Tag Archives: Acupuncture

Qi vs. The Holy Spirit

With proper expectations, needs begging to be filled, vague sensations and a good imagination, we can have amazing experiences! (Special thanx to my daughter for her drawing and approval of this post. She calls this girl “Wisdom Girl”.)

This cartoon hints at how similar mechanisms can be used in both religion and some non-religious domains like acupuncture, QiGong, FengShui, Martial Arts or others which talk about mysterious external Qi.

Supplemental Posts:  you may need to read these other posts to truly understand this one:


Filed under Philosophy & Religion

Experience Qi Today!

Click the pic to see:
“My Qi Explosion” post

Today’s Goal: To feel Qi outside your body!
Question: Is it real?
Spoiler: I don’t think it is, but let’s see.

Your body and the universe are enlivened by an invisible energy–Qi .  “Qi” is the Mandarin Chinese word for that invisible energy but it is known in many cultures, by various names: Hei (Cantonese), Ki (Japanese), Prana (Sanskrit), Lüng (Tibetan), Mana (Hawaiian), The Force (Star Wars), Etheric Energy (Theosophical Society) and many more.
You get the idea. (see Wiki if you want more)

Qi is a central concept in Traditional Chinese & Indian medicine, Martial Arts and Feng Shui. Having been surrounded by the concept for decades, I assumed everyone knew what I knew.  But while writing this post in the coffee shop today, I asked three different friends and none of them really knew what it was, yet alone had ever experienced it.

Qi is real! People in China, India and Japan know what it is. But have you ever truly felt it? Are you skeptical? Well, if you are even halfway open-minded, I can get you to feel Qi by the end of this post.  Please read each step slowly.
Key Step: until you get to the last step, you won’t really feel Qi

  • Place both your hands on a table in front of you.
  • Let your hands rest for a minute.
  • Don’t move them. Don’t move them during this whole demonstration.
  • Now, I want you to put your awareness in your right hand.Could you feel your attention move to your right hand?
  • If not, if you are already resisting this whole thing, Let’s try something more obvious.

  • Our brains filter signals so that we aren’t overwhelmed. By putting our attention on something, we can become aware of something we weren’t previously aware of.
  • For instance, put your attention on your butt. Feel the chair pushing up on your butt cheeks while the weight of your body pushes down on the chair.
  • I doubt you were aware of your butt before I asked you to pay attention to it. See how good your brain is at keeping you unaware of boring information.

  • Put your attention back on your right hand. Focus on the right hand. But now, let’s get more focused, but your attention on your index finger. Rest your attention on your index finger for a while.Now, shift your attention to your thumb.Rest your attention on your thumb for a while. Remember, do this slowly with careful, clear awareness.
  • Now try to putting your awareness into your little finger. For many of you this will be a little more difficult but spend some time until you clearly feel your little finger — you will get there.

  • OK, now return your attention to your index finger. Keep your attention there until you clearly feel it differently than your other fingers.
  • Now, let’s narrow down our awareness further. Remember, without moving your hand or fingers, put your awareness on your first knuckle. Yep, sense that small area. Focus clearly. It is not hard. You are doing the same exercise — moving awareness.
  • Congrads.Now, move your awareness up to your 2nd knuckle. Feel it?
  • Now move your attention to the tip of your index finger — to the very tip of your index finger. Your sensation should be clear and focused. Keep working until you can clearly feel the tip of your index finger.

  • OK, now, using the exact same method you have used so far, move your attention to about 1/2 inch off the tip of your finger.Yep, put your attention off your body into the space just in front of your index finger.Take your time. Focus. You will feel it.
  • You will feel it in just the same way you did all the other parts of your body above. Use the same process, the same method of acknowledgement.

You should have been able to sense your body beyond your finger.

That was your etheric or subtle body: your Qi outside your physical body. Sensations inside your body are also Qi but this experiment helps you separate  sensations of muscles from sensations of Qi.

I won’t tell you my opinions about Qi here.  I am reporting as a believer – as I first experienced it just as I did in this post too: “My Magical Introduction to Acupuncture“.  Tell me what you think. Your responses may help me in writing my upcoming posts on this issue.

Series Post: This post is part of my series: Confessions of an Acupuncturist.


Filed under Philosophy & Religion

Memory-Withered Opinions

Those of us that are older have had the experience of enthusiastically performing a physical task or sport which we have not done for years.  And to our surprise, we find out that though our minds may remember the actions, we may not have the strength or the coordination that we expected — we were deceived by our old memories and our self-image.  And over the next days we suffer for our false images.  In our imagination we are sometimes still that athlete or that strong kid — but our bodies prove our imagination to be a liar.

In a similar way, many of us have strong, confident opinions based on subjects studied many years ago.  But like the body, the mind atrophies and memory fades.  We learn this when someone asks us to defend our positions on topics we once knew well.  Our opinions may be strong but our detailed memories are disturbingly withered.

This withering is obvious with foreign languages.  I also experience this when writing about various religions on this blog –one of my graduate school concentrations. Likewise here are other series I have started but which required more work than I imagined to finish and thus only come back to them occasionally:

As I write on these topics — inspired by strong, certain opinions — I quickly recognize the atrophy of memory and detailed examples I need to support my opinions. I use to have shelves of books on each topic with plentiful notes in the margins at my fingertips.  But I have given most of them all away over the years and am now dependent on scouring the internet for examples.

When we visit blogs where writers are currently immersed in their area of opinion — be that Christianity or any other issue — we may discover that though we have strong opinions, our  supportive memory on these topics have withered.  What do we do then?

This persistence of opinion even though knowledge withers is a natural, adaptive phenomena.  As with all undesigned functions of mind, they come with pros-and-cons.  Here are some:


(a) Life moves fast, we often have to learn, make decisions and move one.  Insights often stay true.

(b) Most of us don’t have persistent memories so we must decide while we have the experience.

(c) Knowledge may wither but insights into principles often hold true.


(a) The data may have changed

(b) At the time of the decision you lacked data

(c) At the time of the decision you had influences that biased your decisions

(d) Your past decision was wrong

Questions for Readers:

  1. Have you experienced this phenomena?  What do you feel about it?  Is it difficult to admit?  Are you patient with others when you recognize that they need time to recollect data to participate helpfully in the discussion?
  2. Which post series would you like to see me persist with even if my data has withered?

Related Post:  Depth & Complexity Deception: How our minds give us false confidence.


Filed under Philosophy & Religion

Acupuncture Success

For those following my Acupuncture history and impressions, I thought these quick stories would also help.  For in many of my acupuncture experiences I didn’t usually follow the long-term results of my treatments but with family and friends, it was easier.  So here are a few stories — again, without post-hoc analysis.

Allergies & Sleep

My brother had allergies — runny nose and sneezing.  I was home in the USA on a short vacation from Japan and he asked if acupuncture would help his allergies.  We were in the back seat of a car,  I broke out my needles and  put about four needles in his face while we were riding.  He clearly felt the Qi and after twirling them a bit, I told him to rest with them in his face for about 10 to 15 minutes.

When I removed the needles his nose wasn’t running and his face tingled.  The next day he called me and asked in an almost angry voice,  “What did you do? That day I went home and fell asleep at 4:30 pm and did not wake until 8 a.m. the next day!  I normally sleep only about five or six hours.  You should have warned me.”

I had never seen that happen before so didn’t think about warning him.  He said he did feel better still. His allergies, by the way, were never cured by one treatment — more treatments are needed.  But I was just visiting and would not see him again for several years.

Tennis Elbow

My mother’s best friend (50 years old) had tennis elbow for 2 years that interfered tremendously with here daily life.  She asked me if I would mind treating it.  The friend had surgery planned in two weeks.  I gave one treatment with three needles in her arm and the pain was gone and never returned.  She cancelled her surgery.

