Date of Performance/Collection: March 16, 2003
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Chinese
This folklore was collected from my friend who practices acupuncture and uses herbal medicine instead of drugs. It has to do with her culture as a Taiwanese-American. She learned the practice from her father. The practice is important to her because not only is it a large part of her culture as an alternative medicine that originated from Asia, but it is also important because it is a way that she can help other people develop good health. To her, it is a way of embracing her individuality and her culture while being utilitarian. We were talking about the concept of balance within the body one day after learning about how the body balances its own changes to ensure that the body will be able to survive. She brought up how acupuncture uses another standard to determine the state of illness and uses less unnatural means of treating disease.
According to her, disease is not specifically caused by the diseases that people normally suffer from. Instead they suffer from an imbalance of qi in their body, which is wreaking havoc on the internal balance that is usually present. People are a balance of yin, yang, and the five traditional elements of fire, water, wood, metal, and earth. When there is a buildup of one that affects the body, the qi loses its effectiveness in flowing throughout the body. That then causes the illnesses which people identify through the symptoms of the patient and their pulse. When qi is stagnant and is not flowing readily through the body, which poses a serious risk. As a result, acupuncturists will use needles in order to stimulate the acupuncture points. Qi is said to flow in channels along the body with a large number of accompanying and interconnected acupuncture points. In stimulating specific acupuncture points, a specific area of the body will be affected and allow the qi to flow properly. The proper points must be stimulated, however. According to the speaker, by stimulating the wrong points at the same time, there could be much more massive harm done to the ill person. This is why during headaches, it is recommended to not rub the center of your forehead. There is a pressure point there, but that is along a meridian that is very influential on your health. Stimulating that specific pressure point by rubbing it or tapping on it will only make it worse. Stimulating the acupuncture points on the side of the head are usually more effective because they help to relieve the stagnating qi flow and balance out the elements within the body.
Acupuncture is not the only way to healing illnesses. Usually, more often than not, food can also help heal the illnesses without requiring acupuncture. Along with poor qi flow within the body, are also external factors such as temperature and humidity. For example, when the body is too hot, which is indicated through fever, redness, swelling, and other such symptoms, the body must be cooled with a food item that has the innate property of coldness such as peony. In counter balancing the elements that are in disharmony, the body will eventually recover and will no longer be ill. In this way, bodies that are suffering from cold must be warmed with something hot. Something that is chill will be cured with something warm. There must be great caution not to be excess, or the body will again be imbalanced and a new illness will erupt. Perhaps the most common herb is ginseng. It is widely acknowledged as a powerful medicine. It has wide effects, and is known as a warm herb. It will cause an increase in energy, blood flow, and is widely good for health. The meridian it stimulates helps regulate qi flow as well. However, in excess, its medicinal properties are too strong, and it will be dangerous for the health to continue taking it. In most cases, acupuncture and traditional medicine will go together to work in unison to help cure the problem. Acupuncture places a burden on an ill person especially since it involves regulating qi flow. If the qi flow changes very suddenly, then it can be dangerous to the person’s health. As a result, by using food along with less intensive acupuncture, the person will more naturally adapt to the change and be much healthier. Adding yin to excess yang and adding yang to excess yin is one of the fundamentals. Balancing fire, water, earth, wood, and metal with their respective counter elements is also an essential part of this. When the cycle continues naturally, then the person will be at optimal health.
These are holistic forms of medicine and curing disease. Although they are not “proven” because they use Eastern ideas instead of western, they still provide means of providing aid for people. By balancing out their internal state, they will find true harmony within themselves and be at peace. They will no longer be ill through this curing of the body’s ills.
I find the concept of acupuncture very interesting. I do find that it is effective, having undergone it myself. It is also important as an Asian cultural practice. It reveals another way of looking at medicine instead of being limited to one way in particular. In doing so, it opens up the possibilities that a better cure will be found for diseases that are known and present. While listening to her explanation, it seemed to make sense. In a sense, it is a cultural legacy that is passed on from generation to generation. The Asian people are indicated to be very in touch with nature through this particularly because the concepts of the body and the natural occurrences of illness are all linked to natural elements of the earth. In maintaining harmony within the body with the elements and outside of it, then everything has met its equilibrium point. It is an indicator that people are constantly searching for harmony in their lives. Without it, people find that they are ill and need to regain that inner balance.