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Learning From the Art and Science of Chinese Medicine

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From herbal remedies to acupuncture, NY1's Jill Urban reports on what we can learn from the art and science of Chinese medicine, and how it can help us.

From herbs to acupuncture, many forms of Chinese medicine are becoming mainstream in the Western world, but many people don't understand the philosophy or complex practice of Chinese medicine. We asked some doctors to explain.

"Traditional Chinese medicine sees a human body as a whole system, like a network," says Dr. Xiu Min Li, director of integrative medicine at Mount Sinai Medical Center. "So each organ system is connected. So one organ system will affect another.”

Li says Chinese medicine takes the approach of overall well-being, mind and body. From prevention to treatment, it looks to create balance both inside and outside. As part of that big picture, the practice is made up of multiple elements, including herbal medicine and alternative therapies.

"The idea is that you have a bio-psycho-type, like, you're made up in a certain way," says Dr. Houman Danesh, director of integrative pain management at Mount Sinai Hospital. "So if you are having back pain, it may be related to a bunch of other factors and stress, so restoring balance with needles or with massage or with herbs brings you back into balance."

Danesh is a pain management specialist who uses alternative therapies like acupuncture, acupressure, cupping - which uses suction cups to promote blood flow and healing - and a treatment called gua sha, also known as scrapping.

"Gua sha is the idea of scrapping along areas to increase blood flow and to remove stuck chi in the area to bring about healing," Danesh says.

Other forms include yoga-like movements of tai chi and qigong.

Herbal therapy is a major part of Chinese medicine It's made up of thousands of herbs, minerals and animal parts used for a long list of ailments.

"Some of the Chinese herbal medicines promote health. Some can be used to prevent disease, while others can be used to treat conditions," Li says.

Some of those used for treatment are available by prescription only, but for the average person looking to live well, Chinese herbs can easily be found at any drug store. In our next report, Li will explain what some of them are and what they can do to promote well-being.

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