Chinese Medicine has a long history with many different modalities used to obtain optimal health. Depending on the patient, acupuncturists pick which modalities would best suit the condition. What I tend to use most often are: acupuncture, moxibustion, Shaitsu massage, herbal therapy, dietary counseling, qigong/meditation, yoga postures, and essential oils.
Often referred to as ‘moxa’, this is a warming modality that involves the herb mugwort, Artemisia vulgaris. It is burned above the skin or on acupuncture points and comes in numerous forms, including cones, sticks, or loose herb. The sticks look like cigars and are held over the skin and can treat large areas. Whereas cones are placed on the skin directly over an acupuncture point and loose herb can be used on the same way, or applied to the free end of an acupuncture needle.
Moxa is one of my favorite modalities, especially in the colder months because the warmth it generates is so penetrating and nourishing. It is great for those that have poor energy, sluggish digestion, or feel chilled easily.
The Chinese materia medica is an extensive compendium of medicinal substances that include plants, minerals, and animal parts. Each individual medicine, or herb, is classified by its temperature (i.e. cold, cool, hot warm, or neutral) and flavor (i.e. pungent, sweet, sour, bitter, and salty). The combination of these characteristics will illicit different effects on the body and give each herb a specific function, such as heat clearing or dampness eliminating.
Most of the time herbs are used in combinations, called herbal formulas, where multiple herbs work synergistically to treat the root of the disease and alleviate symptoms.
Shiatsu massage is a Japanese form of acupressure massage. It involves finger or palm pressure along the acupuncture points and meridians. Stretches are incorporated in with the pressure to obtain deeper impact. Often, shiatsu is preformed on a mat but can be administered on a massage table, which is the method I use. It promotes deep relaxation and a sense of well being that helps to integrate the other treatment modalities. I almost always incorporate some form of massage into every treatment.
Food as medicine is deeply ingrained in Chinese culture. There are aspects of this that we as Americans are familiar with as well, such as chicken noodle soup when you are sick. It is important to take season and climate into consideration when making food choices so that you use your bodies resources instead of going against them. For example, very cold foods are hard on the digestive fire, so you only want to consume them in the middle of the day when the temperature outside is at its peak and your body is most awake and thus warm. Unlike a lot of Western style dieting advice, I like to have clients add in certain food items before I start advising them to cut other foods out. I also offer recipes that utilize an assortment of cooking herbs that help the body metabolize more efficiently.
Qigong is an Asian form of mind body exercise. I like to refer to it as moving meditation and honestly I find it more assessable to people who have trouble just sitting for mediation or who have physical limitations that keep them from vigorous exercise. Most forms of qigong involve some type of visualization that help keep the mind focused on the meditative task at hand… whether it is visualizing an animal or using light to move energy in the body. I like to suggest such imagery during an acupuncture treatment, to help the client relax. The movements are slow and intentional, often following circular patterns or mimicking the movements of animals. Different mediation techniques can be used at home to build concentration, memory, and mental and emotional stability.
Therapeutic grade essential oils can be used in clinical aromatherapy. This is very different from essential oils used in the fragrance and cosmetic industry. Therapeutic grade essential oils can be used to treat a wide range of physical or mental and emotional issues. In the treatment room, oils are selected depending on the needs of the client and then either administered directly onto the skin or through inhalation. I find them especially useful for tight muscles and physical trauma, as well as for mental clarity, emotional stability, and as an aid in relaxation.