Measles has been in the news of late, thanks to an outbreak that has been traced to Disneyland. Some visitor or visitors, possibly from the Philippines, was carrying the highly communicable disease and it spread like, well, the contagious virus it is.

It shouldn’t have happened that way, of course. Vaccines were created decades ago to protect us from measles, mumps, rubella and chicken pox, diseases that at one time every kid in the country would get. Most youngsters who got those diseases recovered and lived normal lives afterward — but some didn’t.

Thanks to science, those childhood scourges were virtually eliminated in the United States, and that is surely one of the great achievements of Western medicine.

But in recent years, there has been an anti-science, irrational school of thought among some Americans that also has spread like a virus, that vaccines were bad for children. These folks, paradoxically often from affluent and educated backgrounds, went out of their way to not get their children vaccinated against measles, mumps, rubella, et al.

They seem to believe the discredited tales that vaccines cause autism or that they will cause complications. Statistically there are always going to be a certain percentage of people who react badly to a vaccine, and that seems to be all the evidence they need.

chinese fingernailPart of me understands that, I suppose. I don’t get an annual flu shot because the vaccine is made months in advance for an influenza strain that scientists guess might be the one that will “break out” when flu season arrives. But it’s rarely the right guess and even then, the virus mutates all the time, so it’s like shooting a bullet to shoot down another bullet, but this bullet is bobbing and weaving, not going in a predictable trajectory.

Vaccines for measles, mumps and all those childhood diseases are different, though. They’ve been proven to work. Not getting them is foolhardy and dangerous to the greater society. I’m on the side of science on this one.

Does that mean Western medicine, however, has all the answers? Great as it is, the answer is, for me anyway, no. As an adult, I’ve been to chiropractors, naturopaths and acupuncturists, and have gotten real-world results from them, just as I have gotten real-world results from traditional doctors of medicine.

But for some reason — some conspiracy-minded people blame it on profit motive, the desire for a medical monopoly and the American Medical Association — there has been a schism between Western medicine and alternative healing. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Both can co-exist and be of benefit to a patient.

In fact, for many years now, I’ve gone to see someone who is both an M.D. and an acupuncturist. His name is Dr. Jie-Jia Li. He and his wife, Dr. Jian-Ping Fu, have had a clinic in West Los Angeles for many years now. Li also practices traditional Chinese medicine at the UCLA Center for East-West Medicine.

Dr. Li helped me a few years ago when I developed an arrhythmia. (Yes, to any detractors out there, I do have a heart.) The cardiologist I first went to see diagnosed what I was feeling in my chest, which was very disconcerting. After getting the results back from a Holter monitor that diagnosed the problem, he wanted to put me on beta blockers for the rest of my life and treat the arrhythmia by snaking an instrument through my femoral artery to my heart and cauterizing the tissue that was causing the problem.

Then I went to see Dr. Li. He took a less aggressive approach to the arrhythmia that involved acupuncture (known as “hari” in Japan), moxibustion, massage and cupping. His diagnosis was that the source of the arrhythmia was probably an infection that had reached my heart. It took several months, but the arrhythmia went away and has never returned.

The first time I visited his clinic was with my sister and a friend of ours, probably around 1998 when they opened the West L.A. Center for Traditional Chinese Medicine. We all were impressed with Dr. Li and Dr. Fu, but also impressed with Li’s mother, who practiced something called fingernail image diagnosis. It was something I hadn’t before encountered.

By examining a patient’s fingernails — gently squeezing and twisting the fingernails on each finger of each hand, she could diagnose what was going one inside a patient’s body. It was astonishingly accurate.

Since that time, Drs. Li and Fu and their adult son, Dr. Jack Li, have co-authored a book titled “Fundamentals of Chinese Fingernail Image Diagnosis (FID),” published by London-based Singing Dragon, ISBN: 978-1-84819-099-3. That company’s website is at, but the book can be purchased via Amazon for $37.72.

Dr. Li gave me a copy of the book many months ago, and I’ve been remiss in not writing about it. It’s a fascinating book on a topic that is still not well-known, especially in the English-speaking world.

But, it turns out that the fingernails, like the eyes, can tell a trained healer what is going on inside one’s body, whether it’s a digestive problem, a breathing problem, a problem with a particular organ and so on.

In FID, each finger corresponds to a particular part of the body: the thumb to the head and neck; the middle three fingers to the upper torso and extremities, upper and lower abdominal areas; and the little finger to the lumbar region and lower extremities.

Normal fingernails are a healthy pink. On the book’s cover is a fingernail with a dark circle just in front of white part of the nail you’d normally clip. According to the book, this would indicate a problem with blood circulation.

I won’t pretend to understand all of what is presented within “Fundamentals of Chinese Fingernail Image Diagnosis (FID).” And, the book won’t necessarily turn you into an expert on FID, either, much less tell you how to cure yourself.

But it’s a valuable treatise about a method of noninvasive diagnosis that will undoubtedly become more well-known as the years go by and more alternative healers study FID.

FID isn’t, of course, necessary to diagnose something like the aforementioned measles, should you be unlucky enough to catch it. Those red splotches should suffice. Likewise, should you be unfortunate enough to suffer a broken leg, a visit to an acupuncturist won’t do much to help.

But FID can probably help keep you healthy if you’re already healthy or diagnose something that may be bothering you. Who knows, maybe there’ll be FID kiosks at the drug store someday the way there are now for checking your blood pressure.

In the meantime, though, we can thank Drs. Li, Fu and Li for introducing FID as a diagnostic tool to a greater audience.

Until next time, keep your eyes and ears open.


George Toshio Johnston has written this column since 1992 and can be reached at The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect policies of this newspaper or any organization or business. Copyright © 2015 by George T. Johnston. All rights reserved.

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