This is it -- my last chance to say things in the National
University of Health Sciences Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine
blog. I've said a lot of stuff each week over the past couple of
years... some mildly interesting, maybe helpful, and probably a lot
of things that only I cared about. Sorry, not sorry.
So, here's everything else I thought about saying and never put
into an actual blog. Let's call these the bloglets.
1. Everything is the same as it used to be.
Nothing's really new--from
medicine to pop culture. People freak out about texting while
driving. Really? Sure, it's dangerous and awful, but is it really
that different than 15 years ago when we used to drive around with
a binder of CDs on the passenger seat and flip through looking for
the next one to pop in and listen to? Remember that time in
7th grade when you and your friends thought you made up
"LYLAS" to write it yearbooks, only to hear your mom say that they
used to write, it, too? Now it's vibration--everyone's talking
about raising your vibration or changing your vibration for optimal
health and wellness. Think it's a new concept? Think again. Last
night I was reading about 19th-century psychic Edgar Cayce and the
idea that each thought, feeling, or experience you have changes
your vibration. Everything is energy, science says, so who can
argue with that?
2. What are people doing with laptops in the
When I started this
program, I wondered why some students would pop open a laptop and
stare at it through an entire class. What were they doing? My
guesses were: 50% on Facebook, 20% Netflix, 20% frantically
finishing up homework for another class, and likely just 10% doing
anything related to the class we were in (this was Dave--you take
great notes on your tablet and you've bought shoes online as far as
I know). I started sitting behind people just to see how accurate I
was. What did I find? Lots of online shopping. Are our classes that
stressful that an online shoe purchase is in order? I vowed I
wouldn't bring my laptop and tune out during a class… then my final
trimester happened. Somehow I was transformed into that person--I
hit the seat and I flipped open my laptop within seconds. In my
defense I'm generally doing productive things--googling the
ingredients of the liniment Dr. Stretch just mentioned, writing
this blog, grading student papers, scheduling my kids' dentist
appointments, etc.--but still, I'm staring at that screen.
3. Favorite professor moments.
I didn't do this one, because I thought it would be rude to
simply copy my commencement speech and paste it into a blog post.
Looks like you'll have to attend graduation to hear these.
4. I always wanted to interview a student who was
dual-enrolled in the Naturopathic doctorate program and the AOM
program, and also the Doctor of Chiropractic program and the AOM
I had Nolan right at my fingertips for so long--we
could have had the perspective of a yogi doctor learning
acupuncture. Wow. I know people are always wondering what the
differences are between the various medical programs, and I thought
I'd be the person to try to hash some of that out publicly. Nope.
Never got around to that.
Nolan Lee, DC, and current MSAc student:
"Acupuncture is a fantastic complement to what I do as a
chiropractic physician. It makes my practice valuable to a whole
different population of patients who do not necessarily seek
chiropractic care, but are open to acupuncture. An MSAc degree
helps to better understand this age-old art that is so rich and
complex in its applications and theories."
5. ...And I'd like to introduce Maile Horita, who will
be taking over the AOM blog next trimester!
Maile has experience with
writing an oriental medicine blog already, and I've already given a
great idea for content to get started with (see #4). Just
kidding--write about your passions! I'm looking forward to reading
her blogs in the future.
Thanks for all of the support over the past three years,
community. I'll probably accidentally drive here a few times by
mistake out of habit, but other than that, I'm OUT!
If you don't pray, put them together anyway. In the
age of anything goes, I've taken to the lazy practice of praying
silently in my head while lying in bed at night. I don't know where
my hands are exactly, but they sure aren't folded nicely in front
of my chest like the iconic prayer image of the olden days.
Who cares? Why bother pressing your hands together and holding
them in that fairly awkward position that drove me nuts as a
Catholic school kid? I'll be the first to admit that I let my
fingers fall and intertwine into the sloppy prayer paws pose as
soon as the priest looked the other direction.
Now I realize I was screwing myself out of some real benefits.
