Here's a nice little video put out by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) promoting Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) as an intangible cultural heritage of China.
When it comes to Women’s health, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is quite amazing! TCM has been studying and treating gynecological and obstetric issues for over a thousand years. The earliest known Chinese work on the subject is titled, Jingxiao Chanbao (Tested Treasure in Obstetrics), and was written by Zan Yin during the Sui & Tang Dynasty (618 – 907 CE). Zan Yin finished compiling this 3 volume collection between 847 and 852 CE. The Chanbao, as it is sometimes referred to, was an impressive monographic collection of the clinical experiences and research of doctors who practiced prior to the Tang dynasty; as well as, the inclusion of Yin’s own clinical experience.
The content of the first volume covers topics such as: nourishing and protecting the fetus, miscarriage, threatened abortion, and hemorrhage. The second and third volumes give detailed discussions on gestation, parturition, postnatal care, diseases, prescriptions, and therapy. The section on therapy talks about the same types of treatment that are still prescribed today, such as tonifying the Qi, nourishing blood, and supplementing the Spleen and Kidneys.
Since the time of Zan Yin there have been many advances in the field of gynecology as it is practiced in TCM. In modern clinics we integrate both Eastern and Western medicine into a comprehensive understanding of women’s health, which includes many new diseases that weren’t seen in earlier times.
Today, we treat with great efficacy everything from menstrual irregularities, menopausal symptoms, fibromyalgia, osteoporosis, to infertility, PCOS, endometriosis and candida. With the advent of imaging technologies, and the use of blood chemistry interpretation we have many more diagnostic tools than before that we can use in consort with TCM diagnosis; giving us useful information that helps improve diagnosis and treatment plans, and supports better patient outcomes.
TCM provides a natural, non-invasive, and a more holistic approach to women’s health, which focuses on bringing the body's systems back into a homeostatic state. This can include balancing the peripheral nervous system (sympathetic and parasympathetic), the endocrine system and its hormones, restoring balance to metabolism, re-establishing a healthy ecosystem in the gut, fine tuning the immune system, resynchronizing communication between all systems; and of course, bringing harmony to the body, mind and spirit.
In essence, TCM provides all the necessary knowledge and tools to transform a woman’s life into an affirmative lifestyle that promotes health and longevity.
Posted By: Scott Stewart, MSAc., Dipl., Ac., LAc
In 2013, archeologists discovered 920 bamboo strips at a construction site in Chengdu, China that dated back 2,000 years; all the way back to the Western Han Dynasty (206 BCE – 24 CE). The bamboo strips were inscribed with prescriptions for treating various diseases. Once the manuscripts were dated and studied it was revealed that they were written not by the Bian Que school, but rather by Bian Que himself. This was a huge find, because Bian Que’s writings were thought to be lost. Some of the subjects covered in these medical texts were: dermatology, gynecology, ophthalmology, and traumatology
Bian Que was one of the founding fathers of traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), and considered to be one of the most skilled physicians of his time, not to mention, a physician who was way ahead of his own time. He was a master diagnostician who pioneered pulse diagnosis, at one time he performed an organ transplant, and even used anesthesia.
Other items found at this site included 181 bamboo strips depicting medical treatments for horses, 9 medical books (some verified as being written by Bian Que), a 14cm tall figurine illustrating acupoints, and other various relics.
Li Gao, aka Li Dong – yuan (Dong – yuan being the style he practiced), lived during the Yin/Yuan Dynasty (1115 – 1368 CE). Li was born to a wealthy family and lived a privileged life in the city of Hubei. He started to study medicine because his mother fell ill and not one doctor could cure her or explain why she was sick; she later died. Li was an exceptional student under the tutelage of Zhang Yuan – su, who was the most famous physician in the province at the time. Li became an expert in every field of Chinese medicine covering acupuncture, internal medicine, pediatrics, pharmacology, gynecology, etc.
While Li’s contemporaries were focusing on external invasions as the cause of disease, Li contradicted this trend and attributed the root of disease as being derived from internal damage (nei sheng); and further exclaimed that external invasions were nothing more than a branch. This brazen declaration of viewing disease from a different perspective reminds me of the alternative practitioners of today who focus on internal causes, especially those originating in the gut health of individuals, as opposed to the majority of the medical community who still concentrates on germ theory (external invasions). Li Dong – yuan believed that the spleen (including the pancreas) and stomach were functionally at the center of one’s life in terms of health and disease. It was his idea that if these organs were deficient it would lead to illness, and if they were healthy and strong than the individual would be healthy. This is very reminiscent of today’s pathology of disease, most particularly in the West, where the population has poor diets, diets made up of low quality foods, high levels of stress, lack of physical activity, and emotional disturbances; which all affect the spleen and stomach. This subject was so important to Li that he wrote a famous manuscript called, Treatise on the Spleen and Stomach (Pi Wei Lun), which is available in translation.
One of Li Dong – yuan’s most well - known theories is called, the theory of Yin Fire. In a nutshell, this theory postulated that when there is a deficiency in middle Qi, namely spleen deficiency, this taxes the kidneys and the Ministerial Fire. The Stomach Qi which supports the kidneys and the Ministerial Fire cannot keep up, and an intense fire erupts in the lower burner (abdomen). Yin fire also generally includes some aspect of pathogenic dampness mixed with the already present deficiency. The danger in this situation is that this fire can flame upwards and harass the heart.
Li was recognized as an expert in acupuncture and moxibustion, as well as, an expert in the field of internal medicine. In practice Li often applied his theories, and this is what propelled him into such a high status as master in the realm of medicine as both practitioner and theorist. During his life Li’s acupuncture skills were renowned, and his needling techniques continued to be talked about, and written about in following generations. It’s not surprising that Li went on to found the School of Nourishing spleen and Stomach; a school of thought that still has relevance in today’s practice.
Li Dong – yuan also created many herbal formulas based on his studies in the Pi Wei Lun, his most famous formula being Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang (Supplement the Center and Boost the Qi Decoction. This formula is still appropriate in today’s clinical setting, and is used quite often for various conditions relating to spleen deficiency such as, low – energy, various forms of prolapse, dull-headaches, dizziness, fatigue, hypotension, etc.