Freya Sherlock (BSc Hons level TCM/CHM, Lic. Ac, PG Dip CHM) runs the Shen Dao Chinese Medicine Clinic, East Green, Dunmanway offering acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine and tuina. She lectures at the College of Oriental Medicine in Cork city and is currently doing her master’s degree in Chinese Herbal Medicine. Freya is starting a one year training in Shen Dao Acupressure teaching the foundations of Chinese medical theory and practice for home use. Please contact her for further details. She can be contacted on 086 127 3148 or through her website www.acupuncturewestcork.com.
Chinese medicine is a complete medical system that has diagnosed, treated, and prevented illness for over twenty-three centuries. Although rooted in an impressive body of medical knowledge accumulated and tested through the ages, it is nevertheless, a practice of medicine that is rigorously updated with modern application. Today, clinical trials and research in Chinese medicine are proving the significant contribution it has to make as a viable and effective form of healthcare.
To train thoroughly across all its disciplines takes a minimum of five years and yet, as with any sincere medic, this only provides a starting point for continual professional development and specialism. As such, is it recognised and approved by many providers of medical insurance (such as VHI/BUPA) and GP’s are increasingly willing to endorse the benefits of acupuncture for a wide range of conditions.
So what is it, what can it do for you and what can you expect from a visit to a practitioner?
Chinese medicine (CM) includes several modalities which a practitioner will integrate as appropriate for an optimal treatment strategy. Acupuncture is perhaps the most commonly known aspect of its practice in Ireland and involves the insertion of extremely fine single-use sterilised needles into carefully selected acupoints that link the surface of the body to the physiological life of the person within. Over 600 acupoints on the body follow the course of 20 meridians (channels of energy) that are understood to link to the organs within, which in turn, are regarded as having more far-reaching influence than we perhaps realise. For example, while the word liver in Western medicine (WM) simply refers to the tangible physical organ, in CM, the word Liver is a symbolic term that describes a scope of influence far beyond that of the mere biological processes of the organ as we know it. As such, any dysfunction in the Liver will reveal itself in a myriad of ways that will help enlighten a more accurate diagnostic process for a CM practitioner. In this way, a diverse range of seemingly unrelated symptoms will make perfect sense to a CM practitioner.
Worldwide however, particularly in China, USA and Australia, it is Chinese Herbal Medicine (CHM) that is the leading modality not only as the treatment of choice but as the subject for extensive research. While pharmaceutical medicine is often based on the active ingredients found in plant medicine which are then extracted or synthetically reproduced for mass market, the integrity of the whole plant is valued in CHM. Moreover, CHM involves a prescription of anything from four to 20 herbs, carefully chosen to match each patient’s unique constellation of signs and symptoms to create a bespoke medicine for their specific needs. In a synergistic dynamic, whereby the sum is greater than the parts, such a prescription will operate on many levels and in diverse ways to address the above ‘seemingly unrelated symptoms’, to garner a pragmatic and yet at times, remarkable medicinal response that can be continuously adjusted in accordance with the patient’s progress.
For some, Chinese Medicine offers a welcome holistic alternative to conventional methods for their everyday healthcare needs be they physical ailments such as respiratory (asthma, bronchitis, low immunity to flu), digestive (IBS, food intolerance, acid reflux), reproductive (infertility, menstrual conditions, PMS, menopause), endocrine (hypothyroid, diabetes), painful joint and musculoskeletal conditions or for more psychological and emotional issues such as depression, anxiety, panic attacks, insomnia, stress and overwhelm.
For others, it can be a last resort, having found the side effects from their pharmaceutical medicine too unpleasant or having not found the long term relief and resolution from the recalcitrant symptoms they had sought. Meanwhile, as in the case of chemotherapy, others look to integrate the best of both world and play both to their respective strengths, turning to Chinese medicine as an adjunct therapy to help relieve the side effects of chemotherapy to support positive treatment outcomes.
Typically, a first consultation will take 1-1.5 hours as the patient’s case history is thoroughly discussed and assessed with various diagnostic methods. In more simple cases, just acupuncture, tuina (therapeutic massage based on Chinese medical understanding) and dietary guidance will be sufficient. For more entrenched pathology however, a prescription and/or course of CHM will be recommended. This can be taken either in the form of the raw herbs decocted (cooked) into a daily tea or as granules/powders (stirred like instant coffee as a daily drink) that made up by the practitioner’s dispensary service.
If you haven’t yet experienced the benefits of this intriguing and yet robust approach to healthcare, book yourself an appointment and start 2015 with a renewed sense of wellbeing.