Thinking Outside of the Pill Box
By Kim Duke-Layden | Photography by Romona Robbins
Hands down, the West leads the world in medical technology innovations and in early detection screenings, which unquestionably have saved countless lives. Yet, when it comes to America’s prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs, more and more red flags are being raised regarding their ineffectiveness and dangerous side effects, fueling suspicions that the country’s pharmaceutical companies are in bed with the Food and Drug Administration and have as much clout on Capitol Hill as the tobacco industry had decades ago. If your or your loved one’s life depended on it, would you consider alternative medicine?
When I visited the Shanghai Museum last December, I discovered just how far back China’s civilization stretches: going back over four thousand years, it’s one of the world’s oldest. While the Western world certainly embraced ancient Chinese ingenuities such as paper and printing, the decimal system, and gunpowder, the same cannot be said about traditional Chinese medicine or medical treatments, like acupuncture, which have been practiced for thousands of years. Ironically speaking, aren’t the Chinese known for having a long life expectancy?
Chinese medicine first piqued my interest during my trip to China, but the language barrier was a deterrent. It was when I flew home with a bad sinus cold that lingered for six weeks, unfazed by OTC remedies and antibiotics, that I decided to try traditional Chinese medicine.
“Have you ever thought of trying acupuncture?” asked Wendy Morgan when I mentioned that I had a sinus infection that I just couldn’t shake. I recall thinking how odd it was that she was the second person during the previous few weeks who had suggested acupuncture—and for a sinus infection? Morgan said that she had visited Dr. Wu for a horrendous sinus flu and by the next morning, she was back in the gym. Meanwhile, her then-husband stuck with taking antibiotics and didn’t recover until two weeks later. Enough said; I made an appointment.
Destined for Healing
On the coffee table in the waiting room of Healing Art Acupuncture and Massage in Miramar Beach, Florida, are two albums filled with heartfelt cards and letters from patients profusely thanking Dr. Wu for restoring their health and well-being. Several testimonials sounded nothing short of miraculous. These patients’ illnesses and afflictions were as diverse as Shanghai’s skyline: pneumonia, debilitating migraines, infertility, obesity, nicotine addiction, severe psoriasis, asthma, blindness, and even cancer. I couldn’t help but be amazed.
During my consultation, Dr. Wu took my pulse, which is his window into the status of the hormone levels, and scrutinized the coloring of my eyes, skin, and tongue—all indicators of infection. After explaining my chronic sinus issues, he enthusiastically replied, “No problem, I will fix you right up. Sinuses are my specialty!”
During our discussion, I mentioned the names of a dozen friends and colleagues, patients of his who had given him glowing reviews. “I have thousands of patients. It’s just crazy!” said Dr. Wu, who genuinely seemed as astonished as I was about the staggering number of people he has treated since opening his office in 2007. He added matter-of-factly, “It’s not me; it’s God. He gave me the gift of healing, and through Him and His inspiration, I help people. It’s my calling in life.”
It’s not me; it’s God. He gave me the gift of healing, and through Him and His inspiration, I help people. It’s my calling in life.
Dr. Wu definitely took a roundabout route to discover his life’s destiny. Born and raised in Taiwan, young Tzong Jiunn Wu graduated college and was pursuing a career in medical research; however, after converting to Christianity, he felt compelled to change his course and forge a new direction. He quit his job and moved halfway around the world to Austin, where he studied at the Texas College of Traditional Chinese Medicine, obtained a master’s degree in traditional Oriental medicine, and became board certified in acupuncture and Chinese herbology. Soon after, a job opportunity in Northwest Florida eventually led him to open Healing Art Acupuncture.
Throughout his spiritual journey there were signs along the way that some, including Dr. Wu, believe were “Divine intervention” and had a hand in redirecting him from medical research, which required killing animals, to a life of helping and healing others. The most profound sign appeared in the form of a small bookmark that featured the name “Jason,” which was the English name that the martial arts–obsessed teen chose for himself, after a character in his favorite kung fu movie, No Retreat, No Surrender. The bookmark was a gift from his pastor and mentor, an American missionary living in Taiwan. Underneath “Jason” was the biblical meaning of the name: “Healer.” Dr. Wu’s grandfather was a doctor who practiced both Eastern and Western medicine, and his father, although a high government official, treated his family’s and close friends’ illnesses with reflexology, the science of healing through pressure points. Dr. Wu realized when he received the bookmark that not only was healing in his DNA, but it was also his destiny.
