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Medicine, Technology and Society

David Form

Medicine, Technology and Society

Copyright, 1994 by David M. Form and William Blake
all rights reserved
Unit # 1: Acupuncture and Herbs: Traditional Chinese Medicine

Duration: Three weeks


Medical science is intimately tied to our view of ourselves and our bodies. Traditional Chinese medicine is based upon a different world view than is Western medicine. Yet, ancient Chinese techniques such as acupunture, meditation and the use of herbal medications are influencing health care in contemporary America. How are we to understand and evaluate these alternative approaches to healing?


  1. To compare and contrast traditional Chinese and contemporary Western approaches to medicine.
  2. To bring a rational and scientific approach to the evaluation of alternative medicines.
  3. To develop a view of medical practices as technologies with historical and cultural, as well as scientific, components

III. OBJECTIVES Upon completion of this unit you will be able to :

  1. Explain the concept of Qi and its importance to traditional Chinese medicine.
  2. Compare Chinese and Western views of health and disease.
  3. Explain the use of acupuncture from both a Chinese and Western perspective.
  4. Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the use of herbal medications.
  5. Prepare an herbal extract and test it for anti-bacterial activity.
  6. Describe the use of a particular herb in healing, including the history of its use, the natural history of the herb and any scientific evidence for its efficacy.


Article: "Me and Dr. Gong"
Article: "Wonder Cures from the Fringe"
Article: " Herbal Medicine is Dippy"
Article: "What a Pain"
Article: "Preventive Medicine"

Selections from reference texts:
Rodale's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs
The Complete Medicinal Herbal, by Penelope Ody


  1. Preparation of an herbal extract.
  2. Antibacterial activity of herbal extracts.


  1. Demonstration of acupuncture.
  2. Preparation of a traditional Chinese herbal prescription.
  3. Field trip to a traditional Chinese herbal pharmacy.

  1. "Acupuncture and You".
  2. "The Mystery of Qi"
    from Bill Moyer's PBS series "Healing and the Mind"
  3. "Tigers"
    from NBC's Dateline


  1. Introductory activity: Being an Ancient Healer
  2. Group research:
    a) Analysis of commercial herbal tea preparation
    b) Dangerous herbs
    c) Multicultural herbal recipes
  3. Outcome: Herbal Group Projects

A. Concepts to be developed

  1. The concepts of Qi and Yin/Yang and their application to acupuncture, herbal medicine and the traditional Chinese view of health and disease.
  2. A comparison of empirical vs. theoretical approaches to science and medicine.
  3. The scientific method and its use in evaluating acupuncture and herbal remedies.
  4. Polar and non-polar solvents and their use in the extraction of herbal preparations.
  5. The writing of a formal laboratory report.
  6. The preparation of a bibliography.

B. Background research

  1. Green Pharmacy, by Barbara Griggs.Healing Arts Press, Rochester Vermont. 1981
    An excellent, and objective, history of the uses and influences of herbs on Western medicine.
  2. Magic and Medicine of Plants. The Readers Digest Association, Inc.Pleasantville, NY.1986.
    Short, readable descriptions of plants used in herbal medicine, Nice color pictures.
  3. A Field Guide to Medicinal Plants. Eastern and Central North America. Stephen Foster and James Duke.The Peterson Field Guide Series.Houghton Mifflin Company. Boston and New York. 1990.
  4. Chinese Herbal Cures, by Henry C. Lu.Sterling Publishing Company, Inc. New York. 1994.
  5. The Complete Medicinal Herbal, by Penelope Ody. Dorling Kindersley, New York. 1993.
  6. Rodale's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs.Claire Kowalchik and William H. Hylton, eds. Rodale Press, Emmaus, PA.1987.
  7. The Complete Book of Herbs, Spices and Condiments, by Carol Ann Rinzler. Henry Holt and Co., N.Y. 1991.
  8. Chinese Herbal Medicine, by Daniel P. Reid. Shambhala Publications, Inc., Boston. 1986.
C. Evaluation Methods

  1. Knowledge tests
  2. Student portfolio containing group herbal reports and written laboratory experiment.

D. Teaching Strategy

  1. Experience

    a. Videos on acupuncture and herbal medicine
    a. Sampling and analysis of commercial herbal tea preparation
    b. Interview with acupuncturist
    c. Visit to Chinese herba pharmacy
    d. Preparation and testing of herbal extract

  2. Discussion

    Open ended discussion concerning above experiences and demonstrations below

  3. Demonstrations

    a. Demonstration of acupuncture by licenced acupuncturist
    b. Preparation of Chinese herbal prescription in Chinese pharmacy.
    c. Preparation of Chinese herbal tea.

  4. Sharing

    1. Group herbal research reports.
    2. Sharing of data from herbal laboratory experiment.
    3. Sharing of ethnic herbal remedies.

E. Outcome: Group Herbal Research

Each group is assigned an herb to research. Research includes the history of use, natural history, physiological effects and the preparation and scientific assessment of an herbal extract. Students will conduct research, prepare an herbal extract, perform laboratory experiments, prepare a written report and share information through an oral group presentation.

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