Chinese TV Channel interview with
Paul Brecher FAcS MPCHM
Principal of The College of Chinese Medicine


Frequently asked questions about the two year course.


Question
What does the course cover?

Answer
Traditional Chinese Diagnosis, Mainland Chinese Body Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine.

Question
What is Traditional Chinese Diagnosis?

Answer
Traditional Chinese Diagnosis is a way to discover the causes of a patient’s condition so that the practitioner will then know which acupuncture points and which herbs to use. Traditional Chinese Diagnosis involves analysing the pulse at the radial artery on the wrist, in combination with observation of the appearance of the tongue, eyes, lips and face.

Question
What is Mainland Chinese Body Acupuncture?

Answer
Mainland Chinese Body Acupuncture involves the insertion of acupuncture needles into acupuncture points on the body. It is called Body Acupuncture to distinguish it from the five main acupuncture micro-systems of Ear (Auricular) Acupuncture, Cosmetic Facial Acupuncture, Korean Hand Acupuncture, Scalp Acupuncture and Sacred Turtle Abdominal Acupuncture. These five acupuncture micro-systems can be learned separately on short courses.
It is called Mainland Chinese Acupuncture to distinguish it from other systems which have derived from it, such as Japanese Acupuncture, English (also called Western) Acupuncture or the acupuncture practiced by physiotherapists which they call Dry Needling. Mainland Chinese Body Acupuncture is the source system of all these other systems.

Question
What is Chinese Herbal Medicine?

Answer
Chinese Herbal Medicine is a system that uses mostly plant-based herbs such as leaves, roots, flowers, seeds and barks. We construct our herbal formula based on our diagnosis, each formula is unique to that patient on that day. We re-diagnose the patient on a regular basis and adapt and change the formula accordingly.

Question
Can I just learn Diagnosis and Acupuncture but not Chinese Herbal Medicine?

Answer
Yes, students have the option of just learning Traditional Chinese Diagnosis and Acupuncture or just Traditional Chinese Diagnosis and Chinese Herbal Medicine. However, the cost is the same and all lectures must be attended.

Question
What are the course objectives?

Answer
The objective of this course is to achieve standards set out by the Acupuncture Society Accreditation process.
The course covers diagnosis, acupuncture and herbs; Chinese meridian anatomy and main use acupuncture points, acupuncture formulas and TCM pathology and etiology.
You will learn how to treat a vast number of conditions relating to: respiration, circulation, digestion, reproduction, neurological conditions, exogenous pathological attack and traumatic injury.

Question
When and where is the course taught?

Answer
The course is taught by Paul Brecher FAcS MPCHM Principal of The College of Chinese Medicine on Wednesdays from 11.00am till 3.00pm (four Wednesdays a month) in East Finchley at The Clinic of the College of Chinese Medicine at 17 Lankaster Gardens in East Finchley, London N2 9AZ.
A visit to the College Clinic is by appointment only it is not possible to just turn up. An appointment for a treatment or an interview must be arranged in advance.

Question
How much does the course cost?

Answer
The two year course costs 2,500 UK pounds per year.

Question
How many students are in each class?

Answer
The style of teaching is in the atmosphere of an apprenticeship. To enable this the class is kept very small so that there is time for discussion and explanation. If the student has completed the training and passed all the exams, they will be awarded with their qualification and can then apply to upgrade their membership of the Acupuncture Society from Student to Full Membership and commence work as a practitioner.
However, if they have completed two years of training and their standard is below what is required, they will be asked to attend further training until they are at the required level of competence before the certificate can be awarded.

Question
What qualification is awarded?

Answer
Successful graduates will be awarded a Diploma in Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine and will be entitled to use the initials Dip Ac TCM after their names and can apply to be full members of the Acupuncture Society. Members of the Acupuncture Society are also entitled to use the initials MAcS TCM after their names.

Question
How many contact hours are there and how much home learning is involved?

Answer
There are four Wednesdays a month with four contact hours each Wednesday from 11.00am till 3.00pm. This equals 16 hours a month and so for 24 months it is approximately 384 contact hours (some Wednesdays may be cancelled due to holiday times). Students are also expected to spend 1.5 hours a day in home study; this is an additional 1,092 hours. There are also numerous exams both in class, at home and online that the students take throughout the course.

