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What Is Acupuncture? Learning What It's Based On

If you are experiencing pain, discomfort or feeling ill, you are likely searching for remedies or anything to make yourself feel better. One thing that is often overlooked and misunderstood is acupuncture.

There is so much more to this practice than just sticking needles in your body; there are reasons and science behind this method. If you are interested in acupuncture treatment or just want to know more about the topic, keep reading to learn more about it and what it treats.

What Is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture is a holistic system based upon twelve primary channels and eight extraordinary vessels in the body, in which Qi (vital-energy) circulates. When the balance within the body is disrupted, the flow of vital-energy can become blocked leading to pain, discomfort and illness. Acupuncture needles are used at specific points to stimulate the Qi along the channels to harmonize the body and bring balance (health) where there was once imbalance causing illness and pain.

Along with learning what acupuncture is, it’s important to understand where it stems from and all of the parts that make it whole. Below are descriptions of the twelve primary channels and eight extraordinary vessels in the body.

What Are the Primary Channels of Acupuncture?

The primary channels deal with the Yin and Yang of our body, each falling to a different organ. Here’s how each primary channel impacts the human body, as depicted by the Alberta College of Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine.

1. Hand Tai Yin Lung Channel

Known as the ‘Prime Minister,’ the Lungs control breath and vital-energy and assist the ‘Monarch’ heart with the circulation of blood. The Internal Medicine Classic states, “Vital-energy is the commander of blood; when energy moves, blood follows. Blood is the mother of energy; where blood goes, energy follows.” This intimate relationship between breath and pulse, blood and energy, is the basis of Chinese breathing exercises. You can read more about this channel here.

2. Hand Shao Yin Heart Channel

The heart is known as the ‘Monarch’ of the organs. The Internal Medicine Classic explains, “The heart commands all of the organs and viscera, houses the Spirit, and controls the emotions.” When the Heart is strong and steady, it has control over emotions; when it is weak and wavering, the emotions start to prey upon the Heart-mind, which then loses its command over the body. Click here for even more information.

3. Hand Jue Yin Pericardium Channel

Known as the ‘Ambassador,’ the pericardium is the Heart's protective sack. Though this organ is not recognized in Western physiology, in Chinese medicine, it is regarded as a fire-energy organ whose function is to protect the Heart.

Not only does the pericardium provide the Heart with physical protection, its energy also protects the Heart from damage and disruption by excessive emotional energies generated by the other organs, such as anger from the Liver, fear from the Kidneys and grief from the Lungs; click here for more details.

4. Hand Shao Yang Triple Burner Channel

This organ-energy system is called the ‘Irrigation Official.’ It is responsible for the movement and transformation of many solids and fluids throughout the system.

It is composed of three parts, known as 'burners,' each associated with one of the body's three main cavities: thorax, abdomen and pelvis. An ancient Chinese medical text states, “The Upper Burner controls intake, the Middle Burner controls transformation, the Lower Burner controls elimination.” Read more about the Triple Burner here.

5. Hand Tai Yang Small Intestine Channel

This channel is called the ‘Minister of Reception.’ The Small Intestine receives some digested food from the Stomach and further refines it, separating 'the pure from the impure,' then assimilating the purified nutrients and moving the impure waste onwards to the Large Intestine for elimination. Find out more about this channel here.

6. Hand Yang Ming Large Intestine Channel

The Large Intestine is called the ‘Receiving Official.’ The Large Intestine controls the transformation of digestive wastes from liquid to solid state and transports the solids onwards and outwards for excretion through the rectum. This also plays a major role in the balance and purity of bodily fluids and assists the Lungs in controlling the skin's pores and perspiration; for more information, click here.

7. Foot Tai Yin Spleen Channel

This organ is called the ‘Granary Official.’ The Spleen and pancreas control extraction and assimilation of nutrients from foods and fluids by giving the digestive enzymes and energy required by the Stomach and Small Intestine. Read more about the “Minister of the Granary” here.

8. Foot Shao Yin Kidney Channel

The Kidney is regarded as the most important energy center of the body. In the Chinese view, the Kidney organ system also includes the adrenal glands, which consist of the adrenal medulla and the adrenal cortex. Read more about this channel, known as the ‘Minister of Health,’ in the link.

9. Foot Jue Yin Liver Channel

This channel is called the ‘General,’ and it’s responsible for filtering, detoxifying, nourishing, replenishing and storing blood. The Liver stores large amounts of sugar in the form of glycogen, which it releases into the blood stream as glucose whenever the body requires extra infusions of metabolic energy. You can find out more about the ‘General’ here.

10. Foot Shao Yang Gallbladder Channel

This channel oversees the ‘Central Cleaning Department’ and is known as the “Judge.” It secretes the pure and potent bile fluids required to digest and metabolize fats and oils, and its energy provides muscular strength and vitality. For more information, click on this link.

