The title of the book “Essential Medical Treasures of the Golden Chamber” in prescription could lead one’s imagination to conjure up images of medicines being locked up in ornately carved rooms from bygone times. In actuality, it is a classic clinical book of traditional Chinese medicine written by Zhang Zhongjing (150-219) at the end of the Eastern Han Dynasty and first published in the Northern Song Dynasty. Having established medication principles and summed up the medicinal experience up until that time, his book is widely considered a masterpiece in Chinese Medicine. Zhang Zhongjing’s work is still used as a reference by many modern Chinese Medicine practitioners, as its time-tested teachings have proved invaluable to patients of Chinese Medicine countless times throughout the centuries. Many are drawn to Golden Chamber herb prescriptions because of its personalised nature, which focuses on the medicinal properties of natural herbs in conjunction with other forms of treatments and therapies, such as acupuncture, moxibustion and cupping, just to name a few. For the natural herbs, Chinese Medicine makes full use of different plants, identifying the medicinal value in a plant’s roots, stem, flower, leaves and seeds. These are used to treat a variety of afflictions including women health issues such as menopause.
According to the experts, there is no word for ‘menopause’ in Chinese. Chinese Medicine practitioners refer to menopause as ‘the syndrome before and after menstruation stops’ deeming menopause an inevitable part of life’s rhythm. In Chinese Medicine it is believed that women enter a different phase of life every seven years. Seven phases into a seven-year cycle and a woman will be 49 years old, which is the age of menopause for some, although different women have different constitutions and may manifest different issues during menopause. As such, the first thing a Chinese Medicine physician checks is the yin-yang imbalance in a woman. There are four pillars of diagnosis in Chinese Medicine, which are inspection, auscultation-olfaction, interrogation, and palpation. Or for us lay-person looking, listening, asking and palpitating. Chinese Medicine practitioners are trained in the minutiae of appearances, looking at a patient’s eyes, skin, and tongue, to pick up subtle clues as to what imbalances may be occurring in a patient’s body. In modern medicine, the treatment of menopause focuses primarily on hormones. However, in Chinese Medicine there are various medicines and herbs which can be used. One treatment does not fit all. Some women may not need help when they enter into the menopausal age, with the symptoms passing in a year. Others may have symptoms for ten years, and these are the ones who may benefit from a diet of Five Colours and Five Tastes. Chinese medicine believes that five is the number of universal balance. There are five elements (Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water), and it is believed that humans are made of these five elements. In order for the elements to be perfectly in sync, a person must consume food from all the elements. Women approaching the age of 49 would be advised by Chinese Medicine physicians to begin a protective, balancing food and herb regiment, in order to prepare the body for menopause, admonishing women to take care of themselves when they are young if they desire an easy menopause.
When examining a woman, Chinese Medicine practitioners will be able to tell from her complexion if she has too much internal heat, as this will show in the appearance of acne. In cases like this, patients would be advised to remove spicy food from their diet. A woman with sweaty hot flushes illustrates a Yin deficiency, which may also result in insomnia. If the liver has too much Fire, this may result in a bad temper. That is why a consultation is very important. It is also the reason why treatment may take longer for some women than others. It all depends on the deficiencies in a patient.
Another aspect of menopause where Chinese Medicine is concerned, is how a woman has internalized her ‘hurts’. There are two kinds of hurts; the physical and the emotional. Hurt which is kept penned in can result in depression with the onset of menopause. Again, this points to imbalances of the yin or yang. While Chinese Medicine practitioners treats patients in China primarily with herbs – and continuously reaffirm that herbs have always, and will always be the main treatment method in Chinese Medicine – with the globalisation of Chinese Medicine, one would be surprised as to how many of the remedies are now available in capsules or pills, so the need to pound, crush or boil them is no longer as time-consuming or daunting. Other methods such as acupressure and moxibustion are also used to lessen the financial burden of herb consumption. Acupuncture is also used for patients whose menopausal symptoms include insomnia. Rounding back, the use of Golden Chamber Prescription is becoming increasingly popular with its influence stretching far beyond the Chinese community. Perhaps this success can be attributed to the many centuries of experience and research that have been devoted to the study of Chinese Medicine. Be it ginger, ginseng, cinnamon, licorice or any of the hundreds of herbs used in Chinese Medicine, the properties of these herbs have been well explored and continue to be explored. Only time can tell what new medicinal discoveries have yet to be unearthed from the Golden Chamber. References: http://www.itmonline.org/arts/herbintro.htm Subhuti Dharmananda, Ph.D., Institute for Traditional Medicine, Portland, Oregon https://nccih.nih.gov/health/whatiscam/chinesemed.htm National Centre for Complementary and Integrative Health https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/chinese-herbal-medicine Better Health Channel This article is written based on a media conference conducted by Prof Qu Li Fang, Head of the Golden Chamber Department and Supervisor of the Doctorate Programme at the Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine. This article is brought to you by IMU Healthcare.
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