Shen Huisheng Xie grew up in a remote, rural area of China, where his family, for generations, practiced herbal medicine.
But he vividly remembers how, when he was 18, the ancient herbal traditions couldn’t save a beloved pet, the family dog, that became ill.
Xie (pronounced ‘shee-yeh’) wanted to learn what other treatment options were out there.
“I had never heard about vet school” at that point, Xie said at a recent lecture at LSU.
He left his rural community looking for answers, and, against his family’s wishes, he became a veterinarian.
Xie didn’t reject his roots, however.
In 1998, he helped found the Chi Institute of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Reddick, Fla., where veterinarians are trained in the various branches of traditional Chinese veterinary medicine.
Xie spoke in November at the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine, as part of the school’s Crow Speaker Series, made possible by Donald and Sue Crow, of Shreveport.
Traditional Chinese veterinary medicine evolved the past 3,000 years and includes acupuncture, herbal medicine and food therapy, Xie said.
It remains part of mainstream medical care in China, he said.
Acupuncture, the subject of Xie’s Baton Rouge talk, “allows innate healing and regeneration processes to function optimally,” he said.
It involves inserting thin needles in methodically mapped out “acupoints,” areas under the skin, where there are concentrations of nerves, blood vessels, lymph ducts and connective tissue, he said.
The acupoints are places in the body where qi (pronounced “chee”), described as energy or the “life force,” gathers, Xie said.
The concept of qi arose between 200 and 300 B.C., said Xie, who described it as the “life throb of the ages ... the thread that connects all beings.”
“Right now, we don’t have tools to measure the qi” so it’s hard to have an objective assessment of it, he said. He believes future technology will bring such diagnostic tools.
Qi must flow in an individual at all times, Xie said. But sometimes the flow of qi becomes blocked, and the result is pain.
The treatment, in many cases, can be acupuncture.
Acupuncture stimulates the brain, which “creates generalized effects,” and changes hormones and chemicals throughout the body, Xie said.
Today, there is growing scientific evidence of the beneficial effects of acupuncture, he said. Safe and effective for many conditions, it can be integrated with conventional treatments, Xie said.
In fact, acupuncture has become part of the formal curriculum of numerous universities in the U.S., Xie said.
At LSU, Dr. Rebecca McConnico, equine internist and associate professor of veterinary medicine, in the Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, provides acupuncture treatment for horses.
Local veterinarian Dr. Larry McCaskill works with the LSU veterinary school to provide acupuncture for small animals, McConnico said.
Three other LSU faculty are in the process of being trained in acupuncture, she said.
At his recent visit, Xie told local faculty and students of several instances in which acupuncture provided relief and healing for animals in pain.
One such case was that of a thoroughbred, male horse, a winning racehorse that at one point was a winner of the Mid-American Triple Crown.
But, eventually, his racing career seemed to be in doubt, Xie said. The horse was suffering from lameness in his left front leg and was brought to the animal hospital at the University of Florida.
Xie said he and his staff found that the horse also was suffering from lameness in its right rear limb and had pain in its left shoulder and back.
After screenings, blood work and MRIs didn’t turn up anything abnormal, the diagnosis was “qi stagnation” or an energy blockage at the horse’s left front foot and shoulder.
Acupuncture therapy was recommended. After four acupuncture treatments, the horse recovered and went on to once again be a champion.