Top 5 Myths About Chinese Medicine
This post has been trying to wriggle out of me for a long time now. Holistic health is gaining traction by the minute and more and more people are using it each day. 10 years ago, when I started out as an acupuncturist / herbalist most people I told responded with a wide eyed stare and I could see fear and questions behind it. Now, when I tell people, I often hear them respond with a story about themselves or a friend who was helped by Chinese medicine.
So many of my friends have now had positive experiences, it’s like the tables have turned. I don’t need to tell them what Chinese medicine is or can do – they are telling me!
Still, there are myths that circulate around Chinese medicine that I’d like to put to rest today. I have heard them so often throughout the years that you might believe in one of them simply because it’s something you’ve heard repeated.
- MYTH: Everyone that practices Chinese Medicine is Chinese (or Asian)
In one of the Facebook groups that I share with colleagues, there is a story about once per week of a patient who called for an appointment and then said something like “But, you’re not Chinese!” before promptly cancelling the appointment and looking elsewhere. The education has been basically standardized between China and the US, so don’t worry. The US schooled practitioners you find have Master’s degrees and need tons of CEU’s to maintain their licensure. We’re the real deal.
- MYTH: Chinese Medicine = Acupuncture
This one is partially true. However, acupuncture is but one slice of the Chinese medicine pie. Chinese medicine traditionally has 8 slices (more commonly referred to as pillars within the classical texts). The pillars vary from source to source but generally include: Acupuncture, Herbal Medicine, External Therapies (which are: gua sha, cupping, moxibustion), Dietary Therapy, Movement Therapy (think tai chi and qi gong), Massage Therapy (usually called tui na), Lifestyle Recommendations, Breathing Techniques, and Meditation. Because the Chinese worldview is so deeply intertwined within it’s medicine, almost anything that is done to boost health, vitality and wellbeing can be viewed as medicinal! Some people include Feng Shui, the art of balancing the energies in your living / working environments to be part of Chinese medicine as well.
- MYTH: Acupuncture is only good for pain
My first ever blog post was about this. Click to read 5 surprising problems that respond to acupuncture. An average day of 10-12 patients, if listed by their chief complaints would look like this: back pain, irregular menses, headache, diarrhea, IBS, asthma, neck and shoulder pain, PMS, anxiety, depression, weight loss. If your local practitioner is using acupuncture alone, the list of things they can treat is HUGE. If they also incorporate any of the pillars listed above, the list just grows. I tend to focus on: Acupuncture, Herbal Medicine, Lifestyle Recommendations, Moxibustion, Breathing Techniques and Meditation in my practice, but everyone’s blend is a little different.
- MYTH: Chinese medicine counts on the placebo effect for it’s results
If this is true – then I love the placebo effect. This myth is tough for me for three reasons.
1. I have seen people have such amazing changes in their health that I cannot believe that only placebo is at work. I once watched a patient have a 70% improvement in their ability to walk 7 years post stroke during ONE acupuncture treatment.
2. The placebo effect is something that is well understudied and underutilized. The placebo effect influences every medical procedure you do. The brain is powerful and when the placebo effect works, you don’t just feel better… your physiology has changed and YOU ARE BETTER. So, whatever piece of it IS placebo effect, I’ll take it. I want you to get better, I don’t really care what it takes.
3. It works on animals. Just do a quick search: acupuncture + horses, acupuncture + dogs, acupuncture + (insert animal here). It is used every single day to help your animals function at their best.
- MYTH: Chinese medicine can only treat physical complaints.
This one. This one. Oof. The mental health discussion that is happening more and more around us is a positive thing. Convincing people with mental health issues that their only options are chemicals is not, in my opinion, the most positive thing. Because Chinese medicine is by nature holistic, if you come in with elbow pain and anxiety, we are treating them both, every time. We cannot separate your symptoms into nice little boxes. You are a whole system and you deserve to be treated as one . Chinese medicine has been treating emotional disorders for thousands of years. Acupuncture alone is great. Acupuncture, herbs, meditation and breathing exercises… even better. Add some qi gong or tai chi (or yoga if you fancy) and you’re boosting your odds of success. I don’t have an issue with people taking meds when they really need them and I believe that sometimes they really need them. What I don’t believe is that every sixth American should be on a psychiatric drug.
Do you have any questions about things you’ve heard about Chinese medicine or acupuncture?
I’d love to take a stab (see what I did there?) at answering them for you, send ‘em over!