When I started studying Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) I was overwhelmed with what seemed like the exotic nature of the plants we used. I developed a reverence for these plants and imagined they were somehow different, that they must be grown on the misty sides of mountains and tended by enlightened monks. I kept this notion for an embarrassingly long time, which was confirmed by my inept attempts to grow some of the herbs I thought would be able to take the Texas heat.
(protip: turns out you have to water and care for plants and just because the nursery sells it doesn’t mean it is a good match for my special kind of neglect.)
Fast-forward a couple of years and I had a nice little coincidence convince me just how wrong I was. We have to use the Latin names for herbs on our labels, so I started to get used to going back and forth between pin yin and Latin. Then I did a little work with the City of Austin invasive plant monitoring team, which involved a lot of pouring over lists of, you guessed it, Latin plant names. I started to see Chinese herbs everywhere and quite a few of them are considered invasive. So let’s go through a quick list of some Chinese herbs that you probably walk past almost daily.
Number one on the list of Central Texas invasive list that is also a Chinese herb:
1. Taraxicum officinale or T. mongolicum – Common Dandelion – Pu Gong Ying
This perennial aster long considered the scourge of the suburban lawn also has an extraordinarily long history of use as medicine and food. The common name dandelion is a corruption of the French “dent de lion” meaning “tooth of the lion” which refers to the toothed or lacerate leaf margins. The younger tender leaves are tasty in salads, the flowers can be used to make wine and the whole plant is used in TCM where it is listed as a Clear Toxic Heat herb and is one of the five herbs that makes the formula Wu Wei Xiao Du Yin so effective.
Harvest this plant when it starts to flower but before it goes to seed and dig as much of the long root as you can get. Let it soak in tepid water to loosen dirt and then remove any additional dirt with running water. Dry the whole plant on drying screens in the sun. You can separate the leaves and flowers as they will dry faster than the root and don’t need as much cleaning.
2. Cyperus rotundus – Purple nutsedge rhizome – Xiang Fu
Hated is probably not too strong a word to describe how people feel about purple nutsedge. In fact, it is listed as one of the world’s worst weeds because it propagates vegetatively, is a perennial, and resists almost all control measures. It produces about inch long rhizomes, which is the part we want to use. The rhizomes can be separated from the roots and aerial portions of the plant, pressure washed and then put on a screen in the sun to dry. Xiang Fu is used in TCM as a qi-regulating herb mainly focused on liver qi stagnation.
3. Lonicera Japonica – Japanese Honeysuckle – Jin Yin Hua
Honeysuckle does very well in Texas. It can take the heat and is pretty drought tolerant. If you are out hiking around in a greenbelt in Austin and keep a sharp eye you are likely to come across some. The key way to identify the Japanese honeysuckle is contained in the Chinese name. Jin Yin Hua translates as “gold silver flower”. If it has coral colored flowers then it is L. sempervirens and not what you want although the nectar is just as sweet and there is something about sucking the nectar out of honeysuckle that just brings out the kid in you.
Harvest this flower right as it about to open. If it has already opened it is too late. Then, because this flower is delicate, you should dry it quickly. It would be hard to get any appreciable amount of product from a wild stand of L. japonica as you will work pretty hard just to get a couple of grams of dried flowers.
So let’s talk about some trees that are everywhere in central Texas.
4. Ligustrum luciduim – Glossy Privet – Nu Zhen Zi
This is so invasive that in just about any disturbed area near water you will find them, in fact unless controlled they can easily take over large stretches of mid-canopy trees in established forests. In the spring they have a very nice cluster of flowers that develops in late summer to a cluster of dark purple fruits. Each fruit contains one or two seeds and that is the portion used in TCM. Pick them when they are ripe, but you will have to beat the birds to them. Dry on a drying screen. You do not have to remove the seeds from the fruit to use as an herb.
In TCM Nu Zhen Zi is used as a Yin tonic and is frequently used in formulations for menopause.
5. Mimosa Julibrissin – Persian silk tree – He Huan Hua and He Huan Pi
This invasive is as likely to be found in disturbed park areas as it is to be in someone’s yard planted as a specimen tree because of its unusual and beautiful flowers. Both the flower and the bark are harvested but harvesting the flowers can be fiddly work. They are delicate and sticky and don’t all flower at the same time. They need to be cooled after harvest and then dried. According to Wilson Lau, president of NuHerbs, it takes 3 man-hours to properly clean half a kilo of He Huan Hua so that it looks like you are used to seeing it in clinic. Peg Schafer, author of The Chinese Medicinal Herb Farm harvests the flowers but recommends leaving them whole with the calyx and a bit of stem if need be, but to warn potential buyers that there are stems. The bark can also be harvested but, by in large, requires cutting down the tree or at least large branches.
Both the flower and bark of M. julibrissin are listed in the Calm Shen category of TCM herbs for constraint due to liver qi stagnation.
