Ever since I learned Barefoot Doctor techniques I have been most thankful, as they often heal conditions where nothing else works. They were named as such for the native healers of China who would walk from village to village (thus, the name “barefoot” doctors) and treat all manner of diseases. Barefoot Doctor techniques include cupping, moxibustion, dermal hammer, scraping, needling, bleeding and massage. (As well, barefoot doctors were skilled at bone setting.)
Although they may sound like exotic Traditional Chinese Medicine therapies, these techniques are not native to just China. Barefoot Doctor tools are actually folk remedies which have been, and still are, used throughout most cultures in the world, including those in Chile, Argentina, France, Germany, Poland, Turkey, Greece, Egypt, India, Bali, Java, Czech Republic, Russia, Iran, Mexico, Italy, Vietnam, Japan, China, and Korea. They are also used by several Native American tribes of North and South America. I have even seen cupping therapy in hieroglyphic art on the walls of the Egyptian healing temple at Edfu!
In fact, it is not unusual to meet people whose grandparents cupped them when sick with colds as a child. Thus, these tools are universal folk remedies for us to reclaim and begin using again.
One of the advantages of Barefoot Doctor techniques is not only their efficacy, but also their convenience. It is possible to perform all of these remedies with tools found in most homes. This makes them readily available to use everywhere. Here are just a few cases where the Barefoot Doctor tools worked wonders.
I recently treated a man who had severe arm pain that began behind his shoulder. Cup “massage” was the most effective of any techniques he had tried “” and that included quite a few previous practitioners. The cup “massage” is done by oiling the skin, applying one cup and then sliding it back and forth over the affected and related areas.
Another man I saw had a frozen shoulder, which generally takes a year to release. The treatment of choice here ended up being indirect moxibustion, the application of a moxa “cigar” — a tightly rolled stick of aged mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris). Here I not only moved the moxa over the area, but did a deep moxa treatment by holding the stick over single points until they became too hot. I would then move to another point and similarly held the stick there and then returned to past points and reheated them multiple times. The longer the moxa session continued in this way, the better his results, so that ultimately he regained range of motion in his arm well before that year end’s time.
I treated a violinist with arm pain. She also had tried everything with no results. I did needles, moxa and cupping, all of which helped some, but what brought her the greatest relief was gua sha, or scraping with a fine-edged object over the oiled area. That technique was the most effective for moving the local congestion, not only to relieve the pain, but increase mobility. This is also the treatment that brought her lasting results.
I once saw a young woman with forearm and hand pain with limited range of motion in her thumb. She also tried everything and finally had surgery. When I saw her she had a scar from her wrist extending up her inner forearm and still had no different motion ability or pain reduction. After one session of moxibustion, she had regained full use of her thumb and hand and had no pain.
Another woman with severe chronic low back and hip pain also responded best to moxibustion. We found the most tender spot and held the moxa there for long periods, moving when it got too hot and then returning after a few moments. Allowing the heat to penetrate deeply into the major pain point moved the local congestion and alleviated her pain.
I could write many more stories here, but you get the idea: I am most thankful to barefoot doctors everywhere and throughout all time who developed these techniques and passed them down for all of us to use. For your information, we teach the Barefoot Doctor techniques at our annual seminars, the next one of which is coming up in April 2016, and I describe how to use several of these techniques in my book, Healing With the Herbs of Life. May you also grow your Barefoot Doctor success stories over this holiday season and the years to come!