According to an article in USA Today on January 22, 2004, “In 2003, obese or overweight Americans cost the United States about $75 billion in weight-related medical bills, and according to data taxpayers paid about $39 billion, or about $175 per taxpayer, for these costs. Around 65 percent of Americans weigh too much.

Americans who are classified as obese are those who are 30 pounds or more over a healthy weight. Being obese or overweight increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes, certain types of cancer and other chronic illnesses.”

To meet this overwhelming national problem, many weight loss products, fad diets, and exercise programs that promote quick fixes that may or may not work are put onto the market.

Dr. Suzanne Friedman, a Licensed Acupuncturist, Board Certified Herbalist, and a Doctor of Medical Qigong Therapy, thinks perhaps Traditional Chinese medicine can provide answers to the mystery of losing weight and keeping it off.

Chinese medicine has been practiced for over five thousand years in the East. Approximately seventy million Chinese people practice its principles on a daily basis and in the United States, millions of people practice the martial arts of tai chi and qigong. The overall philosophy is to learn how to send, optimally utilize and improve the flow of life force energy, also known as chi or "qi" to all parts of the body for balance.

Recently the Chinese herb ma huang or ephedra has been banned, with an exemption for practitioners of Chinese medicine who have been using the herb for thousands of years to treat ailments ranging from asthma to fevers without sweating.

Dr. Friedman, founder of the Bay Area Center for Chinese Medicine in San Francisco, says, “Let's look at how Chinese medicine regards and utilizes ma huang or ephedra, since that herb has recently been banned and has been misused by companies promoting quick weight loss. Ma huang is one of the most extensively studied and researched Chinese herbs. According to Chinese medicine, ma huang helps to open the pores causing the body to sweat. The second medicinal function is for people with asthma and other respiratory problems. The third function is that it assists the body in getting rid of excess water and can be helpful for people with certain types of arthritis and acute edema."

“But ephedra has a stimulating effect on the sympathetic nervous
system, so it is never used for people with epilepsy, hypertension,
hyperthyroid, diabetes, or enlarged prostate. Pregnant women should
be wary about its use because it stimulates the uterus.

“One of the many reasons ma huang should not be utilized for weight
loss is that overweight people have many of the above-stated
conditions. Studies show that obesity leads to a higher risk of
diabetes, or insulin resistance. Overweight people may be in a
pre-diabetes or pre-hypertensive condition. Excess weight taxes the
heart, and ma huang is particularly dangerous for people with high
blood pressure. Also, if utilized in high dosages, people can lose
too much water and electrolytes.

It should also be noted that there is a difference between ephedra,
the broncho-dilator that herbalists value as a natural and effective
alternative to asthma and allergy drugs and Ephedrine, the active
constituent of ephedra.

In a 50 mg dose of ephedra, you’re getting 0.5 mg of ephedrine. But
certain products that isolate and boost ephedrine (as many
weight-loss products do) may contain as much as 20 mg of ephedrine –
40 times the amount that a Chinese medical practitioner would

When you hear about athletes who have died while taking ephedra, you
can be just about certain that they weren’t taking a 50 mg dose of
ephedra, but a boosted ephedrine product that can be dangerous when
not taken as directed.

“In terms of weight loss, ephredra offers only temporary results,
which means that the effects last only as long as you take it. If
you're constantly over stimulating the nervous system, this will lead
to damage of the nervous system and possibly the respiratory system. Reputable Chinese herbalists never use herbs that speed the heart rate up for that purpose. In addition, herbs should be prescribed for their therapeutic effects not for their side effects.

“I view every patient as a unique individual with an individual set
of circumstances which needs to be addressed, so I work according to
what the person needs and what the person is comfortable with. The
key is to build a relationship with the patient and provide the
patient with a safe space to heal. Once the patient is comfortable, we decide the best route to take for that individual," concludes Dr. Friedman.


Dr. Friedman's patients are offered a variety of services including acupuncture, herbal medicine, nutritional counseling, and/or medical qigong therapy, and are encouraged to participate in self-healing classes such as meditation or qigong.

Visit the Center's new website at: where you can order the “Guigen Qigong: Self-Healing Exercises
for Body and Mind” video. This is the first and only Guigen
Qigong video available to the general public.

For more information, call 415.505.8855.