How acupuncture can be interpreted by traditional western Medicine

First attempts of acupuncture and cupping with Dr Deng - a bit OTT in retrospect!

First attempts of acupuncture and cupping with Dr Deng

My sister passed this interesting article on to me, so I am sharing it with you (here is a photo of me being treated with both acupuncture and cupping!)

                                 Chinese Medicine Newsletter – Winter 2014

Welcome to the Chinese Medicine Newsletter.  For past newsletters please visit my website at and click on “patient resources.”

I want to discuss an interesting book I’ve been reading written by a British physician who is also a practicing acupuncturist (The Spark in the Machine by Dr Daniel Keowan). He presents a fascinating thesis of how to explain some of the premises of acupuncture within a Western medical understanding of embryology and physiology.  Although acupuncture has been proven effective for many conditions based on hundreds of clinical studies over the past many years, as evidenced by the World Health Organization recommending it for over 50 diseases and conditions, there has never been an adequate explanation for Western science as to how it works, i.e. for example, what exactly are the acupuncture points and the meridians pathways along which the “qi energy” (pronounced chi) is said to flow and how, when stimulated, do these affect change in our system.

The book presents a plethora of information and hypotheses.  In the short venue of this newsletter I can only touch on a couple of the main points.

 In the beginning of his book Dr Keowan states, “Cancer spreads through fascia yet, despite this,

fascia is the great ignored substance of Western Medicine… Despite this, every good surgeon respects fascia. Every nerve, muscle, blood vessel, organ, bone and tendon is covered in it, and it tells a surgeon where things should be.  Fascia isn’t there to just help surgeons; it is there to enable the body to know where things should be and what they should be doing.”

It connects organs to muscle, to the spine, to nerves; it surrounds bone and underpins skin.

This foreshadows his explanation of the mechanism of how the qi energy of Chinese medicine is distributed throughout our system

He goes on to reiterate that fascia is a type of connective tissue which is crucial for the formation of the body cavities and the organs within.  It provides important structure to delineate and separate our organs so we are not just a gelatinous mass.  Not only that, it is very impermeable, which protects the interior content (organs, blood vessels, etc) from invasion of unwanted substances.

The principle ingredient of fascia is collagen.  Collagen, besides being incredibly strong, is very electrically conductive.  It is now well known in Western medicine, for example, that applying electrical current accelerates bone healing.  Collagen is a semiconductor and a generator of piezoelectricity in the body, which is an electric charge that accumulates in crystals as well as biological matter such as bone, certain proteins, DNA, etc.  This is the charge that is generated, for example, whenever our bones are stressed by movement and weight (gravity) which triggers electrical charge. This is essential for bone health and density.

Dr Keowan proposes that fascia explains the channels through which qi flows. This vital qi energy is every moment circulating and nourishing all aspects of our system.  It is this same qi that is stimulated at the acupuncture points to effect change in our body and psyche. Since fascia connects our interior to our exterior, this helps to explain the internal pathways along which qi or bio-energy flows as well as how it then connects to the surface of the body, allowing the stimulation of an acupuncture point on the skin to affect internal organs and functions.  The Chinese, for over two thousand years, have mapped out these pathways that seem to become evident when considering the pathways of fascia.  Qi is not random energy, but is the force of intelligent metabolism in the body. It is the force that generates cell growth as well as what powers the most elegant thoughts a human being can have. Continuing to make links between the enduring ancient wisdom of Chinese medicine and modern medical science is an ongoing and intriguing new area of study.

As for the wisdom of Chinese medicine as it relates to this time of year, we are reminded to slow down, rest more, nourish and build our reserves, like nature quietly strengthening during winter in preparation for the outward thrust of energy in the spring.  Deeply listening to our body’s rhythms and the ebbs and flows of our desires and actions helps us to maintain an inward presence of calm and stability in order to preserve the integrity of our qi energy.

All around nature is reminding us of that this is the season of quiescence.

We are encouraged to pay attention to what calls us to action during this time of rest and repose and invest our energy in only what is most essential.

Enjoy the holidays!

Be well,


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