6. Morus alba – White Mulberry tree
Sang Ye Leaves
Sang Bai Pi Root Bark
Sang Zhi Twigs
Sang Shen Zi Fruit
You are probably more likely to find M. rubra (red mulberry) here in Central Texas, but if you look closely you will find the species, M. alba (white mulberry) that is indicated for so many uses in TCM. If you do find one, what you have found is a runaway. M. alba was imported from China in an attempt to start a silk industry that was floundering because M. rubra, a sort-of native, was not the silk worm’s preferred species. That industry floundered further when they could not compete with the low wages paid in China and Japan. (Sound familiar?) However large stands of M. alba still can be found in the panhandle of Texas where they were also planted as windbreaks. Some of our runaways come from those too.
So what is the difference? Well, you can’t really tell from the fruit or the bark but you can see the difference in the leaves. Both M. alba and M. rubra have leaves that are anywhere from simple ovate leaves to ones that are deeply lobed but there are two distinguishing characteristics. M. alba has leaves that are really shiny on the topside and the leaf margins have teeth, but think molars (slightly rounded) and M. alba has duller topsides and its leaf margins have teeth but think incisors (much sharper) You are also much more likely to find M. alba in full sun and M. rubra is more shade tolerant.
This tree’s uses in TCM are varied, from dispelling wind heat, helping with cough, directing herbs to the shoulders and yin tonic. The most likely plant part you will be harvesting will be the leaves, which are frequently used. Pick them then wash in warm water and leave out on screens to dry. It’s just that easy. The twigs should be harvested from the higher parts of the tree, which can be dangerous over a certain height and will require some cutting and drying. If you want to prepare them the way the are prepared for use in China you will need some heavy duty cutting gear.
This is not a simple preparation and will require specialized equipment. However, the fruit doesn’t require anything but beating the birds, raccoons, and possums to it. Everybody loves mulberry.
So get out to the parks around central Texas and see if you can find all six of these Chinese herbs and if you do, think about processing them for personal use. Some things to think about when you are wild crafting is pollution, both air and water. If you are harvesting along Shoal Creek, say in Pease Park, think about where the water came from. It is largely rain runoff and it washes down oil, herbicides, and fertilizers just to name a few. Lamar Blvd. is a pretty well traveled street and every car that goes up and down it, is leaving behind combustion residue. The good news is that most of this stuff will make it into the soil where it often gets mechanically filtered and then bacteria and fungi in the soil go to work on many of the toxic substances. Of course, some of these chemicals are filtered out by the plants and not taken up in the roots and rarely make it to the leaves and fruits. As far as airborne pollutants go, washing the part of the plant you are going to use is a pretty good way to remove most of them.
About the author:
David Jones L.Ac., a graduate of AOMA, is one of the founders of The Third Coast Herb Co. where he is chairman of the board and the vice president of new product development, which is quite a mouthful so he prefers Chief Herb Nerd.
Illustration notes and credits
T. Official – Medicinal Plants – An illustrative and descriptive guide Charles F Millspaugh M.D. 1892
C. Rotundus – Flora of China
L. Japonica – Fleur de Jardiner 1836
L. Lucidium – Curtis’s Botanical Magazine vol. 52 1825
A. Julbrissin – Missouri Botanical Society
M. Alba – Saint Hilaire Arb. Pl. 44 1824
AOMA student Blake Gordon is known on campus for her infectious smile and her extensive knowledge of naturopathic medicine.
Although Blake’s home is in East Texas, where she attended school from high school through graduate school, she wasn’t introduced to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) until she moved to Arizona to attend Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine (SCNM). It was there that she first experienced the amazing effects of TCM personally and saw firsthand how it improved the lives of patients she treated.
As Blake neared graduation from SCNM, she knew that she wanted to come back to Texas and offer Texans another approach to health and healing. However, she wanted more training in TCM, so she asked her TCM professor which schools in Arizona and Texas he thought were the best. Fortunately, he was a graduate of Chengdu University in China, and noted that many of the professors from AOMA were as well. According to him, Blake would get the best TCM education from AOMA, because he knew that the AOMA professors there had received the best training in China. Per his suggestion, she later visited AOMA and upon touring the campus: “I knew that it was the best place for me to truly learn TCM,” Blake said. “Thankfully, his recommendation stands true!”
She certainly has a lot of experience to offer her patients and her community. Not only is she a working as a Naturopathic Doctor (ND), but with an extensive background in teaching and bachelor and master’s degrees in Biology, she also conducts multiple nutrition and health talks for the local Salvation Army Rehabilitation Center. She definitely keeps busy, also working part-time at Peoples Pharmacy in Westlake.
Blake admits her hard work is not always easy. This is now her 12th year of post-high school training as she pursues her goal of being both an ND and Licensed Acupuncturist (LAc). “It can get a little cumbersome at times,” Blake said. Blake’s intended graduation date of December 2014 is only a little over a year away, however.
