The ABC’s of TCM: The Amateur’s Guide to Understanding Chinese Medicine

From Acupuncture to Zusanli
Chinese medicine terms can sometimes sound a little…uh, Chinese. Read up on some of these common TCM terms and phrases. Soon enough, you’ll be chatting it up like a running piglet with heart fire. Well, aren’t you smart?!readingpigAcupuncture

Acupuncture is the insertion of very fine, solid, sterile needles into specific points along pathways of the body to correct imbalances and promote healing processes.


Cupping creates a vacuum over the skin that elevates the underlying fascia and muscle layers and flushes the tissue with fresh, oxygenated blood.

Eastern Dietary Therapy

One of the great, ancient Chinese doctors and philosophers, Sun Si Miao, once said, “Medicine should only be used if diet fails.” Even in China today, diet and nutrition are often used to prevent or treat health conditions. Eastern dietary therapy can help to correct health problems on a daily basis by addressing these problems at the root.

Electro-acupuncture / E-Stim

Electro-acupuncture uses a device called an E-Stim to send electric currents through the acupuncture needles themselves.

Gua Sha

Gua sha is a technique that uses a smooth rounded edge to “scrape” along areas of the body where stagnation of blood or body fluids is present. Similar to cupping, it allows fresh blood to perfuse an area with nutrients.

Herbal medicine/ Herbal formulas

Unlike the use of Western herbs, Chinese herbs are usually combined into formulas. Leaves, flowers, fruits, stems, barks, roots, seeds, minerals, and even some animal products are considered Chinese “herbs.” Herbal formulas are personalized to each patient’s unique presentation. Formulas may be used for internal consumption or for external topical use.

Japanese-style acupuncture

The Japanese developed their own style of acupuncture based upon the use of tubes to insert acupuncture needles. There is great focus placed on point, abdominal, and pulse palpation and the techniques are typically quite gentle. Japanese acupuncture also incorporates some non-insertive techniques using tools to stimulate acupoints and can be great for children.

Moxibustion/ Moxa

Moxibustion is use of the herb mugwort (moxa) to warm areas and promote healing and circulation. The moxa is burnt is various different ways depending on the condition being treated. Moxibustion even predates the development of acupuncture over 3000 years ago.

Tui Na Massage

Tui Na is a type of Chinese bodywork, or medical massage. There are several techniques that are used to correct imbalances that cause musculoskeletal pain or even internal problems such as headaches or menstrual pain.

Qi Gong

Qi Gong, meaning “Qi Work,” is a healing system that integrates physical postures, breathing exercises, and mental intent. It can be used to treat various health problems to general health promotion and maintenance.


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