Question
When does the course start?

Answer
You can join at any time.

Question
What is the process for joining the course ?

Answer
To apply for this course now, email or call Paul Brecher on 0753 449 3888 to request an interview.

Question
Once I have been qualified, can I practice in the NHS ?

Answer
At present only GP’s who are already part of the NHS can practice Acupuncture within the NHS. Most graduates of our courses practice in health centers, sports centers, in private clinics, in their own business premises or home clinics.

Question
Once I have been qualified at your College I can practice acupuncture anywhere in the UK but can I practice anywhere in the world ?

Answer
Every country has its own criteria; for example, in some countries you must be a doctor first to be able to practice acupuncture. In some other countries you may have to take an additional exam to prove that you are at a suitable level of competence.
Please contact the embassy of the country you are intending to practice in to find out what their requirements are.

Question
If I train at your college will I be able to practice once government regulation comes into effect ?

Answer
In 2011, it was decided by the government that there is not going to be regulation of the Acupuncture profession. A written Ministerial Statement (16th February 2011) from The Secretary of State for Health says that acupuncture in the UK is going to remain self regulating as it is now.

Question
What is the difference between your College and a University degree course ?

Answer
We are a practical training College. Our course will, upon completion, enable you to be able to practice acupuncture with a high level of professional expertise, competence and confidence.
The university degree courses are often philosophical, academic and generally not practical. Some are under-subscribed and are closing their courses due to lack of student numbers. Many have already done so. Our two-year Diploma Course is accredited by the Acupuncture Society rather than a university. We use many practical methods to teach both theory and clinical practice.

At university, you spend the majority of your time writing essays, reading books and discussing complex philosophical theories with limited practical experience. At our College, you spend the majority of your time learning and applying useful acupuncture techniques. Our course is taught in the clinic, and right from the very first lecture, under professional supervision, students are practicing acupuncture on patients and each other. Our ethos is to install confidence and to teach practical theories which lead to effective clinical treatments.

University degree courses tend to teach all the acupuncture points; in reality, they are not all used as some are over vulnerable anatomical locations and some points are less effective. At our college, we teach the points which are actually commonly used in clinical practice. These points are the ones which are safe, easy to access and most effective.
Most universities in China and the UK have too many students in the class which is why they need to concentrate on academic study. Acupuncture is a practical clinical skill which has been traditionally taught in an apprenticeship atmosphere for many centuries, and the skills have been handed down from master to pupil. This is the preferred method of our College and classes are kept small and practical to achieve this.

Chinese herbal medicine has recently been taught in universities to promote the use of patent remedies (fixed formulas) which are now restricted by law. At our college, we have always taught the individual herbs. So as practitioners, we can formulate our own formulas for the patients based on our diagnosis. Treatments made in this way have no legalĀ  restrictions. Our college has always been teaching in this way. We use herbs which are non-toxic, cheap, easy to obtain, not from endangered species, legal, effective and in common use in clinical practice.

On a university degree course, you may not have much experience with actually doing acupuncture, at our college you will be doing acupuncture in every lesson, even from your very first day.

Many students who have done university courses know a lot about interesting, but non-relevant subjects such as: the history of China, the Chinese language, Chinese philosophy and complex abstract theories from ancient manuscripts that are not actually used in practical acupuncture. In addition, many of these theories from ancient manuscripts do not translate well into English and only serve to mystify Chinese medicine and confuse students.

At our College, students are taught how to construct an acupuncture and herbal formula from understanding the patient’s medical history, symptoms and diagnosing the patient through the pulse, face, tongue and eyes. Also, they receive in depth training in how to acupuncture the patient with the correct-length needles, inserted to the correct depth, in the correct direction, at the correct angle to achieve the desired healing result. We teach many advanced methods, such as acupuncture of the spine and formulas that combine both re-enforcing and reducing acupuncture simultaneously. These advanced practical skills are generally not taught at university, but are taught at our college.

Question
Do you teach five elements acupuncture? I have heard of some other colleges offering courses in Five Elements acupuncture are you a Five Elements college?

Answer
There are many principles in acupuncture: five elements, blood-essence-energy, yin and yang, eight diagnostic principles, hollow and solid organs, twelve meridians and eight extra meridians, syndromes etc. At our college, we teach all the above and much more as they are all important components of acupuncture. It would not make sense to prioritize one over the others as they all are equally important parts of the whole. However we teach these theories from a practical point of view, not as abstract philosophies.

Question
You say your course is practical, not philosophical; what does this actually mean?

Answer
Other colleges and universities teach the ancient philosophy of China, and then try and make that relevant to a patient. So the student is taught that a certain acupuncture point should be used because it is in a certain category, for example:
It is a mother point
It is a son point
It is an element point wood/fire/earth/metal/water
It is on a meridian which relates to an element wood/fire/earth/metal/water
It is a spring/stream/river/sea point
It is a xi cleft point
It is a yuan source point
It is a luo connecting point
It is a ghost point
It is a window to heaven point etc

The problem with this approach is that real patients cannot be treated with philosophical categories!

At our college, we teach that for a certain condition points should be chosen because of their actual medical effect, for example:
This point clears inflammation
This point brings down temperature
This point strengthens the respiratory system
This point strengthens the digestive system
This point strengthens the immune system
This point relaxes the piriformis muscle to reduce sciatica
This point treats myasthenia (muscle weakness)
This point regulates the cardiac nerve
This point clears migraine
This point is for insomnia etc

We teach students to know which points to acupuncture based on the diagnosis and we choose these points because of how they work to heal an illness, injury or disease.

Question
You say your course teaches Chinese acupuncture; what is the difference between Chinese and English acupuncture ?

Answer
Western or English acupuncture generally only uses a very few needles. In Chinese acupuncture, we use as many needles as is necessary to treat the patient who may often have multiple conditions. In English acupuncture, the needles are most often inserted vertically, this is a very simplified version of acupuncture. In Chinese acupuncture the needles are inserted either in the re-enforcing direction for a deficiency condition such as light headed, faint, dizzy, weakness or hypo-function. However if the patient was suffering from an excess condition such as pain, swelling, inflammation or hyper-function then the needles would be inserted in the reducing direction.

Question
What are the requirements for joining the course?

Answer
To have anatomy and physiology at Level 3 standard.
The anatomy and physiology course can be undertaken during the first year of your Diploma course. You will need to apply for Student Membership of the The Acupuncture Society. You will also need to apply for Student insurance so you are covered whilst training on the course.

Question
What will I have to learn on this course?

Answer
Knowledge and understanding of the seen and unseen pathways of the 14 main meridians.

To know and understand the use of the main most effective points on each meridian and how to combine them for the most useful therapeutic effects. To understand when to apply the re-enforcing or reducing direction and needle manipulation techniques.

To know and understand Traditional Chinese Medicine diagnosis, anatomy, physiology and aetiology.

To know and understand how to construct acupuncture and herbal formulas from TCM diagnosis.

To know and understand 200 of the most commonly used herbs in Chinese herbal medicine (including TCM action, medicinal use, contra-indication, practical uses and how to create balanced formulas).

To demonstrate awareness of health and safety issues, safe practice, good record-keeping, legal and ethical issues and professionalism.

To apply for this course now, email or call Paul Brecher on 07534493888 to request an interview.

Information about Paul Brecher FAcS MPCHM

Paul completed his four year training course with the famous Doctor of Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine Bernard Kai Lam Lee from Canton in China in June 1993 at The Fook Sang (Fo Shan) Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine Practioners Training College.

In 2001 Paul was appointed Vice Principal of The College of Chinese Medicine and in 2003 he was promoted to the position of Principal of The College of Chinese Medicine.

His books on the Chinese healing and martial arts have been translated into many different languages for the international market and since 1997 he has sold over 100,000 books worldwide, including in mainland China.


