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Infertility and TCM Part 14: Did Qi Bo Know Best?

By David Kreiner MD

April 15th, 2015 at 11:39 am

photo: stuart miles/

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) evolved over thousands of years as evidenced by several ancient written works including the oldest medical textbook in the history of the world, the Huang-Di Nei Jing (Yellow Emperor’s Cannon of Internal Medicine), dating back to between 300 and 200 BCE.

The book is named for Huang Di, the Yellow Emperor, who lived between 2700 and 2600 BCE.  The legend is that it is a record of the emperor’s conversations with his distinguished physician, Qi Bo.  The Huang-Di Nei Jing consists of 162 articles divided into theory and practice.  The section on theory involves the relationships among the internal organs, the sense organs, and the brain dealing with the concepts of yin and yang as applied to medicine.

In TCM according to the Huang-Di Nei Jing, the yin and yang principle proposes that the bodily organs are interdependent and support each other in harmony.  Disease is defined as a loss of this state of balance both within and among the organs.  Treatment with TCM has always been based on the restoration of the body’s natural harmony with a rebalancing of all the organs.

In all likelihood, the Huang-Di Nei Jing represents a compilation of works drawn from the experience of many TCM leaders over the course of hundreds, if not thousands, of years.  It is reminiscent of the Jewish Talmud which likewise represents contributions from thousands of Rabbis over the course of hundreds of years.  Also, in a fashion similar to the study of TCM, contemporary Jewish scholars study and follow the Talmud much as it was originally written.

The second section of the Huang-Di Nei Jing is a manual on the practice of acupuncture.  Today, this book continues to be used as a reference by contemporary TCM practitioners.

The internal organs are believed according to TCM to be connected by a system of acupuncture points organized along channels (also referred to as meridians) throughout the body.  Each point regulates an aspect of the functional activity related to its channel or associated organ, or sometimes some other channel or organ it may also ultimately connect with or relate to.  Acupuncture points are areas on the surface of the body where the Qi (the body’s life energy) may be accessed as it traverses through one of these channels.  By stimulating or reducing (suppressing or dispersing) at the acupuncture point, the TCM practitioner can regulate the flow of Qi in the channel and/or to a particular organ.

In TCM, pathology may exist secondary to a stagnation of this flow of Qi which disrupts the function of an organ not receiving its normal Qi flow.  Qi may be deficient in which case the treatment would be to increase the Qi in the body and tonify affected organs.  Other pathologies may exist based on excess or deficiency of fluids, heat and blood.  Stagnant blood flow may cause disease, as can excess cold or heat, all of which can affect the flow of Qi as well as the channels and organs in the body.

TCM practitioners often utilize herbs to assist in restoring the harmony in the body and expelling the pathogens which include heat (including summer heat), cold, dampness, dryness and wind which we think of in modern medicine as viruses, bacteria, fungi etc.

In addition to acupuncture, the TCM practitioner may utilize moxibustion which is the application of heat applied to the skin using a vehicle that may include the use of topical herbs.

Cupping, the application of small glass cups or bamboo jars as suction devices on the skin is yet another technique utilized to improve the flow of Qi through the channels in the body.  It is also used to release toxins, clear blockages of Qi and blood, as well as relax muscles.  It can encourage blood flow and sedate the nervous system.  It has been used for cellulite reduction as well as to clear congestion from the common cold or to help patients with asthma.

Modern application of TCM… though based on ancient science, philosophy, and techniques… still resembles that which was performed over 2000 years ago.  I think that… despite its lack of Western scientific explanation, basis, and justification… it remains a viable medical option because of the evidence of cure and palliation that it has brought to so many over the millennia.

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Do you believe there is a place for Eastern medicine practices, blended with Western medicine? Interested in learning more? Post any questions here for Dr. Kreiner.




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Acupuncture: What’s the Point?

By David Kreiner MD

March 12th, 2014 at 3:29 am


image courtesy of stuartmiles/

I have previously mentioned the conundrum facing a Western-trained physician embarking on the study of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).  It is part of our nature after a lifetime of scientific training to explain natural phenomena such as health and illness in ways that have been documented with physical evidence. 

The basic physiology on which TCM is constructed has no corresponding physical support that can be seen or measured…a requirement that scientific thinkers rely on to reassure ourselves about the validity and rationale of a proposed theory or treatment.

Instead, it feels to me as I study TCM that I am memorizing random “facts” with corresponding syndromes and treatments.  For now, I must push myself to continue my studies unconcerned that these basics I am committing to memory are not supported by any physical evidence other than the stories of successful therapies.  It is premature for me to pass judgment for as they say, “the proof is in the pudding”. 

In fact, as a practicing reproductive endocrinologist I have seen patients with poor ovarian function or previous failed pregnancies succeed in their child-building endeavors after acupuncture intervention is added as an adjunct to their fertility treatments. 

For this reason, I persevere to learn as much as possible because despite my own admission that TCM is difficult for me to accept as “scientific truths” I believe that it offers potential advantage to my patients as they go through their Western fertility therapies.

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How important to you is the science…or measurable physical evidence…behind an infertility therapy? Can you take a leap of faith and hope “the proof is in the pudding”?

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