TCM Healing Modalities
TCM has a variety of natural healing methods that can help you resolve your health issues. These healing forms are ancient and have been used effectively—without harmful side effects—for thousands of years. These modalities reflect Chinese insight and ingenuity in creating methods that promote healing in specific ways.
Each and every TCM modality is based on Qi. You were born with a self-healing ability, and through the use of a particular healing form, TCM practitioners recharge that self-healing function in your body. These modalities can increase and balance your Qi, giving your body and being the healing support it needs to regain its healthy function.
Just how long acupuncture has been practiced no one can really say. Ancient bone and stone “needles” thought to be thousands of years old have been found in modern excavation sites in China. What is known is that therapy with the technique of acupuncture has been helping heal people for ages.
It’s impossible to define acupuncture without linking it to Qi, or energy. Everything in the universe is comprised of energy. In your body, Qi flows through invisible energy pathways called “meridians,” and it activates, warms, and nourishes your body.
Acupuncture needles—today, made of stainless steel—are used to relieve energy blockages at key acupoints along the meridians to help the Qi flow smoothly. An organ’s function can also be readjusted by acupuncture to help restore internal balance and harmony among the organs.
Sometimes you hear people say that acupuncture hasn’t worked for them. The truth of the matter is some conditions respond well to acupuncture and some don’t. It’s also important to know that effective treatment is dependent to a great degree on the acupuncturist’s skill and whether his or her energy frequency can match yours.
Pain, for instance, can come from different sources. It can be from an external cause, such as a sports injury, or from an internal condition, such as a Qi deficiency or stagnation of Qi, which can show up in symptoms like a migraine or back pain. Generally speaking, external conditions are easier to treat. Internal conditions tend to be more complex and require a deeper knowledge to determine their root cause in order to fully resolve the health issue.
Is the key factor in acupuncture the needle, the acupoint, or the level of the practitioner? True acupuncture, also called “energy acupuncture,” requires deep insight into what has caused the health problem and which organs have been affected. The truth is the needle is simply a vehicle between the practitioner’s Qi and the patient’s Qi. Bottom line, it’s the understanding, skill, and energy level of the acupuncturist that makes acupuncture work, and not the needles or the selection of certain acupoints.
Authentic TCM acupressure, called tuina (pronounced twee nah) in China, uses specific hand techniques, or sometimes even tools, to stimulate acupoints and meridians. Meridians are the invisible energy pathways in your body along which acupoints are located and through which your Qi flows. With acupressure—from a practitioner or in the form of regular self-massage—Qi that is blocked or stagnant can be released and allowed to flow freely once again.
Acupressure is a medical treatment and is very different than standard Western types of massage because it works on your body’s energy level and not just on the surface level of the muscles and body tissues.
Though different than acupuncture, acupressure can be just as effective. Actually, for some conditions, like sports injuries and simple sprains, it’s more useful and easier on the person receiving treatment. Sometimes, when it is appropriate, TCM doctors use acupuncture and acupressure in combination, and this can really accelerate the healing benefits.
Classical Herbal Therapy
TCM has relied on herbal therapy as a healing tool for thousands of years. Along the way, it has identified and classified the essential properties of literally thousands of herbs and just how they act on the body-mind-spirit. Interestingly, an extremely wide range of objects fall into the category of TCM herbs: dirt, stones, bones, insects, a diverse selection of animal parts, as well as more common plant parts, such as leaves, blossoms, stems, and roots. TCM recognizes that everything is energy, and so unique energies that can impact the human body and energy system are not limited to the plant kingdom.
This holistic healing system uses herbs in a truly unique way: in combination. In a TCM formula the individual herbs used combine to make a substance that is much more powerful that the sum of the individual parts. In a formula the herbs act together as a team, with each herb performing a specific task within the body, to achieve the objective of the formula as a whole.
