Category Archives: reviews

Next Books for New Practitioners


Students when they are leaving to graduate often ask me what is the next book they should read. This page needs updating!

I assume they have the “Benskys” Materia Medica and Formulas and Strategies. I also assume they haven’t really read them. That would be a good start.

The next book I would suggest is Steven Clavey’s Fluid Physiology. This is an incredible book that really fills in what I found missing in much of my Chinese Medicine Education. There are 2 Editions as of 2018, the second is a bit better than the first having added more acupuncture treatment ideas. Unfortunately, the book is out of print presently however there are rumors that Eastland is planning a new edition.

One cannot say enough about Applied Theory in Chinese Medicine. This book is an exploration not a method and it lays the groundwork for a new generation of thinking about Acupuncture and Chinese medical theory.

Herbs are where recent graduates feel the most confused. I suggest that they read Qin Bo-Wei’s 56 Treatment Methods by Wu Bo-Ping and Jason Blalack.


Last year a colleague from Beijing asked me to write about the influential English language books for a project she was doing. This is what I came up with:

The 20 books are just some of the influential books currently used among English language students and practitioners of Chinese medicine in the West.

Many of these books have been written by native Chinese now practicing in the West or Westerners using Chinese sources by collaborating with experienced practitioners from China. Many of these books are “classics” while others use ancient writings to create new concepts by explaining ancient texts.

1. Applied Channel Theory in Chinese Medicine – The late Wang Ju-yi, from the first class of the Beijing Chinese Medicine School, worked for decades thinking and developing his ideas about the nature of the acupuncture channels. Jason Robertson spent several years working with Wang accumulating his lectures for this book with updated concepts of the channels which reflect ancient thinking.

2. Chinese Herbal Medicine: Formulas and Strategies -Bensky and Scheid – The English language standard for the study of Chinese herbal formulas now updated with historical references and reasoning. Any student, practitioner or scholar of Chinese herbal medicine should have this book on their desk.

3. Chinese Herbal Medicine: Materia Medica – Bensky – The English language standard for the study of Chinese single herbs in Chinese Medicine. The third edition of the book updates current biomedical information while also

4. Finding Effective Acupuncture Points – Shudo Denmei’s approach is one of the innumerable Japanese styles. What makes this book so effective is how he explains his methodology and thinking making it accessible and transferable to whatever style the reader may employ.

5. Foundations of Chinese Medicine – Giovanni Maciocia’s comprehensive book is a comprehensive study used in most all English language schools and for licensing exams.

6. Live Well Live Long: Teachings from the Chinese Nourishment of Life Tradition and Modern Research – Deadman – Yang Sheng is translated as “nourishing life” and Peter Deadman has accumulated many writings and exercises into living a long, happy and healthy life.

7. Manual of Acupuncture Peter Deadman and Mazin Al-Khafaji – Although over 25 years old the Manual has remained the definitive English language resource for acupuncture location and indications as it draw on historical sources including the Systematic Classic of Acupuncture & Moxibustion. Beautiful drawings of the anatomy offer one of the best guides for finding and using the acupuncture points.

8. Manual of Dermatology in Chinese Medicine Shen De-Hui and Wu Xiu-Fen. A clear resource for the study of dermatology in Chinese medicine.

9. Medicine in China: A History of Ideas – Unschuld- Traces the history of Chinese medicine in all its complexity. The updated version explores the intersection of Western medicine in modern China.

10. Nan Jing Classic of Difficulties – Unschuld trans – This is an updated version of famed scholar Paul Unschuld 1986 with updated commentary from 20 Chinese and Japanese over the last 1700 years.

11. Obstetrics & Gynecology in Chinese Medicine – Maciocia – One of the most comprehensive books about gynecology from Giovanni Maciocia.

12. Practical Dictionary of Chinese Medicine – Wiseman – An indispensable reference for Chinese medical terminology that helps bridge the gaps between various translation styles. The Wiseman book is used as a standard for many English language publishing houses.

Shu-He Wang and Yang Shou-Zhong – a faithful translation of the classic.

