Adventures in Chinese Medicine

Adventures in Chinese Medicine is the new book by Jennifer Dubowsky L.A.c, a book on Chinese Medicine, geared towards those patients who want to learn more about the medicine, without having to spend years in acupuncture school.

Dubowsky is originally from Evanston, Illinois and went to Southwest Acupuncture College. After finishing acupuncture school, she returned to Chicago and has practiced there since 2002.

I asked her to share a little bit more about her book. Dubowsky says, “I wanted to share my passion for this work so, my intention for Adventures in Chinese Medicine is to convey the essential ideas and describe some of the well known techniques of Traditional Chinese Medicine in friendly language illustrated with charts, photographs, cartoons, and diagrams.”

Adventures in Chinese Medicine explains common treatments and the history behind them, such as: Acupuncture; Cupping; Moxabustion; and Herbal Medicine. There are also sections that describe unique concepts that are fundamental to Chinese Medicine – Yin and Yang, Qi, meridians, and the five elements. I believe that all people will be able to relate to the discussion of these ideas.

“My target audiences are those who are curious and want to learn more about the practices and philosophy of Chinese Medicine; practitioners who want to educate their patients; and certainly for patients who already love their treatments and want to understand more about how they work.”

While there are few really good books for lay people on acupuncture, as the profession gains traction, there are more books coming out. I asked Dubowsky what made her book unique.

She says, “My book is unique because I made sure that it is enjoyable (as well as informative) and people will be able to connect to the concepts. Adventures is also visually inviting and beautiful. I worked very hard to create a reader-friendly book and I think having a super girl of Chinese Medicine makes it even more cool and fun for the reader.”

The cover stands out, with it’s acupuncture “super girl” jumping towards the reader from the cover, creating interest from the moment it’s viewed on the shelf.  Dubowsky didn’t actually do the drawings. Instead she conveyed the sort of look she wanted to an illustrator who did the actual drawing for her.  She did do the charts and tables and her mother drew a couple of the diagrams.

Writing a book for lay people means really listening to patients. I asked if Dubowsky had any advice for people explaining the medicine to their patients.  Her biggest advice is to “listen, listen, listen” to what the patient is asking and then explain as simply and as clearly as possible.

For those who want a taste of Dubowsky’s style, she writes at Acupuncture Blog Chicago on a regular basis. Talking about her blog, Dubowsky says, “My blog is intended for anyone interested in learning more about Chinese Medicine and good health. As in my book, I try to maintain a writing style that is friendly and approachable.” Dubowsky has been writing her blog since 2008.

I asked Dubowsky how much work writing the book was.  She said, “From conception to publication, this took over two years to finish with writing and re-writing.” She does plan to write some more books but first she feels like she needs a break. Her patients were often involved in the process and were very supportive. Dubowsky says she asked patients for reactions to the cartoons and the topics she covered.

Dubowsky says, “Adventures in Chinese Medicine has been a labor of love, and I hope it is received as such. I think it is truly a one of a kind book, that many people will enjoy and get something from it.”



Planet Calarmari: Acupuncture and Art

Recently I talked to Jeanie Marie Kraft of Four Paws Acupuncture about her work at Planet Calamari.  Jeanie has been treating people with acupuncture since 1995.  In addition to her practice, where she focused on canines, Jeanie is also an artist.

Planet Calamari is Art for the Bohemian Soul.  At the time of writing, the website focuses on Jeanie’s jewelry, lovely airy works what suggest another time or place.  Tomorrow this could be different, as Jeanie tells me, “My art changes like the color of my hair! I never know what the muse will inspire me to do.”

In addition to art, Jeanie has also written several books.  Currently her coloring book of acupuncture herbs and planets is out of print, but we can hope it comes back into print soon. This is a great learning book.  Jeanie says, “My first year in acupuncture college my herb professor, Toni Narins, gave us a project that had to be turned in at the end of the semester. The assignment was to come up with a way to memorize all the herbs, functions, categories and everything else in a fun way. Since i have always been a right brain person i found it easier to make up stories for each herb with cartoons and odd songs. By the end of that project i had a coloring book and students wanted to buy it. So i continued working on it in the next few semesters. The title of the book was Dr. Calamari’s Coloring Book of the Plants, Minerals and Bugs of China

Jeanie says the book needs updating before reprinting, but we can only hope that she is moved to do that.

In addition to her coloring book, she also has a book on Canine Pain and a course on treating Painful Canine Disorders.  Jeanie’s art is making her a great resource for those still learning about the practice of acupuncture.  Check it out.

Acupuncture on the Seas

Acupuncture on the SeasEver consider taking your practice traveling? Recently, on an online discussion several practitioners expressed an interest in working aboard a ship.  Marie Veverka, a graduate of Oregon College of Oriental Medicine, shared bits about her experience working as a cruise ship acupuncturist.  She was kind enough to give longer responses to me in a private message.

Marie started doing cruise ship acupuncture because she  wanted to travel.  Unfortunately she didn’t have the money.  A friend had worked on a cruise ship.  Marie called her and found out how to go about applying.  She worked on ships on and off for two years.

