An Introduction to Chinese Medicine by Toby Daly
Although specifically intended for patients, Toby Daly’s new book – An Introduction to Chinese Medicine: A Patient’s Guide to Acupuncture, Herbal Medicine, Nutrition & More – gives a thoughtful and elegant overview of Chinese medicine equally helpful for practitioners and those in training.
In spite of its complexity and profundity, Chinese medicine tends to circle back to ancient and fundamental paradigms. The discipline involves contemplation and refinement of basic and fundamental facts through clinical experience and practice.
Time after time, we must return to consider succinct and meaningful answers to the questions of what Chinese medicine is and the underlying principles of its different modalities. This introductory book reminds us that the nature of our practice entails continual reflection on basic concepts no matter how experienced we may become as practitioners.
Being able to communicate what Chinese medicine can offer for our patients is vital in empowering them and inviting them to collaborate with us in their healing. The synergy between the practitioner’s treatment and a patient’s willingness to be involved in the process is likely to have positive therapeutic effects. Daly’s guide offers foundational context to draw patients into the world of Chinese medicine without mystifying them.
Nor does he attempt to ‘sell’ Chinese medicine in a biased way. He expresses terms in a clear and approachable manner without over-simplification, while at the same time maintaining the integrity of the medicine’s sophistication. By returning frequently to the yin-yang framework in his explanations, Daly provides the reader with a helpful axis on which to build a clearer understanding of their treatment.
The book is framed as a dialogue, through a series of questions posed by the patient, in a structure reminiscent of the Huangdi Neijing/The Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classic in which the emperor poses questions to his ministers. Each chapter marks a branch of Chinese medicine, covering all modalities including acupuncture, moxibustion, gua sha 刮痧, qigong 气功, tai ji quan 太极拳, herbal medicine, dietary therapy and yang sheng 养生. Daly describes methods of diagnosis as well as unpicking the labelling of Chinese medicine as ‘alternative’. He also offers an elegantly simple answer to the enduringly common question: What is Chinese medicine?
The author writes objectively and respectfully to the curious patient and offers avenues for further exploration. One important chapter addresses current research into the efficacy of Chinese medicine modalities, examining each branch of medicine and referencing contemporary scientific studies. He discusses evidence-based results and highlights areas where there is potential for further research. He also talks about the nuanced complexities that Chinese medicine faces against the standardised blueprint of biomedical meta-analysis and randomised controlled trials.
The research chapter is bolstered by a rich resource of scientific articles for the interested reader to follow up on, together with a recommended reading list for each topic. There is also a useful appendix on the conditions for which the World Health Organisation recommends acupuncture.
The whole book offers a distillation of over twenty years of Daly’s clinical experience and a summary of the most common questions asked by his patients – an approachable springboard for patients to engage with the medicine and help guide their relationship with it.
There is an art to making the intricate accessible, and Daly accomplishes this with a warm and generous spirit. As well as being an informative guide for the patient, he also provides an enjoyable read for students and practitioners alike. As a budding acupuncturist, I find his overview of Chinese medicine to be insightful in distilling complex and challenging concepts into concise and elegant answers.
Not only is this an indispensable book to have in the clinic for patients – it is also a refreshing and inspiring reminder to practitioners of the benefits of viewing Chinese medicine through the lens of those they treat.
An Introduction to Chinese Medicine: A Patient’s Guide to Acupuncture, Herbal Medicine, Nutrition & More is an independent publication