Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine

Chinese medicine (encompassing acupuncture and herbal medicine) is a sophisticated medical system, which originated in China thousands of years ago and is continuously evolving and developing.

The traditional theory

There are many different schools and discrete theories within Chinese medicine, but, at their core all of these approaches share the single belief that good health is dependent on the healthy functioning of the body’s organs, which in turn is dependent on the unobstructed movement through the body of Qi (energy or life force).

Qi flows through the body along a series of pathways which are often referred to as acupuncture meridians or channels and is derived from a number of sources. There is the Qi we are born with, which is a finite limited resource that determines our underlying constitutional strength and there is also the Qi we inhale from the air when breathing deeply and in a relaxed manner and the Qi we extract from the food and fluids that we consume.

In the same way that water in a river can become blocked or the river can dry up, Qi can become obstructed or depleted by various factors, including overwork, our emotions, poor nutrition and physical trauma.

At a very simple level, the aim of Chinese medicine is to enable Qi to flow smoothly through the body so that health is restored, either by finding and clearing any blockages or boosting the body’s ability to produce and utilise Qi from our environment e.g. from food and breathing, rather than having to constantly dip into our finite constitutional Qi.

Modern perspectives

Chinese medicine is increasingly being accepted by conventional medicine and there is a growing body of research exploring its effectiveness for a variety of conditions. Much of the research initially explored the evidence for acupuncture as a treatment for pain-related conditions and this continues to be an extremely important area of research, particularly as we become more aware of the potential risk of opioid addiction.

While I do try and keep up with the latest research, particularly papers that relate to my particular areas of practice, I am not a scientist. Luckily there are lots of people, particularly those at Evidence Based Acupuncture and the Acupuncture Research Council, who have devoted many hours to analysing the evidence and research relating to acupuncture treatment. If you are interested in finding out more information about research you might find the following websites interesting:

Evidence Based Acupuncture

Acupuncture Research Resource Centre