One of Canada’s most trusted and beloved health practitioners introduces Western women to the wisdom of traditional Chinese medicine and the time-tested practices that have helped optimize physical and emotional health for centuries.
Since establishing her practice in Canada twelve years ago, Dr. Xiaolan Zhao has treated thousands of women suffering from fatigue, PMS, infertility, depression, menopausal symptoms and other gynecological disorders — health problems that are all too common in the West but less so in China, where traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) has been an integral part of women’s lives for thousands of years. As a physician originally trained in Western medicine who later took up the practice of TCM, Dr. Zhao has seen how effective the Chinese approach is for her patients, and she’d like to see more Canadian women incorporating its wisdom and practices in their own lives, as a complement to their regular health care.
In Reflections of the Moon on Water, she explains the unique philosophy behind the healing tradition, a way of thinking that is liberating and empowering for women. Sharing stories from her own life and the lives of her patients, Dr. Zhao shows that we have nothing to reject about our feminine selves, and explains how we can develop new relationships with our bodies and our emotions. There is so much every woman can do in terms of ongoing and preventative self-care to improve her health and vitality and prevent illness. By making simple changes in diet, exercise routine, sex life and the way we deal with stress and our emotions, we can profoundly improve our health now and into the future.
"Many Westerners think Chinese medicine sounds too complicated or too esoteric. They find discussions of yin and yang, or the life energy known as qi intimidating. In fact, Chinese medicine is very simple and accessible. Many of the herbs we use are ordinary ones. Sometimes, I might treat a patient’s sinus condition with eucalyptus or other familiar herbs, and she’ll say, "Oh that smells just like what my grandmother used to give me." So much of Chinese medicine is based on intuition and common sense. Although the history behind TCM is 5,000 years old — 4,500 years older than our scientific traditions — it is knowledge open to anyone."
—excerpt from Reflections of the Moon on Water
About the author
Dr. Xiaolan Zhao was a surgeon in China before coming to Canada on a scholarship to do medical research at Queen’s University. After seeing the great interest that was developing in alternative medicine, she decided to open her own traditional Chinese medicine clinic in Toronto. Since then her practice has grown to over seven thousand patients, the majority of whom are women.
Excerpt: Reflections of the Moon on Water: Healing Women's Bodies and Minds through Traditional Chinese Wisdom (by (author) Xiaolan Zhao)
In TCM, disease is an expression of the whole person – body, mind and spirit – in relation to the environment. Chinese medicine doesn’t just treat isolated symptoms in isolated body parts. It gently encourages an awareness of the self as a whole, which in turn promotes strength and healing. As a result, I’ve tried to organize this book using the same holistic principles, instead of dividing it into discussions of separate body parts and medical conditions. I begin the book with a brief introduction to the basic principles of TCM – the concept of Yin and Yang, Qi, the Zang-Fu Organs and the Five Phases. To distinguish between what Western medicine means by certain organs and fluids and the TCM versions, I’ve capitalized the references to the Chinese organs and fluids. Please bear with me here – these concepts may be new to you and difficult perhaps to take in, but having some knowledge of them is necessary to understand Chinese medicine. Don’t worry if you don’t grasp it all at once; the concepts will become clearer as you read the following chapters, and you can always return to Part 1 for reference. Elsewhere in the book, I’ve tried to keep my theoretical explanations rooted in stories drawn from my own life and the experiences of my patients.
The book follows the natural narrative of a woman’s life as it evolves from puberty, through pregnancy and childbirth, towards menopause and onwards. I’ve used traditional Chinese terms for these, which are poetic and nature-based. So, Part Two, on menstruation, is called “Heavenly Water,” and Part Five, on pregnancy, is entitled “Ripening the Fruit.” The time after childbirth is known as “Golden Month” (Part Six). Menopause (Part Seven) is referred to as “Second Spring.” I’ve also included a section, called “Lotus Blossoms” (Part Three), devoted to breast health, which is so problematic in the West – one in nine women will experience breast cancer – and so intimately connected with each stage of the female cycles. Part Four, “Clouds and Rain,” is about sexuality, and explores how we can deepen and direct our sexual energies throughout life. I hope that this framework will help give readers a sense of the uniquely integrated approach of TCM.
The title, Reflections of the Moon on Water, evokes the archetypal aspects of the feminine that we each embody. In TCM, both the moon and water have been symbolically connected with Yin, the feminine, and many cultures compare women’s evolution from young woman to mother to matriarch with the transformation of the moon in her phases. The title is also meant to suggest the transformational possibilities that arise when we share ourselves with others. Just as I have shared my knowledge and experience of Chinese medicine with my patients, the wonderful women I’ve met in Canada have shown themselves to me, and in so doing have illuminated parts of myself that were previously hidden – like the dark side of the moon. The luminous light of our wholeness is reflected in each of us, for all of us to see. It is my hope that by sharing my understanding and experience of Traditional Chinese Medicine and offering stories from my life and the lives of my wise and courageous patients, you will be equipped with knowledge and practices to help you in your transitions. Also, it is my heartfelt wish that this book can help us reconnect to what is authentic within us, in a healing journey towards wholeness.
“It’s the air of kindness and authority that so many rarefied folk find appealing.”
“Xiaolan infuses the poetic terminology of this traditional medicine into each chapter. For some, exposure to this eloquent language would be enough reason to read this book. It is that beautiful…. For any woman looking to deepen her understanding of self, this book could be considered essential. For any man in the process of developing compassion for a woman experiencing her uniqueness, this could help to enlighten the mystery.”
—Winnipeg Free Press
“This primer on ancient Chinese practices mixes philosophy, personal insight and advice into a very pleasurable read…. An excellent and highly readable intro.”
"TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) is my number one choice of healing modalities for women. It's safe, effective, and holistic. Reflections of the Moon on Water is a beautifully written manual that reveals the wisdom of this ancient tradition for modern times."
—Dr. Christiane Northrup
Praise for Dr. Zhao:
"Xiaolan brings to the art of science and healing, a rare combination of precision and compassion. A gift, indeed."
—Ann-Marie MacDonald, author of Fall on Your Knees and The Way the Crow Flies
"Xiaolan Zhao is an exceptional person with a unique blend of knowledge, experience, love and compassion, who gives her all for the well-being of the patients under her care."
—Aref Vaezi, M.D. C.C.F.P.
"Xiaolan listens to your words, looks into your eyes, feels your pulse. She’s a health practitioner who understands the language of the body."
—Barb Minett, owner of The Bookshelf, Guelph, Ontario