Thumb Pain

My friend’s sister had thumb pain for five weeks.  After feeling the tension on her muscles, I decided to only use one point at the middle of her scapula–  Small Intestine 11 (“Heavenly Gathering”).  With a four minute treatment on that one point her pain went away and never returned.  This is an example of treating a point far from the source of pain.  Some traditions emphasize this method, some emphasize points close to the pain — many use both.  For example, a point which is claimed to help menstrual cramps in just above the ankle (“the meeting of the three Yin”).

Back Pain

My father visited me in Japan after I graduated from Acupuncture school.  He brought his second wife and he requested if I would offer to treat her chronic back pain.  So during their two-week stay I gave her four treatments both with acupuncture and moxibustion.  Her pain was relieved and did not return until about 1-year later.

Again, this is how I remember these stories.

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My Magical Introduction to Acupuncture

The following is the continuation of my autobiographical posts concerning my experiences in acupuncture. See Part One here.

So, was my introduction to Acupuncture “magical”? I will let the reader decide.


I was excited to visit Dave McClean, the eccentric guy I had met at IBM who offered to show me some acupuncture.  My girlfriend, Amy, came with me for the evening tea visit.  We were both relatively new to Japan and were looking forward to seeing how another foreigner had eked out an existence in the land of Wa.  Amy was a bit hesitant about the get-together; first because she was not excited about meeting a strange, itinerant elderly bachelor and second because she was still a Christian who was a bit suspicious about non-orthodox medicine.  But she had been raised as a missionary kid in India and was certainly no stranger to odd experiences.  So she had decided to observe but warned me that she would not participate.

Dave lived in a traditional Japanese house: tatami floors, sliding wooden doors, a tokonoma and a cute inner court yard. He had done well for himself for only a year in Japan and he shared some of his Japan-survival tricks with us during the first hour of our visit: how to look for houses, how to find cheap furniture, job opportunities and more.

Later we discussed the beautiful art work he had collected and his meditation spot in his tokonoma. We compared our meditation experiences and thoughts on religion. By then,  I had transitioned out of Christianity, explored Buddhism and Hinduism/Yoga and was now pretty much a very disillusioned cynical materialist. Nonetheless, I was still oddly drawn to people who claimed to have experienced the unusual. Tonight’s acupuncture introduction was, in my mind, an anthropological adventure.  But I was also sincere – my pursuit was a complex mix of motivations – but in the end, curiosity and gregariousness were the main motivators.

Dave was intense about everything he pursued and his knowledge was deep and sophisticated – it was a joy listening to him. After an hour of tea our conversation finally landed on the reason for our visit: acupuncture.

Dave said, “Well, are you ready to try the needles?”

I was a little nervous but not hesitant. “Sure!” I said and Dave brought out a beautiful metal case with the needles neatly aligned and explained how he sterilized them (a concern of mine). Then he said, “Rather than talk about this, why don’t I get you to experience it first?” I agreed–for I had always valued experience more than pure theory.

He asked me to assume a comfortable posture so he could place a needle gently into my right hand.  Since we were sitting on the tatami, I asked if I could borrow his meditation pillow. I assumed the half-lotus position with my hands on my thighs and closed my eyes briefly to relax in the manner I would in my meditations. (The pic is not me, I borrow it — forgot the source, sorry.)

When I opened my eyes Dave said, “Ah, that is a good idea. Why don’t you keep your eyes closed while I put the needle in.”

“But,” I inquired “before I close my eyes, may I ask what is the needle suppose to do when put in my hand?”

“Hmmm,” he said, “I don’t want to bias your impressions.  Instead, let’s just see. But I can tell you that the Chinese name for the point is ‘hegu’ (“the meeting valley”), Japanese call it gōkoku but English speakers, avoiding the complexity of the classical names, simply call the point “Large Intestine 4″ because it is the 4th on the large intestine meridian (more on that later).

Well, that explanation did not help, so though a little nervous about closing my eyes, I agreed. Dave then gently massaged the point.  “Here we go.” he said softly, “You will only feel a little pinch.” And indeed, he slipped the needle in with no pain.

I was surprised.”Did you feel anything?” Dave asked.

“No, not really.” I responded showing my surprise.

