Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A dose of my own medicine

I have developed a whole new appreciation for health and disease over the past week. After pulling it together for the holidays, I finally met the couch last Saturday, and haven’t moved far from it since. That is, except for my big adventure yesterday to visit my former professor, and Chinese medical doctor, Dr. Cao. From past experience as a patient and student, I knew I was in for an authentic experience.
            “It just isn’t the same to needle yourself,” I told him while I was lying on his treatment table. He nodded and wisely smiled. He propped me up with pillows to lessen my cough, handed me a bottle of dark brown liquid and told me to drink it, unwrapped a carton of Chinese herbal lozenges. He positioned 3 heat lamps around me and felt my pulse, looked at my tongue. After quickly identifying my condition, he began burying needles in several obscure acupoints. I’m not gonna lie, it hurt like hell. Traditional Chinese Medicine, as it is practiced in China, is much more aggressive than the Chinese medicine we practice in the States. We Americans are, to but it bluntly, total wussies.
            But I toughened up and kept my eye to the finish line:  feeling better. If there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that Dr. Cao is truly a master in our profession, and he knows exactly what he’s doing. I have never seen anyone work with more precision, unwavering skill and concentration. Not to mention wisdom and integrity.
            Dr. Cao came back several times to re-stimulate the needles, just as the intense sensation had subsided. I winced and he said, “Sorry, has to be strong.” Before and after the treatment, he also performed Tui Na (Chinese massage) that nearly had me clinging to the ceiling. (Again, wussy.)
            I immediately felt better after the treatment, and I told him so as I handed him a tip, which he adamantly refused. He wrote me a prescription for a raw herbal formula, and I thanked him. This was the moment I had been looking forward to… and dreading.

            Raw herbal decoctions are hands-down the most effective way to take herbs, as opposed to powder, pills, or capsules. However, the trade-offs are that it’s time-consuming to prepare, it smells awful and tastes worse. I sometimes fantasize about having a full raw herbal pharmacy, but then I always stop and ask myself, “Would any of my patients actually do this? I don’t know if I would!”
            Well, prepare a raw formula I did. (It’s been awhile.) And I re-discovered a certain satisfaction in the making of your own medicine.

Cheers to your health!


  1. I drank one of those bad boys once, and it weren't pretty. To smell, to sip, to finish. Yeck.