Questions and Answers



Traditional Chinese medicine is a broad range of medicine practices sharing common concepts which have been developed in China and are based on a tradition of more than 2,000 years, including various forms of herbal medicine, acupuncture, massage exercise , and dietary therapy.


How is traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practiced in U.S?
Traditional Chinese medicine, which encompasses many different practices, is rooted in the ancient philosophy of Taoism and dates back more than 5,000 years. Today, TCM is practiced side by side with Western medicine in many of China’s hospitals and clinics.

TCM is widely used in the United States. Acupuncture is sometimes used in conjunction with Western medicines, sometimes as an alternative. It was estimated in 1997 that some 10,000 practitioners served more than 1 million patients each year.  According to the 2007 National Health Interview Survey, which included questions on the use of various CAM therapies, an estimated 3.1 million U.S. adults had used acupuncture in the previous year. In addition, according to this same survey, approximately 17 percent of adults use natural products, including herbs, making it the most commonly used therapy. In another survey, more than one-third of the patients at six large acupuncture clinics said they also received Chinese herbal treatments at the clinics.

The World Health Organization and the National Institute of Health endorse acupuncture as being effective treatments for numerous conditions.

What is the concept of TCM?
The view of TCM is based on the ancient Chinese perception of human beings as microcosms of the larger, surrounding universe—interconnected with nature and subject to its forces. The human body is regarded as an organic entity in which the various organs, tissues, and other parts have distinct functions but they are all interdependent. In this view, health and disease relate to balance of the functions.

What are the key components of TCM?
Yin-yang theory—the concept of two opposing, yet complementary, forces that shape the world and all life—is central to TCM.

In the TCM view, a vital energy or life force called qi circulates in the body through a system of pathways called meridians. Health is an ongoing process of maintaining balance and harmony in the circulation of qi.

The TCM approach uses eight principles to analyze symptoms and categorize conditions: cold/heat, interior/exterior, excess/deficiency, and yin/yang (the chief principles). TCM also uses the theory of five elements—fire, earth, metal, water, and wood—to explain how the body works; these elements correspond to particular organs and tissues in the body.

How do we make diagnosis based on TCM theory?
TCM emphasizes individualized treatment.  Practitioners traditionally use four methods to evaluate a patient’s condition: observing (especially the tongue), hearing/smelling, asking/interviewing, and touching/palpating (especially the pulse).

How does acupuncture work?
Acupuncture points are areas of designated electrical sensitivity. Inserting needles at these points stimulate various sensory receptors that, in turn, stimulate nerves that transmit impulses to the hypothalamic-pituitary system at the base of the brain.

The hypothalamus-pituitary glands are responsible for releasing neurotransmitters and endorphins.  These endorphins are natural pain killer hormones.  It is estimated that endorphins are 200 times more potent than morphine. Endorphins also play a big role in the functioning of the hormonal system. This is why acupuncture works well for back pain and arthritis, P.M.S., infertility and as well as for well-being.

The substances released as a result of acupuncture not only relax the whole body; they also   regulate serotonin in the brain, which plays a role in human and animal disposition. This is why depression is often treated with acupuncture.

How safe is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture treatment is very safe if a well-trained practitioner performs it properly. Unlike many drugs, it is non-toxic, and adverse reactions are minimal. This is probably one of the chief reasons why acupuncture is so popular in the treatment of chronic pain in many countries.  As mentioned previously, acupuncture is comparable with morphine preparations in its effectiveness against chronic pain, but without the adverse effects of morphine, such as dependency.

What do the experts say (NIH except)?
Neurological disorders Headaches, migraines and neuralgia are the common painful conditions treated with acupuncture.  Strokes are another major indication for acupuncture. Early treatment of paresis after stroke has proved highly effective.

Peripheral nervous disorders are often treated with acupuncture. For example, good effects for Bell’s palsy have been reported in randomized controlled trials.

A respiratory disorder Acupuncture is often used in treating respiratory disorders. Allergic rhinitis is one of the major indications. In controlled studies, it has been shown that acupuncture is more effective than antihistamine drugs in the treatment of allergic rhinitis.

Digestive disorders Epigastric pain is a common symptom in diseases of the stomach, including peptic ulcer, acute and chronic gastritis, and gastric spasm. Acupuncture provides satisfactory relief of epigastric pain—significantly better than injections of anisodamine or morphine plus atropine.

Another common symptom of digestive disorders is nausea and vomiting. Morning sickness, postoperative vomiting, and nausea and vomiting related to chemotherapy are frequently encountered clinically. In all these conditions, acupuncture has a specific antiemetic effect.

Irritable colon syndrome and chronic ulcerative colitis are often difficult to treat with conventional medication. For these diseases, acupuncture may serve as a complementary or alternative therapeutic measure.

Gynecological and obstetric disorders Primary dysmenorrhea, a painful condition, is one of the major indications for acupuncture in the field of gynecological disorders. Acupuncture relieves pain and also regulates the motility of the uterus to facilitate menstrual discharge and further alleviate the pain.  The study is also suggested that acupuncture could influence some genetic expression in the brain, thereby normalizing the secretion of certain hormones, such as gonadotropin-releasing hormone, luteinizing hormone and estradiol; Acupuncture is also treat female infertility due to inflammatory obstruction of the fallopian tubes, where it seems to be superior to conventional therapy with intrauterine injection of gentamicin, chymotrypsin and dexamethasone.