Certified acupuncturist Esther Ting and her former patient Marianne Jas, a health writer and consultant, co-wrote the highly informative Total Health the Chinese Way, a 2009 addition to the Perseus Books Group DaCapo Lifelong Books series. Dr. Ting holds a PhD in Chinese Medicine, and she has treated over 140,000 patients in China and at her Ting's Healing Center in Santa Monica, California. In this illustrated guide, practical advice from Ting's family of four generations of Chinese doctors including Ding Ganren, a physician to the last emperor of Shanghai at the turn of the twentieth century, is combined with personal success stories from her patients to offer a roadmap for those seeking alternatives to Western healthcare methods.
Ting begins with necessarily brief overview of three thousand years of Chinese medicine. She explains the Chinese focus on the body's "power centers," and the organs associated with each. Any imbalance in those centers is reflected in the related organ, and Ting works to treat the causes of illness, not just the symptoms. She depends on the "Four Examinations" of looking, listening and smelling, asking, and touching, including a sensitive pulse reading, in making a diagnosis. Her stated goal is to alleviate pain and illness, then "strengthen and nourish" the body to maintain health.
In a nod to modern medicine, Ting outlines the growing field of psycho-neuroimmunology and its echoes of Chinese thought. She details the effects of stress on the various organs of the body, showing how intricate mind/body connections are reflected in both physical and mental illnesses. "When traumatic events happen, our body often traps those raw emotions in a physical form." Ting's job is to help patients release those emotions and recover their health. She stresses three simple, yet profound, ideas: "Listen to your body...Forgive and forget your past...Love your body," that have a lasting impact on whole-body well-being.
Simple diet and exercise solutions are offered to guide readers toward correcting mild illnesses, but Ting is quick to refer patients to qualified practitioners for more specific diagnosis and treatment. She shares the techniques behind her specialty of acupuncture, and encourages readers to explore its benefits. The interplay of nature, the four seasons, circadian rhythms and what Ting calls the "daily yin and yang cycle" are spelled out with helpful diagrams and charts showing optimal hours for normal activities such as meals and sleep. In addition to acupuncture, moxibustion (or moxa) which involves applying heat with burned mugwort , a 2,700 BCE Chinese massage called Tui Na, and herbal formulas are presented as possible alternative or complementary treatments.
The text is sometimes confusing in its seemingly circular reasoning, i.e., "Lacking the desire to eat in the morning is a sign you aren't properly feeding your kingdom," and in the assumption that readers understand a more Eastern mindset. Ting's repeated reminders that her work is an addition to, not replacement for, modern medicine seem forced; anyone following the Chinese philosophy of mind/body connection as presented in these pages would be reluctant to add pharmaceuticals or unnecessarily invasive procedures which are likely to upset the delicate internal balance achieved by practicing more traditional methods.
Nonetheless, Total Health the Chinese Way offers a wealth of useful information including a glossary, a list of suggested reading, resource websites, and detailed charts to guide those looking for alternatives. "You don't have to be overly rigid," Ting explains. "Eat well, breathe deeply, avoid excessive stress, live in harmony with your environment, give yourself the time to quiet your mind, and you'll have created a healthy place for your Blood and Qi to thrive." Following the specifics provided in her book will help any reader do just that.
© 2010 Cynthia L. Pauwels
Cynthia L. Pauwels holds an MA in Creative Writing and a BA in Humanities with a World Classics certification from Antioch University McGregor in Yellow Springs, Ohio. She works as a freelance writer with numerous short fiction, non-fiction and technical writing credits.