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The Web That Has No Weaver : Understanding Chinese Medicine

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A Doody’s Core Title for 2022!  The Web That Has No Weaver is the classic, comprehensive guide to the theory and practice of Chinese alternative medicine. This accessible and invaluable resource has earned its place as the foremost authority in synthesizing Western and Eastern healing practices. This revised edition is the product of years of further reflection on ancient Chinese sources and active involvement in cutting-edge scientific research.

528 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1983

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Ted Kaptchuk

13 books18 followers

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5 stars
864 (45%)
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690 (36%)
3 stars
287 (15%)
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57 (2%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 145 reviews
Profile Image for Katherine.
26 reviews
September 27, 2007
This is hands down the best book for an English speaking person who is interested in Acupuncture and Chinese medicine. It is very well written and highly informative. Many concepts of Chinese medicine are difficult to express in English and the true meanings become lost in translation. Futhermore, the concepts are far beyond a Western person's mindframe capacity. Dr. Kaptchuk does an incredible job of opening up the concepts to a Western person (such as myself), therefore allowing us to understand what is really going on with Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine: how and why it works for us in the present day.
Profile Image for Kate.
649 reviews102 followers
December 22, 2009
As a dyed in the wool WASPy westerner, I once struggled with the whole eastern medicine concept. And then I had my gall bladder out, in a modern American hospital, with all the amenities and twice the pain, at which point, I started struggling with the whole western medicine concept.

In order to contain the waves of nausea and continued right upper quadrant pain that followed my surgery (I can still see the surgeon smiling and shrugging as I described my misery), I went in desperation to an acupuncturist, who took care of both symptoms, toot sweet. I am a skeptic, and this actually worked.

This book is written by an Doctor of Oriental Medicine who teaches at Harvard and Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital. So he has the creds to explain to us westerners in a thorough, no-nonsense way, the art and science of Chinese medicine. It will give you a reliable anchor in this old/new world of healing. Highly recommended.
August 22, 2020
This is an amazing book that I was reminded of in a rating by GR Friend Laur💫.

I remember it being technical for me, the layman, with no background. Never-the-less, I read it at a time in my life when I was interested in reading about alternative methods for an ailment that was plaguing me at the time and I found the book illuminating on a far broader scale.
Profile Image for Tom Gonzalez.
14 reviews1 follower
April 26, 2007
I read this thoughtfuly written book while I was soul searching, for I had considered becoming an Oriental Medical practitioner and had given up on Western Medical practices. To me, the fall of medicine in the west was as a result of having lost its way from the compassion centered healing that has been the root of its art, to what now has become a techno-pharmaceutical monstrosity, incestuously merged with managed care and insurance. As a result, sadly, modern physicians no longer touch patients and the training process is a sick system full of abuse and hazing. The Hippocratic Oath has long been abandoned, for multiple reasons, and those truly in need do not receive the care that could be available.
However, I digress...This book is a sufficient introduction for the western cultured citizen to carefully immerse one’s self into a different paradigm of healing.
The eastern medical paradigm is woven from their cosmology, through a long history of eastern-scientific observations, trial and errors, and philosophical discourse. To the Westerner, it may difficult to "unlearn" all that we hold as fact, and to grasp a theology of sorts that has self evident truths, even if they are immeasurable.
This gap of paradigmatic understanding is the major obstacle that must be overcome in the west’s integration of oriental medicine. Within this book, herein lies a systematic introduction to oriental medicine, its philosophy, its theories (very briefly) and case study comparisons between both medical modalities.
For thousands of years, this system worked for the east. It behooves the western establishment to study this modality for what it is…another way to heal.
I found this book to be fascinating because of my own limited knowledge in this field. Although I did not choose to be an O.M.D., I discovered much about myself throughout this book. Perhaps my western scientific background provided an irreconcilable bias. Those that can adopt new ideas, even ideas that are contrary to experimental facts, will do well to read this book if considering “alternative” medicine.
Profile Image for Jigme Datse.
99 reviews5 followers
January 8, 2015
This book was recommended to me by one of my Acupuncturists. Who I can't remember unfortunately. It's really good, gives a good overview of Chinese Medicine, and allows you to understand a bit better the possibilities of what a diagnosis means.

A diagnosis in Chinese Medicine is not the same as in western medicine. For example six people who have been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia could quite easily have six different diagnoses. The diagnosis is one of what is "causing" the issue much more so than what a bunch of symptoms tells you it is.