A Balancing Act
Acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine are centered on the concept of a body’s universal energy, or qi (chee), and how it flows through invisible pathways that lie just beneath the skin. When a blockage occurs in your qi, your body retaliates in the form of aches, pains, infections, diseases, and other health problems. In theory, the blockage manifests itself in one or more of the body’s organs. By inserting acupuncture needles at pulse points that correlate to the organ or organs, the obstruction is eliminated, and the body feels immediate relief from pain and infection. Once the body’s yin and yang (or balance) have been restored, it can begin healing.
Dr. Wu’s treatment rooms are so soothing that it feels more like you’re having a spa treatment than a medical procedure. Before starting my acupuncture, Dr. Wu explained, “Sinus problems stem from digestion problems, which cause gases to back up in the sinus cavities.” Judging by the gurgling sounds that my stomach often made, Dr. Wu was either psychic or right. I barely felt it when Dr. Wu gingerly inserted the tiny needles into my abdomen, above my brows, outside of my ears, under my wrists, and at the tops of my feet. I did feel energy coursing through my body—like on the board game Operation when you accidentally touch metal with the surgical tweezers. At the same time, it felt incredibly relaxing. Fifteen minutes or so later, I woke from my Zen-like state feeling quite rested as Dr. Wu painlessly removed the needles.
Along with acupuncture, Dr. Wu frequently prescribes all-natural herbal supplements, which, unlike most acupuncturists, he personally formulates. At first, I didn’t comprehend that the herbal remedies play an integral role in the overall effectiveness of acupuncture. “The herbs accelerate the long-term nutrition that your body needs to change the yin and yang status,” explained Dr. Wu. “Herbal medicine is like a key and illness is the lock. The herbs allow me to restore your body’s balance, so I can then focus on treating the illness, rather than the symptoms.”
Dr. Wu estimated that roughly 85 to 90 percent of patients who visit him have been taking the wrong medications and were damaging their health. He refrained from naming any specific drugs for fear of possible retaliation from powerful pharmaceutical conglomerates, yet Dr. Wu stressed that natural ingredients are the absolute right way to go, rather than with toxic and dangerous synthetics. “I believe Western medicine has reached a crossroads and is now going in the wrong direction,” he said. “God put nature in medicine to get your body back to harmony.” Think about it. When is the last time you saw a prescription drug ad in a magazine or on television where the benefits actually outweighed the litany of potential side effects? The disclaimers are especially frightening—“including possible stroke, heart attack, and sometimes, death”—and have become as familiar as “Would you like fries with that?”
Prescription drugs aren’t the only medications that can wreak havoc on your health; OTC preparations can also be harmful. For example, acetaminophen is the most common drug in America and is found in more than six hundred different OTC medications, especially cold, allergy, and sleep remedies. One of the reasons that I decided to visit Dr. Wu was that my blood test revealed slightly elevated levels of alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and aspartate aminotransferase (AST), enzymes which could possibly indicate liver damage. Since I’m a light drinker, I suspected that the acetaminophen in the OTC remedies that I frequently took was the culprit. When I swapped the acetaminophen-laced medicines for Dr. Wu’s herbal supplements and had several acupuncture treatments, my sinus infections ceased and my ALT and AST levels dropped to normal.
Food for Thought
According to Dr. Wu, a regimen of holistic foods is Chinese medicine’s first focus for getting your body’s qi in balance, followed by acupuncture and nutritious herbs. If the familiar adage we learned as kids had been a Chinese proverb, most likely it would have said, “An apple a day keeps the cardiologist away.” That’s because in accordance with traditional Chinese medicine, the philosophy of the five elements—fire, earth, metal, water, and wood—is interwoven into holistic nutrition principals and utilized as a tool for maintaining a healthy yin and yang state. For example, red fruits and vegetables are considered fire elements and eating them benefits the heart, blood vessels, and blood pressure.
The following is a Western-friendly cheat sheet listing the organs that benefit from eating the different colors of fruits and vegetables, plus a few examples. Blue and black foods help the bladder and kidneys, so eat blueberries and eggplant; green is good for the gall bladder and liver, so gobble up spinach, kale, and pears; white foods, such as cauliflower and white mushrooms, aid the lungs and large intestine; and brown benefits the stomach and spleen, so kiwis and potatoes are a good bet.
Among herbal flora, Dr. Wu holds mushrooms in particularly high regard, especially the lingzhi, which is also called reishi, the Antrodia camphorata, and the Siberian chaga. This triple crown of fungi has been used in indigenous medicines for over two millennia and contains remarkable antiviral, antibacterial, anticancer, and antiaging benefits. One mushroom, however, rules supreme.
