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Acupuncturist Interview: How Yan Zhou Introduces Traditional Oriental Medicine to the Audience in the West

Based in New York, Yan Zhou is a licensed acupuncturist that’s passionate about the utilization of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), including acupuncture, moxibustion, Gua Sha, and sliding cupping. Coming from a family with a medical background, Zhou hopes to bring a better life to everyone that’s been struggling with health conditions as well as long-standing issues with the natural healing treatments.

Q: Why did you decide to become an acupuncturist in the first place?

A: I grew up in a family of doctors. My dad is an expert in Western medicine while my mom focuses on traditional Chinese medicine. I did my undergrad in Biology Science. When I was preparing for my Master Degree. I originally intended to go to a medicine school, but after I did some research, I found that traditional oriental medicine is also taught in the United States, which was pretty interesting to me. It also took approximately four to five years to obtain the degree, and that is almost the same as any other general medicine school. Eventually, under the influence of my mom and also because of my Asian identity, I decided to study Traditional Oriental Medicine at Pacific College of Health and Science.

Q: As a licensed acupuncturist, what are some common symptoms that you deal with when giving treatments?

A: The most commonly treated symptoms are back pain and neck pain caused by longtime sitting. This is rather common among people of all ages either for excessive studying or working. Also, in a city that has a fast life pace like New York City, people are always stressed out and need to relax. I help those that are in need of relaxation to release stress by giving them acupuncture or acu-pressure on particular spots of their bodies. Another thing about women’s health is also a common issue especially when it comes to infertility. Women at any age can have fertility issues, especially for middle aged women. They come to us to regulate their cycles and prepare their body to have a higher chance of getting pregnant because the use of both natural treatments and hormone-related medication can bring better results  for IVF and IUI.

Q: Can you explain how Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) works for women’s health?

A: Women living in NYC are experiencing more stress and anxiety that root from their menstrual cycles. A lot of patients come for cramping and painful periods. One of the TCM patterns, liver Qi stagnation, which is also known as NYC typical syndrome, is the major cause of dysmenorrhea. When the liver is constrained, it is easily overacting on the spleen and leading to spleen deficiency. The spleen is what manages the blood in TCM theory, and it reflects on the change of monthly menstruation. To soothe the liver and tonify the spleen becomes the main point when regulating the period. Acupuncture can move the Qi and unblock the liver channels, while moxa can dry the dampness to support the spleen. Once the liver and spleen harmonize, the menstruation becomes smoother.

Q: What was the workshop that you attended about?

A: The program was called Dao of Life: Nurturing Life in Chinese 24 Solar Terms. It is a 96-hour certificate program approved by the Pacific College of Health and Science. The program is developed based on the ancient practice of Chinese 24 solar terms/calendar which consists of 24 experiential workshops integrating Chinese medicine, lifestyle medicine, dietary therapy, preventative medicine, and nature education. It aimed to increase people’s understanding of Chinese culture. Most of the students at our school were not able to get into the deep Chinese culture background. If they want to do well in traditional oriental medicine, they need to have a comprehensive overview and understanding of traditional Chinese history so that they could be more confident and sophisticated when talking and suggesting to their patients in the future.

Q: Have you ever come across any difficulties at work?

A: I’m still a beginner in this industry so I would say I’m not experienced enough for now. From what I’ve learned, everyone is born differently and belongs to a different pattern in TCM. Sometimes the same diagnosis will appear with different symptoms on different people. Differentiating the right patterns is very important because it affects the results. For some hard cases that can’t be resolved by general medication or treatments, people will come to us for help because somehow they think what we offer is kind of magical and can have some unexpecting results. What I think is hard for me is that when I come across a patient like this, I would feel nervous. But I think when I explain to my patients about what I can do and what they can expect, a good connection will be built.

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