Saturday, August 2, 2008

Medical Music

In traditional Chinese natural science, one way of explaining the universe is through a dynamic cycle of five phases - wood, fire, earth, metal and water. Everything in the universe (and therefore everything in your body) is a manifestation of the interrelationship of these five elements. As TCM students, we memorize certain associations to help us get a grasp of this concept. For instance, the fire element is associated with the Heart and Small Intestine organs, the emotion joy, the direction south, the color red, and so on.

One of the more neglected aspects of our medicine is using the power of these traditional associations as an adjunct to acupuncture and herbal therapy. For instance, if someone is suffering from Liver issues, you might advise them to face west or even take a walk heading west for a certain amount of time each day. More commonly, you might prescribe your patients a CD of traditional Chinese music that balances one or more organ systems via the five phase system. In the Yosan clinic, there is a CD floating around that helps balance the Wood element, but there are also CDs for the other four phases, as well as music that balances all five elements.

Today I caught the end of a story on the radio about music that is patterned after one's own brain waves. From what I heard, it is extremely helpful for people with insomnia, as effective as Ambien without all the scary side effects. The process goes like this: they take a scan of your brain waves and then make a custom designed CD with music composed specifically for you. I wouldn't be surprised if there was some overlap with traditional Chinese music therapy - maybe the brain wave scan is a way of determining your five element disharmonies, and the music a way of setting them right.

If you're in New York City, go get your own brain CD!

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