I found the November 2007 issue of the Kan Herb Company newsletter interesting.First, because it was written by Ted Kaptchuk (whose herb classes is one of my favorite memories of the PCOM masters program in San Diego) and second, because he brings up a topic that many of us on this forum touch on frequently: the fact that Oriental medicine practitioners may be slowly getting sucked into the biomedical (say “western”) expectations of using our tools in Newtonian fashion, forgetting that our acupuncture and herbs are only part of a larger paradigm that includes the way we personally relate to our patients as professionals. Many of you probably have read this already, but for those who do not receive the newsletter, I’ll try to give you a brief summary here.Beginning with Stewart Wolf’s studies in 1950 when he was the first person to physically observe living cells change in response to the patient’s emotional state, Ted mentioned following trials that confirmed Dr. Wolf’s objection to the mechanical, physical administration of drugs.These experiments showed that many drugs could not be felt by subjects if they were not told they were being given these drugs.For example, one trial had patients taking bronchodilators, but were told that they were bronchoconstrictors.Bronchodilators are supposed to relieve asthma symptoms, and bronchoconstrictors typically induce asthma symptoms.Well, guess what?The bronchodilator group which was told they were receiving bronchoconstrictors actually developed asthma symptoms.Similar results occurred involving painkiller drugs and a Parkinson’s disease drug.This information, Ted points out, is consistently ignored by the biomedical profession.And these experiments only focused on a “small area of communication between patient and practitioner.They overlook many other forms of communication: the phrasing of words, posture, gestures, attention, intention, genuiness (sic), office feng shui, diplomas on the wall, empathy, explanation and diagnosis, construction of narrative, compassion, belief, conviction and vision.”He says that they hold the ideology that ”drugs can control and dominate”.Even more alarming to us as acupuncturists is that he feels that some of this philosophy has crept into our profession, and that some OM practitioners are using herbs and acupuncture the way M.D.s use pharmaceuticals.In this article,Ted Kaptchukis calling on us to reclaim our legacy that our medicine should affirm, as our classics have, that the transformation we call healing is really an “interconnected series of communications and resonances.”
The theme for this conference is “Breaking Barriers”. You know, there are so many barriers to break in acupuncture that it was really hard to choose which ones to talk about for this speech. But since I’ve spent so much time talking about classism as a barrier, I thought it might be fun to shift gears a little and talk about numbers.