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Clinical Story of the Month 

(Copyright Stemmler 1999)

The Great Wall as a Symbol of Healing

The Great Wall of China is one of the 7 Wonders of the World, and the only man-made structure that can be seen from space. It was completed by 214 BC through forced labor of thousands of peasants, during the Qin dynasty. It extends 1,500 miles across northern China, a distance comparable to that between Houston, TX and Washington, DC. It takes a certain amount of stamina to walk this hilly, stone-surfaced path, and here is where our story begins.

Rose Sand is a woman in the prime of her life. In her late 40’s, she has a grown child and a perfect marriage of 20 years. She is bright and beautiful, yet years of over-commitment and problems with an under lying weakened constitution have debilitated her energy to a complete state of exhaustion. From a Western perspective she had been diagnosed as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome 2 years earlier, a complex condition that leaves a person powerless: witho ut strength and without defense. Frequent, recurrent infections, especially upper respiratory infections, are quite common. Daily activities can become a monumental task. Rose had tried all Western care available, and even 5 months of once-a-week acu puncture and a psychic healer, without making much progress. She came to us for a last resort opinion, not knowing where to turn.

In my evaluation of the patient she looked pale, with low Qi (energy), soft voice, low back pain, constipated, with frequent nighttime urination. Tongue and pulses also indicated generalized Qi defi ciencies. Her past history included multiple x-rays, the use of Aspartame until 4 years ago, poor nutritional habits and food quality until 5 months prior to her visit, and extensive dental work. She used chemical hair color and cosmetics.

We discussed all aspects of her life and made some major initial changes. I treated her with acupuncture and tonic herbs, as well as herbs for her constipation. She felt better after 1 visit and her consti pation resolved. After 3 visits she was able to shop for 2 and ½ hours without fatigue. After 6 visits she was able to conduct a full day workshop. Gradually her life normalized and when the opportunity to go to China with her husband came up, she was a bit hesitant about "such a long trip so far away from home". You might already be guessing that, indeed, she went all the way to China, only 4 months after starting treatment. She did great on her trip and, of course, she walk ed the Great Wall and reported great endurance and no fatigue.

Some people with CFS will take longer to recover, others less. It all depends on how long the condition has been present, how depleted of energy the patient is and what other dysfunctions accompany their syndrome . But most patients will have a full recovery with the help of Chinese acupuncture, moxibustion, Korean hand acupuncture, herbs and adjustments in their diets and lifestyles.





"New Evidence on How Acupuncture Works"

Acupuncture stimulation and cortical (brain) activation is studied and evidence is found that demonstrates the correlation between an acupoint and its corresponding cortical activation.

(From: "Further Evidence for the Correlation between Acupuncture Stimulation and Cortical Activation.In:

Cho Z-H, Wong E, Hammerschlag R, eds. New Directions in the Scientific Exploration of Acupuncture. Irvine, CA: University of California, Irvine and Society for Acupuncture Research, 1999.)< /font>


Dr. Zeng-Hee Cho, a physicist and head of the Department of Radiological Sciences at the University of California, Irvine has come forward with what may be the biggest breakthrough in acupuncture’s me chanism of action research to date. While the theory of "endorphins" to explain how acupuncture works may have been attractive to many researchers, it does not satisfy each one of acupuncture’s many actions, other than pain control. Dr . Cho studied volunteers with functional MRI’s, an experimental technology that not only shows brain anatomy but also brain function. He stimulated the eyes of volunteers with light and observed the occipital cortex (the back part of the brain w here the vision centers reside) light up. Then he needled some foot acupuncture points that "supposedly are used to treat various eye problems" according to the classical Chinese texts and, to his and everybody’s surprise, the < u>same area in the brain lit up again!

Now, from all good medical school teachings, those points on the foot have nothing to do with vision, and especially not with that brain location. There is no anatomical or neurological explanation! So for the first time, modern technology is beginning to confirm what ancient Chinese physicians have known for centuries: that there is a direct connection between certain acupuncture points, the organs and the brain, through a totally diffe rent network –meridians-, which are still a mystery to many of us.


"The DASH Diet and High Blood Pressure"

A major multi-center study on hypertension completed in 1998 showed that, even without weight loss and salt restriction, a simple dietary modification of eating more fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy

foods lowered the blood pressure to the same extent as medications did. This diet, known as DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) and the study of the effect on hypertension w ere jointly conducted by the Duke Hypertension Center, in Durham, NC, Johns Hopkins University, Bringham Women’s Hospital, Pennington Biomedical and Research Center, and Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research. The more severe the hy pertension, the better the results.

(From: Try DASH, Hold the Salt, Duke Medical Update, Vol. 6, #2, Summer, 1999.)


This is a very interesting and novel 1st –time approach to treating high blood pressure without drugs, and by adding certain foods, rather than restricting salt and caloric intake. This com es a lot closer to the Chinese approach of "medicated diets", where FOOD is used as MEDICINE. The current "standard treatment" for hypertension includes salt restriction, weight loss and medications. It has been know n for some time that salt restriction is of limited usefulness, since it only benefits some patients, while it annoys and does not benefit others.

Weight loss is often a doctor’s wishful thinking and a patient’s nightmare, and many skinny patients with hypertension do not have a pound to spare. Medications, be it diuretics, beta-blockers, ace-inhi bitors or calcium channel blockers, come with their own bag of unpleasant surprises: from fatigue and dizziness to abnormal heartbeats and impotence, among hundreds of potential side effects.

So the Duke DASH approach may be an intervention to implement immediately, even if you are on medications, since it could give you a chance to reduce or even discontinue them under STRICT PHYSICIAN SUPE RVISION. But more vegetables and fruits do not mean an extra banana or another ½ a tomato per day. It means A LOT MORE FRUITS AND VEGETABLES than the average American diet. Four to five servings of fruit and four to five servings of vegetables per day plus three servings of low-fat dairy. Also permitted are, in addition, meat, nuts and cookies in moderation. A real sensible diet, without the punitive restrictions of most others. Bon Appetit!

Christina Stemmler, M.D.

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