Although it can be a challenge to remain steadfast in her studies, she credits her perseverance to her faith in Jesus Christ and having a group of supportive family and friends to keep her going. In her free time, she usually chooses to relax by catching up on sleep or watching a variety of shows on Hulu Plus.
One of the reasons Blake was drawn to Chinese medicine was its unique blend of simplicity with brilliance and wisdom. “I love the fact that Chinese medicine was developed centuries ago; however, it is still applicable to any person today. TCM incorporates all parts of the person, i.e. physical and emotional aspects, as well as addressing the person’s lifestyle.”
As a naturopathic doctor, she is a big fan of how food, the environment, one’s emotional state and thoughts, lifestyle choices and numerous other factors are all major contributors to a person’s state of health within the TCM diagnostic process.
Blake’s advice to other AOMA students? “Know that God has a great plan for your life and that it’s up to you whether you chose to participate in His plan for you or to go your own way.”
It is important to have plenty of energy when returning to school and in the fall season. There are herbs and foods that can help you maintain and gain/store energy.
Choose herbs and foods that help us maintain energy. For example, why do we eat chicken soup when we are sick? It is very nourishing. (Nature has provided us with foods & herbs to stay healthy and energized.)
There are herbs that I highly recommend for maintaining energy:
Da zao (Chinese date) is a herb that augments energy (Qi), weakness, and treats reduced appetite.
Shan yao (Wild yam) treats fatigue, lack of appetite and spontaneous sweating, treats shortness of breath and dry cough.
Huang qi (Poor man’s ginseng) is another favorite that treats fatigue, weakness, excessive sweating, low appetite, blood loss recovery, cough, asthma, frequent colds, and shortness of breath.
I have combined these herbs for my Maintaining energy formula. It is simple to prepare: soak for 20 min, bring to boil, simmer 20 min and drink. I HIGHLY recommend adding this formula to chicken soup with other foods that nourish your energy.
Nourishing Energy (Qi) Foods
Fruit should be eaten warm &/or grilled/cooked/baked – Cherry, Dates, Figs, and Grapes (these are ok – if eaten raw) and Goji berries
Asparagus, Sweet Potato, Potato, Carrots, Parsnips, Pumpkin, Yam, Onions, Winter Squash – acorn, butternut, spaghetti, etc., Mushrooms, Peas
Beef, Chicken/Chicken Liver, Lamb, Mutton, Almonds, Black sesame seeds, Coconut (meat), Chicken Egg,
Grains & Legumes
Oats, Rice, Quinoa
Author: Adrianne Ortega, LAc is a graduate of AOMA practicing in El Paso, Texas. You can contact Adrianne at 915.201.9303, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.almaacupuncture-ep.com
28.5 million men, women and children have diabetes in the U.S. This dis-ease affects the function of the pancreas. Classic Chinese practitioners were writing about the symptoms of diabetes (excessive hunger and thirst, frequent urination, and rapid weight loss) over 2,500 years ago in the ancient medical text called the Nei Jing.
Food therapy can also be an effective way to control blood sugar. Acupuncturists can recommend combinations of foods that help the individual to regulate the blood sugar and the internal heat created by the dysfunction of the pancreas.
Acupuncture & TCM can help Diabetics
The Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine published a study recently that showed regular acupuncture treatments can help control the function of the pancreas and help regulate the blood sugar levels in diabetics. Other symptoms that acupuncture and herbs can address for diabetics are fatigue, lethargy, unexplained weight loss, excessive thirst, urination and hunger, poor wound healing, infections, irritability, blurry vision, and numbness in fingers and toes.
What is acupuncture?
The most well-known traditional Chinese medical procedure, acupuncture is the practice of inserting thin needles into the body at specific points to relieve pain or treat a disease. Acupuncture triggers spontaneous healing reactions in the body, and scientific studies have proven its efficacy for treating inflammation, pain, depression and a host of other disorders. The World Health Organization recognizes 28 diseases, symptoms, or conditions for which acupuncture has been proven to be an effective form of treatment. The WHO also recognizes acupuncture’s therapeutic effects for over 55 diseases, symptoms, or conditions, but noted additional controlled trials are needed.
On September 15th, during the annual commencement exercises of the AOMA Graduate School of Integrative Medicine, 33 scholars from the Master of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine program walked across the stage at the Hyatt Regency on Town Lake in Austin, Texas. After completing a four-year graduate program in Chinese medicine, these graduates are prepared with the knowledge to transform lives through compassionate, patient-centered care.
Master’s degree program director Lesley Hamilton led the procession of graduates. Proceedings included the presentation of the Michael Garcia Prendes Herbal Excellence Award, faculty recognition, awarding of degrees, and a healer's oath led by the doctoral program director Dr. John Finnell.
The keynote address, delivered by Rey Ximenes, MD, invited graduates to enjoy the journey and pursue life-long learning. Dr. Rey Ximenes is the owner and director of The Pain and Stress Management Center, an integrative, multi-disciplinary clinic. Dr. Ximenes began his career in medicine as an anesthesiologist working in such places as M.D. Anderson Hospital, Texas Heart Institute, St. Luke's Hospital, Hermann Hospital, St. Joseph's Hospital, and The Texas Children's Hospital in Houston. Dr. Ximenes is the current President of the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture and a Board Member of the Texas State Board of Acupuncture.
“My wish is that you can persist in the face of adversity, no matter what. Take what you have learned in your classes and expand on it, learn more, fail, and learn more. Most of all persist. We need you to succeed. For you are the future of medicine. You are practitioners who understand that the true meaning of holism is to include ALL we know in an integrative model.” He ended the speech by inviting guests to participate in a qigong blessing.
In honor of the late Cal Key Wilson, a student who would have been graduating this year a new award was announced: the Cal Key Wilson Community Leadership Award. Graduating student Joe Phiakhamta announced the award, “Cal was selfless, humble and lived to serve others. His gestures and actions were never about him. He moved with a purpose, to make our days just a little bit better.”
Twenty years after the founding of AOMA, the class of 2013 carries on the tradition of embodying the art and spirit of healing, poised to transform lives and communities through acupuncture and Chinese medicine. Congratulations to all the graduates and their families!
At the 2013 commencement ceremony on September 15th, AOMA student Leila Plummer was recipient of the Michael Garcia Prendes Herbal Excellence Award. Since 2006 this honor has been bestowed upon a student who excels in the study of herbal medicine. The recipient is chosen by the previous year’s beneficiary, as someone who strives for superior herbal knowledge and shares the love of learning herbs with fellow students.
In 2012, the award went to Vivian Linden, who chose Leila as this year’s recipient. Vivian shares, “I believe that our most rewarding relationship with herbal medicine will be achieved through fostering a mutually beneficial relationship with our herbal allies –making them friends instead of just servants. Leila exemplifies this and it is what makes her truly excellent!”
It is clear to her fellow classmates that Leila holds a great respect for the study of herbal medicine as an academic, clinical, and extracurricular pursuit. But what is most notable about Leila is her reverence for the plants themselves.
Leila’s extracurricular herbal studies have included:
Serving and training in Nicaragua in 2012 with master herbalists providing free natural medicine to the underserved
Certified Community Herbalist and Herbal Apprentice from the Wildflower School of Botanical Medicine (Western herbalism)
Member of the American Herbalist Guild (student member) and United Plant Savers
Working as a wellness consultant, helping people with herbs and nutrition at herb stores and health food stores
“I am humbled and grateful to the AOMA community for thinking of me for this award. AOMA has a strong herbal program, which is why I chose this school; it is an honor to get to learn from such knowledgeable and caring faculty. The kindness of the student body has also always impressed me -- here, learners look after each other and help each other out,” said Leila.
Michael Garcia Prendes (1964-2007)
The award is named in honor of Michael Garcia Prendes (1964-2007). Michael graduated from the University of Kentucky Phi Beta Kappa with distinction from the Honor's Program with degrees in Political Science and Sociology.
In 1990, Michael moved to Austin, Texas where he eventually continued his education at AOMA. He was a loved and cherished classmate, tutor, mentor and friend. While at AOMA, Michael was instrumental in the development of the Herbal Outreach Program. Because of Michael's generosity, many patients have been able to receive necessary herbs.
One of Michael's greatest passions and loves was tennis. Michael founded the Austin Tennis Club, a local tennis organization that has grown to over 100 members and has raised thousands of dollars for local charities. Michael loved being on the tennis court as a player, teacher and coach, and he used his talents and eye for the game to teach many tennis camps.
Michael Garcia Prendes contracted a terminal illness and died before he could graduate. AOMA framed a beautiful print that Michael painted of a tennis player (with acupuncture meridians) about to serve a ball. Michael painted the piece for Pam Ferguson’s shiatsu class. The print hangs in the student lounge with the sentiment that suits Michael’s character: “Be present and focus, Lift up and Serve.”
Michael's generosity, compassion, sincerity, selflessness, and kind heart will always be an inspiration to his family and friends. Michael lived his life with integrity, honesty, and courage. Michael was a true gift to all who were lucky to know him and who were blessed by his humor, love and kindness.
How Michael helped students learn Chinese herbs
One of many students who benefited from Michael’s herbal tutoring was Consuelo Gonzalez, class of 2009.
“Michael had very special teaching qualities. He would explain with patience and humor the terminology of the herbs. Michael made it easy for us to identify the herbs. He would use pneumonic words to relate the herbs with funny stories or events to get them connected all at one category. We always had a blast each time we get together with him. It is hard to find someone like him, but before he left he gave us the guidelines to imitate him.”
