For someone who dreads the idea of seeing the doctor, even going to a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practitioner causes trepidation. What if he finds something wrong? Well, Chinese physician and acupuncturist Andrew Ng nailed the “problem” immediately when, after placing his fingers on my wrist, he said, “Anxiety”.
The idea was to consult him at his medicine shop, Ban Joo Trading, in Lucky Garden, Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur, and undergo an acupuncture session for whatever ails me. After half an hour of feeling my pulse and asking various questions, he decided acupuncture was not necessary because I was not in obvious pain and had no serious symptoms.
But my relief was tempered by some observations and cautionary advice that Ng shared after his questions and intent pulse diagnosis.
“People misunderstand and think TCM practitioners are fortune tellers. There’s no such thing. The first thing we do when anyone comes in is ask their condition,” he says. Does your stomach feel bloated? What does your stool look like? Do you suffer from acid reflux or indigestion? Any backache? What time do you go to bed? Do you have trouble sleeping?
From patients’ answers, he deduces what ails them and proceeds to treat them using acupuncture or herbal solutions.
Those who walk in complaining of pain in their knees usually see immediate results from scalp acupuncture, whereby Ng inserts special needles into meridian points to balance the body and get rid of the problem. Executives suffering from joint aches, frozen shoulder, tension headache and tennis elbow — the result of hours at the computer — have found relief with this gentle treatment, he says.
“Sometimes when you work on the knee, the pain moves to another part of the leg. So you have to insert the small, stainless steel needles again and again until everything balances and your body heals itself. It is simple and effective.”
Ban Joo sells Chinese herbs, organic products, sundry goods and dried seafood in the front part of the shop. Towards the back is a small room where Ng sees customers, using acupuncture or herbs to ease their pain. He took over the business in the 1990s from his father Chuan Lee, who had learnt about TCM treatments from his own parent in China.
Ng, who has a master’s degree from the Guangzhou University of Chinese Medicine, says most of the ailments that afflict women stem from liver damage. Anxiety is one of the most common — an observation confirmed by a 10-year study by the University of Edinburgh of 165,000 participants, which showed a startling link between high levels of anxiety and an increased risk of death from liver disease. As for men, Ng adds, problems arise when the kidneys start to fail.
Remember the phrase “early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise”? The wisdom and wealth bits are arguable but there is no disputing the health benefits of hitting the sack before midnight. “The hours from 11pm to 3am are called liver time or gall bladder time. That is when we should let our body rest and detox. After 3am, other organs benefit from sleep.”
Those who are constantly anxious could be heading for bigger problems, such as hardening arteries. “Even cancer can result,” Ng adds, quietly.
Perhaps it is time now to control those debilitating feelings, calm down and make some lifestyle changes.
This article first appeared on Jan 6, 2020 in The Edge Malaysia.