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Chinese Medicine

Understanding How Qi Gong Promotes Health

By Skye Sturgeon, DAOM, L.Ac.

Mayway Herbs

Students who have taken classes from me will recognize what I am about to share with you. Hopefully, this information will encourage you to take up the practice of Qi Gong for yourself and incorporate it into the therapy you provide for your patients. You do not need any special equipment, shoes, Mandarin clothing, or a special place to practice. It can be engaged anywhere and by anyone, including those who are bed-ridden or in a wheelchair.

Qi Gong is one of the treasures of Chinese medicine. In Chinese, Qi Gong (qìgōng 氣功) consists of two characters, the first being 氣 qì, which is a compound character combining the character for “air” 气 qì and the second is the radical for “rice” 米 mǐ. (See Qi Equations below.) Gong represents the Chinese character gōng 功, which is translated variously as “merit”, “skill”, “mastery”, “cultivation”, or simply “exercises”. Thus, Qi Gong can be understood as “breathing exercises for the cultivation of Qi”.

All forms of Qi Gong have certain features in common.

Focused diaphragmatic breathing

Qi GongThe diaphragm is the primary muscle of breathing. Most people scarcely breathe with their diaphragm and lift their rib cage by mainly using the intercostal muscles to inhale instead. This causes the inhale to be an action and the exhale, a relaxation, driven by the elastic recoil of the lungs. The result is that breathing primarily occurs in the upper part of the lungs and it is a “shallow” breath.

In Qi Gong breathing, the action is focused on the exhale by intentionally contracting the diaphragm and abdominal wall muscles, squeezing out the carbon dioxide until the lungs are empty. The inhale fills the lungs accommodated by a relaxation of the diaphragm and abdominal wall muscles. This is a deep breath and is illustrative of what is meant by the Chinese medicine adage, “The Kidneys must grasp the Lung Qi.” The diaphragm literally sits on top of the adrenal glands of the kidney and when breathing using the diaphragm in this manner, one fills the lungs all the way down to the kidneys.

Awareness and Visualization

During the practice of Qi Gong ideally one maintains a calm, meditative state, focused on the breath and one’s stance (or form) and gentle movement. Visualization of the flow or presence of Qi and the aesthetics of the form are also maintained.

Stance and Intentional Movement (or non-movement)

Although sitting Qi Gong and standing Qi Gong (Tree Hugging!) do not involve movement, there are literally hundreds of forms of Qi Gong that involve various movements. These movements promote the flow of Qi and activate the lymphatic system. Certain forms were passed down in families as part of the lineage of Qi Gong. It has been said that Tai Ji Quan is a formal collection of Qi Gong exercises intended to move Qi in all of the Meridians and as an aid to the memorization of the Qi Gong movements.

Although its roots originated thousands of years ago, certainly its revival has occurred since the advent of Traditional Chinese Medicine beginning in the 1950s. There are over 75 ancient forms and dozens of contemporary ones that can be categorized as martial, medical, meditative, and health-promoting Qi Gong. Today, in the United States there are hundreds of teachers of various forms of Qi Gong. If you are looking for formal training, I can suggest the following website: Recently, this 20-minute, YouTube video from Peter Deadman was brought to my attention. Excellent teaching for difficult times.

But what is Qi really, and why should I cultivate it?

Qi is a polysemous word that defies easy translation into English, although some authors choose “Energy” but in Chinese medicine, it is much more than that. Let’s dive into some of the various aspects of Qi.


This is the most common understanding of Qi and it covers a lot of ground. Some qualify Qi by referring to it as “vital energy” or “life force”, meaning the energy that is essential for and promotes life. A more expansive definition would include energy in all its forms, including every wavelength of light, heat, bio-electric and electro-magnetic energy, and consciousness. In Chinese medicine, the concept of Qi is closely related to health and well-being since it not only flows throughout the meridian system, but also permeates every organ and tissue in the body. Qi extends to fields that surround every living thing. Modern science promotes the ideas of electrons providing energy to every cell of the body via ATP, FADH2, and NADH (remember the Krebs cycle?). Yes, indeed, this is Qi.


