Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is the oldest medical system on earth, having been continuously and actively practiced for more than four centuries. Rooted in Taoist philosophy which view humans as an inseparable part of nature, the body is seen as a reflection of the natural world. These scholar-doctors lived a life deeply in-tune with nature and saw the human body as a microcosm of the broader macrocosm (world) in which we live. They saw every phenomenon in nature – cold, heat, dampness, dryness and wind – reflected within us. Ancient Chinese philosophers understood that the body has its own natural “intelligence” and the medical system in China developed to harness and support this innate wisdom and use it to revitalize and heal.
Chinese Medicine is based on a simple but beautiful principle: All life is energy, and as humans we must strive to harmonize this vast sea of energy in order to achieve health and wellness. It is concerned with how the human body interacts with all aspects of life and the environment, including the weather, time of day, our diet and emotional states. Living in harmony with one’s environment, eating with the seasons, maintaining moderation in work and play, cultivating energy and keeping our emotions balanced are just a few of the ancient Chinese tenants of optimum health that continue to ring true in our modern world. In this way, TCM represents more than just a medical system, but a way of life.
Chinese Medicine operates under the premise that our bodies seek out balance and strength intuitively, just as nature does. Consequently, health involves nurturing, supporting and cultivating the inherent intelligence of the body to do its own job. Chinese Medicine seeks to restore and maintain wellness by stimulating the body’s innate ability to heal itself and restore balance.
Chinese Medicine is a complete system of medicine with an extensive range of healing modalities designed to help patients achieve and maintain health. The three primary branches of TCM that we practice at The Alchemy Project are acupuncture, herbal medicine and eastern nutritional therapy (although moxabustion, gua sha, cupping and tui na may also be performed). We have also found great success in the application of essential oils and include them in all of our treatments.
Acupuncture is grounded in the belief that the mind and body are a single, energetic system. Several thousand years ago, Chinese medical sages postulated that the body’s electromagnetic energy circulates in clearly defined pathways called channels or meridians. They created a map of points along these channels that influence the subtle energy throughout the body. Acupuncture techniques seek to move, strengthen, balance or change the direction of energy flow within the body to influence various organs, tissues and vital substances.
Disease, discomfort and pain occur when the movement of Qi is blocked, deficient or otherwise unbalanced. Acupuncture points are areas on these energy pathways where Qi accumulates, intersects and often “knots.” By stimulating the appropriate areas of the body with needles, the flow of energy can be brought back into balance.
Influencing the flow of Qi throughout the body, acupuncture can help to increase circulation, decrease inflammation and pain, improve mood and reduce stress, enhance digestion, regulate hormones and sleep, and boost immunity. Thus, the body’s improved energy flow and biochemical balance encourages the body’s natural healing ability as well as promotes physical and emotional well-being.
Acupuncture involves the insertion and manipulation of very fine, stainless steel needles at specific points along the body’s meridian pathways to restore the proper flow of Qi. Applying sterile, single-use, disposable needles at these meridian points treats a wide range of symptoms and conditions by adjusting, balancing and correcting the flow of energy along these meridians. It is a safe, effective, drug-free way to promote the body’s remarkable self-healing abilities. Acupuncture is used to prevent and treat disease, relieve pain, balance mood and emotions, enhance athletic performance, increase fertility and improve overall health, wellness and longevity.
In the hands of a skilled practitioner, acupuncture is virtually painless. It is important to note that acupuncture needles are drastically smaller than the needles used to draw blood or give a shot in your doctor’s office. The needles used to our clinic are only marginally thicker than a human hair. Patients receiving acupuncture usually describe a variety of sensations that may include: a very small prick followed by a feeling of warm currents of energy flowing along the channels where the needles are placed; heaviness or slight tingling in the area; a deep sense of relaxation and release. Generally speaking, acupuncture treatments are very relaxing and most patients fall asleep during a treatment.
The World Health Organization lists over 100 medical conditions acupuncture can successful treat, ranging from emotional disorders (anxiety, depression) to digestive complaints (nausea, vomiting) and elimination issues (diarrhea, constipation), acute and chronic pain syndromes and neurological issues (Parkinson’s, stroke) as well as promote overall well-being. Clinical research in the U.S. has shown that acupuncture can help relieve a wide range of conditions, including chronic low back pain, migraine headaches, fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis. Moreover, it can assist in the treatment of emotional pain syndromes such as post-traumatic stress disorder and is used very successfully in conjunction with in-vitro fertilization to help achieve pregnancy. Indeed, the National Institutes for Health (NIH) Conference on Acupuncture in 1997 stated, “The data in support of acupuncture are as strong as those for many accepted Western medical therapies.”
The practice of herbal medicine dates back centuries, providing an unbroken lineage of medicinal knowledge and wisdom. Chinese herbal medicine is based on many of the same principles as acupuncture as it aims to treat disharmonies or imbalances within the body, as well as restore the proper flow of Qi along the channels.
Currently, the Chinese Materia Medica – a modern botanical pharmacopeia – contains documented effects and medicinal uses of over 5,000 plant, mineral and animal substances. Chinese herbs are most often prescribed in formulas that combine several herbs and allows for the herbalist to tailor each formula to the patient especially.
Herbal medicines represent the unique chemistry of the plant, animal and mineral kingdom from which they come, and are part of the same fabric of life in which we all live, breathe and move. When we ingest these substances, they “speak” to our cells in a common language – a communication between the elements of nature within the herb and the elements of nature within our cells.
Rather than producing a forceful command or shift in the body the way some drugs do, herbal medicine works by suggesting or encouraging the body, gently moving us into a different, better state of being. The end result is that the body is making most of the changes it needs on its own, generating effects that tend to be more lasting.
A Chinese herbalist is interested in strengthening the foundation of your health rather than offering symptomatic Band-Aids. In this sense, herbal medicine works from the inside-out: it treats the core issues underlying our symptoms, which rectify themselves once the root issue is resolved. This is in contrast to Western pharmaceutical drugs which work from the outside-in, offering fast symptomatic relief without directly addressing the deeper root of the problem. While there are certain cases where this is warranted, the long-term use of Western drugs for chronic health problems can be detrimental to one’s foundational health. This is why, ideally, plant-based medicines and nutrition are a more gentle, life-affirming way to heal yourself.
When it comes to treating the mind / spirit with herbal medicine, TCM has a centuries old history of delivering direct benefits to our emotional and psychological health. Chinese herbal formulas that focus on the mind can:
Make you feel psychologically lighter
Relax and calm your thoughts
Open your perspective on yourself and life
Engender patience and calmness
Boost confidence levels
Induce more peaceful sleep
Chinese herbal medicine is a wonderful compliment to an acupuncture treatment. Many practitioners use Chinese herbal formulas as a way to extend the therapeutic benefits in between acupuncture treatments. By taking herbs on a daily basis, the positive momentum created by acupuncture is enhanced and extended.
Chinese herbs are available in several forms. Our apothecary at The Alchemy Project stocks both raw herbs (to drink as a tea after being “decocted” or boiled in hot water) and patent medicines (herbs that have been conveniently encapsulated) and will work with you to decide which form is best suited to your needs. In all cases, you will receive specific instructions about dose, frequency and preparation. Most herbs work best on an empty stomach (unless instructed otherwise by your herbalist) and are usually taken about an hour before a meal.
We live in a culture of abundance where many of us never lack for food. The same, unfortunately, cannot be said about nutrition. In our land of plenty, many people are highly deficient in vitamins and minerals as a result of mass food production methods, as well as poor diet choices. Such deficiencies can lead to degenerative disease. Indeed, it is estimated that as much as 70% of all chronic disease in this country has its origin in poor nutrition from a diet oversaturated with sugar, refined wheat and processed foods. At The Alchemy Project, we practice a holistic style of nutritional therapy drawn from the vast wisdom of Chinese Medicine that recognizes the powerful healing energy of food.
Conscious nutrition is the foundation of lasting health and well-being. Every day, what we eat either nourishes or depletes our essence and energy (Qi). Food is the most important way that Qi is replenished in the body and what we eat shapes our life and spirit. Nutrition has tremendous power in Chinese Medicine – power that extends far beyond the Western concept of food as fuel, providing calories, carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins and minerals. While the Western diet focuses almost exclusively on diet for weight loss, Chinese nutrition is designed to not only help you lose weight, but also address many other ailments including hypertension, diabetes, cold/flu, diarrhea/constipation, cough, eczema, and so on. The powerful energetics of food can cool or warm your metabolism, moisten or dry your organ systems, cleanse toxins, and vitalize the flow of Qi, Blood and Jing. A healthy diet harnesses foods’ energetics by combining foods and flavors that balance each other, so that no one energetic influence becomes too dominant. As the ancient Chinese text Nei Jing states: “If people pay attention to the five flavors and blend them well, Qi and Xue (Blood) will circulate freely, and breath and bones will be filled with the essence of life.”
Every meal we eat is a chance to promote optimal health and practice preventative medicine several times every day. As a result, our immune system remains strong, bones and muscles remain flexible and supportive, digestion is good, our skin is healthy, and the mind and spirit remain clear. If our intention is to heal and stay healthy, how we consciously feed our cells makes a tremendous difference.
Compared to drugs, nutrition represents the native language of the body. Glands, cells and tissues readily and naturally respond to vitamins, minerals, amino acids, falvonoids, oils and other nutritional substances. At The Alchemy Project we incorporate the latest Western nutritional learning with the ancient insight of Eastern practitioners who relied on food as medicine.
At The Alchemy Project we marry the authentic traditions of Eastern nutrition with the most current Western research on health and nutrition.