Your Guide to Using Chinese Medicine for Senior Health 

By Sally Perkins

It’s no secret that Chinese medicine can be extremely beneficial to your health, so it comes as no surprise that studies show that Chinese medicine can actually improve the quality of life in seniors. As you begin to age, you may experience more frequent pain, stress, or even arthritis. So, it goes without saying that a great way of treating the stress, aches, and pains that come with age is through Chinese medicine.

Soothing Your Aches and Pains

Gaining life experience, wisdom, and self-discovery are all great aspects of growing older, but sometimes your body can catch up to you - and oftentimes not in pleasant ways. Whether it be arthritis, back pain, stress, or even depression, there’s a way to go about easing your pain (or possibly even erasing it) through Chinese medicine. Using Chinese medicine can be extremely beneficial to those who are aging, as it offers a healthier alternative and approach to treating ailments that might otherwise be treated with prescription or over the counter drugs - leaving you with a feeling of balanced energy and relief of pain, not to mention a better quality of life.

Acupuncture and Acupressure

One of the most common struggles of older age happens to be arthritis. In fact, it’s estimated that about 54 million adults have been diagnosed with arthritis, and managing pain that comes with it can prove to be quite difficult. However, Chinese medicine can be a great way to manage the pain that accompanies arthritis in seniors and using techniques such as acupressure or acupuncture are popular ways of treating such pain. In Chinese medicine, the energy of qi runs through the body in invisible meridians. When acupuncture takes place, it is believed that the qi flow will be corrected - thus relieving any pain.

If you don’t like the idea of needles and acupuncture, acupressure might sound more appealing to you. Following the same idea as acupuncture, acupressure is more like a targeted massage - though, in place of needles, only fingers are used. While acupressure can be great for arthritis and other chronic pain, it can also do wonders for melting away stress and sleep issues such as insomnia, all of which as common issues as you age. Whether you choose acupressure or acupuncture, each are great ways to manage pain through traditional Chinese medicine.

Staying Fit and Healthy Through Tai Chi

Staying fit as you age is extremely important, and a perfect way to do so is through the ancient martial art of Tai Chi. Practising Tai Chi as a senior is not only a great way to stay fit, but also has many health benefits as well, such as reducing stress, promoting relaxation, and improving balance. Tai Chi is an amazing way for seniors to practice meditation too, and since the martial art of Tai Chi isn’t strenuous at all, it can be found relaxing and enjoyable for people of any age.

Tim Foster

In addition to it being a non-strenuous way to exercise, Tai Chi comes along with many other health benefits. Tai Chi is a very low impact martial art, meaning it puts very little to no stress at all on the body - perfect for older adults. Because of that, Tai Chi is perfect for those who experience joint pain. Furthermore, practising the ancient martial art is a great way for anyone to improve their balance and coordination - meaning that as a senior, you could actually reduce your risk of falling just by incorporating Tai Chi into your life.

Aging is a part of life, and with it oftentimes comes unpleasant feelings of pain, stress, and more. However, with all of the benefits that Chinese medicine can bring, there is really no better way to battle the downfalls of aches and pains that come with aging.

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Featured image by

Swaraj Tiwari


Chinese Holistic Medicine Could Be The Ideal All-Round Treatment For Stress

By Sally Perkins

Western medicine has long espoused its own benefits while prescribing treatments from eastern and Chinese medicines as complementary. However, research is beginning to show that Chinese medicine can stand on its own two feet when it comes to certain conditions, including stress, as outlined in an influential study conducted by the University of Edmonton. When conducted with the supervision of experts and in a controlled manner, an anti-stress regimen lead entirely by Chinese medicine can be very effective.

Treatment Without Intrusion

Chinese medicine can effectively mitigate stress without ever requiring the prescription of medicine. Stress is a serious condition that impacts countless people and while many will brush it off on the odd occasion, several flare ups of stress can lead to long term consequences. As stress can strike anywhere – the commute to work being a common place, in addition to the comfort of the home – it’s important to find methods that can be called on for relief at any time. Chinese medicine has long provided for this through routines like tai chi. One article by NBC noted studies that found tai chi could be the best way to improve sleep and reduce long term stress. Most importantly, exercises it provides can be conducted at a miniature scale throughout the day to deal with sharp rises in stress, as well as creating a lower background level.

Using Medication

Stress, when left untreated, can manifest as long term conditions such as anxiety and depression. From here, the best solution is often a mix of western medicine and psychological treatment. As a result, up to 1 in 6 Americans are prescribed with anti-anxiety drugs today. However, what if many people could tackle their stress before it develops into something more?


This photo by Gratisography on pexels.com

It goes without saying that many people are diagnosed with anxiety and depression for reasons other than overwhelming stress, but, for those who are, Chinese medicine can be used early and effectively to help alleviate symptoms and boost recovery. Acupuncture, for example, has been found by studies to have a statistically significant reduction on stress, according to one Metro summary.

A Way of Life

If medicine is not required, then Americans can look to some core beliefs in Chinese society that can help to alleviate stress. American life is very stressful; a Psychology Today analysis found that over 57% of those surveyed reported significant levels of stress. According to Viacom, a lower percentage reported such feelings in China, and a significant amount reported being happier. While there are many factors contributing to these findings, the basics of life seem important. According to Viacom’s research, Chinese people are 60% more likely to than others globally to take simple self-care steps to reduce stress, including walks, listening to positive music and connecting with family.

Stress is a complex condition, but there are more ways to deal with it than just the one. Chinese medicine is a proven way to tackle it holistically, though medication, self-care and relaxation techniques. Try looking at your self-care routines and adjusting them, with the guidance of your physician.


This image from Negative Space on pixels.com

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Featured image from Pixabay


Living in Harmony with Spring According to Chinese Medicine

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

Chinese Medicine Theory

Chinese Medicine has such a beautiful way of looking at us - human beings, our place in nature and in the universe. We are part of a greater whole, and are inseparable from it. In Chinese Medicine, we are healthy when we are in harmony with our surroundings, and for much of human history, we have honed the skills needed to be able to feel slight changes in our environments, so that we could change behaviours, to remain in balance. In our modern world, we seem to be losing this connectedness to both our natural environments, and ultimately, ourselves. Chinese Medicine can teach us how to regain this connection by giving us some simple guidelines on how to live in harmony with the seasons.

Spring - The Season of the Liver

Spring is the season associated with the Liver and the emotion of Anger. Its energies are expansive - moving upward and outward like newly budding plants, flowers and trees. It is a time for growth and renewal. Spring is the best time to strengthen the Liver, and to deal with any unresolved feelings of Anger or frustration as they can build up and cause stagnant Qi or energy in the Liver and elsewhere. The colour associated with Spring and the Liver is green. Eating green foods in the Spring strengthens the Liver. To keep your Liver healthy, be sure to be in bed and asleep before 11pm.

The Liver is the organ associated with Spring. In Chinese Medicine the Liver has the following responsibilities:

  • Opens Into the Eyes
  • Controls Planning
  • The Flavour that Supports the Liver is Sour
  • Houses the Hun (Spirit) The Liver is the organ associated with Spring.
  • Stores Blood
  • Responsible for the Smooth Flow of Qi & Blood
  • Controls the Sinews / Tendons
  • Manifests in the Nails

Behaviours in Spring

  • Engaging in uplifting and creative activities that expand our energies and consciousness (journaling, meditation)
  • Seek personal development and growth
  • Cooking should be of shorter duration and at higher temperatures
  • Sautéing with high quality oil over high heat, or light steaming with water is best in Spring
  • Manage Anger (and frustration) - excess, intense and unexpressed anger congests Qi in the Liver
  • Liver time is between 1am-3am - this is the best time to strengthen the Liver
  • For optimum Liver health, go to bed before 11pm (the Gallbladder time - it is the Liver’s Yin/Yang partner organ)
  • Eat green foods to strengthen Liver

Photo by Dariusz Sankowski on Unsplash

Activities in Spring

  • Engage in activities that feed your creativity - drawing/painting/writing/photography/making music/dancing
  • Making plans for the future
  • Spring cleaning of internal environment - physical, emotional, spiritual
  • Acknowledging, processing and releasing any unresolved emotions, especially Anger & frustration
  • Any activities that push our self imposed boundaries
  • Gentle exercises on a daily basis, especially stretching as the Liver controls the smooth flow of Qi as well as the tendons
  • Walking meditation in nature (gentle exercise, feeding the spirit and taking in the green of new Spring plants through the eyes)
  • Avoid stimulants like caffeine, spicy foods, alcohol, tobacco, recreational drugs

