I’ve returned from my trip to China and I want to share with you this wonderful experience. My main reason for going to China was to deepen my knowledge of acupuncture and herbal medicine.
I was in Hangzhou Hospital, which is in the southern part of China, three hours from Shanghai. I traveled with a group of five acupuncturists—we all went to school together at Samra University of Oriental Medicine in California.
In Shanghai and got my first taste of Chinese food, smells, and culture. The weather was wonderful, before the rainy season—cool and not too damp. We took a train from Shanghai to Hangzhou and it was beautiful to see the country roads. Outside of Shanghai is farmland, with beautiful homes, which was a big surprise to me, because I was expecting to see little shacks! When we came to Hangzhou, it was Friday night, and Saturday morning we started our work in the hospital. The hospital has departments of Acupuncture, Herbal Medicine, and Western Medicine. They are divided into specialties—Pediatrics, Cancer, Women’s Health, Dermatology, etc. All of them incorporate Chinese medicine and Western medicine, hand in hand.
For the two weeks I was there, I took intensive courses in acupuncture and women’s health, and I visited for a day each in the Cancer Center, Pediatrics, and Gastroenterology so that next year when I go I can decide where to spend more time. During this time, I saw things that unfortunately I never have a chance to see in my own clinic, because here acupuncture is never used as the first remedy. Here I am always working with a chronic situation. In China people use acupuncture for their acute health problems as well, so the conditions can be easier to heal.
For example, I saw a stroke patient who came a few days after I arrived. He came the second or third day after he had had a stroke that caused one side of his face to be completely paralyzed. When I first saw him, he couldn’t close his eyes or close his mouth, and by the time I left, 70% of his symptoms had gone. He came to the clinic every day and got acupuncture on his face, head, and whole body, as well as an herbal formula.
I saw small kids getting acupuncture for coughs, for slow development, for ADD. The kids with ADD were being sent home with needles all over their heads so the parents could take them out after 8 hours. The retention of the needles for a longer time enhances the treatment for certain conditions, and it is common to leave them in to be removed later. In the Cancer Center, they used conventional treatments, but also used herbs to support the immune system during the treatment.
During the time I was studying acupuncture, I learned two new systems. One is for weight-loss, which I have been using since I got back, and so far has been working very well for appetite reduction--and one patient has lost several pounds in one week. The other is using the abdomen as an acupuncture micro system (when one area of the body reflects the rest of the body, like the ear or the sole of the foot.)
The Herbal Medicine Department is also divided into specialists for Dermatology, Gynecology etc. I spent most of my time in the Gynecology department learning about formulas for women and treating infertility. I also took classes in Dermatology and Rheumatology.
One amazing thing was when I went to Herbal Department of Gynecology, at first I thought the whole family was in the room—but then I realized that the waiting room is right in the doctor’s office. The woman who is consulting with the doctor is telling her symptoms, and all the other 20 women are standing and waiting and listening to each consultation. And in the same way, men and women receive acupuncture on beds in the same room, with no shame about having their bodies exposed.
Herbs are being used all the time in China, even in the food. When I went to wonderful restaurants, I found some of the same herbs that are in your formulas, in their whole form, prepared in their foods. They use them as hors d’oerves, as teas in the teahouses, as seasonings and flavorings. Medicinal herbs are in their culture, as part of their daily lives.
At the same time, there is a big craving in the culture to be Westernized and to be like America. This was the most obnoxious part for me, because people would answer their cell phones even in the middle of a conversation with the physician.
The place I was staying is considered by the Chinese to be one of the most beautiful places in China. West Lake is a huge man-made lake, built 800 years ago. Around this lake there is one of the most exquisite gardens that I have seen in my life, with shrines and teahouses every so often. In these gardens you could feel so much love and understanding of nature by knowing how to combine the elements of stones, trees, peacocks moving in the gardens, goldfish in the ponds. Everything was clean and taken care of—really Zen gardens. The lake is ten miles around, and every day my meditation was to walk in these gardens and around the lake.
What I have seen from the Chinese is a lot of appreciation for what they have, so they keep it clean and they use it as their holy place. In the morning, hundreds of people go to the lake to practice their tai chi and qigong. In the evening, kids play, lovers walk, music sounds around this lake. On the weekends, there were kayak races. There was a real life around the lake.
One of my other calming moments besides walking around the lake was to go to the teahouses where I met all my herbs which I love, made into teas. I was always looking around with my eyes to learn about the culture. I learned that in contrast to their openness in the medical setting, about their lives the people are very closed—they don’t like to share anything about their feelings or their government—everything was "good." I missed the openness that we have in our culture where we talk more deeply about our feelings and what we like and don’t like.
But at the end of my time there, I took all the good that I could take from this wonderful place that I have been. I appreciated every smell, taste, the generosity of their teaching me their herbs and methods, and how they are really wanting to move this information to the West and to teach us about their culture.
I wanted to let you know about my beautiful experience in China, and I know that you will benefit from all I have learned.