Directed by Josh Bradley (2011)
This documentary explores the history of Eastern medicine, with a primary focus on Indian, Tibetan, and Chinese traditional medicine. All three put primary emphasis on restoring balance (between Yin and Yang and the five elements of earth, fire, water, wind, and space). The epidemic of chronic illnesses with no known Western cure has sparked a large interest in Eastern medicine throughout the industrial world.
In India yoga, mediation, and controlled breathing heal via restoring mental balance. In contrast, Indian Ayruvedic medicine uses diet and herbs to restore the body’s free flow of prana or life energy (known as chi or qi in Chinese medicine).
Tibetan medicine, which traces its origin to India and Buddhism, is also based on restoring free flow of prana. A Tibetan practitioner diagnoses the specific imbalance by questioning patients about their symptoms and diet and examining pulses their (for 60+ factors) and tongue. Treatment consists mainly of herbs grown in the high Tibetan Himalayas, though some herbs are imported from Chinese and Indian lowlands.
The vast majority of the film is devoted to Chinese medicine, which has the longest recorded history. The first Chinese medical textbook, The Yellow Emperor Inner Cannon, appeared in the first century BC. Its remedies rely on a vast array of herbs, insects, and animal parts.*
Chinese medicine also boasts a variety of healing disciplines, including “bonesetting,” which exerts heavy pressure on acupuncture points to relieve musculoskeletal pain; acupuncture, which employs needles and “cupping” at acupuncture points to establish free flow of chi; Tai Chi, a practice derived from the martial art Qigong that uses controlled breathing and slow coordinated movements to unblock chi; and daoyin, a more refined form of Tao Chi which is more effective for specific symptom relief.
The film includes a visit to two acupuncture clinics, and a large factory that mass produces herbal remedies for domestic use and global export.
*Including bat shit. Since China made them a protected species, bat body parts are no longer used as remedies. However according to filmmakers, their poo works just as well.
**Cupping is a form of traditional Chinese medicine that places warm suction cups on key acupuncture points.
Anyone with a public library card can view the film free via the Kanopy film service. Type “kanopy” and the name of your library into your search engine.