The various modalities of TCM therapy include diet, massage, heat therapies, exercise, meditation, and acupuncture. Heat therapies include the use of moxibustion. Moxibustion is the burning of the herb mugwort over certain areas of the body to stimulate or warm these areas. Exercise therapy ranges from martial arts to more subtle forms of movement such as tai chi and qi gong.
Acupuncture is perhaps the most well-known form of TCM in the United States. It is the art of inserting fine, sterile, metal filiform needles into acupuncture points on the body in order to control the flow of energy (qi). Acupuncture therapy can include electrostimulation and/or hand stimulation. This form of therapy is most appreciated for its ability to relieve pain. However, acupuncture is also able to help change body energy patterns, which promotes the body’s ability to heal itself of disease syndromes and symptoms.
In these treatments, TCM often does not distinguish energetic effects from physiologic effects. The different modalities of TCM have different aims. Some focus on balancing the body’s energy, while others focus on building the physical body and adding substances to both balance and change the body materially. For example, the Enhance® herbal preparation used in HCV, as well as HIV, contains herbs to tonify the spleen qi and build xue. Qi tonification increases the amount of energy available for certain bodily function. Qi tonic herbs often have the specific effect of increasing digestion and food absorption. This increases the quality of the blood (xue).
Acupuncture is associated with balancing the body’s energy levels, while herbal substances are more like drugs or foods in that they have specific physical effects. Breathing exercises are known to strengthen qi. One meaning of the Chinese word qi is air. By learning how to breathe correctly, more oxygen is made available to enter the bloodstream.
TCM uses acupuncture extensively in the treatment of long-term disease. The primary goal of acupuncture treatment is to readjust the body’s qi in order to enable the body to heal itself.
TCM uses acupuncture extensively in the treatment of long-term disease. Though some of the herbal theories already discussed may apply to acupuncture, the primary goal of acupuncture treatment is to readjust the body’s qi in order to enable the body to heal itself. Therefore, acupuncture treatment can be used to treat both specific symptoms and a general epidemic pattern.
After a TCM diagnosis is given for a patient with long-term disease, an acupuncture treatment plan is developed by considering the epidemic nature of the disease, the individual’s complaints, and any underlying constitutional TCM patterns of illness. On a symptomatic level, acupuncture treatments can address digestive functions, appetite, energy level, stress, anxiety, depression, pain, and skin complications. Acupuncture can play a role in relieving side effects of therapies commonly used by western medical practitioners in the treatment of long-term disease.
An important part of TCM treatment in some long-term diseases is the use of moxibustion.
Moxibustion is the burning of the herb mugwort (called moxa in Chinese) over certain points or areas of the body that correspond to acupuncture points. Moxa is rolled into a cigar-like stick or used loose over protected skin to create warmth and tonification. In Chinese studies, moxa has been shown to increase digestive function, white blood cell and platelet counts, and may have an effect on the transformation of T cells (one type of immune cell). Moxibustion is often used for pain syndromes and areas that appear or feel cold on the body.
Read more: Herbal Medicine