alive logo

Acupuncture: Health and Vitality through Balanced Energy


Acupuncture is a five-thousand-year-old traditional Chinese healing art that aims to rebalance the flow of Qi (pronounced "chee"), or life force, in the body. By harmonizing the patient's body, mind and spirit, natural self-healing powers can work properly.

What Is It?

Acupuncture is a five-thousand-year-old traditional Chinese healing art that aims to rebalance the flow of Qi (pronounced "chee"), or life force, in the body. By harmonizing the patient's body, mind and spirit, natural self-healing powers can work properly. Acupuncture works by the insertion of very fine needles into, or application of heat, pressure or massage on, certain points along the body's energy pathways called meridians


Acupuncture is a very complex system that has been refined and used effectively for thousands of years. Its founding text is the Nei Jing, also known as The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine, which was written about three thousand years ago. Acupuncture is used with other elements of traditional Chinese medicine: herbs, massage, diet and exercise

How Can It Help Me?

Whether you are having trouble with colds, tennis elbow, blood pressure, gallstones or depression, acupuncture can help. In fact, the World Health Organization recognizes it as especially effective for afflictions of the respiratory system, eyes, mouth cavity, stomach and intestines, and nervous, skeletal and muscular systems. It is also effective for many other common problems. In cases of severe chronic illness, acupuncture may not cure the disease but it improves quality of life and provides drug-free pain relief so that the body energy may start the process of healing.

If you have just consumed food or alcohol, or if you are menstruating or pregnant, delay your acupuncture therapy until your body has returned to its normal state. Similarly, if you feel overly stressed or exhausted, wait until you are more relaxed. Anyone with a weak constitution, malignant tumors or serious hemorrhagic conditions should avoid acupuncture.

Many patients are pleased to have their primary problem cleared up and are delighted to note that secondary symptoms also disappear. The acupuncturist treats each patient as unique, carefully assessing symptoms, then giving an individualized treatment based on what has been diagnosed as the underlying problem. In contrast, modern medicine gives standardized treatments based solely upon the symptoms, with little regard to the patient as an individual whole person.

Since acupuncture's subtle diagnostics seek to identify underlying causes, it is an effective preventive for curbing progression of symptoms towards disease.

How Does It Work?

The acupuncturist seeks to optimize the flow and character of the Qi by stimulating certain points along the minute energy channels known as meridians, through which Qi flows. There are 365 points on the main meridians and hundreds of others on secondary meridians. These meridians are located below the skin and occur symmetrically on both sides of the body.

There are twelve main meridians forming an energy circuit throughout the body, and eight extraordinary meridians which act as alternate pathways if there is a problem in a main meridian.

Each meridian is associated with an organ-if an organ is removed, the meridian still exists. The main meridians are: lung, large intestine, stomach, spleen, heart, small intestine, bladder, kidney, pericardium, triple warmer, gall-bladder and liver.

How Is It Done?

The first visit to the acupuncturist will begin with a detailed diagnostic process involving some or all of the following: pulse evaluation; tongue examination; detailed questions about your lifestyle, health and symptoms; visual, auditory and perhaps olfactory observations; and tactile exploration of acupuncture points on the spine or stomach. Pulse and tongue diagnosis are the foundation of the oriental diagnostic system, and have been highly developed. The practitioner is trying to determine patterns of disharmony, and any inherent weaknesses that may be the underlying cause of illness.


Very fine needles, usually made of stainless steel, are inserted at meridian points usually below the elbow or knee. These areas have command points for each meridian and are where the Qi is most dynamic. Needles are sterilized and inserted at varying depths and angles depending on the location on the body and the desired effect. Sometimes the practitioner manipulates the needles. They are inserted for a duration of a few seconds (dispersal technique) to many minutes (stimulating technique). Commonly they are left in for fifteen to twenty minutes.

You should not feel any pain or experience any bleeding. There is sometimes a radiating sensation where the needle is inserted, although this usually only lasts a few seconds. This sensation can also be felt to a lesser extent by the practitioner, and indicates that the needle indeed has connected with the Qi. Your pulse is checked during the treatment to monitor progress and after the treatment to ascertain that balance has been restored.

After a treatment you will probably feel drowsy and relaxed, or in some cases you will feel energized. Expect to feel the benefits a couple of days later when the Qi has had a chance to adjust. You should feel better immediately if the treatment has been for acute pain, such as a migraine.

What Can I Do?

First, find yourself a fully qualified practitioner. Next, maintain a healthy diet of whole, unrefined foods. Once you have started treatments, be sure to follow the diet, lifestyle and any other treatment suggestions recommended by your acupuncturist

Where Do I Go Next?

This ancient and complex healing system requires many years of study. It cannot be learned in short courses. In China, acupuncture is a five-year full-time program of which two years are devoted to studying herbalism. In the West, it is a three-year full-time program. To locate a practitioner, inquire at your nearest acupuncture, oriental medicine, holistic association or school.

Did You Know?

Acupuncture has successfully been used by specialized vegeterians on dogs, cattle anglish racehorses.



Innovation For Good: Sustainable Harvest International and Rodale Institute

Innovation For Good: Sustainable Harvest International and Rodale Institute

These non-profits are leading the way in promoting regenerative agriculture

Neil Zevnik

Neil Zevnik

10 Home Remedies for Food Poisoning

10 Home Remedies for Food Poisoning

Natural solutions for when eating good food goes wrong

Christina Chandra

Christina Chandra