“Boost Vital Activities with Food with Rich 'Vital Energy'."

  president of the Japanese Society of Acupuncture and Moxibustion
Dr. Shohachi Tanzawa

Acupuncture and moxibustion, both traditional Oriental therapies, are now highlighted in the U.S. In the past few years, alternative medicine came to be taken note of in American medical circles. In the boom, herbs, acupuncture and moxibustion are very frequently used as medical treatments, even being partly covered by health insurance. With this spur from Western society, acupuncture and moxibustion treatment, which has been deeply rooted in Japan since olden times, is about to make a huge leap forward as a medical treatment backed up by scientific proof. We conducted an interview with Dr. Shohachi Tanzawa, president of the Japanese Society of Acupuncture and Moxibustion, asking for an outline of acupuncture and moxibustion therapy and its connection with "diet."
――Please give us the outline of acupuncture and moxibustion treatment.

It is a treatment of care for supporting natural healing power.

Tanzawa: The acupuncture and moxibustion treatment is designed "to activate the homeostatic function which is endowed on each living body naturally, by way of giving specific stimulation to specific sites of the body surface," belonging to one of the categories of physical therapy procedures. Stimulation by acupuncture and moxibustion to certain points on the body surface, i.e., pressure points, reaches local sites and the central system via the nervous system, producing positive effects on various systems, including the autonomic nervous system, the internal secretion system and the immune system. If any of the functions of these systems were excessively accelerated, such a state is suppressed; and, if a certain function is restrained, its functioning is accelerated. So it works on the function of homeostasis so as to activate it properly.

I have worked as a medical specialist in rehabilitation for 27 years, introducing acupuncture and moxibustion treatment into rehabilitation therapy. The concept I have noted and obtained through my career is "to give medical treatment of care for buoying up natural healing power through medical techniques of acupuncture and moxibustion with an empathy such that pains of the object are shared, as a stay." Acupuncture and moxibustion treatment has continued in an unbroken line for well over ten and more centuries in the medical history of our country. Of the reason for that, I believe that the essence of the remedy has been the treatment of care.

――It appears that acupuncture and moxibustion treatment is drawing attention in America.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has evaluated the effectiveness of acupuncture and moxibustion treatment.

Tanzawa: Acupuncture and moxibustion treatment used to be regarded as folk medicine with no evidence yet provided. In the U.S., access to alternative medicine other than Western medicine has increased lately. A trend emerged that users of acupuncture and moxibustion therapy augmented. In this situation, the NIH initiated research into the effectiveness of this treatment in two forms. One was to examine whether or not acupuncture treatment could be a countermeasure for helping to reduce sharply rising medical expenses, and the other was to respond to requests that the treatment had to be covered and paid for by health insurance.

Actually, it has already been possible to find over 150 papers related to acupuncture treatment on Medline. With such a background, the NIH set up a panel to discuss whether or not the acupuncture treatment had advantages for the health and hygiene of the nation, seeking a broad range of opinions. As a result, they arrived at an agreement that acupuncture treatment was clinically useful. This agreement was announced in the form of "Acupuncture. NIH Consensus Statement 1997 Nov 3-5; 15(5):1-34." Its contents in summary were, "acupuncture treatment has efficacy to specific disorders (and symptoms) while a further examination is needed with respect to some other diseases;" and, "it is reasonable to provide insurance coverage for appropriate acupuncture services of the illness to which the treatment was considered to be effective." As for indications of acupuncture treatment, the World Health Organization (WHO) already designated 43 kinds of diseases in 1979, and announced a list of 49 diseases in total in 1996 as a draft after adding 6 more diseases. However, we feel there is more impact from the statement issued by the NIH panel than from the WHO list.

We appealed to NIH that acupuncture and moxibustion treatment in Japan was at a high level.

Tanzawa: I heard that the number of referrals to acupuncture treatment in the US markedly increased after the NIH announcement. In addition, people aiming to become acupuncturists and moxibustion practitioners also seem to be increasing.

Now, let's look at the situation in Japan. We have a very long history of this treatment which is beyond comparison with that of America. Nevertheless, I cannot help but say that the state of its popularisation as a treatment for the whole nation is very limited. That is a sorry situation. There has already been a world-wide consensus on the effectiveness of acupuncture and moxibustion. Nonetheless, its clear rating as a medical treatment has not been made yet, and that is the status quo.