Sure, God was probably disappointed in my faulty direction
following, but I'm not focusing on the spiritual deficit here. I'm
focusing on the physical and even the psychological benefits I --
and many other lazy prayers -- had been missing out on all my young
This whole conversation hinges on one
important point -- an acupuncture point -- called Pericardium 6, or
"PC6" as we call it, because again we're all too lazy to stick to
the formalities in life. What does PC6 have to do with prayer paws
(as my kids call them)? This now famous spot, two inches proximal
to the inner wrist crease, has been dubbed the most researched
acupoints of the modern day. You know those "anti-nausea"
motion-sickness type bracelet bands, with the ball that presses
into the inner wrist? That thing's stimulating good ole PC6.
Why is PC6 such a beneficial acupoint? Our trusty
guide to acupuncture points and meridians and their energetic
functions is a beefy, rust-colored book usually referred to by its
author's last name, "Deadman." What does Deadman say about PC6? Oh,
nothing too exciting. Just that it treats all diseases of the
chest, particularly the heart, but also benefits the lungs, too. It
can be used for heart surgery analgesia. What? Yes! No anesthesia
necessary...just squeeze PC6 for me while I go under the knife!
In TCM terms, PC6 "unbinds the chest and regulates
qi," "regulates the heart and calms the spirit," "harmonizes the
stomach to relieve nausea," and "clears heat." It's indicated in
conditions such as heart pain, palpitations, cough, asthma,
insomnia, anxiety, abdominal masses, fevers, malaria, irregular
menstruation, and swellings in the armpits. Nothing important
there, right? Not! PC6 does just about everything you could want an
acupoint to do.
During a recent advanced seminar class with Dr. Robin Fan, we
discussed the benefit of stretching the Kidney meridian in cases of
heel pain. Suddenly, all I could picture was the traditional prayer
pose--hands out front, pressed gently together, stretching and
stimulating the bulk of the Pericardium meridian!
It makes sense. What is the function of prayer if
not to calm the mind and spirit? It's not just Catholics and other
Christians who have always used this prayer pose, either. As my
mind wandered -- sorry, Dr. Fan -- around the globe, I saw the
Chinese practicing qi gong poses, the Indians practicing
yoga poses, etc. Every tradition I could think of involved some use
of this position.
In anthropology, when we see similar customs or values amongst a
variety of cultural groups around the world, we call those core
elements "cultural universals." In other words, everybody's doing
it. Why? The answer is one that, despite my need to create an
evidence-based practice, I've always secretly promulgated;
sometimes, you don't need to sit around waiting for a formal
research study to prove a truth. It's lovely that western medicine
has put together some studies that do show the efficacy of PC6 in
some conditions, but I'm not waiting for them to prove the rest.
I'm going with Deadman and the ancient world traditions on this
Pray on, prayers!
I like to eat popcorn
before bed at night...every night. I'm defended my position for
years, so I'm ready for your attacks. No, I don't think it's bad
for me. I air pop organic, non-GMO corn and drizzle on melted
grass-fed organic butter. Most deliciously, I sprinkle sea salt all
over the top.
Let me stop lying. It's more like I pour on the butter and the
salt every one-inch tall increment of popcorn as it falls into the
bowl. That's impressive, and it's a skill I've honed over several
years. You have to stand at the ready, slowly spinning the bowl
under the air popper with your left hand while gently drizzling on
the butter from your right hand. Even coverage. Every time.
Now I'll begin to unfold
the secrets of my popcorn affair. Is it enough that my bedtime
snack is free from pesticides, antibiotics, growth hormones, and
genetic modification? We all know I'm not making toxic microwave
popcorn. Sure, it clears the "no bad things" screening fairly
easily, but, as I always ask when someone proudly shows me a "100
calorie" pack of cookies, "What is actually in there
that's good for you?"
