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What is Shen-Hammer?

Traditional and Revolutionary,
Modern yet Ancient

A unique, Evolving Form of Chinese Medicine deeply rooted in Traditional Concepts applied to a Modern World

At first glance, the Shen-Hammer Tradition may appear to be a singular, personal perspective on Chinese medicine, however, it is so much more. With deeper knowledge into the workings of one man’s remarkable mind, an explorer will find a great vista of theory and knowledge, revealing an intricate understanding of human beings and a thorough grasp of two different systems of medicine, along with exquisite diagnostic skills and a refreshing, deeply perceptive view of life.

The result of a lifetime of study, and devotion to healing, this tradition has been formulated over sixty years of clinical practice from wisdom that reaches beyond the beginnings of recorded history. It is grounded in ancient medical knowledge that has evolved through the course of many centuries, and has been developed further to manage the challenges of the modern world.

Shen-Hammer fosters development of a level of perception and connection between human beings that can transform people even before any treatment begins, freeing them from the cages that restrict them in life.

As Dr. Hammer has said, “everyone wants to be heard, truly listened to, and understood.”

Training in this tradition creates a practitioner who can listen in many ways, not only to what people say, but also to how they say it, and even to what they avoid or don’t say. Shen-Hammer practitioners can draw upon exemplary diagnostic skills – pulse diagnosis, combined with an analysis of symptoms and medical history – giving them an ability to hear and understand what a patient truly needs. This results in a complete picture, encompassing the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual life of the patient.

This tradition is an insightful and profound journey into exactly what brought someone to the place, state or condition in which he presently exists. The transition from assessing a catalogue of symptoms, to understanding a patient’s condition, is an integral part of the medicine and its universally-applicable wisdom. Symptoms are messages from the body, indicating its deeper disharmony. Were one to treat symptoms and ignore their true cause, he would ultimately create aggravation and further disharmony.

For true healing to be achieved, symptoms must be examined and understood, and taken in the larger context of a patient’s condition. If a patient has a fever, his body is attempting to expel an external pathogenic factor. Suppression of the fever, while it may alleviate some unpleasant symptoms, will inhibit the body’s healing mechanism, allowing the toxin to penetrate more deeply. It is only when the source of the fever, in this case the pathogen, is addressed that recovery can begin. Symptoms are translated into conditions, and their causes, rather than their manifestations, take priority in treatment.

With this clarity and depth of understanding, the patient and practitioner together can formulate strategies to make true, lasting change possible: change that can alter the fabric of one’s life. This is healing, as it ought to be.

How is Shen-Hammer different than TCM?

Shen-Hammer is the true embodiment of tradition, seamlessly blended with modern insight and wisdom.

There is a story from ancient China, which highlights an intriguing aspect of their practice of medicine. People were thought to visit doctors in times of wellness, paying for remedies and advice to keep them healthy. If, however, a patient became ill, his doctor was obliged to treat him for free. If a doctor’s patient died, the doctor was required to hang a lantern outside his house; consequently doctors with multiple lanterns did not get many new patients.

This created an extremely successful system of healthcare, which was focused primarily on the deep understanding of a patient and the life he led, with an emphasis on helping him to stay healthy. It was an individualized, personal form of medicine. If two hundred patients had headaches, they might receive two hundred different treatments; not only are there many varied types of headache, but there are many varied types of people. Each patient is different from the one before, with his own lifestyle and stressors.

During the Cultural Revolution, this form of Chinese medicine was systematized, diagnostic categories were created, and collections of symptoms and diagnostic signs were sorted into syndromes, each with its own pre-defined treatment protocol. Herbs and acupuncture were prescribed according to a newly-established set of criteria. This was a gross simplification that homogenized people and their illnesses: two hundred headache patients would now all receive the same treatment, or would be sorted into basic categories and treated accordingly. Sadly, this period saw many books on ancient medicine destroyed, and doctors practicing the “old ways” were persecuted. Some fled to the West, but much knowledge was lost.

This systematized style of Chinese medicine came to be known as TCM: ‘Traditional’ Chinese Medicine. Many people believe that the true value and beauty of Chinese medicine were lost in this standardization, but it is in this form that the majority of Chinese medicine is currently practiced, both in China and in the West.

Dr. Hammer was fortunate enough to have two teachers who studied Chinese medicine in its pre-Cultural Revolution form: Dr. J.D. van Buren, and Dr. John H.F. Shen. Both Drs. van Buren and Shen understood Classical Chinese medicine, but benefited greatly from their study of the rich oral traditions. It was their mixed and thorough knowledge that gave Dr. Hammer a Classical understanding, yet allowed him rare insight into many of the more secretive, highly-valued skills within the practice of Chinese medicine.

Before the Cultural Revolution, there were two general forms of Chinese medicine. The first was practiced and notated primarily by royal Court physicians, as well as a few others. Some of their texts still exist today, and form the basis of Classical Chinese medicine. The second evolved through the rich oral traditions in China, and was comprised of systems of diagnosis, understanding and treatment that were rarely, if ever, written down. Hard-earned, prized streams of medical thought and theory passed from master to student, often with an air of secrecy. Shen-Hammer  Pulse Diagnosis is derived from these oral traditions.

The Shen-Hammer Tradition is both the evolution and the ancestor of Traditional Chinese Medicine. It embodies the tradition and wisdom that TCM left behind in the drive for homogeneity, and yet encompasses a modern, 21st century perspective on medicine and health. It is the past, present and future of East Asian medicine and of positive, effective healthcare for all.

Shen-Hammer Pulse Diagnosis

The Hallmark Diagnostic Tool

Pulse diagnosis is a subtle yet highly effective instrument used in Chinese medicine for the diagnosis and prevention of disease. The Shen-Hammer method is unsurpassed in obtaining the greatest amount of physical and psychological information about an individual. Although based on traditional methods, it is contemporary because it recognizes that pulse diagnosis must continue to develop over time as human conditions evolve with modern external influences. In the hands of master pulse diagnostician Dr. John Shen, his apprentice Dr. Leon Hammer, and their students, it has evolved in recent decades to better reflect modern times and lifestyles.

Our Founder

Dr. Leon Hammer, MD had a remarkable life and career. He had a wonderful ability to think independently of establishment constructs and because of this made invaluable contributions to the world of medicine and healing. Born in 1924 in New York City, he served in the United States military during and after World War Two as a Navigator, Aerial Gunner, Captain and Physician. He attended Cornell University and Cornell Medical College, and then went on to study at the William A. White Institute of Psychoanalysis and Psychiatry.


Our Mission & Vision

The Dr. Leon Hammer Legacy Foundation was established to preserve, protect, promote, and further the ideas and teachings of Dr. Leon Hammer, M.D., a world-renowned expert in the field of Chinese medicine. The DLHL Foundation seeks to disseminate Dr. Hammer’s work, educating students, practitioners, patients, and anyone else interested in the achievement of health through natural medicine.


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