According to Chinese Medicine theories, the meridian system is a network of energetic pathways which connects internal organs with body tissues and muscles. Qi (or life force) circulates within the meridians. Disease occurs when Qi flow is obstructed or insufficient to the point of affecting bodily functions. By inserting needles at acupoints (strategic locations where meridian Qi accumulates), disease-causing blockages and imbalances are corrected and equilibrium is restored.
Modern science sees acupuncture needles as physical stimulus to the brain. Depending on the conditions being treated, the brain responded by way of promoting or suppressing the release of biochemicals, neurotransmitters and hormones. This explains the pain and stress relief effects of acupuncture. By extension, other bodily and nervous malfunctions affecting sleep, appetite, nerve impulses, cravings and temperature control can be regulated through acupuncture.
The stimulation on meridian Qi causes integrated therapeutic effect benefiting various systems of the body. Some conditions commonly treated by acupuncture are:
· Pain, both acute and chronic
- Headache, migraine, sciatica, frozen shoulder, arthritis, rheumatism, cervical spondylopathy, knee pain, tennis elbow, lower back pain, tendonitis, temporal-mandibular joint (TMJ) syndrome, whiplash etc.
· Nervous system disorders
- Belle’s palsy, neuralgia, post-stroke paralysis, depression, anxiety, palpitation etc.
· Digestive disorders
- Intestinal wind, stomach ulcers, gastritis, heartburn, indigestion, irritable bowels, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation etc.
· Ear, nose, throat and respiratory disorders
- Hayfever, rhinitis, sinusitis, asthma, shortness of breath etc.
· Circulatory disorders
- Palpitation, angina, edema, numbess and tingling sensations etc.
· Urinary and reproductive disorders
- Bed-wetting, cystitis, hot flushes, period pain, impotence, pelvic inflammation etc.
Acupuncture should not be painful. Sometimes there is a tingling sensation when needles are being inserted. To achieve De Qi (the arrival of Qi), the physician might then manipulate some points using certain techniques. At this point, energetic sensations usually begin settling in. Generally described as distention, numbness or heaviness, these sensations are absolutely normal and should be distinguished from pain. In fact, most patients reported feeling relaxed, pleasant and calm during needle retention.
Acupuncture needles are sterile and disposed of after single use. The risk of infection or cross contamination is almost nil. The needles are hair-thin, solid with smooth round tips, designed to gently edge tissue aside during insertion. Contrary to the belief of some people, the possibility of nerve damage resulting from acupuncture is extremely rare. In fact, one of the common uses of acupuncture is in treating neuropathy and nerve-related pain. Some patients do continue feeling odd even after needles are removed. These flow-on energetic sensations should be distinguished from signs of nerve damage. Performed by qualified acupuncturist using appropriate needling techniques, acupuncture is very safe and reliable.
Genuine side effects of acupuncture are rarely seen. Some patients feel light-headed, sleepy and nausea after acupuncture. These short-lived feelings are not side effects, and should be seen as signs of energetic equilibrium being shifted. In some cases, patients mistakenly believe they are experiencing a worsening of original symptoms after an acupuncture session. These disturbing signs could be increased inflammation, more severe flu symptoms, extreme fatigue, or even appearance of sore spots previously unknown of. If one understands that acupuncture helps the body to fight-off disease through stimulating immune response, rather than masking symptoms, then these flare-up responses are not side effects but signs of healing taking place.
Drinking plenty of water and taking enough rest are essential self-care measures after an acupuncture session.
The frequency of acupuncture sessions depend on the nature of condition being treated and the vitality of the patient. An acute condition generally shows certain degree of relief after 2 to 3 sessions performed within days. Some painful condition necessitates daily acupuncture over a treatment course provided that the patient has a robust constitution. Chronic conditions takes months or years to develop, and generally require anywhere between 8 to 12 weekly or twice-weekly sessions before signs of improvement are apparent. Degenerative conditions and repetitive strained injuries need regular maintenance sessions once acute symptoms are relieved.
Bear in mind that acupuncture is a natural medicine which helps the body making positive changes to restore equilibrium. One should not expect dramatic effect immediately. Generally a sense of energy boost and emotional calmness are experienced after 1 to 2 sessions.