We invited a key person from the NIH to be a special lecturer in the academic plenary session of the Japan Society of Acupuncture and Moxibustion held in 1999 with two objectives. The first is to highlight the NIH statement again to those who are involved with acupuncture and moxibustion treatment; and, the second is to attract attention to Japan from those who are involved in this field in the U.S., including personnel at the NIH, in order for the invited lecturer to have the meeting reported after he closely observed the level of acupuncture and moxibustion treatment study in Japan. Unfortunately, the amount of relevant Japanese literature publicised in English is so small that people in the world, not only those in America, did not know that the level of Japanese acupuncture and moxibustion treatment was very high. The Japanese tend to be attracted by topics from overseas. In future, we will actively announce acupuncture and moxibustion in Japan to overseas countries. We expect that some waves would be generated as a result of our calls, and that they would influence the current situation.

――Please tell us the connection between "natural vital energy" used in Oriental medicine and food.

It is, above all, important to take food in which "vital energy" of the nature is found.

Tanzawa: There is a phase of Chinese origin, "ishoku dogen" in Japanese, which means in English that "medicine and a person's daily food are equally important in making a sick body well", and that was already used as early as the Western Zhou period in ancient China. According to an old Chinese book entitled "Zhouli", doctors working at the Court then were ranked into four grades: "shokui" in Japanese (doctor of diet, in English), "shitsui" (internist), "shoui" (surgeon), and "juui" (veterinarian). Of these, the best was the first, who "remedies illness by taking correct diet." I guess that he planned meals depending on the physical condition of an emperor, providing the monarch's health management by a dietary regimen so that he did not fall ill. This notion developed to "yakuzen" in Japanese, or "cooking using Chinese traditional medicines" in English, in later days.

What is most important about a meal is to take food in which "vital energy" of the nature resides. Oriental medicine attaches importance to adjustment of "vital energy." Men are born with "inherent vital energy" which their mothers gave to them. Vital activities are performed with the immediate stored energy. But, it gets exhausted over time, and needs to be refilled. The "vital energy" to be supplemented is called "acquired vital energy." When refilling this energy, we have to depend on food as the exclusive source for supplementation. As can be known from the supplementing mechanism, it is essential to take food in which "energy of the heaven and the earth, and the nature" and "energy of the universe" reside in order to obtain "the acquired vital energy" of good quality. The reason why food in season has been respected since old times lies here. We have to be fully aware that it is impossible to fill up "the acquired vital energy" with good quality from rice and vegetables cultivated with agricultural chemicals, and processed food containing food additives.

――Please tell us where is the point of contact between acupuncture and moxibustion treatment, and diet.

Tanzawa: Food is a method of dietary regimen that is the basis for assuring health. Knowledge of diet (or diet therapy) is a must for acupuncturists and moxibustionists. In a broad sense, all those who are involved in medical care would not pass as a professional therapist without a good knowledge of "diet." There is a saying that "diet" is "medicine." As this aphorism implies, "diet" is the base of "medication." I think that we need to review our dietary habits which tend to that of current Western society. I believe that it is best for the Japanese to have a dietary life based on traditional Japanese food while paying enough attention to aspects such as that we are apt to take too much salt.

◆Profile Dr. Tanzawa

Graduated from Matsumoto Technical School of Medicine, one of the original bodies of Shinshu University in Japan. He held several positions, including head of the rehabilitation department of Nanasawa Rehabilitation Hospital of Kanagawa Rehabilitation Center (and also the former person in charge of Oriental medicine there); part-time instructor at the School of Hygienic Sciences of Kitasato University; part-time professor at the School of Medicine of Tokai University (specializing in Oriental medicine); and the former chief of a committee of the Licensure Examination in Anma-Massage- Acupressure-Acupuncture, Moxibustion under the control of the former Ministry of Health and Welfare. He is an MD., Ph.D., and now has positions as Professor of the Graduate School of Meiji University of Oriental Medicine, President of the Japanese Society of Acupuncture and Moxibustion, and a member of a council under the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare.

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