Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) looks at the human body as a microcosm of Nature. The same forces that act on nature, act on the body. This ancient medicine is defined by the concept of yin and yang, two opposing forces that are connected. According to the Philosophy of the Tao, which is the heart of TCM, yin and yang create and sustain the universe and all existence includes this duality.
The characteristics of yin are likened to water (i.e. substantial, cooling, moistening) and yang, to fire (i.e. function, warming, drying) or simply night (yin) and day (yang). It is the balance between yin and yang, which we strive for in our individual journey and it is truly important in maintaining a healthy internal ecosystem.
An assessment of your health by a TCM practitioner is based on The Eight Principles which are: internal/external, cold/heat, excess/deficiency, and yin/yang.
Central also to TCM is the concept of qi (pronounced chee) or energy. It is the force that enlivens every cell, every aspect of life. Qi is a kind of bioelectrical force that flows throughout the body, carried by a network of channels called meridians.
These meridians have been mapped over the course of thousands of years of observation and experimentation. The insertion of needles (acupuncture) at various points along these meridians produces measurable effects on different parts, organs and systems of the body by affecting the flow of qi through the meridian and in turn the functioning of the organ system. Acupuncture seeks to unblock blockages in the meridian system thus restoring homeostasis.
Within the human body, we affect the balance of yin and yang by what we eat, our lifestyle, emotions, activities, and thoughts. Imbalance occurs with stress, chemicals, lack of exercise, poor eating, etc., and leads to excesses and deficiencies of yin and yang. Therapeutically, if an herb is taken, a change in lifestyle is undertaken, an acupuncture treatment is received; all affects our internal qi thus having effect on the balance of yin and yang within.
Studies indicate that the mechanism of acupuncture is this: pressure exerted by an acupuncture needle triggers the release of prostaglandins, which stimulate production of chemicals in the nerve endings, which in turn transmit a message to the hypothalamus. Acupuncture affects the functioning of the hypothalamus and the release of hormonal substances throughout the body.
Fortunately, to benefit from TCM or acupuncture you don’t have to understand how it works or believe in it. It works with the body’s natural inclination towards homeostasis, which is to create balance.