Beneficial Foods in Spring

  • Lemon
  • Lime
  • Grapefruit
  • Sprouted Grains, Beans, Seeds
  • Many Green Foods Nourish the Liver
  • Radish
  • Daikon Radish
  • Tofu
  • Fermented Food
  • Legumes
  • Seeds
  • Dandelion Root
  • Milk Thistle
  • Mung Bean
  • Lettuce
  • Quinoa
  • Cucumber
  • Watercress
  • Celery
  • Millet
  • Seaweed
  • Mushroom
  • Beet
  • Carrot
  • Onion
  • Mustard Green
  • Rye
  • Romaine Lettuce
  • Asparagus
  • Alfalfa
  • Amaranth

Photo by Scott Eckersley on Unsplash

The Liver and Anger

Photo by Alex Iby on Unsplash

We've all seen that impressive display of anger. Someone losing it in the lineup at the bank, an exasperated parent yelling at a child having a tantrum, or someone, after being on a plane for a bazillion hours being told that they have missed their connecting flight and that the airline has lost their luggage. Yeah, we've all seen that. And it is most of our instincts' to back away a few steps because of how powerful that anger can be. That, my friends, is your Liver talking.

Now in the West, this doesn't make much sense. The liver, we are taught, is the body's filter, making sure that we stay clean and toxin free. But in Chinese Medicine, each of the organs has an emotional component, which is just as important as its physical functions in the body - and the emotion of the liver is anger.

When the liver is balanced and healthy we are able to move freely because of the liver's responsibilities of governing the smooth flow of Qi in the appropriate directions. You may wonder what happens when Qi flows in the wrong direction? Well, each of the organs has a natural direction in which its Qi flows. For example, the Qi of the stomach flows downward, helping to move food and drink through the digestive system, but when the flow of that Qi is reversed due to pathogenic factors it causes belching, hiccups, nausea and vomiting. A healthy liver means a strong immune system because the liver is responsible for the body's resistance to exterior pathogens. Because the liver opens into the eyes, if you have a healthy liver your vision will be clear and your eyes moist. If your liver is in a state of balance you will have strong nails, recover quickly from physical activities, your movements will be smooth and your body flexible. Those with a healthy liver will also have great courage and resoluteness, and will easily be able to plan their lives wisely and effectively with a clear sense of direction.

Photo by Victor Freitas on Unsplash

Some Symptoms of Liver Stagnation & Imbalance

  • Frustration, depression or repressed anger
  • Hypochondriac pain
  • Sensation of oppression in the chest
  • A feeling of a "lump" in the throat
  • Abdominal distension
  • Women - pre-menstrual tension, depression, irritability, distension of the breasts
  • Belching, sour regurgitation, nausea, vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Bitter taste in the mouth, belching, jaundice
  • Contraction and/or spasms in the muscles and sinews, impaired extension/flexion, numbness of the limbs, muscle cramps, tremors
  • Dark, dry or cracked nails
  • Blurred vision, myopia, floaters, colour blindness, a feeling of dryness or grit in the eyes
  • Bloodshot, painful or burning sensation in the eyes
  • Irritability, outbursts of anger, red face, dizziness, tinnitus, headaches
  • Lack of direction in life, feeling of being stuck

Chinese Medicine gives us many ways that we can help our bodies, mind and spirits stay balanced and healthy - in every season. Eating green foods, spending more time turning inward, processing our emotions and being in bed by 11pm are only some of the ways we can live in harmony with the spring season, and keep our energies flowing freely so we can be happy, healthy beings all year long.

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Beautiful featured image photo by Sylwia Pietruszka on Unsplash

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If you would like a downloadable sheet on how to live in harmony with the Spring season according to Chinese Medicine, you can get one here - Spring Season in Chinese Medicine. If you are a practitioner and would like this sheet to share with patients, then please visit here - Spring Season - Professional.


What is Yin & Yang?

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

Yin Yang Theory in Chinese Medicine

The theory of yin and yang is at the foundation of Chinese Medicine. It was developed, over thousands of years, from observations of the natural world. Yin and yang represent the duality that is seen to exist in all things. Yin represents darkness, cold, slow, internal, reflective energies, and yang represents bright, hot, quick, external, active energies. According to this theory, all things are a dynamic interaction of these opposing forces. Yin/yang theory can be applied to literally everything and is not limited to medicine and health - although as the ancient Chinese discovered, it works extremely effectively in this context. Yin and yang is a way to see the forces of nature, our bodies, the food we eat, our emotions, and really, all things in existence. It is a lens through which we can see and attempt to understand ourselves and the way we interact with our world.

You are probably familiar with the taiji, or yin/yang symbol - an ancient Taoist symbol which is a graphic representation of yin and yang. The dark half represents yin, and the light represents yang,  but notice that there is a dot of each that exists in the other. They are mutually dependent and the two are never static but always changing, one into the other and vice versa. This symbol visually illustrates that although there is a duality, each part needs the other to be complete and both can coexist harmoniously.

 

Yin & Yang Personality Traits

Everything that exists, and indeed each one of us, are seen to have both yin and yang aspects. These can range from personality types, body types, physical tendencies and emotional states. Some people are more yin, and some are naturally more yang. Here is an example to help you to visualize it:

A shy, quiet person who enjoys time alone, meditation and going for long walks in the forest has a predominantly yin personality. And I suspect we have all met the gregarious and outgoing person who is very friendly, stands close, speaks loudly and is always the life of every party. This is a yang person. And the world certainly needs both.

Yin & Yang and Health

In Chinese Medicine, health is achieved when the body’s energies are in a relative state of balance. That balance is different for everyone, as was illustrated in the example above. Some people have more yin energies while others naturally have more yang. This is one of the reasons that a practitioner of Chinese medicine takes so much time to gather information from a patient in an initial visit. They are attempting to paint a picture of that person so that they can determine what they are made of, what their tendencies are, and where their imbalances lie. When yin and yang energies are out of balance, illness occurs. Thankfully, Chinese Medicine offers us many ways in which to restore the equilibrium we need to be healthy.

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Beautiful featured image by www.kittysabatier.com


Stages in a Woman's Life According to Chinese Medicine

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

One of the reasons that I fell in love with Chinese Medicine was the beautiful way that it sees the body, health - and when expanded outwards - everything in existence. It is simply a way of looking at things that, to me, makes perfect sense and resonates deeply and profoundly.

Women's medicine is the way that I came to Chinese Medicine - I found it when Western medicine was not able to help me. Just one session with my wonderful acupuncturist and I was left with an overwhelming feeling that this system was what medicine was supposed to be. At its foundation was true healing, empowered by the individual and facilitated by the practitioner.

The Concept of Jing

Jing is a concept that is unique to Chinese Medicine and is sometimes difficult to explain. Jing is considered to be one of the three treasures in Chinese Medicine. Jing, Qi, and Shen comprise the three treasures. Jing is defined as the source of our life, health, and longevity. Qi is like our life force - and the force that animates all living things. Shen is the spirit and is closely associated with the heart and "the mind" in Chinese Medicine. All three treasures must be balanced for us to be functioning at an optimum state of health and wellbeing.

The Yellow Emperors Classic of Internal Medicine is one of the oldest medical textbooks on earth and was written around 240 BCE. It is in this text that the cycles of women and men are discussed. Women grow and mature in seven-year cycles and men in eight-year cycles.

Cycles for Women in Chinese Medicine

Women - 7 Year Cycles

7 years old

A woman’s kidney energy becomes abundant, teeth change and hair grows strong.

Kidney is a special term in Traditional Chinese Medicine. It not only has the function of controlling the urinary system, but also has a very important role – control the developing, growing, and reproduction. In terms of reproduction, you can think Kidney as a “Small Kidney”- the ovaries or testis.

At the age of 7, a woman’s reproductive system starts to develop.

14 years old

Her menstruation appears as the Ren meridian (the sea of Yin) flows and the Qi and blood in the Chong meridian (the sea of blood) becomes abundant, she can have children.

