As a Licensed Acupuncturist and Herbalist, one of the biggest challenges in my practice is to simply explain the concept of ‘Qi’ (pronounced chee) to my patients. Although Qi is a frequently used concept, it is difficult to define in modern scientific terms. The theory of Qi was developed in ancient China to assist in understanding natural phenomena: everything in the universe results from the movements and changes of Qi, or ‘energy’.

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, it is Qi that promotes the metabolism, generates energy, defends against disease and consolidates and governs the function of organs and body. There are three sources of Qi Energy. You are born with Qi energy transmitted to you at conception from your parents. The other two sources of Qi are obtained from food and liquids we ingest and from the air we breathe. This energy derived from our environment through such processes as nutrition and respiration, is converted into an absorbable form by certain organs, and is stored in the body and distributed throughout the body in an organized system of channels called the meridians. There are 12 primary meridians which correspond to internal organs. When there is an imbalance of Qi energy (deficient, stagnant, or excess) along these meridians, illness, pain, or disease can result. Maintaining good Qi flow throughout the body is the key to keeping your body in balance and achieving optimal health. This is where acupuncture comes into play. The acupuncture points along these pathways can be stimulated to open up the channel, remove the blockage, and balance the energy flow once again. In this regard, acupuncture is a true science of ‘energy balancing’.

If we could see this invisible energy network, we would see an amazing three-dimensional energy body interfacing with our biochemical body. When my patients experience acupuncture for the first time, Qi then becomes more fathomable to them. For clinical purposes, a definition may not be necessary — efficacy is what’s important.

This brief description of Qi is not intended to be a comprehensive definition or statement of Qi, but is intended to give one not familiar with the concept a quick overview and basic understanding.

Andrea Cohen, M.S., L.Ac.