Tag Archives: Traditional Chinese Medicine

Steampunk Medicine: An Interview With Artist James Ng by Author Nisi Shawl

9c631 crystalherbalist Steampunk Medicine: An Interview With Artist James Ng by Author Nisi Shawl

James Ng is a visual artist who makes his two homes in his native Hong Kong and his adopted city of Vancouver, BC.  He was the headline artist in the March 2011 Steampunk Exhibition, and he’s the winner of the 2009 Digital Artist Award for Concept Art.  I was introduced to James’s work via postcard-sized reproduction of his Imperial Steam series, and subsequently acquired the use of his painting “Thought Process” for the cover of The WisCon Chronicles 5: Writing and Racial Identity, which I edited.  Later, he agreed to be the featured artist for the inaugural issue of the literary quarterly The Cascadia Subduction Zone.

 Since then I’ve kept up with James’s exciting oeuvre through his website.  His latest painting, “Crystal Herbalist,” moves me in many ways, and resonates nicely with the topic of this blog.  James has allowed us to reproduce the painting here and ask him a few related questions.

 Your Imperial Steam series of paintings, you’ve said, plays with the premise that our last two centuries of modernization could have been driven not by the West, but by China.  Palanquins, pagodas, and other images fill the canvas–how do you use them to evoke an alternate present and future, rather than the past we often associate with them?

 That’s something I ask myself every time I create a piece for my series. I want to make sure that it stems from the idea of “What would be possible today” instead of just painting something from the past and adding futuristic elements to it. I look at my series like a thesis paper; the original question of “What things would look like today if technology was led by another culture” being my thesis, and each painting acting as a supportive paragraph helping the reader ponder the possibilities. To achieve that aesthetic, I do a lot of research on Chinese history to see what was important before western colonization.

 

 

In August of 2012, when I first saw your painting “Crystal Herbalist,” you sent it to me with this explanation of the concept:

 “Using the steam-powered alchemical furnace, the Crystal Herbalist fuses ingredients into a powerful, smokable extract. The powdered medicine is burned and inhaled while she measures the potency of each brew using her reinforced lungs and heart. Through the reflection of a mirror she looks within herself, assessing the lights and valves to calculate the effects of each new concoction.”

 Do you have anything to add at this point?

 That caption still tells the story pretty well. Like I mentioned earlier, my series is based on Chinese culture, and herbal medicine plays an important role there. One of the main ideas that came up when I originally envisioned my series was that the technology advanced in the direction the culture pointed. In today’s world, most cultures are catching up to the West, which sets the bar other cultures aim to hit. But what if technology from nonwestern worlds moved forward without the goal of meeting a certain standard? If the Chinese believed in their herbal medicine and wanted to continue to make it more effective, this would no doubt drive experiments and research in creating suitable technology.

 We have made incredible technological progress in the last 200 years, probably more than our entire history as a human race. This progress was driven mainly by western science and belief, which is why western practices are the most effective in the modern world. There is no denying the effectiveness of western medical practice–my father is actually a western doctor in a hospital in Hong Kong. I simply wonder what possibilities there might have been if the massive influx of technology was developed and driven by a different culture and from different beliefs.

 Can you write a little bit about your experience with Traditional Chinese Medicine?  Are there connections between the philosophical basis of TCM and your approach to creativity–balance, harmony, etc.?

 Most of the time I use western forms of treatment, because my father is a western-style doctor, and he has a regular supply of western medicine. However, I am very into combat sports, and sometimes when I suffer injuries I seek out Chinese doctors for sores, bruises, and tears.

 I have not thought about the correlations between TCM theory and my artwork, though if you mention balance and harmony, those are things I take into account for every piece of artwork that I do. Balance–between warm and cool and light and dark–is a very important part of an artist’s train of thought, and harmony between shapes and colors is just as important.

 Are you working on other paintings in the Imperial Steam series?  What can you tell us about them?

 Yes, I am. The series has taken a backseat in the last few months to my commissions, but it is something I will always work on. Currently I’m planning to design a sport or competition that is unique to this world that I’m building. I’m leaning towards something to do with traditional lion dance celebration or martial arts, with the aid of steam technology.

 Interview conducted by author Nisi Shawl who is a long-time patient and friend of Monica Legatt LAC, acupuncturist at Downtown Seattle Acupuncture.  

 

Outside Her Head: an Interview with Monica Legatt by Nisi Shawl

28079 yinyangspiral Outside Her Head: an Interview with Monica Legatt by Nisi Shawl

Receiving acupuncture treatments always causes questions to rise up in me. Maybe because that sort of thing happens to everybody? Or maybe it only happens to me, because I’m a writer? There I go again….

I sent Monica some of my questions via email and she answered a few. I’ve split our exchange into two posts. Here, for starters are her responses about getting started.