14. Qin Bo-Wei’s 56 Treatment Methods – Qin – Translator and editor Jason Blalack spent several years working withWu Po-Ping, a primary student of famed Chinese doctor, writer and educator Qin Bo-Wei. This book elucidates seminal writings by Qin that describes his method for constructing concise herbal prescriptions using treatment principles of Chinese medicine.

15. Shang Han Lun (On Cold Damage)- Guohui Liu trans– Of the many recent English language translations Liu’s book contains many diverse commentaries from the centuries of previous writers. Also of note is a separate “introduction” book and his earlier work Warm Pathogen Diseases: A Clinical Guide.

16. Statements of Fact in Traditional Chinese Medicine – Flaws trans – This small volume contains a trove of Chinese Medicine sayings that every student and practitioner needs to memorize and understand.

17. Systematic Classic of Acupuncture & Moxibustion – Huang Fu Mi – Written in the 3rd Century the writings in this book have endured to this day through the quotations from the Su Wen and Ling Shu.

Ten Lectures on the Use of Formulas from The Personal Experience Of Jiao Shu-De – Dr. Jiao was the influential doctor and educator whose lectures on herbs and formulas were a vital source of information for a generation of Chinese students.

19. Atlas of Chinese Tongue Diagnosis – Kirschbaum -Richly photographed and illustrated Barbara Kirschbaum’s book sets a standard for books on this subject.

20. Zang Fu Syndromes: Differential Diagnosis and Treatment – McDonald and Penner – A comprehensive study guide to acupuncture and herbs for the syndromes of Chinese Zang-Fu patterns.

Applied Channel Theory in Chinese Medicine

Applied Channel Theory in Chinese Medicine

Wang Ju-Yi’s Lectures on Channel Therapeutics

Wang Ju-Yi and Jason Robertson

Eastland Press.

The short description of this book might be, “An acupuncture doctor with 45 years experience tells what he has learned to one of his students”. What this doesn’t tell you is how this has happened in the most fortunate of circumstances. Applied Channel Theory is the work of a (relative) beginner (Robertson) transcribing and exploring the mind of an accomplished and experienced practitioner (Wang). Wang has an inquisitive mind, an great sense of humor, has spent decades studying the Neijing and other classics and applying those styles in a very busy clinical career. Robertson has recently graduated from a Western TCM school, speaks and reads Chinese fluently and also has an inquisitive mind and a great sense of humor. Where Wang has the ability to pull the different elements of classic studies into an coherent form, Robertson has ingeniously put Wang’s words into a very readable and cohesive narrative. Wang has taken the challenge to delve into the most difficult yet basic concepts and Robertson has the confidence to ask the “simple questions” that illuminate throughout the book. Robertson is a clear and confident writer and Wang produces the answers. As my colleague said when she skimmed through the book, “It’s actually written in English!”.

Many of the chapters are taken from lectures and workshops that Robertson organized with Wang. There is a consistent thread of questions that pull the reader back to the basics just as the ideas start to spin in complexity. As one gets further and further into the book, themes emerge and are then re-explored. When looking at the classic text the material moves from theory into practical application. The relevance and significance of the book only gets deeper as one continues to read. This is material that should be discussed in every acupuncture school, here and in China. Applied Channel Theory is one of the most important books about Chinese Medicine to appear in 30 years.

The book has 20 chapters but has many threads. The first thread is a long discussion of each of the organs from the perspective of the 6 channels and an extended discussion of Ministerial Fire. This concept of the Ministerial will come back again and again throughout the book. It becomes especially evident in the 30 pages they devote to the Shao Yang. Another thread concerns the nature of the points as concepts and as functional processes. Robertson asks some basic questions that we often think of but never ask. “How does energy move through the channels?” “Does the qi from the limbs inward or outward to the limbs?” (Answered in an incredibly sophisticated manner by Wang.) “What does reinforcing and dispersing really mean?” “How do the five transport/antique/ting points work?” And Wang is not simply regurgitating texts, these are his unique explorations. By giving them full weight of his consideration it is apparent that the questions are neither stupid nor had Wang not thought that they needed answering. When Wang doesn’t have an answer for a question he responds that he truly doesn’t know. Robertson plays off his own naiveté as a recent graduate to extract these answers from Wang. Toward the end of the book there is a lengthy discussion about point combinations. Interspersed throughout are observations by Robertson about both the process of writing the book and the experience of Beijing. These digressions make the book more readable but lets us know that the book is not a final word about acupuncture but is itself an exploration. It’s an ingenious form for a book.

