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Glenn Yank, MD is a Psychiatrist located in Tennessee.


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Question:
I’m a police officer and I have just come across my first case of coining. The young girl is of Asian decent. I am looking for information on coining used for religious purposes and why the Asian community believes in it. I hope to use this information to help the rest of the department understand the reasons why this is done. I hope you can help. Tod Sockman, West Sacramento Police Department

Answer:

Coining is a traditional Asian folk remedy found in several Asian cultures. It is called kos khyol in the Cambodian culture, which literally means rubbing (kos) the wind (khyol). It is called cao gio in the Vietnamese culure, which literally means catch (cao) the wind (gio). Coining is also practiced by the Hmong people, who mostly emigrated to the United States from northern Laos.

Coining refers to the practice of rubbing or scratching the skin of the back, neck, upper chest, and arms with a coin, a spoon, or a special tool. Sometimes the coin or implement is heated. Before or during rubbing, special oils, Tiger Balm, herbal liquid medicine, skin lotion, or water may be applied to the skin. Related practices include cupping and pinching. Cupping refers to using a set of heated cups to apply suction to the skin of the forehead, back or chest. All of these practices have the effect of bringing increased blood to the surface of the skin, sometimes creating skin lesions, bruises, and scars. The intent of these practices is to bring the presumed excess “wind” energy, thought to be the cause of the person’s illness, to the surface of the body, where it can be dissipated, restoring a more harmonious balance of body energies.

An excellent discussion of the concept of “wind illness” and its treatment among Cambodians living in Seattle can be found at:

http://ethnomed.org/ethnomed/clin_topics/cambodian/ethno_wind.html#wind

Another reference about coining is: http://altmed.creighton.edu/coining/

The concept of “wind illness” and the different practices used for its treatment are embedded in the complex belief systems of traditional Asian and Oriental medicines. According to What Language Does Your Patient Hurt In?: A Practical Guide to Culturally Competent Care (Diversity Resources Inc., Amherst, MA. 2000 ), available on the web at http://www.diversityresources.com/vdahc.html:

“All Asian groups define health as the harmonious balance between the forces of yin and yang and the corresponding conditions of hot and cold. Illness is attributed to an upset of this balance. Illness can be cured only if the balance is restored by lowering the excessive trait or increasing the deficient one. Most traditional medical investigation involves a search for imbalances within the patient’s physical and mental self. Treatment focuses on the restoration of balance.”

These belief systems also include beliefs about different kinds of energies that flow through the body, often along particular paths called meridians. For example, the Traditional Chinese Medicines practices of Acupuncture, Accupressure, and Moxibustion involve manipulating energy (referred to as Qui or Ch’i) flow along these meridians by applying needles (Acupuncture), pressure (Accupressure), or heat (Moxibustion) to specific points along these meridians. The type of energy applied and the specific point to apply it are determined by the diagnosis of the patient’s problems. Detailed discussions of these diagnostic and treatment practices can be found on the websites listed at the end of this article. Of note, the energy referred to as Qui or Ch’i is the same energy that the practice of Tai Ch’i seeks to mobilize and get to flow harmoniously, and is also the same energy that certain martial arts practices seek to mobilize and use.

States of illness and disease are conceptualized as based on alterations in energy flow through the body and/or a disturbance in the necessary balance of yin, which is “cold,” and yang, which is “hot.” The terms refer not to temperatures but to attributes and/or conditions based upon yin and yang. From the viewpoint of Traditional Chinese Medicine, wind carries an excess of yang energy. From this perspective, coining and cupping are seen to be interventions that seek to restore the balance of yin and yang by bringing the excess yang energy to the surface of the body at particular points from which this excess energy can be dissipated.

I hope this information proves useful to you, and helps you and your colleagues better understanding these practices and their context.

Web References:

http://www.internalhealers.com/
http://www.orientalmedicine.com/bt_yin_yang.htm
http://www.diversityresources.com/rc_sample/asian.html
http://www.tcmcentral.com/
http://acupuncture.com/

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