Classmates remember Michael
Michael has touched me deeply and will always be a part of who I am no matter if I'm playing tennis or treating a patient. I feel so lucky to have been on the receiving end of so much love and generosity which he shared with everyone, and for which he will always be remembered. - Adrienne Kam, class of 2009
I have never met a more selfless, loving, giving man than Michael Garcia Prendes. His concern for his fellow students overrode everything else, and up to his last days, he put others welfare before his own. - Kathy Kerr, class of 2008
Michael helped so many people, including myself, to see the true potential in themselves and build confidence in their learning capabilities. - Sarah Wilson, class of 2008
I knew Michael to be a compassionate and wise soul. He was always kind and offered me valuable comfort when I was going through a sad time. His donations and support of Herbal Outreach were unsolicited and showed him to be thoughtful and generous with his time and efforts. I am grateful to have known him. - Jessica Fritz, class of 2005
Previous Recipients of the Herbal Excellence Award
Erin Taliaferro, 2006
Rebecca Benson, 2007
Marc Smith, 2008
Alison Beard, 2009
Cat Calhoun, 2010
Joshua Shain, 2011
Vivian Linden, 2012
Acupuncture and Chinese medicine are effective in treating a wide range of conditions of the eye. For some conditions, such as macular degeneration, retinitis pigmentosa, Stargardt's disease and other retinal diseases which have limited treatment in Western medicine, acupuncture is the treatment of choice. For other diseases, such as cataracts (in the early stage) and chronic (open-angle) glaucoma, acupuncture can be beneficial as an adjunct therapy to Western treatment.
Traditional Chinese Medicine Diagnosis
The Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classic or Nei jing, the most important ancient text in Chinese medicine, teaches “the Liver opens into the eyes”. The Liver is the primary organ relating to the eyes in Chinese medicine, although in practice, all of the internal organs have some relation to the eyes. That is why diagnosis of eye disease is not just based on symptoms and signs but also on a more extensive pattern of the entire body. The causes of eye and bodily diseases are the same: the dysfunction of the internal organs leads to eye and other disorders. You cannot separate the eyes from the rest of the body.
In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), it is said that the spirit “shows in the eyes” and “is housed in the heart.” These sayings indicate a direct relationship between thinking and eye function. The attitude of a person has a direct and immediate effect on the Qi in the eyes. TCM eye reading or eye diagnosis combined with pulse and tongue diagnosis are the most effective ways to determine the best treatment for each patient, and can aid in early detection for preventive management. It is also helpful if patients bring their medical records from recent eye exams.
Someone who is educated in TCM ophthalmology can provide thorough treatment of eye diseases through acupuncture and Chinese herbs. As a practitioner, my main objective is to bring Qi to the eyes while treating the overall organ imbalances and the person’s unique constitution. I also usually coach my patients to assess their attitude towards life, as well.
Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Age-related Macular Degeneration (ARMD) is the most common of a number of degenerative conditions that can affect the retina. It is also the leading cause of blindness in older adults. According to epidemiologists, there are almost 5,000 new cases diagnosed each day and by the year 2010 there will be 30 million cases of ARMD in the United States alone.[i] There are some studies that suggest that almost 25% of adults over the age of 65 show some evidence of deterioration in the macular region.[ii] Right now, there is no cure and no treatment for ARMD in conventional medicine.
Macular Degeneration Case Study
Linda came to me with the "wet" form of age-related macular degeneration (ARMD), the leading cause of vision loss and blindness in people over the age of 65. She had had laser procedures 3 months prior to coming into the clinic. After reviewing the medical records from Linda's recent eye exams, I treated her with acupuncture (body points, scalp points, ear points) and prescribed herbal medicine. Two months later she showed improvement as measured in visual acuity testing and also showed marked improvement in her scoring on color testing and overall visual fields.
I also teach my patients how to do self-massage around the eyes. Eye massage is popular in China to prevent children from becoming near-sighted. For mild eye problems, these simple massage techniques can be of great benefit. In severe cases, eye massage is a useful supplement. Through the guidance of an acupuncturist who has been trained in this therapy, a patient can easily learn eye massage and do it at home for mild eye disease like dry eyes and eye strain.
Eat Right for your Eyes
There has been extensive research done on the importance of specific foods and dietary supplements for people with degenerative eye diseases. Diet, supplements and vitamins can slow the progression of macular degeneration and retinal disease[iii], and when combined with acupuncture and herbal treatment provide a course of treatment that is more effective. For example, blueberries improve night vision, affecting the production of visual purple and assisting the optic nerve.
Goji berries have been used for 6,000 years by herbalists in China to protect the liver, help eyesight, boost immune function, improve circulation, and promote longevity. Goji berries, also known as Lycium barbarum, wolfberry, gou qi zi, and Fructus lycii are usually found dried. They are shriveled red berries that look like red raisins.