Applied Channel Theory comes at a time when Chinese Medicine needs a little help. Even as the popularity of acupuncture increases around the world, its roots often seems to have been lost for a practical and expedient functionality. The process started in China over 100 years ago and has been accelerated in all forms of acupuncture education and practice. While some have attempted to tie modern practice to the classics, the original writings have been notoriously difficult texts for ages. Indeed, most of our classics are attempts to explain other writings now either existent or lost. As a result, classical concepts of acupuncture all too often are either fetishized or abandoned as quaint. The latter is perhaps more common where the consensus is that “acupuncture works” but not perhaps in the ways that have been traditionally explained. Wang looks beyond the physiological metaphors and tells us why the ancients may have had it right all along.

When a chapter from this book was released to the Journal of Chinese Medicine, I was a bit disappointed as it seems that the book would simply be the palpation method of finding the points and diagnosis. Nothing could be further from the truth. Applied Channel Theory discusses the roots of acupuncture theory as so bridges the growing gap between acupuncture and herbal treatments. The future of acupuncture is not another Method be it Tung, Tan or Wang. Applied Channel Theory doesn’t necessarily demand any Method although it does answer how the Neijing might approach it. Instead the value of the book functions as a follow up to every TCM book we have ever seen. It takes up where Giovanni leaves off and explores what CAM only hints at. It takes Pirog and runs with it. This is one of the few TCM books that I wanted to read from front cover to back. And when I finished it, I started again from the front and reread it. It’s that good. It is that necessary.

Clinical Handbook of Internal Medicine (Maclean, Lyttleton, Bailey, Taylor)

It has been over 20 years since the first volume of the Clinical Handbook came out and it immediately became a well-regarded addition to English language CM books. The first book covered diseases of the Lung, Kidney, Liver and Heart. Volumes 2 came out over a few years later and covered the other organs and in Volume 3 (2010) they cover Qi, Blood, Fluid and Channels addressing more perplexing, challenging and interesting “miscellaneous diseases”. The Handbook is based on Chinese texts and were embraced by many native Chinese teachers and practitioners. If you are like me your original books have seen a bit of wear and tear and Volume 1 especially may have yellowed. The new Eastland edition has taken all 3 volumes and put in one book. The new volume weighs in at over 1600 large format pages with a “soft” hard cover.

The format of the new editions is basically the same. The 89 chapters are organized by Diseases and within each disease are the possibilities based on the 8 parameters, Qi, Blood, Fluids etc or zang-fu differentiation.  (Unfortunately students, who are usually taught and tested by zang-fu order as a base, have a hard time wrapping their heads around. ) Most of these diseases are instantly recognized as Western problems while a few have the Chinese twist to them such as Fainting and Funny Turns, Sudden Turmoil  and Hua Huo Disease. The Diabetes Chapters, for example, has 10 + subsections including Nephropathy and Peripheral Neuropathy. The majority are common problems while many are common in the clinic but not often discussed including Tooth Abscess, Mouth Ulcers, Halitosis and Depression. There is a long chapter on thyroid disorder, a disease which many of us treat with our patients. Maclean has taught extensively on the Thyroid so his extensive and expert discussion in this chapter is especially welcomed.

This new edition has been substantially rewritten and has not simply put the 3 original volumes under one cover. Many of the chapters have been rewritten with the continued clinical experience of the writer. The strength of the Handbook(s) over other strict translations of other Chinese texts has been discussions of familiar clinical practices. The chapter on Rhinitis for example talks practically about the use of sinus rinses and Neti pots. New chapters on men’s issues is extensive and has a nice mix of grounded CM and practical understanding.

My only admittedly petty complaints are the Table of Contents and omission of one part of the Introduction. The Table of Contents has all the subheadings- I would have preferred to see a “double” Table of Contents with only Chapter Heading and then a second expanded Table. I would have like to keep the discussion of the Diagnostic Method which I found very useful in the Volume 1 Introduction. Also missed is the designations of the diseases gathered under organ systems. As all the disease are in one volume then this probably would be unnecessary.

