Chinese Medicine & Acupuncture

chinese_herbsTraditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is an ancient medical system that takes a deep understanding of the laws and patterns of nature and applies them to the human body. TCM is a complete medical system that has been practiced for more than five thousand years.

At the heart of TCM is the tenet that the root cause of illnesses, not their symptoms, must be treated. In modern-day terms, TCM is holistic in its approach; it views every aspect of a person’s body, mind, spirit, and emotions as part of one complete circle rather than loosely connected pieces to be treated individually.

Major TCM Treatment Modalities

  • Qigong: an energy practice, generally encompassing simple movements and postures. Some Qigong systems also emphasize breathing techniques.
  • Herbal Therapy: the use of herbal combinations or formulas to strengthen and support organ system function
  • Acupuncture: the insertion of needles in acupoints to help Qi flow smoothly.
  • Acupressure & Massage (Tuina): the use of specific hand techniques to help Qi flow smoothly.
  • Foods for Healing: the prescription of certain foods for healing based on their energy essences or energy signatures, not nutritional value.
  • Chinese Psychology: the understanding of emotions and their relationship to the internal organ systems and their influence on health.

Healing with Traditional Chinese Medicine

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) recognizes that true healing is a multidimensional process. This ancient holistic medical system, in continuous practice for thousands of years, understands that the body, mind, spirit and emotions must all be addressed in the healing journey. The mind and the emotions, which are the actions of the mind, play a powerful role in creating wellness or illness, and attracting disease.

All of these aspects and their relationships are mapped out in the theories that form the foundation of TCM: the Theory of Yin/Yang, the Theory of Qi or vital energy, Meridian Theory and the Five-Element Theory. It is important to understand that these concepts and principles are based on a perception and deep understanding of natural law—how this world and the universe really work at the level of energy. For more the five thousand years, TCM has used these time-tested theories to understand, diagnose and treat health problems.

One of the main goals of TCM is to identify and treat the root cause of conditions so that the healing is genuine and the condition does not recur. It’s interesting to know that TCM doctors in ancient times were paid only if their patients remained well!

One very effective TCM specialty is prevention. As part of the healing process, each person learns about lifestyle choices and their impact on wellness—how what he or she does, thinks and feels contributes to their state of wellness.

The Theory of Qi

The true foundation of TCM is Qi, which is loosely translated as vital energy. In TCM, Qi is considered to be the force that animates and informs all things. In the human body, Qi flows through meridians, or energy pathways. Twelve major meridians run through the body, and it is over this network that Qi travels through the body and that the body’s various organs send messages to one another. For this reason, keeping the meridians clear is imperative for the body’s self-regulating actions to occur. Through proper training, people can develop the sensitivity to feel the flow of Qi.

While it is often described in the West as energy, or vital energy, the term Qi carries a deeper meaning. Qi has two aspects: one is energy, power, or force; the other is conscious intelligence or information. Each Organ System carries its own unique Qi, which allows it to perform its unique functions; both physical (which Western medicine can describe) and energetic (which Eastern medicine can identify). This energetic function also includes an Organ System’s relationship with other Organs. (Organ is here capitalized to distinguish the TCM concept of an Organ System and its functions from the Western concept of the physical organ.)

TCM frequently references several major Qi, or energy function, problems. One is an overall “Qi deficiency,” which is often described in Western medical terms as chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). TCM also has the knowledge and ability to pinpoint which Organs have an energy deficiency. Another major condition is described as “Qi stagnation,” which means energy and information cannot move smoothly to or from its appropriate location. For example, TCM considers pain, headache and stomachache the result of Qi stagnation.

In TCM theory, blood and Qi are inseparable. Blood is the “mother” of Qi; it carries Qi and also provides nutrients for its movement. In turn, Qi is the “commander” of the blood. This means that Qi is the force that makes blood flow throughout the body and provides the intelligence that guides it to the places where it needs to be. Blood and Qi also affect one another and have the dynamic ability to transfer various properties back and forth. For example, after labor and delivery, a woman may develop a fever. TCM understands this fever to be related to blood loss, not normally an infection. Losing too much blood causes an overall Qi deficiency. When there is a Qi deficiency, the body cannot function properly and therefore presents with a fever.

