Traditional Chinese Medicine Invades U.S.;
Richard Nixon Responsible
by Michael Braunstein
A revolution has begun in America. It is taking over the way our citizens look at health care. The numbers are convincing. Latest figures show that when ill, nearly 50% of Americans turn to therapies from sources other than conventional doctors. And late President Richard Nixon is to blame. (Well, sorta.)
It's no secret the turn health care has taken as we near the turn of the century. Not only is Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) becoming an important source of healing, but so is Ayurvedic Medicine (from ancient India) and other forms of what were once known as alternative therapies. And Richard Nixon really did play an important part.
Now I remember Nixon as the President we loved to hate when we were in college. His "sins" are many and replete. It is only in moments of serene retrospect that I have been able to see his virtues. He did end the war in Viet Nam. He ended the draft. Began détente with Russia. His signature is on the Civil Rights Act that LBJ forged. And, Nixon was the first President in decades to even travel to China, as he opened the door to diplomatic relations with the largest country on earth in 1970. It is while there he became champion of the Chinese medicine revolution now strong Stateside.
During the visit, James Reston, a member of Nixon's press corps, became gravely ill with appendicitis. Tragedy was averted when Chinese physicians removed the offending vestigial vermiform, just as U.S. doctors would have. With one major difference. The sole method of anesthesia was a few appropriately placed acupuncture needles, not ether! And post-op pain relief was acupuncture only. Reston healed quicker, with fewer complications than normal.
Nixon, not to mention Reston, was duly impressed. Cultural exchange was indicated. And Richard Milhouse Nixon, son of the great State of California, saw to it that a group of acupuncturists traveled to UCLA Medical School to bring the skill to America. Little did he realize the revolution he was sponsoring.
TCM is a practice of medicine first documented in the Pen Ts'ao, written in 2800 B.C. It's only rival in antiquity is the ayurvedic system of India. But the flagship practice of TCM is unique. It is acupuncture.
At the core of the doctrine of TCM is the understanding that we are made of energy, not crude matter. This energy must flow unfettered through the system that is known as the "body." It is keeping this flow in balance that is the primary concern of TCM, (and other traditional therapies, like ayurveda.)
TCM calls this energy chi. Chi flows through the body along specific paths or meridians. It is along these meridians that acupuncturists stimulate points to balance the flow. This therapy is traditionally done by inserting fine, sterile needles. But it can also be done with modern technology using painless lasers, light electrical stimuli or simply, applied pressure (acupressure.)
TCM is more than acupuncture though. As described in medical text written in 2700 B.C., The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine, it includes many natural practices that cross cultural boundaries. In addition to acupuncture and acupressure, Traditional Chinese Medicine often includes the following practices.
- Chinese Herbal Therapy - Herbal therapies are common to most ancient cultures. An early Chinese text, Materia Medica of Li-Shih-Chin was translated into English in 1596. It contains listings of over 100 plants, 366 plant drugs and over 10,000 formulations. Chinese herbal medicine recognizes simple natural characteristics of plants and relates those to the same characteristics in the human makeup. Basic is the idea of two primary polarities, yin which is dark, moist, cool, feminine; and yang, warm, light, dry, masculine. Herbs and foods are classified by simple natural characteristics that relate. They can be of Four Natures: cold, cool, warm or hot. They are of Five Flavors: sour, bitter, sweet, spicy or salty. There are other characteristics of lightness or heaviness etc. Diseases are approached by balancing the characteristic of a disease by the application of the appropriately characterized food or herb.
- Cupping - In a sense similar to acupuncture, warmed glass cups are used to produce gentle suction energy along meridian points, improving energy circulation.
- Moxabustion - The most common way to add stimulation to acupuncture points, this places smoldering moxa plant (Mugwort) on the skin or the top of an inserted needle. The gentle release of warming energy stimulates the points.
- Chi Nei Tsang & Chua Ka - Both are forms of internal organ massage, generally self-administered. The first is Taoist based and the latter a Mongolian practice. They serve to stimulate the flow of chi on a deeper level.
- Tao Yinn - From 3000 years B.C., this is the ancient massage therapy technique of TCM. Similar to Shiatsu, a Japanese derivative, it activates pressure-points on the body.
- Tai Chi Chuan - It is a system of meditational breathing and movement. Used in China since 4000 B.C., has been found an effective remedy for stress, anemia, arthritis and other diseases.
- Qi Gong - It teaches breathing, posture and meditation to relieve diseases and promote health.
These are primary modalities incorporated in Traditional Chinese Medicine. There are practitioners of each available in the Omaha/Lincoln area. Consult the Healing Arts Directory for information.