Dao gives birth to the One
One gives birth to the Two
Two gives birth to the Three
Three gives birth to the ten-
Dao De Jing Chapter 42
Patients coming in to our clinics often present with manifestations of the ten-
While all the diagnostic pillars play a significant role, the pulse has always been the hallmark of Chinese medical diagnostics. From palpating the radial artery at the wrist, we have the capacity to understand our patients in a way that even they themselves may not. We can learn not only of their current plight and symptoms, but also their histories, emotional and psychological states, behavioral patterns, genetics and predispositions, their constitution and personality. We can see links from their pasts that manifest in the present and even predict where they may move to in the future. As the classics state, the superior physician must understand transmission. The pulse provides this timeline. And we must be able to intervene in a way that prevents harm while causing the spark that initiates wellness. We must provide that opportunity and can only do so if we can properly diagnose all the disparate pieces of our patient’s physiology and pathology and create a synthesis therefrom which can be used in the treatment phases of our interactions.
All too often we are provided with snapshots of our patient’s health via blood tests, MRIs, x-
The pulse is our gateway to this knowledge and though it may take time and effort to master, the dividends it pays are worth one’s patience (and patients). Some common examples I see from interactions with students and other practitioners can illustrate some of the many benefits of the pulse. Below are just two examples of many to motivate and inspire one to delve a bit deeper into the mysteries contained within, and the importance of, the pulse at the radial artery.
1. Cancer and autoimmune disorders: It is not uncommon for practitioners to see cancer patients and those with compromised immunity. How does one know whether or not to attack fire toxins and cancerous activity or strengthen the patient and seek latency/dormancy instead? This is an area that I see a lot of damage being done to an already precarious community of patients. Many see stagnation and toxins (by virtue of a cancer diagnosis)(the what, not the why) and seek to eliminate toxins and move stagnation. Often times this is highly inappropriate and ill advised and can speed up the demise of one’s patient. The pulse will let us know if the patient has enough strength to afford the invigoration of blood and release of toxins and whether or not there are sufficient resources to finance such a plan. After all, Chinese medicine instructs us to consider our patient’s constitution and terrain, not just the stress/bacteria/cancer. It is the landscape that these pathogens reside in that is of paramount importance. Seeking to break up stagnation and release toxins in an individual who has lost the ability to maintain latency can be disastrous. And seeking to eliminate a pathogen without sufficient resources (yin-
2. Pulse Signatures: Over the course of my studies and practice of Shen-
a. Radiation toxicity: Back in 2008 I began noticing a trend of Leather pulses in young individuals. Having only felt these pulses in patients exposed to radiation therapies during cancer treatments, I became concerned. After sharing my findings with Dr. Leon Hammer and discussing this trend, we realized that this pulse was revealing a burgeoning medical crisis regarding the impact of electromagnetic radiation on our physiologies. It prompted us to publish an article on this topic back in 2009. This pulse quality has been increasing over the years and has become a significant marker in understanding a number of unexplained illnesses and how people are becoming more and more yin-
b. Breast cancer: There are certain illnesses that seem epidemic in our time, breast cancer being an important and life-
So, why pulse? Because understanding the pulse provides context, clarity, definition, detail and specificity to our patient’s complaints and allows us to see, prioritize and strategize the diagnoses at the root of the ten-
Originally published in the fall 2016 newsletter of Golden Flower Chinese Herbs.