Acupuncture and Herbs

“Health for all” is still an important task to accomplish in the 21st century. The realization of “health for all” requires mutual cooperation and concerned efforts of various medical sciences, including Chinese medicine. In the recent years the spectrum of diseases has been changing, and an increasing number of diseases are difficult to cure. While the side effects of chemical drugs have become more and more evident. Furthermore, both the US government and US people are faced with the problem of high costs of medical visits, examinations, and treatments. Chinese medicine, the most complete traditional medical system in the world with unique theories and excellent clinical curative effects, basically meets the need to solve such problems.

In my practice, I use acupuncture, electro-acupuncture,  laser acupuncture, moxibustion, cupping, Gua Sha, therapeutic massage, Chinese herbal medicine, and lifestyle suggestions for various disease of different ages of people from toddlers to seniors.

1. Acupuncture

Acupuncture is a 3000-year-old component of Chinese medicine, and has been listed together with moxibustion by UNESCO as Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2010.  It involves  inserting very thin needles through a person’s skin at specific points on the body, to various depths, to promote the human being’s self-healing power and self-regulating function and bring health back to the patient. New York Times reporter James Reston raised the American public’s awareness of acupuncture in 1971 when he wrote about his emergency appendectomy in China and how three acupuncture needles relieved his postoperative pain. 

Acupuncture is a well-studied and evidenced-based practice that has been used successfully for thousands of years. As for its actions, in the words of Chinese medicine, it can unblock the meridians, balance and harmonize yin and yang,  regulate the zang fu organs, promote the flow of qi and blood, support the healthy qi and dispel the pathogenic factors, thus can relieve pain, bring balance back to the human being, and so can effectively treat many diseases.  

Research during the 1970s and 1980s linked acupuncture with the central nervous system release of endogenous opioid peptides and biogenic amines. Researches afterwards in the last 30 decades have shown that acupuncture can positively influence the nervous, endocrine, immune,  respiratory, cardiovascular, digestive, urinary and genital systems, and getting certain abnormalities to the normal or a better state (Experimental Acupuncture and Moxibustion, Textbook of different versions for Higher Education of Chinese Medicine in China). 

Several years ago, the World Health Organization (WHO) published an official report listing 31 symptoms, conditions and diseases that have been shown in controlled trials to be treated effectively by Acupuncture. Following is the list of conditions shown through controlled trials to be treated effectively by Acupuncture:

  • Low back pain
  • Neck pain
  • Sciatica
  • Tennis elbow
  • Knee pain
  • Peri-arthritis of the shoulder
  • Sprains
  • Facial pain
  • TMJ
  • Headache
  • Dental pain
  • Acute and chronic gastritis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Induction of labor
  • Breech birth presentation
  • Morning sickness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Postoperative pain
  • Stroke
  • Essential hypertension
  • Primary hypotension
  • Renal colic
  • Leucopenia
  • Radiation/chemo reactions
  • Allergic rhinitis,
  • Hay fever
  • Biliary colic
  • Depression
  • Acute bacillary dysentery
  • Primary dysmenorrhea
  • Acute epigastralgia
  • Peptic ulcer

In fact, acupuncture is effective in many other conditions, which just need more evidences from the perspective of Western science, esp. Western medicine. 

For more information, you may refer to: Acupuncture: Review and Analysis of Reports on Controlled Clinical Trials, World Health Organization, 2003

2. Electro-Acupunture or Acupuncture with Electrical-Stimulation

After a needle has been inserted at a point and the Qi sensation is obtained, an electric current is passed through the needle both to strengthen and alter the nature of stimulation. Generally speaking, multiple needles can be stimulated depending on the patient’s condition and the number of wires of the E-Stim machine. It produces a higher and more continuous level of stimulation. The amount of stimulation can be objectively measured and regulated. 

Generally speaking, the regular frequencies are best for treating pains and spasms; Alternate quick and slow frequencies are preferable in treating paralysis and numbness.  

3. Laser Acupuncture: The perfect combination of ancient meridian theory and modern technology

The tools for acupuncture have been developing in the last thousands of years from Bian Shi 砭石 or healing stone or stone needle, bone needle, nine types of needles made of metal (gold, silver, copper, steel), to laser beam. Stimulating acupoint with laser beam is known as laser acupuncture. 

