Big Four Austin 2007Harriet and Efrem have been interviewed about Chinese Traditional Medicine (CTM), Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and acupuncture. They discuss the differences between Western and Eastern medicine, sharing insights gained from many years of practice.

Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine interview with Harriet Beinfield and Efrem Korngold in May 1998

Alternative Therapies: You have both been practicing Chinese medicine a long time. In your estimation, what does Chinese medicine do?

Disease doesn’t come from nowhere,

                                                               it emerges from a lived life.

Efrem Korngold: Its overarching goal is to cultivate people’s capacities and to correct whatever underlying disturbances are causing distress. In order to achieve this, it’s useful to investigate how a disorder arises so that the process can be disassembled and reorganized, not merely masked. This noble goal is not always attainable, but the medicine compels us to strive for it. In Chinese medicine everything is linked with everything else – not just as an idea, but in actuality. Health and illness coexist and arise out of the same conditions. Disease doesn’t come from nowhere, it emerges from a lived life. Simply put, Chinese medicine not only focuses upon the content (the disease), but also the context (the person who has it). Harriet Beinfield: There are several legitimate languages to use in talking about Chinese medicine – the scientific one of measuring electrical skin resistance at acupuncture sites, the release of peptides and hormones stimulated by the needles, the pharmacology of herbal compounds. There’s also the qualitative, clinical language of whether people feel they’ve been helped – outcome studies. On the one hand, Chinese medicine is a method of restoration and recovery. On the other hand, it’s a systematic way of knowing, a medical epistemology that includes a method of self-exploration that helps people develop in less tangible ways than taking herbs, receiving acupuncture, or following a new diet.

The three levels of healing are to diminish pain,

                           help someone understand their nature,

                                               and assist them in fulfilling their destiny.

There’s an ancient Chinese medical text that names three levels of healing. The lower level asks us to address a person’s complaints in order to diminish pain. The middle level directs us to understand someone’s nature. And the upper level charges us to assist a person in fulfilling his or her destiny. Most people automatically associate Chinese medicine with the lower level – can acupuncture relieve back pain or hot flashes? Can Chinese herbs improve immunity? What should I eat to make my acne go away? Complaints are what initially draw people to Chinese medicine, but what seems to keep them enrolled is that they feel they are being seen, heard, and helped within a broad frame of reference, and that everything they are and bring with them is relevant to the process. Acupuncture can produce desirable side effects. Shifts in peoples’ lives occur, dreams change, and they report elevated states of awareness. Some of this may be due to the release of endorphins, but my intuition is that acupuncture acts in ways for which we don’t have a language. It integrates all the layers of our being, some of which are hidden subtle bodies, some of which are wholly palpable. The outcome is a sense of inner alignment that people deeply crave. The experience of feeling connected pleases them, and Chinese medicine’s ability to deepen that feeling keeps them coming back. Acupuncture gives an authentic meaning to the term ‘integrative medicine.’    
Read the complete interview (PDF)