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But Seriously, How Does Acupuncture Work? : Eastern Medical Theory 101


I'm an acupuncturist and herbalist so I've heard it all before: "I'd like to try acupuncture but I'm afraid of needles." ... "Yeah but how does it actually work, like scientifically?" ... "So you're a witch then, right?"

Well I don't hear the last question out loud per se but skepticism is definitely palpable.

This post is an attempt to explain Acupuncture and Eastern Medicine to the general public. We acupuncturists take 4 years in school to learn this stuff but here are the basics condensed into one blog post.

The Foundation:

There are 4 main concepts that you need to understand in order to recognize disease in the human body. They are:

-Qi

-Blood

-Yin

-Yang

Qi:

Rub your hands together really fast a bunch of times like you're sitting out in the freezing cold and need to warm up those digits. The movement of doing so creates a heat, right? So you can get behind the idea that: movement creates heat. (Think: you run, and you get hot. AKA movement gives off heat).

Well its probably no shocker to anyone that your organs move. Your Heart pumps and your Lungs expand, your Liver filters and your Bladder empties, and so on. Well guess what: the movement in your organs also gives off heat. We, in Eastern Medicine, call this heat: "Qi."

Each organ gives off its own Qi. Take for example the Heart again. Pumping 60+ times per minute produces a lot of heat (AKA Qi) and, in Eastern Medical Theory, this heat flows in a particular pathway through your body. The Heart's Qi flows from the Heart down the inner arm and to the pinky. (And it's no coincidence that one of the Western Medical symptoms of a heart attack is pain down the arm that radiates to the pinky.)

Each organ's pathways of Qi connects to a web of heat from the other organs and is mapped out across the body. If one organ is malfunctioning or diseased, its heat/Qi pathway will be disrupted, and the disfunction will slowly cascade through this web of Qi and set the body out of balance.

So What Does Acupuncture Do To Reset The Qi Pathways And Restore Health To The Organs?

When you get a bee sting, your body is like WTF is this foreign stinger in my skin? It sends blood and lymph and heat to the area to try to push out the stinger and disperse the toxin.

Acupuncture works in a similar way. A needle enters the skin along the Qi pathways and your body is like whaaaaaat is that? It reactivates the body's attention to that particular spot and sends blood, lymph, white blood cells, etc, to the site. This rush of attention pushes through any blockage of Qi and moves inflammation out of the area. If an organ's Qi is restored to its natural flow it will nourish the web of Qi it is connected to and flush the organs with fresh fuel.

Now, too much Qi can also be bad for the body. Think about a time when you studied something really hard for days and actually felt your brain get hot. You feel muzzy and overheated. This is an example of an organ that is producing too much heat/Qi. Too much Qi can block pathways and create a sense of being stuck.

Blood:

Blood's function in the Eastern Medical sense is very similar to that of Western Medicine in that it nourishes the muscles and tissue of the body. However in Eastern Medicine, Blood and Qi are intimately connected. Since Qi is the motive force of the body, your Blood needs Qi in order to move. If an organ's Qi is weak, then Blood cannot properly nourish the body.

Yin/Yang:

Most people are familiar with the Yin Yang sign. (Fun fact: its properly pronounced "Yawng," not "Yayng.") And most people understand the idea that it represents a balance of opposite forces that are complementary, interconnected and transformative. These two opposing forces are constantly working within the body's functional systems.

Yin and Yang are both nouns and adjectives in relation to health. Eastern Medicine describes Yin and Yang as having the following properties:

Yin is cooling, substantive and wet.

Yang is warming, airy and dry

Extreme Yin, aka cold and wet, extinguishes Yang aka fire.

Extreme Yang, aka fire, burns up Yin.

Certain pathological symptoms present if there is either too much or too little of Yin or Yang. Some of the pathological manifestations show up as the following:

Too Much Yin (or Too Little Yang)

Chronic conditions

A tendency towards dampness

Feeling lethargic

Under active

Weak musculature

Pallor

Soft

Substantive

Pale tongue

Empty pulse

Too Much Yang (or Too Little Yin):

Acute conditions

Insomnia

Dryness

Hot/warm

Restless

Overactive

Tight musculature

Thirst

Red tongue

Full pulse

Acupuncturists use herbs that have their own yin/yang properties to correct a patient's unbalanced body. And the good news is herbology is well known for its efficacy and lack of side-effects; something that Western Medical prescriptions struggle with.

The Needles:

Acupuncture itself is a safe and painless procedure when administered by a qualified practitioner. We uses disposable needles not much larger than a hair. All practitioners are licensed and regulated by either their State Board or the National Certification Commission of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.

There are certainly more elements to Eastern Medical theory but the above gives a good sampling of the foundations.

I know what's on your mind now: So how does this all apply to fertility? But I also know that reading a computer screen can make you go cross eyed... and that sure was a lot to take in. That's why I've separated the answer into its own post. Look out for our next release covering how Eastern Medicine addresses fertility challenges specifically.

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