11. Foot Tai Yang Urinary Bladder Channel

This channel, the Urinary Bladder, is called the ‘Minor District Official’ and is responsible for storing and getting rid of the urinary waste fluids passed down from the Kidneys. As an organ, the Bladder has only this function, but as an energy system the Bladder is intimately related to the functions and balance of the autonomous nervous system. Find out more about this energy system here.

12. Foot Yang Ming Stomach Channel

This channel of the Stomach is called the ‘Granary Official.’ This is also known as the “Sea of Nourishment” because it has the job of providing the entire system with postnatal energy from the digestion of food and fluids. The Stomach also extracts pure postnatal energy from foods and fluids, and in coordination with Spleen energy it transports this food energy through the channel system to the Lungs, where it combines with air energy from breathing. Learn more about the role of the Stomach here.

What Are the Extraordinary Vessels of Acupuncture?

Along with the twelve primary channels, our bodies also have eight extraordinary vessels in the body. These vessels represent the deepest part of the body’s energetic structuring. According to Acupuncture Today, “The eight vessels supply the twelve primary channels with Qi and blood, supporting our DNA or genetic heritage.”

Here are each of the eight extraordinary vessels as detailed by Acupuncture Today.

1. Dai Vessel

The master point of the Dai vessel is the Gall Bladder This impacts the retroaurical area, the cheek, and the outer canthus of the eye. Energetic issues involving the Dai Vessel can manifest in a person "near to tears" from frustration, indecision or low self-esteem. Psycho-spiritually, this vessel is a repository for unexpressed emotions and psychological complexes that require transformation. The repression of these shadow aspects of the personality may give rise to dampness of Body, Mind and Spirit.

2. Ren Vessel

The Ren vessel receives and transports the vital-energy of all the Yin channels and regulates the uterus, menstruation, menopause, pregnancy and more. Since the master point is on the Lung channel, it is associated with respiratory syndromes like childhood asthma.

The pairing of Ren vessel and Yin Qiao vessel, in relation to the Lung and Kidney, energetically affects the Lungs, chest and throat, and is very useful in a clinical situation, especially in addressing breathing imbalances.

3. Chong Vessel

The master point of the Chong vessel is the Spleen. This impacts the Heart, chest and Stomach. This "vital passage" regulates the flow of vital-energy and blood in the twelve primary channels, and is significant in gynecological disorders, digestive issues, prolapses and problems with the Heart. Energetically, it relates to intergenerational patterns, issues arising from abuse, and cellular memory. Psycho-spiritually, an imbalance in the Chong vessel negatively impacts our self-acceptance and self-love.

4. Du Vessel

The master point of the Du vessel is Small Intestine; this vessel governs the vital-energy of all the Yang channels; it is also coupled with the Yang Qiao vessel.

This vessel pair is effective in treating stiffness in the shoulder, neck and back, and regulates the inner canthus of the eye. When this coupling of vessels is utilized in treatment, the entire spine is focused on. It also nourishes the brain, and treats dizziness and tinnitus. On an energetic level, the Du vessel relates to transformational cycles, survival issues and groundedness in the world.

5. Yang Qiao Vessel

The Yang Qiao vessel is paired with the Du vessel; syndromes include a sensation of "walking on a slant," excessive thinking, and a generalized feeling of being overwhelmed and out-of-control. Conditions such as insomnia, epilepsy, facial paralysis and Bell's palsy are relevant.

6. Yin Qiao Vessel

This channel is paired with the Ren vessel; with energetic imbalances in this channel, manifestations include left/right imbalance, inversion of the foot, pain in the eyes, somnolence, etc. Psycho-spiritually, there are issues of self-trust, abandonment, depression and feelings of unworthiness.

7. Yang Wei Vessel

Energetically, this regulates our old habits and patterns, and the release of these pre-established modes of behavior that prevent us from evolving. Psycho-spiritually, since the Yang Wei vessel represents the last stage of defense before the body is penetrated by an invading pathogen, this channel can be used to treat issues of terminal illness, such as cancer or AIDS.

8. Yin Wei Vessel

The Yin Wei vessel is paired with the Chong vessel. Psycho-spiritually, this vessel is concerned with the meaning that we derive from life, and helps us to respond to life with clarity and compassion.

Engaging with Acupuncture

Understanding all the ins and outs of acupuncture is just as important as knowing how it will help you physically and mentally. The twelve primary channels and eight extraordinary vessels all play an important role in regulating health and healing.

Are you ready to begin a relationship with acupuncture? Make an appointment at Green Lake Natural Health today.

About Green Lake Natural Health:

Green Lake Natural Health provides natural healing services and medicinal herb counseling to patients. The mission of Green Lake Natural Health is to provide customized care to patients to effectively treat their health concerns in a natural manner that restores harmony and healing in the body. Services include, but are not limited to, acupuncture, massage, medicinal herb counseling to treat conditions such as anxiety, insomnia, chronic pain and more.

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