Over the past couple of years here at NUHS in the AOM program,
I've horrified more than a couple of peers by describing my
nighttime ritual. Although we naturally-minded medical people are
generally all in agreement that whole-fat butter is better for your
body than any margarine-like alternative, I've still heard the "too
much fat for your liver to clean" argument against my nightly
Several months ago, I
decided to give it a try. Who wants a Liver or Gall Bladder channel
obstructed by phlegm? Not me. So I cut down my popcorn to once
every week or two. It was rough. It was sad. I felt incomplete in
some way when laying down for bed at night. My kidneys cried me to
sleep, begging for the tonification that salt provides my deficient
little nephron bodies. They went hungry, as did I.
After a few weeks of my new deprivation lifestyle, I realized
something shocking -- I wasn't sleeping well! I've always been a
good sleeper, falling right to sleep each night and sleeping
straight through until the morning. Nine hours or so was the
glorious norm for me. Not anymore. Suddenly it was a struggle to
fall asleep and to stay asleep. Transient insomnia? Definitely.
Chronic insomnia? I didn't want to head down that road.
Luckily, I happened to be taking Eric Baker's "Nutrition and
Food Therapy of Oriental Medicine" course at this very time. I
glanced down at my handout during class, and what did I see? Salty
(a flavor in TCM, but most specifically manifested in actual SALT)
collects the Shen. The Shen in TCM is basically the spirit or mind
of the person.
I had been
neatly collecting my overscheduled, chaotic Shen before bed each
night by some sort of inexplicable subconscious desire to put my
mental pieces back together in order to sleep well. Now what was I
doing? I was trying to fall asleep and stay asleep while my Shen
gallivanted around my body and my life, scattered in tiny pieces
into all of my hats -- mother, wife, student, professor, friend,
sister, etc. No wonder I was failing every night.
Upon making the core connection between my salt, my shen, and my
sleep, I promptly began my nightly (or nearly nightly) ritual of
devouring a bowl of salty, buttery popcorn. What do you think
happened? Let's just say I sleep nicely once again. My body was
speaking to me, and I needed to listen. Pop on, popcorn!
Over the past four weeks in my "Nutrition and Food Therapy of
Oriental Medicine" course, I've been frustrated and slightly
puzzled over the subject matter. I'm usually more a
go-with-the-flow student in class; I'm sure the instructor knows
what we need to cover and how to cover it. This time around, I
still think he knows what we need to cover and how to lay it out,
but I'm not as easy going about the whole thing for some
Maybe it's because it's springtime, so my Liver wind is swirling
and I'm irritable. Perhaps I'm overly critical because dietetics is
my personal favorite element of oriental medicine. Maybe I'm just a
jerk. I don't know. I want to study therapeutic properties of
foods, and I want to right now!
Let me start by saying how much I like this professor and every
class I've had with him to date. The theory behind where we stick
these needles and which herbal formulas we recommend is absolutely
mind blowing. He taught me two years ago that winter has a color
and a flavor -- black and salty, for the record. Yet each week, we
seem to review the basics -- flavors and temperatures of
substances. The course title indicates that the focus of the
classwork will be nutrition and food therapy within the framework
of oriental medicine, so I keep wanting more -- more detail, more
examples, more ideas of how to alter a person's diet in order to
As we approach the famed Week Five Quiz that now makes an
appearance in most classes, I'm starting to second-guess myself.
Have we been just reviewing the basics of five-phase
theory, or did the professor slip pages of new detail into the
lectures when I wasn't looking? I'm sure he worked new information
into the framework so smoothly that my associate learning didn't
even know what was happening.
My frustration with this class is that I love the topic so much
that I can't reach a satiation point. I will never have enough
detail about food therapy to be content. I want more, I want it
now, and I want to share it with everyone I know...and some people
I don't even know yet.
Once again, springtime has
duped me. I'm irritable, I'm impatient, and my Liver is out of
control. Feel my pulse, second position on the left wrist. Can you
As I do from time to time, I realize now it's time to reread the
Dao de Jing, or the Tao Te Ching. Same book. Oh,
pinyin, you are a beast that cannot be pinned down. The point is
that this book, this short, easy to read, little book, can save
your sanity. Whenever I feel overwhelmed, overstressed, over Livery
in any way, I know it's time to pick it up.
