Add as bookmark

Chinese Medicine Cures Insomnia

by Bob Flaws. Edited by Sylvia Schroer

listed in chinese oriental medicine

[Image: Chinese Medicine Cures Insomnia]

In my 20 years of studying and practising acupuncture I have treated many patients suffering from the trials of sleeplessness. Some of these people had been experiencing insomnia for years and, most of them found acupuncture treatment to be extremely helpful. All of them, I am sure, would find this book by Bob Flaws to be highly informative as it explains, from the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the causes of insomnia and describes a variety of ways to alleviate this condition using both acupuncture and Chinese herbs along with simple but effective self help methods .

Initially the author explores the theory of TCM in general terms before applying it specifically to the problem of insomnia. He starts by telling us that this medicine comes from a distinct and separate system of medical thought and practise from modern western medicine and suggests to those who may be somewhat sceptical that there are potentially many valid ways of describing the body apart from the western medical model. He likens this to the idea of using a different road map from the one you are used to and asks his readers to think of the concept of a map and the terrain it describes. He goes on to explain that the western biological map of the human body is "only one potentially useful medical map....If we take the USA as an example we can have numerous different maps of its land mass. One map might show population. Another might show per capita income. Another might show religious or ethnic distributions. ..One map is not necessarily more correct than another. The issue is to use the right map for what you are trying to do ....The Chinese medical map of health and disease is just as 'real' as the western biological map as long as, by using it professional practitioners are able to solve their patients health problems in a safe and effective way."

The first part of this book introduces us to the concepts of TCM and discusses Yin and Yang - the 2 aspects of positive and negative and Qi - the force that is responsible for all movement, transformation and change. The author explains how Qi is nourished by Blood and how this is transformed into Essence - a substance that is stored in the kidneys. Having described the most important constituents of the body, he then tells us of the organs that are responsible for the creation and transformation of Qi and Blood and the storage of Essence and of their spheres of influence. For example - the kidneys are responsible for the excretion of urine and also influence hearing, strong bones, sex, reproduction, lower and upper back and lower legs - particularly the knees. This relationship between the organs and other parts of the body is made possible by a network of channels or 'meridians' which have acupuncture points located on them. By stimulating these points the practitioner is able to influence the Qi, Blood and Essence in the channels and the organs thus restoring balance of Yin and Yang to the system.

The fundamental concepts of TCM having been explained the next part of the book looks more specifically at the problem of insomnia and how this symptom arises from underlying imbalances in Yin, Yang, Qi, Blood and Essence. Looking at the major Chinese medical patterns at work in insomnia the author explains that these are diagnosed through examination of the tongue and the pulses and then goes on to tell how a practitioner will treat this problem. Once the practitioner has analysed the patients pattern of imbalance she will formulate the treatment principles usually using herbs and acupuncture. A variety of herbal prescriptions are given but as the author explains "we have included these herbal formulas to give you a deeper understanding of how Chinese herbal medicine works, rather than as a self help guide." This, I feel is an important point as only a trained practitioner should advise on what herbs to take.

Finally Bob Flaws takes a look at DIY methods to help alleviate this problem of insomnia. As he says "I know of no easy way to health. There is good living and there is easy living. ... Unless you take time for yourself and find the time to eat well, exercise and relax, no treatment is going to eliminate your insomnia completely." As an acupuncturist I completely agree with this view . Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine are not magic wands to wave and so remove symptoms such as insomnia. Patients need to be responsible for their own health and adjust their lifestyle and diet in order to restore well being. When dietary and lifestyle advise are followed most people are able to control their conditions and so prevent disease. Bob Flaws sums up this view; "when I say Chinese Medicine can cure insomnia, I do not mean that you will never experience unwanted wakefulness again. What I mean is that Chinese Medicine can eliminate or greatly reduce your symptoms as long as you keep your diet and lifestyle together."

Chinese Aromatherapy, hydrotherapy, self massage, recipes for medicinal wines, teas and porridges, all are self help ways to treat insomnia and the author looks at all these methods to advise his reader. He then goes on to give true stories of people who have benefited from his help. Carolyn for example "had been studying hard with considerable mental strain. ... She had difficulty falling asleep and tossed and turned for hours each night.... Often she would wake in a startle, her heart pounding ....she suffered with heart palpitations, restlessness, shortness of breath....and occasionally had night sweats....On inspection her tongue was red at the tip with yellow, slimy fur. Her pulse was bowstring, thready and rapid." Having presented a picture of Carolyn's symptoms the author then goes on to explain how they reveal a pattern of 'depressive heat disturbing her heart spirit'. He continues by describing acupuncture and herbal treatments to balance the Qi, clear the heart and quiet the spirit. Furthermore she was to help herself by burning a type of Chinese incense at bedtime and by embarking on an exercise programme along with using a relaxation tape daily. After 3 months Carolyn had no more sleepless nights and her mood and concentration had improved.

Insomnia will appeal to and inform both the practitioner of Chinese Medicine and the lay person who may have little or no knowledge of this centuries old healing tradition. I thoroughly recommend this book.

About the ReviewerVicki McKenna trained as an acupuncturist at the College of Traditional Chinese Acupuncture in Leamington Spa with Professor Worsley from 1981 gaining her Lic. Ac. In 1984. She is now based with her family in Glasgow where she practises acupuncture and writes . In 1999 she published A Balanced Way of Living: Practical and Holistic Strategies for Coping with Post Polio Syndrome. See her web site at for details of how to order her book. She can be contacted on

Vicki McKenna
ISBN 0-572-02568-8

top of the page