There are many books about Chinese medicine and acupuncture books out there. My wife once joked that I have more books about them in my library than I do about western medicine. Truly, they are indeed a treasure trove of knowledge. There comes a time however, when I actually have to recommend books to patients for them to read at home. Obviously I have to recommend book suited for the non practitioner, lest I bore the patient to death.
While thinking about this subject, I decided to go for practicality. Obviously, the content of the material must be taken into account. There is no point in lending a book to a patient if I believe the contents of the book would benefit them. That’s my first criterion then: what books have I actually lent out to patients.
Secondly, I need to get good feedback from the patients. Typically I’d get the book back with reactions ranging from “that was so helpful!” to “I still don’t get it.” For my second criterion, the patient must have found the book useful and helpful.
Here then, are the Top Five Chinese Medicine Books for Patients according to a totally non-authority like myself, with links to Amazon.
5) Pocket Atlas of Chinese Medicine by Marnae Ergil and Kevin Ergil (2009)
I know that at first glance the words “Pocket Atlas” would imply a book full of charts, tables and outlines. I must say that this book does not disappoint. More than that however, the text traces the development of Chinese Medicine along Chinese dynastic lines. It explains the basic theories of Chinese Medicine and places these in historical and cultural context. Most helpful of all, it enumerates the modalities of Chinese medicine, such as acupuncture and herbology, and gives succinct yet comprehensive introductions to each.
4) Chinese Traditional Cures: Traditional Methods for Remedy and Prevention by Henry C. Lu (2006)
The bad: this book is college textbook sized. The good: the contents are worth it. Henry Lu produces yet another magnificent text aimed at the non-practitoner, albeit with emphasis on herbology and foods. Much emphasis is given on explaining the Chinese concepts of “hot” and “cold” foods, as well as the concept of meridian entry of foods.
3) The Tao of Healthy Eating: Dietary Wisdom According to Traditional Chinese Medicine by Bob Flaws (1999)
Packed into a portable pocketbook sized body is a wonderful text elaborating the special emphasis that Chinese medicine has on diet. It begins with a summary of Chinese digestive theory focusing on the Spleen and Stomach. Reminding me of the theories of Li Dongyuan, it traces many difficult to treat chronic diseases to poor eating. Afterwards, it gives practical advice on how to avoid damaging the digestion and even how to recover from poor dieting.
At first, this is seemingly a re-writing of Flaws’ other book on this list. However, it quickly expands the content, including why there is a special consideration in Chinese pediatrics towards diet. It also gives some practical first aid tips for common problems, much as the title says.
1) The Web That Has No Weaver: Understanding Chinese Medicine by Ted Kapchuk (2nd Edition, 2000)
There are many texts that explain the basic theories of Chinese medicine such as Yin and Yang, Qi and Blood, the Five phases, the Meridians, etc. However most of these are very academic and are not geared for the casual reader. Kapchuk tends to get a wee bit verbose at times but many of my patients still find this text to be the most “patient friendly”. Most importantly, it recognizes that it’s readers are mostly westerners with a different point of view and linguistic habits than the oriental.
Disclaimer: I am not connected with any of these authors, books or their publishers. This short list is based merely on my personal experience and I may update this over time.