Imagine that you wanted to inform another health care professional (a doctor, another complementary therapist, a hospital "administrator"), or a committed and enthusiastic patient, about Chinese medicine. There might be a great deal you would like them to know: the history of the medicine, its theoretical constructs, what it comprises, how it is practised, its range of application, its effectiveness across a wide range of conditions.
You would want to do justice to the beauty and singularity of this unique medical tradition, as well as draw on the great amount of modern clinical and experimental research that is beginning to offer overwhelming evidence for its effectiveness. This book is exactly what you would be looking for, and if you read it yourself first, there would be an enormous amount you would learn and be inspired by, even if you had studied and practised for many years.
Numerous authors have supplied chapters on their area of expertise, and have written in plain language, clearly explaining wherever necessary any technical terms from both Chinese medicine and modern biomedicine. Many of the chapters include comprehensive accounts of clinical studies, whilst others dwell on the personal experiences of practitioners and patients. As an overview of Chinese medicine today, and as an introduction to the subject, this book outstrips anything that has yet been published.
Chapters cover basic theories and treatment modalities (including diagnostic techniques, acupuncture and moxibustion, herbal medicine, dietary medicine, bodywork and qigong), delivery of care (some fascinating and detailed case histories, an account of the work of an acupuncture detoxification clinic, reflections on their daily working lives by five practitioners) and research data. This section covers such subjects as the physiology of acupuncture (by Richard Hammerschlag), research into why patients use Chinese medicine and what they say about it, and the treatment of pain, addictions, respiratory disease, women's reproductive health, depression and mental disease, digestive disorders and paralysis, mostly by acupuncture. A short final section ("the profession of Oriental medicine") is relevant only to US readers.
To end this review of a really excellent book, I would like to quote a snippet of the kind found throughout the text:
In a large-scale (N = 575) survey of patient attitudes toward acupuncture and their OM practitioners, respondents reported high satisfaction with their practitioners and described their relationship to their practitioners in warmly relational terms. For example, on a 5-point scale, 69.3% claimed to be "extremely" satisfied with their OM practitioner, and 21.9% stated that they were "very" satisfied. The comparative values for their biomedcal practitioners were 15.3% and 28.5%, respectively. Requested to select one among nine vertical (authoritarian) or horizontal (facilitative) words to describe their sense of relationship to their OM practitioner, two thirds selected facilitative terms. The most popular horizontal term was "partner"; the second most popular term was "friend." Of the vertical terms, only "doctor" was selected with any frequency, and this only at sites where the practitioner used the title Doctor.