It’s common to have many FAQs about Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine. Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine have been practiced in China for more than two thousand years. For Chinese people, this kind of medicine is not an “alternative” but a default course of treatment to take. In the United States, these practices seem very new and people have a lot of questions. It is getting more and more recognized worldwide nowadays. For the people of China, TCM and acupuncture play a large role in guiding their decisions about their daily lives and health. The components of TCM include herbs, acupuncture, massage, and diet changes. But the main weapons TCM doctors use are herbs and acupuncture. We have created this page to answer some of these questions and encourage any further questions or suggestions regarding acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine!
What is Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)?
Traditional Chinese Medicine, also known as “TCM”, has been practiced in China for more than three thousand years. It uses unique theories to direct its clinical application effectively. TCM includes Chinese Herbal Medicine (CHM), acupuncture, moxibustion, disease prevention, personal hygiene, diet therapy, Qigong, Taiji, and health-preserving. It has the same branches as modern western medicine, such as internal medicine, surgery, etc.
What is Chinese Medicine (CH)?
Chinese Medicine (CH) has two meanings now. One meaning is that CH represents all the medical approaches used in China today including modern western medicine, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), and a combination of both, which can prove very effective if used together. Another meaning is for Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) only.
What is Chinese Herbal Medicine (CHM)?
Chinese Herbal Medicine (CHM) is another main part of Chinese Medicine. It uses Chinese herbs to treat patients. In China, we find that it can affect all diseases and conditions with the vast majority of patients experience positive results from herbal treatment.
What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is a very effective therapy for over 450 kinds of diseases and conditions. It uses very fine acupuncture needles (as thin as a human hair!), or heat and cupping, to stimulate points for promoting the body’s natural healing (re-balancing) and improving the body’s functioning. The yin and yang are eventually rebalanced and patients will be back to a normal or healthy state again.
How was TCM Formed?
For people wondering about how TCM was formed: Imagine being in China, a time over 3,000 years ago, and there were no modern luxuries like electricity and etc. How could people recognize diseases or negative conditions in our bodies? Ancient TCM doctors combined the concept of ancient Chinese philosophy and the natural phenomena of daily life to develop TCM. How? Ancient Chinese philosophy observed the laws of nature and finalized the idea into the yin – yang concept. This means all of the activities within nature, including human beings, are based upon the changes of yin – yang activity. In our daily life, we have day and night, left and right, up and down, hot and cold, water and fire, etc. Day, left, up, hot, and fire belong to the yang side. The opposites belong to the yin side. Overall, anything like upwards, hot, bright, active, etc. belongs to yang. Anything like downwards, cold, dark, passive, etc. belongs to yin.
Human beings are part of nature. That is why all-natural activity can affect humans. Generally, phenomena are synonymous with the names we give to natural activity – like a fire is the name for the activity of when wood burns and wind is the name we give to the movement of air. In turn, ancient TCM doctors used natural activities and applied them to analyze humans, both physically and pathologically. Since human beings rely on nature and are surrounded by nature, that is why we cannot live without nature. This means human beings and nature are unified. This unification is also applied to humans themselves, meaning the human body is a small universe in itself.
TCM doctors also found that according to natural phenomena, it is easier to maintain wellbeing than to treat a disease at its worst state. Maintaining wellbeing is a cure of its own because it prevents a negative condition later on.
In terms of treatment of disease, TCM stresses the differentiation of patterns, individual differences, and the effect of climate, environmental, seasonal situations, etc.
How is TCM used in modern daily life?
Computers are one of the greatest inventions in modern society. They affect our lives greatly in every way and makes our life so convenient – It is difficult to imagine, nowadays, that one can live without a computer! On the other hand, we need to know how to use it properly; otherwise, it will give us health problems, problems such as neck vertebrae symptoms, and lumbar vertebrae symptoms.