The Clinic Manual has endured as an essential reference text for English language Chinese Medicine practitioners. I consider it one of the vital texts for students and practitioners. Those who own the first 3 volumes may ask if they should buy the 2nd edition. If you don’t use the Handbook very much then probably the new edition won’t do much to change your mind. For those who use it a lot or have only one volume then they will only be pleased with the new information. As for myself I can now have one book at home while keeping the others at the office.

Shang Han Lun Liu review

Weighing in at over 950 pages (and well over $180 US) Dr. Guohui Liu’s (2015) Discussion of Cold Damage (Shang Han Lun) is not for the casual reader. ISBN: 978-1-84819-254-6

For Chinese Medicine herbalists, it may well become be the new English language standard for the Shang Han Lun. Although we’ve had many fine translations (Mitchell et al. and Greta Young) of the Shang Han Lun into English, Dr. Guohui Liu’s  Discussion of Cold Damage (Shang Han Lun) is a much welcome addition. For Chinese Medicine herbalists, it may well become be the new English language standard for the Shang Han Lun. Dr. Guohui Liu (who in 2001 had published the well-regarded Wen Bing text in English- reviewed here) has provided us with an excellent scholarly and practical text.


Shang Han Lun   To summarize, the Shang Han Lun, written around 200 AD by Zhang Zhongjing,  is much studied text from around the year 200 AD although the original text is no longer intact. Scholars and practitioners of Chinese Medicine have analyzed it for its insights into Chinese medicine and herbs for centuries. For that reason, it is often referred to as a “Bible” of Chinese herbology or a “Talamud” for the millennia of commentaries attached to it. The text itself can be printed out in 40 or so pages of Chinese characters in to almost 400 numbered “clauses” or lines. Another book was “spun-off” from the original text: The Golden Cabinet. It is the meaning of each of these clauses and how they build into progressions of disease and treatment that has captivated practitioners and scholars for close to 2000 years. The Shang Han Lun was put into practice in Japan in what was called “Kampo”. In Kampo practice herbal formulas in Kampo did not need medical theory to be utilized. Therefore Kampo was incorporated into 20th and 21st Century the Japanese mainstream medical system. For that reason, Shang Han Lun and Golden Cabinet formulas are often studied and applied in clinical trials in Japan which are then published into the modern scientific and medical community.


Although Chinese language books on the same subject could easily fill a bookstore, English language books run to few dozen. Without a doubt, Liu’s book is the most comprehensive.

Each clause is broken into several sections: 1) The original text with pinyin 2) a synopsis of the line 3) a translation of that line 4) “Difficult or redoubtable points” 5) Commentary 6) Analysis of the formula (if in the clause) 7) Applications of the formula 8) Clinical experience of ancient and contemporary practitioners. Formulas, when they first appear in the text, are shown in that clause.
It is in these sections that extremely practical and clinical information lifts the book above an academic exercise. The “Difficult or redoubtable points” section is a discussion of the ancient and modern interpretations of the meaning of the clause. This section for Gui Zhi Jia Fu Zi Tang runs close to 4 pages and is by no means the most exhaustive. Dr. Liu provides his own informed views on others’ texts and thus masterfully ties the practical and scholarly commentaries together. He is generous in these quotes as one commentary may run for a page or more and he includes modern interpretations from modern scholars such as Mitchell, Young and Sheid/ Bensky. My only small issue with the book is that there is no pinyin index of the formulas (although at page 900 there is an easily scanned list).