Being well-prepared will greatly reduce uncomfortable feelings during and after an acupuncture session. A light-meal 1 to 2 hours before treatment prevents nausea and dizziness. Avoid alcohol before and after treatment to prevent risk of shock. Wear loose and comfortable clothing not only ensure relaxed resting, but also provide easy access to points especially those above knees and around elbows.
Chinese Herbal Medicine FAQs
Chinese herbal medicine is typically a mixture of natural herbs, minerals and in some cases animal products (non-endangered species) tailored to treat certain conditions. Chinese herbology recognizes that each herb has its unique taste (pungent, sweet, sour, bitter or salty) and nature (cold, cool, warm or hot). The mixture of a number of different herbs within a herbal formula integrates the taste and nature of each individual herbs, guiding the therapeutic effect of the formula to target organs or meridians. Some formulas aim to strengthen energy and enhance body function, some replenish vital substances, while others might have been designed to relieve pain, remove blockages and metabolic wastes.
Chinese herbal medicine is safe and effective for management of chronic disease in conjunction with conventional Western medicine. It is very commonly used to counter the side effects of antibiotics, anti-inflammatories and chemotherapies. In some debilitating cases where conventional Western medicine offer only symptomatic relief, Chinese herbal medicine is used as an alternative therapy and provides lasting resolution of disease-causing mechanism. More and more people are beginning to consider Chinese herbal medicine as a form of preventative therapies. Taken regularly over a long period of time, some herbal formulas can slow down the ageing process.
Chinese herbal medicine is slower in achieving noticeable effect, but gentler and less irritating to the digestive system making it suitable for long term use. The therapeutic emphasis of each herbal formula can be adjusted through manipulation of dosages and herb choices. When treating acute conditions, symptomatic relief outweighs rebalancing of disharmony in terms of therapeutic focus. Chronic conditions call for gentle formulas targeting the root of disharmony while offering certain degree of discomfort relief. Under no circumstances does Chinese herbal medicine compromises immunity and mask symptoms. Herbal formulas can be constantly modified to meet changing needs of the patient during a prolonged and difficult course of recovery.
The suitability of using Chinese herbal medicine in conjunction with Western medicine should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Some herbs interact with Western medication causing undesirable effects. It is always important to show your physician a list of Western medication and herbal supplements you are currently taking.
Depending on how the medicine is being administered. Herbal tea decocted from raw herbs generally does not taste nice because it is a mixture of all flavours of the herbs within the formula. One flavour (be it bitter, sweet, sour or salty) usually dominates, indicating the therapeutic action of that particular tea. Herbal tea can also be prescribed in granulated form to be taken after dissolving in hot water. Granulated tea still tastes a bit unpleasant, but it is easier to prepare and take compared to the decocted ones. In cases of less complex conditions being treated, Chinese herbal medicine can be prescribed in the form of patent pills/tablets/capsules. Though less ‘tailor-made’ than the teas, pills/tablets/capsules usually taste better.
Always bear in mind that the benefit you derive from herbal medicine outweighs the difficulty in taking it. Better not let the potential ‘yucky’ taste dictate your choice of medication.
Though Chinese herbal medicine generally works slower than conventional Western medicine, there are fast acting herbs/formulas that deliver relief within hours. Examples are teas prescribed for treating acute cold, flu, stomach pain etc.
For more complex conditions, especially those chronic ones developed over many years, at least 3 to 4 weeks of medicine taking is needed before noticeable changes occur. Reason being more organs or body systems are involved in chronic disorders. Imagine the disease being ‘peeled away’ in stages during the treatment program. Herbal formulas for patients with chronic conditions need to be progressively adjusted to suit different stages of the recovery process. When the healing momentums of all involved organs are in tandem with each other, patients start feeling heaps better.
In Australia, the prescribing and dispensing of Chinese herbal formulas are carried out by qualified Chinese Herbal Medicine Practitioners. The granulated herbal extracts which we use in the herbal formulas are Australia GMP certified products and only for dispensing by a practitioner.
Chinese medicine therapies are not just for eliminating symptoms. A well balanced herbal formula targets the client’s presenting symptoms and treats the root cause of the condition. The process of recovery is gradual, but the benefit to overall physical and emotional health is more sustained. To practise the holistic Chinese medicine healing approach, an herbalist not only requires in-depth knowledge of classical herbal formulas, also needs to demonstrate necessary skills and experience in combining formulas and single herbs, in order to create the desired therapeutic synergy.
