as food except that it does impacts the body directly. When reduced to an extract level which equals about 4-5 times the strength of the basic herbs, the effect is quicker and stronger. Natural herbs do not heal any better than synthetic medicines but they can help the body to fight disease, strengthen the body’s immune system, and help to harmonize the body’s functions. After a master herbalist learns about individual herbs then a herbalist will proceed to herbal formulas which make a greater impact to energize, reduce or harmonize more body parts in the healing process. Herb medicine deserves respect because harm can occur if not applied correctly. Though not as dangerous as synthetic medicines, imbalances can occur if rendered inappropriately.

 

The 4 Natures, 5 Tastes, 4 Actions, and the Meridian Attribution

These characteristics are found in food and herbs and influence the body’s reception of the herb’s medicinal qualities.

Four Natures of Herbs

The four natures of herbs are:

  • Cold
  • Hot
  • Warm
  • Cool

The “Nei Jing”, an ancient book of Chinese herb wisdom, saysif thebody is cold, heat it; if the body is hot, cool it. The herbs that are used to treat hot type dysfunction are typically cold or cool. Herbs that are used to treat cold type conditions are generally warm or hot in nature. There are some herbs with a more subtle nature. They are categorized as neutral in impact on the body. Essentially every neutral herb may be deemed slightly warm or cool, so we can refer to the basic four natures.

The Five Tastes of Herbs

spicy

sour

sweet

bitter

salty

 

Herb tastes affect different body functions. Every herb has its unique nature and taste. Herbs with the same nature may have the same taste. Or herbs with their similar tastes may have different natures. Therefore, the study of tastes and natures can be very complicated. The Nei Jing says:

  • spicy and sweettastes move fast so they, characteristically, belong to yang constitution type.
  • Sour and bittertastes move body functions downwards so they reflect the yin body type.
  • Saltytaste moves energy downward too, so it also is yin in quality.
  • Bland(a subtle sweet taste) permeates so it belongs to yang.
  • Additionallyspicy, sweet, and blandattributes are distinctively yang.
  • Sour, bitter, and saltyattributes are yin in their affect on the human body.

The Four Actions of Herbs

The four actions of herbs are:

 

Ascending

Descending

Floating

Sinking

 

These four actions are directly related to the human body. The great Herbalist Li Dong-Yuan said,?“herbs have the properties of ascending, descending, floating and sinking, transformation, giving birth, growth, harvesting, storing, and completion”. It so happens, these same actions match up with the four seasons – spring/ascends, summer/floats, autumn/harvests, winter/stores, central earth/transforms.

  • Herbs, whose taste are weak, will ascend and rise (give birth).
  • Herbs, whose natures are weak, will descend and restrain (harvest).
  • Herbs, whose natures are strong, will float and grow.
  • Herbs, whose taste are strong, will sink and store.
  • Herbs, whose nature are neutral and tastes are bland, will transform and complete.

Yang ascends, Yin descends, Yang floats, and Yin sinks. Spicy, sweet, and bland have the yang characteristics of the earth. Sour, bitter and salty have yin traits. Yin and Yang descriptions aid the TAM practitioner relative to understanding the affect a herb will have on the body.

YANG characteristics are related to:

  • High Energy
  • Light
  • External
  • Upper
  • Hot
  • Dry
  • Excess

 

Yin attributes will be associated with:

  • Low energy
  • Darkness
  • Internal
  • Lower
  • Cold
  • Wet
  • Deficient

Additionlly, herbs that are light will usually ascend or float and herbs that are heavy will usually sink or descend. Flowers and leaves will float while seeds or roots will descend or sink. Keep in mind that Chinese Herb Medicine also includes the mineral and animal products, which have their own properties.