The fear in a book of this size is that it will be only of academic interest. However, I have found myself looking at it for clinical situations and have found the most practical solutions for patients in this Shang Han Lun translation. For this reason, I greatly endorse this book for all who want to both learn and use the Shang Han Lun method. ISBN: 978-1-84819-254-6

As a “companion book” DrScreen Shot 2015-12-16 at 3.10.09 PM. Gui and Singing Dragon Press have released Foundations of Theory for Ancient Chinese Medicine – Shang Han Lun and Contemporary Medical Texts. This is an “introduction” to many of the stickier problems of theoretical Chinese Medical Theory such as the six conformations and zang-fu (organ) theory. One gets the feeling that these are notes that didn’t quite make it into the already large Shang Han Lun book. Considerably smaller (and unfortunately less well edited) it serves as a good place to start before tackling the larger book.

available in the USA at Redwing Books

ISBN: 978-1-84819-262-1

Chinese Medicine from the Classics

Chinese Medicine from the Classics – A Beginner’s Guide

Sandra Hill – Monkey Press – ISBN 978 1 872468 15 0

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Chinese Medicine from the Classics – A Beginner’s Guide from Sandra Hill fills a nice niche for students (experienced or not) of Chinese Medicine. This is 220 page book fulfills the need for a deeper look at the basics of Chinese Medicine through the words of the classic literature including the Neijing Suwen and Nanjing. Its a needed resource for students just starting out and for more experienced practitioners (especially teachers) to look at for sources for their studies and practice.

Covered are yin yang theory, Dao, channel theory and the Extraordinary Vessels, the emotions and the organs. As well it has a long discussion of the Hun, Po, Zhi, Yi, Shen with new insights. Having co-written a Fundamentals book I know how difficult it is to clearly explain these concepts in an introductory text. Had it been out a few years ago I would have quoted from Chinese Medicine from the Classics (perhaps too extensively) in my own book.

Like many books from Monkey Press (Elisabeth Rochat de la Vallee and Claude Larre) the text emphasizes character analysis without being overburdened by it.

Despite the “classics” label the writing is contemporary and relevant to our time. This is a much needed book and hope that it will be required reading in Fundamentals classes for students in our Chinese Medicine schools.


Check out at:

(reviewed Dec. 2015)

Remember the Palm Pilot- historical musings

Palm Pilot

This article is more than a decade old… how things change… how they stay the same.

Reviewed by Douglas Eisenstark, L.Ac.

Rule #1: Never trust an advertisement for a product that says “it will simplify your life”.

We here at the review section of have always had an uneasy relationship with technology. Color TV, electronic car door locks, 10 digit zip codes: are they really necessary? We were very wrong about the personal computer, having thought it a fad that would soon pass over like 8-track tapes.

However, I recently tried a Palm Pilot PDA for a week and then bought one for myself. This little miniature computer has been a great help for me. If you cannot carry it with you everywhere than it would be less so, even useless.

For those of you who don’t know, a PDA (Palm and Visor are the major brand names now) comes with a set of basic programs for organizing calendar events, telephone numbers and memos. Plug it into your computer at night and any new information is stored. All PDA’s share a common Operating System or file system so there are no compatibility problems between brands.

Now there are thousands upon thousands of programs that can run on a PDA. From cooking recipes to Medical calculators, a program is out there. Although data is stored on your home computer, the program itself is not itself generally accessible there (which is a bit of a disappointment).

Everyone suggested I buy an 8 meg model. These are starting to be advertised for $100 with a rebate, about half of what I paid for it just a few weeks ago. For more money, you can get email service, cameras, and MP3 audio devices. My friend has one inside his cell phone, but I think this is going overboard. I’m still convinced that cell phones will go the way of the 8-track tape.

Because my PDA fits in my pants pocket (and, yes, I am happy to see you), I can now schedule appointments at home, while doing my daily chores around town and more importantly, while retrieving phone messages from remote locations. Because my office staff consists of one person: me, I now have less fear of double bookings. For years I carried a pencil and a small notebook at all times but the PDA seems to work better. I never liked bulky “organizers”.

So try one out for yourself before you buy. It may not be for you. If you do make the purchase, you will soon find that there are many programs available (usually running around $15) and a few programs that are made for acupuncturists. The best sites for programs are,, and . Generally, PDA programs are smaller and more limited in their scope than what you might find in a desktop computer program. You will also probably have to get a program such as Jfile, which stores the information for many programs in your PDA. I also purchased a small fold up keyboard (Stowaway by Targus) ($ 99) to do major typing. This is a very worthwhile accessory.

