Blog/ Santa Barbara Acupuncture & Massage Blog

Intro to Understanding Oriental Medicine

Dear reader,

Welcome to the first Health Solutions Acupuncture blog post. As a first blog post I thought it would be fitting to provide an overview of acupuncture and Oriental medicine so the reader may get a conceptual grasp of the practice. Many generic descriptions of Oriental medicine use vague terms such as Qi (Chi), yin and yang, and balance. But what do these terms really mean? Let us take a closer look and demystify these concepts to understand their practical value applied to health.

Naturally part of the reason for the vague concepts explaining Oriental medicine is that it is a very comprehensive complex medical system based on eastern philosophies that have been evolving literally since the stone age. Stone tools that are precursors to metal acupuncture needles have been found and date back as far as 10,000 years. The first symbols for yin and yang date back to the formation of Taoist thought 8,000 years ago. At the heart of Taoist insight is an awareness of the primary universal duality and interdependent unity of Yin and Yang. We can see evidence of this everywhere in nature, the cosmos and within our own bodies. Some examples include fire and water, day and night, male and female, winter and summer, activity and rest. Both are needed to have a whole life and existence. How does this abstract concept practically relate to well- being?

Oriental medicine has a highly organized structure by which symptoms may be interpreted to find and treat deep fundamental imbalances that are known to be at the root of disease. Oriental medicine divides the being and body into 5 major organ systems, each symbolized with its own element found in nature. For instance the Heart is symbolized by fire, the kidneys by water. Each of the 5 major systems of the body are analyzed to detect various types of imbalances within them and between each other. Each of the 5 organ systems not only include the organ itself but emotions associated with that organ, and regions of the body associated with that organ.

For example: the liver, an organ of major importance, is associated with stress, irritability, anger, and depression. One can see the effects of irritating the liver in such cases as alcoholics that get angry, abusive and depressed. Conversely when a person is exposed to a chronic stressful environment it may disturb the functioning of the liver through its connections to emotion and corresponding neurology. The liver has a link to the smooth flow of qi / processes in the body and mind. A disturbance in the liver system may also reflect to other parts and processes of the body such as disrupting digestion, a woman’s cycle, the eyes, headaches and muscle tension. Each system: liver, heart, spleen (referring to digestion), lungs, and kidneys, has their own associations to various bodily regions and emotions. A trained practitioner can read the signs and evidence to see where and what type of imbalances are at the root of the patients ailments. The imbalances may be yin or yang, is a system on overdrive or under stimulated / weak? Is the system hot or cold, damp or dry? Is the system deficient in nutrients or blood? Each permutation leaves its telltale signs. The telltale signs of the imbalance(s) are further corroborated by the physical evidence of reading the pulses of the wrist and looking at the qualities of the tongue.

Once a diagnosis of imbalance is made a practitioner may choose the appropriate therapeutic measures to correct it. The main modalities used in Oriental medicine are acupuncture, herbal Formulas, diet, therapeutic exercise (Tai Qi, Qi gong) and bodywork techniques.

Acupuncture is the practice of placing fine needles in specific locations to stimulate, unblock, or normalize disturbed qi, qi (chi) meaning the life force that animates our bodies. In terms of western understanding we can say it is the electromagnetic energy found with our nervous system and the bioelectric conductivity found in the water filled micro-tubular structure of our connective tissue system that gives structure to our entire body. Acupuncture has been proven to have a profound effect on our central nervous system with its ability to regulate the stress response. Many ailments have an aspect of abnormal or stressed functioning in the central nervous system. Through strong or repeated negative influences such as long term physical or emotional stresses or acute traumas the central nervous system can develop and become entrenched in negative functioning of various sorts, and become compromised in maintaining homeostasis or balance. The acupuncture needles, specifically placed, provide a stimulus that disrupts chronic or disturbed patterns in the nervous system allowing the chance for calm and balance to happen. Across the board most people have a sense of calm euphoria after their acupuncture treatment. This makes a space for healing to happen deep in the central organizing systems of our being, in the nervous system and brain.

Herbal medicine has been evolving for thousands of years in China and Asia. The herbs, most often used in synergistic formulas, are a form of internal medicine that may be used daily to promote balance. Chinese herbal medicine strives not to merely placate symptoms naturally, but to bring about deeper healing by addressing fundamental imbalances. What baffles westerners is that often the herbs have no direct effect on the symptoms. Rather the herbs are selected for their deeper properties that promote balance systemically. Herbs have unique qualities such as: yin (imparting fluid / coolness), yang (heating / stimulating), nutrifying / building, dispersing / detoxifying etc. The inner qualities of herbs have been evaluated and experimented with and refined for millennia by masters. The properties they posses are selected for their ability to achieve balance in the five organ / element system and not to suppress symptoms.

Nutrition in Oriental medical practice is similar to herbal medicine. Foods are selected or avoided based on their nature and ability to promote balance.

Body work / massage therapies operate on a similar principal to acupuncture, working to change stuck patterns in the nervous system by manipulating the muscles and connective tissues of the body.

At Health Solutions Acupuncture I use all the therapies mentioned in this post to help people regain balance and health. If you have any health related questions you would like to discuss feel free to email or call me. 805 895-6015

Thanks for reading.
Miklos Hubay L.Ac.



  1. kelly

    Great overview! It makes each treatment feel more powerful as I learn more about the process and purpose.

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