The Meridian Attribution of Herbs

There are 12 channels in the human body. These clearly defined channels are influenced by historically beneficial herbs that are known to impact a specific channel. Additionally, The various herbs can affect the functions of the body with multiplicity. For instance, when a person has a hot type imbalance, the herbs recommended must be cool or cold, and if the person suffers from a cold type disease the herbs that should be taken are warm or hot. A hot type disease may be liver-heat or stomach-heat; a cold type disease may be lung-cold or spleen-cold conditions. Here is where a thoughtful practitioner shows their value. Herbs that can purge liver heat may not be able to rid stomach heat; herbs that can warm a cold spleen may not be able to warm cold lungs. Therefore, different herbs have been assessed for their multiple affect on the functions of different organs. The functions of the herbs and the 12 meridians can be interrelated and this is what is meant by the meridian attribution of herbs. Herb have been researched, observed for centuries and well documented for their specific influence on the channels. In particular, well trained master herbalists will know which channel and at what point along the channels, the herbs impact. Below are common Chinese herbs used by a herb master.

Common Traditional Chinese Herbs include the following:
  • American Ginseng
  • Asian Ginseng
  • Astragalus
  • Bitter Melon
  • Bupleurum
  • Chinese Scullcap
  • Corydalis
  • Dong Quai
  • Eleuthero
  • Green Teas
  • Licorice
  • Ligustrum
  • Maitake
  • Reishi
  • Schisandra
  • Shiitake
  • Fo-ti
  • Chinese Ginger
  • Ginkgo biloba

Herb therapy when combined with compatible food therapy can be extremely valuable in aiding an ailing person towards normal balance. When you add exercises (Tai Chi & Qi Qong) that wake up the natural restorative energies of the body then the potential for optimal health is achievable.

 

III. Exercise: Tai Chi & Qi Gong

?Life exists because qi is amassed, when qi is dispersed, one dies.?Zhuang Zi, Chinese philosopher

 

Wellness & Longevity Movement. TaiChi and Qiqong form the third tier in the Chinese medicine arsenal. In order to increase the likelihood of physical improvement and health maintenance, practitioners will encourage clients to engage in an energy rejuvenation regimen.

The fast-paced yet sedentary nature of modern life often results in stress and lack of sufficient physical activity. Millions of individuals have found the meditative movements of Tai Chi and Qi qong to be effective therapies for a wide range of health problems, including poor circulation, headaches, joint pain, back pain, breathing difficulties, digestive and nervous disorders, to name only a few.

Tai Chi and Qi gong have an extra degree of stretching in each movement while placing emphasis on health improvement. With practice, these movements produce a beneficial effect on all systems of the body by increasing flexibility and strength, improving circulation, and relieving tension.

By restoring healthy circulation and alleviating tension in the muscles, ligaments and tendons, Qi gong and Tai Chi help to optimize body functions thus engenders health and maintains the proper functioning of all systems, organs and tissues.

 

“An ignorant doctor is no better than a murderer.
-Chinese proverb

 

IV. Acupuncture & Cupping

Acupuncture

?While acupuncture represents a legacy of concepts that predate Western civilization, as a contemporary health care system it also represents a synthesis of continuously evolving scientific and technological developments, which provides us with new tools to meet current clinical challenges.??Dennis Tucker, Ph.D., L.Ac.

As with all of Asian medicine, acupuncture is constantly improving its craft. While some Asian medicine practitioners lead with this modality and use the prior methods as an adjunct, historically, acupuncture has been employed after the first three tiers. This sense of priority is based not on effectiveness but rather on aggressiveness of therapeutic action on the body. In the American culture, people have become accustomed to an instantaneous result or the ?doctor, fix me now? syndrome. The other modalities allow for the client to participate and become knowledgeable about their imbalance which usually results in a more sustainable outcome. However, when the other tiers are not enough, then acupuncture is essential.

Acupuncture is one of the oldest Asian medicine regimens that has been successful offsetting a multiplicity of health conditions. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) has recognized more than 40 forms of disease that can be effectively treated through acupuncture. Additionally, WHO has recognized traditional Asian medicine as a more economical medical method of treating health conditions.

