Updated: Jul 6
Welcome to this article series on Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). The aim of this series is to provide you with foundational and practical knowledge of TCM that you can use to improve your own health at home in daily life. The recommendations in this series are simple, accessible, and mostly free. After all, good health should be something that is accessible to everyone!
Here is a clickable table of contents for this series:
This article is Part 8: My Experience with TCM.
Having just written a whole series of articles on Traditional Chinese Medicine, it’s only fitting that I also share my experience with it. After all, I need to practice what I preach! In this article, I’ll talk about my health journey, which includes
Early Experiences with Health
Despite my Chinese heritage, I grew up in Canada, so I was very unfamiliar with Chinese medicine until this year. I remember in high school, I was very into science. One windy autumn day, my mother told me it’s important to keep warm and avoid the wind hitting my skin during autumn because that could make you catch a cold. At that time, I remember thinking, “What is this nonsense? Colds come from the cold virus. It doesn’t come from wind.”
(Now that I’ve learned more about Chinese medicine, I realize that cold viruses often travel through air, and when Chinese medicine refers to the term “wind”, it includes pathogens in the wind. )
During the later years of when I was in university, my mother had some serious skin problems, and she first went to a Chinese medicine doctor, who gave her some herbal formula that cost over $1000 for a year’s supply. She let me try some, and the taste was really bad. But she forced herself to eat it every day. It didn't seem to help.
Then I took her to see a western medicine doctor, who gave her some steroid creams that only suppressed the symptoms, and as soon as she stopped using them, the skin problem came back even worse. The doctor said she would need to use the cream for the rest of her life. She didn’t trust those cream treatments so she stopped using them and suffered the pain instead.
First Encounter with Chinese Medicine
Soon after, she discovered a type of medicine system called Original Point Therapy, and one of her friends took her to a community group that practiced it together. Original Point Therapy is about eating warm-natured foods like ginger, massaging acupoints, and then applying heat on acupoints.
Back then, I didn’t know anything about Chinese medicine, but I was willing to do whatever could possibly help my mom, so I helped to massage the acupoints that my mom told me to massage. Those points were very painful for her. She also did some massaging on me, and I remember some points were really painful too. Then we applied some microwavable heat bags on those points. She also started drinking lots of concentrated ginger tea. These treatments were actually working for her, so I was quite intrigued by it.
My Experience with Western Medicine
After graduating university, I started developing itchiness around my mouth area. I went to see the doctor, and she gave me some steroid creams.
Since my skin condition was pretty light at that time, I just kept using it. But the condition never seemed to go away. In fact, it was starting to get worse every time I stopped using the cream. I then remembered what my mother went through, and I realized this cream was just suppressing the symptoms without solving the root problem, and the root problem must be accumulating more and more inside my body.
I went to the doctor again, who told me it’s probably some allergy, so I took an allergy test. The test results said I might be a little allergic to soy and dust. It didn’t say I’m full out allergic to soy, and I’ve been eating soy all my life so it doesn’t make any sense that suddenly I’ve become allergic to soy. And dust is kind of unavoidable. To me, the cause was just unknown. As the months went by, the skin problem spread and got more painful.
My Experience with Holistic Medicine
I started to do a lot of research on my own, and I discovered Medical Medium and his book Liver Rescue.
The book's cover literally says "Answers to eczema, psoriasis..." so I was pretty hopeful. In the book, Anthony William explains that the true cause of these so-called “autoimmune” skin disorders such as eczema and psoriasis is due to viruses living in the liver. These viruses feed off of things like eggs, dairy, and gluten, and then they release toxic waste. When the liver is overburdened, that toxic waste overflows into the blood and goes to the skin, which results in autoimmune skin conditions. It’s not the body attacking itself; the body would never attack itself.
He explained that steroid creams don’t solve the root problem; instead, we need to stop eating the foods that feed the viruses and start eating foods that kill off the viruses. At this point, I was in a lot of pain, conventional western medicine had failed me, and what he said made a lot of sense.
The book gave highly specific information about what foods help which illnesses and gave really detailed explanations for why. It just can’t be something someone makes up randomly. So I gave his advice a try. It involved cutting out eggs and dairy, which meant no more cakes, milk tea, ice cream, pizzas, etc. But I was in so much pain and discomfort that I cared more about getting healthy than enjoying those foods which I knew were unhealthy anyway.
It also involved drinking celery juice, lemon water, and a heavy-metal detox smoothie every day, as well as eating foods like brussels sprouts, asparagus, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and many fruits. He also said that eating most vegetables raw is better, so I often ate the vegetables and fruit raw. Within a couple weeks, I actually got better, and I was super grateful!
