Chinese Medical Herbology And Pharmacology
By John K. Chen, Tina T. Chen,
Laraine CramptonPublished by Art of Medicine Press
1226 pages; $89.95
Reviewed by Robert Schulman, MD
This book is an excellent reference text. It is divided into 3 parts: Part 1 is an overview of the history of Chinese herbal medicine, nomenclature, classification, growing, preparation, and processing of herbs, characteristics (taste, etc.), clinical applications, and a brief section on concurrent use of herbal medicines and pharmaceuticals. Part 2 is laid out in the classical traditional Chinese herbal medicine Materia Medica style, with herb monographs starting with the exterior releasing herbs, and the famous ma huang (ephedra) and gui zhi (cinnamon). Part 3 provides valuable appendices; particularly, the section on herbs and pregnancy, a topic of significant concern in modern practice. Other appendices include dosing guidelines, and a section on convention on international trade in endangered species.
The book provides additional resources such as color photographs of each herb in the beginning of the book, and black and white photographs of each herb accompanying the individual monographs. When available, the chemical composition, pharmacological effects, clinical studies, and herb-drug interactions and toxicology are included as well.
This is not a how-to book for the beginning physician herbalist. It comprises the first year of material that is covered in the 2-year, 450-hour National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine course in traditional Chinese herbal medicine. As a reference, it also includes helpful appendices such as a cross-reference based on Traditional Chinese Medicine diagnosis, Western medical diagnosis, and pharmacological effects.
For the herbalist or physician wishing to dive deep into the complex and enormous world of traditional Chinese herbal medicine, this is a necessary book. However, while the casual user may find the information useful in an encyclopedic way, he/she may also experience the book as relatively inaccessible without the formal training that accompanies classroom herbal education. If the practitioner is beginning to use some simple traditional Chinese medicine formulas in practice, such as Gan Mao Ling or Yin Chiao, then this book will serve as a useful reference in understanding the properties of each of the individual constituents of the formula. It may also serve as a source text for a medical doctor with the need to understand the Chinese herbal formula that his/her patients may be taking.
The company can be reached at its web site: www.aompress.com. Samples of various sec-
tions of the text are posted on the site in PDF format.
A New Healing Paradigm
The Far Eastern Challenge
Of Needle And Moxa
Therapy: Model For An Improved Medicine
By Claus C. Schnorrenberger
©2003 Wisdom Publications Boston
199 Elm St. Somerville, MA 02144
Reviewed by Michael T. Greenwood, MB (MD)
Chen-Chiu is an updated English translation of a German book first printed in 1975. The unusual title was deliberately chosen, the author explains, to emphasize Chinese medicine's non-linear Taoistic paradigm and literally means "puncturing and moxibustion."
Schnorrenberger says that "acupuncture" is really a misnomer, dating back to the failure of French Jesuit priests of the 17th and 18th centuries to correctly interpret the depth and scope of Chinese Medicine (CM). Similarly, he says, the notion of Qi being "energy" is apparently a mistaken translation promulgated in 1939 by George Soulie de Mourant in his book, L'Acuponcture Chinoise. He believes the Qi is a phenomenon that spans the whole range between energy, blood, and body fluids, and the idea that CM is energy medicine is a mistake that emerged in the West out of the Cartesian assumption of a separation between energy and matter.
However, as is becoming increasingly clear, Cartesian thinking and its reflection in objective scientific medicine is an inappropriate philosophy with which to understand CM. "It is wrong," Schnorrenberger says, "...to regard that which is not measured and objectifiable as correct, real, or sensible, and to consider the personally-experienced and that which can be felt and lived merely as unscientific, nebulous, or mystical. The Qi is something that everyone in Asia can fully understand and explain simply because it can be experienced."
With such words, the author demolishes the sanctity of Western scientific objectivity, arguing for the adoption of a broader scientific paradigm that would include both the objective and subjective. He humorously suggests a slight adjustment to Descartes' famous statement, "Cogito ergo sum" ("I think, therefore I am") to make it more in accord with insights gained from modern physics and quantum theory, "Sentio cursum sanguinis et vim vitalem, ergo sum" ("I feel the circulation of blood and Qi within me, therefore I am").
For similar reasons, Schnorrenberger argues that the Western research model, which is based explicitly on an assumed split between matter and consciousness, is totally inappropriate for evaluating CM. "Chinese medicine and Chen-Chiu," he says, "are based on a phenomenological approach and have not been developed on the biased theoretical model of Western thinking. Consequently, it is logically inadequate and quite wrong to subject Chen-Chiu and Chinese medicine to placebo research."
The author further suggests that the West actually has a rich medical tradition that is more holistic than modern physicians might imagine. He draws parallels between Taoism and similar ideas emanating some of the great Western philosophers such as Aristotle, Leibnitz, and Spinoza, scientists like Szent Györgi and Bernard, physicists like Einstein, Born, Heisenberg, and Pauli, and physicians such as Hippocrates, Galen, and Paracelcus.
He discusses basic CM theories such as Yin and Yang, Blood and Qi, external factors such as Wind, Cold, and Damp, and explores needle techniques, Tuina, auriculotherapy, and moxibustion, again drawing many parallels with Western thought. For example, Hippocrates apparently considered Wind to be a factor in illnesses. (Few people may be aware that the word "malaria," which emerged from the Hippocratic school, actually means "bad wind" or "evil air.") In another example, he mentions a 19th-century physician who deliberately drank a cholera bouillon and remained well, just to prove that Claude Bernard's energetic concept of a "milieu intérieur" was more important than the bacteria.
Later, the author explores some of the difficulties involved in integrating Chen-Chiu into conventional medical practice, discussing everything from basic philosophical contradictions to economic and political factors. He is forthright about the need for people to accept more personal responsibility for their health, and even broaches the taboo subject of the energetic consequences of 3rd-party payment, suggesting the need for patients to make some contribution to the cost of treatment.
On the negative side, I felt a bit more could have been done to revise the book for the modern reader; the attempt to do so by including several references to Pomeranz dated in the 1990s didn't quite succeed to change the overall dated tone. For example, in a chapter on the perils of indiscriminate drug use, some of the drugs he mentions, such as butazolidin and chloramphenicol, are no longer in common use. This oversight somewhat detracts from his argument that medicine doesn't pay proper attention to the downside of drugs, and could easily have been addressed by changing the examples. Another difficulty was that several figures were actually missing from the text and the supposedly color plates were actually in black and white, making them harder to interpret.
In summary, although much has changed since 1975 in terms of integrating acupuncture into mainstream medical practice, much of that integration has occurred at the expense of acupuncture's holistic philosophical base. This is precisely what Professor Schnorrenberger so eloquently warns against and, indeed, says must never be allowed to happen. So the fundamental message of Chen-Chiu remains as pertinent today as it ever was. We must engage Chinese medicine on its own terms, embracing its non-dualistic and phenomenological approach, or else completely misunderstand what it is all about. This is a message that cannot be stated often enough and for that alone, Chen-Chiu is well worth the read.