Training Curriculum

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Classical Pathophysiology and Materia Medica Curriculum

YEAR ONE: 20 hours, 2.5 days

1) Classical Pathology of the Neijing: the Nineteen Lines on Pathology (12 hours)

Chapter seventy-four of the Great Treatise on the Essence of the Utmost Truth [zhizhen yao dalun] of the Inner Classic of the Yellow Emperor [huangdi neijing] records the most encompassing and original rules in Chinese medicine pathology. The nineteen patterns are considered to be the most authoritative instructions on classical etio-pathology and the only discourse where a differentiation method based on the five phase energetics is presented.

Because of this, there is great difficulty in understanding these instructions, because they cannot be researched from merely a more modern Qing dynasty zangfu differentiation standpoint that we are most accustomed to. As such, the only path to full understanding of the lines is an evaluation from all possible angles in classical Chinese medicine. This evaluation will be engaged in by cross-referencing other classics like the Classic of Difficulties [nan jing], as well as later commentaries by masters like Zhang Jingyue, etc.

The lines are structured along a twofold grid: the first outline is by Five Solid Organs [wu zang]; while the second outline is arranged along the Six Qi [liu qi] or six climactic influences. During the course, all Solid Organ patterns will be studied and explained along with the most representative lines on the Six Qi. As such, this course will provide the participant with a definitive understanding on classical Chinese medicine pathology and an excellent tool for the evaluation of difficult cases in clinic.


2) The Classical Energetics of the Five Flavors (8 hours)

Chinese herb actions are by no means arbitrary. The actions are rooted in the tastes and nature of the herbs as described in the materia medica classics and as proofed by centuries of clinical application. When herb classics like the Divine Farmer’s Materia Medica recorded these basic qualities; and theoretical classics like the Yellow Emperor’s Internal Canon instructed on their therapeutic indication and application, they came to clinical maturation in medical manuals like the Treatise on Cold Damage. From the architecture of the classical herbal formulas documented in the latter, we can observe how it is consistent with its theoretical predecessors.

The contemporary application of Chinese medicinals though, nowadays relies almost exclusively on the allopathic action an herb possesses. These actions may be superficially explained by the herb’s flavor and nature, but in many scenarios, even the best contemporary herbalist cannot explain ‘why’ many an herb does what it does or why a certain herb is applied in the stead of another. Only when one takes the understanding of the subject back to the original energetics, can one gain insight into the infinite knowledge of materia medica and increase clinical effectiveness.

This course is intended to explore the profound mechanisms behind the workings of the most commonly used herbs. First there will be an in-depth explanation of the physiology of the flavors, followed by an explanation of their many pathological aspects. In the second part of the lecture, a detailed description will be given of the most common herbs’ mechanism of action through an elaborate five phase model.

This seminar will allow both the beginning as well as the advanced herbalist to gain a deeper understanding of how the herbs work and through what pathway of action they achieve their therapeutic results. This knowledge will then directly contribute to a more detailed prescription behavior, better understanding of formulas and overall enhanced clinical effectiveness.


Shanghan Zabing Lun Curriculum (Diagnosis, Formulas, Clinical Medicine)

YEAR TWO: 22-24 hours, 3 days

1) In-depth Seminar on Core Patterns of the Six Conformations of the Shanghan Lun (14-16 hours)

6 hours on Six Conformation Physiology

4 hours on the Basic Patterns

4 hours on the Combined Patterns

The Treatise on Cold Damage or Shanghan Lun is one of the most prominent classics in Chinese medicine and the first clinical handbook in China’s medical history. The text is outlined along a grid of six channels or confirmations. This course aims to provide an in-depth understanding of the sequential nature of six confirmation pathologies as well as their systematic treatment.

The first part will focus on a clear insight in the core physiological qualities of the confirmations. A second part of the instruction will focus on the understanding of the pathologies at hand. Insight will be acquired into the sequential nature of six confirmation pathologies and their channel passage patterns including pathological progression and regression possibilities. The final part will focus on the core conformation pathologies with the peripheral channel patterns [jingzheng] and internal hollow organ pathologies [fuzheng] as the standard treatment scenarios. The patterns in the system will be taught in the form of formula patterns [tangheng] and pulse patterns [maizheng], which include the basic pulses and hallmark symptoms to classify each pattern. The participant will study the core formulas corresponding with the core six channel pathologies including channel patterns and bowel patterns but also classified as true [zheng] pattern or standard patterns, as well as co-existing pattern [jianzheng] and combined diseases [hebing], as well as the phenomenon of diseases due to mistreatment [huaibing].

2) Acupuncture According the Six Conformations (8 hours)

The Treatise on Cold Damage or Shanghan Lun is one of the most respected texts in the history of Chinese medicine and a practitioner of the classical format of Chinese medicine will closely adhere to this original text when treating patients. This methodology is characteristic for the medical classicist and stems from reverence for the ancient writing as well as a search for purism.

