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Posted on 12-01-2016

What is Qi?

by Jo Neil Norcini 

For those of you who have been to a Traditional Chinese Medical (TCM) practitioner, you have probably heard of the term qi. Even if you have not, this term seems to be associated with many types of esoteric practices. I would like to dispel the mystery associated with this term and to explain what it means and why it is important to your health.

Qi (pronounced chee) is a term commonly used in TCM. On a physical level and in a clinical sense, it has to do with strength, effort and capacity. On a psychological level, it has to do with desire, awareness and motivation. Qi is often defined as energy or “life force.”It has also been described as the vibration that resonates within all of us.  Western medicine associates qi with oxygen, metabolism and electrical impulses. Qi is really a combination of all of these things. The ancient Chinese believed that there are two types of qi: one being a type you are born with, which is referred to as congenital qi, and the second type is called acquired qi, which is formed from the air that you breath and the food that you eat. To illustrate, let’s look at how acquired qi is formed from an eastern medical perspective.

Food + Air = Energy or Qi


Glucose + Oxygen = Water + Carbon dioxide + Energy

It is interesting to note that the ancient Chinese were drawing one of the simplest equations in medical science. What the body does with this qi once it is formed is where it gets interesting.

Every function in the human body relies on electrical impulses. Collagen not only produces electricity but also conducts electricity.  It is through this structure of collagen, present in every aspect of our bodies, from individual cells to the fascia that cover our organs and bones, that electrical impulses travel throughout the body.  The energy or qi that our bodies produce travels though that collagen along various pathways, known as channels or meridians in acupuncture. Qi is concentrated in areas below the elbows and knees, so by placing needles in these areas, the qi can travel throughout the meridians. It is much like the ripple effect that a stone has when tossed into a pond.

When qi is plentiful, focused and moving properly, you will experience good health.  It is the pathological aspects of qi such as deficient, excess, unharmonious or blocked that causes disease and pain. An individual with deficient qi may experience symptoms of fatigue and shortness of breath, with a tendency to easily catch colds. Someone with excess qi may experience anxiety, high blood pressure and headaches. Disharmonies of qi can manifest as a myriad of symptoms such as insomnia, depression and indigestion.  Those individuals with blocked qi will experience pain.

A skilled TCM practitioner can determine imbalances and provide a diagnosis and treatment plan.  By uncovering the underlying cause of presenting symptoms, acupuncture and Chinese herbs can be strategically applied to help your body heal itself.  When the body’s qi is abundant and balanced, you can achieve greater levels of wellness!

Jo Neil Norcini is an acupuncturist at Cypress Area Acupuncture located at 9834 Spring Cypress Road 77070. CypressAreaAcupuncture.com 713-825-1636

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