Glossary of Terms… Speak the lingo

Classical acupuncture terms can be a little… odd, until you get used to them. Check out this resource we put together to bring you into the loop!

Would you like to grow a better understanding of your health, and acupuncture lingo? Read on (or download the Glossary!)

If you find you want to explore these ideas more fully, look into Brian’s workshops!

Acupuncture techniques, defined

Gua Sha (“gwah-sha”)

A scraping technique using a tool such as a horn or a ceramic soup spoon. There are different forms of gua sha, all with the goal of breaking up adhesions and/or unlocking previously stiffened or numb areas. We apply oil or salve to the skin prior to gua sha-ing, and it is typically a relaxing experience for the patient.

Using suction, the cup is adhered to the body over a certain area – very often the back, although it could be on the limbs, face, or neck. Cupping is often used to help relieve muscular tension, as well as help draw pathogenic factors from the body during the onset of sickness. Cupping is generally very pleasant, and many people ask for it by name.

Although it often leaves circular marks on the skin that look like bruises, cupping very rarely produces pain or soreness.

Moxibustion (or moxa for short) is a heat therapy that is intimately intertwined with acupuncture. Moxa is a dried and prepared version of the herb mugwort (sometimes combined with other herbs, such as sage) that we light and use to stimulate acupuncture points or channels.

We use moxa in several forms. Loose moxa can be applied directly to the skin or needle handle. Moxa in a cigar-shaped roll is held a short distance from an acupuncture point to stimulate and warm it.

General Chinese Medicine Terms

Yin & Yang
A way to understand and talk about change. Yin and yang describe the motive forces inherent in the relationships between things. Like big and small, yin and yang are only meaningful when you make a comparison: an elephant is big next to a mouse but small next to a whale.

Yin – rest and receptivity
Yang – motion and activation

The relationship between the parts in a system. Qi is a way to understand the whole activity of a system or its effects. In general, qi is function.

Nutritive Qi (Ying Qi)
The fluid and blood system of the body: the nourishment that allows each cell of the body to complete its functions and expel its waste. The most important fluids in cold and flu treatment are the exocrine fluids that allow for sweating and mucus production.

Defensive Qi (Wei Qi)
The system that provides the body’s protection from external PFs (see below).

Pathogenic Factor (PF)
External or internal forces such as temperature, pressure, radiation, allergens, and infectious agents that challenge the body’s integrity and health. These factors require us to change and adapt in their presence.

Change in pressure that brings changes in temperature and weather. Wind is figurative for all change. Wind blows other factors into the body. When it carries cold or heat into the body’s exterior, it is called Wind-Cold or Wind-Heat, respectively.

Restricts and slows down motion. Cold tends to cause constriction and blockages in the body. It tends to stop function and makes us hunker down.

Expands and accelerates motions. Because it moves quickly, heat can create urgency in a health condition. It accelerates a process, such as a bacterial growth, and burns up fluids.

Bogs down motion. Damp can create confusion or make us more cautious, as when driving through a fog. Damp is often a messy response to heat because it can slow down heat’s expansion by binding with the heat.