Monday, November 13, 2006

Hypertension 8: Herbs and Needles

The Chinese Medical Doctor (CMD) who treated me was very nice. A fourth generation doctor, she told me that, after about a year, she could 'cure' my Hypertension. Her belief was backed up by the testimonials of her patients, including one I spoke with. The staff who worked with her were dedicated, and believed in the efficacy of her treatments. They had seen people get better, and I believed them.

Chinese Hypertension treatment came in two forms: an herbal "tea" you drink (later followed by pills—but herbs, not chemicals), with the second aspect of the treatment being needles (stuck in your legs, feet, right elbow and left hand). I took the herbs once a day, and saw the doctor three days a week for the acupuncture. Each visit to the doctor took about an hour.

The "tea", I was warned repeatedly by the doctor and everyone who worked for her, tasted bad. Real bad. It was not tea, of course, but herbs in water. I was given ten to fifteen packets of granules and powders for each daily dose. I dumped the packet contents into a glass of water, heated the water, and then drank. Hot water was necessary to dissolve the packet contents completely. The taste was not nearly as bad as the warnings--but it was not choice root beer either.

In Western terms, the herbs contained a natural diuretic, very similar to one of the prescription medications I had taken. So there was a similarity, actually, between the herbal medication and the prescription medication. The 'tea' was 2/3 of the treatment, the needles 1/3.

She never grinned when she stuck the needles in me.

Here is how each visit went:

She would ask me how I felt, look at the colour of my tongue, and inquire about my poops (I am being delicate). She frequently adjusted the herbs, depending on whether my poops were hard, soft, chunky, bulky, runny, sneezy, sleepy, dopey.... Then I would lie down on a bed in a private room for a while. Once rested, my blood pressure would be taken, and then she would bring in the needles.

My pant legs were rolled up to my knees, my right sleeve to my elbow. She would then stick special needles (she never sewed with them, never said "So", never had me in stitches, never lost the thread of what she was doing, never spun me a yarn….) into my feet, calves, right elbow and my left hand. She was very precise—each needle went into a point through which energy flowed (I think it was called ‘chi’).

It rarely hurt, although if I moved my hand or leg AFTER the needle was in, it could feel like I was wired into a socket. Especially my hand, where it felt like an electric jolt! Once I was properly needled, I would lay in the room, often listening to relaxing music without lyrics, for up to an hour.

Because I have sleep apnea, I fall asleep at the slightest opportunity. Certainly that happened most times I was lying on the bed, needles sticking in me. However, It was not a restful sleep--I was not using my CPAP machine, which pumped air into my nose through a special breathing mask that makes me look like elephant man. I would wake groggy, and out of it. Later, I cured much of the grogginess by avoiding falling asleep—it was not hard, I just sat up in a chair, reading. That left me feeling a lot more energetic.

The herbs and acupuncture worked.

They brought down my blood pressure. It went from 180 systolic or higher down to, on average, 150 or less. The Chinese treatments did not work as quickly as the prescription medications, but while the herbs left me weak, I felt not nearly as “out of it” as I did with the prescription medications. I was not dizzy periodically, as with the prescription meds. However, I still did feel tired a lot, and it remained hard to concentrate at times. My emotions also were hard to control, probably because I felt tired so much, and frequently had diarrhea. As the strength of the medications increased, they frequently left me feeling as if I had a brief stomach flu each day—but only for a few hours in the mornings, when I first took them.

Overall, I felt better, but at times it was hard to judge. Certainly I felt I was getting more attention, and had a more personal relationship with my doctor, seeing her three times a week.

No comments: