Meeting A Traditional Chinese Doctor
It’s 10:20 am on Monday 1-9-2011. I’m walking down busy Wellington Road in Hong Kong’s main business district, which has many tall and fancy skyscrapers. My old place is just two minutes from here, so I know these streets well. My appointment is scheduled for 10:30, but as a Finn, I usually tend to be at least five minutes early, and didn’t make any exceptions to the rule this time either. I arrived at the Quality Chinese Medical Centre’s front desk at 10:25 sharp, and a Chinese girl called Sarah welcomed me with a big smile.
I waited only a minute or so, and the doctor was already ready to see me. If nothing else, there’s a huge difference in waiting times in doctor’s offices of modern medicine.
Quality Chinese Medical Centre is a bit like a fusion of a Western doctor’s office and a sports masseur room with a twist of ancient Chinese art. I sat in a chair opposite the doctor. She didn’t speak any English, but Sarah promised to act as an interpreter. I was really pleased about that, as I am still learning Cantonese. In Cantonese I can say A) Ngo SikTeng GuangDongWah and B) Ngo M SikTeng GuangDongWah. The first means I can understand Cantonese, which is a lie. The second means I don’t understand Cantonese, which she knew already.
The doctor starts by measuring my pulse from both of my wrists. She did not use any instruments, only her hands, but that was enough for her to draw a conclusion about my health, which was: My liver was too hot. That’s all. My liver was too hot. It’s really amazing how just one sentence can raise so many questions—if you only checked my pulse, how can you be so sure? What does it means that my liver is hot? Is it really hot, or is it hot in a cool way? She explained to me that it’s not a dangerous condition, but a lot of energy is used. She said that the liver handles all stress, sorrow, anxiety, sadness, and other bad feelings of a person—but I love my life! There’s no room for sorrow, anxiety, or sadness whatsoever. I don’t have any inner stress. I do work long hours, but that’s because I love what I’m doing. Yes, I exercise a lot in the hot weather of Hong Kong, but that can’t be the reason. Or could it be? The hot weather is a major source of outer stress for me. She then asked me to show her my tongue, which reinforced her conclusion. My liver was just too hot! She asked me two more questions. Does my tongue feel tacky? Yes. Do you feel thirsty almost all the time? Yes, and I drink 4 to 5 litres of water every day. I thought that’s normal if you live in such a place as Hong Kong, where you sweat every single second that you’re outside. The real reason, however, is that the liver apparently needs copious amounts of water if it’s too hot. That, in a way, makes sense, but what’s the treatment?
The treatment was simple and interesting—herbal medicine and acupuncture. Please, bring me all your herbal medicines. I’ve been being eating all kinds of herbs for years now, and I’m eager to try something new. I wasn’t so sure, though, about the acupuncture. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve always wanted to try it, but I had seen Final Destination 5 a few days before. The scene in which the treatment table breaks and the man falls down, causing acupuncture needles to press into his body, was just too vivid in my mind. I know it’s only a movie, but it still made an impact.
I was a man, though, and took a treatment—after double-checking the treatment table. The doctor told me that their acupuncture needles are sterilized and disposable, so there is no risk of any infection. She also told me that acupuncture doesn’t hurt, perhaps only a tingle or a tickle. Then she literally started snapping those needles into my body. It didn’t hurt, but it certainly felt weird. After half a minute and 10 needles later, she was ready and told me that I had 20 minutes to relax and take a nap if I wanted to. I’m not going to sleep, however, when I have six 4″ needles coming out of my stomach and two in both legs. Since I wasn’t going to sleep, I started thinking. I thought about what the doctor had told me about acupuncture points and Chinese medicine. For example, the acupuncture point for the liver is a few inches up from the angle. Some sort of immune system support point is near the knees. I have studied different diets, herbs, dietary supplements, optimal performance for humans, sleeping improvement, and almost everything from alternative medicine to GTD (Getting Things Done). I have read, seen, and tried many things that didn’t seem to make much sense, but I was thinking that acupuncture outdid them all. I did feel a tingling sensation, which was a very pleasant feeling—similar to releasing tons of pressure from my body. Perhaps acupuncture was OK. After all, the Chinese have been practicing it for around 5,000 years, so they must have determined the best treatment.
I felt fine after seeing the doctor. She told me that I needed to take some herb medicine each day and have acupuncture treatment twice a week for a month to balance my liver. That’s exactly what I’m going to do. Chinese medicine has evolved from individual practitioners to a huge, complex medical system that has a natural solution for almost any physical ailment. I believe that modern medicine can learn a lot from them. Modern medicine is not necessarily bad, and all Chinese medicine is not necessarily good, and the fundamental philosophy and approach of each one are rather different, but both can learn from and complement one another.
- Modern medicine at its best tries to cure ailments; at its worst, it tries to remove symptoms.
- Chinese medicine at its best tries to prevent ailments; at its worst, it tries to cure ailments.
- Modern medicine is more targeted to the ailment at hand.
- Chinese medicine is more holistic and tries to find the root cause for the ailment deep inside the body and habits of the patient.
While lying on the treatment bed, I thought about all the possibilities that could happen from the fusion of modern medicine with Chinese medicine. Both sides just need to be open-minded.
Have you ever tried acupuncture? What did you think about the treatment? What kind of future can you see for traditional Chinese medicine? Is it possible to fuse modern medicine with Chinese medicine?
All the best,