Goji berries are rich in antioxidants, particularly carotenoids such as beta-carotene and zeaxanthin. One of zeaxanthin's key roles is to protect the retina of the eye by absorbing blue light and acting as an antioxidant. In fact, increased intake of foods containing zeathanthin may decrease the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (ARMD).[iv]
About the author
Shengyan ‘Grace’ Tan, PhD, MD (China), OMD (China) served as an acupuncturist, herbalist, and clinical supervisor in the ENT and Ophthalmology Department of the teaching hospital of Chengdu University of TCM for four years. She has also served as a clinic interpreter, instructor, and lecturer and has published several peer reviewed papers. She is the first PhD-trained TCM practitioner specializing in ophthalmology to teach in the United States. Dr. Tan brings energy, knowledge, and clinical experience to the AOMA faculty. At AOMA Tan teaches TCM Diagnostic Skills I and II, Herbal Safety, Herbal Patents, and Clinic Theater 1, and supervises clinic rotations. She has been a faculty member, clinical supervisor, and acupuncturist at AOMA since 2011.
Students are the heart of any academic institution and AOMA’s students in particular are passionate, motivated, intelligent, and caring individuals. AOMA offers a wide and diverse range of student services, including brown bag seminars, a China study trip, individualized career counseling, and more. All of our services are designed with the intention of supporting students on the personal and professional healing journeys they experience in acupuncture school.
Brown Bag Seminars
Studying Traditional Chinese Medicine is a deep, lifelong learning experience with a myriad of topics to be explored. Brown Bag seminars give students the opportunity to enrich their practices with free one-hour lunchtime lectures and demonstrations. Topics range from practice management tips to Five Element acupuncture to herbal quality discernment, and more.
Brown bag seminars are hosted by alumni, outside experts, current students, and staff. All brown bags are free and open to the public. They are held throughout each term on campus from 12:45-1:45 pm. View the summer schedule and see examples of past brown bags here.
Joining an extracurricular student organization is a great way to learn new skills, share your knowledge, practice leadership, and meet other students while in acupuncture school. AOMA is home to a number of student-run organizations, including the AOMA Student Association, Ju Jutsu Club, Qigong Group, AOMA Herbs Club, Research Club, and the Chinese Culture Club.
Students are welcome and encouraged to start new clubs at any time. To learn more about AOMA’s student clubs and their events visit the Student Organizations site.
China Study Tour
AOMA offers a biennial China Study Tour in collaboration with Chengdu University of Traditional Oriental Medicine in Chengdu, China. The China Study Tour combines cultural, educational, clinical, and recreational activities to provide students an enriching, once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Specific details of the China Study Tour change year to year. In the past, students who participated began their trip with a sightseeing trip to Beijing before flying to Chengdu, the capital and cultural center of Sichuan Province. At Chengdu University, students had the opportunity to study herbs and gained valuable hands-on clinical experience at the university, working in treatment centers under supervising professors.
The 2013 trip concluded with study at Emei Mountain, the highest of the four sacred Buddhist mountains. There, students practiced tai chi, qigong, and meditation. Students also had the option of extending their tour an extra week to visit Tibet.
Studying medicine in China is an unforgettable, life-changing experience for those who are able to participate in the trip, and one that AOMA is proud to offer. The next AOMA China Study Tour will take place in the spring of 2015.
Starting an acupuncture practice or securing a job after graduation is a top priority for students and for the Student and Career Services Department here at AOMA. In order to assist students and alumni in their work after school, AOMA provides a number of career resources.
Each week AOMA receives job opportunities from practitioners across the country hoping to grow their practices. Student Services also searches the web for relevant employment postings and shares these opportunities on the website and on the LinkedIn group for students and alumni. Last year, AOMA shared more than 600 job opportunities on LinkedIn!
Having trouble building a resume? AOMA offers a Resume Builder—a free online tool to assist students in creating a professional resume. The Resume Builder provides tips, templates, and helpful suggestions to make the resume writing process as smooth as possible. AOMA also offers free individual career counseling to help students and alumni apply for jobs, receive feedback on their resumes, and clarify their personal and professional goals.
More Career Resources.
Austin is consistently ranked in the list of top cities to live in the US so it’s no wonder that more and more students are moving here to attend AOMA. Student Services is able to help students with their search for housing. We maintain a housing opportunities website as well as a Student Housing Forum on LinkedIn. Long-term housing, short-term opportunities, and roommate requests are posted regularly. Students in need of housing support should visit our LinkedIn group and join the Student Housing Forum.
AOMA is happy to offer additional support to students when life presents challenges that interfere with student success. Julie Aziz, LCSW, Director of Student and Career Services, meets with students individu
ally to help them develop the support system they need, and to create a clear, intentional plan for personal and professional growth. To set up a meeting with Julie, email her at email@example.com
For students in need of counseling, AOMA is partnered with Sol Community Counseling in Austin. Students are able to take advantage of reduced-rate counseling services, including individual and couples sessions. Rates are currently $20 per session for individuals and $30 per session for couples. To learn more about Sol’s offerings, call Sol Community Counseling at (512) 366-0954.