Dr Joanne Vidich is a qualified Chinese Herbal Medicine Practitioner and Acupuncturist registered with the Chinese Medicine Board of Australia (CMBA). The Board is under the governance of Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA). Joanne is passionate in the Chinese medicine art of healing, and during her professional life, continues to attend training and workshops both in Australia and abroad.
Chinese herbal formulas can be taken for 3 main purposes: promoting health, maintaining a treatment outcome, and overcome diseases.
- Initial consultation: We need to see you either in person or via Skype. You can either visit the clinic for a consultation, or you can have an online consultation with the practitioner. Your herbal medicine can be picked up at the clinic or delivered to you by post.
- Ongoing herbal treatment: You can either visit the clinic, have a skype consultation or correspond with Joanne via email. Repeat consultations will enable us to find out your response to the herbal formula, whether you are continually getting better or that your recovery has plateaued. Most importantly, we need to adjust your herbal prescription if you feel any discomfort while taking the formula. Chinese herbal formulas are balanced and usually do not cause side effects. However, clients who have impaired digestion may need the dosage adjusted, to ensure that certain rich and tonifying herbs do not cause any discomfort.
- Refill of herbal script: You can either ring or send us an email.
Fill up an intake form – either at the clinic or online.
- We will have a discussion about your primary health concern. A detailed consultation help us work out the root cause of your condition, in the context of your medical history, emotions and lifestyle.
- Examine your tongue to find out your internal condition. If you are in the clinic, we will also feel your pulse as part of the diagnostic process.
Finally we will discuss your treatment goals, the course and duration of treatment, as well as costs involved.
At Joanne Vidich Chinese Medicine, we prescribe customised herbal formulas in granule form. Granulated extracts of single herb and compound formula are mixed together in accordance to a client-specific prescription.
Frequency of herbs taking
- For acute disorders, we generally dispense a formula for use over 5 to 7 days. The initial herbal formula are required to be taken 2 to 3 times per day until finish. We will re-book the client for a review consultation either in the clinic, online or by phone, to assess whether a repeat or modification to the initial herbal formula is required. If the condition is not completely resolved, clients have a choice to either continue their herbal therapies, or visit the clinic for acupuncture therapies, or both.
- For the active treatment of chronic disorders, we dispense granulated formulas for use over 10 days per fortnight. Clients are advised to take the herbs on a regular basis for 5 days per week. Most clients prefer to have the herbs during Monday to Friday, and have a break during the weekend. Maintenance treatment or health booster formulas only need to be taken 3 times per week on a continual basis, or for 10 to 12 days every month.
Preparation of the herbal tea
- The granulated herbal formulas are easy to prepare at home or at your workplace. Using the herbs at regular intervals preferably around meal time on a daily basis ensures optimum therapeutic effect. Simply dissolved 2 to 3 spoons of granules in a small amount of boiled water to make it into a herbal tea. If your herbal formula contain granules that are richer in nature, leave the mixture for 5 minutes until all the granules are completely dissolved. Drink the herbal tea while it is warm.
Chinese Medicine General FAQs
Chinese Medicine treats the person, not just the disease and its symptoms. This holistic approach means that a Chinese Medicine practitioner place heavy emphasis on identifying internal patterns of disharmony. Chinese Medicine sees the underlying disharmony as the root, whereas the disease itself is merely the manifestation or branch. Of course treating the chief complaint takes priority in the initial treatment plan, eventually resolving the root of the disease is the key to long term relief.
Be prepared to face in-depth questioning in your first consultation. You will be asked about things which you do not think relates to your chief complaint, such as your emotional state, sleeping patterns, diet, even bowel habits. As part of an ancient diagnostic regimen, the practitioner will also check your tongue and feel your pulse. The abdomen and selected body areas are sometimes palpated.
It is essential to list down Western medications and natural supplements you are currently taking. Always helpful if you bring the medical report or any scan results relevant to the condition being treated.
The mode of actions of Chinese Medicine and Western Medicine are completely different. Chinese Medicine treatment methods are mostly natural and non-invasive. During a consultation session, you will find that a Chinese Medicine practitioner rely very little on modern technologies in making a diagnosis. The treatment approach is not interventive in nature, but rather focusing on encourage the body to heal itself. Natural Chinese herbs instead of synthetic pharmaceuticals are prescribed.
