Frequently Asked Questions

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

What is Traditional Asian Medicine?

Traditional Asian Medicine is a dynamic system of medicine that has been systematically practiced and developed for over 2,500 years.  TAM is a multi-faceted system that consists of many modalities, including acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, tuina (Chinese massage/bodywork), moxibustion (the burning of Artemisia vulgaris to warm an area or point), electric stimulation (of acupuncture points/meridians), dietary therapy, and energy exercises such as tai chi and qi gong.  Your practitioner will employ one or a combination of the above modalities in order to address your unique needs.


What is acupuncture, and how does it work?

Acupuncture is the insertion of smooth, solid, stainless-steel (and, as practiced today, also sterile and disposable) needles into the body with the objective of achieving therapeutic results. 

For over two thousand years, acupuncture theory and practice developed within the cultural and medical paradigms of East Asia (primarily China, but also spread to Japan, Korea, Vietnam, and Tibet). Acupuncture is now practiced in many parts of the world, and various styles of practice have evolved. Among these, the Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Korean, Five Element, and French acupuncture styles are some of the most common ones practiced today.

Acupuncture was introduced to the West in the 20th century, after which its function and applications have been consistently studied within the biomedical framework.  The traditional and biomedical understandings of acupuncture offer different, but not contradictory, explanations for how acupuncture works. 

The classical Traditional Asian Medicine perspective identifies a network of channels or meridians that courses our bodies, through which vital energy, or qi, flows.  Smooth flow of qi ensures health, whereas any impediment of qi results in disease or pain.  Hundreds of acupuncture points exist along the energy channels.  Placing needles in the appropriate points helps to open the channels, and promotes the smooth flow of qi, thus restoring balance and health. 

Modern biomedical research has found that acupuncture points are electrically and anatomically distinct areas on the body.  By stimulating these special sites, acupuncture can alter the hormonal system, immune system, as well as the central nervous system (including brain chemistry), and affect a wide range of physiological changes.  Thus, acupuncture can treat conditions as diverse as digestive disorders, gynecological issues, musculoskeletal pain, allergies, headaches, and even functional chest pain, to name a few.  Acupuncture can also moderate the stress response, improving psychological conditions such as anxiety and depression.  Acupuncture is a powerful therapy that treats both mind and body. 


Is Acupuncture Safe?

Acupuncture has a great safety track record.  The most common risks of acupuncture involve slight bruising and occasional bleeding at the site of needle insertion.  At MHS, we use only disposable, pre-sterilized needles, which prevents infectious transmissions of any kind.  More serious adverse incidents associated with acupuncture are extremely rare (no occurrences at MHS, ever), can involve pneumothorax (punctured lungs), as well as rare incidences of infection. Also, failure to seek or delay standard medical care has been listed in the literature as a potential problem along with patients’ stopping prescribed drug therapy without their doctor’s knowledge.

Less severe adverse events include bruising, fainting, sweating, and mild dizziness. Overall, the statistical data rate acupuncture as a very safe treatment modality, particularly when compared to the much higher incidence of adverse events in standard western medical treatment.


What is Chinese Herbal Medicine?

Chinese herbal medicine has been practiced methodically and empirically for over 5,000 years, with the first manual on medicinals dating back to the 1st century C.E.  Although commonly named “Chinese herbal medicine” (CHM), the Chinese medicine pharmacy also includes some mineral and animal substances.

A typical Chinese herbal pharmacy has 200-250 medicinals.  Chinese herbs are almost always dispensed as a formula, which contains approximately 6 to 20 different medicinals.  The ability to alter the dosages and components within any given formula is a great strength of CHM, as this allows for a unique tailoring of an individual patient’s specific condition. 

CHM can be used in acute situations such as the common cold or temporary indigestion, but where CHM really shines is in the treatment of chronic health conditions. CHM restores one’s fundamental health and balance, and if applied properly, CHM can help to heal conditions that Western medicine manages with little success.  Examples of such include menopausal symptoms, infertility, PMS, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, chronic pain, seasonal allergies, hypertension, diabetes, migraines… the list goes on!

CHM is frequently used in conjunction with acupuncture treatment to provide efficient healing.  However, each modality can stand alone as an effective system of medicine.  In China, acupuncture patients commonly receive daily treatments.  That kind of schedule is often not feasible in the West due to time and cost constraints.  CHM is a cost-effective way to provide daily treatments in-between acupuncture sessions, and helps to give maximum progress in minimum time.



Do the herbs have any side effects?

Side effects from properly-prescribed formulas are rare.  The most common ones—abdominal bloating/gas, temporary “jolt of energy” or change in body temperature—tend to be mild, and are easily eliminated by appropriate modification of the herbal formula.  In the last twenty years, there have been a few news reports regarding Chinese herbs’ more serious side effects, such as renal failure.  These incidents all involved the improper usage of Chinese herbs; they used much higher doses (10-50 times the accepted standard), used herbs out of context (e.g. weight loss rather than promoting mild sweating), and improper combination with western drug treatment.  The best way to assure one’s safety when taking Chinese herbs is to be under the care of a properly-trained, experienced Chinese herbalist.


Can I take herbs if I’m taking prescription medications?

“Herb-drug interactions” have been a hot topic recently, as Western botanicals have become more popular and herbs such as St. John’s Wort have demonstrated measurable interactions with prescription medications.  Studying the herb-drug interactions associated with Chinese herbs is much more difficult, because CHM uses multi-ingredient formulas that are much more biochemically complex.

This is a fairly new area of study, and researchers such as pharmacist John Chen, PhD, DPharm, OMD of Lotus Herbs, Inc. in California, have published data of Chinese herb-drug interactions.  Your MHS herbal practitioner will be up-to-date with the emerging research, and will incorporate all information—classical and contemporary—in order to assure safety in your usage of CHM. 


Which type of training did my Practitioner receive?

All practitioners are licensed to practice acupuncture in North Carolina. Please review each practitioner’s bio and resume.


Which conditions can be treated by Traditional Asian Medicine?

Below are the most common conditions that we at MHS have treated, with great results:

Acid Reflux
Adrenal Fatigue
Back Pain
Cancer Support
Chronic Cough
Chronic Fatigue
Crohn’s Disease
Digestive Pain
Ear Infections
Elbow Pain
Headaches and Migraines
Immune System Disorders
IVF/IUI Preparatory and Complementary Care
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Knee Pain
Low Back Pain
Menstrual Issues: amenorrhea, anovulation, painful periods, heavy periods, PMS
Metabolic Imbalance
Morning Sickness
Pain – most kinds!
Pregnancy Complications including turning a breech baby
Postpartum Support (lactation pain, milk shortage, fatigue, anxiety, etc)
Sinus Infections
Shoulder Pain
Sports Injuries/Athletic Condition Maintenance
Stress Management
Surgery (Preparation and Recovery)
Thyroid Imbalance
Ulcerative Colitis
Urinary Tract Infections

Of course, there are also many other conditions that can be helped by acupuncture.  To see a list of these as recognized by the WHO and NIH,


What can I expect from an appointment?

Your first appointment will last 1 ½ to 2 hours, during which we will do a complete intake as well as a full treatment.  Subsequent sessions take about an hour.  The intake from the first session will cover all the specifics of your primary complaint(s), plus many things that you may not associate with your condition.  For example, if you come in for back pain, we will ask about the cause, duration, site, intensity, quality, etc. of the pain, and we may also ask about your energy level, sleep habits, digestion, and many other areas.  This thorough intake guides us to understand the root causes of your specific ailments and in which context your complaint was able to arise in the first place.

After the intake, we will then take your pulse on both wrists, look at your tongue, and palpate different body regions in order to make a complete diagnosis.  Based upon all these findings, we will then recommend a course of treatment for you.  It may involve only acupuncture or herbs, but most likely it will be a custom-tailored mix of acupuncture, dietary and lifestyle changes, self-massage, and CHM—whatever it takes for you to make the most progress in the least amount of time. In specific cases, we may suggest you seek western medical care for further evaluation.

If you are having acupuncture treatment, you will be asked lie down on a comfortable treatment table.  After a careful series of acupuncture point examinations, your practitioner will insert some needles into the appropriate points.  The needles are sterile, disposable, and, more often than not, are far smaller than what our patients had imagined.  Our acupuncture practice is mainly based upon a Japanese style, which emphasizes very gentle techniques.  Often, patients are surprised that they feel immediate improvements in their physical pain or emotional state.  Usually, the needles are retained for 20-40 minutes, during which patients fall into a deep state of relaxation (or they fall asleep!). 

When the treatment is complete, you may be given some homework, which may include some simple exercises, self-massage, or acupressure.  If needed, you will be given herbal medicine or dietary supplements and instructed on their use. 


How quickly will I respond to treatment?

Some patients are quick responders while others will respond more gradually. Your practitioner will usually know by your response to palpation of certain reflex zones and how quickly those clear. The outcome depends on your constitution, presence of toxins, medications and severity of the energetic and physical imbalance. Based on our clinical experience we find that most patients respond fairly fast. You should expect initial improvement of your symptoms within 3 to 5 visits.


East Meets West

The practitioners at MHS have been studying and applying functional medicine as part of our holistic practice since 2008. We are happy to report that patient feedback has been extremely positive.

Wikipedia defines functional medicine as an alternative medicine that focuses on improving physiological function as a primary method of improving the health of patients with chronic disease. It is a science-based field that is grounded in the biochemistry of each individual’s physiology, and is patient-centered. It looks at health as a web-like interconnectedness between organ and endocrine systems which work synergistically together like a finely tuned orchestra, rather than individual systems functioning autonomously and without any effect on each other.

For example, functional medicine principles tell us that digestive problems can impact neurotransmitters, thereby influencing moods and feelings; thyroid imbalances affect digestion, potentially leading to poor absorption, high cholesterol, and gallstone formation; immunological factors can promote cardiovascular disease; and dietary imbalances can lead to hormonal problems.

When we carefully interpret a patient’s health history from this perspective, we can address health problems with Eastern methods as we have traditionally done, and also fine-tune imbalances by supporting physiology with nutrition and botanicals from a Western viewpoint. We have found that combining East and West has made our results more profound and longer lasting.


Have you ever wondered if your bloodwork can give you information about your nutritional status?

Our food consists of various components such as water, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, enzymes, minerals, electrolytes, sugars, and amino acids. These nutrients, once ingested, are converted into energy, blood, and myriad cellular building blocks, all of which are necessary to sustain a healthy body and mind.

It is common for people to eat improperly: one can eat too much or too little, eat under stress or in rushed situations, have digestive imbalances, or eat foods inappropriate for one’s body type. As a result, many people develop nutritional imbalances from an improper diet.

Prolonged nutritional imbalances can cause fatigue, general discomfort, or may lead to physiological imbalances that result in actual disease. Possible physiological imbalances include hormonal problems, toxicity, gut inflammation, adrenal imbalances, poor memory or concentration, depression, anxiety, mood swings, fatigue, weight problems, food cravings, chronic pain, and many others.

A comprehensive blood nutrition panel can identify nutritional and physiological imbalances. These imbalances can, in many cases, be remedied using natural dietary supplements and/or making dietary changes. The goal is to balance the system to help patients achieve optimal health, vitality and well-being.

However, many problems exist with conventional lab blood tests. The reference ranges to analyze blood work are much wider now compared to what they were twenty to thirty years ago. The labs’ normal ranges can vary from lab to lab, and even between different areas of the country. The overall population of this country has become progressively less healthy, which has caused the lab reference ranges to become broader. In addition, physicians can only run those tests that are deemed “medically necessary” by the insurance carriers, further limiting the utility of laboratory tests.

Many of our patients here at MHS have the goal of achieving optimal health.  Hence, it behooves us to look beyond the current limits of conventional laboratory tests.  We utilize more narrow, functional or nutritional ranges with which subtle but important factors can be detected and treated with botanicals, nutrients, or dietary changes. We will, of course, make appropriate referrals for medical intervention if appropriate.

