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1000 year old hiccoughs- ancient wisdom for modern times




It’s a joyful thing when you love what you do, and feel very present in your work. So many times in clinical consult I forget about the world outside, and even my own inner world- if I have personal stresses or days where I don’t feel well myself, it all evaporates in the moment of the consult and most of the time I am fortunate to just feel truly fully present with the person in front of me.

Sometimes however a case will come along and baffle me or make me feel nervous until I remember that in Chinese medicine we just focus on the signs right there in front of us and treat the person for those. We love the help of a Western medicine diagnosis- it is necessary so that we know the seriousness or severity of what we are dealing with but ultimately we work with what we have today, right here and now, and go from there.

My stepfather was recently diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis, though doctors are now suggesting that it might actually be a combination of Sjoegren’s disease and Lupus. Since the beginning of his baffling journey, many different drugs have been trialled, some of which put have put him in hospital with serious side effects and some of which have been temporarily very helpful until symptoms adapt and change. I think I’ll just call it runners disease!! The disease that runs from diagnosis and treatment!


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Just recently I went to a family gathering where my mother told me that my stepfather had had painful unrelenting, hiccoughs for over a week, keeping him up at night, at one point in tears (which in turn made my mother cry). Given that he has been relatively stoic about his condition and bears his pain with quiet grace actually, this was really saying something. Doctors said there was no explanation but google said that sometimes this can be neurological and sometimes, and most likely, from a drug reaction.


We were sitting at the dinner table and I wanted to offer him acupuncture but he didn’t want to leave the family and lie down while all was going on so right then and there. I applied a few needles according to his Chinese diagnosis and removed them half an hour later. The hiccoughs calmed down a little while the needles were in but seemed to be still present for a little while later, albeit calmed slightly.

The next day I was speaking with my Mum over the phone and she said that the hiccoughs stopped shortly after we left, he had none during the night and they hadn’t returned. Two weeks later they confirmed that they never returned ever!!


There are many beautiful stories such as this in clinical practice.. many difficult stories too- for example treating the entire mysterious auto-immune condition of my step-father is very challenging as his body has become a self-creating pathogen and we are working on the foundations of that over time.

But along the way, as I have always said, there are many things we don’t have to suffer from. There are many small things that can make life easier along the way. And I thank the Chinese for their remarkable system of diagnosis that knows the body as an ecosystem, where the mystery is revealed quite often right in front of you, you only have to look.