Frequently Asked Questions


While acupuncture has been practiced for thousands of years, it was imported to the United States relatively recently, so many people are curious to find out more about what acupuncture is, how it works, and what conditions it treats. Here are answers to some of those questions:

Acupuncture is very good at treating pain, but that's not all it does.

Thanks to some recent scientific studies and media coverage, most people have heard of acupuncture's amazing ability to treat muscle and joint pain, but not everyone knows that it can do much, much more. Chinese medicine, including acupuncture and Chinese herbs, has been around for many thousands of years, so at one point it was all that people had to rely on for health care. As a result, traditional Chinese medicine has been used to treat nearly every health problem under the sun.

While we are able to enjoy the many advances in medicine since the days of ancient China, acupuncture has withstood the test of time. It is still able to treat digestive disorders like irritable bowel syndrome and ulcerative colitis, menstrual irregularities including PMS and infertility, respiratory conditions from the common cold to asthma, and emotional problems like anxiety and depression. Acupuncture is increasingly used to treat more modern conditions such as type 2 diabetes and the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation treatment. And, of course, it continues to treat muscle and joint pain very well.

Acupuncture moves qi to enhance the body's natural healing abilities.

The way acupuncture works is by taking advantage of the body's own natural resources. If you have any experience with acupuncture, you may have heard the term qi (pronounced “chee”), which is frequently translated as “energy.” We take in qi by breathing air and eating food, and we use it to power all of our actions from thinking to exercise to digestion and even sleep. All of those activities rely on 1) having enough qi and 2) being able to move that qi to all the parts of the body that require it to function. Acupuncture can enhance the body's ability to produce qi, and it can move qi from one area of the body to another by removing blocks to the qi's natural flow. All of this is accomplished simply by inserting thin, stainless steel needles into the skin and muscles.

So think of a common health problem such as indigestion. It's possible that a bout of indigestion starts because the stomach doesn't have enough qi to digest the food that it's been given. Or maybe there is a block in the body's qi flow that isn't allowing qi to get to the stomach at all. Acupuncture is able to bring qi to the stomach so that it can do its job and, as a result, the indigestion disappears. And nothing extra has been injected into the body; the healing is a result of enhancing the body's ability to create and move its own energy.

Acupuncture and Chinese herbs are a powerful combination for healing.

Acupuncture is only one branch of Chinese medicine, which also includes other therapies like moxibustion, cupping, gua sha, tui na, and Chinese herbs. During an acupuncture session, these other therapies will be suggested and explained to you when they seem appropriate to treat your condition.

Many health problems are best served by a combination of acupuncture and Chinese herbs, which is why they are so frequently offered together. An in-office acupuncture treatment starts the body on its way to healing, and Chinese herbs are used to continue that process between acupuncture sessions.

Acupuncture is most effective over multiple treatments.

Most people experience at least some relief from their symptoms after their first acupuncture treatment. In order to experience substantial and long-lasting effects from Chinese medicine, though, it is important to continue treatment on a regular basis. I ask new patients to expect significant improvement within 4-5 weekly treatments. At that point, we will evaluate how you are responding to acupuncture and adjust your treatment plan accordingly.

These answers give a general overview of acupuncture and Chinese medicine. To learn more about what acupuncture can do for you, schedule a free consultation today.

Chinese Herbs

It seems like herbal supplements are available from every corner store these days, and that everyone from your cousin to Dr. Oz is offering the next great herbal remedy for your ills. Chinese herbs stand apart from your average grocery store selection for a number of reasons:

Chinese herbs are almost always taken in combinations called formulas.

Unlike herbs you can find at the health food store, Chinese herbs are almost never taken singly. Each combination of herbs (called a formula) is specifically composed to address a particular health condition without causing undue side effects or discomfort. The herbs in each formula balance and reinforce one another, meaning that they are capable of more comprehensive and long-lasting effects than single herbs taken on their own.

Learning how herbs work takes years of study.

The state of Illinois does not currently regulate who can recommend herb supplements to you, which means that laymen can incorrectly recommend herbs that cause undesirable side effects. The literature describing correct Chinese herb use was written thousands of years ago, and it has been refined and expanded through continuous clinical use since then. This knowledge is passed on to students in contemporary schools of Chinese medicine. When you take herbs recommended by someone who has extensively studied Chinese medicine, you are benefitting from the combined expertise of generations of Chinese herbalists.

Formulas don't just treat the symptoms of an illness; they treat the cause of the illness.

Any illness can be caused by a number of different underlying health conditions, each of which should be treated differently. In other words: One herbal remedy does not fit all people with the same illness. For example, you might hear that a particular herb is good for treating fatigue, but it will only effectively treat fatigue in some people. In other people, it could make their fatigue worse. Only through a combination of extensive study and clinical experience can a trained professional choose the herbs that treat the underlying health condition causing your individual illness.

In the right hands, Chinese herbs can extend the effects of acupuncture treatment, which is why they are recommended for use between acupuncture sessions. The herbs used at Heil Health + Wellness have been evaluated for safety and effectiveness, and are free of harmful contaminants like pesticides and heavy metals. Herbs are available in powdered or whole (raw) form. For more information about what Chinese herbs can do for you, schedule a free consultation today.