Since my deconversion from Christianity and my experiences in India, I had become not only skeptical of any religion, but of any unusual experiences altogether.  So I came to learn about Dave’s acupuncture with a skeptic’s mind.  But Dave’s introduction was sane, rational, gentle and not unusual — well, up to this point.

“Well,” he said, “let’s move your Qi a little.”

Saying that, he slowly started twisting the needle and moving it down a little deeper (I was told this later — remember, my eyes were closed). Suddenly I had a strong sensation run from that acupuncture point on my hand, up my arm across my neck and down to the same spot on the other arm.

The buzzing river around my arms also caused me to drop into a deep quiet relaxed state.  Entering that level of relaxation usually took me about 40 minutes of meditation but Dave’s needle just did it to me in a few seconds — I was surprised again.

After about a minute (which felt like ten minutes), Dave said, “What do you feel?”

I describe the arc of sensation. But as we spoke, the buzzing feeling faded and I could only slightly feel the needle in its original position.  Dave was a little surprised.  He told me to open my eyes, and we talked for a second (with the needle still in my hand).

“It seems you are ‘channel-sensitive’ — Only about 5% of the population can actually feel Qi move along the actual channels,” Dave explained, “And an even smaller percent of people can feel the whole channel across to the other side.”

The next two pics illustrates the “Small Intestine channel” on which the acupuncture point layed. The feeling went up that channel to the back of my neck and jumped over to the same channel on the other side and down to my other hand.

“If you don’t mind,” Dave continued, “I’d like to try a little experiment with you?”

Amy was sitting nearby and she looked pretty interested even though I could tell that the situation was making her a bit cautious. But she appeared to be patiently watching, so I agreed, “Sure, what is next?”

“Well,” Dave described, “I’d like you close your eyes again and tell me what you feel.”

I agree and again closed my eyes again and relaxed.

“Ok, I don’t feel anything.”  A little time passed, “Still nothing” I said impatiently.

“OH! You must be twirling the needle. There goes that sensation again — up my arm to my other hand. Now it is fading. Ooops, there it is again.”

This pattern of an on-and-off sensation repeated itself about four times. And finally Dave told me to open my eyes.

Amy had her mouth open in surprise. I asked Dave what he had done but instead Amy blurted out in surprise, “All he did was hold his hand about 6 inches over the needle. And every time he did, you felt the sensation going up and down your arms. And everytime he moved his hand away from the needle, you said it faded.”

“I am impressed too,” Dave said, “Not many people have that degree of sensitivity.”

“Hmmm”, I thought out loud in my surprise.

I did not believe that energy could flow outside the body, yet alone from one body to another. But even this experience I was still extremely skeptical and objected saying, “It was probably just the heat of his hand triggering the same sensation.”

“OK,” Dave replied, “I have another experiment that may test your objection.  Would you like to try?”

I agreed and we set up experiment the same way with my eyes closed and the needle in.

Just like the previous experiment, I reported my sensations.  Over the next five minutes the buzzing sensation went up and down my arms.  It came and went in an irregular pattern.

Finally Dave told me to open my eyes again.  But this time, Dave was not sitting next to me.  Instead, both Amy and Dave were sitting across the room.

“This time,” Amy informed me,”you felt the sensation every time Dave pointed his fingers at the needle from over here. And when he pointed away, you reported the sensation dimmed each time.  Each time!

OK, I was pretty shocked. And I had skeptical, religious, anti-acupuncture Amy as a witness adding to the credibility.

To top off the night, Dave wanted to show us one more related phenomena. He felt I probably had the ability to feel the energy surrounding a person’s body. So to set up the experiment. He asked a-now-willing Amy lay prone on the tatami floor and relax. He then asked me to hold my hand above Amy’s body.

Dave then asked me if I could feel a sensation in my palm that was similar to the needle’s buzzing sensation. I did. In fact it was clearly present for the first foot or so off her body but then quickly faded at about two feet above her.  The fading felt like the fading of the buzz of the needle, albeit it more subtle.

