Optimal Medicine in the Real World
Updated March 1, 2004





Optimal Medicine in the Real World
By Brian Benjamin Carter, MSci, LAc

Brian is the founder of the Pulse of Oriental Medicine. He teaches at the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine and maintains a private acupuncture and herbal practice in San Diego, California, and is the author of Powerful Body, Peaceful Mind: How to Heal Yourself with Foods, Herbs, and Acupressure.

How do regular people use Optimal Medicine? I've had occasion to think on this one quite a bit since I started writing a book on optimal living a few months back. I thought the book would be easier to complete until I realized that I wasn't following all the advice myself! Despite my imperfections, which will doubtlessly continue, I decided to not only write the book but to live with it for a while before publishing and expecting other people to live by it.

I don't doubt in the power and utility of Chinese medicine advice, but I wanted to write a book that real people would use in their real lives. And in the last couple weeks while my wife and I have been buying a house, packing, getting ready to move, and in the meantime trying to keep up with all our regular work, writing, teaching, and patients, I became acutely aware of one of our biggest modern problems: overwhelm.

When you barely have time to get everything done at work, take care of your kids, and keep up the house and cars, how can you add even more health-promoting tasks to your to-do list? How can you integrate optimal wellness ideas without dropping everything or totally reworking your life all at once?

I think the best way to start to get on track is to work with an acupuncturist. Taming some of your imbalances, boosting your deficiencies, and clearing your mind will make everything else easier. Once you're more in balance, you can start shifting your food choices, exercise, sleep habits, relaxation techniques, etc.

This fits with Chinese medicine. Herbs and acupuncture are for real imbalances, diseases, and annoying symptoms. True, the wise way to live is preventively, but since most of us are just hearing about Chinese wellness wisdom, the likelihood is that we've already messed ourselves up a bit over the last few decades. You probably need some serious herbal and acupuncture intervention before you can get to the prevention side of things.

To be completely honest, this has been my own path. When I went to school, I received acupuncture and took herbs for years before I thought to look at whether my eating habits were contributing to my perpetual problems and imbalances. Now, even as I've changed my eating and living habits and found enjoyable exercises that improve my health, I still am not perfect (how shocking!), I still crave the wrong foods at times, I still over commit socially, and I occasionally get knocked out of emotional balance by situations that come up with other people.

Fact is, unless you move to a rural environment, simplify your life, purge yourself of greed and ambition, etc., you're going to be living in the same stress-filled, demanding, tiring world the rest of us live in. And if you do live in that world, acupuncture and herbs are an essential tool for remaining in balance and living well.

Here's an analogy for you. Say you live on a boat in the ocean - unless you paddle over to a lake (where the surface is almost always still), there will occasionally be storms, and waves will crash over your bow and fill your boat with water, and perhaps the occasional high wind will break your sail. Unless you bail out the water or use a water pump, you'll eventually sink. Unless you fix your sail, you won't go anywhere. If your water pump breaks down or gets clogged, you'll likewise be "up the creek." If you use engine power but don't replenish your gas supply, you'll get stuck out there.

Living on a boat in the ocean is just like managing our stressful lives. Unless you use herbs and acupuncture to calm your internal stress, reduce inflammation, purge toxins, and boost your deficiencies of energy, etc., you'll eventually sink, get stuck, or be up the creek. In other words, you'll get sick. If you don't take care of small imbalances, you get sick, and if you ignore your health even then, you may get a chronic illness that is too stubborn to cure.

The best time to deal with problems is when they are still small. So, regular acupuncture and herbal formulas that address the imbalances that tend to come up for you are the best way to stay in balance. Consult with a local acupuncturist to get on track for this.

AFTER you've added that layer of self-help, you can start thinking about changing your food choices, exercise, social and emotional habits, etc.

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About The PULSE
All information herein provided is for educational use only and not meant to substitute for the advice of appropriate local experts and authorities.

Copyright 1999-2074, Pulse Media International, Brian Carter, MSci, LAc, Editor