The six confirmations grid along which the Shanghan Lun is outlined, lends itself remarkably as a clinical guide for acupuncture and moxibustion treatment. The six channels or confirmations are the physical representations of the six climate influences or six qi in nature. In the body they form the six pairs of hand and foot channels directly linked to these six qi. The goal of this course is to provide a framework for acupuncture and moxibustion therapy based on Shanghan Lun rationale of the six confirmations.

Although specific point prescriptions will be discussed, the intention is primarily to reveal a methodology for point selection that can be applied to any Shanghan Lun-based herbal therapy. Upon completion, the participant will have mastered a methodology to translate or extrapolate classical herbal formulas into acupuncture and moxibustion prescription, thus allowing for greater consistency in clinic as well as increased effectiveness.


YEAR THREE: 20 hours, 2.5 days

3) Shanghan Lun Pulse Diagnosis (8 hours)

The Treatise on Cold Damage [shanghan lun] is the oldest surviving clinical handbook in the history of Chinese medicine. Written by Eastern Han dynasty imperial envoy Zhang Zhongjing, it is an integral part of his collective writings once labeled the Treatise on Cold Damage and Complex Diseases. [shanghan zabing lun]. But the contents of the Shanghan Lun as we know it in current day is far from complete. The present version studied in Chinese medical schools as well as in the West, does not include the original first three chapters of Rules for Pulse Differentiation [bianmai fa], Rules on Normal Pulses [pingmai fa] and Cold Damage Outline [shanghan lie]. Regardless whatever motivation was behind the historical deletions of these passages, of the aforementioned chapters, the chapters on pulse instructions are crucial for anyone desiring to fully grasp Zhang Zhongjing’s clinical instructions. Especially since the pulse patterns [maizheng] form the core diagnostic parameters in the establishment of the formula patterns [fangzheng] by which the canonical clinician categorizes disease and therapy.

4) Classical Herbal Formula Families and Clinical Modification (8 hours)

The Shanghan Zabing Lun or the Treatise on Cold Damage and Complex Diseases is considered the forefather of all formula books. The original work was lost to the tooth of time, but most of its contents are preserved in two extant works called the Treatise on Cold Damage [shanghan lun] and the Concise Essentials of the Golden Cabinet [jingui yaolue]. The first work primarily addresses externally triggered disorders while the latter work describes the pathology and treatment of complex diseases generated internally.

The herbal prescriptions or formulas recorded in this work form the basis for the practice of Chinese herbal medicine. And only in-depth understanding of the architecture of these formulas is will ensure their effective and safe use in clinic. When studying these formulas, it is imperative to cross-reference the aforementioned two works because only cross-reference will allow the practitioner to see the greater picture and reveal the full application context of a prescription.

The course will instruct on the architecture of the classical herbal formulas of the Treatise on Cold Damage [shanghan lun] and the Essentials of the Golden Cabinet [jingui yaolue] in cross-reference, demonstrating how they relate to each other and illustrating the full breadth of their clinical indications. The Shanghan Lun and Jingui Yaolue formulas are related like family members and their architectural characteristics will be taught in a modular pedigree fashion. As a starting point, the formulas will be categorized in formula families which will clearly show their mutual relationships.

Finally, based on their mutual affinity, a system of clinical modification will be taught. The system is fully grounded and based in the classical writings of the original designer of the formulas, Zhang Zhongjing. It will explain the hierarchy of formula modifications and provide a failsafe method for clinical formula modification to adapt to a broader collection of complex clinical manifestations as often encountered in Chinese medicine clinic in the West. A waterproof modification system forms the basis of classical herbal practice and the elimination of random clinical variables which are the greatest cause for failure in clinic.

Practically the course will provide an in-depth discussion on a core selection of formulas, including both formulas for external invasion, as well as internal damage. The presentation will use clinical case examples to illustrate a system of clinical formula modification to enhance effectiveness and broaden the field of action of the formulas.

5) Case Presentations from the Shanghan Lun (4 hours)

Here Dr. Versluys presents numerous cases from his private practice. Since he only practices classical herbal medicine, all cases are difficult chronic and acute scenarios that were resolved with only classical formulas. Though he could fill days with this material, 4 hours can be a good sampler.

Clinical Demonstration: (4 hours)

Dr. Versluys is an expert in Han-dynasty herbal formulas from the Shanghan Lun and the Jingui Yaolue. He studied classical pulse diagnosis with some of the best classical masters in China. Since many years, Dr. Versluys solely uses Six Conformation differentiation in clinic and prescribes only classical prescriptions. Based on these formulas he has then further developed a system of prescribing acupuncture point combinations along these Six Conformations.

During this day you will be able to observe Dr. Versluys in clinic with patients. He will give detailed explanations of the pulses, the herbal formulas and the acupuncture prescriptions. If you have ever attended Arnaud’s seminars, this will be a perfect chance for integrating the theoretical knowledge in a clinical setting. Please allocate at least 45 minutes per patient case to allow enough time for teaching.

YEAR FOUR: [Program Currently Under Development]

· Case-based Instruction on the Diseases of the Jingui Yaolue (16 hours)

· Classical Directionality of Herbs: Ascending, Descending, Sinking, Floating and Channel Affinity (to be developed)