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Black women of every age and economic group share similar health problems that may be under-diagnosed and under-treated by orthodox Western medicine. So, to prevent high blood-pressure, asthma, uterine fibroids, breast cancer, and heart disease, more and more of us are supplementing regular visits to our internists and gynecologists with alternative holistic medicine. Alternative medicine often includes acupuncture and Chinese herbal therapies which have proven so effective in some cases that more and more hospitals and insurance companies are supporting them. This month we have asked Dr. Nan Lu, a prominent practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine, to describe his approach to some conditions typically affecting black women.
Q: Uterine fibroids and painful menses have become a regular plague for modern black women of all ages. How might Chinese medicine judge and alleviate these problems?
Dr. Nan Lu: "A regular, pain-free period is the first indicator of good general health in women according to traditional Chinese medicine. Once you notice any problems with the menses you know there is a general imbalance which needs correcting. The organ which is most involved with the menses is the Liver. The emotions which most usually result in liver energy imbalance are anger, resentment, and stress. Often when I treat women with fibroids I find out that they are also in a bad romantic relationship, and/or a bad job, and while they may get better, they heal most completely if they also get out of the bad emotional situation they are in."
Q: I've been told that Chinese medicine believes that normal Qi (or positive body energy) is free-flowing, but that stuck or "stagnant" energy causes disease. We also hear that afflicted organs often become either too "hot" or too "cold" to function properly.
Dr. Nan Lu: "Menstruation accompanied by pain and heavy blood clots usually indicates cold stagnation of the involved organs. Normally I treat this condition with a combination of acupuncture and herbs, but I also advise patients to stop eating cold drinks and raw foods during the treatment. Non-organic dairy products and chicken should also be avoided because in America they tend to be loaded with artificial hormones. Mild herbal teas, soups, stews--even with moderate meat consumption-- all these are better for improving this condition."
Q: But in the West raw vegetables and cold water and juices are supposed to be good for you.
Dr. Nan Lu: "Not for a condition caused by cold and stagnant energy. Another problem is genetically modified foods. Canola oil is made from genetically-modified poppy seeds, which ordinarly have no positive food value. Even soy milk, normally so good for you, is harmful when made from GM soy. The consumer must be very vigilant. Organic foods must state how and where their contents were produced. The term "natural" does not necessarily mean "organic," so many people get fooled."
Q: Is there one particular patented Chinese herb that women can take before reproductive troubles start that might keep them free of fibroids and painful periods?
Dr. Nan Lu: "Yes. The herb is called Xiao Yao Wan, and can be purchased over the counter in most Chinese herb stores. But for guaranteed quality, choose the brands manufactured in China over the brands manufactured in Taiwan or the U.S., because in China this is a perscription medicine and it has to measure up to certain standards".
Q: One last question today about a very popular herb that I believe many black people may accidentally be abusing. Black men in particular tend to use ginseng for . . .
Dr. Nan Lu: "For sex! That's right. But ginseng should really only be used by people whose natural energy has been greatly diminished by long illness or old age. The danger for younger, healthier people who use it just for an "extra boost" is that they will soon become dependant on ginseng as an artificial stimulant and thereby reduce their body's normal ability to produce its own energy."
Master Nan Lu teaches Taoist healing principals and the internal art of Wu Ming Qigong [Chi Kung], at the American Taoist Healing Center in Manhattan. Dr. Lu holds a doctorate in Traditional Chinese Medicine from Hubei College of TCM in China, and a Master of Science degree from City University of New York. He is a New York State licenced acupuncturist, and was a member of an advisory group of participants in a landmark study on the efficacy of Chinese herbs conducted by Columbia University's Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine Research in Women's Health. Those with further questions can search Dr. Lu's internet site at www.tcmworld.org, or phone the center at 212-274-0999 to subscribe to the Center's seasonal newsletter and newspaper.
Published in: Black Elegance, Winter 2002
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