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TCM Journeys: Dr. Volker Scheid

Dr. Volker Scheid practices acupuncture and herbal medicine at The Traditional Acupuncture Centre in Waterloo (London). He has over twenty-five years of experience in East Asian medicine and currently focuses on internal medicine (neike) and gynecology (fuke). In 2006 I was awarded a visiting professorship at the Zhejiang University of Chinese Medicine in Hangzhou (China). Dr. Scheid is the author of three books on Chinese Medicine and traditions.

1) Why did you become involved with Traditional Chinese Medicine?

I grew up in a family engaged in the cultivation of medicinal herbs so herbal medicine has been part of my life from the word go. During my school holidays I would help my father, doing everything from weeding to harvesting, drying and processing herbs. These were western herbs, of course, and so after graduating from school I studied western herbal medicine. The only course I could find at the time was a part-time course, so I decided to do an acupuncture part-time course at the same time. This got me involved with Chinese medicine and I soon discovered that the Chinese tradition was far more sophisticated and effective. So I started studying and have never stopped since.

2) What is in your cupboard/medicine cabinet?

Cool the Diaphragm Powder (liáng gé sân), Augmented Cyperus and Perilla Leaf Powder (jiä wèi xiäng sü sân), Sojae Semen preparatum (dàn dòu chî), Preserve Harmony Pill (bâo hé wán), Kudzu Decoction (gé gën täng), Aspirin and Melatonin.

3) What is your favorite place?

Somewhere warm, relaxed, ideally by the sea, where you can get good coffee and good food. Crete, the Carribean, Tulupan, Berkeley, Ubud, Broome are some places that come to mind.

4) Are there any tidbits of herbal wisdom that you can share?

I am not wise yet. One of my favorite physicians is Fei Boxiong, and you cannot much better his advice to keep it clear and simple because, as he says, the perfection of the simple is the miraculous.

5) What are your thoughts on the future of Traditional Chinese Medicine?

Whatever has been around for 2000 years and has diffused throughout the world would seem to be hardy and enduring and able to adjust to a variety of different scenarios of what the future may be like. However, I also think that the globalization and commodification of Chinese medicine, and the need for standardization and uniformity these processes imply, may prove to be tremendously destabilizing for the future of Chinese medicine, which is a tradition that has thrived on diversity and difference. At the same time, of course, globalization brings with it its own engendering of diversity as Chinese medicine will have to adapt to different local contexts of practice. Globalisation also has the potential to counteract the nationalisms that have infected traditional medicine in East Asia, which I see as constraining and inhibiting in the same way that the West is constrained by enduring attachments to Orientalist and (neo)imperialist attitudes and orientations. I also see profound shifts in biomedicine taking place that are moving modern medicine towards an engagement with process, singularity and complexity. These may, in turn, initiate new alignments between Asian and western medical traditions that are quite different from what goes under the name "integrated medicine" at present. In the end, however, we as individuals have little influence on history as a process. "Think globally act locally" thus seems to me to be one of the best maxims to follow. As physicians that means to take care of our patients in the best way we can, and to pass on what little we know to the next generation.

More information about Dr. Scheid can be found on his website http://www.volkerscheid.co.uk/index.php.