I thought it was her body heat but she had clothes on and when I put my hand near the bare skin on her arms I could feel a little heat but I had to be very close to her body. The sensation of heat and the subtle buzz where very different.

Eventually it was time for us to leave Dave’s gracious company.  It had been a unique evening. We thanked Dave for everything and started off on our slow walk along the gorgeous, moon-lit Kamo River back to our small home.

On the way home, Amy noticed my silence and said, “You are being unusually quiet. What are you thinking about?”

“Well, it is like I saw God!”

I said that for shock value knowing that though Amy had practically given up on my ever becoming a Christian again, though she still hoped I’d return to the flock.  Her and I had long standing tensions since I had left Christianity about 4 years earlier.

“I mean, look,” I continued, “tonight I saw something that I had not thought was possible.  I could have sworn such a possibility did not exist. It was as if I saw a god. Because up to now, whenever I heard people talking about energy in and around the body, I thought they were talking hocus-pocus woo-woo.  But tonight I experienced that energy even when I was trying not to.  And you verified it. That sort of experience is enough to even shut me up.”

Amy nodded.

Well, I have tried to tell this story as I experienced it at that time without any post-hoc analysis.  Go ahead, let me know your questions and your speculations.  My acupuncture stories after this event abound, but this was the pivotal experience that made me pursue acupuncture.


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My Gateway to Acupuncture

I had just arrived in Japan four weeks earlier from India and was on the first day of a new lucrative job–teaching English to IBM employees.  Having arrived in Japan poor with only a few Rupees, I was ecstatic to have found this job because I would soon be able to afford to buy sushi and sake and truly enjoy Japan.  For up to then, I had been living on old bread and mustard (karashi).

IBM had hired about 15 teachers like me to teach various levels of English to their engineers. All of us teachers were in the “faculty room” prior to our first class chatting, but off in the corner of the room, by himself, I noticed an older teacher (probably 45 years-old) who had a unique air about him — most of us teachers were in our twenties.  I quietly asked another teacher who that man was and was told, “Ah, he is a weird guy, he says he can tell when people look at him even with his back is turned. It seems he thinks he has magical powers. I wouldn’t bother with him.”

“Hmm,” I thought, “up to now, conversations with everyone else here have been pretty routine, maybe that guy will add a little excitement into my day.”  So I went over and introduced myself.

His name was Dave McClean and indeed he delightfully was a bit eccentric.  He had been a engineer but 12 years ago, after making a lot of money on a simple lamp design, he sold his house and belongings and headed off to Asia to study meditation.  A year ago, when his money ran out, he came to Japan to replenish his money supply.  He said that in addition to studying meditation in India he studied acupuncture.

But just as our interesting conversation was beginning, an announcement was made that our classes would be starting in about five minutes. Dave was very different, just like the others had warned — and I was pleased.  I told Dave that I knew nothing about acupuncture and asked if he could teach me something about it.  He agreed and said I could come over to his place in a week.  So we exchanged addresses.

My post called, “My Magical Introduction to Acupuncture” continues this story. But I wanted to set the stage because I think this story illustrates an important aspect of my personality: I like to explore odd, strange and unusual things. I love change. These are temperament settings of mine that  feed my decision styles, prime my cognitive biases and affect the experiences I have had in life.

Sometimes, before examining WHAT we think it is perhaps more instructive to examine HOW we think.   I hope this post helps with that.  Temperament deeply influences both how and what we “know”.


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Confessions of an Acupuncturist

Pulse DiagnosisI am a former practitioner of Oriental Medicine.  In Japan I ran my own clinic where I both prescribed herbal medicine and did acupuncture and moxa.   This is an index post of my experiences and thoughts about Oriental Medicine (AKA: Traditional Chinese Medicine).

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Alternative Medicine is of the Devil

Alternative medicine is detested by many practitioners of Orthodox medicine.  This has changed somewhat over the last 20 years. But here are two of my personal stories related to that distain.

