[Book Review] A User’s Manual for the Human Body: How Traditional Chinese Medicine helps the body to heal itself

If there is one book you should read about health it’s a book written by Alex Wu, A User’s Manual for the Human Body: How Traditional Chinese Medicine helps the body to heal itself.

This book is an incredibly valuable guide to Traditional Chinese Medicine, explained in the most simple terms. 

The book will totally change the way you look at your body and it will encourage you to take a different approach to your health. It’s a must-read for those struggling with chronic conditions and various ailments but any health-conscious person will benefit from reading it.

Many years ago, this book was an internet self-publishing sensation in China and in 2019 it was made available in English for the first time.

A User's Manual for the Human Body - book cover

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How it all started

At some point in his life, Alex Wu was suffering from many chronic ailments which affected his quality of life greatly. When modern medicine didn’t help him cure his illnesses he decided to try Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and this is how his journey to better health started.

Alex spent many years studying Traditional Chinese Medicine and has worked with different TCM practitioners over time and this is how he learnt the basics of TCM. During his studies, he kept a journal which he then turned into an initial draft of the book. 

Alex completed the Chinese version of A User’s Manual for the Human Body in 2002 with no plans to publish it but he did send a copy of it to his friends and family. Without him knowing, the book went viral online and at the end of 2005, online book reviewers hailed his book as one of the most downloadable e-books of the year.

alex wu

The book’s online success resulted in Alex being contacted by several publishers and this resulted in the book first being published in Taiwan and China. The hard copy of the book was extremely popular with sales figures reaching one million copies by the end of 2007. After the initial success, the book was released in the Korean and then in the Japanese language. In 2019 it finally appeared in English for the first time and eventually, it will be translated to other languages as well.

The basics of Traditional Chinese Medicine

Alex does a great job explaining the basic principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine and I am not going to go into detail about this but I will just mention some of the most important points and learnings:

TCM focuses on dealing with the root cause of the illness, not the symptoms.
Modern medicine, on the other hand, focuses on treating the symptoms and it’s not interested in the real cause of a disease. This is the main difference.

TCM puts a great emphasis on the body’s self-healing system
One of the most fundamental goals of TCM is to improve the body’s self-healing system so that it’s more effective at dealing with a problematic illness. When you create the right conditions for the body to heal itself, the illness will eventually get better and even disappear after a while. 

Body energy is an extremely important part of TCM.
The key to improving health is to focus on improving your body energy. When you improve your body energy you also improve the efficacy of your body’s self-healing system. To improve your body energy, you should, for example, aim to get more sleep. Many people don’t get enough sleep and this is one of the main contributing factors to low body energy.

Just as certain computer parts require a specific amount of power to function, organs require a certain level of body energy to stay healthy. As our body energy level decreases, functions such as self-repair and body-fluid transfer also become sluggish. Many chronic diseases are the direct result of the decline of those functions. By understanding the concept of body energy and how to improve our body energy level, we can find cures for chronic illnesses.

TCM’s understanding of how the human body functions

  • TCM views the entire body as a complete system and the organs as all closely linked with one another. None of the organs works in isolation, and they are never viewed in isolation in Chinese diagnostics.
  • Qi (chi) is the energy that the body is equipped with from birth.
  • TCM practitioners are trained to measure Qi and now the equipment has been developed that can detect it and measure its fluctuations in real-time.
  • Qi flows along particular paths inside the human body known as meridians.
  • Qigong practitioners found a strong correlation between discomforts in particular organs and the clogging of flow in their respective meridians.
  • There are 12 main meridians: the heart, small intestine, liver, gallbladder, spleen, stomach, lungs, large intestine, kidney, bladder, pericardium, and Sanjiao (thoracic cavity).
  • The fluidity of the meridians can be improved with specific massage techniques and with regular practice this can result in significant improvements in various chronic conditions.

Alex has developed a series of his own massages that are simple and safe for people and you don’t need specific training in massage techniques to use them. This video shows some of these massages used by Alex:

These massages are explained in detail in the book so that you know exactly what points you should focus on. In the book, you will also find some useful diagrams that will help you do these massages correctly.

The massages, which don’t need to be carried out by a trained professional, aim to improve the digestive system, lessen back pain and relax tense muscles, among others. Overall, they will help boost the body’s energy levels and its ability to fight illness.

What I found really interesting in the book were the examples of how to use Traditional Chinese Medicine in practice to improve some of the most common health conditions. Alex described in detail the approach to improve psoriasisgout and the common cold. He also gave an example of obesity and how to treat it by applying the principles of TCM.

The TCM’s approach is totally fascinating for me but it makes a complete sense. This is worth exploring if you have illnesses and conditions that just cannot be cured by modern medicine. While it’s not guaranteed that you will be cured, it’s something to try if nothing else works for you. 

In this post, I only touched the basics of Chinese Medicine but there is so much more to it and to understand it better, the best is to read the whole book A User’s Manual for the Human Body. 

The book has been published by Hammersmith Health Books and it’s available to buy directly on their website, but you can also buy it from Amazon.


In the 1990s Alex Wu worked in Shanghai as an investment fund manager for a group of investors from Hong Kong. After years of heavy workload and high pressure, his health deteriorated, and he faced a multitude of illnesses. At that time he was fortunate to meet a very
skilful Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioner. With her help, he was able to overcome his illnesses and regain his health in a matter of months. His speedy recovery sparked his interest in TCM and he began studying Chinese medicine. In doing so he compiled a summary of what he had learnt that became the first draft of this book. He now owns a health spa in Taipei where he puts into practice the massage treatments explained in the book and the TCM-related technology he has helped to develop