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Acupuncture, Qi Gong (and Acupressure), Moxabustion, Tui Na, Cupping, Nutrition, Exercise

Acupuncture

Acupuncture is the insertion of extremely fine, solid, sterile needles into specific points, predetermined on the body to have desired effects. The needles are used only once and then discarded. It is also noteworthy that insertion is usually painless. The benefits of acupuncture come from regulating the qi or energy of the body to restore balance to the organ systems, blood, fluids and mind-spirit. How acupuncture is able to do this is through the channels or meridians. These 12 main channels run throughout the body and are directly related to their "paired" organ. For example, the "heart" system has a corresponding "heart" channel. The "lung" system has a corresponding "lung" channel. The state of health of the organ effects the channel and the state of health of the channel effects the organ. Hence, direct treatment of one effects the other; meaning that internal herbs can be used to treat the channel and external acupuncture points can be used to treat the internal organ system.

     The channels are also responsible for conducting qi and blood throughout the body, and for this purpose the channels also have "collaterals" which allow them to reach every cell in the body. Through the channels, yin and yang can be balanced, qi and blood tonified and pathogens eliminated. Qi is known to circulate through the channels of the body in a very well understood circadian rhythm. 
     Acupuncture points are simply locations along the channels where energy is known to collect or be most strongly effected by treatment with pressure or needles. 
     Acupuncture is most often used to treat pain and addiction recovery. Acupuncture is also commonly combined with one or more of the following: herbal medicine, moxibustion, cupping, bleeding and tui na. However, when preformed by a true master, acupuncture can be used alone to treat virtually all manor of ailments known to man.

 

 

Qi Gong (Internal and External)

     

Internal Qi Gong

Qi Gong literally means "qi exercise". In other words, the energy of the body is actually given a workout. The body's two main substances are qi and blood, qi is yang and blood is yin. It is necessary, in order to maintain health, to regularly tonify qi and to nourish blood. One of the best ways to tonify, or increase, the qi of the body is to perform 'qi gong' exercises. Qi Gong is used in two main ways; it can be emitted from one person to heal another (external) or practiced solo for health preservation (internal).

     Qi Gong exercises are performed in a wide variety of ways. However, there is one element that is central to all forms of Qi Gong, this is the breath. Control of the breath is the key concept that allows Qi Gong practice to build the bodies qi (or energy). The qi is built up rhythmically through the process of respiration. The three primary ways to gain in qi are through proper eating, sleeping and breathing. In order to gather qi from the air, called 'great energy' (da qi), the lungs must take deep, controlled breaths, just as a sleeping baby does naturally. Through this method of deep breathing the body is able to absorb the maximum amount of air qi, and store it in the body.

     In Chinese medicine, it is said that, "the lungs control the qi of the body", this means that the lungs govern, or manage, the bodies energy. The lungs also govern the surface of the body. This means that if the lungs are weak, 'external' disease will result; i.e. an invasion from outside; colloquially called 'a cold'. If the lungs are strong, the body is defended from viruses, colds, flu's, etc. and will not become ill. When deep breaths are taken they aid the lungs in circulating qi around the body. This eliminates stagnant qi, which is often the precursor of disease, especially cancer. The lungs are associated with the emotion of grief, which is itself associated with stagnant qi in the chest; explaining why grief is commonly related to cancer. These deep breaths, coupled with visualizations and specific body movements, can act as a complete form of meditation and exercise; resulting in total health.

 

One key difference between Qi Gong and other forms of exercise, is that Qi Gong is actually able to directly treat, cure and prevent disease.

 

Most forms of exercise prevent disease indirectly, through moving, tonifying and re-ordering the energy. However, Qi Gong can actually treat disease directly by tapping into the body's own healing potential. The principle differences lie in the deep belly breathing and visualizations, which most common forms of exercise lack. 


The functions of Qi Gong vary somewhat depending on the type of exercise being preformed and the intention of the practitioner. However, there are numerous benefits that are consistent throughout all Qi Gong exercises.

 

Qi Gong practice has been proven to:

  • Calm and regulate the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems

  • Increase muscle and organ blood supply

  • Regulate peristalsis (the digestive movements of the intestines)

  • Regulate blood pressure

  • Regulate the heart beat

  • Calm the mind & benefit the brain

  • Strengthen the kidneys and all the organs (due to oxygenation, etc.)