How to Treat Sciatica
by Paul Brecher FAcS MPCHM
Principal of The College of Chinese Medicine

NHS Acupuncture Lecture
Lecture given by Paul Brecher BA FAcS MPCHM The Principal of the College of Chinese Medicine at the NHS Conferance on Alternative and Complementary Medicine in Primary Care in London 29 October 2007

Today I would like to talk to you about the possible mechanisms through which acupuncture works to heal the body.

First I would like to put acupuncture in an historical perspective.

In 1968 in China an ancient tomb from the Han Dynasty dating from 113 B.C.was excavated.

Among the relics discovered there were four acupuncture needles made of gold and five of silver.

So acupuncture has been in continual use for over two thousand years, however this great age does not prove acupuncture’s effectiveness.

It was not until 1979 that the World Health Organization formally announced that acupuncture can be used to treat over forty different diseases.

The World Health Organization has since then published the following books:

1993 Standard International Acupuncture Nomenclature
1995 Guidelines for clinical research in Acupuncture
1999 Guidelines on Basic Training and Safety in Acupuncture
2002 Analysis of Reports on Controlled Clinical Trials of Acupuncture

I would just like to read to you a small paragraph from this book

1995 Guidelines for clinical research in acupuncture

-The guidelines aim to encourage the use of systemic laboratory and clinical studies as a way of validating acupuncture, improving its acceptability to modern medicine, and thus extending its use as a simple, inexpensive, and effective therapeutic option. It sets out guidelines that incorporate the established methods and procedures of scientific investigation. The guidelines respond to both growing interest in the therapeutic applications of acupuncture and the need to validate these applications through the compilation of reliable and comparable clinical data-

With this in mind I would today like to discuss both the Western and Chinese explanations for how acupuncture works to heal the body. Both directly on the site of an injury or infection and also how acupuncture can indirectly have a controlling or healing effect on a distant part of the body some distance away from the area that is being needled.

So first a western possible explanation of how acupuncture works locally on the site of an area of inflammation or infection.

It would seem that acupuncture can increase micro circulation due to vasodilation resulting in increased activity of the macrophages and leucoytes which through the process of phagocytosis can destroy bacteria and other harmful toxins and inflammatory components.

And now a possible western explanation of how acupuncture can effect areas of the body that are distant from where the needles are inserted. The mechanism could be via the dermatomal zones which are the areas of sensory innervation on the skin of each spinal nerve.

It is possible that through this mechanism the surface stimulus created by acupuncture may effect distant areas of the body and in addition through the deep layer of the nerve may also influence organ function as well.

These mechanisms that I have described so far may also initiate a cascade of further processes in the body that further increase the bodies own self healing ability.

For example acupuncture may also induce an increase in the anabolic phase of the metabolism through influencing the activity of the parasympathetic nervous system. This would promote tissue regeneration, counter immune deficiency and reduce inflammation and pain.

There is also a possibility that acupuncture may affect the nerves in such a way as to influence the brain stem at the top of the spinal cord and regulate the hypothalamus which is just above it.

The hypothalamus links the nervous system to the endocrine system via the pituitary gland and is responsible for producing endorphin which has an analgesic effect.

As far as I know these are the current ideas which need to be further researched for us to understand the mechanisms of acupuncture from a western perspective.

I would now like to discuss acupuncture from the Chinese perspective.

Measurements of the acupuncture points and acupuncture meridian pathways have found that they are the areas of least resistance to electrical conductivity.


An acupuncture point locator

There are a number of process by which these electrical signals travels through the body along the meridians. When it travels through the nervous system it is through the activity of the neurons. Through the body fluids by the ionic transfer of electrons. And it travels through the tissue via the cell membrane which has got selective protein pumps which can pump positive ions to one side and negative ions to the other, creating a potential difference across the membrane, creating a current.

In both china and the west patients have had brain scans whilst undergoing acupuncture treatment of the feet and specific areas of the brain have shown increased activity responding to acupuncture on different meridian acupuncture points.

So I would theorize that one of the mechanisms of acupuncture is to send electrical signals via the meridian pathways to the brain which then increase or reduce certain processes in the body and regulate organ function. More research is needed to clarify the various possible mechanisms that I have outlined here today.

Thank you