Imagine sitting on a sunny day, looking up into the canopy of a pine forest, the sunlight glinting off the ends of pine boughs dancing in a gentle breeze, golden threads reflecting against a blue sky… ethereal, ephemeral, yet rooted in the resilient, enduring strength that a tall pine embodies in our mind as well as in nature.
Pine trees’ needles are recognized by some masters of Chinese Medicine as having a shape uniquely designed to generate negative ions. Negative ions contribute to an atmosphere where one feels alive, energized. Einstein and Harbicht, in 1910, studied why the mountain air of Davos was renowned for its health giving properties. They decided it was “air electricity” (negative ions). Negative ions increase our capacity to take up oxygen; empirical research has shown that sufferers of insomnia, migraine, eczema, headaches, tiredness, allergies, depression and a general feeling of malaise are often benefited by negative ions.
When the Chinese chose the name for the tool they would use in their most subtle yet profoundly effective branch of holistic medicine, they took their inspiration from the pine, and called their tool ‘needle’. It is as unlike the hypodermic that creates fear in many patients as a gentle breeze is unlike a tornado, as a sunny day in the forest is unlike the desert’s unforgiving heat.
Acupuncture is a unique modality of primary health care in the west. It is:
- holistic medicine with roots in shamanic tradition, which over the centuries has never separated the mind and spirit from the physical body when treating the patient;
- documented by academic rigor and theory left in writing demonstrating tradition, innovation, and incorporation of new paradigms;
- a science and art combined with aspects of alchemy and quantum physics before either discipline arose in European history;
- practiced in cooperation with the patient and with astute attention to the patient’s lifestyle, background, and abilities for self-care;
Combined with herbology from the equally old tradition of polypharmacy (herbal prescriptions), acupuncture is a sensitive and powerful treatment modality.
Acupuncture is the eighth branch of Daoist medicine, and uses as its primary tool a needle inspired by the pine tree. Hairlike, filiform sterile stainless steel needles are inserted at specific meridian points (the same points used by Shiatsu practitioners) to move qi (“chi”) in the patient’s body to restore its balance. Qi is best described as the moment when energy becomes matter, the ability of the body to regenerate itself into a well state. First time patients often ask these questions.
Acupuncturists trained in either TCM or Five Phase Symbology treat the entire body, not just the primary complaint, and take an extensive health history to arrive at a diagnosis. Practitioners will base their patient inquiry on the “Ten Questions” which have been used for centuries (chills and fever, sweating, head and body, chest and abdomen, food and taste, stool and urine, sleep, deafness and tinnitus, thirst and drink, pain; and for women, gynecological conditions). Together with examining the tongue for its color, shape, and markings; and the pulses of the organs and meridians found on the wrist, an acupuncturist derives a prescription of acupuncture points for treatment.
Acupuncture is best used preventively: it can prevent the physical manifestation of disease if used to assist in maintaining the body’s (and the mind’s) equilibrium during times of change. Acupuncture treatments at the change of the seasons, or at crossroads in life (moving to a new home, leaving college, beginning a new job) can assist the body in maintaining emotional and physical balance and endurance so these changes have minimal impact on the immune system and nervous system.
Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine are effective treatment for a wide variety of chronic conditions, some of which defy modern medical diagnosis, and some for which modern medicine has yet to derive a suitable, effective treatment.
A patient considering acupuncture will benefit most from keeping in mind that their acupuncturist will become their partner in achieving wellness. Good rapport is as important as anything else the acupuncturist has to offer. The right acupuncturist will have an understanding for the patient’s chronic complaint that goes beyond textbook knowledge. If you are interested in pursuing acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine as treatment modalities, or are interested in the possibilities of combining acupuncture with health care you provide for a particular patient, Isabeau Vollhardt, L.Ac. is available by e-mail and phone to answer your questions regarding acupuncture as part of your health care regimen.
A doctor or other health care professional considering acupuncture for a patient will find that acupuncturists are now trained in pre-med, scope of practice, and practice management. Isabeau is available to answer questions for MDs and other care providers about whether acupuncture can assist a given patient, or about what kinds of patients can benefit most from adding acupuncture to their course of treatment.