By Physician ONG Chin Wah
Acupuncture and Moxibustion Therapy
Governed by the basic principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), acupuncture and moxibustion are both used as forms of treatment, that involves the penetration of needles into the skin, and the burning of moxa, or dried mugwort, to specific acupoints on the body. The purpose of such medical treatment is achieved by the function of meridians and collaterals. Over years of medical practice, acupuncture and moxibustion have the therapeutic effect of reconciling yin and yang, cleansing meridians and collaterals, and improving positive energy (qi) while eliminating pathogenic factors.
1. Reconciling Yin and Yang
When pathogenic factors cause the imbalance of yin and yang in the human body, this leads to the dysfunction of organs and meridians, and ultimately results in the occurrence of a disease. By applying the compatibility of meridians and acupoints and the methods of needle penetration, the yin-yang imbalance can be regulated and the normal function of organs and meridians can be restored, hence achieving the purpose of treatment.
2. Cleansing Meridians and Collaterals
When the meridians and collaterals malfunction, the flow of qi and blood will be obstructed, affecting normal bodily functions and activity. Pathological changes appear, such as pain, numbness etc, thereby causing the occurrence of diseases. Through the roles of meridians, acupoints and treatment methods, acupuncture and moxibustion therapy allow the meridians to be unobstructed, enhancing proper flow of qi and blood, henceforth achieving the treatment purpose.
3. Improving positive energy (qi) and eliminating pathogenic factors
A disease’s occurrence, progression and outcome are in actual fact a battle between positive qi and pathogenic factors. Through acupuncture and moxibustion, positive qi can be supported, improving the body’s resistance to disease and ability to eliminate pathogenic factors, while decreasing the effects that disease-causing risk factors can have.
By Dr. Leslie Ong Kwee-Nam
Advertising billboards and television bombard us with images depicting the current desirable body shape.
Obesity is defined as “increased body weight caused by excessive accumulation of fat.” People are considered obese if they weigh 20 percent or more above average for their height and build.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), good health consists of the body’s systems acting in harmony according to the individual’s constitution. If all is working well, there will not be any weight problem.
Obesity was first mentioned in Chinese medicine in the Yellow Emperor’s Internal Classic of Medicine: “When treating exhaustion syndromes, sudden syncope, hemiplegia, atrophy, or rapid respiration conditions that occur in obese patients, recognize that these are usually due to overindulgence in rich foods.”
As early as in the Han dynasty, TCM practitioners recorded the symptoms, mechanism and risk factors of obesity. The Suwen (The Book of Plain Questions) states in chapter 28: “If obesity occurs in the nobleman and rich people, they must be over consuming heavy and greasy foods.” Similar to the modern understanding of obesity, associated risk factors include undesirable eating habits, under exercising, body constitution and mental state.
The four main types of Obesity from a TCM Perspective
In TCM theory, obesity is believed to be the result of many factors. Careful observation over many centuries allows Chinese medicine to say that there is not just one type of overweight or obesity, there are many.
Most often, TCM classifies overweight and obesity into four types:
1. Excessive Internal Phlegm and Dampness
Phlegm is an important concept in TCM, indicating not only mucus from cough or nose discharge, but also stagnant body fluid. The spleen is said to be at the root of all phlegm production.
When the spleen becomes damaged, such as eating too many sweet foods and getting too little exercise, it will fail in its duty to move and transform waste fluids and foods. Instead these metabolic wastes will gather, collect and transform into evil dampness. If dampness evils endure, over time they will congeal into phlegm, and become fat tissue.
The excessive internal phlegm manifests itself as excess weight, accompanied by tiredness, body heaviness, chest and /or stomach distension, and in some cases poor appetite. The tongue has a slimy covering of fur. This type of obesity is generally due to an eating disorder, or secondarily by some other illness.
Treatment revolves around sweeping away phlegm and removing stagnation. Once the phlegm is swept away, the qi (vital energy) can move smoothly and easily. This promotes the movement of phlegm and reduction of fat with the ultimate result of decreasing obesity.
2. Stagnation of Qi (vital energy) and Blood
Patients exhibiting this condition may suffer from irritability or low motivation, chest or breast fullness, insomnia, a dreamy state, menstrual disorder or amenorrhea (absence of menstruation) and infertility. Some patients may complain of headaches. There may be dizziness and numbness of the four extremities and the tongue is dark red with a white thin fur or a thin and greasy fur.
This is because the movement of blood is not smooth or easily flowing. Stasis obstructs the vessels and inhibits the qi (vital energy) mechanism. Therefore, fat and dampness collect and accumulate within the vessels, making the blood more viscous. If this continues over time, obesity and arteriosclerosis (thickening and hardening of the arteries) will result.
The principle treatment is to speed up the blood flow and remove stagnation.
3. Yang Deficiency of Spleen and Kidney
The third type is yang deficiency of spleen and kidney. People in this category often feel exhausted or fatigued. They may experience lower back and knee weakness, shortness of breath, impotence or low libido. The tongue is pale and without any fur covering. Genetic factors can play a part in this condition. It may also be the result of other illnesses, stress or an unhealthy lifestyle.
Treatment involves fortifying the spleen and rectifying the kidney deficiency.
4. Liver Stagnation
Liver stagnation caused by prolonged strong emotions or depression leads to disharmony between the spleen and the liver and gives rise to fluid retention. Due to the liver being depressed, the gall bladder is also depressed and exhausted, the ebb and flow of these organs become unbalanced, and the qi (vital energy) mechanism does not flow freely. Hence fat turbidity is difficult to be transformed and over time it leads to obesity.
People in this category tend to have excessive fatty material deposited in the abdomen. The physique is bloated and individuals feel drained of energy. Individuals may also experience excess sputum secretion, dizziness, vertigo, retching, a dry mouth, lack of desire for food or drink and discomfort in chest and abdomen. A white glossy or greasy coating usually covers their tongues.
Treatment involves improving liver functioning, unblocking the gallbladder and moving stagnation.
Since the nature of each type is different, the treatments are also different. Today, we are using many TCM therapies, such as herbal medicines, acupuncture, as well as diet combined with exercise to treat obesity, of which most patients can lose 5-10 kilos per month.
TCM believes Chinese medicine possesses certain properties and that every medicinal substance has its strengths and its shortcomings. Chinese preparations are complex recipes combined according to particular TCM theories. Medicinal substances (usually herbs) are carefully balanced in quality and quantity, in order to accentuate its health restorative actions while reducing side effects.
Classic herbal preparations dealing with this problem have been handed down for centuries. The plan for treatment will be based upon each individual’s constitution and differentiation of syndromes.
Besides the individual’s physical state, a TCM physician also takes into account the geographic location, sex, age, lifestyle patterns and past medical and family histories. As a result, the therapeutic methods are comprehensive and are customized to an individual’s condition.
Acupuncture therapy affects the autonomic nervous system and regulates energy metabolism by stimulating the meridians‘ qi (vital energy) flow. Acupuncture is often most effective with stubborn stagnation problems in the meridians. It can also prohibit appetite and increase the metabolic rate of obese individuals.
TCM has a lot of experience with obesity. Chinese medicine and Acupuncture provide an alternative treatment to help control weight problems. Besides herbal medicine and acupuncture, individuals must also exercise and practice correct dietary guidelines. Chinese medicine and acupuncture combined with exercise and food therapy can greatly enhance the treatment of obesity and help individuals manage their weight.
TCM, by its holistic focus on the body and its systems, provides a key to long-term healthy weight maintenance. It is important to consult a qualified TCM physician to help you select the most appropriate formula.