How Bugs Can Heal Chronic Pain & Disease

“I hate to sound like a broken record,” said one of my teachers, “but a lot of her problem is due to blood stagnation.”

Dr. Greg Livingston and I were chatting before one of our herbal shifts at the school clinic. We were discussing the details of a diagnosis that one of our patients had been given on the shift the week before. Blood stagnation is the name of a pattern that we learn to identify and treat in Chinese medicine. According to the medicine, stagnant blood is the root of many illnesses. If blood doesn’t flow correctly, pain will result and various organ systems will become undernourished. Malnourishment and lack of flow will then cause other problems and lead to a whole host of diseases and bizarre symptoms.

I smiled at Greg’s remark. It was a familiar piece of advice, but one that bared repeating. Greg was one of the few westerners to go to China, learn chinese, finish a P.H.D. in Chinese medicine, and then study with various doctors who had decades of clinical experience. Greg got excellent results in the clinic. He consistently understood and could explain why he would give treatment the way that he did. He was one of the teachers that I had become closest to while in school. He is someone that I still consider a friend and mentor to this day.

“But why use the bugs Greg?” I asked after glancing at the patient’s herbal formula. “What would lead you to the conclusion that we need to break the blood?”

My question was linked to the way we learn to classify herbs as singular medicinals at school. The category in Chinese medicine that most of the insect medicinals are placed in, is called move the blood. The move the blood category has several gradients of intensity, the strongest of which is called break the blood. That is where the bug medicinals reside.

“Well,” he replied, “the bugs don’t necessarily move the blood any more intensely than Dang Gui 当归 (Angelica Sinensis) or Chuan Xiong 川芎 (Sichuan Lovage), what makes them unique is that they go to the luo mai.”

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