Alternative Medicine is of the Devil

My first job after PA school was in an Emergency Department in Seattle, Washington. No more than one month into the job I was called in the ER director’s office and told I was fired because two of the 10 ER docs did not like me.  Since I was still in my probation period, they could fire me for the way I combed my hair if they liked, so I had no recourse. So I asked “why?” and the director looked at me with embarrassment saying that those two complaining docs felt that my Oriental Medical training was interfering with my job.   I was also frankly told that the two doubting docs where born-again Christians who felt that Acupuncture and alternative medicines were deceptions of the devil and they did not want it in their workplace.  I was shocked again at the stupidity of the religion of which I was once a member — “Ah, yes, I thought.  I forgot that mentality.”

I was on incredibly good terms with all the other docs, that is why the director was embarrassment in confessing this superstitious grounds for dismissal.  Nonetheless, the company worked on consensus and since two docs could not agree on keeping me, I had to go.  One of the complaining Christian doctors was the night doc — a treasured commodity for any ER group because no one wants to work nights and so the night doc must always be kept happy no matter what baggage he/she comes with.  So they were firing me to keep his royal ass happy.

Long story short: I confronted the two docs on this issue.  After long conversations they finally agreed they had indeed never seen me practice alternative medicine or talk to ER patients about an alternative medicine.  They had only suspected I must because of my background. I reassured them that I too had great skepticism of the overreach of much of alternative medicine and they decided to let me stay.

Interestingly four years later, I had helped care for the health of both those doctor’s family members using alternative medicine.

Soft-Minded Alternative Medicine

Six years after PA school I was employed by a big HMO is Albany, New York.   I carried my own load of patients in their Internal Medicine Department.  Two months into the job, I was called before a group of doctors for possible firing because I was using alternative medicine. One doc institituted the investigation because I was telling patients about using alternating hot and cold soakings for sprained ankles.  It was just an excuse, of course, for like the docs in the first story, he just hated alternative medicine so much that he couldn’t stand to think that their clinic had a former acupuncturist working for them.

But he was right, my treatments were “alternative”.  (And, shhhh, this is a method we used in our Oriental Medical Clinics).  And the standard of practice in orthodox medicine at that time was cold soaking for 2 days and then warm soaks thereafter.    So I came to the meeting with about ten high-quality recent studies showing that alternating was better. I handed copies to all four docs on the panel and I said, “I agree, I am doing alternative medicine, but only if by “alternative” you mean it is an alternate to the slow-changing, orthodoxy that is behind in current medical research.” Three of the docs smiled (they did not like the other doc much) and the accusatory doc said he understood but said he did not want to hear any more talk of soft-minded alternative systems in his clinic.  So they did not fire me and kept quiet.  Another lesson learned about the power of orthodoxy and objectivity.

You see, I did not talk about alternative medicine in the ER or the Internal Medicine clinic. But some people are so angry at alternative medicines that they just can’t think clearly or listen carefully when the topic comes up.  And these people consider themselves the epitome of scientific objective reasoning — yeah, right!   Much has changed in the last 20 years, but that was what it was like when I returned to the U.S.A. from Asia.  I still run into this distain occasionally but now that I am older with grey hair, have longer pedigree and a different air than in my youth, I can often escape the radar of the medical orthodoxy cops.

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Medical Therapy Effectiveness

The chart below is not based on research — but instead, is my intuitive, personal estimates for dialogue purposes.  Nonetheless, I feel that exposing my basic intuitions graphically can makes dialogue easier.  Below the chart I will give a brief explanations for each of my evaluations.

Preliminary Notes:

Placebo Benefit:  Even if a treatment is ineffective, placebo is the know positive effect due to expectation of both the patient and the practitioner.  I have chosen 30% as the basic baseline of this effect placebo — a common choice.  But placebo effect is complex and it is not my purpose to discuss it here — thus, this too could be a large mistake on this chart.

