How does an ancient system of healing survive for more than 4,000 years and find its way into the most modern Western hospitals? Because it works! Consider the high longevity of the Asian peoples utilizing Oriental medicine, known world-wide for their healthy elderly population.

Scientific evidence is proving the very foundations of Oriental medicine by documenting the presence of Qi (subtle Life Force Energy) and the presence of Qi at specific points on the body that correlate to andquot;acupuncture pointsandquot;.

There are thousands of creditable research studies proving the efficacy in treating hundreds of diseases without harmful side effects. Herbal medicine is an integral part developed over millennia utilizing complex diagnostics of Oriental medicine.

One of the main diagnostic tools is pulse diagnosis. There are 12 radial artery pulses, six on each side, to read the energetic state of the 12 organ meridians with 27 differing qualities.

Tongue diagnosis reveals a lot about the patient's health both constitutionally and current patterns. Long-standing markings like a andquot;geographic tongueandquot; will completely change when the treatments and herbs are working. Tongue body color and coating reveal the quality of blood, digestion, and organ function. A tongue without any coating at all is not a good sign.

Forget the andquot;tongue scrapersandquot;; whatever is showing up has a story to tell.

Properly prescribed herbs do not put the patient at risk for liver, kidney, and other problems like many of chemical pharmaceuticals do. Often people today are taking too many prescription drugs that have not been studied for their combined interactions. Most Western pharmaceuticals were developed from real-life effective herbal medicines; from aspirin up to the latest cancer-fighting drugs.

Herbs prescribed by a trained herbalist have the further advantage of being easily assimilated without side effects and organ stress, as opposed to chemically distilled (for easy manufacture) pharmaceuticals.

Every patient is examined and treated according to their unique symptoms and imbalances. The patient is treated as a whole; body, mind, and spirit, rather than using a andquot;Band-aidandquot; approach. Immunological studies have proven the correlation of emotions and stress on our health, something that has always been an integral part of Oriental medicine.

Many medical doctors - MDs - are interested in taking westernized courses in treating pain and addictions using acupuncture over the course of a few weekends.

Traditional Oriental medicine is not simply learned in the span of a few weeks. A minimum of four years after earning a bachelor of arts degree is required before attempting to become licensed as an acupuncturist. Beyond a licensed acupuncturist is the Oriental Medicine Doctorate degree - OMD - requiring as many years in training as the Western MD. OMD's are cross-trained in Western medicine so that they may understand western diagnosis and work integratively with western medical practitioners.

Even then mastering the diagnostic skills comes with many years (traditionally 20) of practicing the art. Oriental Medicine has taken a strong place in the western world, honoring the almost forgotten Hippocratic oath, andquot;first of all, do no harmandquot;.

Submitted by Shelley Sovola, L.Ac, O.M.D.; Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine: Ancient Holistic Health Care