Friday, August 21, 2009

Break Time

Herb I.D. Go! No it's not Gua Lou!

Hey everyone, we're taking a little break from blogging. We'll be back at the beginning of September!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Gamma Brain Waves

No video? Watch it on youtube's site.

Take a look at this video of qi gong pracititioner Peng Her hooked up to a biofeedback machine. I'm not sure why he's shaking like that... maybe it has to do with the qi gong?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Take a look at this video from the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Health Care Reform

Famous ancient Chinese physician Hua Tuo

If you follow the news at all, you've heard something about this "health care reform" thing people seem to be all excited about. You've read the editorials, you've seen the politicians speechifying. Maybe you've seen the video clips of people shouting things like "We are ALL afraid of Obama" and crying things like "I want my country back!" (What does this have to do with health care? I don't know either.) You've heard the phrases "death panels" and "public option".

So far the debate seems to be framed as "Health Care For All - For or Against?" People on both sides loudly declare the other side stupid, or evil. I'd like to point you towards a voice that asks us to focus on a different aspect of this whole debate - the very nature of the medicine that people either want to extend or not extend to the whole country.

But what's missing, tragically, is a diagnosis of the real, far more fundamental problem, which is that what's even worse than its stratospheric cost is the fact that American health care doesn't fulfill its prime directive -- it does not help people become or stay healthy. It's not a health care system at all; it's a disease management system, and making the current system cheaper and more accessible will just spread the dysfunction more broadly. -Dr. Andrew Weil: The Wrong Diagnosis at the Huffington Post

This is an extremely important point. The health care system is broken, and getting the last 40 or 50 million uninsured Americans into this same system is not going to improve the health of our nation.

It reminds me of a story I heard during my TCM (traditional Chinese medicine) education. There was a doctor in ancient China who became famous for saving lives. He could cure diseases in their most advanced state, when a patient was near death. Everyone called him a genius, some even said he had magical powers.

The doctor laughed when people praised him. "My skill is actually quite low. I can only cure disease when it has gone nearly out of control, and I have to use severe herbs and acupuncture techniques. I have two older brothers who are much better at medicine than I am."

Of course people went in search of these brothers. When they found the middle brother he said "I'm still not very good at medicine. I can only catch diseases in their initial stage. I still have to feel the pulse and look at the tongue before prescribing mild herbs and acupuncture. If you want to know real medical skill, you should find our eldest brother."

Of course the people went to search for this wonder-worker. When they found him he said "When people come to me I use neither acupuncture nor herbs. I do not feel their pulse or look at their tongue. I diagnose them by observing the color of their face and the tone of their voice. I tell them how to eat in accord with the seasons and their locations, and sometimes I give them some simple exercises to do. However, if they could sit quietly every day and listen to the natural wisdom of their own body they would not even need my advice."

The eldest brother was the only one practicing real health care - the other two were doing different forms of disease management. Of course we can't abandon those who are already in advanced disease states, but we should put equal and perhaps even more emphasis on encouraging health - what the chinese call 養生 Yang Sheng or "nourishing life."

Monday, August 17, 2009

Say Hi To Your Body

Chinese medicine is by nature not merely physical. We recognize that the 'self' is more than just a pile of meat and bones arranged into a human body, and overcoming health challenges requires healing of the mind, body and spirit.

In these modern times, many people aren't in touch with their bodies. On top of television and the internet, we now have little computers in our pockets (Iphone and its cousins the Crackberry and the Palm Pre) that give us access to almost everything all the time. If you're an office worker who sits in front of a computer all day you may be using your mental faculties in a very intense way, while completely ignoring your body. This can lead to back pain, neck and shoulder tension, headaches, even gastrointestinal distress.

A wonderful example of someone getting "back into their body" can be found in this blog post by Bridget Pilloud. Please take a look and try her suggestions. (Thanks to Becca Seitz for pointing me towards this)

Monday, August 10, 2009

L.A. Times Article - Does it matter what the doctor weighs?

Dr. Regina Benjamin with President Barack Obama

Here's an interesting article from the L.A. Times on the personal health of doctors. Does it matter? Do medical health professionals need to be healthy to be effective?

"A doctor doesn't need to be perfect, but it'd be hard for me to take financial advice from a CPA who had just filed for bankruptcy," said Dr. Timothy Harlan, medical director of the Tulane University School of Medicine, who says he believes physicians should make a genuine effort to be healthy.

Personally, I believe it's my responsibility to be as healthy as possible. I'm kind of a health nut. This morning Nini and I had vegetable juice for breakfast, as we usually do: carrots, beets, cucumber, ginger, and an apple (on the weekends, when we have time, we like to follow that up with bacon and eggs with tomatoes, onions and cheese). Most mornings I'm out at Mar Vista park doing taijiquan or qigong. I drink a lot of green tea.

I don't usually advertise these activities, because people sometimes don't react well to hearing about them. Instead of "hey, good for you" it's some hardcore eye-rolling and "well of course YOU do that. You're healthy! I could NEVER be as healthy as you are."

The fact is, there's no hard line between a "healthy person" and an "unhealthy person." I haven't always had these habits. I only started juicing about a year ago (note: I'm talking about this kind of juicing, NOT this kind). I only started exercising every morning during the past month, when I finally had the freedom to organize my own schedule. I drink green tea because I like how it tastes and how it makes me feel - I'm not choking it down because it's good for me. In the future I may not have the time to exercise every morning, or make juice and then clean the juicer (which takes awhile and is kind of a hassle but still worth it - if you've never had ultra-fresh juice straight from the juicer it's like a punch in the taste buds - much better than anything you could buy in a bottle. Besides that there are all kinds of health benefits which have to do with how fast the nutritional content of juice degrades when you let it sit around - for best results drink within two to three minutes of juicing).

My general philosophy is that you should enjoy life. If life isn't enjoyable, what's the point? I've tried drinking, and cigarettes, and various recreational drugs. I've tried all different kinds of exercise. I've tried not exercising. As a patient, I've tried acupuncture, massage and herbs. I've tried meditation and talk therapy and EFT. For myself, I have found what works, and continue to discover new things all the time. Through learning and teaching martial arts and four years of formal TCM education, I have tools that can help me to understand what works for others. I encourage you to experiment, and find what works for you. If you want to change something about your health, or your life, your body, your mindset, try something different. Don't be afraid to ask questions or seek guidance in unexpected places.

Find a doctor that you connect with. Everyone needs help with health challenges, so don't be afraid to accept professional help. But the best doctor is within yourself. Go look for him or her. They're in there.

Monday, August 3, 2009

We Are Out of Here... Temporarily

Isn't he cute? I call him the Sacramentoad.

We are off to take the California Acupuncture Licensing Exam. We'll be back next week. Toodles!