NS: Do you think of yourself more as an acupuncturist or as a practitioner of Chinese medicine?

ML: I definitely consider myself a practitioner of an entire system of medicine, not just acupuncture, which is only one modality of treatment within Traditional Chinese Medicine. Washington State recently changed my medical license title to East Asian Medicine Practitioner instead of Licensed Acupuncturist to reflect that. 

NS: What drew you to this practice?

ML: I was drawn to the study of alternative medicine when I took a class on it in college from a professor who began his career as a Western medicine physician. He said to me that the cause of disease in human beings is spiritual:

 by the time illness manifests in the physical body it is very hard to treat.

So he left the medical field to pursue a career in ministry, and eventually became a professor of religious studies at the University of Puget Sound, which is where he taught me from 1988 to 1992. His name is Richard Overman, and I consider him to be my first and most important mentor. His class was really about healing within medical traditions that are not divorced from a spiritual or religious origin.

 My area of interest at the time was esoteric religious traditions. Examples of these might be Sufism, or Zen Buddhism, or the Gnostic gospels within Christianity. I thought seriously about pursuing graduate studies in East Asian Religions such as Buddhism and Taoism, but decided to study acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine instead because

I wanted to practice concepts found in these traditions instead of being an academic and staying “in my head.”

NS: Are there other motivations for becoming a practitioner of acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine?

ML: My teacher Richard Overman (mentioned above) told me something I’ve remembered all of my life. He said that very often people are attracted to the psychological and medical fields as students because what they are really seeking is to be healed. They do not end up being good practitioners of medicine or psychology, but they abound in schools for these disciplines.

It’s one thing to study a healing art form academically and it is something completely different to practice it with skill.  

My aim has always been to do the latter.

 

Interview conducted by author Nisi Shawl

 

Acupuncture for Migraine Headaches

Migraines are a leading cause of misery and missed work for many people: they can be controlled by medication, but medication stops working for some of migraine sufferers.  When migraines are out of control, or when a patient is seeking a holistic and natural treatment, acupuncture is an ideal solution.  There is research supporting the efficacy of acupuncture for migraines.  Acupuncture cannot just reduce the frequency and intensity of your migraines: it can eradicate them completely with regular treatments.  Yes, that’s right: they can be cured if you follow your acupuncturist’s recommended treatment regimen in combination with the lifestyle and nutritional guidance that you are given.

  In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) migraine headaches fall into two categories: liver yang rising or liver fire.  There can be underlying conditions predisposing the patient toward these patterns including blood deficiency, blood stasis, qi stasis, or yin deficiency of the liver or kidneys.  Liver yang rising includes the following symptoms:

 

∙Blurred Vision

∙Dizziness

∙Nausea

∙Intense Pain

∙Vertigo

∙Emotional component of anger, frustration or resentment

∙Recurring headaches

∙Irritability and Restlessness

∙Insomnia

∙Visual symptoms: flashes or aura

 

The category of liver fire can include the symptoms of liver yang rising but may also include:

∙Sudden anger or emotional outbursts

∙Bitter taste in the mouth

∙Intense, throbbing quality to the pain

∙Strong thirst for cold drinks

∙Feeling hot, especially in the face

∙Dry, red tongue

∙Yellow urine & dry stools

 Acupuncture treatment for migraines should be performed 2 to 3 times in the first week for migraines occurring daily or for a migraine that has not abated for days.  If the migraines are periodic or occurring in conjunction with a woman’s menstrual period, one treatment weekly is suggested.  In difficult cases a patient may need to receive weekly acupuncture for 6 months to a year.  It is very common to have Chinese herbs prescribed in conjunction with acupuncture for best results.  An example of a Chinese herbal formula commonly used for liver fire type migraines is Long Dan Xie Gan Wan (Gentiana Drain the Liver Fire Decoction).  For liver yang rising the formula commonly prescribed is Tian Ma Gu Teng Yin (Gastrodia & Uncaria Decoction). 

 

 In TCM the liver system is always involved with migraine headaches; sour foods injure the liver meaning they aggravate migraines.  A migraine patient is advised to avoid foods like sauerkraut, pickles, yogurt, lemonade, grapefruit, vinegar and vinaigrettes.  In the case of liver fire, foods that aggravate heat symptoms are contraindicated such as spicy curries, hot chilies, cinnamon and horseradish.  For more nutritional advice based upon TCM I highly recommend the book Healing With Whole Foods by Paul Pitchford.

 

 We all know that stress makes headaches worse.  Stress and the emotions of frustration and anger in particular can stagnate the free flowing energy of the liver and gallbladder systems in TCM, resulting in migraines.  It is best if possible to eliminate the sources of aggravation in your life if you suffer from migraines.

