Chinese Medicine as Preventative Medicine: What does that mean?
“The enlightened doctor intervenes before physical disease manifests.”
– Hur Jun, 16th Century Korean physician
My long-distance friend recently called me and, knowing I’m a practitioner of medicine, had a question that had recently been troubling her about her health. She told me that within the past couple of months she noticed a blotchy, red rash appear behind her ears, down the side of her neck, and onto her chest. The rash comes and goes and is triggered by alcohol, which due to stress she has been drinking more of in the past few months. She has found no correlation between the type of alcohol (beer, wine, etc.) and the rash. It is a mystery. She had already run this concern by a doctor of Western medicine and his answer was that if it isn’t itching no need to worry about it, although she could have her liver levels checked for extra precaution.
Through the lens of Chinese medicine…
That got me thinking about how Chinese medicine and Western medicine differ in how much we can do at the first signals our bodies send that illness or imbalance are present. Viewing this friend from a Chinese medicine model, there is already information that I could use for treatment. The redness is a sign of heat, or inflammation, and while the path of the rash may seem random to the untrained eye, it actually follows two channels, or meridians, in Chinese medicine, San Jiao or Gallbladder. Notably, in Chinese medicine the San Jiao and the Gallbladder are paired together. The San Jiao, in this case, has to do with clearing heat and skin rashes. The Gallbladder has many functions, one connecting to stress and the Liver, and the other with the courage to move forward and make major life decisions. It just so happens this friend is in the process of the latter after recently ending a long-term relationship with a difficult break-up.
What is your body saying?
Chinese medicine involves recognizing symptoms and patterns. Once we know what pattern we are dealing with; based on signs, symptoms, pulse and tongue, we can likely see where this pattern will lead if it is not changed. Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, eating fried food daily for years, over-working and pushing our limits for too long, frequently experiencing excessive anger or sadness, are all examples of things that can throw our body into unhealthy patterns and cause illness over time. Although my friend’s liver levels may appear normally now, years from now that might not be the case if the same patterns continue. The body is already speaking.
What’s it going to cost me?
Undoubtedly, Western medicine serves a very important purpose. One way is in treating serious conditions that need immediate change. But as we know, that is going to cost us money. Some people say acupuncture is expensive, but the truth is, it’s a short-term investment that will save you money in the long run by potentially avoiding surgeries and a long list of medications down the road. Also, now with the option of sliding scale community acupuncture in cities all over the country, it is a financially feasible option for most everyone.
For a better future…
16th Century Korean physician Hur Jun quoted ancient words when he said, “the enlightened doctor intervenes before physical disease manifests”. Why put off for the future what we can more easily take care of today? When we take care of the present moment, we take care of our future. Listen to the signals of your body now. They are designed to tell us when something isn’t working right. Not only will you feel better physically, but taking steps towards health empowers us and gives us greater self-confidence now.
It really works!
As for my friend I mentioned earlier, she finally went to her first acupuncture appointment last week after years of my nudging. After one treatment her rash has appeared less often and she said after the treatment she was the most relaxed she has been in her entire life. Oh and, as a long-term smoker, she also hasn’t had a cigarette in the week since her treatment. She’s going back next week to start working on some chronic female health issues after learning the wide range of conditions Chinese medicine can treat.
Here’s to taking the first step!
Jennifer Blatnik, L.Ac., Marshall, NC