I asked Marie how an acupuncturist gets placed  and she said, “My first contract was in the Mediterranean working on a Princess ship and my second and 3rd contracts were working for Crystal Cruises which travels all over the world. When you apply for cruise ships, you apply to Steiner and they contract you out to different cruise lines. You can request a region and tell them where you want to go, but that doesn’t mean you will get it. If you have a certain area you want to travel to, you may have to wait until they offer you a ship you really want. The longer you work for them and the better you do on board, the better ship offers you get.”

Having cruised a few times, I knew many of the crew members had other duties around the ship. While acupuncturists will probably have to participate in emergency drills, most duties will revolve around the spa area.  An acupuncturist may have to do some reception work or random tasks to fill in.  They are also commonly required to give seminars.  Marie said, ” If you are not keeping yourself busy enough, they may send you to a common area on the ship to do sample treatments or had out brochures.”

One disadvantage of the work is that sometimes you are required to be part of IPM, which means “in port manning.” The cruise ship has to maintain a certain number of  crew on board even while in port in case of an emergency.  This prevents the practitioner from being able to have the day to explore.  Instead they have to stay aboard the ship.

Many of the crew work very long hours during the cruise.  Acupuncturists fair a bit better than the wait staff and cleaning staff. Marie said, “As an acupuncturist, you are required to work 52 hours a week. You work 12 hours on all sea days and other than that, you should be able to make your own schedule. .. I usually saw most ports and I escaped IPM most of the time I worked on board. We often had 12 day cruises so I would take 52, divide it by 7 (this amounts to about 7.5 hours a day), and then multiply that number of days on the cruise so I could figure out my hours per cruise. This sounds like a lot, but keep in mind, sea days eat up hours and you can schedule yourself for a few hours in the morning and a few in the evening, take a morning off entirely, or whatever to coordinate with the hours the ship is in port. ”

Marie was quick to point out that if acupuncturists are required to work more or have difficulties on board, they have a very nice management team on shore to back them up.

Earning potential varies depending upon where you travel.  Marie says that you probably earn the most in the Caribbean or Mexico but she wanted to see the world.  Her earnings were about $3000 to $4000 per month.  She had no rent or food bills while on board either.

Marie says, “I am a small ship girl, but that is because I like smaller ports that are less touristy. Big ships are fun, but less personal and it is much easier to get lost in the mix. I always chose ships on itinerary. I would get offered a ship, look it up online and check to see where it would be going. If I wanted to go there, I was in. Plus, I told them what I was looking for. If you want to make money, let them know. If you want to travel to really exotic places tell them. Unfortunately, you are less likely to make a ton of money traveling to exotic places, but it is oh so much fun!”

I was curious about products and limitations.   Moxa is not allowed on board, which is no surprise given that fire is a huge hazard on a ship.  There is also no gua sha or cupping.  There is an herbal line of products that can be used.  Acupuncturists are encouraged to sell the products on board.   Practitioners are also encouraged to cross promote other therapies.

So do people use acupuncture on board a ship?  If so what sorts of things do they come for? Marie said she saw lots of back pain and sciatic pain on board.   On the smaller ships where she worked, most people were older and retired, which meant that there were a lot of kidney issues.  She used a lot of kidney tonic formulas.  On a larger ship, she theorizes that Spleen qi formulas and Liver Qi stagnation formulas would be the big sellers.

Many people are feeling adventurous on a cruise and try acupuncture for the first time.  Marie tried very hard to get them in at least three times.  She felt that most people would start seeing some sort of result in those three treatments.  Encouraging frequent treatments helped patients understand that an acupuncturist isn’t a miracle worker but it did allow them to see benefit.  She encouraged patients to continue with their treatments when their cruise was finished.

The people who had had acupuncture before all saw “the best acupuncturist in the world”.  Marie was careful to explain that her style might be different from their regular practitioner.  Explaining that each person has  a unique style allowed most patients to relax and enjoy the treatment on board.  There is always one person though. Marie recalls, “one guy… thought I had terrible technique and didn’t know what I was doing because I only put 14 needles in.”

Many people have practices but would like to cruise.  Is it possible to do both?  Marie said it  can be difficult.  She was mostly just cruising and doing some house calls when back at home.  She was also resting up for the next cruise, which she says is exhausting.

“One of my biggest recommendations for acupuncturists on cruise ships is get out and about on the ship. I took full advantage of the shore excursion department. You can volunteer to escort excursions on your time off which is an excellent way to go on great tours for free and to meet guests on the ship! As I got to know the shore-ex team, they started sending me on progressively more amazing tours, it was totally awesome. Plus, my manager loved it and encouraged me to go because I was always bringing in new patients that way. I also went to all the cruise events I could. People will recognize you from your picture in the cruise daily, lectures, or even the cruise TV program (if you decide to do it) and they will stop and ask you questions. I would chat with them a bit and often walk to the nearest phone and schedule an appointment for them right there.”