There are several very nice programs for acupuncturists using a PDA. An most amazing piece of software is the Chinese Herbal Database by Mark Tryling of Meridian Harmonics. This is a fairly complete Chinese Materia Medica and it is really excels at integrating the computer with the herbs. I have used this in the clinic and it works smoothly. The herbs are organized by group (e.g. blood tonics), then by Pinyin name and gives all the information of taste, temperature, Latin, properties, actions and contraindications. Herbs in Latin or Pinyin, as well as actions, can be searched for within the Jfile format. Search for “tremors” for example and indeed ten herbs come up as possibilities. Mr. Tryling is finishing his studies at the Dallas Institute of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine and credits his teacher Pingping Zhang for her teaching and inspiration for the Herbal Database. This makes for another nice feature of the Database which is that additional comments are included. It is nice to have a different perspective about the herbs from Bensky/Gamble. For example, under Di Long there is a rather involved special note of the actions of this “herb” for bronchitis obviously reflecting his teacher¹s clinical experience. Comments can be added at the end of each herb. I await eagerly for Mr. Tryling to finish his TCM Formula Database. The Chinese Herbal Database is available at

Acupuncture and Command Point is a very nice program that provides the numbered and pinyin name of all the points. It shows both the “energetics” and the symptoms of the points in a concise form. As well, combinations are shown with a short explanation of the reasoning. All these sections are editable which makes it extremely useful for your own comments. The “Command” section displays the “antique” points of each meridian as will as the yuan source, luo, horary, entry and exit points, back shu, mu-alarm, xi-cleft, hours of activity and the lower he-sea points. One can create “new meridians” which will allow you to make new groupings of points. Each point displayed has a line for additional information that you can be added to. This is a neat and a must have program for PDA carrying acupuncturists. The program also makes use of the Jfile database system.

BodyEnergyPoint by Grace-Comp Systems is an interesting program that gives you the “point of the hour”, used in some non-TCM systems. For example, in turning it on now, it gives the present time and date and the point, Stomach 45, an English translation of the point name and a neat little drawing and description of the location. For those who use this system of optimal acupuncture times, it replaces wall calendars and books giving the same information. Search the Web for this program, I have little other information about it.

If you know of other useful PDA programs, let me know. I have looked at a few medical programs for tracking patients and some Chinese translation programs that frankly have been disappointing.

Acupuncture Point Combinations Ross Book

Acupuncture Point Combinations, The Key to Clinical Success
by Jeremy Ross

Jeremy Ross goes further than most books on the same subject.

Ross clearly states in the introduction that Acupuncture Point Combinations deals with deeper treatments involving the organ systems and constitutional issues and not with symptomatic point combinations. This decision reflects Ross’s depth as a practitioner.

In over 400 pages, Ross outlines different treatment methods including many styles of “5-element” and “Eight-Extra” treatments (although Japanese acupuncture is not addressed). He devotes a large section to a thorough discussion of the elemental personality types. At last, a writer has been able to present this concept in a coherent and useful manner. Later chapters are devoted to the organ systems and then to 45 individual syndromes often found in the clinic.

Ross’s willingness to address psychological issues are reflected throughout the book. Each of the chapters on the organs includes its emotional energetics. For example, his introduction to the Large Intestine points includes not just channel problems, heat in the blood, various stagnations and but also combinations of points to clear the mind. Much space is given to the function of the Kidneys on a psychological/emotional level. One can then look at Acupuncture Point Combinations as an expansion of the most intriguing aspects of Maciocia’s Foundations. While the latter book would admirably bring up in brief concepts of personality and treatment, Ross is able to do in-depth discussions of them.

The author shares his clinical experience and opinions about various treatment styles. Ross writes extensively about opening points, antique (transporting) points, 5 element and 8 extra treatments. Rather than seeing them as distinct and separate systems he is clearly able to describe the relationships between them and when best not and best to use them in combination.

The book presents a comprehensive review of the organ systems. Discussions about the Spleen, for example, include the organ both as a center of energy and as a functional organ. Kidney syndromes involving Jing, Qi, Yang and Yin are clearly differentiated. Relationships between the different organs lead to more of those famous graphs for which Ross developed in his previous book, “Zang-Fu”.