We’re lucky to work with such a great student body here at AOMA and we’re always happy to hear from prospective students, students, and alumni. If you have any questions, comments, or would like to host a brown bag seminar contact Student and Career Services Director Julie Aziz.
I did it. I spent four and a half years in Chinese medical school. I packed the contents of a ton classes, more than a thousand hours of clinics, about a hundred books, and uncountable hours of study into my brain. And when all was said and done I found I had learned far more than the facts I plugged into my head. Acupuncture school isn’t so much of a school where you learn skills as it is a hero’s journey right out of the mind of Joseph Campbell. What follows are a few things I gathered that are even more valuable and longer-lasting than the Master’s degree I earned.
“Be here. You get one absence free. The 2nd one will cost you a full grade letter off the final grade. The 3rd one costs you 2 full letter grades. That would be bad. You’ll probably fail.” -Dr. Xiaotian Shen, Point Locations 1
“Be present” is a phrase that gets a lot of press in some circles. I suspect we all have some concept of what it means to be present, but being aware of the concept and actually being able to do it are two very different things. Our minds are in a constant state of living in either the past or the future.
Engaging in too much preoccupation with the past or excessive worry about the future means that we miss this moment that we are physically in. And this moment is all that there truly is. Only this moment is real. How much do we miss by not experiencing it? What amazing richness walked right past us while we were texting, worrying, fretting, or just daydreaming?
Living in this moment, paying attention to all that is and doing it purposefully can bring incredible peace and insight. Setting an intention to be conscious of this moment and to fully inhabit it also has amazing implications for healers. Truly hearing and being present when your client walks into your office is a tremendous gift that not many of us receive. Who among us doesn’t want to be truly seen and heard?
Setting time aside in your life to be quiet and present with your own mind gives you the calm center and peaceful soul you need to also offer this gift to another being.
Strive for Understanding.
“Seek first to understand.” -Dr. Xiaotian Shen, Point Locations 1
I won’t lie to you: when Dr. Shen uttered this in my first acupuncture point locations class I knew it was profound, but I didn’t have the life skills to know this on a deep level. The majority of time I was in school I was driven to make A’s; anything less than perfection was unacceptable. But somehow during my quest for A’s I also knew that the concepts my amazing professors were offering to me also contained wisdom worth a thousand gold pieces and transcended the memorization of facts.
This is true of all of life. Wisdom begins when you realize that the surface facts you have been memorizing have a whole lot of depth and truth underneath them. When you understand the deeper structures you can tell which bits are important, you can see how and why the individual components fit together, and you can use the information you have memorized to draw new conclusions. Your actions become purposeful, efficient, and confident.
This takes time, patience, and the perseverance to build your foundational knowledge. It also takes the discipline to bypass the shiny fun tidbits (for now) in favor of making sure you are on solid ground.
“All C’s spells Doc.” -Dr. Will Morris
I touched briefly on what I like to call The Tyranny of A’s in another point in this missive from my heart to yours. I thought I had defeated this devil, but when I started acupuncture school, there he was, sitting on my shoulder, screaming, “Not good enough!!” even when I got a low A. I drove myself mercilessly in school, which in turn caused a decline in my health and drove a wedge into my personal relationships.
It took a long time before I realized I was trying to please this unpleased-able demon that was actually my own internal critic telling me I had to be perfect and personable. I wanted my colleagues to see how brilliant I was so that they would acknowledge that I had worth and relevance. Deep down inside where I kept it good and hidden I didn’t believe I had worth or relevance and wasn’t worthy of being loved unless I was perfect.
Let me say this clearly: you matter, you have worth, you are worthy of love regardless of the grades you make, regardless of the clothes you wear, regardless of who and what you are. You deserve to love yourself fully and to feel confident about your ability and right to be on this planet. You are here for a reason.
When you can drop the baggage of living for the approval of others and approach your relationship to yourself as your primary relationship you can accomplish anything. And you’ll be doing it from your heart not from some perceived need to fit into someone else’s version of you. That’s when the grades and the outcomes stop mattering.
And this is a very good place to get to because I guarantee you that the world will not celebrate your triumphs. Never is this clearer than when you pass that first (or last!) board exam and there is no one cheering except you when you do. This is a lonely medicine in many ways. I guarantee you that no one, not even your significant other or parents, understands how difficult Chinese medical school is unless they’ve been through it.
“Yin and yang can also represent two related aspects of one thing…Yin and yang properties are relative, not absolute, and can be changed.” - Dr. Qianzhi Wu, Foundations of Chinese Medicine
We live in a time that is characterized by wars of various kinds – the war on terror, the war on drugs, the wars in the Middle East, and the war on women just to list a few. War might have once been a struggle for the physical survival but now it seems that most armed conflicts are a struggle for the supremacy of beliefs. This is often true not just on a global scale, but on an interpersonal scale as well.
