Traditional Chinese Medicine Taught in Potrero Hill

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Eastern medicine – which focuses on treating the person rather than the symptoms – has been practiced for more than 3,000 years, with medical texts that date to the Han Dynasty in China (206 BCE to 220 CE). Western medicine principally attempts to understand linear sequences of adverse events culminating in a pathology that’s tangible and observable. In contrast, traditional Chinese medicine is interested in the balance between body and spirit. Medical writings focus on the circular movement of qi (chee) – air or vapor – as well as xuè (shui), blood. Improper interchange of one or both can cause an imbalance of yin and yang.

Chinese migrants, coming to work on the transcontinental railroad or participate in the California Gold Rush, brought their traditional health practices to the United States in the 19th Century. Eastern medicine, however, was used exclusively within Chinese communities. 

In the 1950s and 1960s the Chinese government codified Traditional Chinese medicine, which’d mostly been practiced by healers who verbally passed on their knowledge. The information was compiled into a systematic collection; a formal code. 

Eastern medicine remained fairly unknown to western culture until The New York Times reporter James Reston published ‘Now, About My Operation in Peking’ in 1971. On a trip through China accompanying Henry Kissinger, Reston suffered acute appendicitis. After his surgery he received acupuncture and was amazed by its positive effects. The article sparked an interest in alternative treatments, creating demand for training in the practices and applications of Eastern medicines.

Founded in 1980, one of the oldest schools of its kind, the American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine enrolled its first class in January of 1981. Later that year it opened its Acupuncture and Herbal Clinic, with a mission to provide affordable healthcare using Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). ACTCM now boasts two community clinics. In 1986 it became the first American college to award a Master of Science in TCM. 

In 1987 the school moved to its current location at 455 Arkansas Street. In 1991, the U.S. Department of Education recognized ACTCM as a fully accredited university. In 2014, a Doctorate of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine was added to the college’s offerings.  In 2015 the Western Association of Schools and Colleges and University Commission approved a merger between ACTCM and the California Institute of Integral Studies, comprising Schools of Professional Psychology and Health, Consciousness and Transformation, and Undergraduate Studies. 

ACTCM students are instructed in tuina (pinch and pull) and shiatsu (finger pressure) massage, as well as acupuncture by instructors licensed by California’s Acupuncture Board. Classes are available in uses of traditional Chinese herbs and remedies to treat various conditions and promote overall health and wellness. The school currently has roughly 200 students, paying about $16,500 in annual tuition. Class size averages 34 students, with 41 faculty members.