Chinese Medicine For Dummies

I’m sure that many of you are interested in Chinese medicine but, like me, have trouble finding good resources to educate ourselves. I just finished a new illustrated book published in 2008 which makes learning about Chinese medicine almost fun. Almost. It’s called The Illustrated Book of Traditional Chinese Cultivation of Health. I recommend it as good starter material for anyone interested in TCM. Here’s the publisher blurb:

This is the first illustrated book ever published in English about the basic theories of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM).
It is concise, yet vivid, and easy to comprehend. Filled with hundreds of lively illustrations, Zhou Chuncai introdues the subject systematically, comprehensively and enjoyable, guiding the reader step by step through the enigmatic world of TCM.

The book covers:

  • Theories of Yin-Yang and Five Elements, the Basic Theories of TCM
  • Doctrine of Visceral Manifestions
  • The Basic concepts of Qi, Blood and Body Fluid
  • Pathogenic Factors in TCM
  • Treatment based on syndrome differentation
  • Eight Therapeutic methods in Chinese medicine

It’s As Easy As It’s Going To Get…

Readers are probably familiar with the Dummies series of books which for two decades have provided simple how-to guides for hundreds of topics. So you can consider this book as a Dummies guide to TCM. It covers all the basic theory, as well as more practical issues of which famous medicines work for what diseases. The very cute illustrations make this far more readable than any other text I’ve seen on TCM, and studying TCM literally probably can’t get any easier than this. But honestly that isn’t such high praise, as it’s still very difficult reading, and understanding TCM is never easy.

After finishing this book, I must confess that I still have almost no deep grasp of TCM theories. The illustrations help a lot, but the underlying structure remains completely obscure to me. More importantly for me, I am less inclined than before to think of TCM as a serious approach to health. It’s elegant and poetic and provides nice basic instructions on good health, but the underlying scientific basis for almost any of it remains unproven. After reading this, I feel fairly done with my attempts to understand TCM. I’ve tried, and I’ve researched, and I am more comfortable than ever that TCM has little to add to my medical practice. I still will continue my attempts to find herbs that work.

Where To Buy

My wife ordered it for 34 kuai on; I see it here on the English language site, as well as I’m sure the local bookstores can order it as well.

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3 thoughts on “Chinese Medicine For Dummies”

  1. I'm curious how this book compares to The Web That Has No Weaver — have you read that one? That book was recommended to me by a doctor friend who said that is was the book that she and her med student peers had to read re: Chinese health theory. It's written by a Western doctor who also has full credentials and training in TCM, and he's trying to avoid the parallel ditches beside the road to understanding TCM: on one side, explaining TCM in Western medical terminology, therefore not doing justice to TCM concepts; and on the other side, translating TCM terminology into English without adequate cultural/philosophical background information so as to make just so much gibberish. He begins the book in Chinese philosophy, not medicine. I didn't feel that it was too shallow, just that understanding takes patience and a lot of effort (probably much more than the average laowai with only a casual interest in TCM is willing to spend). I read it because I wanted to have a clue where my Chinese friends were coming from. Have to admit, wrapping my Euro-American mind around this whole different worldview perspective, thinking from whole new though categories, etc., is not easy. Not to be a blog comment spammer, but here's what I've written on that book:
    ~ Chinese Medicine: Getting a Clue (Part 1)
    I attempted some explanation of my own here:
    ~ Fire-Cupping & Guasha for Dummies
    Our general adventures of unavoidably encountering the wacky world of TCM are here.

    1. I read that very famous book a couple years ago and I liked it overall, but it wasn’t scientifcally rigorous. It is a fairly easy read, though, and a good start for westerners…

  2. Just ran across a neat study today. TCM Herbal treatment for ADHD seems effective.

    A Compound Herbal Preparation (CHP) in the Treatment of Children With ADHD: A Randomized Controlled Trial

    Study done by 4 TCM and herbal doctors at a LD Centre in Israel.

    download here and here hildren%20with%20ADHD-1.pdf

    It details the physical (structural and neuronal) brain changes and growth patterns seen with ADHD and how a few simple herbal supplements helped the group taking it. (It's marketed as "Nurture & Clarity" by MayWay out of California, but the herbs are easily gotten in China, I'd assume)

    The "CHP" Consisted of herbs only: "The CHP being evaluated consisted of a patented blend of nutritive, food-grade herbs, prepared as a highly stable, dilute ethanol extract called Nurture & Clarity. The primary active herbal ingredients of the CHP include Paeoniae Alba, Withania Somnifera , Centella Asiatica, Spirulina Platensis, Bacopa Monieri, and Mellissa Officinalis"

    They say these herbs contained Phospholipids, B Vitamins, Essential Fatty Acids and more, and they detail a little bit of the biochemistry of how they are supposed to work. Interesting study, not a huge sample size. Published in the Journal of Attention Disorders.

    I personally find the .doc document easier to read, but the pdf has the journal reference and publication date.

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