For almost a decade I’ve turned to Holistic Medicine for preventive reasons as well as the random frustrating symptom like the onset of carpel tunnel syndrome, a lingering cough, or asthma that seemed to come out of nowhere.
I sat down with my friend and acupuncturist, Portia Lee, L.Ac. and got the scoop on Eastern Medicine. She has a Masters degree in T.C.M. from The American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine. She has studied under such acclaimed masters from China as Dr. John Shen and Dr. Yitian Ni. Portia is an incredibly knowledgeable practitioner with a wonderful approach and a kind heart (sometimes I feel like she should also be charging me for therapy sessions as well). Portia truly listens, cares and gets a ton of credit for the overall heath and well being of my entire family.
I hope you enjoy reading this interview as much as I did writing it.
How did you become interested in the practice of Traditional Chinese Medicine? Growing up Chinese in the Bay Area, I had lots of exposure to the idea of food as medicine, experience with common Chinese herbal formulas and received acupuncture. I was always fascinated by Chinese Medicine, but didn’t really consider it as a career until later in my life. With a background in communications, I knew I wanted to deepen my relationship with individuals by helping them in significant ways. My first year in graduate school at the American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine, I immediately knew I had found my path. Do you have a specialty? What promoted you to have focus in that particular area? I specialize in women’s health, particularly pregnancy, birth, post-partum menopause and fertility. I had my first child when I got licensed over ten years ago and started to treat the many pregnant women and new mothers surrounding me. What is a common theme you see in patients that causes chronic illness or discomfort? Chronic illness often stem from an overlapping of many factors – not necessarily one particular cause. In Chinese medicine we examine the entire body and all the lifestyle factors that may contribute to the person’s condition. I give patients tools they can take home and practice regarding diet, stress and strengthening their immune system. Chronic illness doesn’t occur overnight: it is the little changes in our daily habits over time that can have the deepest impact on our overall health. I believe environmental factors are a large contributor to many health issues today, and that we also need to be mindful of managing our diet and stress levels as a way to prevent health problems in the future. How much exercise should women of childbearing age be getting? Is there such thing as “too healthy?” This depends on the women’s body type and diagnosis. Chinese Medicine is all about balancing yin and yang in the body. Yang is related to movement and activity, while yin is resting and restoring. A yin deficient body type accustomed to exercising intensely may be advised to do more walking and practice more restorative styles of yoga or qi gong. A yang deficient body type may benefit from a more vigorous workout. The type of exercise you practice depending on your body type can be important for long-term health. What is the biggest difference between Eastern and Western Medicine? Eastern Medicine is macroscopic; we look at the entire body and how all the functions of the organs interact and affect each other. Western Medicine is microscopic by examining in minute detail cellular make up of organs and measurements of substances in the body. Conceptually Chinese medicine is easy to understand if you can grasp the concepts of yin and yang, but more challenging to put into practice. Western medicine is the reverse, difficult to study and understand, but easier to put into practice. For example in Chinese medicine if someone gets migraines, there can be different reasons for this. Headaches may be caused by blood deficiency (which does not necessary show up as anemia from standard blood tests), from an old injury, or from internal stress. The practitioner must determine the cause of the headache and then treat accordingly. What is acupuncture? Acupuncture restores body function by the insertion of fine needles at designated points along meridians or channels which are connected to internal organs in the body. There is a saying that when there is pain there is stagnation. Acupuncture is able to help release this pain by moving qi (defined in Chinese medicine as life energy, lifeforce, or energy flow) in the related meridian. Endorphins are also released with the movement of qi, enhancing circulation in the body. Who should consider acupuncture? Acupuncture in this country is still best known to help pain relief and can be amazing for treating acute and chronic pain. Because acupuncture is based on the flow of qi and improves the circulation it can be helpful for a wide range of conditions.
A difficult concept for me to grasp when I started acupuncture is that there is no magic fix in just one session. Can you tell us a little bit about how Eastern Medicine works? Sometimes there is a magic fix in just one session! Generally acute problems see much quicker results, while chronic conditions take longer to treat. Acupuncture has a regulating effect on the body. With more frequent treatments the body is able to gradually restore itself to its normal resting physiological state. It can be likened to taking care of your car. You need to fill up the tank and change the oil to keep it running well. We need to restore and maintain our bodies, and acupuncture provides a safe and relaxing way to do this. Chinese medicine is considered a preventative medicine. Historically the doctor was paid for each visit until the patient got sick, then treatment was free. People would see a doctor at the first sign something is not right, such as a mild digestive issue or poor sleep. Taking care of the little problems right away, is helpful in preventing more serious conditions later on.
A very special thanks to Portia for taking the time to provide such wonderful information. You may contact Portia at portialee.com.
Also, check out Lisa Wu’s work at bailey.bowls.etsy.com. Lisa took the photograph of Portia & the herbs shown above.