  • Increase energy (tonify qi) and aid in the generation of new blood

  • Indirectly and directly fight infection

  • Reduce and reverse aging

  • Promote the smooth circulation of qi

  • Reduce stress syndromes

  • Many other benefits too numerous to list here...


Qi Gong can be performed in a variety of ways, commonly while walking, standing or sitting. Lying down postures are generally used with the very weak, elderly or ill persons and tend primarily to focus on breathing and visualization methods. Different postures are used to illicit different effects. There are many ancient postures from numerous sources, and new postures are being developed as needed. In all routines, the primary goals are to activate and increase the circulation of the qi through the channels and internal organs. There are great benefits derived from simply straightening your posture, such as: correcting the spinal alignment, reducing pain, and freeing up the functioning of all the organs (as they are compressed when you you are hunched).

 

It is important to note that of chief importance when performing Qi Gong is concentration and intent. 

External Qi Gong 

Qi Gong is used as a form of medicinal treatment in East Asia, and around the World. It is a complex form of energy healing, healing touch, healing thought or intention, prayer, etc. In short, external qi gong is the emission of energy from one person into another person. This energy can be directed to areas of the body, energetic channels, affected organs (such as the liver or the brain), and can be used to increase or decrease local energy. Thus it is able to address local insufficiency or local pathological excess. 

     There are colleges and hospitals in China exclusively dedicated to Qi Gong / Energy Medicine. Students, intent to become practitioners of qi gong, will be thoroughly tested before entry, and regularly afterwards, to ensure that they are developing sufficient energy to practice correctly and safely. 


Moxibustion / Moxabustion (Moxa)

Moxibustion is the warming of acupuncture points, or areas of the body, by the burning of a dry herbal mixture on or near the skin. This mixture usually contains the herb Artemisia Argyi or A. Vulgaris and commonly contains only this herb. Taken internally this herb warms the womb, to stop bleeding and calm the fetus. 
 

When burned on or near the skin the herb has numerous effects on the body; some of the common effects are as follows: tonify the qi, nourish the blood, move the blood, warm the body, disperse dampness and tonify the yang qi. 
 

Moxibustion is not appropriate for all conditions; and is almost always contraindicated in heat diseases, and on the lower back or lower abdomen of pregnant women (as excess heat may injure the fetus). 
Moxa should never be burned near the eyes, mucous membranes or other tender areas of the body.      
           

The two main types of moxibustion are direct moxa and indirect moxa; they are equally effective. Direct moxa mean that the spongy herb mass, about the size of a grain of rice (or larger), is burned directly on the skin. Anywhere from 3 to several hundred cones may be burned in one spot. One method deliberately makes a blister, the other does not. Today, it is more common to do non blistering moxa.

 

The other type of moxa is called indirect moxa, which means that the herb is burned about 1 inch above the skin, so that the heat penetrates, but the herb never comes in contact with the skin itself. A moxa "stick" is used for this purpose, resembling a cigar in shape and size. It is circulated around and moved to and fro from the area to keep it from burning the skin. Normally the stick is burned between 10 and 20 minutes or until the skin around the area is red.


   
Tui Na - Therapeutic Medical Massage

Tui Na, meaning "push pull", is Chinese medical massage and bone setting. It is the oldest continually practiced bone manipulation system in the world. Today tui na is generally practiced more as a therapeutic massage, without most of the bone setting elements. Bone setting is now generally done only in cases of fractures, coupled with splinting or casting in the modern western fashion. However, there are still many practitioners of traditional tui na, which is a highly effective, complete body adjustment system effective for many physical and internal problems. The common form of tui na practiced is suitable for a wide array of physical problems, but lacks the ability to deal with severe trauma until after the bones have been set by an orthopedic specialist. 

     Tui Na incorporates common massage with acupressure and gentle bone setting. Treatments do not last a standard amount of time and depend greatly on the condition that is being treated. Tui Na practitioners are able to draw on a plethora of hand and body techniques to effect the patient in a positive way. Tui Na is able to soothe the flow of qi within the channels, relax the muscles, realign the spine and joints, and calm the mind. Tui Na also incorporates herbal medicines in the form of liniments, compresses, poultices, creams and ointments.      
    
There are several "main schools" of tui na in China today; these are: the one finger pushing method school, which emphasizes acupressure for the treatment of internal diseases; the rolling method school, which emphasizes soft tissue techniques and specializes in joint and muscle sprains and strains; the bone setting method school, which emphasizes manipulation techniques to realign the muscles, bones, and ligaments; and the internal arts method school which emphasizes the use of "nei qi gong" (internal energy generating exercises) and specific massage methods for tonifying the patients qi. Aside from these four main schools, there are as many styles as there are practitioners. 