At the age of 14, her menstruation appears and she is able to have a child. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the age of menarche is one important factor to help make a diagnosis. If menarche is later than 14 years old, it often indicates lower fertility energy.

21 years old

Her kidney energy is balanced, her adult teeth become completely developed and her body grows to full height.

A woman’s energy, especially fertility energy is full at the age of 21.

28 years old

Vital energy and blood are abundant, her bones and muscles are strong, her hair grows to full length and her body is in optimal condition.

At the age of 28, a women’s fertile energy reaches its peak. This is considered the best age for her to have children.

35 years old

Her peak condition declines gradually. Her energy in the yang ming meridian declines. Her face starts to wither and her hair starts to fall out.

From 35 year old, she starts to have wrinkles on her face, and her overall energy and fertility start to decline. She is still however, able to have children.

42 year old

The three Yang channels - Tai Yang, Yang Mind, Shao Yang - energy begins to decline. Her face wanes and her hair begins to turn white.

From the age of 42, her physical energy and fertility energy declines and it becomes more difficult to conceive.

49 years old

The Ren meridian (Conception Vessel) and Chong meridian vital energy declines, her menstruation dries up, her physique turns old and feeble and she is no longer able to conceive.

From the 7-year-life cycle, we can see that, according to Chinese Medicine, a good age for a woman to have children is from 21 to 35, and the best age is around 28 years old when her energies are at their "peak".

These cycles are still relevant in diagnosing and treating women's health issues in the context of Chinese Medicine. These stages are of course just a guideline, but they are immensely helpful in understanding - in a general way - how men and women move through their lives and what strengths, needs and imbalances they may face in different stages. Chinese Medicine is incredibly complex and has a vast body of knowledge that has been collected over thousands of years, and this is why it is still able to treat the health problems that people in our modern world face.

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Beautiful featured image photo by Thomas Hafeneth on Unsplash


Keeping Cool this Summer with Chinese Medicine

By John Voigt

Keeping Cool

Here are some techniques from Traditional Chinese medicine to help beat the summer heat.  (If you have a fever, or other health problems see a professional medical practitioner.)

First some common sense suggestions: drink a lot of water, keep cool.  Do your body a favor and stay in the shade. Nothing beats a pleasant stroll in a forest (just have the bug repellant on). If you must be in the sun cover yourself as much as you can. Watch non-human animals for cues on what you should be doing.


Photo by Casey Horner on Unsplash

Food. 

Never put icy cold things in your mouth.  Avoid lamb, fatty red meat, alcohol, tobacco, garlic, onion, scallion, and coffee as these are warming in Chinese Medicine.  Eat less food and drink, drink lots of room temperature fluids--except never any sugared juice drinks, or sodas.   Replace any lost salt … lost from heavy sweating.

To reinforce yin, and clear heat: Watermelon,  Mung beans.


Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Also: Apple, Banana, Crab,  Mango, Pears, Pineapple, Tofu.

Try drinking mint, chamomile, chrysanthemum teas; and also a weak green tea with a touch of lemon and honey. These are cooling to the body and build yin.


Photo by Anda Ambrosini on Unsplash

Chinese Herbs

American Ginseng. 


This image from ernestherbal.com

Check with a health professional knowledgeable about Chinese herbs if you have health issues.  Dosage: Usually American Ginseng extract is about 200 mg per day containing at least 4 to 7% ginsenosides. 0.5 to 2 g of dry root per day on a short-term basis, with the ginseng taken in tea form or chewed. Capsule formulas are generally prescribed in a dosage of 100 to 600 mg per day, usually in divided doses.  [from] <http://www.online-health-care.com/herbal-medicines>.

Internal Qigong.   

In the cycle of Seasons, this is the time to prepare for winter.  Sit in meditation and visualize it is winter all around you. Take the hot yang energy on the surface of your body and with your mind and breath direct and guide this heat into the energy storage battery in your lower abdomen, the Dantian.  Do from five to fifteen minutes.

Self Acupressure.

  • Kidney 1 (Yong-quan)
  • Kidney 2 (Ran-gu)
  • Bladder 40 (Weizhong)

Kidney 1 is one of the most powerful points in the body and is located between the balls of the foot in the depression. It is a very strong point, so be gentle. It is excellent for building yin and cooling the body as well as being a powerful tonification point for the entire body.
Photo by Cristian Newman on Unsplash 

Kidney 2 is located on the inside (medial) aspect of the foot along the border of the red and white skin (where the skin transitions from the soft part on the top of your foot to the tougher type of skin you have on the bottom of your foot.)
Image from wanderingdawn.com

This point is located behind the knees at the midpoint of the crease. It is very sensitive, so always be gentle.

Gently press and massage the  Kidney 1, and 2 points, then the Bladder-40 points for about three to five minutes (or longer). 

Putting ice on the Bladder 40 wěizhōng points works to cool you down too.

External Qigong.

With fingers pointed down and knuckles facing each other almost touching, raise hands up center front -- go above head and open palms up to the heavens. With palms facing downward,  fingertips pointed at each other,  bring hands down the center line,. Repeat six times. Softly sound “Sheee.” (Or just hear it in your head.)  This harmonizes the body’s organ functions, the “Triple Burner".

john.voigt@comcast.net


Traditional Chinese Medicine in Today’s Cuban Health Care

By John Voigt

In Cuba, the legends abound about outstanding Chinese doctors of the nineteenth century who helped create a foundation for the use of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) in twenty-first century Cuba.  (See “Not Even the Chinese Doctor Can Save Him” in the May issue.) Nevertheless, TCM’s acceptance and use by the Cuban medical establishment did not happen overnight. Historically and during the beginnings of the Revolution, TCM along with most other Alternative Medicine was rejected by the Cuban government and by a majority of its western trained doctors.  As in the past century, the Establishment considered such healing modalities “antiquated occult quackery.” Such things were an anathema to Marxist Communist beliefs.

 

Photo by Alexander Kunze on Unsplash

The Political and Economic Situation.

With the US Embargo beginning in 1960, and the withdrawal of USSR support in 1991, along with the internal problems of their socialist-communist economy, Cuba was and remains economically devastated. There were and still are massive shortages in pharmaceutical drugs and medical supplies for the doctors, clinics, and hospitals that service the Cuban people. (Things are much different for tourists. See Modern Health Care for Tourists below.) Today in 2018 hospitals and clinics for the common people of Cuba all too often have little or no drugs, soap, toothpaste, toilet paper, bed sheets or pillowcases—not even aspirin! Often there are no hypodermic needles, or used ones are washed in bleach and reused. Relatives living in Florida smuggle in prescription drugs.

Amazingly even with these horrid conditions, the World Health Organization’s latest report in 2016 has Cuba with an average healthcare expenditure of $2,475 per person; Cubans have approximately the same life expectancy (males 77/females 81) as Americans (males 76/females 81) who average a healthcare expenditure of $9,403 per person. Source: http://www.who.int/countries/cub/en/ and http://www.who.int/countries/usa/en/

Cubans even have a lower rate of infant mortality than that of the USA. Source: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2091rank.html

These figures — $2,475 and $9,403 are not typos — they represent among other things Cuba’s extensive use of alternative medicines and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM); as well as governmental enforced implementations of beliefs and lifestyles somewhat similar to Chinese and Asian ways of life, such as the paradigm that preventing an illness is easier than curing one, or the importance of daily socially required group gymnastics such as taijiquan or qigong. Or of small teams of doctors and nurses going throughout the entire country rigorously enforcing mandated medical examinations, or actively having people reduce or end smoking. Both Cubans and traditional Chinese health practitioners believe health is not just the absence of illness, instead, health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being. For both Cuban leaders and Confucius, the health of the human body and mind is an integral necessity for the very important health of the society. In Cuba, revolutionary health practices are a part of a continuing revolución. For Cuban lawmakers, if for no other reason, healthy people are important because they make healthy workers, soldiers, and government officials. The political reality is clear: no health means no revolution.  Admittedly Cuba is a totalitarian government, something that Americans understandably will not accept, but at least in a theoretical — yet highly practical sense — there is much for us in America to learn from Cuba.

