Chinese Medicine

Chinese medicine is a complete medical system that has diagnosed, treated, and prevented illness for over twenty-three centuries. While it can remedy ailments and alter states of mind, Chinese medicine can also enhance recuperative power, immunity, and the capacity for pleasure, work, and creativity. 

Health and Illness

Qi, Moisture, and Blood circulate within a web of pathways called channels that link together all the parts of the organism. Health exists when adequate Qi, Moisture, and Blood flow smoothly. Symptoms as   varied as joint pain, headache, anxiety, fatigue, menstrual cramps, high blood pressure, asthma, indigestion, and the common cold occur when their circulation is disrupted.

All illness is understood as a consequence of either a depletion or a congestion of Qi, Moisture, and Blood. Depletion leads to weakness, lethargy, frequent illness, poor digestion, and inadequate blood flow. Congestion results in aches, tension, tenderness, pain, a distended abdomen, irritability, and swelling.


The goal of treatment is to adjust and harmonize Yin and Yang  - wet and dry, cold and heat, inner and outer, body and mind. This is achieved by regulating the Qi, Moisture, and Blood in the Organ Networks: weak organs are tonified, congested channels are opened, excess is dispersed, tightness is softened, agitation is calmed, heat is   cooled, cold is warmed, dryness is moistened, and dampness is drained.

Treatment may incorporate acupuncture, herbal remedies, moxibustion, cupping, diet, exercise, and massage. Duration of treatment depends on the nature of the complaint, its severity, and how long it has been present. Acupuncture is scheduled as often as three times a week or as little as twice a month. Response varies. Some need only a few sessions while others need sustained care to reverse entrenched patterns established over time. As symptoms improve, fewer visits are required, individual progress being the yardstick.


Thin, solid, sterile stainless steel acupuncture needles are inserted into acupuncture points to communicate from the outside to the inside. Acupuncture mobilizes Qi, Moisture, Blood, invigorating proper function of muscles, nerves, vessels, glands, and organs. 

How It Feels

Insertion of the slender needles goes unnoticed by some, and to others feels like a small pinch followed by a sensation of tingling, numbness,  ache, traveling warmth, or heaviness. Sometimes people feel Qi moving  at a distance from the point of insertion. Needles remain in place for   twenty to forty minutes. Usually relaxation and an elevation of spirit  accompanies treatment. It is as normal to want to continue resting as it is  to be immediately energized. Some notice a relief of symptoms or feel more energetic in the days that follow treatment. Most people are pleased to find that sessions are not uncomfortable and even look forward to them.

What Acupuncture Can Treat

It would be most accurate to say that acupuncture treats disorders of Qi, Blood, and Moisture, and disturbances of the Organ Networks  - but this does not correspond to the Western vocabulary of named diseases and conditions. Acupuncture may be helpful for: withdrawal from addictions such as sugar, coffee, cigarettes, alcohol, and cocaine; stress reduction; post-surgical recovery; chronic fatigue; the signs of aging; and decreased immunity.


Herbal Remedies and Supplements

Herbal medicine is itself a powerful method of healing. Western drugs often control symptoms, but do not alter the disease process (antibiotics eliminate bacteria but do not improve a person's resistance to infection;  diuretics rid excess fluid without improving kidney function). Chinese herbs treat the underlying condition as defined by traditional diagnosis, and rarely cause unwanted side-effects. 

How Herbs Work

Since fatigue results from a lack of Qi, herbs that nourish the Qi have an energizing effect. Since blurry vision, restless sleep, and irritability result from depleted Blood, Blood-enriched herbs  improve vision, sleep, and equanimity. Since dry skin and dehydration arise from insufficient Moisture, herbs that replenish it soften the skin and relieve an otherwise unquenchable thirst. 


Moxibustion is an oriental medicine therapy utilizing moxa, or mugwort herb. Suppliers usually age the mugwort and grind it up to a fluff; practitioners burn the fluff or process it further into a stick that resembles a (non-smokable) cigar. Practitioners use it indirectly, with acupuncture needles, or sometimes burn it on a patient's skin. 


Cupping is a method of applying acupressure by creating a vacuum next to the patient's skin. In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) it involves placing glass, plastic, or bamboo cups on the skin with a vacuum. The therapy is used to relieve what is called "stagnation" in TCM terms, and is used in the treatment of respiratory diseases such as the common cold, pneumonia, and bronchitis. Cupping is also used to treat back, neck, shoulder, and other musculoskeletal pain.  

Is Chinese Medicine for You?

Chinese medicine can effectively treat acute and chronic conditions and provide preventive care. To discover whether Chinese medicine is helpful for you, try it.

© 1991 by H Beinfield & E Korngold. Between Heaven and Earth, A Guide   to Chinese Medicine. Ballantine, 1991.
© 1973, 1987 by C Huang. Embrace Tiger, Return to Mountain.   Celestial Arts, 1987.
© 1980 by Beijing College of Traditional Chinese Medicine, et. al.   Essentials of Chinese Acupuncture. Foreign Languages Press, 1980.  



Acupuncture is a form of  alternative medicine and a key component of traditional Chinese medicine  in which thin needles are inserted into the body.  



 Western drugs often control symptoms, but do not alter the disease process. Chinese herbs treat the underlying condition as defined by traditional diagnosis, and rarely cause unwanted side-effects. 



Cupping is a method of applying acupressure by creating a vacuum next to the patient's skin.