Helen Hu

When Health and Wisdom Go Hand in Hand

When Health and Wisdom go hand in hand


Dr. Helen Hu leans against the examination tablein her office as she talks about her new book, Body without Mystique, Promoting Health with the Wisdom of Chinese Medicine. She starts by explaining that, having been taught by her grandmother which foods and herbs were helpful for differ­ent health reasons, she grew up as a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) doctor-in-training. It is no wonder, then, that when she was older, she went to college and then med­ical school, majoring in Western medicine and minoring in TCM, then graduating with a medical degree.

“In the medical schools in China,” Hu explains, “both Western medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) are taught to doctors in training.”

When Hu moved to the U.S. 20 years ago, she passed the U.S. medical exam that would allow her to practice here. Instead of going through another residency requirement, she decided instead to focus on Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), for which she has a doctorate besides decades of family learnings. She has never regretted her decision. Her office is in San Diego’s Point Loma area, where she sees many patients, most from recommendations from other pa­tients. One of the key elements of her practice is food and herbal therapy.

Hu states: “If you were to visit China and discuss food and nutrition with the people there, you would encounter a totally different perspective on food than that of most West­erners. Rather than being interested in the vitamins or fiber content or number of calories there might be in your food choices, Chinese people would ask: ‘What is the proper function of this food?’ They mean how the food will inter­act with the body therapeutically, a concept that goes be­yond nutritional value.”

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, Hu explains, individu­als are treated holistically, not simply for a particular illness or problem. At the core of TCM is the belief that people have their own individual constitutions. A simple descrip­tion of Chinese medicine’s meaning of constitution is an in­dividual’s essence, energy, and spirit manifestation as a whole.

“Some aspects of a body’s constitution are inherited, but constitutions change over time with age and depending on how the body, spirit, and need for energy are nourished,” Hu says. “Body constitution is the answer to why one form of diet, one form of exercise, one form of therapy, cannot be the answer for everyone. If we know our body constitution, we will know when it is out of balance, which will signal us to be proactive in preventing illness,” Hu says.

All eight types of body constitution are described in her book so that readers can identify their own type and use the specific food therapies most beneficial to them.

Food and herb therapies also address specific antidotes to heal and others to prevent illness. For example, adding bit­ter melon to green tea helps clear toxins from the body. Hu notes: “Growing up in China, I remember that during the winter, when kids were susceptible to catching colds or the flu, the schools would prepare herbs such as ginger root for them to drink. It was mandatory for all the students to drink the herb soup during recess in order to prevent an epi­demic.”

It worked well, she explains, because food and herb ther­apies where developed over literally thousands of years, up­dated often as new evidence is found. Indeed, many Western medicine prescriptions are based on those therapies, though synthetic ingredients are mostly used instead of natural ones.

Other Chinese modalities include acupuncture, which can heal and which has successfully been used in place of Western anesthesia during surgeries. To nourish the spirit, exercises such as Tai Chi and Gi Gong were developed, combining meditation with mostly gentle movement as well as aspects of martial arts. (Hu teaches Tai Chi classes for free most weekends.)

In TCM, the individual is treated holistically, based on how Chinese scholars see the body’s systems. The TCM ad­vice, “Return to nature,” means understanding and making use of the resources nature provides. It means learning how to integrate this knowledge into our daily lives. Finally, it means understanding how to live healthier and longer.

Hu has helped hundreds of patients. Most are from refer­rals. An example is Layla Dipp, MD, a pediatrician.

“I had back pain and tried to treat it with traditional Western medicine, including prescriptions and physical therapy, “she says. “But the pain was not lessening.  I need a healthy back and need to be pain free to work and play sports. I went to Dr. Helen Hu on a recommendation and have seen significant improvement.” Hu has been treating Dr. Dipp holistically with acupuncture, massage, and diet recommendations. “I trust TCM in the right hands and have recommended it to parents for their children,” Dr. Dipp says.

(For a copy of the Dr. Helen Hus’s book, visit www.body­withoutmystique.com)