April 28, 2014

How Does Acupuncture Work Anyway? ~ Patrick Holiman


Hua-Ching Ni, a Taoist adept, points out that human beings are a complete model of the universe.

As such, humans demonstrate the physical as well as mental and spiritual aspects of existence.

Knowledge of the more subtle aspects of the human body is not gained through dissection and observation of anatomy. Oriental Medicine (and I use that term Oriental Medicine as a metaphor not something that is limited to certain practices that remain entombed in the Chinese countryside) and the acupuncture energy meridians delineate the circulation of energy within the human body on an extremely subtle level.

The ideal health system helps prevent dis-ease rather than treat illnesses after they have manifested as painful or distressing physical and mental symptoms. An Ideal health program can involve elevation of our general state to enjoy a feeling of well-being with physical and mental energy. 

The term organ in Oriental Medicine does not refer to simply an anatomical entity, but the manifestation of a functional sphere of energy that is carried out all over the body. 

These organ spheres have certain responsibilities to keep the body in harmony with nature through the process of cycles of energy transformation. The transformation of energy that creates the planets, the Earth and the four seasons also creates the corresponding organs within the human body.

The subtle energy meridians of Acupuncture not only connect the organs to each other but the external to the internal. These pathways have clearly and distinctly established pathways and definite directions of flow just as the circulation of the blood and lymph systems do.

Those from the past who had the skills of human observation and understanding discovered that illness often produced painful areas upon the skin and that the pain would disappear when a cure was affected. They saw that stimulation or sedation of various points on the body produced an effect upon the functioning of internal organs. 

In a somewhat tongue in cheek extreme, it was observed that when someone was speared, a chronic ailment would heal. It has been learned through centuries of experience that stimulation of what is referred to as distal points will work like the points that are stimulated locally. Thus the stimulation of a point in the thumb web can affect the face or throat. A point on the leg can affect the colon, etc.

The energy circulation in and among the organs themselves cannot be acted upon directly. But they may be influenced through the surface points. These key points are well established through thousands of years of observation and experience.

At these points, energy imbalances, deficiencies, excesses, blockages can be restored to normal balance. Pain is the lack of free flow.  The blood and energy wants to flow in certain natural pathways, and if they can’t, dis-ease may follow. So the simple objective is to restore the normal circulation of chi (energy) and blood. Then one feels relaxed and energized and all the tissues and organs are nourished. The protective chi (wei qi) is strong and the shen (spirit) is balanced.

All of the channels are connected and polarized in such a manner that the circulation of energy throughout the body flows in continuous and constant patterns. There are six yang channels, six yin channels and eight extra channels that form the body’s energy network. These channels, along with the acu-points, are described in various acupuncture books.

The continued harmony of an individual depends on maintaining the appropriate balance of yin and yang. The five phases of fire, earth, metal, water and wood maintain the equilibrium of yin and yang if their energy transformations are appropriate. If the energy transformation becomes unbalanced dis-ease can appear. 

For example, wood attacks earth. Say a person feels angry or has some other emotional upset, or takes some inappropriate food that causes excess blockage in the liver (wood) channel. The excess wood can shut down the food absorption function of the spleen (earth), etc.

In summary, to bring about balance in a dis-eased condition, manipulate the following:

1. Local points and distal points that relate to the affected area and adjacent points (points in the same area but on the other side of the body).

2. Points that are sore, aaaaah-shiiiiiii points.

3. Front mu and back shu points (also called alarm points in certain locations that indicate organ systems are in  dis-harmony).

4. Influential points (particular points that influence particular organs).

5. Yuan source points (points that stimulate the source energy).

6. Xi-cleft points (points that sedate).

7. Five element points (points that related to the five phases – fire, earth, metal, water and wood).

8. Points according to signs and symptoms related to a particular organ system designated by the four diagnostic methods (observing, listening, asking and feeling).


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Apprentice Editor: Edith Lazenby / Editor: Renée Picard

Photo: Flickr Creative Commons


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