Classical Chinese Medicine

May 1, 2022
The image of a female acupuncture model with needles inserted intot he back

When I speak about Chinese medicine, and explaining the potential differences between what is commonly known as Traditional Chinese Medicine, rather than Classical Chinese Medicine, it's important for the reader to know that I am not yet licensed to provide these services.  Rather, this post serves as an overview of Chinese medicine with the understanding that I'm still a few years away from being able to take our national licensing exam.  And it's with an awareness of the levels of detail that Chinese medicine demands of its practitioners, that when combined with a respect for the natural world that this healing art is based upon, that I offer this piece as a short summary of how I've arrived at this decision to add acupuncture to my therapeutic services.

As a massage student that found myself wondering what to do with my intuitive abilities, I found myself eager to the idea of learning Chinese medicine.  Having a unique place in the Western world, Chinese medicine appeared to me on many fronts to be one of, if not, the highest healing art that I could imagine at the time.  Having spent the previous few years working throughout the local psychic fairs as a reader, I found the mystique of learning Chinese medicine, and by default, Daoism – and the Dao De Jing – to be more than enticing to my personal and professional goals.

At the time, in Ohio, where I grew up and was living at the time, Chinese medicine was still gaining a foothold.  As I have come to remember, the acupuncture classes that were being held next door to my massage therapy classes were usually filled with 2nd and 3rd year students in their newly pressed lab coats, as the air filled with the fresh scent of burning mugwort leaves that are commonly used in moxibustion treatments.  The law of the land presides over all others, and one of the earliest aspects of Chinese medicine that I learned, was that practitioners in Ohio could not use herbs in their treatment plans.  It does appear this may have changed, although at the time I was introduced to this in 2004, an acupuncturist in Ohio could not practice with herbs at all.

This takes me to scouring the internet to learn more about Chinese medicine and what types of Chinese medicine schools are out there.  At the time, and I wish I had the forum's URL with me, but there was a forum that reviewed various acupuncture schools, and with these topics comes the natural discussion of herbs, TCM, and all things related to the profession.  Little did I know that TCM as it was being taught in the classroom next to me is only the tip of the iceberg with regards to what's available from China's wisdom, and there were at the time, only a few schools in the States that taught Classical Chinese Medicine, or the energetic foundations of this healing art, and that did not depend upon the application of herbs in order to be considered an effective treatment plan.

This made sense to me.  A light bulb struck on.  Why go to a school to learn herbs that I can't practice?  And from my time spent working with my spiritual allies, I had learned that the body's inherent energy conducing abilities were really important.  As in, not everything that appears to be disease-related has an origin as an external pathogen.  At the time I had learned that there was the Swedish Institute in New York that was offering Classical Chinese Medicine, there was a place in North Carolina called Jung Tao that was offering CCM, and there was someplace out West that was offering the Classics as well.  So, in my mind at least, there were only a handful of schools that differentiated their coursework by specializing in the Classics of Chinese Medicine.

According to Heiner Fruehauf, a well-known proponent of the Classics, and Founding Professor of the College of Classical Chinese Medicine at the National University of Natural Medicine, the "original vitality of the system is expiring" and the art of Chinese medicine has the potential to become ". . . obscured by a steroidal glow on the surface" that the West has witnessed throughout the last many years.  While the following article dates its original publication to 1999, it is filled with Dr. Fruehauf's perspective on both the dilution of this practice, and a further warning on its future growth as a “standardized, packaged approach” that is susceptible to becoming “entrapped in the spiritless mechanisms of state agencies, insurance companies, and...our modern mind.”

The full article: Chinese Medicine In Crisis: Science, Politics, and the Making of "TCM" can be read in its entirety with the previous link.