Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine
Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine

By: Dr. David Richard, Naturopathic Doctor, Claremont, CA



Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) originated in China thousands of years ago and is still considered to be mainstream in the medical care systems of southeast Asia.  TCM includes a variety of treatments including Acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, Chinese food therapy, Electro-acupuncture, Cupping, Tui-na (Chinese massage), and Moxibustion. 


Originating from Taoism, Buddhism, and Neo-Confucianism philosophies, TCM theory dates as far back as 2000 years, and reflect the classical Chinese belief that the life and activity of individual human beings have an intimate relationship with the environment on all levels.  TCM theory developed through meticulous observation of nature, the cosmos, and the human body. TCM diagnostic techniques include observation of complexion, sounds and smells, and TCM tongue and pulse diagnoses.  TCM practitioners study the symptom picture and differentiate patterns consistent with TCM theory, then formulate a treatment plan that often includes many of the techniques described below. 





Acupuncture is a technique in which fine needles are inserted into specific points along “meridians” or “channels” on the patient's body.  Usually about a dozen acupoints are needled in one session, although the number of needles used may range anywhere from just one or two to 20 or more.  The intended effect is to increase circulation and balance energy (Qi) within the body.


Chinese food therapy: Dietary recommendations are usually made according to the patient's individual condition in relation to TCM theory.  When one is diseased (and therefore unbalanced), certain foods and herbs are prescribed to restore balance to the body.


Chinese herbal medicine: In China, herbal medicine is considered as the primary therapeutic modality of internal medicine. Of the approximately 500 Chinese herbs that are in use today, 250 or so are very commonly used.  Rather than being prescribed individually, single herbs are combined into formulas that are designed to adapt to the specific needs of individual patients. An herbal formula can contain anywhere from 3 to 25 herbs.  After the herbalist determines the energetic temperature and functional state of the patient's body, he or she prescribes a mixture of herbs tailored to balance disharmony.


Cupping: A type of Chinese massage, cupping consists of placing several glass "cups" (open spheres) on the body. A match is lit and placed inside the cup and then removed before placing the cup against the skin. As the air in the cup is heated, it expands, and after placing in the skin, cools down, creating a lower pressure inside the cup that allows the cup to stick to the skin via suction. When combined with massage oil, the cups can be slid around the back, offering what some practitioners think of as a reverse-pressure massage.


Moxibustion: "Moxa," often used in conjunction with acupuncture, consists in burning of dried Chinese mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) on acupoints. "Direct Moxa" involves the pinching of clumps of the herb into cones that are placed on acupoints and lit until warm. Typically the burning cone is removed before burning the skin and is thought, after repeated use, to warm the body and increase circulation. Moxa can also be rolled into a cigar-shaped tube, lit, and held over an acupuncture point, or rolled into a ball and stuck onto the back end of an inserted needle for warming effect.


Tui-na massage:  Oriental massage is typically administered with the patient fully clothed, without the application of grease or oils. Treatment often involves thumb presses, rubbing, percussion, stretches, and can be more aggressive than the conventional massage.