How can I decide if a Chinese medicine practitioner is right for me?
On a base level find somebody who has been trained. You should always research their background: Where did they go to school? What’s that school about? Be sure to focus on those folks who have had a full training program. That’s usually four years. We encourage people to move away from those folks who have had a very brief training. And to make sure they are licensed. Most medical boards let you search for the license.
Beyond that, because we do a lot of just talking with folks about their lives and referring to that more spiritual or emotional aspect – even though most of us are not certified therapists — it’s important to be comfortable with your practitioner, that it be someone you feel comfortable taking advice from. If you don’t feel that comfort right away, give it another chance or two. After a while though, you need to find someone with whom you feel comfortable.
Will insurance cover the cost of acupuncture/Chinese medicine? Is there any financial assistance available?
Call and speak to your insurance company. For example, one-third of all people in Oregon have acupuncture coverage, yet only 5 percent have tried it. There is a fairly successful movement to get this included in so-called Obamacare, so it’s definitely becoming accessible.
The National College of Naturopath Medicine in Portland, Ore. has 12 community clinics. A follow-up visit can cost $25. They have group acupuncture for $10. Many college clinics make acupuncture accessible. You can find college clinics in most major cities with discounts for veterans, students and senior citizens.
One thing is that herbal formulas are almost never covered by insurance, but most practitioners are willing to work with folks who are struggling financially or are on a fixed income. You can also use flexible spending accounts to pay for herbal supplements.
Are there any Chinese medicine remedies for psoriatic arthritis?
This is the worst of all worlds. You have pain deep inside and on the skin. I have had patients with rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis. There’s no research on this, but we have clinical experience in treatment both. We find acupuncture helps with the worst aspects of rheumatoid arthritis. We’ve also found using acupuncture is helpful in working on the insomnia, stress, anxiety and depression caused by the disease.
In listening to well-known Dr. Andrew Weil, the big emphasis isn’t just on natural medicine, but on this missing spiritual component, which every clinician seems to be up against: How can I help to clear spiritual questions or needs opened up by severe pain or significant mental health issues? It prompts people to ask some tough questions, such as how does this happen to me, what’s my role in this? Working with acupuncture doesn’t answer these questions, but it helps, because it’s all related.
What are some good Chinese medicine websites?
Eric Grey’s blog on Chinese medicine is at www.deepesthealth.com.
A favorite website is the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, ajcn.nutrition.org. It’s free and offers full-text articles. Another useful website is earthclinic.com. It’s a very interesting model. It’s patient-driven and very well organized. It’s sort of along the lines of home remedies and there’s nothing specifically on psoriasis, but it appears to be very safe.
If you want to learn more about acupuncture, a favorite website is Acupuncture.com.au. It’s out of Australia and gives background, information about the meridian pathways (for acupuncture) and the best graphics.
There’s a lot of talk in Chinese medicine about warm and cool. What does that mean, especially for psoriatic diseases?
Chinese medicine is fundamentally looking for a balance between yin, which is cool, and yang, which is hot. We look at human conditions or disease as cold or hot. Your psoriasis is hot, it’s red, there’s a burning sensation. And when we do points (such as in acupuncture) that reduce fire, like on the heart channel, or cooling herbs, we have a good effect.
Of course, it’s not all that simple. For example, fish oil has been found to be anti-inflammatory and good for pain, so if you are taking fish oil, that would be quite safe. But when we’re looking particularly at red fish such as salmon or tuna, those could exacerbate certain inflammatory responses.
Again, yin and yang are not simple things. We are finding that our allied practitioners in biomedicine are having good results in treating psoriasis by using ultraviolet phototherapy and also with vitamin D, which is like liquid sunshine.
Chinese medicine tries various approaches and sees what works.