Research has shown that the human body has more than 2000 acupuncture points. Channels theory is fundamental in the practice of acupuncture. With 12 major channels in the body, there exists 365 mapped acupuncture points, while there are over one thousand more points found on the hand, ear, and scalp. Qi (pronounced ?chi?) is the energy that moves through the channels. Acupuncturists work with the movement of qi in order to balance yin and yang, excess or deficiency in the body, and nourish the internal organs.

An adept acupuncturist will identify the proper pressure points in the body, knowing full well, that not identifying the proper point can worsen the condition and sponsor other medical problems. Seek treatment from a professional who has a proper knowledge about identifying the trigger points, TAM theory, long term apprenticeship or mentoring by a seasoned professional and a word of mouth, long list of referrals.

Cupping

?[Cupping] Although not widely used as an alternative method of treatment for cancer, some practitioners may use it to rebalance energy in the body that has been blocked by certain tumors.?
–American Cancer Society

Cupping is a method of treatment used in traditional Asian medicine (TAM) where a vacuum is created inside a cup and then placing the inverted cup on an ailing part of the body. The vacuum anchors the cup to the skin and pulls the skin upward. TAM practitioners understand that physical imbalance is due to stagnation or blocked chi and cupping will unblock and realign chi, thereby restoring health. Cupping is applied to specific points or regions of the body that are affected by pain. Cupping is especially appropriate where the pain is deeper than the top layers of tissue.

Cupping mobilizes tissues to:

  • release toxins
  • activates the lymphatic system
  • clears colon blockages
  • helps activate and clear the veins, arteries and capillaries
  • activates the skin, clears stretch marks, and improves varicose veins

The cups may be made of such things as wood (such as bamboo), plastic, glass, or metal.

Not to be confused with the percussive technique in Swedish massage called “cupping” or “clapping”, cupping was originally called “horn therapy” in ancient China. Instead of using cups, the developers used horns of various animals to create suction. Variations of it have been used in Turkey, Greece, France, Italy, and Eastern Europe. Cupping has a long history of use in acupuncture and has been combined with bloodletting. A therapy in its own right, specialists in cupping exist throughout Asia and are evolving worldwide. In the U.S., many practitioners of other healing modalities- massage, chiropractic, herbalists, nursing and allopathic physicians are adding this specialty for the benefit of their patients.

Benefits:?Cupping is a safe, non-invasive, and an inexpensive technique for colds, lung infections, and internal organ imbalance. Cupping improves muscle and joint pain, spasms, particularly in the back. As an alternative to acupuncture, cupping can be used when acupuncture needles pose a problem. Cupping therapy stimulates blood and lymphatic circulation.

 

Other Asian Medicine Methods

 

“Life is short, (the health) art is long…. It is not enough for the physician to do what is necessary, but the patient and attendant must do their part as well, and circumstances must be favorable.”?Hippocrates circa 431 B.C.

 

Other methods frequently used in a TAM treatment include:

  • ?Guasha? (the use of spoons to apply friction to the skin)
  • ” Moxi-bustion” (burning mugwort to heat the acupoints)
  • ?Tuina? (chinese massage)
  • “Chu” (non-invasive alternative to acupuncture, employs a set of acupoint tools)
  • “Electro-acupuncture” (the addition of an electrical current to non-puncturing acupuncture stimulators). Electro-acupuncture utilizes an external source of electricity attached to the acupuncture needles to create a current across two or more acupoints.

Electro-acupuncture is frequently used in scientific research. Although acupuncture has received more attention by the media, herbs used in a TAM treatment are of equal or greater importance to the overall treatment.

Chinese herbal formulas have been researched extensively in Asia; however, there is very little research to assess the outcome of multiple modalities of TAM to treat mild to severe conditions. This study, assuredly, would be impressive but widely known, quietly, by practitioners of Traditional Asian medicine.

 

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