On Your Health

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How Traditional Chinese Medicine Can Help Keep You Well

Today we have a post from our guest blogger, Seneca Dewbre, DAOM, LA.c, who has a Masters of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine degree and is currently completing her doctorate specialization in gynecology. Additionally, she is certified by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine and licensed by the Texas Medical Board. Oklahoma does not have a licensing certification for acupuncturists at this time. She has experience in both private practice as well as outpatient services within a hospital setting and has 3,700 hours of clinical training. Seneca offers acupuncture treatment at the INTEGRIS James L. Hall Jr. Center for Mind, Body and Spirit and the INTEGRIS Troy and Dollie Smith Wellness Center.


Hi everyone. I’m Seneca.

We talk a lot about Integrative Medicine here on the On Your Health blog. But just what is it? A little refresher: Integrative Medicine combines modern Western medicine with established alternative therapies from around the world. By connecting modern medicine with ancient practices from other healing traditions, Integrative Medicine seeks to maintain a person's health holistically and to harness the body's natural resistance to disease. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a set of practices falling under the Integrative Medicine umbrella.

What exactly is Chinese medicine? This is a question I get asked quite often. Usually the first thing people think about when considering Chinese medicine is acupuncture. But TCM is an entire system of health care that includes acupuncture, but is not limited to it.

To put it simply, TCM is a way of looking at ourselves and our world that sees everything as a whole and considers everything in context. It's an ancient set of practices (established over 4,000 years ago) from China. TCM operates under the belief that all of the processes of the human body are interrelated and treats the body as a whole system. TCM focuses on helping the body achieve balance.

TCM practitioners examine the underlying imbalances behind an illness and look at the whole picture to treat the patient, instead of just the disease. TCM also believes the body has an innate ability to heal itself. For example, acupuncture alerts the body's nervous system and stimulates the body to release its own natural painkillers and endorphins.

The TCM perspective applies to everything affecting our health and well-being — from our diet, exercise and stress management, to how we interact with our family and friends and our environment. TCM not only identifies and treats illness and prevents disease but, just as importantly, optimizes health, wellness and sustainability in our lives and in the world.

TCM has always been an important component of health care in China, but over the past few decades it has grown in popularity in the Western world as well. Today, TCM practices can be found in many health centers, and scientific studies have shown promising health benefits.

The practices of TCM include

  • Acupuncture
  • Cupping, a practice an acupuncturist can use in conjunction with acupuncture to help aid recovery. The cupping therapist uses small glass cups placed on the skin and then heated or pumped to achieve suction. One way to achieve suction is to use a flame, which is quickly inserted and removed with a hemostat into the cup. The cup is then set on top of the skin to achieve the suction. It is important to note the flame is never directly on the skin or near it.
  • Chinese herbal medicine
  • Tuina, a form of therapeutic massage that uses acupressure, where practitioners use finger pressure instead of needles, to stimulate the acupuncture point. It is frequently used in the treatment of superficial trauma and injury and a wide variety of musculoskeletal problems.
  • Tai Chi, a graceful form of exercise that involves a series of movements performed in a slow, focused manner and accompanied by deep breathing. It is now used to reduce stress and anxiety and is often described as "meditation in motion," while it also helps increase flexibility and balance.
  • Qigong, a mind-body practice that integrates posture, body movements, breathing and meditation, designed to improve mental and physical health.

Today the concept of health and wellness is becoming more integrated between Western and Eastern medicine. This is amazing news! As practitioners of all different sorts of medicine it is important for us all to recognize each other's value and learn to work together to reap the best results for our patients.

One of the most recent examples of Western medicine valuing Chinese medicine: a researcher who focuses on TCM won the Nobel Prize in Medicine for 2015. Scientist Youyou Tu of China turned to traditional herbal medicine to tackle the challenge of developing a new malaria therapy.

Malaria was usually treated with chloroquine or quinine, but with much lessening success over the years. By the late 1960's the disease was on the rise again.

Tu revisited ancient literature and discovered clues that guided her to successfully extract the active component of the Chinese herb Artemisia annua (otherwise known as wormwood) which was first discovered by TCM practitioners 1,700 years ago. Tu was the first to extract the active component of the herb, later called Artemisinin, and helped clarify scientifically how it works.

This research has helped not only in clinical treatments but can now be studied and replicated on a larger scale. It is highly effective against the malaria parasite, and has unprecedented potency in the treatment of severe malaria. According to the Nobel Assembly, “The discovery of Artemisinin has revolutionized therapy for patients suffering from devastating parasitic diseases.”

Returning to our premise of the importance of Integrative Medicine, this discovery would not have succeeded without a combination of an "East meets West" approach. Using clues from TCM history and using the medical knowledge and equipment of Western medicine, an exciting discovery was made that will impact many of those suffering around the world.

If you would like to talk to Seneca about TCM or schedule an acupuncture treatment with her, Seneca can be contacted at the Wellness Center at (405) 773-6600.

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