Hua Tuo

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In Chinese Medicine there is a very long and proud history of scholars, clinicians and pioneers. They have paved the way for thousands of practitioners; I am one of them. Hua Tuo (c.140–208) is one of my heroes, who medical skills made him one of the most famous Chinese physician. He lived in the late Eastern Han Dynasty modern Anhui (which happens to be where I did my internship whilst in China). Hua Tuo was many hundreds of years ahead of his time in his medical knowledge and practice for both eastern and western medical knowledge.

Of the many wondrous achievements, historical records will have Hua Tuo as the first clinician to use anaesthesia during surgery. He used a general anaesthetic combining wine with a herbal concoction called máfèisàn (cannabis boil powder). Besides expertise in surgery and anaesthesia, Hua Tuo was famous for his abilities in acupuncture, moxibustion, herbal medicine, and medical DaoYin exercises.

He is said have developed the Wu Qin Xi which is the Exercise of the Five Animals, or five animals playing. Hua Tuo looked at the movement and form of the tiger, deer, bear, ape, and crane and applied it to exercise movement.

He was known as “the physician of the people”. He preferred to treat the common folks of the world and repeatedly refused to accept offers of the position as the Supreme Physician in the Imperial Palace. Hua Tuo will always be remembered for his mastery in several fields, including acupuncture, gynaecology, paediatrics, and surgery. Unfortunahua_tuo_2tely, Hua Tuo’s was arrested for his refusal and eventually put to death with his life works destroyed; hence his surgical practices went into disuse, with the exception of his method of castration.

The way Hua Tuo used acupuncture and herbs, was one of simplicity, only using a small number of acupuncture points and formulas comprising of only a few herbs. He practiced Qi Gong and taught the Qi Gong for health. He studied and mastered various classics, especially those related to medical and health measures, but also astronomy, geography, literature, history, and agriculture.




Rodd Sanchez

Acupuncture Sydney : Chinese Medicine Sydney