Qi is the inherent intelligence of the living organism. From the beginning of the embryonic state to the full development of an adult, every part of the body “knows” how to perform in a manner that is appropriate for its part in the whole. For instance, although I am reasonably intelligent, “I” do not know how my circulatory system performs its role in my being alive, but my heart and vessels do know this, perfectly. In fact, if I were in control of my Heart Qi, I probably would eventually forget to make my heart beat and move the blood to bring nutrition and oxygen to every cell. Likewise, every part of my body does its job through this innate intelligence or Qi.

Information and Regulation

The human body gathers information via the sense organs, the central, peripheral, and autonomic nervous systems, neurotransmitters, hormones, specialized cells, and more. This information is another form of Qi and this collection of data and impulses is analyzed and determines responses of the organism to its internal and external environment. This regulation of internal processes is accomplished through various processes to maintain homeostasis including positive and negative feed-back loops. This aspect of Qi creates harmony, balance, health, and well-being.

Function and Transformation

Every form of Qi in the body engenders specific functions. In fact, the metaphorical physiology of Chinese medicine is organized by assigning certain functions to the Zang-fu. For example, it is the Qi Hua (transformation of Qi) function of the Kidneys, working with the Urinary Bladder that removes waste from the blood to create urine.

Qi Equations

Now, I want to examine some of the concepts that we learned in our study of Traditional Chinese Medicine to see if we can gain further insight into these ideas.

Qi Equations
The first equation represents the basic understanding of how Qi is created according to Chinese medicine. Short and to the point. Other than Yuan (original) Qi, this explains the source of Qi in a living system. Let me expand it just a bit.

Derived from biochemistry, the second equation is a simplified statement of the extraction of energy from glucose (or glycogen), called glycolysis. In the human body, glucose is the primary fuel in cellular metabolism and the body has several pathways to convert the major macronutrients into glucose. Glucose is oxidized, metabolically, and the result is energy, including heat (= Yang) plus intracellular water (= Yin) and carbon dioxide, which is a waste product, a gas that leaves the system (notice the up arrow ↑).

Next, I have added the Zang organs whose Qi is responsible for each factor in the equation. When I first did this, I noticed that I was looking at the Five Elements at work. I must confess that I assigned carbon dioxide to the Liver and Wood Element by process of elimination. Yet, the correspondences seem obvious. Looking at the Control Cycle, I noticed something remarkably interesting.

Elements Wheel
When I learned the Five Elements in school, it was explained that Metal controlled Wood and you could remember it by thinking of a metal axe chopping down a tree. Great image, but what did it mean therapeutically? Then, it dawned on me that this is how I can accept carbon dioxide as Wood. When breathing, if you focus on the out breath, making it longer than the in breath, this is Metal controlling Wood. Focusing on the removal of more carbon dioxide is removing a waste product. In fact, breathing out IS letting go.

This is the great teaching of the Metal Element. The emotion associated with Metal is grief. All the classic emotions have their appropriate expression. Circumstances arise that engender an emotional response. Pathology occurs when one holds onto and cultivates that emotion. After a period of grieving, one must let go because a new in-breath is happening. This is very appropriate to our current situation. Coping with a pandemic and feeling some grief for what we think we have lost. Life goes on, a new moment, a new emotion is about to occur. Let it go. Just try holding onto your breath. You can, for a while, but you must eventually let it go and breathe again.

The emotion associated with Wood is frustration and anger. You can imagine what you want, but what do you do when you do not get what you want? Of course, you can reach down to your Kidneys and access your Will. Your Will allows you to try to go through, around, over, or under an obstacle. Exercising Will over a long enough period of time, however, depletes Yin or Yang (or both). Fortunately, as can be seen from the Five Element Medicine Wheel, the practice of Qi Gong, by engaging the Metal Element, replenishes the Water Element and helps sustain the Kidneys via the Creation Cycle.

If and when Will fails to achieve your desire or dreams, you may be left frustrated and angry, as can be vividly seen since Water creates Wood. Since Excess accumulating in the Wood Element creates various pathologies including Disturbance of Shen, what can be done? Practice Qi Gong. Count your breaths to ten, focusing on the out-breath, and let go. In fact, shēng qì 生氣 or “creating breath/Qi”, means to be angry in Chinese. By releasing this excess Qi in our breath, we almost literally deflate our anger. What is next? Take in another breath, let go of your thoughts about what should be and accept what is, which is a form of Love and the only true antidote to anger.

In conclusion, I trust these insights will encourage you to practice Qi Gong. The value is in the doing, that is, the breathing. Teach yourself, teach your patients to breathe. Go for harmony, balance, health, and well-being. Qi Gong will help get you there—and the world will be a better place.

Skye Sturgeon, DAOM, L.Ac.
Quality Assurance Manager & Herbal Consultant at Mayway Herbs


Now is the time to support your immune system

COVID-19, 3/24 Newsletter


Acupuncture and Herbal Support:

Now is the time to support your immune system

Here’s how


We are still here.  Our doors are open, our phone is on.  We are clean, and calm, and we welcome you.


We are very happy to leave prepaid herbs outside for pickup, or mail them directly to you.


We are here for acupuncture treatments, and are separating appointments and opening our porch to maximize social distance.  You will be able to enter directly into your treatment room without delay. We are sanitizing after each individual’s visit.


Stay home if you believe you have respiratory symptoms, or if you suspect you may have been exposed to any virus.


Please phone us with any questions you may have about what we can do for you today.


Each of us is in serious stress.  Most of you have had the pleasure to feel the deep relaxation that comes with an acupuncture treatment.  Traditional Chinese Medicine can return you to balance, so you can better take the daily challenges that life throws your way.  I have a full shelf of herbal pills to help just with that, a wide variety to calm your specific complaints, help you sleep. As we are re-balancing, these herbs will help both in the short term, and reduce these tendencies over the long term.


We are concerned about our immunity, and want it as strong as it can be right now.  Acupuncture and herbs can help.  I have been adding immune boosting acupoints into most of my treatments, and ordering immune focused herbs from across the country these past weeks.


We want to know we are safe, and that, should this virus descend upon us, or our family, we will be able to fight, endure, and prevail.  You can keep herbs on your shelf to help strengthen your body, and ease symptoms.


If you want to be healthy, reduce your inflammatory and allergic loads.  For many of us, this means avoiding those comfort foods.  Any food that makes you feel stuffy, runny, bloated, heavy, foggy, or tired, is slowing down your immune system.  I included more in the last email, and will write more about this in the future.


Keep your colon clean: this is the opposite end of your Chinese Medicine Lung system, and an important part of your immune system!  If you tend toward constipation, take laxatives. We stock various alternatives.

Stay hydrated!  Keep drinking lots of water and unsweetened beverages.  Hot is better, as COVID-19 is destroyed in temperatures over about 78 degrees Fahrenheit, so stay warm!



Stay home, stay warm, well, and hydrated.

Meditate.  Take a walk in the springtime.

Reach out to those you love.  

All of us are together in this.


I’m here when you need me.



COVID-19, March 17 Newsetter

The world has gone a little upside down.  Remember, we are all in this together.


Firstly, If any of you are suffering from, or have possibly been exposed to, COVID-19, each one of us needs to take a deep breath on your behalf, and send healing your way. 


For the rest of us, we need to stay healthy.


We all need our stress and anxiety levels reduced.  Despite our new isolation, we need to know we are not alone.  We want to know that our immune systems are strong, that those we love are safe, that all of us can weather this viral storm.


What can you do?


Boost your immune system!

Some of the strongest immune suppressors are stress, fear, and sugar.

Drink plenty of water.  Get more in soups, stews, and unsweetened, non-alcoholic beverages, like flavored seltzer water.  Keep your throat wet.

Gargle with salt water.

Rinse with a neti-pot.

Eat well.  Avoid phlegm-causing foods like sugar, dairy, refined flours, and processed foods.

Relieve your stress, in whatever way works best for you.

In a clean, safe space, breathe deeply, meditate.

Walk in the fresh air, albeit with less social interaction.  We can smile from 6 feet away.

Don’t give up your exercise routine, just minimize exposure.

When in doubt, STAY HOME.

When you return home, immediately wash your hands.

Explore online exercise classes, yoga, tai chi, or qi gong.

Sleep fully to restore.

Support those you love through telephone and Internet contact.


What can we do for you?


We are here to help you heal, keep you calm, balanced, healthy, and strong.  Don’t hesitate to phone us with your healthcare questions or concerns. We will do our best for you.


Chinese medicine has been doing this for thousands of years.  Traditional Chinese Medicine is all about treating the whole person where they are, rebalancing our systems, strengthening us, so that we can heal ourselves. 


