travelog 10

Traditional Chinese Medicine

Locality: Victoria! West coast of North America, southernmost part of Canada, a small town with European touch on the southern end of Vancouver Island, capital of the province British Columbia. A very nice city, much more quiet and tranquil then busy Vancouver.

Scene: 769 Pandora Avenue, a striking house for its color, the International College for T.C.M. - Acupuncture - Herbal! T.C.M. is the abbreviation of Traditional Chinese Medicine. This kind of medicine was born over 2000 years ago and was further expanded and enriched during the centuries. There are many hospitals in China today that practice T.C.M. and others try a combination of western and TCM. Meanwhile also the World Health Organization, the WHO, accepted this kind of treatment and confirmed that certain diseases can be cured with T.C.M. These are among others the common cold, toothache, acute bronchitis, bronchial asthma, acute and chronic gastritis, acute duodenal ulcer, migraine, headache, nocturnal enuresis, etc. The chinese T.C.M. physicians also claim that they can treat among other things multiple sclerosis or auto-immune diseases (including AIDS), but this without the acceptance of the WHO.

Why on earth should I, Martin, visit such kind of physician? Well, most of the people that know me, know also that I'm fighting with my skin since I was a child - I have psoriasis. This is no infectious disease, and it's not very nice to look at, especially when under stress. And I have had some stress in my life...

Because my brother Christian lives near the city of Vancouver, we visited his partner Patricia and him when we passed through this area. It was one of the atypical meetings between brothers that haven't seen each other for years. There was a lot to tell and among that also the story of a skin problem, that Christian had a few years ago, was discussed. On the advice of friends he had contacted Doctor Mui, who treated him for this problem because none of the Western medicine had helped him. So he tried acupuncture, all different kinds of creams, tinctures and teas - abominably bitter tasting, but finally he got also used to this strange taste. And it helped him so much, that since then this problem never arise again. So he adviced me to try this treatment and set a date for me with Doctor Mui (for European comparison in an unusually short waiting period of two days!).

After two days I entered the aforementioned house. Soft Chinese-Western music and a taste beyond description of oriental joss sticks combined with different herb scents received me. After answering a questionnaire, Doctor Mui, a very nice and agile Chinese, asked me to come into his office where he had other specific questions and where he took some short notes on this and that - obviously in Chinese-style handwriting. I had to place first my left, then my right hand on a foam cushion and he tried to find out on the base of my pulse, totally concentrated, whether his diagnosis was correct or if there were other (undiscovered) health problems. Previously I had only heard about this kind of diagnostic procedure, but had never experienced it.

He revealed me that I'm a Win-type, that he had to strengthen my immune system, that the surface temperature of my skin was far too high and that this would lead to the fact that skin particles would therefore remove scale-like. He proposed to treat this problem with a combination of herb creams, acupuncture, moxibustion (the influence of smoke of glowing herbs) and some special herb pills. He would need two to four weeks to be successful. I told him that I first had to convince Julia of that, because she planned to leave Canada as soon as possible.

We decided to stay in Victoria for two weeks and to see if Doctor Mui would meet success. I got my treatment daily, one day the front, the next day the rear side of the body. The acupuncture was more painful then I expected, but one of our friends told me that acupuncture is only painful when the physician runs into the exact point. Doctor Mui somehow treated me like a pincushion: I received a lot of needles into the skullskin and on special patches of my arms, hands, legs and the ears. Each needle was brand-new and came out of a sterile packing - that calmed me down a lot, because you often hear a lot of the risks of infection of special diseases that I'm absolutely not keen at all to get.

In the treatment of my back the tissue got pricked along the spinal column for sucking the blood afterwards with glass sucking balls (like in the Middle Ages) - as Doctor Mui says: draining bad blood! A very special surprise was the pleasant "burn-technique", with which Doctor Mui confronted me one day. For that he put a very thin special paper on a patch with thick and hardened skin and lighted it with a match. I can only tell you that it is not very pleasant to be grilled like a sausage in full consciousness. But if it helps... And besides that, I was always delighted about Mui's comment: "You are the hero of the day!".

I received a bag with a pound of little dark balls of which I had to take one tablespoon with a gulp of hot water two or three times a day. Besides that I received four different types of cream to try out and a paper bag with dried herbs (to boil in hot water). With the resulting black "tea" I had to rub my skullskin every three days.

Doctor Mui made me not happy by revealing to me that I would have to radically change my dietary habits. I should especially be aware of all the foodstuff that I like very much: wine, coffee, meat, fish (especially crustaceans), deep fried and spicy food. After his enumeration, I asked him a little bit confused, what the hell I'm allowed to eat and drink - and he, he smiles...

But what I've never thought to be possible: the condition of my skin is getting better and better. After some days the first patches and especially on the "burnt" skin areas, my body developed new and totally healthy skin. If the process continues as this, I will soon be trouble free. Let's believe it!

August 1998

Julia Etter & Martin Kristen