Patients can choose to review the results during their regular acupuncture visit or during a separate 30 minute consultation. Cost of analysis & testing varies based on tests requested as well as the complexity of the findings and will be discussed with you before tests are ordered.


Has your memory declined lately? Do you experience brain-fog?

Do you experience insomnia, memory loss, poor concentration, anxiety, depression, mood swings, low libido or low stress-tolerance, fatigue, or constantly search for certain words while speaking?

The nervous system is affected by stress, blood sugar fluctuations, toxicity, allergies, digestive imbalances, and improper diet. This can, over time, lead to an imbalance of neurotransmitter function. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that act upon the nervous system. Some of the most important neurotransmitters include serotonin, which is involved in mood and appetite regulation; gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which inhibits neuronal activity to promote relaxation and sleep; and acetylcholine which, among other functions, is involved in muscle contractions.

The brain, which is the central command for all vital bodily functions, degenerates throughout one’s adult life. This is a progressive process that accelerates as we age. However, for some people, neurodegeneration occurs at a younger age than normal, which could be caused by physiological imbalances.

Neurons need stimulation, glucose (blood sugar) and oxygen to survive. For this reason, people with chronic low blood sugar and those with insulin resistance or type-2 diabetes are more prone to memory problems. By addressing any of these conditions both with foods and supplements, the brain can be nutritionally supported and neurodegeneration significantly slowed.

Sensory-based therapies such as acupuncture, chiropractic, massage, and aroma therapy have been shown to enhance brain function. In addition, specific nutrients can help slow the brain’s aging process and therefore, optimize brain function and performance.


Example of analyzing hypothyroidism from a functional perspective:

Symptoms of low thyroid hormones are quite varied and sometimes difficult to categorize. Hypothyroidism has far reaching effects on the entire body as every cell in the body has thyroid hormone receptors.

Symptoms of an under-functioning thyroid include: fatigue, weakness, weight gain, difficulty losing weight, coarse, dry hair and skin, hair loss, cold intolerance, catch colds and other viral/bacterial problems easily and has difficulty recovering, slow wound healing, muscle cramps and aches, constipation, depression, irritability, memory loss, needs excessive amount of sleep to function properly, abnormal menstrual cycles, infertility, and decreased libido.

The thyroid gland is the main gland handling all metabolic actions in the body. If the thyroid is not working properly, a patient may have a difficult time losing weight.  However, the thyroid does so much more:

Decreased thyroid hormone levels can contribute to high cholesterol and triglycerides.
Low thyroid hormone can contribute to the formation of gall stones
There is an increased risk of mental retardation in children whose mothers had low thyroid function during pregnancy.
Decreased thyroid hormone levels leads to poor digestion, insufficient digestive enzymes, slowed peristalsis, and therefore causes constipation.
The thyroid and other hormones are intimately connected:
For example, thyroid hormone increases progesterone receptor sensitivity. A good example of this could manifest for a woman with monthly premenstrual symptoms who may actually have a thyroid issue as a causal factor.
Decreased thyroid hormone may affect neurotransmitters:
For example, low thyroid hormone can cause low dopamine levels, leading to loss of motivation and willpower.

The above points make clear that the thyroid gland is extremely important for almost all bodily functions. However, the thyroid is very sensitive and can be negatively impacted by a number of external chemical influences such as chlorine, fluoride, some heavy metals and other synthetic chemicals. Given that we are exposed to many of these chemicals on a daily basis, this is certainly one reason why there are so many thyroid issues today.

A comprehensive functional assessment of the thyroid involves 24 unique patterns. These thyroid patterns are often overlooked in conventional lab tests and analyses, however, we will refer you to your doctor if necessary. Thyroid problems may be further complicated by an auto-immune condition, called Hashimoto’s. Functional treatment addresses the immunological component of the disease, which in many cases, can arrest or dampen the auto-immune activity.

In summary, combining contemporary, Western functional medicine with traditional, Eastern medicine addresses the web-like interconnectedness of the body. The combination deepens our understanding of the human body, and enhances the treatment results far more than would be possible with each individual method alone.