The Siberian chaga mushroom is the king of all herbs. It is superconcentrated and grows like a tumor on the outside of a tree, extracting all of its nutrients.”
Additionally, chaga mushrooms reduce stress and fight inflammation, are a calming agent, help alleviate insomnia, boost energy naturally, and have effectively treated my attention deficit disorder. Amen!
From Desperation Comes Inspiration
In 2008, Penny English’s seventeen-year-old daughter, Danielle, was suddenly struck with excruciating migraines and partial blindness in one eye. Despite eight months of testing and experimental treatments, even a team of specialists from the Johns Hopkins Hospital couldn’t determine the cause of her symptoms. The blindness was also spreading to her other eye. Equally terrifying, her doctors were recommending more drug injections—and these could possibly cause a heart attack or stroke.
A chance exchange with a friend, however, led English to Dr. Wu’s office. “I would have tried anything. By then I had exhausted all avenues and was desperate,” said English, who had never considered acupuncture for a serious illness. “After Danielle’s first treatment, she told me that it no longer hurt to breathe. My husband and I were thrilled and decided that Dr. Wu’s treatments were definitely worth continuing.”
By the third visit, Danielle’s headaches had completely stopped and her eyesight was returning, and within three weeks of beginning acupuncture treatments and herbal supplements, Danielle’s vision was totally restored, which her ophthalmologist confirmed.
What was Dr. Wu’s theory on the cause of Danielle’s terrifying affliction—which, by the way, has never occurred again? According to English, “He thinks all the asthma medications and steroids that Danielle took as a child poisoned her body, causing her liver and kidneys not to function properly.”
Dr. Wu understands desperation firsthand. When he was in college in Texas, he became deathly ill from mold poisoning. His teachers brought him herbs but his condition only worsened. In his darkest hours, he began to meditate and pray. Then an idea came to him to try mixing the herbs together. Amazingly, it worked. Over the years, he has perfected his original formula, which he uses in variations to treat flu, asthma, sinus problems, and other respiratory infections.
Dr. Wu’s extensive knowledge of diseases from his medical research days and his expertise in Chinese herbs are behind his creations of other effective medicinal formulas, which have benefitted cancer survivors like Christine K.
Eight years ago, Christine K. and Dr. Wu met by chance—or what she feels was a predestined crossing of paths—when they both wound up as speakers at a networking event that neither planned to attend. At the time, Christine was reeling from a confusing consultation with her doctors: after expressing only slight concern over a small, slow-growing cervical tumor, they urged her to undergo a radical hysterectomy and a scary drug regimen. “It didn’t make any sense,” Christine said. “What they recommended drastically contradicted what they had just told me.”
After Christine spoke with Dr. Wu about his holistic, chemical-free medical treatments and with several friends who were patients of Dr. Wu’s, she listened to her inner voice and sought an alternative approach to the knife. After only eight weeks of acupuncture and Dr. Wu’s cancer-fighting formulas, Christine had a PET scan to find out if her cancer was metastasizing.
Not only was it not metastasizing, there were absolutely no signs of cancer anywhere in my body.
While the pathologist concurred that surgery was no longer needed, Christine’s surgeon still recommended it.
Through the years, Dr. Wu has become a trusted friend and primary physician to Christine K. and her husband. In addition to curing her cancer, he has freed her from hyperthyroidism—and the harsh drugs she was taking for the condition. He has also balanced her hormones and mitigated her menopausal symptoms. “Dr. Wu is not just any acupuncturist,” she insisted. “Besides being extremely caring, I believe he is an instrument of God—a truly talented and gifted healer.”
While acupuncture and herbal treatments may not be for everyone or every medical situation, Christine encourages you to do your “homework” so you can make educated decisions when seeking treatment. Thanks to Dr. Wu and his patients who have shared their stories, I have gleaned a newfound understanding and respect for alternative medicine—not to mention a heightened awareness of Western medicine’s dirty little secrets.
Hopefully, the day will come when America’s health insurance companies will recognize holistic, chemical-free alternatives as legitimate, approved treatments, and Dr. Wu’s dream of opening a hospital that specializes in stem cell research and provides free cancer treatments to everyone will come true. “Some patients are very poor and I want to show them that God loves them too,” Dr. Wu explained. “Everyone deserves to be treated equally.”
In the meantime, I am heeding Dr. Wu’s wise advice and following my new mantra: “A chaga a day keeps the doctor away.”
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