Returning to past historical realities, since the 1960s until the present the enormous difficulties presented by the American Embargo, and especially the subsequent lack of medicines and supplies, the Cuban medical establishment was forced to search for new approaches.  Health officials began to incorporate techniques outside the scope of what doctors had previously been taught in the universities. After all, for a century Chinese doctors in Cuba had shown that TCM affected cures for certain illnesses that western medicine had not. Some skeptical doctors even started planting medicinal herbs in their backyards; at least they would have something to give to their sick patients.

Photo by Bruno Martins on Unsplash

TCM Becomes Official.

Beginning in the late 1980s medical students in Cuban universities began to be trained in alternative techniques. An executive report, “The Analysis of The Health Sector in Cuba” issued in 1996 by the Ministry of Public Health (Ministerio de Salud Pública) outlined this new approach:

The strategic objective of the National Health System is to give priority to the development of natural and traditional medicine. The “Program of Development” initiated in 1991, includes the search for active medicinal principals of plants, their clinical testing, and the subsequent generalization of the results so that they can be progressively incorporated into the techniques and procedures of the East Asian medical tradition.

By 2009 the Ministry moved to a full acceptance and legally enforced implementation of these radical methodologies as befitting a revolutionary culture.  These changes were made official in August 20, 2009, with the publication of Resolución Ministerial No 261/2009. Below are key excerpts from this document along with several annotations made by the author. TCM is only a part of the Resolution no.  261,  nevertheless it is hoped the reader will find the document interesting. With it, Cuba is probably pursuing Alternative Medicine more than any other country in the world.  The original text in Spanish may be found at “Resolución Ministerial No 261/2009” at http://legislacion.sld.cu/index.php?P=FullRecord&ID=210

  Photo by Eva Blue on Unsplash

MINISTERIAL RESOLUTION NO. 261/2009 Republic of Cuba

RESOLVE - FIRST: To approve for medical care, teaching, and scientific research in health services throughout the country national, [with] the following types of Natural Traditional Medicine.

1- Phytotherapy.  [Medical treatment based on the use of plants and plant substances.]

2- Apiterapia. [Therapeutic use of bee venom, and other bee products such as honey, pollen, and royal jelly.]

3- Traditional Asian Medicine:

  1. a) Acupuncture. b) Catgut sutures sewn into acupoints.
  2. c) Stimulation of acupuncture points: [by use of]
  3. Drugs
  4. Light
  5. Temperature
  6. Mechanical [devices].
  7. Ultrasonic [devices].
  8. Electricity
  9. Magnetism
  10. Microsystems of the Asian Traditional Medicine [such as ear acupuncture].

4- Ozone therapy.

5- Homeopathy.

6- Flower Therapy:

  1. a) Bach Flower Remedies, [solutions of brandy and weak dilutions of flower material in water.]

7- Hydrotherapy: mineral springs, mineral baths, Peloids [clay or mud baths], thermal baths.

  1. Helium Therapy – (Heliotalasoterapia). [Heliox is a breathing gas composed of a mixture of helium (He) and oxygen (O2). It is a medical treatment for patients who have difficulty breathing,  For example, croup, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.]
  2. Traditional Therapeutic Exercises: [The Pan American Health Organization spelled out these exercises as:  Taijiquan (usually Yang Style).  Lian Gong Shi Ba Fa (created by Dr. Zhuang Yuan Ming; see ‪ Lian Gong Shi Ba Fa 18 Terapias Anterior on YouTube).  Wushu (commonly called “Kung Fu.”) Qi Gong,  and Hatha Yoga.] “Each movement is to be chosen with a modifiable therapeutic purpose according to the traditional medical diagnosis of the subject or patient.”] Ejercicios Terapéuticos Tradicionales.

http://www.paho.org/

  1. Naturist Nutritional counseling.  [“In addition to meeting established nutritional requirements. Can include a vegetarian or macrobiotic diet, and traditional practices as used in Traditional Asian diagnosis. You should be aware of existing products in Cuba.”]  Ministerio de Salud Pública, 2011. http://files.sld.cu/mednat/files/2014/08/prog-nac-mtn-2012.pdf ].

THIRD: The Deputy Minister attending Medical Assistance is authorized to issue the instructions considered necessary for the implementation and enforcement of this resolution.


Starting in 2016 all medical graduates in Cuba, including nurses and dentists, are required to learn Medicina Tradicional y Natural (MTN) which includes various Cuban versions of TCM.  Almost all local clinics and hospitals of Cuba now offer Traditional Chinese Medicine, where acupuncture, reflexology, massage, heat treatments and liniments are the order of the day. Also, 30% of Cuban legally approved medicines are herbal. [Source: author interview with a Cuban physician in Havana, June 2016.]


TRADITIONAL CHINESE MEDICINE IN THE CUBAN STYLE.

[Note: If you have any medical problem see a health professional. This article uses information derived from Cuban sources and is to be used only for educational purposes.]

Acupuncture and Acupressure are used in a majority of hospitals and health clinics, however often with variations such as Auriculoterapia or Ear Acupuncture which is based on the theory that the auricle, the outer portion of the ear, is a microsystem which reflects the entire body. Auriculoterapia is said to cure many conditions such as headaches, sciatica, lumbago, joint pain, depression, melancholy, insomnia, liver and digestive problems. In Cuba, it is also used to control obesity, addiction to cigars and cigarettes, and as an anesthetic in surgery.

Cubans have extended this concept to using acupoints on the face, palms of the hands, and soles of the feet to function as mirror images of the acupoints throughout the entire body. Patients may be prescribed a do-it-yourself continuous treatment where a tiny seed is taped to the body part and the patient is instructed to press the seed during the day.

Taping a seed to an auriculotherapy point.  

 

An aspect of Herbal medicine is added to this by using the seeds of the Mexican Thisel, also called the Mexican poppy, which the Spanish found the natives in Mexico used for healing. This plant can be poisonous; nevertheless the colonial Spanish added this plant to their pharmacopeia and called it cardosanto. It was used to relieve kidney pain, to help expel a torn placenta, and in general to help cleanse the body after childbirth. It has also been used to treat malaria [see Argemone Mexicana, Wikipedia.]

Electro-acupuncture – (Electropuntura) combines the use of needles with electrical stimulation by sending a small electrical current through the needle after insertion into an acupuncture point. Instruments used usually consist of two parts: a needle and  an electric current stimulator. There are different types of stimulators, some use AC or DC electricity, high or low frequency, continual or intermittent electrical pulsations. It is primarily used as an analgesic for all types of pain. It is also applied to alleviate the pain during childbirth, as well as anesthetic for some operations, including caesarean sections.

Source: Wikipedia Commons

Diet Therapy is used in relation to healing a specific illness; often it is used with pharmaceutical drugs if they are available.

Tuina or therapeutic massage is used to promote a more harmonious balanced flow of qi (bio-electrical energy) to cure diseases and promote health. In Cuba, as elsewhere, the practitioner’s hands are used to massage muscles and tendons. Acupressure techniques to affect the qi flow, and manipulation techniques to restructure musculoskeletal and ligament relationships may be added. Liniments, poultices and herbal balms, often from plants native to Cuba, may be used to increase the benefits of the treatment.

Moxibustion - (Moxibustión) is a method that treats and prevents diseases and corrects energy imbalances by applying heat through cones or moxa cigars burning on certain points of the human body. The raw material most commonly used for this technique is the dried leaves of the mugwort plant ground to a fine powder. In Cuba incense, and the wicks of oil lamps also are used.

Indirect Moxibustion – (Moxibustión Indirecta) is a method Cubans use that combines acupuncture with moxibustion. It is indicated for the treatment of joint pain due to cold and moisture. A little burning moxa is carefully applied to the handle of the inserted needle.

Another technique also called indirect moxibustion has an insulating ingredient placed between the slowly burning moxa cone and the skin of the client. The healing properties of the substance are considered added to the healing properties of the moxibustion. For example, one slice of ginger approximately 0.2 cm thick is recommended for a weak spleen and stomach, joint or abdominal pain and other symptoms of yang deficiency.

Garlic is used in the same manner as ginger. It is indicated for scrofula, skin infections and poisonous insect bites in their early stages.

