Open Passage Acupuncture
& Herbal Medicine

at the spa at sacred grounds

What is Traditional Chinese Medicine?


Acupuncture is the insertion of fine sterile needles into specific areas of the body. The purpose of acupuncture is to enact a change in the biomechanical functions of the body’s tissues. It has been demonstrated effective for the treatment of a wide range of conditions, such as (but not limited to): allergies/common cold, depression, neck and back pain, headache, digestive issues, adverse reactions to chemotherapy and radiation therapy, leukopenia, menstrual irregularities, knee pain, sciatica, tendonitis, and epigastric pain.


Moxibustion is a technique, often used in conjunction with acupuncture, involving the use of plant material from the plant Artemisia vulgaris. The material, called moxa, is burned either near the body, directly on the body with a barrier to avoid burns, or attached to the needles, all with the purpose of conductive warming to acupuncture points in order to tonify qi and alleviate stagnation.

Chinese Herbal Medicine

Classical Chinese medicine hosts more than 10,000 medicinal substances and countless formulations that can be customized to the needs of the patient. It is particularly effective in treating internal conditions, including a wide range of conditions coming from dysregulation of the endocrine, nervous, digestive, gynecological, respiratory, cardiac, immune, musculoskeletal, and dermatological systems. Topical preparations are used to alleviate pain and aid in wound repair.
We offer a variety of modes for patients to receive herbal medicine from as simple as tablet formulation which may be taken with water, granular formulation which is a powder concentrate that may be added to hot water to make a tea, and/or bulk herbal tea formulation which must be cooked by the patient on the stove.

Bodywork Techniques

Tuīná / Shiatsu – Chinese and Japanese bodywork that includes classical massage techniques and acupressure.
Cupping – called Báguàn in Chinese, a classical bodywork technique involving the use of glass cups which are placed on the body with suction with the purpose of decompressing the skin, facia and muscular tissues, to detoxify, initiate cellular generation and improve blood circulation. Guāshā – a classical bodywork technique using stone (usually jade) tools to move fluids, increasing blood circulation and generating muscular resculpting.

Lifestyle Medicine

Chinese medicine also includes thousands of years of dietary and exercise therapeutics which can be implemented to benefit and supplement other modalities. Adding these modalities enable patients to take an active role in cultivating their own health and vitality.


This is a common question that is sometimes difficult to approach, especially since here in the West, there is not much in the way of context to help someone understand how it is possible that inserting small needles into places on the body can have a significant positive health impact.

Put plainly, Chinese medicine is a medical science which has been practiced continuously for at least 3,000 years. The medicine can be verifiably traced back to the Shang Dynasty (~1600 – 1046 BCE). It is unique in that it has its own methodology that when examined seems not to have much resemblance to modern western scientific practice.

The practice of Chinese medicine includes a great deal more than just needles. It also includes techniques that may be unfamiliar to the western experience of medicine such as cupping, guasha (using stone tools as bodywork implements), and herbal medicine.

It has its own diagnostic methods which have been developed and tested throughout the history of its existence. Tongue and pulse diagnosis (see below) were developed thousands of years before X-ray and MRI to help the practitioner understand what is happening inside the body.

No discussion of Chinese medicine is complete without answering the question of “What is Qi?” This question may prove to be as difficult to answer as “What is Chinese medicine?” The reason is, in part, due to western misalignment of the word to focus on a pseudo-spiritual understanding of its meaning. It has become largely lumped into a New-Age category where it is described as simply “energy.” Interestingly, there are times and unique circumstances in which this definition suffices. However, this as the “only meaning” of the word limits its functionality within a medical understanding.

It is also important to note, that in medical texts, the word is not typically translated into English, due to the difficulty in constructing an accurate translation. This is partly to separate it from non-medical uses of the word and partly because there are many specific types of Qi within the context of the medical systems physiology.

That being said, a common translation for the word in modern Chinese language is “air” or “breath.” When we think of what energy is and we think of what breath is it is not a leap to think of being alive, and so in some ways it may be useful to think about Qi as the activity that initiates and sustains life. A concept that semi-works as western comparative is metabolism. In so far as metabolism is the body’s processing of food and air into everything it creates and uses to “run itself.” In Chinese medicine Qi is the catalyst and substance that is initiating and creating life activity and building the material tissues it is operating with.

Suffice it to say, Qi is certainly pivotal to the understanding of Chinese medicine because it is one of the fundamental substances that is invoked or tempered by medical means (acupuncture, herbal medicine, massage, etc.). It is circulating and manifests within the body; inside acupuncture channels, inside the organs, and indeed inside all of one’s tissues.

Qi has a functional relationship with the tissues of the body. So if it is weak, the functioning of the specific tissue may be diminished. On the other hand if the Qi is not moving properly within the body (e.g. it is stuck), this also has a functional aspect on the affected tissues. In either case, the inadequate or improperly moving Qi results in disease. Because of this, the main focus of intervention on the part of a practitioner of Chinese medicine is to ensure that there is adequate Qi and that it is appropriately circulating within the body.

This is another pair of questions that is often asked by new patients with good reason, as medical doctors and nurses do not perform tongue observations and their pulse palpations are typically limited to the rate at which the pulse occurs.

Tongue observation in Chinese medicine is one of the stranger practices from a western perspective. We ask patients to stick out their tongues, which is often met with a bit of bashfulness, probably because sticking out one’s tongue in the west has a strong emotional affiliation. We mostly stick out our tongues when we are disgusted or being playful with others and when asked to do it on demand we may feel self-conscious. Don’t worry you’ll get used to it!

Tongue observation is an important diagnostic tool for the practitioner of Chinese medicine. In Chinese medicine, the tongue is used as a map with different parts of it being associated with specific internal organs. The color, texture, moisture, coating, and shape of the tongue are all important factors in assessing what is going on inside the patient.

Likewise, palpating the pulse provides key insights into one of the fundamental rhythms of the body. For the trained Chinese medicine practitioner, pulse palpation is much more than simply noting the rate of the heart (though it does include that). It also involves feeling the diameter, depth, and texture of the pulse.

In Chinese medicine, the pulse is felt at the wrist with three fingers over the radial artery. Each finger occupies a specific position on the pulse which relates to an organ (or organs). Similarly to tongue observation, pulse grants the practitioner insight into the internal workings of the patient.

Preparing for a treatment is easy if you follow these five basic guidelines.

  • Don’t come on an empty stomach: while you don’t want to show up with too full of a belly, it is best to have a snack 1-2 hours before your visit. During your acupuncture session, you may experience some slight light-headedness and having a little bit of food before your treatment reduces the chances of this occurring. Avoid greasy foods or heavy meals prior to your treatment. Also, try not to drink tea or coffee prior to your treatment as these drinks may color your tongue which can make tongue diagnosis difficult.
  • Be prepared to talk: this is important, because your practitioner will rely heavily on your responses to the questions that they ask you during your intake (both at the initial treatment and subsequent) in order to diagnose your pattern accurately and develop an appropriate treatment plan.
  • Don’t brush or scrape your tongue: as a part of your treatment, your practitioner will likely observe your tongue. Part of this observation involves discerning the natural coating on it. If the coating has been scraped off, a huge diagnostic factor will be missing from your treatment.
  • Wear loose fitting clothing: this will help you feel more comfortable during your treatment. Not only that, wearing clothing that may be easily removed or adjusted will help your practitioner access the acupuncture points necessary for your treatment. It is also recommended (and helpful to your practitioner) to minimize wearing jewelry for your treatments..
  • Visit the restroom before the treatment: once your practitioner has inserted the needles, you will remain resting with the needles retained for a minimum of 20 minutes. You will be unable to get up from the table with the needles inserted. Of course, if there is an emergency, just let us know and we will remove the needles so you may get up.

Everyone responds differently to acupuncture. This may differ depending on how you are feeling on the day of, what you are being treated for and what the day’s treatment involves. If you are thinking of getting your first ever acupuncture treatment we recommend that you plan for some open time afterwards just to get a sense of how it specifically affects you. Some common things people feel after a treatment are:

  • A euphoric bliss out, relaxed feeling often short handed as “acu-stoned” or “acu-buzzed”, sort of like a strong parasympathetic response.
  • An extreme feeling of fatigue, this is often a feeling in people who are “tired and wired” from long stints of unmanaged stress and because acupuncture lowers the adrenal stress hormones, with these no longer circulating in excess, a person feels the actual volume of their over-extension. Usually, the sleep that follows is deeply restorative and marks the start of a large shift in the right direction.
  • Feeling emotional release either during or after the treatment. Often when this happens there has been an emotional experience stuck and the needles act to shake it loose. Sometimes there can be spontaneous crying and laughing, or other complex psycho-emotional insights reveal themselves and it’s all part of the rebalance that the needles are ushering in. No need to ever feel embarrassed, this response is not uncommon and rest assured, it’s a good thing!
  • Better sense of smell, taste and touch and clearer sharper sight. Like gaining a spidey-sense, you may start to feel things around you with greater sensitivity.
  • Changes in bathroom habits. Immediately and up to a few days afterwards you may find yourself having extra long visits to the bathroom. This is also a positive result of your body expelling stagnant fluid it’s been holding onto and waste buildup that has been moved along by a beneficial increase in digestive function.
  • Acupuncture has a knack for being life changing, it is not uncommon for people to realize that they want to make a series of big life changes. Some patients even become practitioners because of their personal positive experiences.

Overall, we encourage everyone to share their experiences with us, let us know what worked and what didn’t, all of this is helpful in creating the optimal healing and comfortable experience.

We are happy to answer any questions, curiosities and address concerns you may have. Please send us a message