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Chinese Medicine

by: Barbara Dr. Duo Guo, consultant editor with consulting help by Bernie

New York NY: Thunder Press 1997, $22.95, Paperback
ISBN: 1-56025-176-X

Reviewed by: Jacqueline M. Newman
Fall Volume: 1998 Issue: 5(3) page(s): 17 and 18

Billing itself as 'the complete guide to' acupressure, acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, food cures, and Qi Gung, this paperback is endorsed by the American Foundation of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Should you not know of that organization, it was founded by Ms. Bernie, who teaches classes, has a newsletter, and in this book, has chapters written by what the above foundation considers 'experts' in the field. In addition to these folk, thanks are proffered to the Society of Chinese Medical Practitioners of the United Kingdom in so far as checking for accuracy and other careful reviewing that has been done.

This reviewer is always leery of complete, especially when meant for a topic this broad. Actually, in this case, each topic is such that it would not be complete if covered in half a dozen volumes; hence the word is clearly misused here. Actually, the book is clearly introductory on each topic, should be billed as such, and does an excellent job of introducing materials to a novice, so the misnaming is a real pity.

The introductory chapter of just over two dozen pages discusses the history and philosophy of Chinese medicine. Chapters that follow discuss The Causes of Disease, Traditional Chinese Herbal Therapies, Food as Therapy, Qi Gong, and Acupressure and Acupuncture, in that order. A useful list of approved acupuncture schools, a bibliography of some general books divided into traditional Chinese medicine, Qi Gong, and Food as Therapy, and an index are also included.

The Food as Therapy chapter introduces and explains Yin and Yang, relationships between the five flavors and five organs, the seasons and their relationship to foods, and food and color. After the introductory part of the Food as Therapy chapter, fourteen vegetables, eighteen fruits, six fish and shellfish, three meats, two dairy items (one of which is eggs), and eighteen other foods are superficially discussed. Each food is discussed in one to three paragraphs with that particular food's effects capsuled in five to ten sentences. For example, it advises that carrots are sweet in flavor, neutral in nature, contains two kinds of carotene, B vitamins, amino acids, sugar, and fatty oil; and that they have anti-inflammatory, anti-allergy, spleen strengthening, food stagnation removal abilities, ability to lower blood pressure, protect the stomach and intestines, strengthen the function of macrophages, and have cancer preventing abilities. In those few sentences, the book also advises the reader that the carrot is used to treat indigestion, dysentery, coughs, and hypertension. Hence, complete means brevity, for sure!

Elsewhere, the fourteen meridians are listed with a few words about each of their functions and the bodily part that they impact (i.e. lung, stomach, pericardium, liver, spleen, etc.) There is a picture of the body and the meridians, but no indication of which is which. So much for completeness here, too. One can not even find '113 Taixi' or 'UB 60,' points mentioned as used to treat the lower back. That may be beneficial, as the reader can not try self-healing using the acupressure/acupuncture points given to 'further comprehend the function of the meridians and collaterals.'

Also in the completeness category, detailing relationships between the yin and yang organs, the book says that 'the heart is related to the small intestines, opens into the tongue, and is in charge of the vessels.' 'The condition of the heart is reflected in the face.' Remembering 'dem bones--dem bones,' is this first sentence a song of what is connected to what? Reading on, one learns that the heart has only nine points, distributed along the middle of the medial aspect of the arm and chest and these are used to 'treat diseases of the heart and chest, mental illness, pains and other problems along its course.'

Treating dysentery with carrots or the heart with accupressure or acupuncture or any other major illness without professional medical help is not in anyone's best interest. Using this book for 'in-depth analysis' or for 'self-care instruction,' as it touts one can, is not either.

So why review the book, you might ask, and correctly so. It does explain many things correctly including that accupressure is better known in this country as reflexology. It does present an easy way to understand the background and history of traditional Chinese medicine, and it does introduce herbal, acupuncture, acupressure, and manipulative therapy understandably, and most importantly, it does discuss food. Though not comprehensive, the text is historically accurate, the color photographs illustrative and enticing, and overall, as was already said, it is a good beginning reader about Chinese medicine. For those reasons, read it and then go to other sources and most importantly, do not practice medicine on yourself or anyone else. That is for those with a license to do so.

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