Best Audience: Herbalists and others who want to better understand Chinese Herbalism, Acupuncture, and the overarching philosophy that governs Traditional Chinese Medicine
I picked up Between Heaven and Earth: A Guide to Chinese Medicine by Harriet Beinfield and Efrem Korngold on the advice of my acupuncturist…and borrowed a copy from my Chinese Herbalist. I was looking for a better understanding of the approach each were taking in helping me and of the often poetic language used to describe patterns of being within the Traditional Chinese Medicine system. My own grounding has been in scientific-style herbalism with an emphasis on energetics that’s often felt like I’m just on the edge of truly understanding the plants and how they can help us live better, healthier, more holistic lives.
Between Heaven and Earth: A Guide to Chinese Medicine was a serious struggle for me at first. Much of the first 150 pages read like poetry, almost ephemeral and quite challenging for me to understand. In the chapter on Five-Phase Theory, the authors included a quiz to help you determine your own dominant energetic type. That made a huge difference in my ability to grasp the concepts they presented. The rest of the book fell into place, offering me far more insight into how the system works and how it applies to real life than I expected.
I particularly loved the quiz, of course, and the section on Chinese Herbal Cooking. The authors offer a selection of simple recipes to try for various different effects with plenty of ideas on how to best vary each to accommodate any patterns you see in your own life or the life of your loved ones. I appreciated the shortened list of herbs to work with in my explorations with a clear description of how they are used, what they help the body do, and what kinds of symptoms suggest their use.
If you’re willing to stick with it until it clicks, Between Heaven and Earth: A Guide to Chinese Medicine is a good choice for beginners who want to learn more about the Traditional Chinese Medicine system. As an acupuncture or Chinese Herbal client, you’ll find a reasonable understanding of the system, language, and how it all differs from the allopathic, science-based medicine most Americans (and many other Westerners) have grown up with. I am planning to pick up a copy of my own before I return my borrowed copy to it’s rightful owner.
Bottom Line: Between Heaven and Earth: A Guide to Chinese Medicine by Harriet Beinfield and Efrem Korngold has earned a permanent place on my bookshelf.
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