I figure since it’s Chinese New Year I should write a little about my experience with the Chinese witch doctor, a.k.a. my acupuncturist/herbalist. Before you get your panties in a twist over my calling her a witch doctor, you should know that at this point, I think she’s probably a deity, and for whatever reasons, she’s chosen to hang out in Portland, Oregon a while to heal Western medical casualties like myself.
I also want to say that I am a science-(read Western)-minded person. I’ve often thought I should have become a doctor.
My story is that I’ve been sick for ten years with an overall immune response which manifests primarily as an all-over body rash, but has also included things like ear infections, conjunctivitis, arthritis-like symptoms, joint pain, mouth sores, constipation, outer-stratospheric PMS, and things I’ve probably just forgotten about by now. There were times when walking around the block was a challenge because my rash sores were so painful.
I think you get the picture, but just to be clear, when I say “rash” I mean a serious, sometimes debilitating rash, not a little poison-ivy-like skin disturbance or something that drives you crazy. I mean something that you want to kill yourself over.
From the beginning, I thought my rash was due to food allergies. But you know how smart doctors are. One in San Diego told me rashes weren’t related to food. I begged for a food allergy test and I was skin patch tested for the big eight. Not surprisingly, nothing was positive: guess what, your skin and the insides of your intestines are two very different places. I experimented with eliminating several different things. I fasted. I kept food diaries, but I just couldn’t figure it out.
Many, many, many doctors, cortisone creams, antibiotics, steroids, and years later, I was diagnosed with celiac disease (three years ago), specifically dermatitis herpetiformis (DH). Pretty nasty stuff. You don’t want it, trust me. Naturally, I stopped eating all gluten. I continued to stay away from soy and I went through dairy-free periods just to see what would happen.
The spring after the celiac diagnosis, I started getting these weird liquid-filled blisters on my hands. Strangely, I had never had any DH rash on my hands ever. So this sucked. The blisters were really itchy, but not as itchy as the DH rash. So I tried to ignore it. Also, DH can take a couple of years to fully clear out its evil little antibodies from the skin layers. I figured that was what was happening…just a little DH antibody clearing. No problem.
In the last year, this thing with my hands got completely out of control. This past fall I started to get all these weird new symptoms, like waking up totally achy and swollen, like I had arthritis. My hands were like balloons and the rash was gnarly. Deep cracks in my skin made it tough to type (a tragedy). I had the worst PMS and UTI ever in the history of the universe. Needless to say, I finally woke up to the idea that this was not just the DH clearing, it was something entirely different.
I went to the doctor and got food allergy blood tested. That came back showing reactions to dairy, eggs, garlic, and almonds. I stayed away from those. I stayed away from all the big eight. I stopped eating all grains and all sweets; every time I ate those I had UTI pain. I got tested for candida and it was negative. I continued the “candida diet” because it made me feel better (I’m still on it, more or less).
When the candida test came back negative, my Western doctor told me she just couldn’t help me anymore. Enter, Chinese witch doctor.
Me and needles don’t exactly get along. We have a long, sordid history together, the details of which I’ll spare you. The idea of getting poked all over with needles sounded like as much fun as a square dance in a chemical spill.
But I went to see the witch doctor and I’m so grateful I did. She has me drinking the nastiest poo-water known to mankind. She calls it “herb tea,” which I think is really quaint. I boil up these twigs, roots, and tree bark in water and choke back the resulting decoction three times a day. At first I went to see her once a week and got poked all over with needles, but now that I’m improving so much, I am seeing her every other week. I’ve seen her a total of five or six times now. She cleared my UTI and constipation right up, but the rash is more stubborn. I figure I’ve had this rash a long time so I have no expectation it’ll disappear overnight.
In the meantime, I’ve learned that my hand condition is called pompholyx or dyshidrotic eczema. This is a great site for sufferers, which also contains my all-time favorite (Western) medical rant. The person who runs this site is a genius because she or he figured out that putting 40-volume peroxide on the rash makes it feel a hell of a lot better and heals the wounds faster. I’ve been doing it only for a day now since I just recently discovered this site, but so far, so pretty darn good. If my fingers fall off as a result, that’ll be just as well.
The overall immune response may be pre-lupus or any other of the multiple immune disorders, though I never have had the face rash that is a dead ringer for lupus.
Or, of course, I just have too much heat in my spleen and lungs, and my First and Second Burners are all messed up.
Tonight I told the needle-poker that my rash first started on my right hip. She said:
“What was happening in your life then?”
Me: “My boyfriend had just died, suddenly and unexpectedly.”
Dr: “Hmmm. Your right hip is where your meridians are for your gall bladder, which is the site of all emotions. So something traumatic happening in your life like that…it would make sense” (okay, I’m paraphrasing because her English isn’t the greatest).
Me: “Yeah. I think that is what started all of this.”
What I know is that my Chinese witch doctor has the best bedside manner of any doctor I’ve ever seen. She actually strikes me as a real “healer,” someone who actually wants to heal people (vs. drive a fancy car and live in a big house). She seems to genuinely care about whether or not I’m improving and about my overall health. I spend at least an hour in her office each time I see her. I get a conversation about my health, noting any changes or improvements, my pulse taken, my tongue examined, and my body poked with needles, all for the bargain price of $100, which includes herbs to make the “tea.”
The best part is that I’m getting better.
Happy Chinese New Year, Doctor C. May you live long and prosper.
P.S. I found this great article about how to heal pompholyx with Chinese medicine. Scroll down on the page to the article by Mazin Al-Khafaji.