Salt: the navel is filled with salt and a large moxa cone is placed over it. This is indicated for cases of cold limbs, weak and imperceptible pulse, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Phytotherapy (Fitoterapia – or “Plant Therapy”). This refers to the use of medicinal plants and vegetables and their derivatives to prevent, alleviate or cure diseases. Given Cuban history there is a heavy influence of Afro-Cuban practices. Currently various governmental health agencies are investigating methods and techniques to streamline and modernize Phytotherapy in line with the basic requirements of “safety, quality and efficacy.” American and African techniques are being actively studied and used along with traditional Chinese and native Cuban methodologies.

[The species most frequently used in Phytotherapy are Cocos nucifera L. (Arecaceae), Bidens pilosa L. (Asteraceae), Cissus sicyoides L. (Vitaceae), Erythroxylum havanense Jacq. (Erythroxylaceae) and Stachytarpheta jamaicensis (L.) Vahl. (Verbenaceae).] Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15013195].

------------------

Modern Health Care for Tourists. Today hospitals for tourists are in much better condition than those for native Cubans.  These hospitals can be world-class 21st century facilities, and they are expensive. Generally speaking they are closed to regular Cubans, who have their own Government controlled free healthcare. The turismo de salud [“Health Tourism”] programs are understood to be a method to raise money for the impoverished country.  Tourists and foreign diplomats combine vacations with state of the art health care which often includes Traditional Chinese Medicine and other more exotic health care alternatives.


Hydrotherapy at a turismo de salud [“Tourism of Health”] clinic.
Source:
https://cubanosporelmundo.com/2015/09/28/turismo-de-salud/

Children Learn Plant Medicine

Children begin studying the multiple uses of medicinal plants in primary school, learning to grow and tend their own plots of  faloe, chamomile, and mint, and later they conduct scientific studies about their uses. Radio and Television programs instruct people on how to relieve common stomach upset and headaches by pressing key points. Acupuncture is offered at all three levels of health care [primary care physician, clinic, hospital]. Cuban biochemists have produced a number of new alternative medicines, including PPG (policosanol), a natural product derived from sugarcane wax that is effective at reducing total cholesterol and LDL levels, and Vimang, a natural product derived from the bark of mango trees. [source: Healthcare in Cuba. Wikipedia.]

In Cuba since 2006 no cases of acute hepatitis B reported in children under 15 years of age.
Source: http://www.radio26.cu/2016/05/11/cuba-sin-hepatitis-b-aguda-en-menores-de-cinco-anos/

A short coda as a conclusion.  ¡A Ese No lo Salva, Ni el Medico Chino! —“Not Even The Chinese Doctor Can Save Him!” is a popular slang expression that first appeared in mid-19th century Cuba. This article ends with the thought that in 2018 whoever that “Chinese Doctor” was, he or she might now actually be able to “Save Him!” and bring “Him,” (their patient),  back to a state of health. Or better yet, with the use of TCM and other alternative medicine preventative techniques, the patient never would have gotten sick in the first place.

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .

This article originally appeared as part of “Traditional Chinese Medicine in Cuba” in Qi Journal, vol. 26/3; autumn 2016. It is used with the permission of the author, who may be contacted at john.voigt@comcast.net


Sources.

Beautiful Decay: Cuba's Race To Save Havana's Architecture.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9roxiC-fBDk

Sean Brotherton. Revolutionary Medicine: Health and the Body in Post-Soviet Cuba. Duke University, 2012.

Lisa Chiu. A Short History of the Chinese in Cuba. http://chineseculture.about.com

“Cuban Characters.” http://www.thecubanhistory.com/2015/02/cuban-characters-not-even-the-chinese-doctor-can-save-you-personajes-de-cuba-no-te-salva-ni-el-medico-chino/

EcuRed: Medicina tradicional asiática.  http://www.ecured.cu/Medicina_tradicional_asiática

Carlos García. Cham-Bom-Biá: el médico chino. http://www.canarizame.com/2014/12/23/cham-bom-bia-el-medico-chino/

Enrique Jorge Hernández González. La Medicina Bioenergética y Natural: su aplicación en la Isla de la Juventud (página 2).

http://www.monografias.com/trabajos72/ natural/medicina-bioenergetica-natural2.shtml

Enrique Jorge Hernández González. Perfeccionamiento del desempeño profesional en la aplicación de la medicina natural y tradicional. http://www.monografias.com/trabajos-pdf2/desempeno-profesional-medicina-natural-tradicional/desempeno-profesional-medicina-natural-tradicional.shtml

  1. Jácome. No Te Salva ni el Médico Chino. https://www.facebook.com/CubaEnLaMemoria/posts/1209701712375197:0

Junior Vega Jiménez. “Juan Cham-Bom-Bian: itinerary of the"Chinese Doctor" from the Havana to ward Cárdenas. Brief historical notes. http://scielo.sld.cu/pdf/rhcm/v14n5/rhcm03515.pdf

Paul Kadetz and Johann Perdomo Delgado.

Slaves, Revolutions, Embargoes, and Needles: The Political Economy of Acupuncture in Cuba.” Asian Medicine 6 (2010–11), 95–122. [also at]

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/275506985_Slaves_Revolutions_Embargoes_and_Needles_The_Political_Economy_of_Acupuncture_in_Cuba

Yovanny Ferrer Lozano. Chang Pon Piang: Un médico chino. http://scielo.sld.cu/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1684-18242014000600010

La medicina china y su presencia en Cuba.

http://bvs.sld.cu/revistas/his/his%2095/hist0595.htm

Medicina tradicional asiática. http://www.ecured.cu/Medicina_tradicional_asi%C3%A1tica#Fuente

Ministerio de Salud Pública. Programa Para el Desarrollo y la Generalizacion de la Medicina Tradicional y Natural, 2011. [Ministry of Public Health. Program for Development and Generalization of Traditional and Natural Medicine, 2011.] http://files.sld.cu/mednat/files/2014/08/prog-nac-mtn-2012.pdf

Moral R. Peñalver.  “Juan Chambombián; el médico chino. Averiguaciones en torno a un popular personaje.” Revista Bohemia 1981; 5(16), 7-10.

La pluma del Tocororo: El Médico Chino. https://almejeiras.wordpress.com/2012/03/30/el-medico-chino/

Resolución Ministerial No 261/2009. http://legislacion.sld.cu/index.php?P=FullRecord&ID=210


**Beautiful featured image photo by Ellen Carlson Hanse on Unsplash

 


Not Even The Chinese Doctor Can Save Him! The History of Chinese Medicine in Cuba

by John Voigt

The History of Chinese Medicine in Cuba

Throughout Cuba there is a common slang expression people use when someone is thought to be incurably sick: ¡A Ese No lo Salva, Ni el Medico Chino!  - Not Even The Chinese Doctor Can Save Him!

Not many know the origins of this phrase, or the man behind it. But that phrase and that man helped lay the foundation for an alternative healthcare revolution within a revolutionary country. In China he was born Chang Pon Piang. Having trouble pronouncing it,  Cubans called him Cham Bom Biam. Then to give himself a Spanish sounding name he called himself Juan Chambombián. We begin with a summary of the adventures of his life:

His Early History

Chang Pon Piang was born as one of the Hakka people, an ethnic group found in the Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Macau areas of southeastern China.  In the mid-nineteenth century these areas, along with most the rest of China, were in chaos: the last of the Opium Wars with Great Britain still raged; technological changes to the farming system put many out of work; there was a dramatic increase in the size of population. All that along with widespread political discontentment, natural disasters, banditry, and ethnic strife led many young people to look for work overseas.

Chang grew fascinated with the advertisements he saw that promised a better life by working in Cuba.  All that was needed was to sign an eight year contract. (Only men could sign. Chinese women were not allowed to enter Cuba.)

What was not mentioned on the posters was that this was no more than a scheme to trap unsuspecting young men into an eight year long indentured servitude at the pay of four pesos a month. Once in Cuba the émigré was usually sent to large sugar plantations and once there was treated like a indentured slave, (or “coolie” - 苦力; pinyin: kǔlì) meaning "bitter work" or "bitter use of force.”

