Friday, August 13, 2010

TCM Stagnates, Dreams of Better Times

Perth has recently been witness to the amazing healing power of alternative medicine to deal with cancer. Just so you understand that this is actually based on science, consider TCM: A Woman's Guide to Healing from Breast Cancer by Nan Lu, O.M.D., L.Ac., with Ellen Schaplowsky (2009). As Ms Schaplowsky enthuses in the introduction:

In his gentle, wry way, Dr. Lu likes to remind his patients and Qigong students that TCM is not “New Age” medicine; nor, he says, is it a patchwork of different healing modalities. He likes to emphasize that TCM is a complete time-tested medical system — the only one that has identified a theory-based root cause for breast cancer. Why is this so important? Once the root cause is known, then specific treatments can be applied. Such is the case with TCM whose work on breast cancer began at least five centuries ago. (p.xi)

Take that evil Western treat-only-the-symptoms medicine! How can you ever compete with a five century head start? So, what are some of those 'root causes'?

Now, many of my patients ask me if stress directly causes cancer. I tell them that it is absolutely critical for women to understand that stress can cause a liver function disorder. When a woman has a liver function disorder, her blood and Qi can stagnate and cause a breach in her immune system. When this happens, she becomes vulnerable to breast cancer. (p.23)

And you thought beliefs about Qi and how it can stagnate in your liver were just the interpretations of the ancients as they attempted to understand disease? No. If it's five centuries old it must be correct. Of course, it's not that simple. No, to understand cancer, you need to know the whole aetiology of cancer:

Ancient practitioners recognized that when there is cancer, three major conditions are present: Qi deficiency, cold, and stagnation. Cancer carries a cold or yin energy. Its very essence is cold or frozen. That’s why heat treatments with lasers and infrared lights are currently being explored to eliminate cancerous growths. Qi deficiency (which means your organs do not have enough Qi to perform their natural functions) can lead to cold. If a Qi deficiency continues over time, it will inevitably cause Qi or blood stagnation (which means that these intertwined forces become blocked in their natural, healthy flow through the body). When this condition occurs, a lump or mass will inevitably develop. The condition of stagnation then means the body’s internal environment will become cold. If the body is further insulted by external cold, this condition will worsen. If you have cancer, no matter what kind, these three conditions will always be present: Qi deficiency, blood stagnation, and cold in the meridians or specific organs. I urge you to take good care of yourself if you suffer from one or more of these conditions. Your body
now offers the right environment for cancer to develop. To prevent or treat breast cancer, TCM has many treatments to address these particular conditions. The first thing practitioners do is try to increase overall Qi, then break up any stagnation, and then relieve cold. (pp.44-45)

So cancer is caused by a deficiency of a magical life force that is invisible, has no mass or size; by stagnant blood (which EoR would have thought was more indicative of circulatory problems); and a further undetectable magic 'cold' in the invisible nonexistent life force. Easy, eh? Not only that, it's quite clear where exactly the 'stagnation' is occurring, since it will show up by where your breast cancer is.

According to TCM meridian theory, if the stomach meridian’s Qi stagnates in the breast area, then your breast cancer will show up in the outer, upper quadrant or on the center line that runs through the breast. If your kidney meridian’s Qi stagnates in your breast area, then your cancer will appear in the inside upper quadrant. If your liver meridian’s Qi stagnates in the breast area, then your cancer will develop in the outer, lower quadrant. Eighty-five percent of breast cancers occur in these three areas. Keeping your Qi running smoothly in these three major meridians can dramatically increase your chances of controlling the development of breast cancer, or its recurrence. Keeping your Qi running smoothly in these three critical meridians can also help keep your Inborn Qi, which resides in the kidney, strong and your whole body functioning in harmony. When this happens, you can help yourself avoid cancer’s energy pattern — even with a genetic or inherited predisposition for this disease. (pp.92-93)

Dr Lu is also fond, throughout the book, of using the automobile analogy which, at various times, has warning lights come on, runs out of oil, gets stuck in traffic jams and so on. EoR would, however, like to see a TCM Mechanic rush to the scene and attempt to warm and rebalance the stagnant automotive Qi in the brake meridian, or diagnose which part is failing from where exactly the bumps are on the bodywork.

