Traditional Chinese Medicine (versus Western)

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So I want to write a bit about the Chinese herbalist and how he has helped me thus far and what our process has been.

I want to begin by saying that anyone who has ANY discomfort in their lives, whether it be headaches, an overall sense of not feeling well, fatigue, menstruation cramps, pain in a foot, high blood pressure, ANYthing, can go see him and he will work with you. Chinese medicine, unlike Western medicine, looks at the whole body and how all the parts work together.

This is why:

“From the standpoint of western medicine, disease is an event that can be separated from the patient. It is something that the patient has. This, any number of patients can also have the same disease and be treated in a similar manner.

In Chinese medicine, however, disease is not viewed as something that a patient has. It is something that a patient is. Disease, from this standpoint, is an imbalance in the patient’s being. There is no isolated, self-contained, separate entity called “disease”. There is only a whole person whose body functions may be balanced or imbalanced, harmonious or disharmonious. Understanding the nature of the imbalance is the goal of diagnosis, while restoring balance is the focus of treatment.” – Mosher Health

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Dr. Yong En Shi, Faculty member of NY College of TCM, is an 81 year old, very kind Chinese man, who really knows his shit, and has been practicing for over 50 years. (A brief bio of him that I found online is at the end of the post) His appointments for herbal consultations are $70. I am assuming his acupuncture appointments are the same, except he takes insurance for acupuncture and not for herbs. But, if you go to him for both on the same day, he gives you both treatments for just $80. And then, if he gives you a 7-day supply of herbs, it may be an extra $60 to $80.

My story with TCM:

When everything began, I knew right away I wanted to see a Chinese herbalist. It just seemed right. But when I started to think about Chinatown in NYC, the idea just became more and more difficult to grasp. How could I possibly know who is “the best”? How do you even begin the search? I know nothing about Chinese medicine and there is no way to really look up reviews about doctors.

So, I asked my Chinese friends Candy and Kar to give me a hand. They told me that by far, the man that most people in the community go to is Dr. Yong En Shi of the Grand Meridian Clinic. So, I made my appointment.

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I found the address and saw that there was a shop full of different herbs and spices. I walked through the floor-to-ceiling walls of herbs to a door in the back of the shop and there was a hidden, small , gem of a clinic. After filling out a few sheets of papers with my symptoms, a woman walked with me over to Dr. Shi, an elderly Chinese man. With the help of Susie, also a practitioner and a native English speaker, he began to ask me a few questions about how I feel and my symptoms while she translated between us. He then looked at my tongue: pale (blood, Qi deficiency), my pulse: thready, weak and rapid (deficiency heat) and told me my sympathetic nerves are not their best. Basically, I do not know what any of this means and they didn’t really tell me. The woman said I can look it up on the internet. OK then. I wasn’t so fond of that answer, but I was not prepared with questions so I didn’t really know what to ask, the whole process was very foreign to me.

He stated that multiple sclerosis is a western diagnosis and that they do not treat accordingly. The woman then stated that over the 12 years, 20 lesions are not so bad. She also said my case is a lot easier because most people who go in to their clinic are on a lot of drugs and it makes it more difficult for them to know which of their remedies are working or not, because of the interaction with the drugs.

The doctor said I had a very good energy and seemed very upbeat. He said my tongue, while pale looked healthier than most and then he told me to wait on the couches outside while the herbal remedies were combined at the front of the clinic, in the shop. It all happened very fast and truth be told, I was a bit confused but excited to give it a whirl.

About 15 minutes later 7 bags of herbs came out and I was told how to cook them and that I should do it every day for 7 days then return. So I left wondering but interested to try. It’s only 7 days and the cooking process of the herbs isn’t so difficult. He did say it was to help the hardening in the brain.

(7 days later…)

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Let me tell you. it WAS difficult. Not only was it difficult because it smelled my entire studio apartment up so badly I could barely breathe in it, look above at that brown-yellowish color that came from the water from the boiled herbs. It was so nasty, combined with the taste, I thought I was going to lose it. On top of that, I had to eat something first, wait 15-20 minutes, then take the liquid (I want to throw up just thinking about it) and then wait another 45 minutes before taking my supplements/vitamins. So, I had to wake up at least 2 hours earlier than I normally did and go to bed two hours later. By the end of the week not only was I exhausted, but I was so stressed out and had no appetite. It did change my bowel movement in that it was the first time in over 3 years that I went to the bathroom every day. Crazy, right?

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So the following Friday, 5/16, I returned. ($134) I was so anxious because I knew I just could NOT drink that stuff again, it was so horrible, but I also knew my body was not in balance. My stomach was doing a kick-line as I walked back into his office. I sat down, described what happened and he said, “ok, you will do this now” as he changed 1 or 2 of the 13 herbs. I started to shake my head in protest. I know, I know. I keep saying I’ll do ANYthing to heal myself but this was beyond anything I could have imagined. AND, everyone I spoke to who has tried it agrees and thinks I’m crazy for (still) drinking that stuff. So as I spoke with Suzie, the translator and TCM practitioner, she laughed and said, “why are Americans so uptight? I said 45 minutes, but 20 minutes is OK and why didn’t you put honey in it if it tasted so bad?” I thought I was going to die. “HONEY?!?! I can put honey in it?!” With that, I bought honey and ate honey for the first time since I stopped eating sugar and literally nose-dived right into a jar of it. And this time, the herbs let off a really nice aroma which made my house smell better and my desire to eat food in existence. My bowels changed once again and I was able to manage my time better.

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The following week, 5/23, I returned again. ($154) The doc listened to my changes and then tweaked the herbs to address my bladder as well as my brain. He also gave me acupuncture for $10. Now that I was more comfortable, I remembered to ask him to write down the herbs for me as well as the acupuncture points that caused me pain or discomfort so I can start looking them up. Wow, is that interesting

So it has been 5 separate appointments each with 7 days worth of herbs to take. I can’t believe it has been more than a month already. I am still moving my bowels and my bladder changed but did not heal. I have a feeling I’ll be taking yet another 7 days of herbs when I go back to him on Monday. It’s amazing how things we KNOW we will never do out of sheer disgustingness can so easily become a habit and we get used to it and stop complaining about it. If I can get used to this, I can only imagine what so many other people have just gotten used to in their lives and do not even think about what they are doing or saying anymore because it has become so second nature.

We need to wake up. We need to start bringing intention back into our lives. We need to start living again. Hmm, how did I get off on such a rant? Well, that’s how I feel.

Brief Bio: Yongen Shi, L.Ac., MD (China), Grand Meridian Staff Practitioner, is a graduate of Tongji Medical College in Wuhan, and Beijing Traditional Chinese Medical College in Beijing, China; as well as a Scholarship recipient in the Department of Clinical Pharmacology, Royal Postgraduate Medical School in London, England. Most recently, he held the position of Chief Acupuncturist/Coordinating Manager for Harlem Hospital Center’s Psychiatric Department Chemical Dependency Program. Dr. Shi brings with him more than 50 years clinical experience in Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal medicine.

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