Three great books about Traditional Chinese Medicine

There are many brochures and pamphlets available for people who are curious about how Acupuncture, Herbal medicine and Chinese Nutrition can help them. For example, I give each new patient a tiny 28-page booklet called Acupuncture in a Nutshell from Acupuncture MediaWorksask them to read it and pass it on to one person who they think can benefit from acupuncture. It’s a really great resource that explains the basics of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

What if you’re curious and want to dig a little deeper into how Traditional Chinese Medicine applies to you? If you want to do a little homework and be more involved in your healing journey, there are three books that have come out in the past few years that are just the thing. One is about incorporating Chinese Nutrition into our daily lives. The second is about the importance of Acupuncture in the world and how we relate to it. The third book is kind of an Acupuncture 101, complete with a superhero as your guide.

Food can really bring the concepts of Traditional Chinese Medicine home for people. That’s what Nishanga Bliss accomplishes in Real Food All Year: Eating Seasonal Whole Foods for Optimal Health and All-Day Energy [New Harbinger Publications]. The book grew out of a pamphlet she wrote called Eat Real Food while working at the Immune Enhancement Project in San Francisco.

Have you ever read Healing With Whole Foods by Paul Pitchford? While it’s an amazing tome about the concepts of nutrition, at 784 pages it’s huge. Most people aren’t going to take the time to read it. Bliss’ book takes some of those ideas and ‘digests’ them (pun intended). In just 192 pages, she makes the concepts of TCM accessible to our patients, and provides handy charts and recipes (35 gluten-free recipes in all).

I first read this book in electronic format. This was a problem because I wanted to rip out the charts and shopping lists and put them on my fridge! The charts are a brilliant way to make it even easier to incorporate the ideas into your daily life. (Bliss told me she is talking to her publisher about making a smartphone app with these lists.) 

In Real Food All Year, Bliss clearly explains how each season relates to its paired organ in Traditional Chinese Medicine, plus an explanation of how that organ works according to Western Medicine. The book is well-cited, with a long list of resources and references.

The recipes in Real Food All Year don’t require any special kitchen equipment other than a slow cooker for the Carnitas recipe. Even if you haven’t heard of the dishes before, like Curtido, a Central American dish that is similar to sauerkraut, or a drink called Beet Kvass, the recipes are easy to follow. I tried a few out of them and can report that the Red Lentil Dal is super tasty for dinner or breakfast. The Lamb kofta had the distinction of being one of only three lamb dishes I have ever liked.

Bliss’ approach to eating seasonally is simple to understand in terms of how it can help our health on a personal level. She emphasizes the impact that this can have on our local and global communities. Bliss is realistic with her readers and admits that eating seasonally

takes a big commitment of time, energy, and money, but the profound benefits make it worth the effort. Eventually, cooking and eating seasonally becomes a way of life . . .

Yet after that statement, she provides a “Ten tips for busy cooks” list to help make this transition a little easier. For example, while it may take more time to prepare foods this way, you can reduce your shopping time by joining a CSA (Community-supported Agriculture) organization and get all of your local seasonal produce in a weekly box.

Bliss’ expands on her approach to food in her blog called ‘Gastronicity’ which she defines as “the art of eating the right food at the right time in the right place. A blog on food, nutrition and sustainability.” 

Acupuncture Matters: The Definitive Guide to Understanding the True Power of Acupuncture, by Sara Calabro, is not a book to teach you about the specifics of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Rather, it is a book that helps explain how acupuncture and the concepts of Traditional Chinese Medicine can change our lives. With simple, down-to-earth language, Calabro tells her readers how Yin and Yang theory, for example, can influence their relationships with others and how acupuncture can make you slow down and be more patient.  She also talks about the idea of ‘urban acupuncture’, a kind of urban planning put forth by an architect in Finland.

Calabro points out the concepts of acupuncture elegantly and passionately. I can imagine her reading part of this book as an inspirational speech about acupuncture. Here’s an example:

The driving idea behind acupuncture is that we’re already in possession of everything we need to be well. Rather than focusing on what’s missing – and adding more stuff to fill the gap – acupuncture takes what’s already there and rearranges it into something positive . . . This is profound.

If you want to learn how acupuncture can deeply affect your life, this is a wonderful book. If you’re interested in learning about things like what acupuncture points Liver 3 and Large Intestine 4 are used for, or how acupuncture can help athletes improve their game, for example, you can visit Calabro’s website.  At AcuTakeshe and other acupuncturists take on the ideas of TCM and make them easy to understand and apply to our busy, modern lives.

In Adventures in Chinese Medicine: Acupuncture, Herbs and Ancient Ideas for Today, Jennifer Dubowsky, L.Ac. takes the reader on a journey through the basics of Chinese Medicine in a clear, concise and fun way. Dubowsky defines commonly used terms up front and then explores them more deeply in each chapter. She covers the history of Chinese Medicine (“2000 years in 958 Words”), Basic Yin and Yang and 5 Element Theories, Chinese Herbs, Cupping, Moxibustion, Tui Na and more.  Dubowsky includes examples and simple case studies by acupuncturists from around the country to help illustrate how TCM works.

Every chapter is another stop on the adventure with Dubowsky’s ‘TCM007’ female superhero as your guide. The graphics are eye-catching. Dubowsky includes helpful charts, diagrams as well as photographs and cartoon images. The last chapter “What to Expect On Your First Visit” really covers most questions that people who are new to acupuncture may have. You can follow Jennifer at Acupuncture Blog Chicago.

Each of these new books explains different parts of Traditional Chinese Medicine in a unique way. Real Food All Year covers Nutrition and gives practical ways to make seasonal, local and sustainable food part of your life. Acupuncture Matters takes on the bigger picture of Acupuncture in the modern world and how we relate to it.Adventures in Chinese Medicine heroically covers a little bit of everything. All three of these books are available in paperback and electronic format.

Denise Cicuto