In TCM and acupuncture series, if you keep the same position or action for a long time, health problems will start. For example, if you stare at things for a long time without eye movement it will hurt our vision. If you keep the same position for a long time it will also cause neck pain, neck ache, arm pain, dizziness, etc. This is true because in our practice we have seen many patients from the IT field that suffer from neck ache, arm pain, finger tingling, etc. All of this actually can be prevented by changing position from time to time when using a computer or adjust the height of the screen. You are supposed to use a different hand format while using the computer. If, however, you have to work long hours and lots of pressure with a computer without any exercises, you will eventually suffer from headache, dizziness, neck ache, arm pain, tingling finger, and sometimes blurry vision. This actually is neck vertebrae syndrome, in which one of the causes is keeping the same position for a long time, specifically the upper back and neck region. The muscles in this region are highly tensed and can spasm easily. If this continues from time to time, eventually the bones, especially the neck vertebrae and the disk, will be involved and the space between the vertebrae would be narrow and the nerve will be compressed. That’s why people have neck aches, tingling hands, etc. TCM and acupuncture can reduce tension and spasm, even to relieve the pain
What is the situation with TCM in China now?
TCM in China now is very popular. Practically every province, city, and county have their own TCM hospitals with as many as 1500 beds. Scientifically, tremendous amounts of research is done annually by institutes, hospitals, and universities. Educationally, there are twenty-eight formal-full-time-five-year TCM universities with national enrollment. If desired, there are additional two three-year programs with different degrees to complete as long as enrolled again nationally.
Why is acupuncture good for asthma and allergy?
In TCM, the lungs control the hair and skin. If the lungs are strong enough, the skin can protect us from the attack of the exterior pathologic factors. It is just because our body is not strong enough, the cold, the allergic factors can get us. Plus, the urinary bladder is the biggest channel. It is also important for asthma and allergy. And the other organ’s stronger function is important too. Acupuncture can make these skin, channels, and organs strong. And then asthma and allergy can be cured. Of course, not all asthma and allergy could be cured by acupuncture. Such as asthma due to heart disease; allergy due to some drugs, etc.
Why can acupuncture cure stress?
Stress patients always complain of low spirit, tiredness or fatigue, headache or pain in somewhere, cold extremities, poor memory, distracted easily, insomnia, like to sigh and feel better after sighing, bad mood, etc. Everybody is different. You may have some of them only more or less. In TCM, these are the qi problem. either qi stagnation, deficiency, or yang deficiency, etc. Acupuncture can regulate qi very nicely, can tonify qi nicely, can tonify yang nicely, etc. That is why. One hundred percent of our patients get good results from acupuncture.
How can you find a good acupuncturist?
Medicine is more or less an experienced science. So is the TCM (acupuncture). In China, ten years of experience represents a good pedigree because one doctor can see as many as 30 to 50 (or in some places, even 100!) patients a day. If the doctor has ten years of experience, that means he or she has seen thousands of patients. Due to the complexity of the TCM field, it is important for TCM doctors to have a large amount of patient / real-world experience, in addition to extensive formal training.
A good TCM doctor or acupuncturist should check your tongue, feel your pulses (both sides), ask you questions about your disease’s history, related situation, etc, during each visit. In this way, the doctor can adjust the therapy based upon your condition and its progress. As such, the acupuncture points and herbs used should not be exactly the same because your situation is changing almost always. He/she should give you a good explanation about your situation and why he/she has diagnosed it and the specific treatment being used.
In Chinese medicine, the communication between the patient and the doctor is extremely important. He/she should also give you suggestions about your diet, such as what kind of food is good for you and what kind should be forbidden because the nature of the food is different.
Are the concepts of the internal organs as same as in modern medicine?
Yes and no. Yes means, practically, about 30% the same. No means about 70% different. In TCM, the organ’s meaning is more than itself and more conceptional. It is not only a solid organ itself. It means a system instead of the only organ itself. For example, the heart in TCM has functions that not only pump the blood but also control the thinking, minding, and the status of life activity, etc.
