Oriental medicine has a unique image of the human-being that differs from the Western medical view. Orthodox medicine tends to see the human-being in terms of cellular activity and genetic influences. Oriental medicine views the human-being as an integral part of the cosmic forces that pervade every aspect of existence.

Although these two forms of medicine seem to oppose each other, they are in fact complementary systems and can be friends in the healing process.

The origins of Chinese medicine go back at least 3,000 years. From shamanic roots came later Buddhist and Taoist influences, which have led to an unbroken and yet impressively flexible practice of medicine.

From very early times the individual was perceived in terms of energy or Qi.

Qi is made up of two inter-dependant energies — Yang the heavenly, and Yin, the earthly. Because we occupy a place between heaven and earth — between Yang and Yin — we are at the crux, where these two powerful forces meet. This place of meeting is where a potential conflict, leading to illness, is likely to occur.

In Chinese medicine the first stage of interpreting diseases is direct and simple, providing an understanding of the patient within the interplay of these cosmic powers. For instance, if someone comes to me with insomnia, as a practitioner of Chinese medicine I would tend to see this as a Yin/Yang disharmony.

Instead of sinking into the peace and comfort of Yin — the night-time when heart, mind and body can be free — the Yang consciousness of daytime persists and prevents withdrawal, rest and renewal.

Another clear example of this dynamic occurs in women’s menstrual cycles which, when in harmony, follow the 28 days of the lunar cycle. The onset of menses (Yang) is interpreted symbolically as the time of the full moon, while ovulation (Yin) is the time of the ‘empty’ moon.

When the rhythm is out of harmony menstruation can stop altogether or become scanty and shortened or at the other extreme lead to pain, flooding and lengthy bleeding.

I use acupuncture and Chinese herbs as a means of re-establishing the yin-yang harmony and realigning menstruation with the phases of the moon, while at the same time addressing the symptoms of pain, clotting, too much or too little blood. Or, in Western medical terms, amenorrhea, dysmenorrhea, endometriosis, fibroids or pelvic inflammatory disease.

There is a long history of oriental medicine being used successfully for a whole range of diseases including gynaecological and fertility problems.

Recent research has shown that acupuncture and herbal treatment can greatly increase the chances of becoming pregnant, both naturally or as an adjunct to IVF treatment.

Whereas the orthodox medical approach is to work at the microscopic material level of eggs and sperm, acupuncture adds a more interconnected and expansive view of procreation.

Not only can it enhance scientific treatment but it can alleviate many of the intrusive mechanical techniques, through relaxing and nourishing the prospective mother and father and also the potential life they hold between them, while also reminding the parents-to-be that an embryo derives from something more than matter. There are qualities that an infant will be bringing into life that relate to cosmic and spiritual energies, as well as to the quality of the relationship between the parents, that are part of the exquisite mystery of life.

In my practice, when a woman chooses to include oriental medicine alongside IVF treatment, I adapt the herbal remedies and the acupuncture treatment to each stage of the woman’s cycle (and also to the effects of the medically-assisted treatment), in order to get to the root of any presenting problems and to reach the potential for life within her.

In addition, I also encourage the man to have treatment for any deficiencies in sperm count, motility, morphology, and for any imbalances due to tiredness or stress, and so on. The intention is to bring them both into better harmony with lunar and natural rhythms and therefore to give them the best possible chance to conceive. Out of the basic understanding of the polar aspects of Yin and Yang develops a deeper, more subtle interpretation of the patient’s problem in terms of the five elements (wood, fire, earth, metal and water), which connect with further emotional and spiritual factors. In oriental medicine each person is seen as unique and is treated individually according to a complex diagnosis, which takes into account not only physical symptoms, but also more subtle energetic levels which impact on our wellbeing.

My intention is always to help the patient become more in harmony within themselves — within their own inner cosmos, as it were — and therefore to be more attuned to the wider cycle of rhythms that surround and support each one of us. Oriental medicine is particularly well-suited for achieving this.