The situation was so severe that in 1873 the imperial Chinese government sent investigators to Cuba to investigate the large number of suicides by Chinese laborers, as well as allegations of abuse and breach of contract by plantation owners. Shortly after, the Chinese labor trade was prohibited and the last ship carrying Chinese laborers reached Cuba in 1874. By 1877 a treaty was signed between China and Spain completely banning the contracting system. [Source]

In 1854 Chang Pon Piang entered Cuba with a contract for agricultural work in the province of Guamacaro, in the western province of Matanzas. Chang as many other Chinese of the time was familiar with herbal medicines. He had a working knowledge of the healing properties of certain herbs, roots, bark, leaves, grasses, fruits, even shells. Legend has it that as a field worker he was able to prepare medicines made from the roots of shrubs and tubers that saved many lives.

In 1858, four years before the contract was supposed to be over, somehow he escaped his servitude and began practicing medicine in Havana. His knowledge of botanical medicine served him well for the preparation of herbal teas, poultices, ointments, powders, soaps, and healing incenses.

He also knew about arsenic, mercury, and opium. This knowledge may have lead to his eventual downfall.

He grew successful in Havana; not only Chinese, but now Spanish, Afro-Cubans and people of mixed blood came to him for help. Other doctors began losing patients and because of that, along with a jealousy  triggered by Chambombián’s successes, they began a series of law suits against him. In 1863 Juan Chambombián was accused of the illegal practice of medicine. It was claimed that he was  practicing medicine without a license (which was probably true), and that he had just received a consignment of medicinal drugs from Chinese suppliers in San Francisco, California. To his accusers the techniques of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) seemed bizarre, no more than unbelievable occult garbage. (“Imagine making medicine out of weeds, such utter nonsense.”) But what really made it unacceptable for the other doctors is that these “bogus” methods all too often worked better than their own!

in 1864 he was placed on trial. The judge and jury agreed with the doctors and Juan Chambombián was found guilty.  He lost his home and was forced to stay with Chinese friends. He soon he relocated fifty-six miles away to Matanzas and undaunted again began practicing Chinese Traditional Medicine (TCM).  There he lived on 11 Calle Mercaderes (11 Merchants Street) in the Chinese district of that city. Again the allegations of practicing illegal medicine were raised; to his enemies he was no more than a charlatan, a mountebank, an unscrupulous foreigner cheating other people. With new court trials pending against him—and because of his having few patients—in either 1871 or 1872 (accounts differ) he moved to  Cárdenas, which had a large Chinese population. There he continued to develop his own medicines. He is said to have used rhubarb, aconite, sulfur, arsenic, and opium— along with folk medicines native to Cuba, and especially to its Afro-Cuban population—in his extensive collections of healing formulations along with the TCM medications he still continued to import from San Francisco.  He also worked at and operated a Chinese pharmacy, which gave him a way to make money and to find more patients for his private practice.

It was said he had a number of miraculous cures of clients said to be terminally ill by western doctors: those who had been blind could now see: those with paralyzed arms or legs could now move them. His fame began to spread throughout Cuba. Most likely it was during this time that the expression, Not Even The Chinese Doctor Can Save Him!—(meaning that a person was in such bad shape that not even a miracle worker such as Juan Chambombián could help them)—appeared.

To promote his own medical and business activities he would travel back and forth the ninety-seven miles between the cities of Cárdenas, Matanzas and Havana. In a Matanzas newspaper the following appeared:

CHAMBOMBIAN, this old Chinese doctor, authorized as a botanist by the government, sent a card to a newspaper of Matanzas in which he announced that he had invented a medicine to cure fevers and a patch to treat rheumatism. He also announced that he would next visit Matanzas, a city where he was well known and to whose inhabitants he offered his services, from his home at Calle Dragones 94 in Havana.

A month later in the same newspaper the following appeared (one should not be surprised if the enterprising Juan Chambombián had written both of these notices himself and paid for their publication):

Your enlightened mind and gifts exalt

your knowledge and appliance,

intelligence, and science,

to win applause from the world of thought;

a monument to you well wrought

where your historic fame will rest,

where memories will be the best

the living spirit to preserve;

itself enriched it will observe

with the laurels of your glorious quest.

Signed: Some friends.

Dr. Juan Chambombián was described as a tall statuesque man, with a solemn, if at times, bombastic bearing. He had small penetrating eyes, a slightly drooping mustache and a small skimpy goatee at the end of a long sloping chin. He spoke Spanish and some English with a quirky Chinese accent in a formal but artificial literary style. He dressed professionally in the manner of a western doctor: jacket, top-hat and loose fitting linen frock coat, which he often carried formally draped over his arm.  But he never forgot his humble past: when people came to him for medical treatments he would say, “If you have the money you pay. If you have no money you do not pay. I am no more than one simple man giving medicine to someone else.”

His Death: Was He Murdered?

One morning in 1872 (the exact date is unknown) Juan Chambombián was found dead in his home, in Cardenas.  He lived alone. He had seemed perfectly healthy the day before, and no cause of death could be determined.

Rumors began to spread. Given the lack of any physical trauma to his body it seemed likely that he had been poisoned—but by whom? There were many possibilities:  perhaps an irate local doctor infuriated that Juan Chambombián had taken away his clientele. Or perhaps by the relatives of a patient whom he was not able to save with his herbal medicines. It was possible that the death was accidental, that he was trying one of his newly prepared experimental medicines and it proved deadly. Or perhaps seeking longevity he prepared and drank some exotic version of a Daoist elixir of immortality—but the recipes for such elixirs might contain toxic substances such as lead, arsenic, and mercury, all chemicals which he owned. Or possibly he as many other Chinese in Cardenas became depressed and committed suicide.

And there had been whispered stories of a love affair gone wrong. He had children by eight different concubines. (No one knew the total number of lovers he had throughout his life. There are no extant records of his ever having married. At that time it was illegal for any Chinese person to marry a Caucasian; and back in China having many concubines was a common custom for rich men.)  One popular story had it that he was secretly murdered by one of his jilted mulatto concubines by her use of some secret African poison. Rumor also had it that it was she was the same person who had taught him the use of certain medicinal herbs. Others said she had brought about his death by the use of a Santeria curse. (Santeria is a cult like religion, a fusion of Yoruba [Nigerian] gods and goddess with holy figures taken from the Catholic Church.)

Santeria Central Havana / Author Bernardo Capellini / Source - Wikipedia Commons

A recent source  says that he is buried in the Chinese Cemetery in the Nuevo Vedado section of Havana (at Calle 26 & Zapata, Calle 26), and that the grave site is often covered with flowers or other offerings left by people hoping to be cured of some incurable disease.

It is no surprise that such a flamboyant and exceptional person as Dr. Juan Chambombián—along with the TCM that he practiced—would have its critics,  especially among the privileged upper classes. For example, sixteen years after his death he was mentioned in the lowest of terms as being a faith healer (which he was not) in a speech at the meeting in Havana of the Anthropological Society on March 4, 1888:

Even today among the most civilized nations abound in the lower classes of people, healers who exploit the innate good faith in men to cure diseases with a mixture of empirical remedies, and religious or mystical formulas that are a real medicine imagination; such as examples the treatment of erysipelas [an acute bacterial infection of the skin] saying prayers and making crosses on the diseased part, the various cures of Lourdes, trumpeted in all shades, and among us, not long ago, the supposed wonders of Chinese famous Chambombián.

Source: Revista Cubana: periódico mensual de ciencias, filosofía ... Volumen 7.

 

NOT EVEN THE CHINESE DOCTOR CAN SAVE HIM!  Began to be used to refer to other famous Chinese physicians of the 19th Century, although none ever would gain the legendary status of Juan Chambombián.  

Kan Shi Kom lived in at the corner of Rayo and San Jose streets in Havana. He died in 1885. According to historian Antonio Chuffat Latour the great pomp of his funeral made history in the city.