Chinese medicine treatment is a proven effective complement to conventional Western medication. Take the example of eczema. Instead of focusing on stopping the itch or drying the weeping rash, the Chinese Medicine idea is that the condition is caused by a few patterns of internal disharmonies. Subject to their lifestyle, diet and emotional state, individuals are prone to developing certain patterns. As such a Chinese Medicine practitioner will prescribe different Chinese herbal formula and acupuncture therapies to different patients who comes to the clinic with eczema.
No. Always consult your Western physician prior to changing doses or stopping medication you are currently on.
In many situations Chinese Medicine treatments are used as complementary therapies. Whether for purpose of addressing certain aspects of a complex condition, or reducing side effect of conventional treatment, the effect of acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine phases-in gradually. Even in cases where it is commonly known that conventional medicine offers no profound effect apart from symptomatic relief, stopping your medication abruptly could cause undesirable effect and sudden shock to the body.
When you adopt Chinese medicine as a treatment regimen for a particular condition, you are at the same time improving general health, and preventing future health problems. The key difference comes from Chinese medicine treating patterns of illness, not just the symptoms or the condition. You can think of the patterns as an extension of the underlying contributing factors, or root cause, of your current illness.
For example, different patient suffering from insomnia will get diagnosed with different patterns of disharmony in a Chinese medicine clinic. In general insomnia is classified as a ShenDisturbance (Heart Spirit which is wandering or unsettled) syndrome. But say you are complaining of having insomnia for the past 6 months, and during the initial consultation we found that you have been bottling up anger, drinking nightly attempting to relieve pressure, and that you have been tossing and turning, waking up at 3am unable to fall back asleep. A flushed complexion, red tongue, fast and strong pulse will confirm the diagnosis of Liver Fire harassing the Heart Spirit as your pattern of illness. Instead of prescribing you with sleeping tablets, Chinese medicine will drain Liver Fire, calm the spirit, and promote sleep.
Sometime during the course of your treatment, you may notice that you no longer suffer from heart burn, and that constipation has gone away. Liver Fire can also affect the Stomach and Intestines, causing symptoms related to upward rising Qi and dryness. By treating the Liver Fire pattern, we have also restored the Qi movement and preserved the moistening Yin substance in the digestion system.
At the same time, treating the Liver Fire pattern which is the cause of your sleeping problem today, can actually help preventing the development of other health problems arising from the extension of your Liver disharmony. Left untreated, Liver Fire can lead to serious mental health condition such as anxiety and panic attacks. Or say you are a female in late thirties, then early menopause or severe hot flushes may happen, due to Kidney Yin being damaged by untreated Liver Fire.
Your initial appointment at the clinic will begin with a comprehensive consultation process. During the consultation, we discuss your health problem, and gather information which will enable us to do a differentiation of disease patterns. At the end of the process, we arrive at a diagnosis, and it is expressed in Chinese medicine terms as patterns of disharmony. This is the starting point of your treatment plan. We like having a brief chat so that you understand the internal disharmony (as in physical and emotional imbalances) and external influences (as in diet, lifestyle, habits etc.) which are contributing factors to your unique pattern. Most importantly we want to know your expectation in seeking Chinese medicine treatment, so that we can decide on treatment courses and treatment techniques.
After that you will either be lying down for a relaxing 40-minute acupuncture treatment, prescribed herbal granules for taking at home, or both.
What information do you gather in the consultation process?
The Eight Principles, Zang Fu (internal organ) theory and Meridians theory are the 3 guiding principles of Chinese medicine diagnosis. The 4 main diagnostic methods are: Inspection, Olfaction and Auscultation, Questioning and Palpation. Inspection of tongue, palpation of pulse and meridian pathways are particularly important.
Be prepared to be asked questions seemingly unrelated to the condition you are seeking treatment for. There will be extensive history taking and discussion on lifestyle and diet. Since we are treating the person rather than just the symptoms, we need to analyse all available information to arrive at a diagnosis as in patterns of disharmony.
Commonly asked questions during a Chinese medicine consultation are: body temperature, sweating, pain and discomfort in all major body areas (including characteristic of pain); pain and discomfort in all sensory organs, digestion (as in appetitie, thirst and taste), toilet habits and emotions.