Chinese Medicine & Acupuncture

An IntroductionAcupunctureCuppingMoxaChinese Herbal MedicineTuina – Diet

Chinese Medicine – An Introduction

Chinese Medicine - internal CirculationChinese Medicine is a form of medicine which restores health.  In formulating their understanding of life, the Chinese doctors observed what happens in nature.  For instance they noticed that damp is good and necessary for growth, but too much causes water-logging and is damaging.  Another example would be the amount of heat: if there is too little, no growth takes place; too much and life dries up and gets scorched.  Their genius was to see that this same simple and yet infinitely variable understanding of nature could be applied to the human body and could be used to assess and understand any illness that was presenting.  Therefore each individual could be helped, whatever the symptoms, whether or not the practitioner had seen the condition before.

The practitioner of Chinese Medicine examines the state of the Qi (life energy), the balance of Yin to Yang (being to doing), the strength of the blood, the state of the body fluids and how each person takes in and distributes nourishment.

From this examination, the complex interaction of the functions that make up the complete individual can be mapped, rather as a meteorologist maps the weather, identifies the main patterns and sees the features that are dominating the climate.  But unlike the weather, we have the ability to help the body to produce more or less rain, control flooding, ease drought, etc.

In this way Chinese Medicine can understand and treat practically any problem: acute or chronic, simple or complex.

For example:

Common colds and ’flu

These are both considered as an invasion from outside, showing that one’s protection or immunity is compromised.  If these are treated effectively, we become stronger than before; rather than taking weeks to recover.

Back sprain and other aches

The pain here is caused by what Chinese Medicine calls ‘blood stagnation’ or an accumulation of ‘damp’.  There are very good simple ways of clearing this stagnation or accumulation.  The sooner the treatment is started the better.

ME or chronic fatigue

This is nearly always caused by residue from a cold or ’flu getting caught inside and blocking the system.  If there are muscle aches, the condition is treated as damp.  If there is extreme exhaustion, it is more likely to be from the body hiding viruses and their toxins because it has not got the strength to clear them.  The person can be progressively strengthened and the invasions expelled.  Aching legs or hips often have a similar explanation.

Morning sickness and threatened miscarriage

Pregnancy is a delicate time with many energetic adjustments being made.  Sickness can come when the energy is ‘rebelling upwards’ and miscarriage can threaten when the supporting energy is not strong enough.  Both of these conditions can be gently and safely corrected in Chinese Medicine.


This may be from an accumulation or it may be from an exhaustion of the Yin (being) energy.

These are just some examples of conditions that can be successfully treated.  In fact, in Chinese Medicine each person is diagnosed individually, according to a system that has developed over thousands of years.  This allows us to treat most conditions, even those that have not been seen before, or not successfully diagnosed.  This was demonstrated in the treatment of SARS in China in ‘03.

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Chines Medicine - Wang treating patientFrom the diagnosis the acupuncture practitioner develops a treatment strategy where a combination of points are stimulated with fine needles, moxibustion, cupping or guasha (rubbing) to ease the body’s functions back into the dynamic balance we know and enjoy as health.

From the above few examples, I hope it can be seen that Acupuncture uses a sophisticated but common sense understanding for both diagnosis and treatment.  Practically any condition can be treated except where there is physical damage; but even here recovery can be aided and pain alleviated.

What you can expect

The diagnosis and treatment in the first session takes up to two hours.  If there is an acute situation or it is more appropriate, then simple emergency treatments can be used. Subsequent treatments are normally scheduled for three quarters of an hour duration.  You will only be asked to undress the amount needed to access the points used.  Mostly the points used are on the lower legs and arms.

The treatment can work better if you do not do heavy work, have a large meal or drink alcohol before or for a few hours afterwards.  It is good to have some light food before you come for treatment.  Everything that happens or is said during the course of treatment is entirely confidential and will not be divulged without your expressed permission.