However not all stories about Chinese doctors are favorable.  According to one such fanciful tale, an unnamed doctor (some say it was Kan Shi Kom, others that it was Juan Chambombián—actually it is unclear who the doctor was or even if the story is true). In any case, the doctor is said to have made a decoction using the stems of the tronquillos verdes plant, which people called “chopsticks” because of its appearance.  He taught the preparation to a colleague, a Spanish doctor who soon after made some, drank it and died.  In the story, the inscription on the tomb of the unfortunate dead man read, "Here lies, against his will, Pancho Perez Vitaluga:  Good husband, good father, bad drinker. Died by helping the Chinese doctor." When the Chinese doctor, whoever it was, heard about the death, he was nonplused. Without showing any concern for the other man and just being concerned about his own medication all he said was, “Carumba! It seems that stick is poisonous.”  (¡Calamba, palece que ese palito son veneno! ).  And so was born another popular Cuban slang expression. [Source]

Chang Bu Bian - Don Damián Morales.  Some say this man was the Chinese doctor referred to in the saying “Not Even the Chinese Doctor Can Save Him!”  Beginning August 20th 1856 a series of Apocalyptic earthquakes accompanied by torrential rain storms struck Santiago de Cuba. To the inhabitants it seemed as if the world was ending. Many others from all over the island came to help, but unknowingly they brought with them cholera.  Throughout October the disease quickly spread. November brought new earthquakes and storms and even more occurrences of the disease. (By the end of the epidemic 2,000 people had died.) City Health employees refused to move the corpses to the cemetery. Sometimes the bodies of the victims remained for days crushed under the bricks of fallen buildings. Prisoners had to be brought from Havana to remove the rubble and bury the bodies in mass graves.

Near the peak of the epidemic, and seemingly in answer to the prayers of those still alive,  there appeared an apparent miracle worker: an Asian man claiming to be a doctor; but he didn’t give out any pills or powders, he only used a strange kind of massage never seen before. In fact what he was practicing was his version of tuina (massage) techniques he learned from a classic Chinese text of the sixteenth century, the  T'uei na pi-kieu, or Treaty of Massage.   

His massage was tortuously painful. With his index finger and thumb of his left hand he pressed certain tender points and tendons in the armpits of the patient and forcibly vibrated the flesh. At the same time with his right hand he pulled the skin over the larynx (Adam’s apple) producing a hematoma (a solid swelling of clotted blood within the tissues). He then would vigorously rub the patient’s shoulder blades and spine with his arms, elbows and knees. The patients suffered, but many of them were healed. [Source: “Cuban Characters.” thecubanhistory.com]

Chinese Siam - Juan de Dios Siam Zaldívar. Coming from Beijing in 1840 he originally was known by the names “Sián” or “El Siam”, or “Chinese Siam.” Unlike most other Chinese immigrants, he entered Cuba with 20,000 Spanish gold pesos. Using his version of TCM he brought about many cures, which not surprisingly frightened certain inhabitants of Santa María del Puerto del Príncipe, the city in which he lived. Rumors spread that he was some sort of a black magic wizard in league with strange demonic forces. But all that changed when during a religious procession, El Siam unexpectedly knelt before a statue of the Virgin of Veracruz; after which he was considered a Christian.  He made it official by being baptized on April 25, 1850, taking on the name Juan de Dios Siam Zaldívar—but remaining true to ancient customs, he signed his new name with a Chinese calligraphy brush. He had two families, one with his wife, a white woman, and another with a black mistress. Today descendants of both branches are proud of their famous ancestor. Possessing a great fortune, he died in 1885.

[Source]

These legends about the outstanding Chinese doctors of the nineteenth century helped create a foundation for the widespread use of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) in 21st century Cuba. This is addressed in my next article, Traditional Chinese Medicine in Today’s Cuban Health Care.

This entry originally appeared as part of “Traditional Chinese Medicine in Cuba” in Qi Journal, vol. 26/3; autumn 2016. 

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .

Images

Juan Chambombián in Chinese clothing.
Source: https://www.artsy.net/show/taikang-space-portrait-hot-taikang-photography-collection

Juan Chambombián as a young man of about 20 years old soon after his arrival in Havana in 1854.
The photography was damaged in a hurricane.
Source: http://hojassdeprensa.blogspot.com/2011/09/cham-bom-bia-el-famoso-medico-chino-de.html

Juan Chambombián in his western doctor suit.
October 20, 2010 Opus Habana Magazine.

Santeria Centro Habana / Author Bernardo Capellini
Source: Wikipedia Commons

Author John Voigt in Havana at a paladar (a small private restaurant in a family home) mulling over
the cause of the death of Dr. Juan Chambombián.
Source: Author.

Chinese cemetery in Havana where Juan Chambombián is buried.
Source: Tripadvisor.  

 



Meditation: Improve Your Health in 20 Minutes a Day

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

Chinese Medicine Says - Balance Equals Health

Chinese Medicine is all about balance. Balance in all aspects of life is what keeps us healthy and keeps disease away. In a time long ago, this balance was the normal way of life for most people, and they understood the importance of doing things in moderation - like eating, physical activity, expressing of emotions and all aspects of life. Chinese Medicine has always taught that this moderation in all things is the way to achieve balance and is ultimately the path to health. When something in life becomes unbalanced, illness can result. When this happens there are wonderful tools to help put the body, mind, and spirit back into a harmonious state - like acupuncture, Chinese herbs, moxibustion, gua sha and tui na. These are just some of the tools that Chinese Medicine has in its formidable toolbox. But ultimately, the goal is to live a balanced life so that illness never has a chance to develop, Chinese medicine is a medicine of prevention.

Losing Our Equilibrium

Now, many of us are living unbalanced lives in an increasingly unbalanced world. Finding the equilibrium that our ancestors enjoyed becomes more difficult as we live in a world that is more complex, and needs us to work more in a time where most of us are able to have less. There is a growing disparity between people who have and those who have not. Cities are growing as nature dwindles. People are being pushed, working more, sleeping less and getting sick because that balance has been lost. So what can we do? It is not realistic to quit the jobs we need to survive, and many of us live lives that we must and not the lives we would like to. One of the ways that we can get back to that balance, that equilibrium that keeps us aligned and happy is to slow down, sit and listen.

What is Meditation?

Meditation - Finding A Way Back to Balance

There are many ways to meditate, and everyone needs to find the one or the ones that are right for them. For some, walking is a wonderful healing type of meditation. For others, painting, cooking or writing poetry is their meditation of choice. I like to define a meditation as being in a state of complete harmony and flow. Like you are completely connected to the universe and in a state of bliss where time completely disappears. This is only my definition, but a similar sensation has been described by others in a state of deep meditation. It is like being in a complete and all-encompassing state of mindfulness.

Practical Meditation

In all my years of treating patients, I have found meditation to be one of the most effective healing tools, and one of the most empowering for patients. I often give patients a "prescription" for daily meditation to help them with their health and overall well-being. There are lots of reasons why it is such a great healing tool and why people love it so much. Here are just a few:

  • You can choose a meditation technique or practice that resonates with you - it is highly individualized
  • You can do it in the privacy of your own home
  • You do not need any special gear or equipment (although a lovely meditation cushion is so nice)
  • Meditations positive effects can be felt by doing it in as little as a few minutes a day
  • You can use your creativity to design a practice and a space that supports your meditation practice
  • The beneficial effects will ripple out into all aspects of your life
  • The positive effects will be felt by the people around you
  • With time, you will be able to handle stress and other difficult situations with more equanimity
  • Your memory, concentration and mood will be improved
  • You will have better quality of sleep
  • The power of this healing tool is completely in your hands

The list of meditations benefits is really enormous and there isn't enough room here to list them all. But for practical reasons, I can share an example of a meditation practice that can help to rebalance mind, body and spirit as well as all the benefits listed above.

Creating a Beautiful Space

One of the first things you can do, is to create a beautiful, calming, peaceful space where you will do your meditation. If you can, remove all electronic devices so that the space is quiet and you will not be disturbed. Keep the space clean and clutter free as this will help eliminate distractions while you are meditating. If you have a meditation cushion, you can arrange it so that it is appealing to the eye and when you look at the space in its entirety, it gives you a feeling of calm and joy. I am lucky to have a beautiful meditation cushion (which is from the lovely people at Chattra) - whenever I look at it, it makes my heart so happy and I thoroughly enjoy sitting on it. I don't have a lot of space, so I create a tiny space for myself with my cushion and a mosquito net which is lovely and really gives it an enchanted feel. Create your space however you desire, using objects (or the lack of objects) that make you happy and help to create a feeling of calm and serenity.

This is my lovely meditation space with my beautiful Chattra meditation cushion. If you would like one of your very own,
you can see all their beautiful designs here in their shop and enjoy 10% off (see coupon below).