If you’re ready to travel, consider looking into working aboard a cruise ship and see the world!


An Interview with Thomas Jahn, On Acupuncture and South Africa

Thomas JahnI was connected to Thomas Jahn, an acupuncturist in South Africa by a mutual acquaintance.  Originally I had planned to do an interview more on how acupuncture is viewed in South Africa.  I was so taken by Dr. Jahn’s response to his background that I had to cut and paste his email in it’s entirety.  I am struck by how many of my classmates dreamed of the education he was able to follow up on.  I am also struck by the opportunities that so many practitioners dream of, but he has been able to create in his life.  It is my hope that Dr. Jahn will write more on his experiences as an acupuncturist and his thoughts on the profession.

In his words, the rest of this is written by Dr. Thomas Jahn:

“My first exposure to Asian culture came with the time I relocated with my parents to Tokyo, Japan when I was twelve years old. The philosophy aspect started with my study of martial arts about a year later, practicing the Japanese art of Kempo. At age fourteen I started regular classes at an internal martial arts school in Tokyo, practicing Qi Gong, Tai Ji Quan and eventually Xing Yi Quan. The time spent here furthered my sense of how our actions relate to their consequences, and so started to see how the practice of these sorts of disciplines actually support an ever-increasing awareness of this – this is where partner exercises such as ‘pushing hands’ are very insightful.

This I pursued for four years at the end of which I was increasingly frustrated to still not have been able to sense any real ‘internal’ changes in my body after that time. As ‘fate’ would have it, through a good friend of mine I was introduced to a Chinese man who was teaching Qi Gong and Shao Lin boxing weekly on Sundays. Conveniently, he was looking for someone to teach him English.

Consequently I joined his class on Sundays and would meet with him during the week for English classes. From the beginning I was quite curious as to what he did for his livelihood, since teaching a class once a week was not it. It turned out that he is a Chinese medicine doctor, at which point I became even more curious, and so our English sessions subsequently revolved exclusively around Chinese medicine. This relationship developed over three years, during which time I honed an ever-growing desire to pursue Chinese medicine more seriously.

My Japanese language skills were not quite appropriate to allow me to attend school for oriental medicine in Japan, and so on recommendation of a Chinese medicine doctor in Tokyo, I applied to several schools in California, to then move to San Diego in 1997 to eventually attend Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, later receiving my degree, and subsequently my California license to practice Chinese medicine.

The time spent in San Diego was beyond what I had hoped, and must say that I was extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to attend PCOM, along with all the incredibly meaningful clinical experience gained, especially also the off-site clinics and the voluntary assistantships throughout my time there.

My studies were wonderfully complemented with the tutelage of my martial arts teacher, Dr. Justin Ehrlich, who also exposed me to the specialty of ‘hit medicine’ – Chinese trauma medicine.

I still went to Tokyo every year to visit my family and my mentor, which eventually compelled me to continue my Chinese medicine studies in China once having graduated in the U.S. and had sat for the California licensing examination, to gain more exposure to the medicine in its cultural context.

In 2003 I moved to Beijing, with the intention of attending advanced Chinese medicine studies at the Beijing Chinese Medicine University once having completed one year worth of intense study of spoken Mandarin Chinese – I have been very lucky in that my time spent in Japan had allowed to gain an ever-increasing proficiency in the Chinese written language, so that was one thing I thankfully no longer had to be concerned about. My language studies ensued, during which time I started to regularly meet with a Chinese medicine doctor Dr. Li Xin to start getting some more insight into the medicine from a ‘local’s’ perspective. Through him I was introduced to a colleague of his, Dr. Xu Wen-bo, who in turn introduced me to her brother, Dr. Xu Wen-bing, who founded the Hope Insitute of Chinese Medicine, Beijing, where he runs a busy clinic as well as teaches foreigners various classes in Chinese medicine.

When I met Dr. Xu Wen-bing I was quite taken by his very open and honest account of his experience as a Chinese having grown up with Chinese medicine in China from a young age through his mother, herself a Chinese medicine doctor, to then later study at the very university I had originally planned on attending myself, and work there as an associate professor. He had a definite authentic feel about him which had me realize I was standing at the next crossroads in my life, and whole-heartedly continued with Dr. Xu, and not with the Beijing Chinese Medicine University as initially intended.

Dr. Xu introduced me to my new Qi Gong teacher, Mr. Ma Shi-qi, who guided us through various solo and partner Qi Gong exercises for two hours prior to each class with Dr. Xu, since it was extremely important to Dr. Xu that his students have a sound understanding of Qi in their own bodies before attempting to interpret that of their patients, and must say that this heavily influenced my enthusiasm to take Dr. Xu and Master Ma both that much more seriously. So much so, that after the first few months of classes I devoted myself entirely to my two new teachers. Subsequently, Dr. Xu offered me a personal assistantship, which also included doing a lot of translation work, functioning as teaching assistant to Dr. Xu and also Master Ma during his Qi Gong classes. The following year Master Ma offered me an apprenticeship to be fully included into his circle, as I had expressed many times my wish to some day be able to teach others.

