Treatment for mental illness varies from person to person, but it typically involves psychotherapy and medication. Alternative treatment such as traditional Chinese medicine is being more sought out due to its natural approach to treating the whole person–physically, emotionally and spiritually.
Dr. Jingduan Yang is a psychiatrist, foremost integrative medicine expert, and a fifth-generation practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine. He is the founder and President of Yang Institute of Integrative Medicine and Tao Clinic of Acupuncture.
What Is Traditional Chinese Medicine?
Dr. Yang: Well, this medicine is really an advanced medical system where they not only recognize the structural body and the chemical body, but most importantly, they are the expert or they have insights into the energetic body. So if you really want to compare ancient Chinese medicine versus modern Western medicine, the modern Western medicine is more about medicine for the body structure and the body chemistry, while Chinese medicine is more about the body’s energy. Because it is the energetic body that determines our life and our function. So therefore, ancient Chinese medicine is more advanced medicine in that sense.
The Energetic Body
You mentioned ancient Chinese medicine being an energetic system. Many people may still not be familiar with the concept of energy, or “qi” as it is called in Chinese medicine. Could you talk more about qi?
Dr. Yang: I just wrote an article for the Epoch Times called “Get Acquainted with Your Qi,” or with your energy, with your vital energy … Your heart beats on time. That’s run by your energy. And your lung breaths and your bowel moves, your muscle contracts and your voice, your thoughts, your emotions, that’s all a manifestation of the energy.
And so the only problem between the human energetic system and the energetic system of a car is that the energetic system of the car, you can see them visually. You can see the batteries, the engines, the electronic wires. But in the human body, the energy is as invisible as the air. — Dr. Yang
How Did They Map the Body’s Energetic System?
Dr. Yang: Chinese medicine is the medicine that specializes in understanding the human energetic system, energetic functions, energetic physiology, and pathophysiology and so forth. And the question is how did they know? How did they learn about it if modern medicine doesn’t see it? How could an ancient Chinese medicine see it?
Because we normally consider modern medicine as a more advanced medicine; Chinese medicine is a more primitive medicine. Actually, it is the other way around. The people who created Chinese medicine had a capacity to visualize the human energetic system. They mapped it out for us. And I think the civilization for some reason disappeared. — Dr. Yang
Dr. Yang: The information they accumulated left us verbally until the new civilization had a way to document it or write it down on bamboo. And that’s about 2,500 or 3,000 years ago. And we have this book called “The Yellow Emperor’s Classic.” The book is actually a documentation of the entire ancient Chinese medical system and it was passed on to us verbally. So that’s how Chinese medicine originated.
Chinese Medicine and Mental Illness
Being that it is an energetic medicine, how does ancient Chinese medicine look at mental illness?
Dr. Yang: Since ancient Chinese medicine is a medicine about the human energetic system, it doesn’t differentiate a mental or emotional disorder from the physical disorder. Because at an energetic level, it determines both physical and the mental functions. So in Chinese medicine … any disfunction of a given organ system can cause both mental and physical illnesses. In this way it is very different, because modern Western medicine tried to separate mental illness from physical illness, and it’s trying to isolate mental illness as more of a problem in the brain rather than in the body.
In Chinese medicine the brain is a part of the body. And whatever is going wrong in the brain is the result of what’s going wrong in the body. So there are lots of differences. And also Chinese medicine looks at emotional disorders as more or less an energetic disorder, versus modern Western medicine, which considers it more as a biochemical problem. — Dr. Yang
How Does Chinese Medicine Treat Mental Illnesses?
What is the approach that Chinese medicine takes in treating mental illness?
Dr. Yang: First of all, you have to evaluate a human being to see if there is something wrong structurally with the patient. But mostly when people come to Chinese medicine, they have already done that. Second is you look at whether there are dietary problems or lifestyle issues, and that can contribute to some biochemical problems. And the third is in, we have to evaluate the energetic status in every important organ system and in every energetic channel.
And so you come up with a diagnosis of what energetic problem is involved and what is happening and what energetic channel is involved and what organ systems are involved. And what kind of energetic imbalance it has. Now you develop Chinese herbal remedies as well as acupuncture treatment formulas, and the plan. So it takes a systematic approach. It takes an integrative approach to help people with mental and emotional problems. — Dr. Yang
What Results Can You Expect?
Dr. Yang: Well, we have incredible results from our approach because how can people not get better when all those abnormaladies are being addressed and in this integrative way. We’re helping people reduce or eliminate medications … which help optimize their brain functions so they can do a better job, be more productive.
It takes work and it takes effort. And that’s the challenge. So people have to be able to commit to the journey to get better. People have to commit to programs that can last three months or six months, 12 months. It depends on how chronic their problem is, how complicated their problem is. But we help, we make people better, not just make them feel better. — Dr. Yang
If you would like to know more on how acupuncture and Chinese medicine can help treat mental illness, you can visit Dr. Yang’s website at yanginstitute.com. Dr. Yang is also a co-author of two books: “Facing East: Ancient Health and Beauty Secrets for the Modern Age” and “Clinical Acupuncture and Ancient Chinese Medicine.”
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