They didn’t teach this in School! TCM -vs- Meridian Acupuncture 5/5 (41)

Confused-woman4Let’s face it – There are things they DIDN’T teach you in Acupuncture School!

• WHAT is Meridian Therapy acupuncture?
• HOW is it different from TCM acupuncture?
• WHY wasn’t this taught in Acupuncture School?

It’s important to know the answer to these questions.  Understanding the complete history and nature of Acupuncture will improve your skills as a healer.

Let me give you a little background.

After my first eight years in practice, I went to China to further study Chinese herbal medicine and while there, I deepened my exposure to Chinese acupuncture. There is no doubt that TCM acupuncture is effective, either by infusing local areas with qi for localized trauma, or by using 3-point combinations (local, distal, remote) to direct and focus qi to problem areas according to zang-fu/eight category differentiation.

TCM acupuncture as a style or system corresponds closely to Chinese herbal medicine.

Herbs1In herbal medicine, problems are focused on zang-fu/eight category imbalances, that is, internal problems affecting internal energetic-physiological organs. Each organ is known to behave in a certain way, and each organ has specific ways of not behaving well; these are familiar to us as the zang-fu differentiations.

Detailed differentiation is necessary in order to choose herbs or herbal formulas correctly. When a patient has a complaint, a name of a disease is given (for example, Insomnia), and then the various zang-fu differentiations are listed. A single differentiation is chosen based on clinical history, symptoms tongue and pulse, and herbs or herbal formulas are assigned addressing the differentiation.

For example, Insomnia might be differentiated as a deficiency of heart yin with exuberance of heart fire.

Herbs or herbal formulas are chosen that nourish heart yin and reduce heart fire.

Channel problems, whether due to trauma or exogenous/endogenous factors (wind, cold, heat, blood), are also treated according to zang-fu/eight category differentiation, without much attention given to relative excesses or deficiencies of the various channels.

TCM acupuncture follows the herbal model, with point combinations assigned for the various differentiation. In the case of insomnia due to deficiency of heart yin with exuberance of heart fire, the point combination would be HT 7, SP 6, KI 3 and extra An Mian point. Or a 3-point local-distal-remote combination would be recommend, such as PC 6, CV 17, and KI 3.

The TCM model is remarkably successful when using herbs as the mediation, relying on a long history of classical texts, formulas and an abundance of medicinal herbs (5000, of which 500 are in common use).

I would have to say, however, that as a stand-alone therapy, TCM acupuncture is less successful.

In my next article I will discuss how TCM acupuncture is a comparatively recent construct when it comes to acupuncture methods.

If you want to read ahead…click on my Special Report. It’s free and goes into more depth comparing  TCM and Meridian Therapy.  Fratkin_Thumb

Download the Special Report here.

Until next time, have a great week!



Dr. Jake Paul Fratkin, OMD, L.Ac.
Special Guest Author


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Dr. Jake P. Fratkin, DOM, L.Ac.

Trained in Korean and Japanese acupuncture since 1975, and Chinese herbal medicine since 1982, and has studied and taught qi gong and Yang family Taijiquan since 1974. He is the author of Chinese Herbal Patent Medicines, The Clinical Desk Reference and the editor-organizer of Wu and Fischer’s Practical Therapeutics of Traditional Chinese Medicine. He is currently completing TCM Case Studies in Autoimmune Disease with Dr. Zeng Sheng-ping for People’s Medical Publishing House, Beijing. He is the recipient of Acupuncturist of the Year, 1999, by the AAAOM and Teacher of the Year, 2006, American Association of Teachers of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (AATAOM). Dr. Fratkin lives and practices in Boulder, Colorado.

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