A Brief History and the Many Benefits of Acupuncture

By Dr. Marcia Steingraber

The history of acupuncture may not be as straightforward as is generally accepted. In fact, the first evidence of the practice (which is assumed to have originated in China) can be found in passing mentions in texts from around two centuries prior to the dawn of the 'Common Era' (or B.C.). The first mention of the practice that is beyond argument can be found in the medical text 'The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine' which was published in China in around 100 BCE (around BCE - or 'Before the Common Era'). There is evidence that sharpened bone slivers from much further back in history might have been used in acupuncture - however, it is recognized that these may have been used in other ways such as the drawing or letting of blood. Whatever the case, acupuncture has a long history as a treatment for a variety of ailments.

Today the practice of acupuncture (which consists of inserting thin needles into the skin at various depths) is an important part of holistic medicine. It has been accepted by medical researchers that acupuncture can be of enormous benefit to those who are experiencing chronic pain. However, the many other benefits of the practice that are claimed by those who administer acupuncture are still under investigation. One of the challenges of the ongoing research is that those investigating the benefits of the practice are still unsure of exactly how acupuncture works - does it (as is claimed by many traditionalists) balance the bodies' vital energies and improve the flow of 'Chi' (spiritual energy) through the insertion of the needles at the various meridians (there are 350 acupuncture points) of the
body, balancing out the opposing forces of 'yin' and 'yang' or does it have a measurable neurological effect (which would fit in more neatly to the Western concept of medicine).

Whatever the reason - as far as pain and discomfort is concerned, acupuncture works - and practitioners (as well as many beneficiaries of the practice) believe that it can be used to treat a multitude of diverse conditions, including persistent headaches [2], high (or low) blood pressure, dysentery, Biliary Colic, symptoms of ulcers and gastritis and a variety of conditions that affect mood and mental wellbeing such as depression. It has also been shown to be useful in the treatment of lower back and neck pain which is increasingly prevalent in Western society as a result of a sedentary lifestyle.

The idea that acupuncture may affect neurological systems [3] is one that is attractive to the adherents of modern medicine. the meridian points that are stimulated in traditional acupuncture are, in many cases at the nexus of nerve transmission and also places where muscles and various classes of connective tissue can be stimulated. This is turn stimulates the body's secretion of endorphins - natural painkillers and can also increase blood flow (which can reduce swelling and stimulate the repair of damaged internal structures).

For those who are suffering persistent pain, acupuncture provides an alternative to Westernized medicine and its focus on drug-fueled treatments. It is a holistic approach that is growing in popularity as consumers become more aware of the potential dangers of medicinal drug use.

Sources:
1. The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine (2008);
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2287209/
2. Acupuncture for Chronic Headaches - An Epidemiological Study (2006);
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16643558/
3. Acupuncture Effect and Central Autonomic Regulation (2013);
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3677642/

Beautiful featured image photo by Lian Rodríguez from Pexels


Dr. Marcia Steingraber is a practicing acupuncturist with a Doctorate in Acupuncture, specializing in Family Medicine with an emphasis in Fertility. Her focus is treating chronic pain, failed surgeries and internal disorders. Marcia’s true passion is rejuvenating her patients by relieving them of chronic pain or injuries.


What is Yin & Yang?

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

Yin Yang Theory in Chinese Medicine

The theory of yin and yang is at the foundation of Chinese Medicine. It was developed, over thousands of years, from observations of the natural world. Yin and yang represent the duality that is seen to exist in all things. Yin represents darkness, cold, slow, internal, reflective energies, and yang represents bright, hot, quick, external, active energies. According to this theory, all things are a dynamic interaction of these opposing forces. Yin/yang theory can be applied to literally everything and is not limited to medicine and health - although as the ancient Chinese discovered, it works extremely effectively in this context. Yin and yang is a way to see the forces of nature, our bodies, the food we eat, our emotions, and really, all things in existence. It is a lens through which we can see and attempt to understand ourselves and the way we interact with our world.

You are probably familiar with the taiji, or yin/yang symbol - an ancient Taoist symbol which is a graphic representation of yin and yang. The dark half represents yin, and the light represents yang,  but notice that there is a dot of each that exists in the other. They are mutually dependent and the two are never static but always changing, one into the other and vice versa. This symbol visually illustrates that although there is a duality, each part needs the other to be complete and both can coexist harmoniously.

 

Yin & Yang Personality Traits

Everything that exists, and indeed each one of us, are seen to have both yin and yang aspects. These can range from personality types, body types, physical tendencies and emotional states. Some people are more yin, and some are naturally more yang. Here is an example to help you to visualize it:

A shy, quiet person who enjoys time alone, meditation and going for long walks in the forest has a predominantly yin personality. And I suspect we have all met the gregarious and outgoing person who is very friendly, stands close, speaks loudly and is always the life of every party. This is a yang person. And the world certainly needs both.

Yin & Yang and Health

In Chinese Medicine, health is achieved when the body’s energies are in a relative state of balance. That balance is different for everyone, as was illustrated in the example above. Some people have more yin energies while others naturally have more yang. This is one of the reasons that a practitioner of Chinese medicine takes so much time to gather information from a patient in an initial visit. They are attempting to paint a picture of that person so that they can determine what they are made of, what their tendencies are, and where their imbalances lie. When yin and yang energies are out of balance, illness occurs. Thankfully, Chinese Medicine offers us many ways in which to restore the equilibrium we need to be healthy.

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Beautiful featured image by www.kittysabatier.com


Are You Yin or Yang?