Why are some of my favorite foods forbidden by my TCM doctor or acupuncturist?
In TCM, foods are divided into different natures: cold, cool, warm, hot, generate sputum, generate dryness, generate stagnation (obstruction), etc. So, if you are a cold type person or your problem is cold by nature, the TCM doctor will suggest for you to avoid cold or cool food but encourage you to eat warm or hot food, etc. Please note that warm/hot food does not mean that it is physically hot (like from the stove or microwave!) and has to do with the properties of the food item itself. Generally, spicy food is warm or hot by nature, many vegetables are cold or cold, some fruits are warm or hot. Please consult your TCM doctor for more specifics on food items that fit into different categories.
What is the concept of diseases in TCM?
According to TCM, our human body has three status: they are normal, pre-abnormal, and abnormal. Or you can say normal, pre-disease, and disease statuses. Needless to say, normal is normal, it is a healthy situation, and disease is abnormal, it is an unhealthy situation. Here we need to talk more about pre-disease status. Mary Smith, an eighty-seven years old lady, suffered a lot from a very “strange disease” apart from hypertension. Every day for the last two years, she felt there are warm streams going upwards to her stomach from her lower extremities almost every two to three hours. When it happened, she felt very uneasy and she was going to die. She had a poor appetite, did not like any hot kinds of stuff. She was brought to the emergency room by ambulance several times because she could not stand the suffering. But the doctors could not find any solid abnormal results. So immediately she was sent back home.
After diagnosis, we found that she suffers from too much fire in her body. So, after a few treatments, all the suffering is gone.
Another case is like this: He had a bad taste for a long time. He went to many doctors for help but no one found anything wrong with him. We found that he suffered from yin deficiency. After acupuncture and herbs, his bad taste went away. There are many of these kinds of situations, some have cold extremities, some have a bad mood, some feel thirst all the time, some cannot sleep well, some get poor memory suddenly, … … etc., etc. And there nothing wrong according to modern western machines like MRI, CT, and so forth. But, in TCM, these are the signs of the very early stages of the diseases. We treat these immediately and we get good results. We consider these situations are slight diseases. Here you can see, in TCM, the diseases include the diseases and pre-diseases statuses.
What is wind, cold, summer heat, dampness, dryness, and fire in TCM?
These words are used in TCM to describe the natural phenomena of the weather and climate. They are called “six qi” if they are normal changes that do no harm to the human body. Like the normal “four seasons” changes, they are cold in the winter, warm in spring, hot (fire and summer heat) in the summer, dampness in late summer and early fall, dryness in the fall, wind in all seasons, but with the Spring’s wind being the best. All of these changes are good for the human body. But if the changes are abnormal, such as warm in winter, cold in spring, etc., the human body will hurt. In these cases, they are called the “Six Evils”. For some people, even the six qi is harmful, so to these people, the six qi are considered the six evils too.
Why are TCM and acupuncture good for stress, anxiety, and depression?
TCM and acupuncture theory believes that mental activity is not only associated closely with the brain but also with our internal organs: dwelling on bad experiences can hurt the functioning of the spleen, worrying too much can hurt the lungs’ functions, fear will hurt the function of the kidney, over-excitedness can hurt the functions of the heart, etc. In TCM, the organ’s meaning is conceptual rather than the solid organ itself. For example, in TCM, the heart has functions past just pumping the blood. It also controls mental well-being and some mental activities.
For stress, anxiety, and depression, the target organs are the liver, spleen, partially heart, partially lungs, and partially kidneys. To deal with these problems, we need to simply regulate the above-mentioned organs’ functions and the patient will feel fine eventually. The length of this process depends on each individual. For some, it could be weeks, and for others, it could be months.
Maintaining the well-being of internal organs is a good idea. Not only because it is good for the whole body’s well-being, but it is also good for mental health. This is specifically important for people who are easily stressed, depressed, and anxious, regardless of if they are eating a suitable diet according to the individual situation.