You may occasionally get reactions from treatment, such as nausea or headache, as something is clearing.  If you do, please let me know as soon as possible, because there may be something we can do to help.

Only new single-use sterile needles are used.

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cuppingThis is where ‘cups’ of bamboo or glass have the air burned out of them so that when they are placed on the skin a vacuum is formed.  This vacuum pulls any stagnation or toxins out of the deep tissue below the cup.  They are normally used on the back or at the site of old injuries.

Cupping has been recently popularized by Gweneth Paltrow Gweneth-Paltrow-with-cupping marksappearing at a premier with the marks from cupping.  These marks will only come up if there are stagnation or toxins to move and they will fade within a few days: the faster the marks clear the less there is to clear from the body, but there are individual variations.  Having cupping is not painful; you just feel a pulling sensation.

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warm-needle-3-WEBMoxibustion (or moxa) is the warming of an acupuncture point or an area of the body, by burning processed Artimesia (mugwort). It is either burnt on the skin (without scaring), or on the top of a needle, or as a moxa roll waved above the skin.  This warmth will invigorate the circulation, warm the yang and increase the energy.

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Chinese Herbal Medicine

In Chinese Herbal Medicine, herbs are used in combination so that the formula created has the pattern that is needed to help the person return to health.  The art of creating this pattern has undergone critical developed over more than three thousand years.  Over this time a number of generic formulae have been created and then have come down to us because of their sophistication, effectiveness and beauty.  These are now considered the foundation formulae.  It is these formulae that a Chinese Herbalist will adapt for the individual person, though in some cases a good herbalist will create an entirely new formula for a patient.

ling zhiThe pharmacopoeia now consists of over six thousand substances. Generally though, around three hundred are regularly used.  This is around the number that we documented in the first great materia medica over two thousand years ago.  This huge experience is documented and developed and so guides the contemporary practitioner; who is really ‘standing on the shoulders of giants’.

These foundation formulae are regularly used because they approximately ‘fit’ so many people. These are called ‘patent formulae’ and are available ready made.  This reduces cost and is an effective adjunct to acupuncture or to maintain health.  These are very effective but not generally as good as having a formulae created for your individual needs.

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Tuina is Chinese massage.  Used alongside acupuncture and herbs, it is one of the mainstays of Chinese medicine.  As well as using hand and finger pressure to resolve tension in muscles, the Tuina practitioner also uses knowledge of acupuncture channels and points to help unblock the energy flow, so leading to greater health and harmony within a person.

Pressure is applied using a variety of different, traditional hand movements, allowing for the energy to be smoothed or moved in different ways, or for knotted muscles to be soothed.  The pressure used varies from gentle to heavy, depending on the needs and comfort level of the patient and the practitioner remains sensitive to what is appropriate.  Mostly, Tuina is practised with the patient fully clothed and with the addition of a smooth cloth to facilitate even movement.

Pulsing Tuina

Chi Gong Tuina is a special form of Tuina, which uses a technique called pulsing, often to the wrists or ankles.  This constant, gentle movement helps to circulate the energy in the acupuncture channels more effectively.  It is particularly helpful for joint problems, such as tennis elbow and problems in the wrists and fingers.

One of the best teachers in the West is Bruce Frantzis.  For more information, see his site at:

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In Chinese Medicine, diet is as basic as wearing the right clothes for the climate.  If you are hot, you have cooling foods; if cold, you need warming foods.  All foods have an inherent quality that affects our whole being.  In combination the effects can be very sophisticated in their action.

This is something that we have lost the awareness of in the West.  We can start to reclaim it by becoming aware of how we feel after different foods and considering our needs creatively.

During treatment, diet is a consideration that may be discussed in relation to your health and your needs as an individual.

A good resource is Daverick Leggett’s book “Recipies for Self-Healing”. You can find details of his books and courses at  Another is Paul Pitchford’s book “Healing With Whole Foods” published by North Atlantic Books. His web site is: