Michael - Jr. DOM & Master Herbalist
Acupuncture (as well as “acupressure”) is a healing art that involves the stimulation of specific points on the body. It has the intended effect of normalizing bodily functions, modifying the perception of pain, and treating certain diseases or dysfunctions. The stimulation is either produced by needles, heat, electric currents, or other means, but most frequently by needling. Location and depth of needle insertion is determined by the nature of the condition. Acupuncture is considered a safe method of treatment, but occasionally there may be some minor bruising or tingling sensations near the needling sites that lasts a few days. Significant negative side effects occur very rarely if at all. These sensations usually indicate that Qi is moving and that the healing is still in effect.
Natural plant-based medicine from the classic Oriental Materia Medica may be recommended to treat specific conditions while balancing the mind AND body’s energy, blood, organ functionality and pain management. The herbs, just like acupuncture, are used to facilitate the body’s own restorative process. Typically taken in tea or pill form, herbs are considered safe in the practice of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) although some substances can be toxic in large doses. Careful care is taken to prescribe the exact mixture suitable for every individual. Herbs are an indispensable tool in Chinese Medicine as they nourish the very foundations of longevity; Blood, “Yin” and “Essence” in a way that acupuncture cannot.
Tuina is a technique in which the hands are used to manually stimulate and move the body’s Qi and Blood in accordance with TCM theory and the channels of energy within the body. It is a needless therapy that is a substitute for acupuncture/acupressure when necessary.
Cupping is the application of round glass or vacuum cups usually over a large muscular area, such as the back and shoulders, to to enhance blood circulation to that designated area. Cupping may also produce some deep redness, discoloration, and on a rare occasions, a minor blood blister which may persist for a few days but ultimately is harmless and are not indications of complications or injury. Cupping can be considered something like an inverted massage, where there is negative pressure on the tissues from the suction of the cup, as opposed to direct pressure with manual hand massages.
Ai ye is an herb from the mountains of China with some pretty magical qualities. It’s used to move blood and warm channels in the body by burning it in a specially made incense-like stick just above the body at specially selected acupuncture points. The action of this warming herb dispels pathological cold in the body, which is considered an “evil qi”. This idea of “cold” can be a product of low blood circulation, and/or a lack of body heat brought on by insufficient energy within the body or certain organs. In other words, moxibustion adds what we call Yang (warming energy) to the affected channels and facilitates the flow of qi and blood.
In order to get the most out of acupuncture, herbs and the rest of what TCM has to offer, it is very important to support your treatment with the proper diet and lifestyle. In general, everyone should try to eat fresh food, freshly prepared, with a minimum of chemicals, preservatives, or additives. Grain should be cooked thoroughly to allow for easy and complete digestion. Vegetables on the other hand, should not be overcooked to conserve valuable vitamins and enzymes. Sugars, salt, oil, and fat consumption should generally be kept low. Most people should try to eat large amounts of roughage/fiber. Dietary changes for chronic conditions should be implemented slowly and progressively, but made a continuous part of one’s lifestyle.
According to Chinese medicine, every food has both a medicinal quality along with a “nature”. A food’s nature is its effect on the temperature of the body. Thus, a food can either be either hot, warm, neutral, cool or cold. Since Chinese medicine works on the basis of restoring balance to the body, if someone suffers from a “hot” or “warm” disease, they should avoid foods that are hot and eat more cool and cold foods (i.e. vegetables/fruits, raw salads, ice cubes in drinks, etc) and vice versa.