Oriental Medicine: One Size Does Not Fit All
By Dr. Carolyn Russel
Copyright 2000 Carolyn Russel.  All Rights Reserved.

Oriental Medicine, also called Chinese Medicine, arose out of China and therefore bears the cultural imprint of that society. Until very recently, little information was available regarding the practice of medicine that existed in China before the writing of the Yellow Emperors Inner Classic (Huang di nei jing), also known as the Inner Classic. Compiled by unknown authors between 200 B.C. and 100 A.D., it is the oldest major Chinese medical text. Divided into two sections, Basic Questions (Su wen) and Miraculous Pivot (Ling shu), this book is the theoretical and philosophical foundation of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Here health and illness are described as natural phenomena subject to investigation and observation. Natural law operates upon the cosmos, the human body and the connection between them. In the Inner Classic, the theories of elemental (earth, air, fire, water), humoral (a persons disposition or temperament) and energetic (vigor) forces are the basis for understanding what is observed clinically.

One of the strongest points of Chinese Medicine, and one which makes it truly universal, is its simplicity. It is approached as an holistic system that sees symptoms in the context of a dynamic living organism, enabling one to identify general factors that might be important. It is also equipped to recognize and treat problems that are still functional and have not yet produced structural changes.

The holistic system acknowledges that everything affects our health, physical, emotional, mental, spiritual and environmental, and recognizes that symptoms in the body are a signal that some kind of balancing is required. For the first time in history, there is easy access to the healing wisdom and spiritual treasures of the whole planet. We are the masters of our destiny. Disease is not the enemy. What modern medicine call symptoms are in reality, messengers alerting that something in ones life is out of balance and is seeking a healing change. It makes no sense to kill the messenger with drugs or surgery. A wiser approach is to listen to the symptoms and let them direct us to the cause of the problem.

We should not think that everything contained in the old classics is a pearl of wisdom. Even the greatest Chinese doctors such as Li Shi Zhen or Sun Si Miao clung to old superstitious beliefs and used some substances, which some considered to be bizarre, in their clinical practice. For example, Li Shi Zhen included the rope of a suicide victim as a medicinal drug .

Scientist have elegantly mapped many of the bodys parts and obvious functions but are beginning to tackle what has been called the central mystery of biologythe way the parts work together to form a greater whole. Since Oriental Medicine starts with the whole person, it has formed models to explain and work with this fact, central to this model are the meridians or channels (jing-luo), the internal organs (the zang-fu), the qi (pronounced CHEE) and the blood. According to Taoist philosophy, all things are interconnected and affect each other.

I believe that the universe and life are unfathomably deep; our knowledge will never be complete. As Westerners we should immerse ourselves in the knowledge systems of the East and study it more deeply in order to enlarge our perspective and promote bridge-building between ideas. Resistance to change is always high, but I am optimistic because people want cures and healing.

Carolyn Russell, Ph.D., RN is an acupuncturist licensed in New York State and New Jersey and is board certified (NCCAOM) in acupuncture and Chinese herbology. She is an Holistic Health Practitioner, acupuncturist, Health Kinesiologist, teacher/lecturer of Introduction To Oriental Medicine and The Meridian System and co-founder of the Health Kinesiology Center in Middletown, N.Y. She is in private practice in New York City, Teaneck, N.J. and Middletown, N.Y. For more information, she can be reache at (914) 342-4274.