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Into the Mystic

When Five Branches University opened in 1984, traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) was a mysterious practice to Western cultures.

TCM disciplines like acupuncture had actually been illegal to practice in the United States until the late 1970s, when Gov. Jerry Brown signed the legislation to legalize the modality, which had been used in Asia for millennia.

“Thirty years ago it was voodoo,” says Five Branches University President and cofounder Ron Zaidman.

To celebrate their 30th anniversary and the Chinese New Year, Five Branches will hold a gala dinner and health fair over the weekend of Feb. 21. Individuals with health concerns or just a curiosity for Eastern medicine are welcomed to the school for consultations and talks about the many ways that TCM can benefit them.

TCM works on the basic idea of balancing opposing forces in the body, most notably heat and cold, and freeing up stagnant “Qi,” or the life force energy that practitioners believe flows through 12 channels in the body, says Joanna Zhao, Five Branches University dean and cofounder.

“Qi is the vital energy, and you have to balance it,” says Zhao. “When someone has a blockage, it can lead to inflammation and pain, and acupuncture can get rid of the blockage, reduce inflammation, and people get better.”

Five Branches University has seen over 10,000 patients, and graduated hundreds of practitioners into the world too. The school prides itself on providing the highest quality of education in the ancient art of TCM.

Students of Five Branches University hail from all over the world, and some graduates of the doctoral program have found a place in cancer centers at Kaiser Permanente hospitals and elsewhere. In addition to helping abate the symptoms of ailments ranging from asthma to headaches, TCM has become a vital complement to chemotherapy treatment.

In the next 30 years, Zhao and Zaidman hope that Western and Eastern medicines become even more closely intertwined.

“If we can work together and learn from each other, we can all serve patients in the best way,” Zaidman says. ARIC SLEEPER

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