Chinese physician Dr. Zhan Wentao demonstrated last week how one can stimulate nerve meridians in the scalp and the ears.

A body of knowledge

For 5,000 years, Chinese medicine
has been healing patients

By Helen Altonn

A distinguished doctor of Western and traditional Chinese medicine looked at the woman's eyes, tongue and mouth and took the pulse in both of her wrists, closing his eyes and concentrating.

Dr. Zhan Wentao then accurately described the woman's symptoms -- tired, a little dizzy at times, dry eyes and inner conflict or temper. He said her yin and yang -- kidneys and liver -- were out of balance, her lungs were a little weak and digestion poor.

He prescribed a Chinese herbal tea, adding "something extra" for the woman's cold, and suggested some lifestyle changes: less work, reduced stress, more sleep. (The woman planned to talk to her primary care physician about the herbal remedy to ensure safe interaction with her other medicines.)

Zhan lives in Yunan province, described as a "pearl in the treasure house of traditional Chinese medicine and pharmacology."

Among his many positions, Zhan is a standing member of the Council of China Association of Traditional Chinese Medicine and of the Council of China Association of Acupuncture, president of the Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture Associations of Yunan and of the Association of Combination of Chinese and Western Medicine. His wife also is a doctor who specializes in hard-to-treat diseases.

Dr. Zhan Wentao, Using a comb to show how one can stimulate nerve meridians in the scalp. On the right is Dr. Qing Zhan, his daughter.

Zhan stopped here at the invitation of C.S. Li of Honolulu after attending the wedding of his daughter Ling, 33, in Philadelphia. She is a dentistry professor at the University of California-San Francisco.

Li said he met Zhan in 1998 when the doctor took some students to a restaurant Li had then in the Chinese Cultural Plaza. Li had suffered a stroke in 1997 that affected use of his right hand, and he asked Zhan for advice. "He said the problems were in my head. He gave me a Chinese herbal medicine and told me how to cook it."

After about two weeks and two packages of the tea, Li said, "I felt the blood was flowing." He said it was a terrible feeling, as though his hand had been frozen and was thawing in intense heat.

"Twenty minutes later, my hand started moving. I shouted to myself, 'I'm healed!'"

In an interview using an interpreter, Zhan explained that Chinese medicine has been used for 5,000 years to prevent, diagnose and treat medical problems.

In Western medicine, he said, the human body is separated into different parts and diagnosed individually. The Chinese treat and diagnose the body as "one whole and part of the universe and environment."

The Chinese believe human disease occurs when there is internal and external imbalance, and a Chinese doctor tries to determine what is out of balance, Zhan said.

He said three basic elements must be balanced: essence, which is derived from parents; nutrition, which is related to qi, or energy; and spirit.

Treatment may involve a combination of remedies, he said, describing various techniques to treat and delay progression of Alzheimer's and other brain diseases.

He slowly brushed his hair from the front to the back of his head in three lines, from the middle and from each side. He does each line 100 times three times a day to stimulate the brain.

Does this work? "I'm 66 years old and my hair is still black," he said with a big smile.

The ear also is important, he said, explaining that massaging it from top to bottom until it turns red is like massaging the whole body.

"When the brain starts to not function as normal, it's little things you can do," he said, suggesting embroidery or playing the piano to use all 10 fingers.

Another technique: transferring 1,000 seeds or beans (as small as possible) from one bowl to another, using a different finger each time, then changing hands for another 1,000.

Eating one or two walnuts a day also is helpful, he said, noting the meat resembles a brain. Chew it very slowly with your eyes closed until it's liquefied, then swallow it slowly, he advised.

"It's like little raindrops over the Pali that keep the earth moist," he said. "Chinese medicine believes liquid produced in the head is rich in nurturing the body."

Zhan gave a standing-room-only talk last week on "Traditional Chinese Medicine Approach to Alzheimer's and Dementia" at the Boy Scouts of America-Aloha Council. He also discussed research and educational exchanges with University of Hawaii medical school Dean Edwin Cadman and attended an alternative medicine conference Tuesday at the East-West Center.

Traveling with him is his daughter, Dr. Qing Zhan, 38, also trained in Western and traditional Chinese medicine. She is deputy director, Department of Neurology, First Hospital Affiliated of Kunming Medical College.

They extended their stay here to attend the Aloha Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association's annual fund-raising event, "Moonlight and Magic Tango," tomorrow night at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Coral Ballroom and will leave Saturday.

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