Also clear in this book is the fact that six people with one Chinese Medicine diagnosis (Kidney Yin Deficiency for example) could quite easily have six different diagnoses in western medicine. There is a many to many correlation between western medicine and Chinese Medicine.
Profile Image for M Burke.
474 reviews30 followers
August 27, 2014
An accessible overview of Chinese medicine (primarily acupuncture and herbs) written by a Western physician. It covers the basic philosophy and systems of “traditional” (Chinese) medicine, and how that differs from “biomedicine” (Western medicine based on anatomy and modern drugs). My favorite chapters dealt with various kinds of pulses and examining signs on a person’s tongue. These techniques reveal a surprising amount of detail about what’s happening in the body. My acupuncturist noted that pulse and tongue reading developed as a result of class differences between Chinese healers and their patients: a low-status healer couldn’t ask questions about embarrassing bodily functions of their higher-class patients, so they came up with observational methods.

As a scientist, I particularly appreciated the discussion of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of the two schools of treatment. Aside from small sample sizes and issues of practitioner expertise, a major problem with empirically evaluating acupuncture is the inability to have a placebo condition — inserting the pins in “the wrong places” may still have physiological effects, unlike an inert placebo pill. Furthermore, as numerous case studies throughout the book illustrate, a common Western diagnosis (such as high blood pressure) may map to four or five different Chinese diagnoses, depending on what else is happening in the body and mind, and require customized treatment. Similarly, a Chinese diagnosis of “Deficient Spleen Qi” might map to gastroenteritis in one person, chronic hepatitis in another, and degenerative neuromuscular disorder in another. Therefore, while meta-analyses identify correlations between groups of Chinese diagnoses and groups of Western ones, there is rarely a one-to-one correspondence in either diagnosis or treatment plan.
Profile Image for Laur.
494 reviews71 followers
August 22, 2020
Thanks Tamar. There are a lot of extremely beneficial elements to Chinese medicine. This book was highly recommended to me by a highly respected Chinese Doctor who helped me when all other traditional methods failed
Profile Image for Ryan.
83 reviews14 followers
January 18, 2008
This gets an extra star for being my introduction to Chinese medicine. In truth this is many people's introduction to the medicine, and deserves a lot of credit for that. Certainly worth reading as a first book, especially for those of a very western/scientific mindset. I think if I had read Lonny Jarrett or J.R. Worsley first I would have been thrown off by their language. This book allowed me to move into the idea of the medicine before I needed to understand the origins. For someone with a new interest in acupuncture, I would recommend this along with Peter Eckman's Footsteps of the Yellow Emperor.
Profile Image for Stefanie.
58 reviews11 followers
May 18, 2007
I'm really interested in learning about Traditional Chinese Medicine, and this book was recommended to me by my acupuncturist. But, I have to say, I'm getting annoyed by the repetitive style of the author. I think he's so convinced that Westerners won't "get" it that he says things a million times. And maybe I won't "get" it, but the repetition isn't helping.

Ok, I finished it, relatively speaking. I got impatient and started skipping to parts that seemed like they would be relevant to me. Yeah, I was trying to diagnose myself. Anyway, I am more familiar with TCM, now.
Profile Image for Alix.
88 reviews
February 18, 2009
Pretty much THE book on Chinese Medicine. Not a book to read if you just want to know herbs and folk remedies. This is a book for someone wanting to understand Chinese Medicine, whether to know how to use it, or if you are planning on studying it. It does an excellent job of explaining why Chinese Medicine is not some mystical idea, but an actual art and science just like Western medicine.
Profile Image for Terry.
527 reviews17 followers
July 17, 2012
I read this interesting book after my first visit to an accupuncturist. The book was written initially as a laymen's guide, but turns into something pretty technical. It convinced me that Chinese medicine is a valuable tool particularly in addressing disorders which Western medicine does not understand; even better, the accupuncture I recieved helped me get over severe back pain.
Profile Image for Alex.
184 reviews14 followers
May 4, 2019
A very interesting and well-documented book. It's not easy to find someone that can bridge and understand both West and Eastern philosophies. I was looking for a good introduction to Traditional Chinese Medicine and the concepts behind it. This was the right book for it. It gives a broad but very thorough perspective on the matter while maintaining a very neutral and non-judgemental approach, which is, very refreshing.

I'm not a medical specialist and the enumeration of patterns eventually became repetitive, but overall, the introduction to the framework and the clinical cases it includes are very insightful.

I can't recommend this book enough if you have any interest in TCM's theory and inner workings. It's not a medical manual though, so avoid it if you're looking for herbs or acupuncture recipes.
Profile Image for Chelsea Lawson.
285 reviews28 followers
March 29, 2020
I was torn between giving this four or five stars. If you are looking to understand Chinese medicine- the big picture philosophy (yin and yang), how physicians examine for and approach illness (“patterns of disharmony”), and general techniques for healing (herbs, acupuncture, and lifestyle)- this book is excellent.