A Modern Theory of Qi

Dr. Robert O. Becker, MD in his landmark book ‘The Bioelectric Body,’ suggests that qi is in fact a property of our perineural system (our nervous system’s insulation), which has its own direct current (DC) system; as compared to our nervous system (both central and autonomic) which exists as an alternating current (AC) system. The perineural system is made up of the myelin sheath which wraps all of our nerves, or neurons and allows for proper conduction to occur. Though simpler in action as compared to our AC nervous system, the DC perineural system exerts a great effect and influence on our overall function, and health.

Five Element Theory

TCM believes that the human body is a microcosm of the Universal macrocosm. Therefore, humans must follow the laws of the Universe to achieve harmony and total health. The Yin/Yang and Five-Element theories are actually observations and descriptions of Universal law, not concepts created by man. In ancient times, practitioners of TCM discovered these complex sets of interrelationships that exist on deep energetic levels below the material surface. Over time, these insights developed into a unified body of wisdom and knowledge: TCM theories, and were applied to a way of life and to healing the human body. Even today TCM practitioners use these essential theories to understand, diagnose and treat health problems.

The Five-Element Theory is the bedrock of TCM. It evolved as a way of naming and systematizing patterns of perceived related phenomena, ranging from something as tangible as the weather to realms such as emotion and capacities of character, into five major groups named for the universal elements: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water. The Five-Element Theory states that the five major Organ Systems (Liver/Gallbladder, Heart/Small Intestine, Spleen/Stomach, Lung/Large Intestine, and Kidney/Urinary Bladder) are each related to a particular element and therefore to a broad category of correspondences or classifications: from a season of the year to a time of day, to particular colors and foods, etc. Both the Yin/Yang Theory and the Five-Element Theory reflect the entire Universal law in one complete, comprehensive system of related categories.

TCM does not consider the Five Elements themselves to be inert substances. They are fundamental energies alive in nature and always in motion. These dynamic interactions enable all the Organ Systems to work in one harmonious, greater system. If their relationships are good, a state of wellness prevails; if any of the relationships become unbalanced, health problems result.

Meridian Theory

Meridians, or channels, are invisible pathways through which Qi flows that form an energy network that connects all parts of the body, and the body to the universe. TCM understands that our body has twelve major meridians. Each one is related to a specific Organ System. The meridian network links meridians with each other and connects all body structures: skin, tendons, bone, internal organs, cells, atoms. TCM also understands that meridians connect the interior with exterior and the upper body with the lower body. This interlinked, animating network through which Qi flows freely makes the body an organic whole.

Meridians form a powerful information system within which each Organ also forms its own data system. In addition to transmitting Qi, meridians also transmit actual information to and among the Organ Systems. It is through the meridians and the flow of Qi that the various parts of the body communicate with each other faster than the speed of light. Interestingly, meridians are also sensitive to time and place. They reflect and respond to the changing energy of the seasons, the time of day and the climate of a particular place. TCM understands that when the meridian system functions well, the body (including its mind, spirit and emotions) is healthy and maintains homeostasis, a dynamic condition of internal harmony where yin and yang energies operate seamlessly.

The energy pathways and the Organ Systems they link provide TCM with a framework for identifying the root cause of health problems and the diagnoses to heal them. Meridians work by regulating the energy functions of the body and keeping it in harmony. If a dysfunction occurs, acupuncture or other therapy can stimulate the relevant meridian(s) to help bring an affected Organ back into balance. If Qi stagnates for too long in any meridian, it can become blocked and eventually turn into matter, setting the stage for conditions that can create a physical mass. Dysfunctional meridians can also become susceptible to external pathogenic factors that can migrate to Organs along the route of the affected meridian.

TCM Meridian Theory states: “As long as Qi flows freely through the meridians and the Organs work in harmony, the body can avoid disease.”