Eating for Healing
Food is something you eat every day—for most people, three times a day. If you stop and think about it, why not eat in a way that truly supports your health and well-being? This is precisely the approach TCM takes when it comes to food. TCM has understood the healing properties of food for millennia, and it knows the value of accumulating healing benefits from everyday actions, like eating, one day at a time.
When TCM speaks about the value of food it is referring to qualities beyond physical characteristics such as calories, minerals, and nutritional content like carbohydrates and protein. TCM realizes that each and every food has a special essence—a healing essence—that works in the body at the energy level. Using the Five Element theory, which maps the interrelationships of all things, TCM practitioners prescribe foods that have an essence that heals particular organs that may be out of balance or in need of healing support. This is the essence of TCM’s eating-for-healing approach.
TCM wisdom also teaches us to follow the seasons when selecting foods. This means regularly including foods in the diet that support the organ system at its peak during each season. Every season has a corresponding taste, according to the Five Element theory: for example, summer is associated with a bitter taste, fall with a pungent or spicy taste, winter’s taste is salty, and in spring the taste is sour.
The life force or energy that animates everything in the universe and your body is the very essence of Qigong. It’s a Chinese practice that uses movements and postures and can create many physical healing benefits, but it’s important to realize that Qigong is not physical exercise. It moves beyond the muscle and tissue and works in your body at the level of energy, or Qi.
Literally meaning “energy work,” Qigong breaks down energy blockages and promotes the free flow of energy throughout your body’s meridian system, the invisible pathways through which Qi moves and that connect everything in your body.
Consistent Qigong practice increases and balances your body’s Qi. Working directly on your body’s meridian system—your energy body—it stimulates and nourishes the internal organs, making the energetic communication between them more efficient. And by increasing the effectiveness of all body systems, Qigong helps conserve Qi. These qualities are important to your health because TCM theory says that in order to have good health you must have sufficient Qi that flows freely throughout your body and your internal organs must function together in harmony.
Five Element Psychology
If you speak with modern TCM practitioners, you will quickly discover that unbalanced emotions are the source of many modern health issues. How does TCM work with these kinds of health problems?
Chinese medicine looks deeply at the emotions as a gauge for health, yet it understands that a person’s emotional state is not only a question of emotions but is also related to organ function. By adjusting the function of the organ (or organs) involved, there will be an accompanying adjustment in the emotions. You might wonder how this is possible.
In the TCM paradigm, your body is a whole, and your mind and emotions are completely connected. TCM understands that body, mind, emotions, and spirit are linked, and that an excess of any emotion can affect the function and balance of its corresponding organ. The reverse is also true: an imbalance in an organ’s function can actually cause emotional issues.
Five Element psychology is based on TCM’s Five Element theory, which is a comprehensive system that organizes everything, including your internal organs, into five Universal interacting groups or patterns. The Five Element theory perceives that each organ has a specific emotion related to it. The expression and level of any emotion therefore is closely tied to and dependent on the level of its corresponding organ’s function.
Liver is associated with Anger
Heart is associated with Joy
Spleen is associated with Worry
Lung is associated with Grief
Kidney is associated with Fear
Let’s look at this more closely with some specific examples.
According to the Five Element theory, the Liver is associated with the emotion anger and related feelings like frustration, stress, and resentment. If this organ is imbalanced and its function becomes impaired in some way, this situation can cause excessive anger or any of the feelings related to anger.
In another instance, if a person has suffered a broken heart from a difficult relationship, this will eventually cause an organ function disorder if the problematic emotion is not addressed and resolved. Joy is the Heart’s corresponding emotion. When an individual loses the capacity to experience joy, ultimately this emotional state can cause the Heart’s function to fall out of balance. Heart issues will cause the other organs to become imbalanced; the body is that interconnected. Then the whole body’s emotional state will be impacted.
So while Five Element psychology works with the emotions and the thought patterns that cause them to arise or that accompany them, it is very different than Western psychology because it works at the level of invisible energy relationships.