Traditional Chinese MedicineShanghai, Spring 2012

This week we took a field trip to learn about traditional chinese medicine. The visit started with us  getting a crash course lecture in TCM. In my experience, each TCM user I meet has a slightly different idea of what TCM is, how to practice it, and what it’s main elements are. The man we spoke to though was an actual certified doctor so I felt more inclined to believe him.

His brief lecture involved outlining what he called the five outer influences which are things like: hot, cold, wind, etc. and the six inner influences which are a persons’ emotions. These infuences are supposed to be harmonious within the body. A person becomes sick when elemetns are out of balance. To restore balance, illness is treated with four techniques.

The second part of the visit involved him demonstrating all of the techniques for us. First he had some chrysanthemum tea brewed for us all to try. This was suppossed to be an example of using herbs to combat an illness but I’m not sure he explained exactly what illness the tea treated.

Secondly, he demonstrated reverse massage, also known as hot cups. For those of you who don’t know, this is hot cup.

First, you put the fire in the cup.

And then you put the cup on your back.

The air is sucked out of the cup and suctioned to your back.  You can kindof see from the photo how your skin is also sucked up, inside of the cup which creates a really disgusting looking lump.

If your skin appears red afterwards, it is a sign that you have too much heat. If it’s purple though, you have too much cold. Either way, the mark will remain for about a week.

Next.

I didn’t catch the name of this herb but if held above one of the meridian lines, the heat and smoke are suppossed to penetrate the body and help with different ailements. This demonstration was less popular probably because it was poorly explained. From our point of view, the doctor set a giant joint on fire and then appeared to want to brand one of us with it. It was a very scary couple of seconds before we understood that the end never actually touches the skin.

Finally, we tried acupuncture.

This is a photo of a combination of the herb, acupuncture, and fire cupping being done on me.

That thing that looks like a smoking marshmellow coming out of my leg is the burning herb on the end of a needle. The fire cupping was interesting enough. Afterwards my skin was normal colored which I was told meant I was healthy. I want to say now though that I absolutely hate acupucnture. It felt like I was getting a very painfu vaccine. It was uncomfortable during and afterwards and three days later, my leg is still very sore. If I returned home only knowing one thing, it would be that I hate acupuncture.

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