 


Cupping
Cupping is the practice of placing cup shaped objects (commonly made of glass or bamboo), with suction, onto specific areas of the body to treat disease. It is as ancient a practice as herbs and acupuncture, but much less well known in the West. 

     The two chief ways in which cupping is used are: to cup acupuncture points or channels, and to cup areas of disharmony. The technique can be expanded to treat a wide range of diseases, but is most commonly used to treat blood stagnation. Secondarily, it is used to remove various "pathogens" from the body, such as: wind, cold, heat and dampness. These pathogens can easily become lodged in the muscle layer, cupping serves to literally "suck" them out. 

     Unlike some other aspects of Chinese Medicine, cupping is not for everyone, and is not appropriate for regular use. It is generally not used on patients who are too deficient in qi and/or blood. It can be ideal or detrimental for long-term chronic conditions; ideal when related to excess, detrimental when related to deficiency. Cupping is employed by practitioners of acupuncture and sometimes by herbal practitioners. When used appropriately, it can be highly effective for very stubborn conditions that have not responded well to other forms of treatment.

 

 

Nutrition

Diet and nutrition have become hot topics over the last thirty years in the West. Many people today are looking for ways to use food as medicine. This approach has been used in TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) for several thousand years. It has always been considered the second highest ideal in medicine (the first being change of view and/or lifestyle changes). 

     Chinese medicine uses diet changes and restrictions to illicit changes in the body. Different foods are prescribed based on the type of disease that a person is suffering from. Foods are generally used to tonify the organ that will restore proper functioning to the body. Less often, foods are prescribed to reduce pathological energies in an organ. Some common dietary changes are: reducing or eliminating cold or raw foods; adding, reducing or eliminating spicy foods and/or alcohol; and adding or reducing various flavors in the diet, such as: salty, sweet, bitter, pungent or sour. One key to health is to 'balance the flavors', meaning that one should consume an equal amount of the above listed "five flavors".

     For more information on diet, see the 'what is a healthy diet' page (coming soon), visit the suggested reading page (coming soon), or the what is a healthy lifestyle page.
  
Chinese medicine ascribes various medicinal effects to numerous food substances; some examples are: 

  • Goji berries (Lycium : Gou Qi Zi) can tonify the lung and kidney yin, nourish the liver blood-yin, benefit the vision and tonify the kidney essence.

  • Chinese date (Da Zao) can tonify the heart and spleen, nourish the blood and calm the mind.

  • Black sesame seeds (Hei Zhi Ma) can nourish the liver and kidney yin, nourish blood, and moisten the intestines.

  • Fresh ginger (Sheng Jiang) releases the exterior and disperses cold, warms the middle to alleviate vomiting, disperses cold and stops coughing, reduces toxicity, and adjusts the nutritive qi and the defensive qi.

  • Hawthorn fruit (Shan Zha) reduces and guides out food stagnation, transforms blood stasis, dissipates blood masses, and stops diarrhea (also highly effective for high blood pressure, high cholesterol and coronary artery disease). 

  • Walnut (Hu Tao Ren) is a kidney yang tonic, for weak low back, low sex drive and low motivation. 


 
Exercise

What exercise is, and its numerous health benefits, are well known to most folks today. In Chinese medicine, the practice of regular exercise to prevent and treat disease goes back to pre-history, when practices such as Tai Chi and Qi Gong were created. Later, Kung Fu and various forms of dance developed as an extension of these early forms of exercise. 

     From the perspective of CM (Chinese Medicine), exercise does several very useful things: it moves, regulates and tonifies the qi. As the natural order calls for balance in all things, so it is with exercise; and too much exercise will stagnate, disorder, deplete and exhaust the qi. Whereas too little exercise will make the qi sluggish, cause uneven or unbalanced qi circulation, and qi deficiency.  
     What exercise means in CM is a little different from what westerners consider exercise. In Chinese Medicine, exercise is done for health and/or martial skill and not for pleasure; though the exercises are often pleasurable in their own right. Some examples of the "exercises" I am referring to are Tai Chi, Qi Gong, and Kung Fu. These are excellent methods of promoting health and prolonging life. It is advised that all people should do any (or all) of these forms of exercise. They can be learned from books; however, a better effect is generally achieved through a qualified and talented instructor. 

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