Learning & Resource Center Articles
Addressing Gynecological Concerns with Oriental Medicine
By: Vanessa Vogel Batt, L.Ac., MSTOM
Oriental medicine has a long history of addressing and treating medical conditions that affect women. Oriental Medicine is a comprehensive medical system founded in ancient China. Some accounts believe its origins go as far back as 2000 BC. Around 600 AD, a great Tang dynasty physician, Sun Simiao, revolutionized the system with the first encyclopedia of clinical practice. The book called Prescriptions Worth a 1000 Gold Pieces, focused strictly on women's disorders for the first three volumes. The next two volumes concentrated on pediatrics and problems with breastfeeding. His reasons for these choices reveal the significance of providing healthcare to women.
Sun Simiao explained that women undergo a transformation during pregnancy and childbirth. They also contend with 'uterine damage,’ which may reference uterine bleeding or hemorrhaging. In today's modern world, it is no revelation to recognize the differences in physiology between the genders, but at the time this knowledge helped pioneer and innovate the field of gynecology, long ago in China. He also said women were 'ten times more difficult to treat than those of men, perhaps because of yin influences (dampness and swellings).'
All of Oriental Medicine relies on the interplay of yin and yang principles. Yin is cold, passive and feminine. Yang is hot, active and masculine. Together they constantly move in order to preserve a balance between the two forces. You can observe this principle in practice next time you wash your hands. Notice how you adjust the hot and cold water to reach the right temperature. There is a specific equilibrium between the opposing forces you are seeking.
As yin is slow and cold by nature, it is easy for fluids to stagnate in these conditions. Since women embody yin qualities, they remain prone to conditions known as dampness. If you can imagine the feel of a heavy, cold, wet mop, representing yin, you can compare that sensation to the free flow of warm water coming out of the facet, representing yang qualities.
The range of women's disorders covered in Simiao's book is extensive. It includes menstrual problems, pregnancy, childbirth, postpartum care, infertility and menopausal issues. Although there are numerous reasons why these disorders and conditions manifest, dampness is a threat in many instances. For example, during menses it is ill-advised to sit in water, wear wet clothes or even swim. Dampness may penetrate through the skin and cause problems specific to women. Also, interestingly, the normal pulse for a pregnant woman is a 'soggy' one. The presence of a fetus in the womb makes the body adapt to a condition of dampness.
Oriental Medicine addresses women's reproductive health from menarche all the way up to menopause. Kidney energy, called Qi, is the basis for all energy of the body. The uterus relies heavily on the nourishment coming from the kidneys. The uterus is sometimes poetically referred to as the Palace of the Baby. Problems with waning kidney Qi adversely affects the uterus and may lead to menstrual problems, infertility and diseases such as endometriosis and fibroids.
To increase the level of Qi in the kidneys, an acupuncture needle at the site of an important point called, Taixi, can do the job. This is a 'source' point for the kidneys, so it provides access to the deepest levels of power reserves. The especially potent kidney Qi is irreplaceable, and continually declines with the passage of time. Accessing its energy can alleviate many reproductive disorders.
However, not all women suffer from insufficient kidney Qi, or very often there is a combination of factors. As mentioned, dampness inherently poses a threat to some women. Diseases which may present with symptoms of dampness include fibroids, uterine tumors, polycystic ovaries, pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility, cancer and many more.
Sanyinjiao, an acupuncture point located on the lower leg, serves many functions in regards to gynecological problems. It is also known as Ruler of the Lower Abdomen, which is the site of the reproductive organs and the Palace of the Baby. The number of issues it can help with is extensive.
The following is an abbreviated list:
- uterine bleeding
- labor processes
- postpartum healing
- menstrual disorders like delayed, absent, irregular or painful menses
Plus, it can provide relief from emotional tension and insomnia--both things that may result when contending with the stress of illness or disease. A practitioner of acupuncture and Oriental Medicine may also reference some of the good advice from Simiao, as he wrote extensively on diet, massage, lifestyle suggestions and other adjunct therapies. If a woman is pregnant in her first or third trimester, or has her menses, it is wise to relax as much as possible and avoid strong emotions. Refrain from, or keep intimacy to a minimum, and eat a simple, easily digestible diet.
No matter if you are in your youth battling menstrual problems, trying to get pregnant or dealing with hot flashes in your menopausal years, contact a practitioner of acupuncture and Oriental Medicine today to discover what can be done for you.
About the Author: Vanessa Vogel Batt, L.Ac., MSTOM, studied at the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, and practiced acupuncture and Oriental medicine in New York for several years. Vanessa enjoys traveling the world, and has published articles on acupuncture and Oriental medicine and related health topics for websites and publications in both the U.S. and abroad.