I have practiced with many teachers of martial arts and Qi Gong in the past in numerous countries, and can without doubt say that Master Ma is second to none in his level of personal development of Qi ‘refinement’. With the commencement of the apprenticeship our classes took place on an almost daily basis for almost two years. With my fortune at the time of having no other commitments, I was also able to invest that much more time in the day to practice on my own.

Since my family was in South Africa, and I have had such a long connection with this country, I had already planned years before to move back, which I then did with my wife-to-be in February of 2007. I started working in private practice, relying on house calls, to then eventually sit for the South African licensing examination for Chinese medicine and acupuncture. It was at the exam venue that I met my new friend and soon-to-be colleague, also taking the exam with me, who was telling about a hospital clinic outside of Cape Town where he regularly performs acupuncture treatments. My ears perked up when I heard this, as I had fantasized about at some point in the distant future to being able work in such an environment, and there it just fell into my lap. I tagged along the following week and have been active there on an ongoing basis right up until the clinic was very coldly shut down end of November, 2011. We are currently still involved with legal proceedings and can tell you that corruption is in no short supply.

You had asked about how people in South Africa view acupuncture / Chinese medicine – mind you, I prefer to rather refer to it as ‘Chinese acupuncture’, in that too often ‘acupuncture’ by itself is often misconstrued as purely a physiotherapy tool – well, if you ask the people that came to the hospital clinic, among them diabetics, stroke patients, HIV patients, people with arthritis, kidney disease, liver disease, skin conditions, digestive conditions, addictions, depression, lupus, trauma, asthmatics, post-operative pain, etc., etc., then many will tell you about how their medications were reduced, others will confirm that their prescriptions were not renewed since they were no longer warranted, yet others about no longer needing walking aides such as canes, crutches, walkers and wheelchairs.

In fact, the popularity of this clinic was such, that there were just too many people to treat and not enough people to do the treatments! Originally there were three people active in the clinic, then about six months later two discontinued which left me to run the clinic for another one and a half years until I was joined by a new and very committed colleague. At times we saw 20, sometimes over 50 people during a shift. For a time I also had the chance to treat people in the in-patient wards of the hospital who would be struggling with the consequences of their medications, pain, constipation, phantom limb pain, etc.

We were fundamentally reliant on acupuncture in that the majority of patients simply do not have the financial resources to afford the regular use of herbs, although for several people this was an option at times. This is also where the inclusion of Qi Gong therapy in the form specific postural and breathing principles had proven to also be extremely effective. For a time there was an actual medical Qi Gong clinic that I ran at the hospital which was very popular, giving people a heightened sense of empowerment over their health situation, along with meaningful effects on their health.

Many other people one asks here about acupuncture will have experienced it in the form of ’dry-needling’, which, since the point prescription is not based on Chinese medical diagnostics, has nothing really to do with Chinese medicine per se. Hence why many people in the western world will understandably not associate it with an actually medical modality, particularly in internal medicine.

This is something that greatly bothers me with the legislature in the U.S. – which I must admit am not current with – that one receives the title of “Licensed Acupuncturist” on completing a full-course of study in Chinese medicine. This is obviously extremely misleading to the general public and therefore very undermining to the scope and very legitimacy of our profession – but that’s politics for you. Mind you, it’s obviously not a very lucrative business to actually promote a healthy society.

Interestingly, here in South Africa one is granted the titles of “Doctor of Acupuncture” and “Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine” on fulfilling the respective licensing requirements – certainly does more for one’s sense of credibility in terms of being an actual health care provider.

I have recently been a regular guest on a tv show called “Open Studio” produced by a local NGO tv station Cape Town Television hosted by a great friend of mine, with the topic of health and wellness, using Chinese medicine as a treatment tool and just as much also as a preventative tool, allowing more of the general population to have more access to Chinese medicine. Considering the overall socio-economic situation here in South Africa, modalities like Chinese medicine have HUGE potential in significantly bringing down the burden of illness amongst the masses – my experience at the hospital confirms this. The rest is just a matter of schlepping through all the darned bureaucracy to allow for things to happen!”


Pediatric Acupuncture

One way to build an acupuncture practice is to specialize.  Many practitioners struggle with specialization, others know exactly what they want to specialize in and some, like Robin Green, LAc, find a problem and become a specialist by solving it.   Morgan Hill Family Wellness Acupuncture and Herb clinic treats all family members, including children.

Not all acupuncture schools discuss treating children in their programs, although pediatrics is getting more popular.  Robin says she wasn’t all that interested in treating children when she was in school.  Her interest began in her first year of practice.  Of course, she may have been pushed towards this when her infant son had an issue with eczema that just wouldn’t resolve.

Robin says, “None of the conventional medical treatments we tried worked to treat his eczema, instead by the time he was nine months old, it got worse spreading throughout most of his body   At that point, I decided to do some training in holistic pediatrics to see if I could help him with acupuncture and herbs.   In the process of helping him, I began to share my son’s story with my patients and they started bringing their children in to see me.  That is how my pediatric practice began.”

