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The connection between acupuncture and herbal medicine is that they are both used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) along with massage, exercise and nutrition. Used together, acupuncture and herbal medicine are thought to treat many conditions, including pain, stress and allergy symptoms, as well as strengthen the immune system. TCM is considered holistic healing in that it focuses on the mind, body and spirit rather than the illness itself.
TCM may be used to treat a condition or prevent one. For example, someone who is prone to colds and the flu may undergo acupuncture treatment and take herbal medicine before actually getting sick, with the aim of reducing or avoiding attacks altogether. There have been many studies that support the use of acupuncture and herbal medicine to help ease the symptom management of cancer, particularly the negative effects of radiation and chemotherapy.
Acupuncture is used to restore the even flow of qi, or energy, along meridians or specific pathways all over the body. Hundreds of acupuncture points are connected to certain parts of the body, and a headache may be eased by the use of acupuncture needles in the feet. Promotion of the flow of qi strengthens and supports the immune system, thus enabling the body to fight off disease. The Western medical community was initially skeptical of this type of treatment, but this is slowly changing as acceptance of holistic healing and complementary medicine grows.
Chinese herbs are often used in conjunction with acupuncture treatments in order to enhance the therapeutic effects. They are meant to be taken between acupuncture sessions to support and augment the healing process. In addition to serving other purposes, the herbs strengthen the body when it is in a weakened condition. The herbs may be prescribed as formulas of up to 20 different types and may be of plant, mineral or animal origin. Some of the more controversial are of animal origin, such as shark fin, bear bile, tiger penis, rhinoceros horn and human placenta.
Using acupuncture and herbal medicine together may also treat conditions such as depression, anxiety and fear. It is meant to reduce risk factors and focus on prevention. TCM also advocates changing lifestyle and diet to incorporate healthier exercise habits and nutrition. It is believed that processed foods and the increased use of chemicals are the main reasons for increased incidences of conditions such as allergies, obesity, attention deficiency disorder and autism.