But then after a while, my digestion became bad. I often had loose stools. It wasn’t causing me any pain or discomfort throughout the day, but I just thought it was really strange that my poop was not good given how healthy my diet is.
My Experience with Chinese Medicine
At the beginning of 2021, I taught a high school healthcare course, and one of the units was comparing western medicine to eastern medicine. Hence, I did some research into Ayurveda (Traditional Indian Medicine) and Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Throughout this course, I realized how deeply western medicine has become business-focused as opposed to truly focused on people’s health. I also learned how doctors in ancient China were volunteers. They were 100% focused on people’s health, not on making money. Furthermore, both Chinese and Indian medicine are over 2500 years old, while western medicine is only 300 years old. To top it all off, Chinese and Indian medicine have so many similarities despite being invented separately. All of these factors really inspired me to learn more into eastern medicine.
I decided I would start with learning Chinese Medicine and write a series of lessons for the next time I teach the healthcare course. As I started learning more about Chinese Medicine, I started to understand so many things about my health that I didn’t know before.
For example, why do I get angry and irritated so easily when I wasn’t like that before? Part of the reason is because my liver got hurt, which I knew from Medical Medium. Another example is why I was having loose stools; it’s because of all the raw vegetables and fruits I was eating. Sure, in the past, my digestion was strong, but over time, it has weakened from all that constant raw produce. Even though raw vegetables have more nutrients, if my digestive system isn’t strong enough to handle it, it’s still harmful.
I learned that my constitution is damp phlegm, and I heard from a TCM doctor that it takes a long time to rebalance this constitution because it takes many years of bad diet and lifestyle to develop such a condition. I reflected on all those years of unhealthy fried fatty foods in the past, and then my period of so many raw and cold foods, and I realized that my body must have reached a tipping point. I really appreciated the TCM doctor’s honesty. In Western medicine, it’s all about solving your problems as fast as possible. This TCM doctor is honest about my problem and is obviously focused on the root cause.
I stopped eating raw foods and started cooking my foods thoroughly. I also added more warm-natured foods into my diet. Before learning about TCM, I just thought of vegetables as vegetables. But now I know to add more warm natured vegetables like fennel and ginger when cooking cold natured foods (which are most vegetables).
One thing I was confused about was why I was having rashes, which TCM classifies as too much heat, when my constitution is damp phlegm, not damp heat. Then I learned that we get heat not just from foods, but also from stress! Upon reflection, I went through a very stressful period leading up to when my skin problems began. And after I started taking better care of my mental health through meditation, my skin condition also got better.
The other thing that really made me believe in TCM is acupoints. I learned about which acupoints would be good for my constitution, and indeed, most of those points really hurt on me! I then tried some acupoints for problems that I didn’t have, and indeed they didn’t hurt. My mother has shortness of breath sometimes, so I tried some lung acupoints on her and they really hurt on her. But when I tried it on myself, they didn’t hurt because I don’t have lung problems. I was absolutely astonished.
At first, massaging the acupoints really hurt. But kind of in a good way. I kept massaging them for about 15 to 30 minutes a day (the massage time got longer as I discovered more acupoints with pain), and after a week, many of those acupoints didn’t hurt much anymore. My stools got better, and even some rashes on my body got better. The teeth marks on my tongue (which indicate dampness) also decreased. Clearly, the changes I made were helping my body!
I spent around a month researching and testing many different acupoints on myself. Most of them no longer hurt after about a week of massaging. I also do some leg stretches because the meridians for the stomach, spleen, and liver run along the legs, and stretching them helps the qi flow. That’s another piece of mind-blowing information. I always thought stretching was just for flexibility, but it also helps with qi flow!
After I published this series of blog posts, I continued to do acupoint massage for myself and my mother every day (still to this day). Later, I had the good fortune of meeting Dr. Kun Liu, who gave me professional guidance with regards to diet, acupoint massage, cupping, and moxibustion. Both my mother and I feel the healthiest that we've been, and all we did was adjust our lifestyle. I’m amazed at how the TCM treatments I’ve used are free, convenient, and not time consuming, and that’s why I just had to write this article series to share this information with the world.
This is the final article in this series on Traditional Chinese Medicine. I hope you feel more empowered to take control of your health in simple and convenient ways. Special thanks to all the TCM doctors who shared their knowledge on their websites, podcasts, and videos. We are so fortunate to receive the ancient health wisdom that has been passed down for thousands of years!
Lastly, thank you for reading! If you've read all the articles and tried TCM on yourself, then you are a super star! Wishing you lots of health, peace, and love!