Folk Medicine

Olivia: So… Well, two months ago I was diagnosed with Chronic Mononucleosis. I’ve been not feeling well for a little over 6 years now. It’s terrible….On a regular basis, I experience the like extreme exhaustion to the point where I sleep up to 22 hours in one day, acheyness all over my entire body, chronic headaches, a fever of 101 or higher about twice a month, acute chronic sinusitus, sore throat and facial tenderness (sinus pressure). Now, until umm, about two months ago, I had solely relied on the practices of ‘Western Medicine’ to cure my symptoms, like sinus surgery, continuous dosages of antibiotics, steroids, etc. After years of taking medication on top of medication (and medication to counteract the symptoms of medication), I sought out a highly respected doctor who practices Chinese or “Eastern” medicine. Since then, I have undergone intensive acupuncture and heat therapy.

Isabel: What does this folk treatment entail?

Olivia: Well, ummm…So, I first began with a very intensive treatment- twice a day for three days. This serves as a sort of diagnostic process I guess. During a single session, the doctor inserts needles on the front of my body (usually the hands, feet and face) and then, after 30 minutes, on my back. He told me that the point of conducting treatments very close together and in a short amount of time, was to put the body under a slight amount of stress in an effort to bring about the symptoms. In other words…like, the way my body would react to the therapy, would tell the doctor what organs weren’t functioning correctly. So then… ummm, after conducting this intensive treatment, I was able to slow the pace of treatment until my symptoms began to dissipate.

Isabel: And do you feel this treatment has helped you?

Olivia. Yes. I know a lot of it is mind over matter but I really do feel less tired and more soothed. Does that make sense? I just feel less stressed about my health, like I am not constantly feeling so lousy. Since beginning this process, I’ve realized how harsh the antibiotics are for your body and although they may be helping one aspect, like clearing up my sinuses, they are ultimately damaging another part of my body, like making me more immune to the drug.

Isabel: So what drove you this form folk medicine?

Olivia: I just felt like I had tried everything. I have taken so many dosages of antibiotics that I am not allergic to over 4 different types. Mom heard about this Doctor on the news and his philosophy on medicine and specific cases in dealing with Chronic Mononucleosis. I basically just thought I’d give it a try for the heck of it.

Acupuncture originated thousands of years ago and involves the insertion of extremely thin needles in your skin at strategic points on your body. Traditional Chinese theory explains acupuncture as a technique for balancing the flow of energy or life force — known as qi or chi (chee) — believed to flow through pathways (meridians) in your body.[1] When your body is not functioning correctly, Chinese theory explains that there is blockage in the movement of qi throughout your body. Acupuncturists believe that by inserting needles at strategic points along your skin, you can free the blockage and allow blood to flow freely throughout.[2]

The practice of Acupuncture is considered a folk method because it is not scientifically proven to improve one’s health, however many believe it in fact does. Additionally, there is multiplicity and variation within its practice. Philosopher, John Bowers describes the profound depth and variant forms of this folk medicine. He writes, “One or more of the practices of Chung-i is followed in China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Indonesia, and by the 18 million overseas Chinese. Thus, one third of the world’s people receive some form of Chinese traditional medicine.”[3] Reliance on folk medicine is clearly widespread and indicates a significant belief in its benefits. Practicing this method for health care separates individuals from the mainstream ‘Western’ mindset as well as provides guidance for one’s lifestyle. Consequently, a spiritual element often accompanies the practice of folk medicine, creating a culture specific to the individuals who believe and perform these folk medical methods.

[1] John Z. Bowers. Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society. Vol. 117 No. 3 (June 15, 1973) pp. 143 -151 Publish by American Philosophical Society. Article Stable URL:

[2] ibid. pp. 143 -144

[3] ibid