Acupuncture Point Combinations lives up to his name. For example, if you know that Ren (CV) 17 should be used, Ross provides tables with the functions of over two dozen other points that can be used in combination. This comprehensive book is both an in-clinic quick reference and night-time reading. Standard common sense combinations are presented along side more complex ideas. Acupuncture Point Combinations should assist many practitioners in enhancing their treatments.

Published by Churchill Livingston



The Chinese Way to Healing: Many Paths to Wholeness written by Misha Ruth Cohen with Kalia Doner

The Chinese Way to Healing: Many Paths to Wholeness is a consumer directed book with a difference. The author, Misha Ruth Cohen (with Kalia Doner) is an experienced practitioner and The Chinese Way to Healing fills a very important niche in acupuncture literature. This beautiful designed book will encourage your patients who wish to participate more fully in their own treatments. 

From acupuncture needles to Zang-Fu concepts, the book is instructive to the many facets of current American TCM practice. Although the focus is on TCM, Cohen writes of other modalities including homeopathy and Western Medicine. 

Using this book, the practitioner can refer their patients to comprehensive sections on diet, gynecology, western medical integration, self-massage and food diaries. As anyone who has struggled with patient brochures knows, clear answers to questions about acupuncture needling and raw herb preparation are a god-send in saving time in the clinic. 

The phrase “Wholeness = Dietary Guidelines + Herbs + Acupuncture + Qi Gong” is used as a guide to the different aspects of patient self-care. The section on Wei and Nei Qi Gong exercises should get your patient started on the right path. Also included is a recognition of the importance of the Qi Gong instructor. 

Unlike many others, this is not a “self-help” book. It states clearly that it is to be used with a practitioner not instead of one. Short case studies and testimonials stress the results of working with a professional acupuncturist. Practitioners will appreciate Cohen’s continual warnings against using self-medication when using herbs. 

Although I have been stressing that this book is for the consumer, I can easily imagine that The Chinese Way to Healing will be extremely helpful for the practitioner in the clinic. Here in one book, is a guide to diet, ear points and reflexology. While reading together with the patient,  I can see how I might be reminded of many aspects of treatments I might have otherwise overlooked. The dangerous down-side, of course, is that your patients may become increasingly more assertive and “difficult”. Humor aside, The Chinese Way to Healing will be an extremely effective “Workbook” that can be used in conduction with the practitioner and patient. The language and level of explanation is sufficiently high to give the patient an excellent education.  An enlightened patient means that the practitioner can be more open and will no longer have to “protect” the patient from complex concepts. 

Misha Ruth Cohen is an acupuncture “veteran” with a history including Lincoln Hospital, lectures in China, contact with the mysterious “W.B”,  to her current role in the important work of Quan Yin and Chicken Soup Chinese Medicine Centers in San Francisco. Both her experience and warmth in “patient-based” acupuncture come through strongly in this book. 

The Chinese Way to Healing: Many Paths to Wholeness may be the book that acupuncturists will want to stock for sale to their patients. As well, it may be the best book to refer to potential clients, friends and relatives when one is asked that dreaded question, “How does acupuncture work?” 

The Chinese Way to Healing: Many Paths to Wholeness  
written by Misha Ruth Cohen with Kalia Doner  
– 1996-  
A Perigee Book  
published by The Berkely Publishing Group  
200 Madison Avenue  
New York, NY  
$15 US 

Putnam Berkley- 

Practical Application of Meridian Style Acupuncture Book

The Practical Application of Meridian Style Acupuncture 

by John E. PirogPacific View Press 1996

The Practical Application of Meridian Style Acupuncture is one of the more interesting books to come out of the American Acupuncture press. Most acupuncture books written and translated into English are basically texts used for teaching purposes. This book is written with an independent voice of inquiry and Pirog has distinguished himself by the depth of his study. To its credit, the tone of the book is like that of a journal article exploring new ideas and concepts.

A “classic” like Chinese Acupuncture and Moxabustion is not really the “best of TCM” that has filtered down through the centuries. However, it IS an incredibly good teaching tool for millions of Chinese and thousands of Western students. In its scope, CAM is unparalleled but we would all agree it doesn’t have a lot of depth. Meridian Style Acupuncture has, if not answered, addressed many questions left unsaid by texts and teachers.