Look at this thing. Lao Tzu, you genius!
"Those who know do not
Those who speak do not know."
I, and just about everyone else, could learn a little something
from that eloquent one-liner (two-liner?).
"Rushing into action, you fail.
Trying to grasp things, you lose them.
Forcing a project to completion, you ruin what was almost
I don't even like poetry, but this stuff is literally
So, why I am frustrated in
Nutrition class? Why do I want to rush it? Why am I desperately
grasping at the next piece of information? It's that "forcing a
project to completion" part, that part I love for personal reasons.
My procrastination has been vindicated!
As a professor, I often wait until the deadline to return
students' papers; as a student, I expect my professors to grade my
paper today! Actually, I don't think Lao Tzu would like that
"I hope the points aren't just nerves being shocked by needles,"
I said to AOM classmate Irene. As one of the few AOM students who
originally came into the program to focus on herbal preparations
and dietetics, I felt particularly uninformed about this whole
acupuncture thing. So, there in one of the first courses on the
theory of point energetics -- what the acupoints do and how they do
it -- I finally vocalized, albeit in a whisper-like fashion, my
growing fear: Maybe there's no meridian or point energetics beyond
just sticking a needle into a nerve and hoping it stimulates
something productive in the patient's body. Sure, that might still
help, but it certainly doesn't have the mystique that interested me
in the first place.
"Moving blood and qi," "balancing
energy," and "harmonizing yin and yang"...these concepts are
intriguing, promising, and yes, darn near magical in my opinion. If
we're just jabbing people with needles and shocking them wildly,
then I'm not sure I have the buy-in that a 3-year master of science
in oriental medicine degree requires. So there I sat, giving power
to my secret fear by speaking it aloud, not knowing what Dr. Yihyun
Kwon was going to say to pull me back over to his side of the
fence, and hoping that there was something more -- more ancient,
more Daoist, more qi-related in any way. (Spoiler Alert. Dr. Kwon
Irene surprised me with her response, which I recall as being
something along the lines of, "So what if acupuncture is
just stimulating nerves with needles?" How could she be so callous
to this deep fear that I'd been subconsciously fostering for the
first three months of our program? Didn't she understand that I was
sitting there, suffering in silence, desperate for some oriental
What Dr. Kwon went on to explain in that first Energetics class,
and even more so the following year in Neurophysiology of
Acupuncture class, was a concept that bridged the gap between the
mysticism and the mundane. He simultaneously satisfied my cravings
for evidence-based medicine as well as ancient tradition. Dr. Kwon
= 2. Juli's irrational fears = 0.
Yes, he explained, some points are located right
beside or above a nerve -- grazing it ever so slightly and
eliciting that loved or hated sensation we call "de qi," when
energy arrives along that meridian. Further research and
dissections have confirmed that many of those points not located at
a nerve are actually located exceptionally close to an artery or
vein. Here's where he blows my mind in 3...2...1....
Next, he tells us that these vessels and other structures
harboring acupoints are essentially wrapped up in nerve fibers
themselves. Yes, readers, we've come full circle in Juli's
understanding of neurophysiology (which doesn't take long). Many
acupoints are on a nerve; those that aren't, still kind of are.
And now to process this information.... Do I hate this answer?
Does it ruin the grandeur of ancient energy meridian theory? Nah. I
took the news fairly well, all ignorance and expectations
considered. In today's health care climate, I like that modern
science keeps proving acupuncture theory to be true. Time and time
again, I see modern western research pointing to the validity of
traditional medicine. At the end of the day, or the century, who
doesn't like being told, "You're right"?
• So What Is Chinese Medicine?
• Jabbing Nerves with Needles
• Mission in Nicaragua
To read older blog posts, scroll to the bottom and click the "Older Posts" button.