You could say that Chinese medicine is more concerned with health and western medicine more concerned with sickness. Or that Chinese medicine is most helpful for healing mild health issues and preventing bigger issues from taking hold. Lots of interesting concepts in an approachable framework and narrative.
October 5, 2012
This book is superb at assisting in the comprehension of chinese/eastern medicine for the western mind. The difference between two very different seeming medical modalities can be bridged once one transcends the inflexible concept that there is only one worldview....plainly there are multiple ways of viewing ourselves and the world we live in.
I have "lost" this book to borrowers so many times I have lost count! I just buy a new one....
24 reviews2 followers
May 2, 2011
I love this book - not because its easy to read or even understand, just because it exists. I read it once before I became an acupuncturist and once while I was a student. The first reading inspired me - I was immersed in ideas that were completely new and largely mysterious, while the second reading brought the satisfaction of 'ah-ha! I get it now!'.
Profile Image for Bill Blocksom.
101 reviews4 followers
July 11, 2011
This is an excellent book. It is an in depth look at Chinese Medicine from the view of the practitioner. I know that is has been used as a required text in Acupuncture training. After I gave up thinking I was going to remember every detail, I was able to read this a get a good sense of the subject, its artistry, and the contrast with Western medicine. I recommend this book.
Profile Image for Nated Doherty.
48 reviews1 follower
October 28, 2007
I've never gotten all the way through this, but i've gotten as much out of this as I have out of books i've read all the way through.
Profile Image for Heather Rose.
7 reviews1 follower
July 8, 2009
This is a deep book which is considered one of the essentials for understanding the medicine taught at Bastyr University. It also has alot of appeal to the study of medical anthropology.
195 reviews1 follower
November 23, 2012
maybe this was a good book, i was too bored to get thru the first chapter. i even tried to read the last but it was boring too.
Profile Image for Jay.
42 reviews1 follower
June 25, 2019
This reads more like an acupuncture textbook and gets granular very quickly. While it's incredibly insightful, there's way too much detail for a lay-creature like moi.
Profile Image for Jess.
182 reviews19 followers
February 15, 2019
My dear cousin Jill bought this for me for Christmas in a stack of other books that were perfectly calibrated to my current interests. Lucky me!

I didn't read all the way to the end page, and I didn't get through the amazingly comprehensive footnotes, but I did read the body of the book and it was fascinating and very helpful to understand more about the philosophy behind Chinese medicine, which I'd really only understood vaguely before. Folks cite this as the book for beginners wanting to learn more about Chinese medicine and acupuncture, and it was quite readable. It also packed a LOT into a small book and there's no way that I could actually process all the information (qi, shen, jing, pernicious influences, meridians, yin/yang, dampness, wind, heat/cold, etc. etc.).

I admit I tried to do a little self-diagnosing while reading which probably didn't help my overall comprehension, but in the end, I do feel like I understand a lot more than I did when I began. I now know just enough to know how little I know, what a subtle, detailed, and deep art Chinese medicine is, and more about how it relates to Western medicine.

It was also fun to understand a bit more about phrases or advice that I would hear from my mum or aunties about "heaty" or "cooling" foods and put them into a broader context. I have a feeling I'll be keeping this one on my shelf and referring to it over time.

Profile Image for Kallen.
3 reviews1 follower
August 12, 2022
Picked up on a whim of interest from a second hand store during a search for deeper understanding into Taoist principle, 'The Web That Has No Weaver' has proven to be an engaging read.

I have no previous experience with Chinese medicine, and only very little with the ideas at its core. A rather perfect reader for this easy, inviting, introductory text.

Kaptchuk explains the concepts of traditional Chinese medicine in such a way that both shows critiques of Western medicinal practices, but that of the Chinese practice as well. Taking the reader through the understanding of it as if giving building blocks to reach a pinnacle of understanding outside of practice. A strong foundation of thought that means as the patterns of analysis are discussed there is understanding of these elements that outright given would be overwhelming.

A shame I was not fortunate enough to obtain the more recent edition, if elements of the philosophy have changed since publication in 1983.

Lyrically written when free to express ideas and discuss points, this was an excellent read.
20 reviews
February 25, 2023
If you're interested in Traditional Chinese Medicine, you simply must get your hands on The Web That Has No Weaver. This little gem by Ted J. Kaptchuk is the perfect introduction to this fascinating world. With a charming mix of history, philosophy, and practical advice, Kaptchuk weaves together a captivating narrative that will leave you spellbound. He skillfully guides you through the complexities of traditional Chinese medicine, providing insight into its holistic approach to health and disease.

