Chinese Medicine: Natural Healing

Oriental medicine is a non-invasive healing modality that facilitates the body’s natural ability to heal itself by restoring harmony and balance to the entire individual. Originating in China more than 3,000 years ago, the medicine is one of the most common medical systems in the world, used by one quarter of the world’s population. What is Chinese medicine and how does it work?

What is Oriental Medicine?

Although it has been practiced in the United States for more than 150 years, many Americans first heard of Eastern medicine in 1972 when New York Times columnist James Reston used acupuncture for pain relief from an emergency appendectomy during a trip to China.

Many of the side effects and shortcomings of modern Western medicine have come to public attention in the last 30 years. Through the use of Chinese Medicine, many of these shortcomings can be avoided. Compared to Western medicine, Chinese medicine intervenes early—when signs of imbalance occur, prior to significant physical damage to the body. Oriental medicine addresses a broad range of conditions that Western medicine finds difficult to treat. Chinese medicine focuses on the well being of the entire person, not simply on physical complaints and symptoms. Its effects are gentle and free of the side effects associated with many pharmaceutical drugs used for the same conditions. Acupuncture and Oriental medicine have been identified as an effective system of healthcare by the National Institutes of Health and the World Health Organization, and is becoming a serious alternative or complement to conventional pain management and medical treatment.

Over 2,000 acupuncture points on the human body connect with 14 major pathways, called meridians. Chinese medical practitioners believe these meridians conduct Qi, or energy, between the surface of the body and internal organs. Qi regulates spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical balance. When Qi flow is disrupted, through poor health habits or other circumstances, pain and/or disease can result.

Acupuncture stimulates the body, releases energy blocks, and reestablishes normal equilibrium. The procedure involves the insertion of hair-thin, disposable metal needles through the skin in points on the body’s meridians. Acupuncture needles are solid, usually made of stainless steel and are extremely flexible. The small diameter and contoured shape of the acupuncture needle allows it to be inserted easily and painlessly a few millimeters into the skin. Acupuncture needles may also be stimulated with pressure, heat, friction or electromagnetic impulses to further activate a person’s Qi.

Studies have suggested that needles inserted at acupuncture points help release chemical neurotransmitters in the body, including endorphins. Endorphins are the body’s own powerful, natural painkillers which relieve pain and bring about a sense of well being.

Chinese Herbal Medicine

Chinese herbal medicine is one of the most sophisticated herbal medicine systems in the world. Typically, combinations of six to 20 ingredients are used in formulas correlated to each individual’s pattern of disharmony. The formulas are crafted together to act synergistically, each ingredient designed to accomplish a part of the overall process of restoring balance. The multi-ingredient formulas may be decocted and drunk as a strong tea, or taken as a tincture or pill several times per day. Chinese herbs can include ingredients from the animal and mineral kingdoms as well as the plant kingdom such as roots, barks, fruits, berries, twigs, stems, leaves and flowers.

The Future of Oriental Medicine

As of 1997, more than one million Americans were being treated with acupuncture each year. The World Health Organization has stated that there is sufficient evidence supporting the therapeutic effects of acupuncture for it to be considered an important part of primary health care, and that it should be fully integrated with conventional medicine.13 Since the 1997 endorsement by the National Institutes of Health, interest in Oriental medicine is greater than ever before. Americans have begun to recognize that Oriental medicine provides great insight into many health problems not dealt with completely or satisfactorily by modern Western medicine.


*The names of Chinese organs and systems do not necessarily correspond to the recognized physiologic organs.


About the Author
Rebecca A. Wilkowski, BA, is the director of Public Relations & Advertising for Pacific College of Oriental Medicine. For more information on incorporating Oriental Medicine and bodywork into your practice, please contact Pacific College of Oriental Medicine at (800) 729-0941 or go to

13 World Health Organization.