Acupuncture alone is a great stress reliever, and immune boosting is an easy adjunct to any treatment.  Other concerns can be addressed during treatment.


We carry a wide variety of Chinese herbs and supplements that can help boost your immunity, ward off nearby viruses, fight off infections, and speed the resolution of influenza.  I can customize a formula for your specific needs and symptoms. If you are unsure, call us at 401-619-1912 for a consultation. We can ship appropriate herbs to you, or have them ready for pick up.



How do we do that now?


Obviously, priorities are shifting.  Safety first:


Please stay home if you believe you have respiratory symptoms, or if you suspect you may have been exposed to any virus.


Acupuncture & Herbal Answers is a clean healthcare facility.  We are cleaner now. We are taking this very seriously, are wearing protective gear, and disinfecting after each patient.


We are closely monitoring the CDC and RIDOH recommendations.


Those of you who have weakened immune systems, cardio-vasular disease, or who tend to suffer respiratory symptoms, may benefit from a phone call for herbal or healthcare advice.


If you choose to cancel an appointment, for whatever reason, please let us know.  No one will be penalized for late cancellations. 


Feel free to wait outside the office.  If we know you are there, we can let you know when your room is all ready for you, or take prepaid prescriptions out to your car.


Phone us!  Ask questions!  Get herbs!


Use our online supplement supply portal for vetted, quality supplements at a discount.

Wellevate Link


We are looking into various new ways to engage with you online.


Here is a link to an article on how effective herbs are to fight corona viruses in China:


Free Online QiGong exercises:

Numerous free online learning sources:



Take care of yourselves!


Late Summer is a Season All Its Own


We have arrived in what Traditional Chinese Medicine terms the season of “Late Summer.”  Here in southern New England, this begins on some unscheduled moment in August, when the winds shift, the humidity clears, and the temperature veers away from the torpid high numbers.  We breathe more easily, and sleep more soundly. We turn our smiling faces again to the afternoon sun, no longer in fear of scorching.


The Spleen system, along with its pair the Stomach, is now in control.  The red hot Fire element of the summer’s heat fades into the warm golden glow of the Earth.  Heavier vegetables and fruits ripen, full of sweet flavors which easily charge our bodies with Qi after quick digestion.  This thick density of flesh and easy energy then nourishes our muscles, and builds our immune system against the colder months to come.


The Earth is our mother, she grounds and nurtures us.   The harvest fills us with summer’s stored energies, strengthening our bodies; memories from our active summer will entertain for months.  With a hot squash soup and a fresh bread loaf, we are cared for, supported, sustained, sated, and loved.   


A wonderful season for activity, exercising now will not only strengthen our muscles, but pump the lymph to clean our bodies.  Too much inactivity now will add fat to our frames and blood, slowing our metabolisms, contributing to ill health through wintertime.


The Spleen is in charge of our digestion, and so loves foods that are easily digested: cooked foods: soups, stews, steamed vegetables.  These foods give us quicker energy, or Qi, are often high in carbohydrates, and tend to be earth toned: winter squashes, potato, most grains, seeds, salmon & sardines, poultry & beef, dates & figs.  Other vegetables in full ripeness now also make the list, including eggplant, cucumber, and watercress.


What’s the best way to nourish your Spleen/Stomach system and Earth element?  Get outside and walk. The Chinese suggest walking 1000 steps after each meal to maintain your health.  Consider getting in the habit of an after dinner neighborhood stroll, or a midday lunch break walk in the sun.  Walk with a friend or loved one, and enjoy your time. Joy is the emotion of the season, and the brain its organ, so stop overthinking, let the details go, and appreciate all that’s around you: the beauty, the bounty, the sunshine, and those you love.

The Inside Scoop on Cholesterol and The One Chinese Herb That Could Crush It

hawthorn-01According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people who suffer from high LDL cholesterol are twice as likely to develop heart disease – the number one cause of death in both men and women (source). High levels of LDL cholesterol is a serious health condition that affects approximately 71 million adults in the U.S. (1 out 3). But an ancient Chinese herb is turning heads in the medical community due to its surprisingly powerful effects on cholesterol levels.

Good vs Bad Cholesterol: What’s The Difference?

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