Whether you're a curious beginner or a seasoned practitioner, The Web That Has No Weaver will take you on a journey of discovery. Kaptchuk does oversimplify certain aspects of traditional Chinese medicine and present them in a way that does not fully reflect the complexity and nuances of this ancient practice. While he does this to make the book accessible, some readers may find that the book lacks depth in certain areas and does not provide a comprehensive understanding of the subject matter.
Profile Image for Akhil Jain.
563 reviews31 followers
May 2, 2023
V academically written. Not an interesting read.

My fav quotes (not a review):
-Page 110 "The Spleen extracts the pure nutritive essences of ingested food and fluids and transforms them into what will become Qi and Blood. If the Spleen is healthy, a person has clear thoughts, can make decisions, and has the insight to faithfully support the needs of other people and situ-ations. A harmonious Spleen enthusiastically engages the world. If the Spleen is unbalanced, a person can worry easily, have difficulty making decisions, be mentally unclear and confused, be excessively helpful, or just feel bored and uninterested."
-Page 214 "If the tongue maintains its normal color during an illness, it is a sign that the Qi and Blood have not been injured. A dry, pale tongue is more likely to be Deficient Blood; if it is wet, it is more likely to be Deficient Qi. A red tongue is redder than a normal tongue, and points to a Heat condition in the body."
2 reviews
September 18, 2020
Terrific Read. I love learning about alternative therapy and medicines. Many think they're a placebo effect but not me. I am also into the concept of Scalar Energy which originates from the sun and is a fundamental force in all of nature, Improves spiritual & physical well-being and offers a ground-breaking approach to health and healing. It has also been suggested that magnets can be helpful for pain relief, including lower back and knee pains. Magnets can be used in many different ways. Wearing therapeutic copper or magnetic bracelets to ease ailments is nothing new; the practice may even date all the way back to ancient times. I had hoped there was a little more on the magnetism and magnet healing power, I have a real interest in this area too.
magnetic bracelets
Profile Image for Kara.
10 reviews
March 14, 2023
It's clear Chinese medicine has not strayed far from its origins of Taoist thought. Eastern medicine examines patterns of disharmony and seeks to restore balance while the West finds a cause for the symptoms. This book was a lot more spiritual than I had anticipated but this made it 10x more interesting to me than just reading how to heal medical conditions.

It's more than 2,000 years old and I was most fascinated by how complex and experimental it is. To compare it to Western medicine is like comparing apples to oranges. From the oriental doctor's perspective, the person and their ailments and the universe are a moving flow of energy that is interconnected whereas modern medicine seeks to isolate the illness.

Many times it is hard to really describe the fundamental textures or how they are viewed in a modern medicine context. This is because Chinese medicine is a sort of art form that requires mastery of its subtleties. To me this makes perfect sense. The body is fragile as it is strong and fine tuning deficiency or excess seems rather difficult to pinpoint let alone attempt to transform using only needles and the elements.

There are a lot of overlaps with other Chinese beliefs that now make sense to me. After you take a shower you aren't to leave your head wet or you'll get sick - dampness. Don't turn a fan on overnight or you'll wake up stuffy - wind. Foods described as cool, neutral, cold, warm, and hot that bring heat or coolness to the body. Yin and yang energy and its resonance with death and rebirth.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Knit Spirit.
603 reviews16 followers
November 5, 2019
Si la 1ère partie de l'ouvrage est tout à fait accessible lorsqu'on a les bases de la Médecine Traditionnelle Chinoise, la 2ème l'est beaucoup moins. Enfin, disons que, dans la 2ème moitié de l'ouvrage, l'auteur entre vraiment dans les détails et ce fut, pour moi, trop poussé par rapport à ce que j'étais venue chercher dans ce livre.
Je pense que je le relirai plus tard, lorsque je serai plus à l'aise avec les concepts et que je voudrais aller plus loin.
Je me suis régalée de la 1ère partie qui remet bien tout à plat et qui est très abordable et très claire.
Je n'en reviens pas à quel point j'ai dévoré ce livre, presque comme un roman (alors que clairement, ce n'en ait pas un !!).
Profile Image for Ann Michael.
Author 10 books25 followers
December 4, 2018
A good introduction to the differences between western and eastern approaches to health and wellness, but this book is likely to be a bit tedious for the casual reader, as Kaptchuk is quite thorough and goes into the philosophy as well as the 'medicine.' It is NOT a how-to book for people who want to try treating themselves with herbs or moxibustion! It's well-documented with hundreds of studies and weighs the advantages and disadvantages of the traditional Chinese approach to wellness and to cure.

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