Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture Up Close
Chinese medicine is one of the oldest documented medicines in the world, with a history of over 2,500 years. In the United States, acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine are the two best known treatment modalities of Chinese medicine.
Interest in acupuncture in the U.S. medical community actually began in the early 1800s with Benjamin Franklin’s great-grandson, who was a doctor. He treated prisoners with acupuncture and concluded in a medical journal that acupuncture was the most effective pain-management technique at the time.
However, it wasn’t until 1971 that acupuncture was introduced to American society at large. In that year, New York Times columnist James B. Reston detailed his experience getting acupuncture in China. That piqued America’s interest in this ancient healthcare practice.
Now acupuncture is one of the most sought out alternative medicines for various ailments. The first school of acupuncture in the U.S. opened in Boston in 1975. Now there are more than 40 accredited schools across the U.S. offering Masters degrees in acupuncture or Oriental medicine. Several also offer a doctorate program.
Today, we hear from a licensed acupuncturist about how you can start down that path and how this ancient practice is gaining more recognition in the U.S.
Here to tell us more is Meiling Lee.
Meiling: Jared West is a second generation acupuncturist who owns and operates Acupuncture & Integrative Solutions in Ohio. He is also the president of the Ohio Association of Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine, and serves on the Ohio Medical Board’s Oriental Medicine Advisory Committee.
Jared, thank you for joining us at America Daily.
I’ve interviewed several licensed acupuncturists in the past, mostly to talk about how acupuncture and Chinese medicine can help treat certain conditions like pain, autism and mental health. But, I haven’t covered what is involved in becoming an acupuncturist in the US.
Today, I’m hoping you can educate us on this, so our listeners can have a better understanding of the education and training involved.
Meiling: But before we get to that, I’d first like to ask you, what made you decide to embark on this journey of becoming an acupuncturist?
Jared: I knew I wanted to do acupuncture at the end of college. I did my undergrad and I had grown up studying Chinese medicine. I studied Chigong and Tai Chi, particularly because my mother is an acupuncturist, I didn’t actually consider doing acupuncture.
But when I got to somewhere in high school, one of the people I was studying with was just extraordinary, he was in his eighties at the time and traveling all over the world teaching Chigong. He pulled me in and told me that if he learned anything, he would’ve learned acupuncture. And it really made me rethink what my mom had been doing my entire life. So I was at the end of college and I was trying to decide what I wanted to do. I had been planning on going and living in the outdoors and leading multi-day trips, white water rafting or Kayaking.
I realized that the person who was now my wife wasn’t going to go live with me in the woods. So I needed to figure out what my life plan was going to be.
I love Chinese medicine and I’ve been fortunate to study it. I started when I was seven apprenticing with a Daoist priest. I had studied a lot of Qigong in the US and I went to China. I love the breadth of what Chinese medicine is and acupuncture is part of that. One of my teachers said with Chinese medicine, you shouldn’t say you’re a master until you’re at least 80. And really, you can spend your whole lifetime learning it.
Meiling: You mentioned that you were introduced to Chinese medicine through an apprenticeship with a Taoist priest at a young age. Can you talk more about that?
Jared: Yeah. I studied Qigong and there’s a lot of different styles of Qigong. There was someone who had moved from Idaho, from China to this tiny little town in Idaho and it probably was because my mom was practicing acupuncture.
When she found him he was teaching Qigong and he really wanted someone that he could pass on his knowledge to and so I started studying with him when I was seven. He was the person that I went to China with when I was 11. I met his teacher and it was really extraordinary to see how his teacher was practicing. His teacher was also in his eighties and it was just amazing what they were doing with Qigong.
Meiling: That’s fascinating the close relationship between Chinese medicine and Qigong. If someone was interested in studying acupuncture and Chinese medicine, what do they need to know?
Jared: Literally it means energy cultivation or the discipline of energy. Like there’s branches of Chinese martial arts and there’s Kungfu, which everyone knows pretty well. Tai Chi, which is a little more internal and Qigong, which is probably the most internal, but they share some similarities.
If you see someone practicing Kung Fu, you might see some of those movements in Qigong. Qigong also has meditation, and like Reiki, they are sending energy or using energy to help heal themselves or other people. It’s shares, a lot of the philosophy and theory of really all Chinese medicine.
Acupuncture points and Meridians are used in Qigong and in Tai Chi and depending on the style of Kung Fu the teacher can included these as well. So there’s definitely overlap between all of those different systems and Qigong is probably the most internal of all of them.
And that has probably more emphasis on how you heal yourself or heal other people. It tends to be a little slower in movements or more repetitive. He might do the same movement five times or eight times or 10 times. Whereas in Tai-chi if you’re doing a form, you’ll do one movement maybe once or twice and then you kind of move on into the next part of the form.
So Qigong is a little bit more slower and has more internal focus.
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Jared West courtesy of jwacupuncture.com
Jared West Licensed Acupuncturist
Jared West graduated summa cum laude from the American Institute of Alternative Medicine in 2008. He is the president of the Ohio Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine and a lifetime member. He has testified to Ohio Medicaid and committees in the Ohio House and Senate. He also serves on the Ohio Medical Board’s Oriental Medicine Advisory Committee. He began studying Chinese Medicine in 1991 through an apprenticeship to a Taoist priest. Jared is also a second generation acupuncturist; his mother, Karen Young, is the president of the Idaho Acupuncture Association.