Oriental Medicine

In 1971, newspaperman James Reston accompanied President Nixon to China where he experienced firsthand a type of medicine unknown in the United States. Reston received acupuncture treatment, and the entire Nixon delegation was so impressed with what they observed it caused a minor sensation when they returned.

Prior to this time, only those in the Asian communities of America had any exposure to the traditional Chinese medicine, and only Oriental doctors were able to provide it. Because of the interest the sparked by Reston’s, and other’s, articles, the American pubic clamored for this mysterious Eastern secret which could eliminate pain, reduce the need for surgery and drugs, and actually promote health.

There were two things that people of the U.S. did not realize: One was that, spectacular as it is, acupuncture is only a part of Oriental Medicine. The second was that acupuncture has been used in Europe for more than one hundred years and is taught in most major medical schools there. What Americans thought of as a uniquely Asian method is actually international in its use.


In traditional Oriental Medicine, there are two groups of methods used: the inner and the outer. Inner methods include oral medicines (which consist of herbs, minerals, organic extracts, etc.), dietary regulation, detoxification, mental exercises, and contemplation. The outer methods include point stimulation (whether by pressure, needles, or non-needle stimulation), massage and joint mobilizations, muscular re-education, therapeutic exercises, moxibustion (a type of herbal heat treatment applied to the acupuncture points), and the application of heat, cold, or medicinal substances to the skin.  There is a very close overlap with Naturopathic medicine as it exists in Western countries.  For those familiar with Naturopathic medicine,  Oriental medicine can be essentially the same, with an Asian flavor.

Because of its exposure in the various news media, however, acupuncture is seen to be synonymous with Oriental Medicine; so much so, in fact, that the many states which license or certify Doctors of Oriental Medicine register them as Acupuncturists. This is similar to Doctors of Chiropractic being listed as Chiropractors. There are currently more than 10,000 licensed practitioners of Oriental Medicine in the United States, and more than two dozen colleges training an increasing number of new doctors every year. The demand for safe, effective, natural healthy care has resulted in more than forty states recognizing Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.


The European doctors who adopted Oriental Medicine added their own refinements over the years, resulting in techniques never dreamed of in ancient China. Many new ways of assisting the bio-energy of the body, which acupuncture seeks to do, have been developed in modern times. Effective stimulation of the acupuncture points has been achieved by the use of electricity, magnetic impulses, infra-red light, and lasers; many of these developments have taken place in Russia, where energetic medicine is taken very seriously. Acupuncture is also a much-respected method used in conventional medicine in France.

Diagnostic information, once obtained only by careful observation by the doctor, is now possible by electrical readings taken from various test points on the body in much the same way a Western-trained doctor uses EKG to read the heart, or an MRI to check internal tissues. German technology was able to put Oriental medical concepts on an equal footing with the most modern scientific developments.

Most Americans, though, are not aware of the mountains of scientific data behind the practice of Oriental Medicine. They associate it with human pincushions, or have been misinformed about the scope of the practice. Although former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, M.D., has endorsed its use, the public has little idea of how widely it is practiced, or for what conditions it is successful in treating. The World Health Organization (medical department of the United Nations) lists quite a number of varied illnesses that show good responses to acupuncture.


What appeals most to those who choose Oriental Medicine for their health care needs is the individualized attention and treatment they receive. In ancient times, doctors were on retainer to the families they served, and were paid to help their patients maintain their health, rather than being paid once the people fell ill. This is quite a contrast with our current medical system, where you only visit the doctor if you are sick!

Because of this tradition, the modern Doctor of Oriental Medicine gets to know his or her patients very well, usually serving the entire family, as in days gone by. Health is seen as a matter of internal and external balance, and this can be promoted with routine treatments designed to prevent illness. Long-time users of Oriental Medicine attest to the disease-preventing effects of regular acupuncture treatments, or seasonal lifestyle adjustments. The philosophy of the Eastern approach appeals to people’s common sense: it’s more logical to try to increase health than to decrease disease!