Common Acupuncture Terms

afshins acupunctureHere is my list of top 5 terms I throw around in the clinic that you might not know anything about.  Acupuncturists get their vocabulary from of course its Chinese roots, as presented to us usually in modern Mandarin at Chinese medicine schools in China and abroad.  So, on to some new words and concepts from Chinese medicine and culture:

1. What is Qi (aka chi, ki) ?

Pronounced chee like in “cheese”, this word is used i association, for example, stomach qi should descend.

2. What are Yin and Yang (aka Ying and Yang) ?

acuafshin logoYin is pronounced just like the word “in”, and yang is pronounced like the word “wronn both very general and also specific contexts in Asian cultures, and now abroad.In Chinese Medicine, we talk about the various processes of body physiology as having different qi.  You can say someone is low on qi to mean they’re low on energy.   Generically, you can use the term interchangeably with energy and function.  When we do acupuncture, we are tapping into the qi of the body channels.  Qi in the body can have a directiong.”  Yin and Yang are opposite poles or extremes, like cold/hot, left/right, up/down, quiet/loud, dark/bright,  energy/matter, expand/contract you get the idea.  The association of which one is yin and which is yang is arbitrary or decided by convention.  The common association of yang is with bright, hot and therefore yin is cool and watery.

Yin and yang are also seen as the two stages in a transformative process, or two phases in a cyclical process, back and forth.  Also,

– Yin & yang are opposite stages of a cycle, and this opposition is relative as the yin or yang quality of something is not really intrinsic, but only relative to something else.  So apples are yin because we compare them to meats which are yang, in the context of foods.

– Yin & yang are opposite but also interdependent: one cannot exist without the other.  Day is opposite to night, and energy exists in contrast to matter, and, you have to rest to exercise.

– Yin & yang are constantly transforming into one another.  You might say they contain within them the seed of their opposite.

3. What are meridians or channels?

These are the rivers of energy in which the Qi of the different organs travel, continuously, all over your body.  A certain portion of them are on the surface , and those are the parts that are used in acupuncture.  They are not nerves, do not necessarily follow blood vessels, and in fact dont show up under microscope, they are composed of qi, which is energetic.

4. What is stagnation?

Chinese medicine theory believes that the body knows how to regulate itself as long as everything is flowing smoothly.  Therefore we are always trying in one way or another to harmonize the qi.   One of the biggest things that the body suffers is that because of a million and one reasons, harmonious flow is impeded.  This is stagnation.

Common things that stagnate: qi and blood, fluids, and also food.  One stagnation can and will lead to the other stagnations.  Blood stagnation is there by definition in all injuries, surgeries, and such.  Emotions can stagnate qi, especially qi of the liver.  Bad foods and/or food combinations will stagnate in the stomach.  A weak digestion and/or bad diet can cause fluids to stagnate.

One of the most common signs of stagnation is blood stagnation that can show as a purple hue on the tongue.  The more purple, the more blood stagnation.  Either that or they recently had candy!

5. What are cold and hot foods?

I tell most people to eat warm food.   I do mean that you should be eating food that is warmed up, but I’m also referring to an aspect of foods that’s not talked about in Western nutrition, but is often used in Traditional Chinese Medicine.   Foods have a certain energy, or qi, and we use the cold/hot vocabulary to describe this too.

Vegetables and fruits are cool to cold in general.  Meats are generally warm.  Different foods fall somewhere in this range.   For more on this subject, check out my other article.