20 Minutes to Health

You can choose however long you like in terms of your meditation practice, but I suggest that if it is new to you, to start slowly. You can start with just five or ten minutes a day and work up from there. I find that a good number is twenty minutes a day, or if you are ambitious, twenty minutes twice a day, morning and evening. Twice a day is ideal as it acts as a primer for the day and a bit of a cleansing of the days energies before bed to ensure a good, restful, rejuvenating sleep. If you can set aside twenty minutes when you wake up before you start your morning routine, you will find that you will set your intention for the day and be better able to focus as well as being better able to handle difficult situations. The more you meditate, the more you will find this equanimity in your life and in all things. In the evening, do everything you need to do and do your meditation right before sleep. You will find that the quality of your sleep will improve and you will wake up feeling more rested and ready to start your day with positivity and awareness.

The Meditation

As mentioned above, there are many different types of meditation, and I always recommend to patients that they find the one that feels right for them. A good way to start if you are looking for ideas is to sit comfortably in your meditation space and begin to focus on your breathing. Focus on your breath moving in and out of your body. I sometimes suggest trying to focus on breathing light into the top of your head, gathering the breath and all dark energy, emotions or experiences we are finished with, illness, pain or trauma and breathe it out with every breath. Sometimes, when you begin, it is good to have something to focus on and this one has worked for me, and for my patients.

Keep breathing deeply in and out focussing solely on the breath. Your mind will inevitably wander, but when you notice you are somewhere else in your mind, gently bring yourself back to the breath. At first, your mind will be all over the place - this is called monkey mind by the Buddhists (and here is a great definition) - but just keep bringing yourself back to the breath. This will get easier and easier the more you meditate. And try not to be hard on yourself. There are days when you will do nothing but bring your mind back to the breath, over and over again. But over time, you will find that you will have to do this less and less and that your mind will settle into a peaceful quiet which will allow you to connect to yourself in a way you may not have done before, and that is a wonderful thing indeed.

Chinese Medicine Living readers can enjoy this 10% off coupon in the Chattra shop. Visit www.chattra.com or click on the coupon below.

Chattra Meditation Cushion Review

If you would like to read my review of the lovely Chattra meditation cushion, you may do so here - Chattra Meditation Cushion Review

 



Osteoporosis: Western & Eastern Medicine

Osteoporosis in Western Medicine

By The National Council for Aging Care

Are you one of the 44 million people at risk for Osteoporosis?

According to the International Osteoporosis Foundation, more than 44 million Americans aged 50 and older either have or face the threat of developing osteoporosis. Projections put this number at more than 60 million by 2020. Across the world, a fracture due to osteoporosis happens about once every three seconds, causing nearly 9 million fractures—just from stress being put on weak bones.

Osteoporosis is a degenerative bone disease that causes the loss of bone mass and bone tissue.

There are little to no symptoms of the disease, so easily breaking a bone may be the first sign that you have osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis can develop from a wide range of reasons, including:
• Menopause
• Cancer
• Poor diet
• Autoimmune Disorders
• Medications
• Excessive alcohol consumption
• Tobacco use
• Inactive lifestyle (not regularly exercising)
• Diet lacking in vitamin C and vitamin D

Continue reading to discover the symptoms, prevention and treatment of osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis Defined: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments - By The National Council For Aging

Osteoporosis in Chinese Medicine

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

Osteoporosis is the gradual loss of bone density that causes the bones to become brittle, thus increasing the risk of fracture. Women are at a higher risk of developing osteoporosis because of the steady loss of estrogen after menopause. There are some risk factors that contribute to your chances of developing osteoporosis and they are:

  • Age – bone density decreases naturally as we age
  • Heredity and genetics – osteoporosis tends to run in families
  • Being thin with fine bones increases your risk
  • A diet high in sodium
  • Carbonated drinks
  • Stress
  • Dieting
  • Caffeine
  • Smoking
  • Heavy alcohol use
  • Excess sugar intake
  • Certain medications such as the birth control pill and drugs for hypothyroidism weaken bones
  • Lack of exercise – weight bearing exercises cause the body to lay down new bone, increasing bone mass
  • A diet lacking in calcium, phosphorus and vitamin D
  • Too much animal protein in the diet can leach calcium from the bones
  • If you have broken many bones in your adult life, you are more susceptible

Although some of these risk factors cannot be avoided, many can and things like diet and exercise are vital to the health of your bones. Eating a diet high in calcium and balancing that with adequate levels of vitamin D which is responsible for the absorption of calcium, are important for the strength and density of bones. Most people associate dairy products with foods high in calcium, but for those who prefer not to eat dairy, there are many foods that are extremely high in calcium. Here is a list of non dairy sources of calcium.

Acupuncture and Osteoporosis

Non Dairy Sources of Calcium

  • Tofu
  • Chia seeds
  • Almonds
  • Sesame seeds (ground or pulverized for better absorption)
  • Tapioca
  • Collard greens
  • Kale
  • Bok Choy
  • White beans
  • Figs
  • Black eyed peas
  • Broccoli
  • Sardines with the bones
  • Seaweed
  • Turnip greens
  • Oranges

Acupuncture and Osteoporosis

Vitamin D & Calcium Absorption

Getting enough vitamin D is crucial to absorption of calcium. Common wisdom says that 30 minutes of sunshine a day is adequate for the average adult. Note that people with a diet high in animal proteins will cause calcium to be absorbed poorly, so if you are trying to build up calcium and strengthen bones, consider limiting your intake of animal proteins. It is also important to note that if we are not getting enough calcium in the diet, the body will take the calcium it needs from the bones, so make sure you are getting enough! The recommended daily amount is between 800 milligrams – 1200 milligrams for lactating women.

Fosamax and Boniva

Fosamax (Alendronate) and Boniva (Ibandronate) belong to a group of drugs called bisphosphonates. They alter the cycle of bone formation and breakdown in the body, decreasing the rate at which bone cells are absorbed. They are both commonly prescribed to postmenopausal women for osteoporosis.

Acupuncture & Chinese Herbs

Although sometimes drugs like this are a good option if your are suffering from severe bone loss and your bones have become dangerously brittle, my suggestion would be to always try to rebuild bone naturally. Medications often just treat symptoms and do not tackle the underlying problem which is what Chinese medicine is all about. Of course there are times when medications are necessary, but even so, I would always encourage a patient to be working towards balance so that eventually they did not need the drugs.

Acupuncture and Chinese herbs have been shown to be extremely effective for osteoporosis. There have been many clinical trials that show that both acupuncture treatments as well as Chinese herbal formulas that treat the kidneys (in Chinese medicine the kidneys govern the bones, growth and maturation) are very effective in building bone mass making the bones less brittle and susceptible to fractures.

Exercise

Weight bearing exercise is what the body needs to lay down new bone and this type of exercise is prescribed for people with osteoporosis. Weight bearing exercise is defined as exercises one does on your feet working the bones and the muscles against gravity. While that doesn’t mean going to the gym and pumping weights, there are many types of exercises that fall into this category and will improve bone health.

Acupuncture and Osteoporosis

  • Walking
  • Jogging
  • Dancing
  • Climbing stairs
  • Tennis
  • Volleyball
  • Tai Chi
  • Yoga
  • Golf
  • Gardening or working in the yard

As you can see, these are activities that almost anyone can do. Exercise is not only good for osteoporosis, it is also vital to our overall wellbeing. I always encourage patients to try to go outside every day, take some deep breaths and spend time in nature. It is a very grounding activity and often pulls us out of our heads and reminds us of what is important.

Acupuncture and Osteoporosis

In conclusion, my best advise on what to do about osteoporosis is to make changes to your diet, including as many calcium rich foods as possible, as well as making sure that you are getting adequate vitamin D to ensure that the calcium you are eating is being absorbed fully. Remove things like excess salt, sugar and alcohol from your diet and try to limit caffeine. Take some time every day to exercise, even if it is going for a walk to give your bones a workout which will stimulate them to lay down new bone and increase your bone density. And last but certainly not least, I would highly recommend seeking out an acupuncturist for regular treatments with the addition of Chinese herbs which are excellent for building up the kidneys and building strong healthy bones.

*Beautiful featured image photo by Linda Xu on Unsplash