Needles are such an issue to many adults and to children of a certain age.  People don’t realize that acupuncture needles are not the same the syringes they are thinking of. However, Robin says children under about 15 months of age haven’t developed that fear yet and she is able to do quick treatments that get rapid results.  As children grow with acupuncture as part of their lives, they are less likely to fear the treatments even when they are older.  Robin says she is able to do treatments that prevent imbalance rather than try and heal it after it has developed.

Interest in pediatric acupuncture has grown in the last few years.  Robin says, “The pediatric acupuncture field had grown significantly in the last decade.  This is due in part to more research that has shown benefits for pediatric pain management. About 40% of all pediatric hospitals now offer acupuncture for pain management.  It seems like monthly there are more and more articles published in magazines, newspapers and on television about the benefits of acupuncture for children.  Also, parents use the same treatments on their children that work for them.  Once parents understand how acupuncture is safe, painless, and effective acupuncture is for themselves they often bring their kids in too.  ”

Of course, pediatric acupuncture isn’t all about pain management in an acupuncture clinic.  Robin sees patients for low immunity, eczema, asthma, allergies, coughs, bronchitis, sinusitis, colds and flus as well as anxiety and digestive disorders.

Besides the fear of needles, another issue with pediatric acupuncture is the relationship issue.  The practitioner has to relate both to the child and the parent and be trustworthy in the eyes of both.  Establishing these multiple lines of trust can take some thought.  Robin says, “In kids under age 8, most parents stay with their child during treatment.  Occasionally, it’s easier to help a child with sensory or ADD issues alone in the treatment room while the parent waits in the waiting room.  After age 8 about, 50% of the parents stay in the treatment room.  When I treat kids without their parents present a lot them open up to me and tell me about things that go on in school or home that they may not have shared with their parent present.  Many parents are relieved that their child has another adult to confide in and notice a difference in compliance with the child’s treatment plan.  Teenagers are mostly likely to want to tell me things they don’t want their parents to know.  Anything they say to me is confidential unless it would cause harm to themselves or someone else and once they know that many of them open up to me.  I often have parent tell me about the bad behaviors of their teen (staying up too late, not eating well, drinking to much soda, etc.) that they need help getting through to them about.  Being their acupuncturist means I can discuss these issues and help them make better choices and take the pressure off the parents.”

Given the special needs of the very young and the need for an acupuncturist to think very carefully about their relationship to different people in the patient/practitioner relationship, I asked Robin what she would recommend if someone was thinking of specializing in pediatrics.  Robin says, “Specializing in pediatrics takes a lot of extra training to attain the expertise needed to confidently address the myriad of health issues and patient-parent issues seen in pediatrics.  I would recommended taking as many pediatric acupuncture courses as possible, taking a physical exam and red flags trainings and get clinical experience observing someone who specializes in pediatric acupuncture.”

Recently Robin has had an article on pediatric acupuncture in Acupuncture Today and is working on increasing her pediatric patient load.  She has another colleague in her office that sees adults.   Robin also says, “My larger vision is to help the acupuncture pediatrics field grow so that all practitioners could get the training they needed to confidently see children.   I would also like to write a practical guide to acupuncture pediatrics for practitioners and parents, teach acupuncture pediatrics to other practitioners.  My first step in that direction is my new blog, and I’m going to have my first externship at my office soon.”

I ran into Robin online as she worked on her first website years ago.  I was struck by how she had a very clear sense of what she wanted from her site and was very adept at getting it done. Her design choices were simple and elegant and really seemed to highlight who she was as a practitioner.  I asked her what her marketing experience had been.  Robin worked at health clinics while going through college and watched what those practitioners did.  She gets most of her patients through word of mouth and patient education.   She says she does this “without the qi talk”.  Anyone who reads my blog regularly knows she is preaching the choir here.  If you haven’t checked out Robin’s sites, I highly recommend a visit.

James Rohr on Tungz!

Acupuncturists are not often computer fans. In fact, a lot of practitioners eschew technology and are quite proud of it.  A few of us embrace it. As much as I love the internet and can make a good website, I have to say I’m blown away by self taught app developer, and acupuncturist,  James Rohr. Rohr’s application is called Tungz!.  Available for android or the iphone, as well as the ipad,  Tungz is a great way for lay people to get a look at what a healthy tongue does and does not look like.