Compared to traditional acupuncture, laser acupuncture has its unique features: 

  1. The energy input into the human body by laser acupuncture includes light energy, heat energy, mechanical energy, biochemical energy, which are sent into acupoints by laser beams and then transmitted to the human organs through the meridians. The mechanical energy sent into the body by the laser beam is more than that from needles (because it goes through the skin like needles); the heat energy sent into the body by the laser beam is more than that from moxibustion.
  2. The dominating needling sensation like sourness, numbness, heaviness, distension, and pain, from the Laser acupuncture is much less than that from needle acupuncture, so it can be applied to people of different ages and genders, esp. for infants, toddlers, children, seniors, and people who are afraid of needles. 
  3. Laser acupuncture is sterile and safe because laser acupuncture is non-invasive. 
  4. There are no forbidden points for laser acupuncture. It can be used for some acupuncture points that are forbidden for needles such as Ren 8 Shen Que 神阙. In the meanwhile, the ulcerated skin and mucous membranes can also be irradiated by laser beams. 

Since Laser beam sends light energy, heat energy, and mechanical energy  into the body through certain acupoints, its actions are just like needle acupuncture, can unblock the meridians, balance and harmonize yin and yang,  regulate the zang fu organs, promote the flow of qi and blood, support the healthy qi and dispel the pathogenic factors, thus can relieve pain, bring balance back to the human being, and so can effectively treat many diseases. In the words of modern language, from the reactions of human tissues to laser acupuncture, the effects of low-intensity laser include anti-inflammatory, analgesic, dispelling swelling, enhancing metabolism, promoting tooth growth, accelerating wound healing, changing histopathological state and restoring tissue’s health, thereby improving the function of the body. 

4. Moxibustion

Moxibustion is also a 3000-year-old component of Chinese medicine, and has been listed together with acupuncture by UNESCO as Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2010. The theories of acupuncture and moxibustion hold that the human body acts as a small universe connected by meridians, and that by physically stimulating these meridians the practitioner can promote the human being’s self-healing power, self-regulating functions and bring back health to the patient. 

Moxibustion involves the burning of moxa (mugwort) on certain points on these meridians, with the aim to restore the body’s balance and prevent and treat disease. Moxibustion is usually classified into direct and indirect moxibustion, in which either moxa cones are placed directly on points or moxa sticks are held and kept at some distance from the body surface to warm the chosen area. 

Moxa cones and sticks are made of dried mugwort leaves. Mugwort, or Ai 艾, is also a famous Chinese herb. It is bitter and acrid in flavor, warm in property, enters the three foot yin meridians, i.e. Spleen,  Liver, and Kidney Meridians. It is pure yang in nature, so it has the ability to restore yang from collapse. It opens the twelve regular meridians, travelling through the three foot yin meridians to regulate qi and blood, expel cold and dampness, warm yang, warm the spleen, stomach and intestines to remove stagnation and check diarrhea, warm the uterus, stop bleeding, regulate menstruation and ease the uterus, warm and tonify Kidney Yang to help with sexual performance etc. 

Compendium of Materia Medica 《本草纲目》 by Li Shizhen 李时珍 (1518-1593) reads that “When it is burning [on or close certain points], it penetrates all the meridians, and so can treat hundreds of diseases.” 灸之则透诸经,而治百种病邪。    

Moxibustion can warm meridians and expel cold, induce the smooth flow of qi and blood, restore yang from collapse e.g. excessive sweating, cold limbs, minute pulse, low blood pressure, etc.), prevent diseases and keep healthy, cultivate and improve health. It can be used for vomiting, diarrhea, prolonged dysentery, abdominal pain, pain around umbilicus, pain caused by hernia, painful joints and symptoms due to yang deficiency like erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation. 

5. Cupping

Cupping is also a 3000-year-old component of Chinese medicine, in which a practitioner puts special cups on the skin for a few minutes to create suction. The practitioner may also slide the cups for arthritis or as a type of deep tissue massage. People get it for many purposes, including to help with pain, inflammation, blood flow, relaxation and well-being, and/or as a type of deep-tissue massage. Australian and Chinese researchers reviewed 135 studies on cupping. They concluded that cupping therapy may be more effective when people also get other treatments, like acupuncture, for various diseases and conditions, 

Its actions include warming and promoting the free flow of qi and blood, dispelling cold and dampness, diminishing swellings and pains. It can be used for Bi Syndrome  (arthritis and pains) due to wind-dampness, e.g. low back pain, shoulder pain, leg pain, neck pain (like from Cervical spondylosis); Gastrointestinal  disorders, e.g. stomachache, vomiting, diarrhea; Lung disease: e.g. cough, asthma; Skin issues: Herpes zoster, Acne; etc. 