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

The forces of yin and yang describe everything in the universe. Everything has its opposite, and yet, each is an intrinsic part of the other. Everything that exists has a yin as well as a yang aspect and health and the human being are no exception. In Chinese medicine, a person is seen to be made up of yin and yang forces. Each of the organ systems have yin and yang energies, and although this is a dynamic relationship and constantly changing, when these forces become unbalanced, illness can result. Below is a list of some of the basic things that are considered yin and yang, but remember, each of these individually also has a yin and yang aspect.

Yin

  • Darkness
  • Moon
  • Female
  • Night
  • Inwards
  • Contractive
  • Passive
  • Rest
  • Earth
  • Flat
  • Space
  • West
  • North
  • Right
  • Back
  • Below
  • Slow
  • Damp
  • Cold
  • Inside

Yang

  • Light
  • Sun
  • Male
  • Day
  • Outwards
  • Expansive
  • Active
  • Brightness
  • Activity
  • Heaven
  • Round
  • Time
  • East
  • South
  • Left
  • Front
  • Above
  • Fast
  • Dry
  • Hot
  • Outside

A human being also exhibits yin and yang energies. Each organ system is striving for a relative balance of its yin and yang forces, but the body as a whole often has a tendency to be more yin or yang. Are you the kind of person who can go out in the winter without a coat? Or do you need to wear socks and jammies to bed even on a hot sumer night? Are you drawn to frozen foods like ice cream, or do you crave hot drinks like tea and hot chocolate no matter what the season? Knowing the tendency of your body to be more yin or yang can help you determine how to bring it back into balance by using all the tools that Chinese medicine has in its impressive tool box.

The Yin and Yang of Foods

The Yin

Food therapy has been an integral part of Chinese medicine for thousands of years. The Chinese understood not only the medicinal properties of foods, but ascribed to each a thermal nature, contributing either a yang, or heating quality, a neutral energy or a yin or cooling energy to the body. This understanding, that all foods are either heating, cooling or neutral in nature helps to rebalance the body when the internal yin or yang energies are out of balance.

As part of my initial patient intake, I ask "are you a hot or cold person?" Most people know right away what the answer is. "Oh, I am always cold!" Or, "I am like a furnace running day and night." This is a clue to someone's relative level of yin or yang. Once you can determine if a person has an overabundance of yin or yang (cold or hot), I usually introduce a list of foods and their heating (yang), cooling (yin) or neutral nature. It is interesting how often a person with an overabundance of yang is actually eating mostly yang or heating foods, and a person with a constitution that is more yin may tend to eat more cooling foods. But this is the wonderful thing about Chinese medicine. Part of the job of the practitioner is to educate the patient and to empower them to participate in their healing. Once they become aware that they have a predominance of yin or yang, they can then take a list of foods and their yin or yang qualities and remove certain foods (that may be exacerbating the condition) and add in others to help the body to rebalance.

Here is a handy chart that lists some yin (cooling) and yang (warming) foods in Chinese medicine - but remember, there are neutral ones too.

Yin & Yang Foods in TCM : Chinese Medicine LivingThis lovely image thanks to rawayurveda.com

Yin & Yang Constitution

There are many clues that you can use to determine if you are constitutionally more yin or more yang. These are generalizations of course, an all of us have both yin as well as yang aspects, but below are some guidelines to help you recognize yin and yang traits in yourself and others.

Yang people tend to speak loudly, be excitable and move quickly (like fire). They tend to be robust, have thinner, stronger bodies, and can be red faced and passionate. Yang personalities are active, expansive and always on the move. They flare up and are changeable, like fire. They can also tend to frustration and anger.

Yin people tend to be quiet, move more slowly and are more grounded. They tend towards weight gain, or in Chinese medicine what is called dampness. They are generally soft spoken and introverted, enjoying to spend time by themselves. Yin personalities often have a rich inner life and live in their fertile imaginations. Yin people may also tend towards sadness and melancholy.

Yin & Yang Conditions

Diagnosis also depends on a deep understanding of yin and yang, and while there are many theories that are used in Chinese medicine to formulate a diagnosis, yin and yang are always a consideration. While each condition has a yin and a yang nature, there are some characteristics that point to weather a condition is more yin or yang.

Yang conditions tend to excess, exhibit heat and symptoms tend to change quickly. They are characterized by redness, swelling, red eyes, bitter taste, fevers, excess type headaches and pain with a sharp or intense nature.

Yin conditions tend to be deficient, exhibit cold or dampness and change slowly. They are characterized by discharges, lumps and bumps (dampness), a feeling of heaviness, slow movements and thinking, and a dull, achey type of pain.

The good news is, that once there has been a proper diagnosis, there are many ways to restore the relative balance of yin and yang in the body, from the foods you eat every day to acupuncture to Chinese herbs. Meditation and martial arts like Tai Chi and Qi Gong are also excellent to restoring health. Once you have an idea of your constitution, you can be aware of when you are swinging out of balance and will be armed with the tools to help yourself restore balance once again. Because the interplay between yin and yang is dynamic and constantly changing, it is helpful to be able to make small adjustments - which is why Chinese medicine works best as a medicine of prevention - rather than waiting until disease develops as the changes needed then are more drastic and generally things take longer to correct.

So... are you more yin, or more yang?? Once you begin to observe your behaviour and the ailments you tend towards, it might become obvious which you are predisposed to. But, hopefully, with the knowledge that there are foods, as well as other simple things that you can do to regain balance, it will help to keep you healthy in the present and long into the future. Yay Chinese medicine!!

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