Rohr says, ” I’ve been giving lectures on tongue assessment for many years now, and I thought the subject matter would lend itself to a nice app.  I’m a big fan of technology and education, so this app is a natural combination of those two interests. ”

I found out about Tungz! when Rohr mentioned it in an online group for acupuncturists.  As I went to check it out, I was expecting something for practitioners, but it’s actually an introductory tongue evaluation for patients.  Rohr says, “Because of the ease of use and the accessibility of the pictures, I actually think this app will be a great tool for practitioners to share with their patients to help build their practice.  How many times have we heard someone say, “I’m healthy.  I don’t think I need acupuncture.”  Practitioners know that Chinese medicine has a very narrow view as to what is actually healthy. A quick glance at a tongue and comparing it to the healthy pictures can show the potential client right away if their tongue shows imbalances.  Another thing I hear quite a bit in my practice is “I love the treatments and I think my _______(husband, wife, children, co-worker, etc) could really benefit, but they don’t think they have anything wrong with them. What can I do?” If the patient has the app, they can show the app to the person they want to refer and if the tongue is different, the prospective client can see for themselves that their body is sending a signal thru the tongue that their Qi is not in harmony.”

One challenge in creating the application was getting good clear pictures of tongues.  Not only can flashes drown out color but quivering tongues are often blurry.  Rohr has asked for people to send in more photos of their tongues and the response has been good.  One person said, “Wow, do you also read minds? 🙂 I was quite impressed with what you said about my health by one single look at my tongue!!”

Rohr has been in practice since 2005 after graduating from Pacific College of Oriental Medicine.  He has also trained at Chengdu University. Lest you think his background was in computer science, Rohr has an undergraduate degree from Stanford in anthropology.  Rohr taught at Pacific College of Oriental Medicine at their Chicago campus.

Rohr now works at an integrative health center in Florida and divides his time between that and private practice.  His areas of interest lie in treating stress related disorders and “chronic conditions”. If developing apps and acupuncture aren’t enough, Rohr also has a line of organic teas, designed around tongue diagnosis.

Reading about everything Rohr has going on, I  had to wonder what’s next.  Rohr says, “I’ve just opened a new clinic in South Beach here in Miami, FL. I’m very excited about the new space.  I’m also working on a book about rethinking chronic illness. I hope to have that out sometime in 2012. I’ve also launched Tungz Teas, a line of organic teas using some western and eastern herbs in formulations to help support people’s constitutions. For the uninformed, there are some great tasting teas. For the eager and educated patient, there is the option to search for teas based on tongue features. I’m excited to see how this business grows in the coming year.”

Check out the Rohr’s websites for his app as well as his line of teas. The teas integrate well with his Tungz. He’s definitely a practitioner bringing this ancient medicine into the digital age.


Acupuncture at the Zoo

Maryland acupuncturist, Tom Igegno, had a patient not everyone gets to see.  Tom got to treat a giraffe.

Although many states require an acupuncturist to be a veterinarian or practice under one Maryland defines the scope of practice as sentient beings rather than humans. Practicing on animals requires an animal certification. Getting certified includes taking  an animal acupuncture course at Tai Sophia. Veterinarians are still required to see the animal with in two weeks prior to treating and communication must be left open with the vet.  While the certification is normally just for companion animals, Tom was able to treat the giraffe because he was working under supervision.

A patient of Tom’s worked at the zoo where Gretchen the giraffe was housed. Gretchen was 23 at the time, which is quite old for a giraffe in captivity.  Gretchen had a lot of joint problems.  Her hoofs were misaligned and the veterinary staff suspected she had arthritis because of that.

By the time Tom was called, the zoo was hoping for hospice care in keeping Gretchen as comfortable as possible for as long as possible. Gretchen’s difficulties were exacerbated by the fact that it was a particularly rainy summer and her symptoms were worse when it rained. She did well for her treatments but often the symptoms came back with the next rain fall. On her bad days, she could barely walk and refused to eat.  Immediately after treatment, Gretchen’s appetite picked up substantially. She often started eating during treatment.

Asking about Gretchen’s diagnosis, Tom replied, ” I practice Japanese meridian therapy, so I diagnosed her as KI deficient.  I suppose a good TCM dx would be Ki Yin def, with localized hot damp BI.  Either way, we treated quite a few points on the KI/UB channels focusing on UB23, Ki3,6,7.  Then of course treating the joints locally.”

Although the zoo keepers felt that Gretchen improved post treatments, she was a geriatric giraffe and it was felt that keeping her alive past a certain point was cruel. Her time came about three weeks after treatments were started. Upon necropsy it was found that the major joints in all four limbs were worn almost flat. Tom says, ” I believe that the zoo’s staff had made the most compassionate decision they could have.  ”

While the zoo keepers were initially skeptical of Tom’s work, his patient gave such glowing recommendations they were willing to try it.  The compassion these people had for their charges and their willingness to try just about anything that might help left them open enough to notice the improvements Gretchen made during and after treatment.

So how does an acupuncturist needle a giraffe?  Tom says, “The biggest challenge was getting around her. The zoo knew that Gretchen was going to have issues as she grew. They spent a massive amount of money making a “Giraffe Restriction Device” specifically for her. It looked much like those boxes that the magicians’ assistant goes into to be cut into pieces except much larger. There were doors at different levels going from her hooves to her neck that could be opened on all sides and about 6 different levels gain access to each area of her body. There were also heavy duty padded straps that would go under her body to help give her some support and take weight off of her joints.  She actually enjoyed being in the unit. It did require quite a bit of climbing and reaching to get to some areas.”

