Treatment Modalities of Chinese Medicine

— Hippocrates, father of medicine, 460-375 BC


Acupuncture is by far the most recognized modality in Chinese medicine. It is often perceived to be the only component of TCM, but is merely one spoke in the TCM treatment wheel.

Acupuncture is like an adaptogen, it supports the body’s inherent ability to respond to stress. Pain and ill health occur when the flow of qi is disrupted. Through the insertion of hair-fine needles into acupuncture points located along complex pathways, called meridians or channels, energy that is blocked begins to move smoothly, promoting health and relieving pain. Stimulation of acu-points through acupuncture helps to restore sufficient, continuous, and even flow of qi throughout the body.

There are a myriad of techniques and styles of acupuncture therapy that influence a practitioner’s manner of practice. Proper stimulation of points is done so with awareness and skill.

Acupuncture needles are significantly smaller than hypodermic needles, so any sensation from needle insertion is usually mild. Some patients report feelings of fullness, warmth, and tingling. There may on occasion be slight discomfort; however, most people find acupuncture to be quite pleasant.

Moxibustion / Natural Heat Therapy

Moxibustion, commonly referred to as moxa, is made of dried mugwort, an herb rich in essential oils, cineole, and eucalyptus. Most common knowledge of moxa pertains to its use indirectly, or directly, on acupuncture points as a pain reliever, to promote blood circulation, or to optimize immune and digestive function. As a tonic, moxa stimulates the adrenal glands and secretes anti-inflammatory hormones, such as cortisone. It also promotes blood circulation to relieve pain and assist in detoxification throughout the lymphatic system and body.

*Please note, moxibustion therapy creates a light, scented smoke, similar to burning sage or incense. This smell permeates the office and can be a sensitive allergen for some individuals. It will always be present in our clinic, though we will try to accommodate to the best of our ability if there is smoke sensitivity.

Chinese Herbal Medicine

Chinese medicine’s pharmacopoeia is rich with history and an invaluable asset to TCM. Chinese herbs are deeply rooted in the practice. The earliest record dates back to 1066-221 B.C., in which artifacts with illustrations of plants were discovered; these relics included case studies, as well as various topics of herbal properties, like toxicity.

The Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing (Divine Husbandman’s Classic of Materia Medica) is the first text on herbal medicine. It is a compilation written by numerous authors in the second century. It presents 365 single herbs, including their properties, dosages, indications, and potential toxicity. Although the Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing laid the foundation for herbal medicine, it was Li Shi-Zhen who truly created the gold standard of treatment with herbs in Chinese medicine. Li Shi-Zhen compiled the first complete pharmacopoeia, Ben Cao Gang Mu (Compendium of Materia Medica), in A.D. 1178. Over the course of 27 years he compiled lists of herbs, properties, descriptions, and illustrations of 1,892 single herbs and 11,000 formulas.

Modern day practitioners comfortably rely upon the Shen Nong Ben Cao, and current publications with updated scientific research in order to prescribe herbs to address many health conditions. In general practice, practitioners integrate herbal formulas according to root and branch symptoms, and constitution, as a result of a rigorous education in herb-drug interactions and efficacy.

The Wellness Principle is deeply committed to the practice of herbal medicine. We firmly believe in the merits of botanicals to further health and healing for acute or chronic disease. Herbal prescriptions are written exclusively for the individual patient in powder or raw form to specifically address the condition being treated, and the person as a whole.

Manual Therapy

Manual therapies encompass a range of manipulations directed toward correcting posture and alleviating stagnation or pain. Medical massage such as Tui Na, partner-assisted stretches, range of motion exercises, and the like are all used to open the joints and loosen the muscles. When used in concert with acupuncture and moxibustion, therapeutic change is quickly achieved, pain disappears, and physical performance is enhanced.

The modern practitioner incorporates a variety of manual therapy techniques including many popular types of massage like Shiatsu, stretching techniques, or the Japanese method of Sotai. In TCM, historically Tui Na has been used as the primary manual therapy alone or in conjunction with other modalities to treat conditions such as orthopedic disorders, pediatric complaints, and internal and gynecological illnesses. The techniques of Tui Na are based on the principles of TCM and work by regulating yin and yang, qi and blood, to reinforce deficiencies and reduce excess to rectify physical abnormality.

These classic techniques, as well as more modern styles of bodywork--like Swedish or deep tissue, trigger point release, and sports massage--are incorporated as appropriate in TCM treatments at

The Wellness Principle.


All the modalities that comprise the system of TCM promote prevention of disease and are forms of palliative care. An often overlooked but equally important foundation of TCM is physical exercise. The concept of exercise as a therapy for physical health as well as mental-emotional health is not unique to TCM. The idea that movement is good for the body is fairly innate, and it could be argued that movement is one of the most self-prescribed forms of therapy, especially with respect to managing stress.

It is not unusual for practitioners to have patients who may overdo exercise regimens, perhaps in an effort to manage stress or hold on to a physical ideal. However, eventually too much exercise, or just as importantly, the wrong type of exercise, can result in injury and, from a TCM viewpoint: the depletion of qi, blood, yin and/or yang, as well as stagnation of qi and blood.

It is the TCM idea of appropriate exercise that differentiates it from many modern day recommendations on exercise for health and longevity. More specifically, TCM’s idea of safe exercise places greater emphasis on gentle movement and the building of internal health, such as the benefits gained from Qigong or Tai Ji, as a means to obtaining whole body wellness, rather than the relatively more external and aggressive focus of running and lifting weights, which have greater potential to cause depletion of the vital substances or cause stagnation, or pain.

Qigong is a method of exercise that can be done on a daily basis without amenities, accessories, or strict routine. It emphasizes circulation, decreases stress and inflammation, and does so without adverse effects.

The Wellness Principle will focus on the aspect of physical exercise that is appropriate to an individual’s health and constitution, making treatment plans that promote movement and consequently, less pain, inflammation, and chronic disease.

Dietary therapy/nutrition

In Chinese medicine, food is medicine.

The merits of nutrition in TCM go back more than 5,000 years with a direct relationship to the importance of balance and harmony for wellness. It is essential that the body receive proper food and fluids to cultivate healthy energy. Every food item and fluid has a specific property and temperature that establishes its category in dietary medicine. One’s constitution determines what foods to increase or decrease. Similarly, different disease and conditions influence what should or should not be consumed to maintain good health, as well as recover from illness.

In ancient China, people were deeply connected to their environment and acutely aware of how their bodies responded to their surroundings. This actualized in an awareness of mind, body, and balance through proper diet and nutrition. Therefore, just as the whole of TCM is a complete system of healthcare, so is nutritional medicine.

Nutrition is a congruent balance of dietary needs and modifications to promote healing and prevent disease, addressing the person as a whole.

The Wellness Principle uses these nutritional truths to make patients aware of their body types and how to modify their diets to optimize and improve digestion, and therefore, balance metabolism, and control blood sugar and weight. Most importantly, TCM nutrition is a flexible form of dietary medicine that adapts to individual constitutions and physical needs in order to create long-term, sustainable dietary health.