The British Cupping Society says that cupping therapy is used to treat:


6. Gua Sha

Gua sha is also an ancient healing technique of Chinese medicine that involves scraping your skin with a massage tool to improve your circulation, smooth out muscular knots. It offers a unique approach to better health, addressing issues like chronic pain. It is generally performed on a person’s back, buttocks, neck, shoulders, arms, and legs. It may be more effective when the person also gets acupuncture.  

Gua sha is intended to address Qi Stagnation. Rubbing or scraping the skin’s surface is thought to help smooth the flow of qi and blood, reduce inflammation, and promote healing, so it’s often used to treat ailments that cause chronic pain, such as neck pain, shoulder pain, back pain, arthritis and fibromyalgia, as well as those that trigger muscle and joint pain.

Gua sha may also relieve symptoms of other conditions:

  • Chronic neck pain: Gua sha technique may also prove effective for remedying chronic neck pain
  • Migraine headaches: If your migraine headaches don’t respond to over-the-counter medications, Gua Sha in combination with acupuncture and herbs may help.
  • Breast engorgement: Breast engorgement is a condition experienced by many breastfeeding women when the breasts overfill with milk. Breasts become swollen and painful, making it difficult for babies to latch. Gua Sha may help relieve breast, pain and discomfort.
  • Tourette syndrome: Tourette syndrome involves involuntary movements such as facial tics, throat clearing, and vocal outbursts. Gua Sha in combination with acupuncture and herbs may help.
  • Perimenopausal syndrome: Symptoms include insomnia, irregular periods, anxiety, fatigue, hot flashes, etc. Gua Sha in combination with acupuncture and herbs may help women reduce these symptoms and go smoothly through this period of life. 

Gua sha is generally vey safe. Because it involves rubbing or scraping skin with a massage tool, tiny blood vessels known as capillaries near the surface of your skin can burst. This can cause skin bruising and minor bleeding. But bruising usually disappears within a couple of days.

7. Therapeutic Massage

Therapeutic Massage, also known as tui na 推拿 in Chinese, is a hands-on body treatment in which the practitioner may use various manual techniques like pushing, grasping, kneading, rolling, pressing, and rubbing to promote the flow of Qi and blood, unblock the stagnation in the meridians and the muscles, support the healthy qi and dispel the pathogenic agents, regulate and harmonize yin and yang, improve immunity, and prolong the life span. Techniques may be gentle or quite firm. It can assist and improve the effects of acupuncture and herbs. 

8. Chinese Herbal Medicine

Before the existence of the modern medicine, human beings depended solely on herbal medicine and other therapeutic methods we address above to treat diseases and preserve health. Among all traditional systems of medicine in the world, Chinese medicine is a most extraordinary one which has a unique complete system of theories, methods, formulas and herbs for almost 3000 years. 

Zhou Li 《周礼》 or Rites of the Zhou, one of the four extant collections of ritual matters of the Zhou Dynasty (c.11th century – 256 B.C.), records that there were four types of royal doctors, i.e. dieteticians, physicians, surgeons, and veterinarians. 

Identified as a piece of work of the Spring and Autumn Period (770 B.C.- 446 B.C.), Wu Shi Er Bing Fang or Prescriptions for Fifty Two Diseases, a silk scroll unearthed at No. 3 Mawangdui Han Tomb in Changsha, Hunan province in 1973, is the earliest medical document extant in China. Treatments recorded in the document are varied from oral administration of herbal formulas to various external treatments such as local application, fumigation or steaming, ironing, acupuncture, moxibustion, Chinese massage, cupping, etc. 

Chinese medicine in China is a full spectrum of medicine which is used to treat various diseases of internal medicine, dermatology, gynecology and obstetrics, pediatrics, etc. 

In the 21st century, food as medicine and medicine as food is so important to fulfill people’s quest for good health. In my practice I will offer herbal consultation which may involve suggestions of herbal formula and/or herbal foods for a certain disease condition.