Women’s Health from the Perspective of Classical Chinese Medicine

with Sabine Wilms, November 5-6, 2016

Course Information

Supporting women’s health has been a key focus of Chinese Medicine for more than a thousand years, and its sophistication in terms of both diagnosis and treatment is difficult to match. In our modern times, gynecology continues to be a medical specialization in which Chinese Medicine practitioners, whether treating with acupuncture or herbs, achieve impressive and far-reaching results. Even recalcitrant chronic conditions like menstrual discomfort or infertility, for which biomedicine often offers few or no affordable, lasting, and safe treatment options, can often be addressed effectively quite simply with Chinese Medicine once the practitioner learns to view the female body through the lens of classical Chinese Medicine.

Was this historical focus on “nurturing yin” due to the recognition that you cannot have healthy men (associated with yang) without a balance of healthy women (associated with yin) in the ancient Chinese philosophy of yin-yang balance? Or because of the seemingly obvious but often forgotten fact that healthy mothers are the foundation for future generations and an essential prerequisite for healthy children? Or out of respect for the fact that “women are ten times more difficult to treat” than men? Or does the language of Chinese Medicine, whether through its emphasis on yin-yang harmony or through its understanding of Blood and Qi, somehow give us a special access to the female body that is simply more effective than other medical paradigms? I cannot tell you the exact reason why gynecology is such a powerful subfield of Chinese Medicine, but I know that it works.

In this two-day workshop, I would love to share with you my understanding of the classical Chinese medical approach to the female body. We will explore how the Chinese medical classics from the Han to the Tang dynasties approached women’s health, including the physical body, the heart/mind, and the spirit, with a short excursion into full-fledged gynecology in the first millennium CE. Over two days, we will consider the following topics:

  • The difference between male and female bodies in the early classics (“Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classic” Huang Di Nei Jing, “Classic of Difficulties” Nan Jing, and Zhang Zhongjing’s “Essentials from the Golden Cabinet” Jin Gui Yao Lüe);
  • Related to this as a side note, the potential of a medicine based on an “androgynous” (ungendered/unsexed) human body along a yin-yang continuum of functional equivalence;
  • The influence of early Chinese philosophy and cosmology (yin-yang, microcosm-macrocosm correspondence, Daoism and Confucianism) on gynecology;
  • The roots of the so-called “separate prescriptions for women”: key pathologies, risks, and treatments for women, as reflected in early prescription literature;
  • Potential connections between women’s health and teachings on yangsheng (“nurturing life” or life-prolonging and preventative medicine);
  • Sun Simiao’s view on women’s health in the introduction to his three volumes on gynecology in the “Essential Prescriptions Worth a Thousand in Gold for Emergencies” Bei Ji Qian Jin Yao Fang (7th century);
  • “Lunar attunement”: The beauty and power of menstruation as a diagnostic tool and treatment focus;
  • “Seeking a child”: Fertility and pregnancy;
  • “Sitting out the month”: The results of proper and improper postpartum care, also including recovery from abortion and miscarriage.

Throughout the two days, we will be translating these teachings and insights from the classics into the lived realities of our modern world. As such, we will discuss contemporary care for women both as effective treatments by health-care providers and as teachings of self-care that encourage the women in our lives (family, friends, patients, etc.) to nurture themselves. The only requirement for this course is an open mind and heart that will allow us as a group to jointly explore how to nurture not only female bodies, but ultimately the yin that must be in balance with the yang in all of us.

Course Instructor

After undergraduate training in her native Germany, Sabine Wilms spent two years in Taiwan, studying modern and classical Chinese language. She then moved to the US for her graduate studies and has mostly lived there since. Sabine has been studying classical Chinese writings on medicine beginning with her PhD education in Asian Studies and medical Anthropology. With a strong academic background in early Chinese philosophy, science, cosmology, and language and therefore in a historically and culturally sensitive approach to Chinese medicine, she now enjoys studying and teaching it as a living, effective, ever-changing, and much needed response to the issues of our modern times. Some of her favorite topics are gynecology and reproduction, pediatrics, medical ethics, self-cultivation, and “nurturing life.” Besides teaching at the School of Classical Chinese Medicine at the National College of Natural Medicine in Portland, Oregon, and creating books on Chinese medicine through her publishing company, Happy Goat Productions, she is raising a daughter and some dogs, chickens, goats, fruits, and vegetables.

Her publications include the following:

  • Divine Farmer’s Classic of Materia Medica: A Translation of the Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing (Happy Goat Productions, forthcoming in January 2016)
  • Twelve Characters: A Transmission of Wang Fengyi’s Teachings (Happy Goat Productions, 2014).
  • Let the Radiant Yang Shine Forth: Lectures on Virtue by Liu Yousheng (Happy Goat Productions, 2014).
  • Venerating the Root. Sun Simiao’s Bei Ji Qian Jin Yao Fang, Vol. 5 on Pediatrics. Parts One and Two (Happy Goat Productions, 2013 and 2015 respectively).
  • Jin gui yao lue: Essential Prescriptions of the Golden Coffer (co-authored with Nigel Wiseman, Paradigm Publications, 2013)
  • Concise Introduction to Chinese Medicine (co-authored with Nigel Wiseman, forthcoming by Paradigm Publications)
  • The Great Compendium of Acupuncture and Moxibustion, Zhen Jiu Da Cheng, Volume 1 (The Chinese Medicine Database, 2010)
  • Formulas from the Golden Cabinet with Songs (The Chinese Medicine Database, 2010)
  • Chinese Medicine in Infertility (co-edited with Andreas Noll; Thieme Publications, 2009)
  • Pathomechanisms of the Five Viscera (translator, separate books on the Heart, Liver, Lung, Spleen, and Kidney, 2005-2007, Paradigm Publications)

Course Dates

Saturday and Sunday, November 5-6, 2016, 9:00am-5:00pm

Course Tuition

Regular – $300 (Early Bird – $285, until September 15)
Students* – $275 (Early Bird – $250, until September 15)
PRC Alumni – $285 (Early Bird – $265, until September 15)
*PRC diploma students will receive 1 OM academic credit for this workshop.

Course Registration

To register, please click on the registration button below. Full payment is due at time of registration to confirm placement in the course. Payment can be made via MasterCard or Visa, debit, cash and cheque.

Withdrawal Policy

For course withdrawals submitted in writing or in person 30 days or more before the start of the course, registrants will receive a full tuition refund less a $40 non-refundable registration fee. For course withdrawals submitted in writing or in person more than 14 days but less than 30 days before the start of the course, registrants will receive a 50% tuition refund. Without exception, no refunds will be given for course withdrawals less than 14 days before the start of the course.