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Oriental Medicine: How It Works

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Lot’s of people contact BIOM asking: ‘How does Oriental medicine work?” Along The Way (ATW) sat down with Kitty and asked her how Oriental medicine works in general, and about her unique approach.


ATW: In a recent talk you gave, you said that “pain and discomfort are not isolated things.” Would you explain why that’s true?

Kitty: Sure. The 5 Element Theory says that any feelings of pain or discomfort you may have are associated with one or more of your internal organs. Something is wrong in an ‘energetic’ sense regarding how your Chi is flowing in your body. For example, think of a garden hose: when the water pressure is good, and the hose is not kinked, the water flows strongly and steadily to where it needs to go. On the other hand, if there’s a bend in the hose, or if the water pressure is weak, the water won’t be able to flow to where it needs to be.

ATW: So, to follow your analogy, you’re saying that ‘energy’ or ‘Chi’ nourishes the body they way water invigorates a plant?

Kitty: In a simple sense, that’s right. Let me give you some examples to clarify the relationship between how energy flows in your body and how you feel.

ATW: Great. That will help a lot of people better understand how Oriental medicine works.

Kitty: It’s common for people today to experience ‘deficient” energy,’ meaning that it’s not getting through the ‘hose’ with enough force and volume to keep the foundational organ energy operating at an optimal level. Deficiency reduces circulation, and the weakest part of your body will show symptoms first. For example, deficient kidney energy often shows up as a weakness in the knees, deficient liver energy can make your tendons weak, deficient energy in the stomach can weaken the muscles, and so on. These relationships are clearly laid out in the 5 Element Theory chart.

ATW: It is an amazing system. After many years of receiving Oriental medicine treatment myself, and observing the 5 Element Theory relationships in my own body, it’s like having a ‘road map for health’ with clearly marked rest stops all along the way.

Kitty: Yes, it’s important, as with many things in life, for a person to know where they’re going and how to get there; and it’s vital for maintaining good health.

ATW: So getting back to your point about stagnation and pain or discomfort: What do you do for a person with those symptoms?

Kitty: My task is to figure out how to get rid of the acute problem — the discomfort or pain — which is referred to as the “branch” part of the problem in Oriental medicine, and then figure out the “root” cause to prevent the problem from coming back. I do that by getting the energy to flow properly along the meridian leading to the weak organ so it can balance and strengthen itself.

ATW: Can you give an example?

Kitty: Take the case of a relapsing cancer: if you treat the tumor only, you’re only treating the symptom — the “branch.” A tumor is a very serious ‘symptom,’ but it’s only an indicator of a much deeper problem — the “root” — nonetheless. If the treatment of the tumor doesn’t address what’s causing the “stagnation” to the part(s) of the body associated with it, you can cut the tumor out, or irradiate it, but there’s a significant chance the same conditions that originally caused the tumor will maintain a susceptibility for its return.

ATW: So there are relationships between the symptoms I feel and my internal organs?

Kitty: Absolutely! Remember the devastating tsunami that struck South Asia in 2004? Because of our scientific understanding, we know the wave was caused by an earthquake under the ocean. There was a cause, and an awesome effect. The wave — the ‘symptom’ — didn’t just become a wave out of nowhere, and it’s the same with illness and discomfort in our bodies, these problems are the ‘effect’ of a deeper cause.

ATW: So the meridians, or energy channels carry my energy or ‘Chi” all around my body; and when I feel ill, or have pain, by making sure the meridian associated with that part of my body is clear, allowing for a strong flow of energy, the internal organ associated with my problem will strengthen, and that’s how healing takes place?

Kitty: Generally speaking, you’ve described the process quite well. Let’s take a look at severe knee pain, to help readers understand this foundational relationship in how Oriental medicine works.

The “Chi-” or “energy-carrying” meridian to the urinary bladder and the kidney go through the back of the knee. For a variety of reasons, people today have weak knees which creates conditions for tears to ligaments, wearing away of cartilage, displaced knee caps, and other extremely painful conditions. Based on the examples I gave earlier, let’s consider these ‘symptoms” of the deeper problem, called “deficiency.” So if you have a knee-related problem you have some considerations to take into account, and choices to make on how to treat the problem. One option some people choose today is to surgically replace the knee; though when you take into account that a reason for your knee problem may be a chronic bladder infection, because the bladder channel goes through the knee, you see that you have more options for addressing severe problems than you know about. Remember the tsunami (severe pain) didn’t happen on it’s own, it was caused by the earthquake, which in this example would be a problem in the urinary bladder or kidneys.

ATW: So how would you use Oriental medicine to treat a situation like this?

Kitty: In a nutshell, as long as you can open a channel so that the energy flows to the supporting organ, and keep it open, a problem generally clears up; and I emphasize generally because nothing in life, is absolute.

ATW: And how do you know when the organ is balanced and the stagnation is gone?

Kitty: The problem begins to dissipate and the problem goes away ... (Kitty chuckles out loud and says ...) And sometimes so does the person who had the problem.

ATW: Why are you laughing?

Kitty: Because once an acute problem or symptom has been dealt with, that’s the time to develop an ongoing treatment or maintenance plan, to continue balancing your energy and strengthening your immune system so that similar or new problems are less likely to develop.

ATW: That’s been my personal experience. When I had a problem that was acute, I needed more regular treatment, but once the problem cleared up, less frequent treatment was needed; in fact, I actually enjoy coming in every few weeks for a ‘tune-up.”

Kitty: I think that’s a wise choice, because often after the original problem clears up, people start to slide back into the habits and behavior that caused the problem in the first place. By coming in once a month, even if you’re feeling good, you’re able to build up your energy, rather than have it gradually run back down. It’s like putting on a clean shirt, no matter what you do, it’s going to get dirty and needs to be washed. Same with our bodies. Life is full of stresses, pathogens, and the like, and you need to get cleaned up on a regular basis.


If you’d like to know how Oriental medicine can help you with your specific health situation, or how to get started, contact Kitty — (206) 842-6936 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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    IMPORTANT: All information on this Web site is provided for educational use only and not meant to substitute for the advice of a local Oriental Medicine practitioner, biomedical doctor, experienced coach, or martial arts instructor.