Ignored Harm:  Sham and unnecessary treatment result in harms which I do not  count the following into the “harm” category above.  They are important to consider, of course, but for simplicity, I have left them out of my intuitive calculus.

a) financial harm
b) false-hope harm
c) postponing or avoiding correct treatment with a false treatment

Treatment Summaries:

  • Homeopathy:  It offers hours of personal psychological insights that may give it that potential of 5% over placebo baseline of 30%.  But most homeopathy (OTC) has no psychological treatment.
  • Acupuncture:   I am not sure where research is at present, but it may help for a few conditions.
  • Manipulation Therapy:  helps relieve pain for several conditions.
  • Energy Healers:  Ineffective – only placebo effect
  • Herbal Therapy:   Herbs are drugs, some benefit and some harm.  Most are taken in too little quantity  and for wrong purpose to keep actually.  Some are given badly and cause harm.
  • Faith Healing:    Ineffective — only placebo effect
  • Primary Care Medicine:   Harm is cause by wrong prescriptions, inappropriate prescribing, side effects of meds, and the cure being worse than the treatment — to name a few.
  • General Surgery:  Harm is done when surgery done unnecessarily, anesthesia deaths, inapproriate surgeries, surgical mistakes.


Here are the important points I am trying to illustrate by this graph are:

  • Alternative folks tend to look at harm
  • Orthodox folks so distain alternative medicine, they don’t want anyone to even mention benefit — even if placebo.
  • Orthodox folks lump all alternative medicines into the same category. (this is an orthodoxy hallmark)
  • There is often a trade of risk of harm for benefit (we all choose differently)

If you’ll notice, my points in this post parallel points concerning conversation between religious folks and non-religious folks as seen in my previous post on the harm & benefit of religions.  The deadlock dialogue between camps is similar too.

Question to readers:  Tell me your own intuition of the numbers or what sort of graph you’d draw.  Give me your arguments.  I am ready to change.

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Alternative Medicine & Weirdos

I graduated from a 3-year Oriental Medical College in Japan and passed the national certification boards.  After that training I did a 1-year graduate course in herbal medicine.  I worked at two famous Oriental Medical Clinics in Kyoto and Osaka and worked part-time at a National Hospital which had a wing dedicated to combining both Oriental medical and Occidental medical treatments.  I also ran my own clinic out of my house in Kyoto where I treated my patients with acupuncture, moxibustion, shiatsu and herbal medicine supplied by a local pharmacist.  My clinic was called the “Integrative Medical Clinic”.

But my medicine was far from integrative and I decided to study modern medicine to make “integrative” mean something.  So I returned to America with ambitions of combining Oriental Medicine and Western Medicine.  I entered Duke University’s  Physician Assistant program with hopes of eventually finding a physician group to pair up with to forge this alliance of two medicines.

My training in Japan showed me that many herbal formulas are helpful for autoimmune diseases. So I bought about $4,000 worth of herbs and set up relations with Japanese pharmacies to get ready to import and export.  But over the next three years I could not find anyone who was interested in taking Japanese herbs.  People who tried them complained that they were too bitter or too much effort to prepare.  Also, the people who were drawn to having acupuncture were very strange.  People who were interested told me about how they really believed in acupuncture — but I didn’t care, either it worked or it didn’t.   Clients wanted to talk about past lives, auras and the mystical experiences they had.

Of course the more exaggerated their magical world, the more dramatic the effects of my first treatments.  This was not the people I wanted to treat.  I soon became very disillusioned with treating these people.  I could not get anyone to take herbs and had to throw away my investment.

My patients in Japan were not weird.  They were from the normal population.  They did not look at acupuncture as magic, did not talk about auras or past lives.  They just wanted their arms better or their rashes gone.  But here in American (back in those days), alternative medicine drew a strange crowd.

Then I jumped out of the fire, into the frying pan.  After giving up on acupuncture, I then studied Homeopathy and became a certified practitioner working with two MDs in a clinic.  The types of clients drawn to that sort of clinic had disproportional more personality disorders and neuroses than other medical practices I worked in.  It seemed that alternative medicine drew nuts.  OK, there were lots of cool, mentally-healthy folks there too but the wacky folks really shined.  So after 3 years, I stopped Homeopathy.

Weirdos are not the only reason I stopped practicing alternative medicine but it was part of the reason.  In future posts I hope to describe other reasons.

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