By Darren Holman, L.Ac, MAOM

What are Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine? Acupuncture and Chinese Herbs are one of the oldest continuously practiced medical systems in the world, and have been practiced for nearly three thousand years. They work by treating the body as an integrated whole, instead of treating separated systems or symptoms. Symptoms show an imbalance in the body’s energy. Acupuncture and Chinese Herbs work to balance this energy to not only remove the symptoms, but also to restore the patient to vigorous health and their highest potential.

Acupuncture utilizes tiny needles to balance flows of bio-electrical energy along pathways called meridians. These meridians have recently been scientifically verified through the use of modern electrical measuring equipment, and have been used effectively in clinical settings for centuries. The 12 main meridians make a continuous circuit that flows from one meridian to the next forming a 24 hour cycle. Each meridian is associated with an organ system whose energetic functions it controls. These associations were made through observation of the clinical effects and locations of the acupuncture points on each meridian.

The needle insertion sites, called acupoints, are the areas of the body that most easily conduct electrical energy. Studies show that these points conduct electrical currents along the paths of their meridians. Dissection of the acupoints show their relationship to the regulatory systems of the body. At each major acupoint you will find blood vessels, nerve endings, and lymphatic channels. It is thought that these structures along with the electrical nature of the meridian give the points their effectiveness. Needling acupoints can change the circulation of both blood and lymphatic fluid, cause nerve stimulation, and through the nervous system indirectly change the secretion of endocrine hormones. Studies have shown that acupuncture needling stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, placing the patient into a relaxed state in which the body carries out healing and maintenance activities. Needling has also been shown to draw more blood flow to an inured area, aiding in healing.

Chinese Herbs work with the energetic properties of naturally occurring substances to balance the body and restore health. Cool or cold natured herbs, often anti-viral, anti-bacterial, or anti-inflammatory in nature, are used to cool hot conditions such as sore throats, swellings, and infections. Warm or hot natured herbs are used to balance cold conditions, such as chills, arthritis, upset stomach, and infertility. Nourishing herbs are used to strengthen weakness, and invigorating herbs are used to open up blockages in circulation of energy or fluid. There are many other types of Chinese Herbs that are utilized, including but not limited to herbs that settle the mind, aid digestion, invigorate circulation, dissolve phlegm, and many others. These herbs are utilized in time tested formulas that are balanced to avoid side effects. An example of this would be the herb Chai Hu (Buplerum) which spreads energetic blockage in the Liver meridian but also has a drying nature. It is almost always used with Bai Shao (Paeonia) which moistens and nourishes liver blood and combats this drying effect. In this way these formulas work synergistically to balance the body with minimal to no side effects.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Do the needles hurt?

The needles used in acupuncture are very thin, only slightly larger than a human hair. These needles do not need to inject or remove anything, so there is no need for the large hollow needles used in western syringes. This allows acupuncture needles to be much smaller in size. Acupuncture needles are also inserted quickly to a shallow depth using a guide tube. This causes the needle to quickly, and in most cases painlessly, bypass the layer of nerves. Many patients are often surprised to find out that the needles are already in while they wait for a pain that doesn’t come.
The needles can often be felt doing their work. We call this needle sensation. Needle sensation can be felt in many ways, such as a heaviness, pressure, distention, soreness, cramping, tingling, or electrical sensation moving in the energy pathway.

Is there any chance of catching a disease from acupuncture needles?

All needles we employ for acupuncture are sterile, stainless steel, single use needles that have been approved by the FDA. This means each needle comes sealed in a sterile package, is used only once on a patient, and is then discarded. This eliminates the chance of contracting a disease from acupuncture.

What other types of treatments are used besides needles?

We offer Chinese herbs in pill form, and soon to be tea form. We also offer moxabustion, which is the burning of Moxa (Artemesia Vulgaris) to warm and stimulate the acupuncture points and strengthen the body. We also offer cupping, which is used to remove deep seated stagnation of blood and energy in the body. Electrical stimulation of acupoints is also utilized in cases requiring this type of intervention.

What should I do to prepare for my treatment?

To prepare for treatment you should try to eat something a few hours before your treatment. This will give you energy, and keep your strength up for your body to get the most out of the treatment. You should also be well hydrated. Comfortable, loose fitting clothing is best for your comfort and ease of accessing acupoints.
Always allow yourself plenty of time to get to your appointment. This will give you time to relax before your treatment, and will prevent any stress that my result from running late.
Try to be good to you body after your treatment. Allow yourself plenty of rest, nutrition, and exercise. Avoid strenuous activity, large meals, sexual activity, and alcohol for the rest of the day.

What to expect in your visit:
First visit:

Your first visit will serve to help Darren understand your reason for seeking treatment, assess symptoms, and identify underlying causes of your problem. There will be an intake process consisting of an interview and physical examination. You will be asked questions regarding your health and personal history. All information is completely confidential. After examining you and getting to know your case, Darren will advise you about frequency and number of treatments recommended. Then you will receive treatment. These longer sessions usually take 1½ hours.

Follow up visits:

Subsequent treatments will consist of a shorter interview to get caught up on how your condition has progressed, and a treatment. Individuals will require different numbers of treatments, but a general rule is that acute illnesses will usually get better faster than chronic ones.

Darren Holman’s credentials:

Darren Holman graduated valedictorian with a Masters of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine from the Texas College of Traditional Chinese Medicine. He was privileged enough to undergo a 2 year herbal internship in Washington DC. He is nationally certified by the National Commission for the Certification of Acupuncturists holding Diplomate of Oriental Medicine (including both acupuncture and herbal medicine), and is licensed in the state of North Carolina. He is certified in Clean Needle Technique by the National Council of Acupuncture Schools and Colleges. Darren has been practicing in Charlotte for about 2 years.

What can Acupuncture and Chinese Herbs treat?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), these are some of the ailments that acupuncture can be effectively used to treat.

Respiratory System:

Acute sinusitis
Acute rhinitis
Common cold
Acute tonsillitis
Acute bronchitis
Bronchial asthma (esp. in children, and patients w/o complications)
Lung paralysis
Pulmonary consumption or abcess

Eye Disorders:

Acute conjunctivitis
Central retinitis
Myopia (in children)
Cataract (w/o complications)

Mouth Disorders:

Toothache (esp. post extraction)
Acute and chronic pharyngitis

Gastro-intestinal Disorders:

Esophageal spasm
Acute and chronic gastritis
Abdominal pain
Gastric Hyperactivity / Acid reflux
Pain relief of chronic duodenal ulcer (w/o complications)
Acute and chronic colitis
Acute bacillary dysentery
Irritable bowel syndrome

Neurological and Musculo-skeletal Disorders:

Headache and migraine
Trigeminal neuralgia
Early stage facial palsy
Paresis following stroke
Peripheral neuropathy
Low back pain
Meniere’s disease
Nocturnal enuresis
Frozen shoulder


Menstrual disorders (pain, irregular, amenorrhea, heavy period, etc.)
Disorders of the vagina (discharge, itching, etc)
Disorders of the breast
Lower abdominal masses
Disorders during pregnancy (morning sickness, threatened miscarriage, etc.)
Postpartum disorders

Other Conditions:

Chronic fatigue
Hypochondriac pain
Excessive tiredness
Manic Psychosis
Urinary tract infection
Retention of urine
Sexual dysfunction
Bipolar disorder

Author: Darren Holman, L.Ac, MAOM