Of course, Tom was unable to take the pulse in the femoral artery as would be usual in animals.  Apparently getting kicked by a giraffe sounded less than pleasant to him.

While it was a fascinating experience, it’s not one that’s likely to be repeated.  Zoo animals, however fond their caretakers may be, are first and foremost wild animals. As such they must be treated with caution. Acupuncture isn’t meant to be done while an animal is anesthetized and it’s unlikely that the average zoo animal is going to sit around and wait to be needled.

Acupuncturists in other states who are interested in treating animals should find out their state’s policies on animal acupuncture. In Washington state, where I live, a practitioner must also be a veterinarian to charge for animal services. While many people feel very negatively about this, the veterinarians I have worked with have had excellent education and most have been very open to talking about acupuncture and herbal medicine with me. As a cat owner, I typically choose homeopathy for my cats and have the greatest respect for the work my vets do, using classical single formula homeopathy. I am fortunate to live by a clinic where all the practitioners have accumulated many hours beyond the minimum required for the modalities in which they practice.

Tom adds that some states have no legislation about treating animals. While this means it’s not illegal, it’s not legally recognized either.

Wondering what Tom does when he’s not treating giraffes? Tom has a busy practice in Maryland where he relocated in 2006.  Before that he had practiced in New York.  Tom has no real specialty, feeling that specializing might keep him from seeing and treating the whole patient.  He typically sees about 50 human patients and 10 animal patients a week.  The pets have to be limited as they require house calls.  If you need to contact Tom about Gretchen or any other area of his practice, you can find him at Ancient Arts Acupuncture. Feel free to check out Tom’s photos of working with Gretchen here.

Acupuncture in Australia

Amanda Tsangarides, an Australian acupuncturist was kind enough to answer my questions about acupuncture “Down Under.”  Amanda practices in Darwin, Northern Territory and has been practicing there for the past 7 years.

Like the United States and Canada, the most common business model is an acupuncturist practicing in their own clinic.   The multi-modality model where there are clinics offering a variety of complementary health services is becoming more popular there.    Acupuncture models are changing.  Amanda says, “In just the past year or so, we’ve had an acupuncturist do enough research in an oncology ward to demonstrate benefit of having an acupuncturist working in the hospital – it’s a very exciting step forward, but largely a rarity.”

Australia is working on guidelines for acupuncture licensing.  These are expected with in the year.  Currently, the professional membership association has determined that minimum requirements for membership  are  a three to four year program with a few thousand hours of clinical internship in the last year and half.   In addition, many students have the opportunity to do internships in a Chinese hospital which will increase their clinic hours.    If a practitioner wishes to have Private Health Insurance Provider status they must be a member of the professional organization.

Although practitioners can get Private Health Insurance Provider status, patients typically pay the provider but are then potentially eligible for rebates on their treatments, depending upon their level of insurance.  The government health system only pays for acupuncture if it is performed by a medical doctor.   Doctors can practice with a minimal amount of acupuncture training in Australia.

Amanda says she became interested in acupuncture when at the age of 12 she chipped her tail bone.   She was quickly pain free.   She was assisted through the hormonal changes of puberty through acupuncture and herbal medicine as well.   She decided from these early experiences that this was a medicine that she wanted to know more about.

Australia is such a diverse place that I asked where most acupuncturists were centered.  They are primarily centered in the more populated areas but people from rural areas often travel long distances for a variety of services.    In general acupuncture is well received and acupuncture clinics are showing up next door to invitro fertilization clinics.

In Amanda’s area, there are over 120,000 people and only six acupuncturists.  She says that specialization is not something that is needed with those kinds of numbers. Educating patients is a big part of her practice and people really value her efforts in supporting a smaller town where she provides a regular monthly service.   She has a wide network of complementary providers who work together to provide the best services and care they can for their patients.

All in all, the business of being an acupuncturist in Australia seems very much like the business of being an acupuncturist in the United States and Canada.

Acupuncture in Canada

During a discussion some of my readers expressed an interest in finding out about how acupuncturists practice in other countries.  This interview will be the first in an ongoing series of international acupuncturists interviews.

Dr. Kim Graham of Medicinal Roots Acupuncture was gracious enough to spend time answering my many questions with very detailed responses about acupuncture in Canada.  Dr. Kim, as her patients call her,  practices in British Columbia.   Her website identifies her as a Doctor of  Traditional Chinese Medicine and Registered Acupuncturist.  The Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine is only recognized in British Columbia.   Also,  only in BC is all of Traditional Chinese Medicine regulated although Alberta and Ontario also regulate Acupuncture (but not the whole scope of practice).

Physicians and dentists can practice acupuncture, and in some provinces they are required to have additional training.   Physiotherapists may practice acupuncture depending upon the province, but often limited to “dry needling” and supplemental insurance may not cover acupuncture done by a physiotherapist.   In regulated provinces Naturopaths can use acupuncture.   Nurses can perform acupuncture in all provinces except Quebec.   Chiropractors can use acupuncture in all provinces except British Columbia and Quebec.