The thing is, ideas and beliefs are largely a product of perspective. I used to work in technical support at a company whose name rhymes with “hell.” When I worked in tech support all I heard were problems and complaints. After a while I started wondering why I was working at this crappy company which produced this crappy product. This attitude evaporated about a year after I left the company and started working in the corporate world. These “hell” computers turned out to be pretty darned bullet proof on the whole, demonstrating incredible resilience, even when handled with flagrant disregard by co-workers who treated them an awful lot like the gorilla in the commercial treats Samsonite luggage. They quickly became my go-to computer of choice.
What changed? The computers? The design? No. Same design, same manufacturers, same company. The only thing that changed was my perspective. Human beings spend their lives looking through a tiny keyhole in life and form a whole life philosophy from this extremely partial view. That’s where our limited (and limiting) beliefs come from.
If you want to change your world, change your perspective. Try to look at a different view of your challenges and you will find that those challenges change. All you have to do is change your mind.
“The course of our everyday lives requires that we balance the interior process of nurturing the self (Yin) with being engaged in the exterior work of the world (Yang)."
“Wang Dao. This is the way to treat the patient without resulting in harm. Take the body as a whole rather than focusing on the problem and forgetting about the whole person. When you write a formula, always think of Wang Dao.”
“Yin Yang philosophy should be in all formulas. This gives the formula structure.” -Dr. Ma, Formulas 1
Acupuncture school seems to take every brain cell you have. School can become this huge thing that blocks your view of the rest of your world, even though it is only a small portion of your total life on this planet. We all know that if you ignore a plant, it will wither and eventually die of neglect. You can think of school as the big Yang portion of your life – it’s bigger than life, takes an awful lot of energy, and will float away and out of control unless you are careful.
Watch your relationships with yourself, your family, and your friends. There’s no quick and easy way to do this. You just have to remind yourself to pay attention. This is part of walking in balance, even if it means you have to do it deliberately.
“When there is qi, there is life. When there is no qi, there is no life.”
“As one experiences the opening of the heart, this allows the qi from the universe to go to the entire body, removing the negativities that rob one of a life of perfect well-being.” – Master Li Jun Feng
When you sit down on an airplane and it finally takes off the staff stands up and starts giving their show about how to buckle your seatbelt and how to use your seat cushion as a floatation device. During the spiel the announcer says that in the unlikely event of loss of cabin pressure masks will fall down from the ceiling. In this rhetoric is an instruction to put your own mask on first if you are traveling with someone who is dependent on you for his or her physical well-being. For a long time this seemed to me like the height of selfishness. At some point I realized that this is not selfish, but vital. If you are incapacitated you cannot care for those who depend on you.
The same is true for those of us who have chosen to be healers and care givers. If you cannot care for yourself, you cannot care for your patients either. It is a great irony that the demands of going to school to become a healer can really break down your own health. Though it can be difficult to be consistent about caring for yourself while you are in school it is one of the most vital things you can do for yourself as a healer and as a human being.
Open your heart. Let the qi flow in. Care for yourself. Thrive.
Follow Your Own Path
“Each channel has its’ own regular pathway, which includes an internal and an external course.” - Navigating the Channels of Traditional Chinese Medicine
When I squared my shoulders, took that deep breath and committed to the path of Chinese medicine I thought I was just making a career change. I’m still laughing over that one! That was my external path. I did not know at the time that there was an internal pathway as well. As it turns out, the internal path fuels the external. Without the internal path my acupuncture practice is just a hollow shell, a façade.
The internal path I’m talking about ties back into living from the love I feel for myself, the compassion for others that spills out of a heart full of love, and the connection with and guidance I feel from the Universe. I think all of us are here for a reason, to work our way through this life outfitted with those three components. This is your journey and the journey is the whole point of being.
A word of warning: the road may not go where you think it’s going to when you begin the next leg of your journey! Plan all you want to, but don’t get too attached to the plan or the outcome. The important thing is to follow your intuition, your path through this life.
About the author: As the owner of Calhoun Acupuncture & Wellness in Austin, TX, Catherine Calhoun maintains an active clinical practice treating patients with conditions such as pain, allergies & respiratory infections, and substance addiction, as well as chronic disorders like arthritis, diabetes, neurological disorders, endocrine disorders, and cardio/circulatory disorders. A certified Usui Reiki practitioner and trainer, she also specializes in relaxation and meditation therapies such as reiki, medical qigong, and guided meditation. Ms. Calhoun is committed to implementing affordable healthcare options using oriental medicine and manages an on-site corporate wellness practice in addition to her private clinical practice. She is the owner and creator of CatsTCMNotes.com and has instructed at AOMA since 2012.