By Caroline Jung
East Asian Medicine (EAM) commonly known as TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) is an umbrella term to characterize various healing practices developed in China, Japan and Korea.
A majority of EAM is rooted from China. It includes the therapies and practice of acupuncture, herbs, qigong, moxibustion, tui na, cupping and gua sha.
Acupuncture is a painless technique of inserting hair-thin needles into the influential points throughout the body called acupuncture points to restore health and balance. Acupuncture is a component of East Asian Medicine (EAM). It is one of the more commonly used complimentary medicines in the United States and is recognized by both the National Institute of Health (NIH) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
Acupuncture has been practiced in many parts of Asia for the past 4,000 years. The ancient Chinese physicians recognized the vital energy in all living things called qi (pronounced “Chee”). Just as water flows through rivers and streams, they have found that the qi flows through the body in twelve main channels.
When the qi is flowing in harmony, the body functions optimally. For a variety of reasons, whether internal or external, the flow of qi can become obstructed or unbalanced and can cause disruption in the body—which can present as physical and/or emotional symptoms/illnesses. Acupuncture needles inserted into the specific points on the channels will help to bring qi back into balance therefore helping to restore an individual to their solid foundation. When the foundation is stable, all that is built upon it will be in better alignment and will function properly.
Herbal and adjunctive therapies
Along with acupuncture, other modalities that are used in EAM are Chinese herbal therapy,
qigong, cupping, gua sha, moxibustion, and tui na.
Chinese Herbal Therapy
Everything under the sun has properties that can interact with our bodies. Some plant and animal extracts are warming, some are cooling. Some energize us, some sedate us. The Chinese have been observing and documenting these effects for thousands of years.
Within EAM, there are various forms of herbal therapy which include patents (tablets, capsules, tinctures), raw and granular formulas. These various forms can be used interchangeably depending on an individual’s compliance and opportunity to use herbal therapy.
As skilled herbalists, we can create an herbal decoction that is properly combined and addresses imbalance in the body. In herbal medicine, it is understood that “if a formula causes unwanted side effects, it is clearly not the right formula”. Herbal formulas (raw, granular and tincture) are customized to each individual’s needs and can then be modified gradually as a condition improves.
Qigong integrates movement, posture, breathing techniques, sound and focused intent to help improve one’s mental and physical state. Qigong is often thought of as a mind-body-spirit practice through cultivation of one’s “qi” and continued practice.
The practice of placing suction cups on the back, abdomen, or other body parts, to pull out environmental toxins and stagnant qi.
The practice of rubbing the skin with a gua sha tool over the back or any strained muscle in such a manner as to cause redness and painless bruising in order to mobilize the body’s healing response.
The practice of burning Chinese herbs over specific acupoints to add energy directly into a specific channel or area of the body.
An acupressure based treatment; incorporating stretching, rubbing, kneading, deep tissue work, and other types of manual touch-therapy.
Acupuncturists can attend and complete various training programs. These programs offer different degrees and levels of study including Master’s and Doctoral programs.
Licensing is individually granted for each state as a student must pass their respective state boards to obtain their license. State licenses for acupuncture are retained and renewed by practitioners maintaining and attending current continuing education classes.
National certification for acupuncture and also Chinese herbal therapy is obtained through the
National Certification Commission of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.
Common illnesses treated with acupuncture (sited by WHO as diseases, symptoms and conditions for which acupuncture has been proven, through controlled trials, to be an effective treatment:
- Adverse reactions to radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy
- Allergic rhinitis (including hay fever)
- Biliary colic
- Depression (including depressive neurosis and depression following stroke)
- Dysentery, acute bacillary
- Dysmenorrhoea, primary
- Epigastralgia, acute (in peptic ulcer, acute and chronic gastritis, and gastrospasm)
- Facial pain (including craniomandibular disorders)
- Hypertension, essential
- Hypotension, primary
- Induction of labour
- Knee pain
- Low back pain
- Malposition of fetus, correction of
- Morning sickness
- Nausea and vomiting
- Neck pain
- Pain in dentistry (including dental pain and temporomandibular dysfunction)
- Periarthritis of shoulder
- Postoperative pain
- Renal colic
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Tennis elbow
How EAM can support the underserved
East Asian Medicine can be utilized to support the underserved by community acupuncture.
Community acupuncture is practiced in a group, rather than in a one-on-one setting. This style of treatment is usually administered on the front side of the body, along the legs, arms, hands, feet and ears. Community acupuncture is offered in a comfortable chair that creates a relaxing atmosphere during treatment. Community-style clinics operate on a sliding scale in order to make them more affordable. Keeping with this idea to make acupuncture as accessible as possible.
People’s Organization of Community Acupuncture (POCA) is currently the national reference for community acupuncture. POCA
Free E-book on Community Acupuncture