In the Magical World of TCM, every body part seems to mirror every other body part. Iridology is well known (but which part of the iris represents the iris, and does this area also have a smaller part that represents the iris representation, and that part must also have an iris representation-representation, ad infinitum?), as is reflexology (but which part of the foot represents the foot, etc etc). Add to these the powerful diagnostic tool of nosology:

To show you how this works specifically, let’s look at the nose as a miniature of your body. The long bone from the bridge to the tip of your nose reflects your body’s spine; the curves at the nostrils reflect the health of your hip joints. The middle of the tip of your nose reflects the condition of your stomach. If you have skin problems on your nose, I am able to recognize which organs are causing them. A red nose means that the stomach is suffering from a condition of excess heat. This principle applies to almost all the body parts. Each one represents the entire body in miniature. Reflexology is based on this principle. For example, the
bottom of your foot is regarded as a map of your entire body. Your hand is also a body map. So are your face, your tongue, your nose and the bone of your index finger, and so on. (p.144)

As if that's not sufficient diagnostic possibilities, you can also tell what's wrong by what time you wake up:

TCM theory states that Universal energy changes every two hours and your body’s meridian and organ energies respond to and match these changes. For example, energy changes start with the lung, which is “on duty” or in charge of the body from 3:00 to 5:00 A.M. If your lung’s Qi has a problem, then you might find yourself waking up in this time period. Or, you might wake up with a physical problem like a cough during these hours. Here are the other times of Universal energy changes and their related organs:

3:00 A.M.–5:00 A.M. Lung
5:00 A.M.–7:00 A.M. Large intestine
7:00 A.M.–9:00 A.M. Spleen
9:00 A.M.–11:00 A.M. Stomach
11:00 A.M.–1:00 P.M. Heart
1:00 P.M.–3:00P.M. Small intestine
3:00 P.M.–5:00 P.M. Bladder
5:00 P.M.–7:00 P.M. Kidney
7:00 P.M.–9:00 P.M. Pericardium
9:00 P.M.–11:00 P.M. Triple warmer
11:00 P.M.–1:00 A.M. Gallbladder
1:00 A.M.–3:00 A.M. Liver (pp.221-222)

Failing all those, you might need to use dream interpretation, or possibly tarot cards, or tea leaf reading.

Dream diagnosis or interpretation is one tool TCM uses to understand a patient’s physical condition. Qi problems in the internal organs show up in different kinds of dreams. For instance, if your heart Qi is deficient, you might feel yourself falling out of the sky or off a tall building. If you have a kidney Qi deficiency, you might have dreams that are connected to drowning or being under water, or being in a boat that is capsizing. Or, you might find yourself being fearful and hiding from something in your dreams. If you refer to the Five Element Theory chart on chapter 2, you can see where this insight comes from. Water is the element
of the kidney and fear is its ruling emotion. You can gain more insight into your dreams by studying the Five Element Theory chart. If you always see yourself arguing or fighting or things are destroyed in your dreams, then you might have a parasite, or these could be signals that your internal problem might be worsening. (p.222)

They might also be signs that you're falling for a disproven medical system, and that's it time to update your 'tools' and 'theory'.

Online, Nan Lu also recommends the efficacy of a miracle to cure breast cancer.

To help create conditions that favor a miracle, return to moments in your life when you were truly happy. Recall these memories often; they are alive within your cells today. They have the ability to stimulate your powerful life force. Trust that you are the miracle. Trust that your life has purpose. Love your self. Make yourself, not others, happy first. Experience the joy of your own vitality and truly live your miraculous life!


  1. Oh no. I'm usually awake between 9 - 11pm.
    Has my Triple Warmer broken down?

  2. I say it's sympathetic magic, and I say the hell with it. I mean, if it worked wouldn't it be in use around the world? That's the great difference between woo and evidence based medicine, for all the flaws in the latter in the long run it works. Not perfectly, but in the long run it works. When it doesn't it's because there are things we don't know or understand yet. The basics work and given time and increasing knowledge what we can't do yet becomes possible.

    That's my take. To further boggle certain characters, I'm for same sex marriage and support art education in public schools. For any education that focuses on the so-called fundamentals is a lie.

  3. @ Alan Kellogg - Hi there! Can you explain what you mean by "sympathetic magic"?

    As for things being in use around the world - that isn't much help when arguing with believers in magic.
    The phony medicines movement is expanding.
    Us humans have a primitive mindset - we are suckers for charm and marketing.

    And on same sex marriage - yes should be compulsory, solves birth control ;)

  4. And what happens when you travel and change time zones?

  5. "Think happy thoughts!" Die anyway.

  6. Oh good. There was one true statement there: "Water is the element of the kidney" I wake between 5 and 7am, but it's kidney/bladder (3-5pm) not large intestine related.


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