So what does a Chinese Medicine treatment look like?

To begin with, we will take a detailed history and will ask about what has brought you in for treatment. Then we discuss some more detailed questions – enquiring, for example, about your energy levels, sleep quality, digestion, and any aches or pains; these help to provide a better understanding of your current state of health, both inside and out.

We will then have a quick look at your tongue and will feel your pulse – these are important tools to identify any aspects that may be out of balance. The abdomen can also say a lot about your current wellbeing – tight, jumpy muscles or bloating are just some of the many important indicators that your practitioner may look for in arriving at a diagnosis. Once diagnosed, we can use acupuncture, herbs and other techniques (like cupping, Gua Sha, Qi Gong and breathwork ) to restore balance to the body. They may also suggest lifestyle and diet tweaks to maximise treatment benefits and speed recovery.

Doctor taking pulse


Acupuncture is a wonderful way to restore the balance in the body. It can provide drug-free relief from pain such as migraines and chronic headaches, lower back pain, sciatica, knee osteoarthritis and post-operative pain, and can address the root cause of a wide range of complaints, from stuck digestion through to stuck emotions and stress.

Acupuncture needles are very fine (only 1/4 of a millimetre!) and many people report no pain at all when they are inserted. In fact, most people find an acupuncture session deeply relaxing and some even have a sleep! Needles are sterile and single-use, so in the hands of a well-trained individual, acupuncture can be considered inherently safe.

recent trial in four Melbourne hospitals found that acupuncture is equally as effective as analgesic drugs for relieving certain pain, making acupuncture a safe and cost-effective choice for lower back pain, migraines and sprained ankles. Dr Michael Ben-Meir, director of Cabrini Hospital’s emergency department, “said that acupuncture may be particularly good for people who did not want drugs, such as pregnant women, and that rising health costs should encourage more scientific assessment of safe, effective complementary medicines.” Other trials have shown acupuncture to have a beneficial effect on a broad range of conditions, such as anxiety & insomnia, adult asthma, allergic rhinitis, sciatica and pain of the neck, shoulder and temporomandibular joint.

• Bazzan AJ, Zabrecky G, Monti DA, Newberg AB. Current evidence regarding the management of mood and anxiety disorders using complementary and alternative medicine. Expert Rev Neurother. 2014 Apr;14(4):411-23.

• Zhao K. Acupuncture for the treatment of insomnia. Int Rev Neurobiol. 2013;111:217-34.

• Shergis JL, Ni X, Jackson ML, Zhang AL, Guo X, Li Y, et al. A systematic review of acupuncture for sleep quality in people with insomnia. Complement Ther Med. 2016 Jun;26:11-20.

• Goyata SL, Avelino CC, Santos SV, Souza Junior DI, Gurgel MD, Terra FS. Effects from acupuncture in treating anxiety: integrative review. Rev Bras Enferm. 2016 Jun;69(3):602-9.

• Lee SH, Chang GT, Zhang X, Lee H. Acupoint Herbal Patching for Asthma: A Systematic Review and Metaanalysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Medicine (Baltimore). 2016 Jan;95(2):e2439.

• Su L, Meng L, Chen R, Wu W, Peng B, Man L. Acupoint Application for Asthma Therapy in Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Forsch Komplementmed. 2016;23(1):16-21.

• Taw MB, Reddy WD, Omole FS, Seidman MD. Acupuncture and allergic rhinitis. Curr Opin Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2015 Jun;23(3):216-20.

• Coeytaux RR, Befus D. Role of Acupuncture in the Treatment or Prevention of Migraine, Tension-Type Headache, or Chronic Headache Disorders. Headache. 2016 Jul;56(7):1238-40.

• Grillo CM, Canales Gde L, Wada RS, Alves MC, Barbosa CM, Berzin F, et al. Could Acupuncture Be Useful in the Treatment of Temporomandibular Dysfunction? J Acupunct Meridian Stud. 2015 Aug;8(4):192-9.

• Dong W, Goost H, Lin XB, Burger C, Paul C, Wang ZL, et al. Treatments for shoulder impingement syndrome: a PRISMA systematic review and network meta-analysis. Medicine (Baltimore). 2015 Mar;94(10):e510.

• Trinh K, Graham N, Irnich D, Cameron ID, Forget M. Acupuncture for neck disorders. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2016(5):Cd004870

Acupuncture needles

Chinese Herbal Medicine

Chinese Herbal Medicine uses ingredients from nature to restore balance and support health. Many of these ingredients appear in everyday Chinese cooking – dry ginger, red date, mandarine peel, goji berries, chrysanthemum flowers and rice sprouts are a few common examples. The vast majority of medicines are of plant origin: in rare cases, gelatine may be prescribed to nourish the body. Balanced has a strict, zero-tolerance policy for products from endangered animal species. No rhino horn or tiger’s penis here!

The active components in these various herbs can be highly therapeutic – to the extent that they form the basis for many pharmaceutical medicines. The benefit of harnessing these active components in their complete plant form is that they are more balanced, as other factors in the plant can assist in medicinal function and help to minimise the side effects that are common with isolated compounds.

Chinese Medicine rarely uses single herbs: the power of this medicine is in the combination of herbs into powerful formulas greater than the sum of their parts. Your practitioner will customise a herbal formula specifically for your needs at a particular point in time to ensure the best results for you. Herbal medicine is provided in both a raw form, as a “tea” to be cooked up, and as a powder, which can be dissolved in boiling water prior to drinking.

As bioscience turns its interest to Chinese herbal medicines and how they work – as in Youyou Tu’s 2015 Nobel Prize for her work on the anti-malarial properties of the Chinese herbal medicine Artemisia Annua – research into conditions that herbal medicine can treat continues to grow. And while it’s wonderful to have modern research supporting the efficacy of this medicine for certain conditions, it is also comforting to be reassured that Chinese herbal medicine is founded upon thousands of years of continuous clinical use of these very same formulas. Indeed, Chinese Herbal Medicine is so highly regarded in Japan that it is included in the public health system and widely prescribed by Western Medical doctors.

Chinese herbal medicine powders

Cupping and Gua Sha

Cupping is a popular therapy used by many healing systems across the world – an Egyptian medical textbook dating to 1,550 BCE highlights its benefits. Cups can be made from bamboo, ceramic or plastic, though glass cups are the most common – and it is these that are used in clinic, due to ease of sterilisation. Cups create a suction effect on the skin, promoting circulation and cellular metabolism. Cupping is excellent for relieving tight muscles and areas of swelling or old scar tissue – they can even reduce the appearance of cellulite.

Using the same principle of promoting circulation and local cellular metabolism to clear waste, Gua Sha uses a ceramic soup spoon (hence the other name it goes by, ‘spooning’) to create the same effect. Like cupping, Gua Sha can provide instant relief for pain and muscle spasm, amongst other applications.

In addition to easing pain and tightness, cupping and Gua Sha have been traditionally used across many cultures to relieve colds and ease congestion, and facilitate recovery from illness. Cups and Gua Sha spoons are rigorously sterilised after each use.

Cupping therapy

Dietary & Lifestyle Therapy

How we live each day and what we eat is an integral part of the healing journey. While a 1 hour Chinese Medicine session can go a long way to pointing you in the right direction healthwise, what you do in the remaining 167 hours of the week will play a large role in treatment success.

Your practitioner will discuss relevant advice with you during your consultation. This can involve simple changes such as eating your meals away from your desk, to allow your digestion to work at its optimal level, or changing unconscious habits such as shallow breathing (shallow breathing is a big signal for your body that danger is imminent, causing the release of stress hormones that can have far-reaching effects such as high blood pressure, anxiety and even that “spare tyre” around the middle).

Chinese Medicine understands the gut health is the foundation for our overall health, which is why it places such importance on diet – after all, many foods appear in Chinese Herbal Medicine formulas. Hippocrates, the father of modern Western medicine, got it right when he said “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Like with all other aspects of Chinese Medicine, dietary requirements will vary from individual to individual. Your practitioner will discuss some guidelines with you during your consultation.

Find some healthy food inspiration here

healthy food