Public healthcare is regulated by province and in BC a portion of the acupuncture cost may be covered by their universal coverage.   The coverage is only $23 and the practitioner has the choice to charge more per visit or just take that money.  Additionally the number of treatments covered is very limited and combined with other alternative therapies.   Supplemental insurance policies that cover acupuncture are not normally billed by the practitioner but by the patient.

Dr. Kim has worked in a variety of clinical settings, working at her own business and in an integrated health clinic.   She also does work at the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority where she is paid hourly for group treatments.    Dr Kim says, “I have had the unique opportunity to work with integrated teams of western medical professionals, chiropractors, physiotherapists, massage therapists and myself. It seems as though this is the current trend.”

Acupuncturists may work in any of the variety of settings that Dr. Kim describes however the most popular option is the solo practitioner with their own business.   I asked Dr. Kim how the schools treated business and marketing education.   “This is a subject that needs more attention,” Dr. Graham writes.  “I am part of a team that has developed a new TCM program at one of the public colleges here in Vancouver and this subject has been made part of the curriculum.”

As in the United States, acupuncture is gaining popularity, although it is still often the medicine of last resort.

In reading Dr. Kim’s interview it seems acupuncturists face many of the same challenges as those in the United States.   Those wishing to practice in other provinces may face more challenges as they are not officially regulated and licensed.   In British Columbia it does sound like there is less paperwork involved with the submission of insurance forms for those on supplemental insurance.

The business model of the solo practitioner and the lack of marketing and business education seems to be a common thread in both countries as well.   There are practitioners in the United States, who like Dr. Kim, are taking it upon themselves to help new practitioners with the business side of their education, it seems as if this aspect of the training has a lot of work left to do.





Behind Zi Zai Dermatology

As I explore other facets of life and consider how to keep acupuncture in my life as I move in a more creative direction, I’ve been looking at what other practitioner’s have done. I’m very interested in Diana Hermann’s Zi Zai Dermatology, not only because we graduated from Oregon College of Oriental Medicine at the same time but because I toyed with the idea of doing topical salves and soaps shortly after graduation when I discovered soap making.   I never pursued the idea but Diana has and with a passion.

Diana requested dermatology as a study when she traveled to China after graduation.   Diana felt that because Western medicine had so little to offer chronic skin conditions,  studying dermatology would be a great way to help a lot of people who otherwise wouldn’t get help for their health issues.

Diana has started out slowly, building her dermatology line in her “spare” time.   Diana describes her Zi Zai journey this way, “I started formulating and testing products in 2008 and that is the year I decided to make the herbal skin care products a real business, as opposed to a hobby or just making products for my private practice clients.   I incorporated in 2009, but it wasn’t until April 2010 that I officially launched the webstore and actually started selling the products to the public.  Growth has been slow because I still spend most of my time in my private practice.  I am making the transition to spending less time in private practice and devoting more hours each week to growing Zi Zai Dermatology.  I love love love making herbal concoctions and I am excited to be able to spend more time doing that.”

As time goes on, Diana would love to be able to focus her practice more exclusively on dermatology, facial acupuncture and a small handful of other conditions and be able to devote larger blocks of her time to her skin care products.  Anyone who follows Diana on Facebook knows that she loves making her lotions and potions.  Recently she has learned to make soap and is experimenting with formulas that can work in with the soap making.

In talking to Diana about her long term plan, what she’d most love to do is work out the ideas for her practice with the focus on dermatology and skin care and perhaps formulate that as something other clinics could copy using many of the products she has formulated.  Teaching and writing may or may not be part of the equation in the future.

For other practitioners dealing with skin conditions in their practice, Diana says, “..the biggest part of treating skin diseases with TCM is the use of internal herbal medicine…Everyone’s skin is different and proper differentiation makes all the difference in improving any skin problem.”

When asked specifically about her products, Diana says, “Zi Zai products are formulated according to specific TCM patterns and we offer multiple formulas when there are varying TCM patterns possible for a given skin condition (for example, we have 3 ointments for psoriasis and 3 ointments for eczema).  We offer 20% discount to all practitioners (acupuncturists, herbalists, physicians).”   Diana makes all her products in small batches so that nothing stays on the shelf for very long, although the oil based products have a shelf life of up to three years.    As she formulates new products, there is always something cooking. The tinctures she makes can take up to six weeks to infuse, which also means a lot of patience and organization to keep everything straight!

I asked Diana how people can help her spread the word about her new venture.   “Tell their friends! Everyone knows someone who has either psoriasis, eczema or acne.  Or they have friends who want to use more natural products on their skin in their everyday skin care routine.  Or if they are a practitioner, they may be treating patients with skin problems and could enhance the results of their acupuncture and herbal treatment with topical products.

**Just for your readers, I am offering 30% off their first order.  Just enter the code “bonnie” at check out.  Offer valid until June 30th**”