What is Chinese Medicine?

Chinese Medicine is an ancient form of traditional medicine that incorporates many modalities and originated 2500 years ago. It is based on the theory that your body is made up of many channels (meridians) that are the transport for your bodies vital energy (Qi). These meridians are connected to body organs and when disrupted or blocked they create an imbalance and therefore pain or disease. Chinese Medicine is also based on the principles of Yin and Yang. The Yin and Yang theory expresses the importance of contrasting or opposite forces and how they must interact to create a whole. Everything in the universe can be divided into either Yin or Yang as the universe must be in perfect balance. Yin is the cold, slow moving aspect and Yang is the hot, fast moving aspect. Some examples of Yin factors include water, darkness and the moon. Yang factors include light, fire and the sun. By addressing the wavering balance of Yin and Yang within your body, an acupuncturist will attempt to rebalance and bring you to optimal health using acupuncture and other modalities.

The Which Doctor will start your consult with a comprehensive list of questions including your health and medical history to establish a treatment protocol that is specific to your condition and needs. She will also incorporate the traditional diagnostic tools of tongue and pulse diagnoses as well as any blood test, X-ray or other Western diagnoses you may have into her diagnosis. Her treatment may include 1 or all of the following modalities;


Acupuncture is the most well known branch of Chinese Medicine, due to it’s incorporation into the modern world and modern medicine. In 1972 the then USA President Richard M. Nixon introduced the western world to acupuncture after a successful visit to a Chinese acupuncturist and since then modern medicine’s interest in acupuncture as a medicinal tool has peaked.

Acupuncture is the insertion of many fine needles into anatomical points on the body that have the specific purpose of manipulating Qi (the body’s energy). It is based on the theory that there are several lines of energy throughout our bodies (meridians) that control our energy flow and correspond to our bodily organs. A trained acupuncturist will put anywhere from 10-100 needles into a patient depending on the severity and nature of that condition. These can be anywhere on the body, including in the ears (auriculotherapy), feet, hands, abdomen and muscle lines. An acupuncture degree on its own takes 3-4 years depending on any undergraduate qualifications. A Chinese Medicine degree takes 4-5 years as it includes herbal medicine as well.


Cupping is an interesting aspect of Chinese Medicine that is used for both musculoskeletal conditions and underlying imbalances. The cupping utensils used can be plastic, glass, bamboo or silicon. The suction applied by the cups via either a hand-held suction pump or fire creates a vacuum that sucks the skin and muscle layer up into the cup creating a tight seal. This can have many therapeutic effects including releasing muscle knots and tension, increasing blood flow to encourage healing and calming the nervous system creating a relaxed state for the client. Mostly cups are used on the back and gluteus muscles, but cups may be applied anywhere on the body. Secondary to stationary cupping there is also a process called ‘gliding cupping’ which involves moving the cup up and down a muscle line to intensify the treatment. The cupping treatment may leave a purplish bruise that can last a couple of days following treatment, depending on the level of stagnation/ muscle tension in the client.

Herbal Medicine

Herbal medicine is one of the main branches of Chinese Medicine. Some Chinese Medicine Practitioners only practice herbalism and treat their clients with an array of decoctions devised specifically for each client. It is one of the oldest styles of medicine that has managed to transition to the modern world. Chinese Herbal Medicine is based on the ancient Chinese elements of Yin and Yang and Qi flow within the body. It also treats the body based on the different organs and their specific needs. Clinically it is used by completing an extensive diagnosis of each individual client and tailoring a herbal formula for that client based on signs, symptoms and client feedback. This formula can be made in many forms; raw, powdered, alcohol-based tinctures, creams for external application, tablets or pills. The strength of Chinese Herbalism comes in the very specific, harmonious balancing of herbs into a formula. Herbal formulas can have an infinite amount of herbs; as long as they are balanced correctly and prescribed in the accurate dosages. Most herbal ingredients are plant based and include leaves, roots, sticks, bulbs and flowers of certain medicinal plants however there are some animal based herbal ingredients. A lot of the herbal ingredients used in Chinese Medicine have been used in Western Medicine recently due to their effectiveness i.e turmeric for inflammation, ginger for nausea and licorice root for digestive disturbances.

Chinese Diet Therapy

Chinese Diet therapy is used in conjunction with other modalities to provide an ideal treatment outcome. The theory is based on the Traditional Chinese Medicine theory of Yin and Yang and stresses the importance of having a combination of hot and cold foods in our diet. Hot (or yang foods) increase the body’s temperature and raise metabolism while cold (Yin) food decrease body temperature and metabolism. It also looks at specific bodily organs and certain foods that will aid in the overall health of that organ. Therefore based on a specific diagnosis, clients might be asked to increase or decrease certain types of food in their diet. For example in summer when the body is warmer it makes sense to increase colder foods (salads, fruit) however in winter your body requires cooked warm foods (stews and soups). Each food is also divided into one of 4 temperatures (cold, cool, neutral, warm). Cool or cold foods reduce inflammation and include raw vegetables. Hot/ warm foods strengthen the digestive system and include garlic, ginger and chilli. Neutral foods are used as modifiers and balancers (the most common neutral food is rice).


Moxibustion is a Chinese Medicine Technique that involves burning a herb (mugwort) and warming the skin to encourage healing. There are 2 main types of moxibustion; direct and indirect. Direct moxa involves using a cone- shaped amount of the herb and placing it over an acupuncture point and then burning it to provide therapeutic effect. Indirect moxa is more commonly used in the west due to its easier application. A moxa stick, which looks like a cigar, is heated at one end until the mugwort is alight and held over specific acupuncture points to encourage healing and warming of that area.

Tongue Diagnosis

The tongue is a critical diagnostic tool for a Chinese Medicine Practitioner. Each section of the tongue corresponds to a different bodily organ and therefore aids in the overall treatment plan of the practitioner. Disharmony in certain areas of the tongue suggest underlying imbalances that need to be corrected. The Which Doctor will be looking at size, shape, coating, colour and overall texture of the tongue to gage overall health and areas of improvement. A normal, healthy looking tongue should be pink in colour, moist, smooth and have a thin white coating.

Pulse Diagnosis

Pulse taking is an ancient form of diagnosis that is very helpful in developing an overall diagnosis. A trained acupuncturist will be able to locate 9 pulses on each wrist, making a total of 18 pulses. Each pulse corresponds to a different body organ and gives information about the state of that organ. There are also other overall qualities of the pulse that the Which Doctor will be looking for. These can be felt at any of the 18 pulses and provide vital information on the overall constitution of that client.

What is Functional Medicine?

Functional Medicine is a relatively new form of medicine. Here at the Which Doctor, we endeavour to give you the best treatment outcomes possible and therefore combine a Traditional Chinese Medicine approach with Functional Medicine. Functional Medicine looks at treating the root cause of disease and uses a holistic treatment approach that encompasses the lifestyle of the client into the treatment plan. Instead of the traditional disease-centred focus of western medicine, Functional Medicine uses a client orientated approach that treats the whole person, not a specific symptom. Via extensive questioning a combination of genetic, environmental, lifestyle and biological information is determined and then used to identify and treat the underlying problem that is causing chronic disease. At The Which Doctor this means that as well as being prescribed Chinese Herbal Medicine, you may be prescribed supplements containing essential vitamins or minerals that your body is lacking.

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The Which Doctor will use the wisdom of the east and the science of the west to create the healthiest, happiest version of you.