Let’s first define the term ‘acupuncture’ as it is used today. Acupuncture is one of the healing techniques used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) also referred to as Oriental medicine (OM). There is some controversy around using these terms today so many people just say acupuncture. However, acupuncture is part and parcel of a whole medical system.
For the purpose of this article, we will just use the term acupuncture, but we are referring to the entire medical system of TCM / OM.
When one thinks of acupuncture many consider it as being used primarily for pain management. While acupuncture is excellent at relieving pain, it is actually a complete medical system. While it is not my first choice for emergencies or extreme cases, it is excellent when the symptoms first arise, in helping to prevent an emergency, or after an emergency or extreme event to facilitate a quicker recovery.
Acupuncture does not consider mental/emotional issues separate from physical issues. For instance, if someone is depressed the acupuncturist will determine the underlying cause of the depression. It might be due to liver issues or congestion, heart energy issues, nutritional issues, and so on. The same is true of other mental/emotional issues such as anxiety, delusions, and the myriad of other mental/emotional conditions.
The acupuncture diagnosis does not follow Western medicine techniques but is a combination of symptoms for the entire body and mind. So, each person’s diagnosis and treatment are unique to each individual and not based on a specific diagnosis like depression or anxiety. The technique of looking at the tongue and feeling the various pulse locations typically on the wrists also helps the acupuncturist identify issues in the body.
Some conditions can be improved and even eliminated in a few treatments, while others may take 10–12 treatments. Sometimes consumption of herbs or diet changes may also be suggested to help with eliminating or controlling the condition depending on the severity and length of time the condition has existed.
Of course, for severe cases of any mental/emotional/medical condition, Western medicine may be required or can be done in conjunction with acupuncture treatments.
In TCM there are several associations made between the organ systems and feelings, as well as the nutritional aspect for that system:
- Liver/gallbladder – Anger. Sour taste like lemon and cilantro to help detox
- Spleen/stomach – Overthinking or worry. Needs a little sweet but damaged by excess sweets
- Kidney/urinary Bladder – Fear. Needs adequate salt, damaged by excess salt
- Heart/small intestines – Over joy to excess. Bitter foods to drain heart fire
So based on the underlying emotion, it is a starting point for understanding if the source of the problem is purely emotional or if there is an underlying physical issue. This also indicates a possible nutritional issue since each organ system is also associated with excess or deficiency specific to that organ system.
Your acupuncturist, after reviewing all your symptoms and doing a tongue and pulse diagnosis, is able to create a customised plan of treatment for your specific cause of mental/emotional symptoms.
Beverly Lawrence, PhD is a licensed acupuncturist, who has been in practice since graduation in 2008 from the Phoenix Institute of Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine.