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Book review
Shen's textbook on the management of autoimmune diseases with Chinese medicine
  1. David F Mayor
  1. Correspondence to David F Mayor, (Hon Research Fellow, Division of Physiotherapy, University of Hertfordshire), 86 Handside Lane, Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire AL8 6SJ, UK; davidmayor{at}

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Shen P'ian. Published by Donica Publishing, Barnet, 2012, 750 + xxiii pp. £69.00 (hardback). ISBN: 9781901149098.

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It is our duty as doctors to explore every treatment option in order to assist patients both physically and psychologically (p xv)

This comprehensive and scholarly book is the latest of several impressive tomes from Donica Publishing, a small Anglo-Chinese firm that specialises in the production of quality Chinese Medicine (CM) texts suited to Western readers. Dr Shen comes from a family of four earlier generations of CM practitioners and has been a professor at the Shanghai Traditional Chinese Medicine hospital for over 30 years. He has written more than 10 books on immunology and other aspects of CM, of which this is the first to be translated into English.

Many practitioners of ‘Western medical’ (WM) acupuncture might initially dismiss the book as irrelevant to their everyday practice, its content too richly herbal, its language too ‘traditional’ for easy digestion. But they would be mistaken. The book contains a wealth of knowledge that it would be difficult to find elsewhere,* including summaries of the work of many other specialists and their published studies, with contributions from 16 different practitioners. Moreover—like other Donica titles—it has been designed deliberately as an integrative text, with editorial input from Robert J Dickie, a Scottish medical lecturer and principal general practitioner in a group practice on the Isle of Lewis who also offers acupuncture as part of his service.

Following an Introduction and five chapters offering CM, WM and integrative perspectives of the field (albeit without specific referencing), 16 chapters follow on individual autoimmune conditions, from systemic lupus erythematosus and rheumatoid arthritis to myasthenia gravis and multiple sclerosis. Most include at least one detailed case history (with the chapters on the first two conditions contributing 22 to the total of 55 in the book). Each chapter also contains information on other treatment methods (such as moxibustion, cupping and Tui Na), diet therapy (not always easy to translate into acceptable strategies for the non-Chinese patient), lifestyle advice, prognosis and modern clinical experience. These alone make the book invaluable. A final chapter covers treatment of the major symptoms common to many of the autoimmune disorders. Comprehensive herbal appendices, a good glossary, bibliography (of Chinese references) and an admirably thorough index complete the work.

For the acupuncturist, the basic techniques of acupuncture (and other CM treatment modalities) are covered, together with useful résumés of point selection for the various conditions. There is also an interesting summary of the needling sensations to be expected in different parts of the body (‘it is good practice to advise the patient’ of these). Electroacupuncture studies, in particular, are summarised in the chapters on rheumatoid arthritis (using high frequency stimulation) and myasthenia gravis (using ‘dense-disperse’ stimulation with 4 Hz and 20 or 30 Hz). For the latter condition, the author observes that ‘usually, there is a better response with electroacupuncture than with manual acupuncture’.

Most acupuncturists, whether trained in WM acupuncture or one of the more complex systems of ‘traditional’ acupuncture, will at some point find themselves having to deal with patients with autoimmune conditions. This book offers a framework and a wealth of information that will support them in what will usually be otherwise uncharted territory. Its imposing presence on the bookshelf will also, in itself, add confidence to practice.

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  • Competing interests DFM has acted as subject editor for two other Donica titles, Clinical applications of commonly used acupuncture points (2007) and Acupuncture in the treatment of musculoskeletal and nervous system disorders (2nd edn, 2009).

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

  • * A competing title, Treating autoimmune disease with Chinese medicine by Hou Wanzhou, was published in 2010 by Churchill Livingstone. It is less than half the length of this book and covers fewer conditions, but this is not reflected in the price differential between the two publications.

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