Although Meridian Style Acupuncture is aimed at practicing acupuncturists, students should definitely read it. It also could be used as a textbook for acupuncture classes.

Meridian Style Acupuncture is divided into five sections. The first and shortest is what Pirog calls a “simplified” approach to making an acupuncture prescription. It really serves as a coherent and concise introduction to his approach for the rest of the book. Pirog introduces the chapter by pointing out the differences between needling techniques and makes clear why finding the point location changes according to how one uses the needles. As I understand it, he says that (in general) the “harder” Chinese needling technique reaches out to the point to be affected. “Softer” and shallower Japanese needling must be exactly on the point thus more palpation is needed to determine the point. This is a refreshingly non-judgmental assessment and one that clears a lot of confusion between different styles of acupuncture.

Pirog says that “meridian therapy” is the recognition of the flow of energy in the channels. The points, he eloquently states, “functions like the holes of a flute that could be opened or closed to alter the ‘tone’ of the meridian flow”. The primary role of the meridians is different than the emphasis on the points themselves as stated in most TCM text books. Pirog is able to talk about the points in exciting ways from this perspective.

The second, third and fourth sections cover much of the material in other acupuncture books but Pirog writes interesting and often lengthy discussions of the how, what and whys of the channels and the meridians. For example, he convincingly explains why we should care about the significance of distinguishing points as belonging to the Foot and Hand Tai-Yin, Shao Yin etc… Similarly, he devotes 15 pages to the Luo connecting channels. Here Pirog changes the conceptualization of their use that conforms to the indications as outlined in the Ling Shu. Acupuncturists may be surprised at the some of the conclusions he draws.

Other chapters in the second, third and fourth sections are devoted to lengthy discussions of the cutaneous zones, the proportion of Qi and Blood in the meridians, intersection points, xi-cleft, the “antique points, yuan source and entry and exit points.

Some of the writings here will not be without their controversies. I asked a acupunctuist from China to give me his opinion of the book. Although he reacted generally favorably, he mentioned several ideas that are inconsistent with acupuncture theory in China. One example which will cause much discussion is Pirog’s writings about the Chong channel. Pirog makes the argument that the Chong is a description of the arterial system. He asks whether this is why the Chong is called the “sea of blood”.

Pirog also blows away any illusions about the “window of the sky points” which so captivate many American acupuncturists. According to Pirog, the window of the sky points have no special clinical significance, despite their “heavenly” names which many say are evidence to their psychological functions.

Pirog’s discussion of the six levels is fascinating. He manages to re-frame the significance of their usage in a way that is practical and not solely theoretical.

The fifth section goes over functions for many of the points and is the weakest section of the book. Even these are not without some different conclusions. Fortunately, this section occupies only a small part of the entire book. Given the scope of the rest of the book this is a small complaint.

I was confused as to how much truly original information was in the book. Meridian Style Acupuncture flips between references to the ancient texts and what might be seen as totally original concepts. Often Pirog’s references are quotes from other footnoted sources. I felt as if his own concepts could have stood out more readily if the context for his ideas would have been referenced in relation to other books, or schools of thought. One also wishes that Pirog would have had the chance to read and comment Maoshing Ni’s newly published and imaginatively translated Su Wen as a source text.

The market for acupuncture books in the United States, new as it is, has given us many books that reflect the Chinese acupuncture school curriculum. We know that more Asian language acupuncture books will be translated into Western languages. Of no less importance are authors like Pirog who search for the best contemporary and practical solutions to our patient’s health.

Reviewed by Douglas Eisenstark L.Ac

Tai Chi Flipbook Balcom Book

The Tai Chi Flipbook

by Craig Balcom & Kirk Bales

The Tai Chi Flipbook presents the Yang style form from beginning to end in 415 individual photographs. The concept is simple, ingenious and it works. In addition, there are short descriptions of the positions, the trigrams and other comments concerning aspects of Chinese philosophy. For those who are beginning to learn the form, want to review it or learn a new style this is a great way to do just that.

This review is about 8 years old and I’ve lost track of where one can find this book. If you find out, let me know.