2b1d4 012 Acupuncture for Migraine Headaches

  There are other therapies that can help migraines beside acupuncture and herbs, especially cupping and massage therapy.  Cupping can alleviate chi and blood stasis, thereby treating many forms of migraines.  Massage therapy is excellent for alleviating stress and lowering liver yang rising, thereby helping to reduce migraine frequency and intensity.  Massage, cupping, and acupuncture all complement one another very well in the treatment of migraines.    A licensed acupuncturist has massage therapy and cupping as part of his or her scope of legal practice, so you can receive all of these modalities as part of your TCM treatment plan for migraines. 

 

 Even chronic and difficult cases of migraines respond great to acupuncture!  Consider the following testimonial from a patient who displayed symptoms of both liver yang rising and also liver fire:

 

 “Monica was highly recommended to me by a co-worker, and seeing her for acupuncture was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made! I’ve suffered from migraines for years, but 3 years ago they suddenly worsened. I was diagnosed with Sjogren’s syndrome, which causes dryness and chronic inflammation, increasing the frequency and intensity of my migraines. I wish I had started seeing Monica sooner! I improved dramatically, averaging 1 or 2 very mild migraines per month, instead of 3 or 4 intense ones. I got by with just taking over-the-counter pain medicine for a migraine instead of prescription medicine, which I’ve NEVER been able to do!! I’ve also cut my daily prescription migraine prevention medicine dose in half, and I’m still improving! I’m amazed, and excited to see how much better I’ll get! This treatment has been life changing for me. Monica also gave me food recommendations, which have helped with my migraines and dryness as well. She is very skilled and caring. I’m so glad she was recommended to me!”

 This patient is continuing to receive acupuncture treatments and continuing to improve at the time of this post. 

 

 Stay tuned for upcoming posts on other medical conditions that can benefit from acupuncture!  Feel free to contact me with suggested topics or questions.   

 

 

Acupuncture For Pain

In a recent article published by the Associated Press, “Acupuncture gets a thumbs-up for helping relieve pain from chronic headaches, back aches and arthritis in a review of more than two dozen studies . . . The results provide the most robust evidence to date that acupuncture is a reasonable referral option” wrote the authors.

 I love to see positive mention of acupuncture in the media!  There are many things about acupuncture and the treatment of pain that go unmentioned in the article, and that people untrained in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) do not realize. 

 Acupuncture can treat a wide variety of medical conditions that involve pain, including emotional pain.  Depression, anxiety, guilt, fear, insecurity and frustration: all of these emotions have a clear cause within the framework of TCM and can easily be treated with acupuncture and also Chinese herbs.

Acupuncture is not just a way to relieve the symptom of pain: it also helps to treat the root-cause of the disease or medical condition causing the pain.  By increasing the circulation of Chi or energy and also blood to the pathological or injured area of the body, it expedites the healing process, thereby helping to remove the cause of the pain, not just the pain itself.

 Acupuncture helps to eliminate the things that go along with pain: in particular, fatigue.  Acupuncture is extremely effective at improving fatigue.  Acupuncture reduces swelling, inflammation, and even depression from longstanding unresolved pain: all of these will improve along with the reduction of pain from regular acupuncture treatments.

 In upcoming posts I will be covering specific kinds of pain and their treatment with acupuncture and TCM, such as back pain, sciatica, menstrual pain, and also emotional patterns such as anxiety and depression.   

1a6e6 001 Acupuncture For Pain

 

Turtle Shell for Yin-Deficient Conditions such as Hot Flashes, Night Sweats, Rosacea

68f7b 314868 10151870470235483 290292966 n Turtle Shell for Yin Deficient Conditions such as Hot Flashes, Night Sweats, Rosacea

The turtle exemplifies the quality of Yin in Traditional Chinese Medicine.  Gui Ban, or turtle shell is used in Chinese herbal medicine to replenish deficient yin.  Disorders that are either partly or entiredly a result of “yin deficiency” according to Traditional Chinese Medicine include:

Night sweats

Rosacea

Insomnia

Restless Leg Syndrome

Infertility

Hot Flashes

Menopause-related hypertension

Dry, non-productive cough

Psoriasis

Dry & Bloodshot eyes

Heart palpitations  

Anxiety

All of these conditions can be successfully treated with a combination of acupuncture treatments, dietary modifications and an herbal prescription which replenishes the patient’s yin and includes Gui Ban, or turtle shell.   

The turtle shells used in Chinese herbal medicine come from farm raised turtles so the wild populations of turtles are not compromised or damaged by consuming an herbal prescription with Gui Ban in it.  

For patients who are vegetarian, there are many herbal prescriptions for yin deficiency that are 100% plants and do not contain any animal products or turlte shell.

If you have questions about acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, yin deficiency, or the treatment of yin-deficient conditions please do not hesitate to contact me!  Monica Legatt