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Natural Awakenings Austin

Therapy Spotlight: The Five Pillars of Traditional Chinese Medicine

October 24 is Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine Day. The five pillars of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) include acupuncture, tui na, herbal medicine therapy, nutrition and qigong. For maximum health benefits, awareness of the range of holistic TCM practices is key.

Acupuncture involves strategically inserting small, hair-thin needles into various parts of the body to effect change. Acupuncture is used to alleviate pain and treat health concerns such as anxiety, insomnia, allergies and gut health, as well as more complex matters like infertility, post-chemotherapy cancer care, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and more.

Tui Na is ancient China’s manual therapy pronounced “twee nah” (“push” and “grasp”). While acupuncture treats specific points on the body, tui na works on meridians or larger geographic regions. As a separate medical specialty in China, tui na practitioners function like orthopedic doctors. Tui na may help clients recover from an acute injury, lingering pain or anxiety that leads to physical tension, and may help restore balance to the mind and body.

Herbal medicine therapy is administered using raw herbs that are ingested in teas, ground into powders, taken as pills or delivered through a tincture, balm or compress. Traditional formulas are used or modified according to specific client needs.

Proper nutrition is an important pillar of good health. Chinese medicine assigns to food specific characteristics and views them as having five properties (sour, bitter, sweet, pungent or salty) and four natures (cool, cold, warm or hot). Judicious alimentary selection based on these criteria makes for improved health as a result of nourishing choices. Choosing food that is complementary to an individual’s lifestyle, level of health and caloric needs sets a foundation for flourishing health.

The energy-balancing practice of qigong is an excellent modality for self-care and wellbeing. Calming, soothing and centering, qigong (“energy movement”) involves focused movement accompanied by mindful breathwork. Qigong can help the mind, body and spirit, and is a supportive modality for people with conditions like fibromyalgia, Parkinson’s disease and more. It’s also excellent for basic health nurturance.

Chinese medicine is a holistic, complementary system that supports the maintenance and improvement of health.

Paula Bruno, Ph.D., L.Ac., is an acupuncturist, a traditional Chinese bodywork therapist, and a wellness educator. For more information about holistic health practices, go to

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