Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) works within its own paradigm. The new additions to the CA State Board booklist does little to reflect current widespread trends in the field, doesn't serve to deepen the understanding to TCM students, nor to better their clinical practice. One must question the possible motives behind these new additions and protect TCM education from becoming something other than TCM.
restorer of health to millions of people. Its curative strength and breath-taking
elegance stem from its reverence and obeisance to the time tested classical theories
of a grand and ancient culture, replete with wisdom, as well as doctors of great
stature and expertise. The theories and methods of this cultural treasure may
seem puzzling to the western medical point of view. But the fact remains that
its efficacy is potent, and while perhaps the western medical mind cannot easily
follow the method or logic of TCM treatment plans, the results in the form of patient
improvement may be measured easily by western medical standards.
Undeniably, we are practicing an ancient medicine in a time of inexorable
modernity. In our country and within the western medical community, TCM’s
legitimacy seems tantamount to integration. Even the most non-biomedicine
practitioners must speak the language of the western medical establishment if they
wish to properly manage patients and communicate with other caregivers. But
we commit a very great crime if, in our efforts to bridge two worlds and two vastly
different schools of thought, we allow one to usurp, dominate, and reshape the
Truly, TCM practitioners must learn the language with which to speak to western
doctors but it would be disastrous to try to be western doctors. If we attempt to
replace the western MD we will only do so poorly and to the extreme detriment
of those whom we are contracted to care for. Further, if we edit TCM to fit neatly
within the confines of Western Medical theory and practice, a system that cannot
well contain it, we will cast away the very essence of its vitality and efficacy, ergo
exactly that which is not easily grasped by the western mind. To press TCM into
the molds of western medical thought and protocol will at best render it useless
and ineffective, and at worst may even inflict harm or injury to patients. A TCM
treatment method used outside of its corresponding TCM diagnosis is incorrect and
It by virtue of this line of thought, with utmost respect, we wish to oppose the
inclusion of several of the new additions to the California Acupuncture Licensing
Exam booklist. These new additions do not serve the state board’s mandate to
protect the public or to promote quality educational standards, nor do they serve to
benefit the clinical practice of Chinese medicine in California.
In the case of Healing with Whole Foods by Paul Pitchford, not only is the great
bulk of this text a recipe book, but the book is not organized in such a way as to
be terribly useful to the clinician in training. Like most cookbooks, what is being
cooked is the main focus in lieu of who it is being cooked for. Diet is a very potent
healing modality within the theoretical framework of Chinese Medicine. Thus,
the most appropriate book will discuss diet particularly as it applies to patients
and resolving disease patterns. Additionally, in Healing with Whole Foods, the
TCM dietetic theory is liberally fused with nutritional theories particular to the
author and is considered controversial. The previously required book, The Tao of
Nutrition, does an excellent job of concisely explaining the theory and practice of
TCM dietetics. It is practical, far more useful with respect to information regarding
the constitutions patients and patterns of illness that may by benefitted by specific
dietary therapies, and most importantly faithful to TCM theory.
In the case of Neuro-acupuncture, most TCM master’s programs in the state
of California do not currently include neuro-acupuncture in their curriculum.
Additionally, most practicing acupuncturists do not use neuro-acupuncture. The
subject and study of neuro-acupuncture is currently a subject reserved for the
curriculum of select TCM doctorate programs as it is both complex and quite new to
the field of Chinese Medicine. Not only will schools will have some difficulty filling
the faculty position to teach the skills described in this book, as there are currently
so few experts in this field, also, students will find it difficult to learn and practice
effectively. Neuro-acupuncture is a specialty and the public would be better served
by allowing it to remain so.
It is also important to note that the theory of acupuncture does not rely upon
information provided by functional MRIs as its practice so far predates the invention
and use of such equipment. For the general practitioner, acupuncture is practiced by
the study and understanding of point locations and combinations as recommended
by ancient texts which are foundational to Chinese medicine as a whole. The
function and efficacy of acupuncture as a practice does not rely upon imaging studies
that may empirically explain is mechanism of action.
In the case of The Essence and Scientific Background of Tongue Diagnosis, the current
tongue book by G. Maciocia is quite detailed and serves to cover the subject of TCM
tongue diagnosis quite thoroughly. While the potential parallels between western
scientific discovery regarding change in tongue and tongue coating are fascinating,
they do not serve to make one a better TCM diagnostician. It is far better for the
TCM student to focus on recognizing tongue coats and understanding its place in
TCM pattern diagnosis than to be responsible for memorizing factoids that prove
the logic of TCM methods via western scientific means. In so far as the book may
present much information that agrees with and supports Maciocia’s tongue book, it
makes itself redundant and unnecessary.
In sum, these new additions neither serve to deepen the understanding to TCM
students nor to better their clinical practice. Instead, all of the new additions seem
to suggest that TCM theory is not complete in and of itself and that TCM’s legitimacy
rests not on its effectiveness and longevity as a practice but on its ability to be
proven and discussed within the western scientific paradigm. Both the public and
TCM practitioners would be far better served if acupuncture and herbology were
allowed to supplement western medicine rather than become it.
We, the undersigned, request that these new additions to the California State
Acupuncture Licensing Exam book list be removed entirely as their inclusion is a
disservice to students preparing for their licensing exams, sets a precedent that
devalues traditional theory and practice of Oriental Medicine, and may potentially
be harmful to the public.