Oriental Medicine and Male Sexual Disorders?
Throughout Chinese history its society has been dominated by men. As this is an unfortunate reality it has also lead Chinese Medicine to be able to focus its medical knowledge on treating men's health and longevity. As far back as the Yellow Emperor's reign many classical texts were devoted to increasing men's sexual performance and health. Although centuries have past since the Yellow Emperor began inquiring about health and wellness, men today still look for various ways to stay healthy sexually. Sexual health is not the only concern for men today. As men age they begin battling with various other male disorders. Aside from impotence, men also suffer from conditions affecting urination, the prostate and testicles.
How Chinese Medicine Views Sexual Disorders and Men's Health
Chinese Medicine can help treat various male disorders. At the center of treating all male disorders are the Kidneys. Although other organ systems tend to be involved such as the Liver, Spleen, Bladder, and Heart the kidneys are usually at the core of the problem. One of the kidneys major functions according to Chinese Medicine is storing Jing (essence). Jing is one of three treasures, Qi and Shen (spirit) being the other two. "The life-giving processes of nature are manifest in the concept of Jing. It can be understood as the sap of life, the irreducible essence that contains all the critical ingredients needed to make new life that shares characteristics with its source." As Jing has a direct connection with sperm in men you can begin to see why premature ejaculation and other sexual disorders are important to treat for the Chinese.
As a man ages Jing naturally depletes. As a man turn 40 the decline of kidney qi begins and with that Jing. Men experience their own kind of Men-opause as they age. This is different then that experienced by woman as there is no single physiological change. This is still a time that brings many imbalances in men as estrogen begins to be the dominant hormone in the body.
Another reason why the kidneys are the focus of treatment is its close connection with urinary function. According to Chinese Medicine the kidneys govern the opening and closing. This function corresponds to urinary incontinence as well as premature ejaculation. Both of these functions depend upon the kidneys strength and control to govern these functions properly. If this ability is weakened someone might experience frequent urination, dribbling, or incontinence.
Acupuncture and Impotence
One condition that we hear about often on the television, in the newspapers and magazines, and on the radio is impotence. As mentioned previously, Chinese Emperors viewed sexual function as an important part of health and longevity. If an Emperor had impotence he would seek the advice of his medical staff, and in the case of Huang Di, the Yellow Emperor, her would ask the advice of Su Nu. Impotence is known as yang wei, which literally means flaccidity. Impotence refers to the inability to attain erection or the ability to attain only partial erection. This can be caused by several underlying reasons; however some of the more common causes are overindulgence in sexual activity and emotional disturbances.
The condition of an enlarged prostate gland as a man ages is called benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH). In BPH the prostate enlarges, the layer of tissue surrounding it stops it from expanding, causing the gland to press against the urethra. Symptoms commonly seen with BPH are:
- a hesitant, interrupted, weak stream
- urgency and leaking or dribbling
- more frequent urination, especially at night
These conditions, if left untreated, could lead to more serious conditions such as prostate cancer, urine retention, urinary tract infections, bladder or kidney damage, bladder stones, and incontinence.
BPH according to Chinese Medicine is categorized into diseases relating to urination. Historically there was no mention of an enlarged prostate. The Chinese had no way of knowing that a mans prostate was enlarged, but they were aware of the symptoms it caused. These symptoms of frequent nighttime urination, painful urination, and difficult urination were observed and thus categorized as disease categories which are used today to diagnose and treat BPH.
Male infertility is rarely spoken about but can frequently be the problem when couples are having trouble conceiving. In many cases men have poor quality sperm or a decreased quantity. According to the World Health Organization guidelines normal sperm count consists of 20 million sperm per ejaculate, with 50 percent motility and 60 percent normal morphology (form). The amount of semen in the ejaculation matters, too. If the concentration is less than 20 million sperm per milliliter of ejaculate, it may impair fertility. Still, if the sperm show adequate forward motility -- the ability to swim -- concentrations as low as 5 to 10 million can produce a pregnancy. It is important to remember that only 25 years ago, counts of 100 million sperm per ejaculate were the norm. Time, the effects of our environment and/or lifestyle seem to be gradually degrading male sperm counts. Within Chinese medicine once again the kidneys play an important role in semen production and quality; however this is not the only cause for infertility in men. Many times infertility is caused by dampness in Chinese Medicine. One major way that dampness is produced is through poor and improper dietary habits. The Standard American Diet (SAD) is a large contributor to health problems and that remains true with infertility.
Study: Fertility and Sterility, Volume 71, Number 4 (April 1999), pp.684-689, on the comparison of the sperm quality necessary for successful intrauterine insemination with World Health Organization threshold values for normal sperm, visit http://www.inciid.org/fertinews/whothreshold.html
What Acupuncture Can Treat
Here is a brief list of Male Health problems that Oriental medicine and acupuncture can help:
- Premature Ejaculation
- Low Sperm Count
- Diminished Sperm Motility
- Testicular Pain
- Benign Prostatic Hypertrophy
- Male Infertility
- Male Climacteric (men-opause)
- The World Health Organization
- "A Brief History of Qi" by Zhang Yu Huan and Ken Rose, Paradigm Publications, Brookline Mass, 2001
- "Practical Therapeutics of Traditional Chinese Medicine" by Yan Wu and Warren Fischer, Paradigm Publications, Brookline, Mass, 1997
- "A Handbook of TCM Urology and Male Sexual Dysfunction" by Anna Lin, Blue Poppy Press, Inc., Boulder Colorado, 1999
About the Author
Marc Sklar is a board certified herbalist and expert Oriental Medicine Practitioner. He specializes in men's health, infertility, gynecology, pediatrics, and digestive disorders. Marc sits on the board of directors for the California State Oriental Medical Association. Marc approaches every patient with an open mind, compassion and a medically integrated perspective.
Mark Sklar practices in San Diego, California.