About Chinese Medicine: Chinese Medicine is an effective system of healing that originated in China approximately 3000 years ago. It was used as the sole source of medicine long before western medicine existed. It’s still used today by over one third of the world’s population.
Doctors of Traditional Chinese Medicine use tools including Acupuncture, Chinese Herbal Medicine, Massage, and Dietary/Supplement recommendations in order to restore balance and health to the body. A wide variety of conditions are treated and prevented with Chinese Medicine, which include:
skin disorders, such as acne, eczema, and psoriasis
Chinese Medicine takes on a holistic approach to health to treat the root of an illness. Chinese Medicine not only treats the symptoms presented, but focus on the entire body while considering the patient’s:
- emotional and spiritual well-being
A patient’s first visit with me involves a comprehensive consultation, which not only addresses the main complaint, but also considers all of the above aspects of the patient.
According the World Health Organization (WHO), Acupuncture is the fastest growing health care segment in the world. Acupuncture stimulates the flow of energy and blood while bringing the body back into balance. This is performed via the painless insertion of very thin, disposable needles into specific points in the body. It’s a wide misconception the sole use of acupuncture is to treat back pain, as it can treat a wide variety of internal conditions, such as constipation, insomnia, addictions, fatigue, PMS, and asthma.
A typical acupuncture treatment takes up to 45 minutes. If the problem presented is pain, acupressure massage may be incorporated. Most people find acupuncture to be an extremely relaxing and comfortable procedure.
Chinese Herbal Medicine
Very often I prescribe a “Chinese herbal formula” which consists of many herbs, combined together in small concentrations, personalized towards the unique diagnosis of each patient. This method provides better results than taking a single herb, and doesn’t involve any side effects. The herbs I commonly prescribe in the clinic are in a powder form and the patient mixes the powder with hot water to make a tea; however, many other forms can be prescribed, including tinctures, capsules, or ointments. Also, I will usually recommend that patients make specific dietary changes. This plays an important role towards re-balancing the body and promoting good health.
Needles are inserted on certain acupuncture points along the body and then attached to a device that generates continuous electric impulses using small clips. These devices are used to adjust the frequency and intensity of the impulse being delivered, depending on the condition being treated. Electroacupuncture uses two needles at a time so that the impulses can pass from one needle to the other. Several pairs of needles can be stimulated simultaneously, usually for no more than 30 minutes.
According to the principle of Chinese Medicine, illness is caused when Qi (energy) does not flow properly throughout the body. TCM Doctors determine whether the Qi is weak, stagnant, or otherwise out of balance. This indicates which points should be used. Electroacupuncture is especially useful for conditions in which the Qi is stagnant and accumulated, such as chronic pain syndromes, or in cases where the Qi is difficult to stimulate. Electroacupuncture is used for a variety of conditions. It’s been effectively used as a form of anesthesia, a pain reliever for muscle spasms, and a treatment for neurological disorders.
Moxibustion is a technique that involves the burning of an herb called mugwort to facilitate healing. Commonly known as “moxa,” this herb is burned above the skin at certain acupuncture points. The purpose of moxa, as with most techniques in Chinese Medicine, is to strengthen blood, stimulate the flow of Qi and blood, and maintain general health.
The practitioner lights one end of a moxa stick (roughly the size and shape of a cigar) and holds it close to the treated area for several minutes, usually until the area turns red. Another way of doing moxa is to wrap the moxa on the tip of the needle after it is inserted into the skin. This generates heat to the point and to the surrounding area.
Moxa is used on patients who have a excess cold or a stagnant condition. The moxa expels cold and warms the meridians, which leads to a smoother flow of Qi (energy) and blood. It has been used successfully to turn breech babies into a normal head-down position prior to childbirth. A landmark study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1998 found that up to 75% of women suffering from breech positions before childbirth had fetuses that rotated to the normal position after receiving moxa at a specific acupuncture point on the little toe. Other studies have shown that moxa increases the movement of the fetus in pregnant women, and may reduce the symptoms of menstrual cramps when used in conjunction with acupuncture.
Although moxa has been used safely in Chinese medicine for centuries, it’s not for everyone. Because it’s used specifically for patients suffering from cold or stagnant constitutions, it shouldn’t be used on anyone diagnosed with too much heat and dry symptoms. Moxa produces a great deal of smoke and a pungent odor, therefore the practitioner will use an alternative to moxa for patients with respiratory problems.
Cupping is a method commonly used after an Acupuncture session or sometimes used instead of the Acupuncture. It treats disease by causing local congestion. A partial vacuum is created in certain small plastic or glass jars, usually by means of heat (when glass cups are used), which are then applied to the skin, drawing up the underlying tissue/ muscle and forming blood stagnation. This method is very effective for injuries, arthritis, and many other common complaints. Single cups may be applied to smaller areas and several cups to a wider region. The cups may be moved over large flat areas as well, (known as “moving cupping”). This process feels like a massage, though generally more effective.
Acupressure / Massage
Acupressure is given instead of, or in addition to, acupuncture. Acupressure is essentially acupuncture without needles. Different massage methods are used with strong stimulation to specific acupuncture points on the body. If a patient comes to the clinic with acute or chronic pain as their main complaint, I’ll always end the acupuncture treatment with massage. Acupressure works like acupuncture to stimulate the flow of Qi (energy) and blood along the meridians to heal the body. It’s very comfortable and relaxing, and is usually the patient’s favorite part of the treatment.
Diet Therapy & Food Cures
Nutrition is an integral part of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Almost every individual’s diet holds room for improvement. During the first consultation the practitioner will ask about the patient’s diet in detail. Then according to the Chinese medical diagnosis, the practitioner will provide the patient specific dietary recommendations. These recommendations reach beyond the essential norms of sufficient protein, complex carbohydrate, fresh fruit and vegetable intake. Practitioners advise on exactly which foods to eliminate and/or include in the diet.
Chinese Medicine classifies foods and diseases according to patterns. One eats cooling foods in response to over-heated conditions, and warming foods are best for people displaying cold patterns. Tonic foods are beneficial for deficient conditions, and detoxifying foods for anyone who carries excess toxins, and so on. The recommendations often surprise the patients. For example, they never think that eating too much pineapple is harmful since it’s so healthy. Well, actually, if an individual already has too much heat in the body (too much yang and too little yin), pineapple should be avoided since it has quite a warm property.
Effects of diet therapy are usually slower than those of herbal medicine and other medicinals; however, if it’s used correctly for prevention and treatment, other medicinals are seldom required, if at all. Food acts according to its various therapeutic properties, although these properties are often less specific and their actions less drastic than those of herbs and other medicinals. Diet therapy is best in combination with herbal medicine, but if a patient chooses not to take the herbs, the practitioner will rely on the food cures to restore balance to the body.
Dr. Maryam has been a Chinese Medicine Doctor since 2002 and practices all of the modalities above. You can see her bio here.