Pulse of Oriental Medicine: Alternative Medicine That Works for Regular Folks
Alternative Medicine That Works for Regular Folks

First Published January 1, 2003

Qi Gong, Energy Medicine,
& Healing

by Brian Benjamin Carter


I am a young 15yr old follower in the world of martial arts. I have read from many web sites on the healing and fighting power of qi, so i would meditate and concentrate on my qi energy for days. Finally yesterday i summoned my energy to my hands. It took me about two minutes but i felt a small magnetic force pushing my two hands apart. Which leads me to my questions, how can i use this force to heal, and how ( if possible) can i use this force in other unique ways like pushing people down with my mind and etc.

This question may sound silly! Because we are dealing with energy medicine, is there an answer to this? In TCM, is there any thoughts on the healer's own health or level of training in qigong as a requirement in bringing successfuly healing to his patients, (i.e., specifically, is the accupuncturist's own qi level important)? This question is brought on by the fact that often other means of opening the channels can be assisted by moxa, heat and other electrical stimulation devices. Is it possible that healer's own qi deficiencies may impair his effort to unblock his patient's energy stagnation? I've heard in external qi healing the flow may actually reverse to the direction of the healer if his energy level is drained or if overworked.

Sergio and David,

I think it's important to differentiate reality from fiction. I have also experienced the magnetic repelling sensation, and "energy" feeling in the hands. And I have heard stories of qi gong practitioners pushing objects (paper lamps) from a distance without touching them. It might be true.

However, I am highly skeptical of these things. Don't get me wrong- just show me and prove it's not David Copperfield, and I'll reconsider. Until then, I will assume it's either wishful thinking or pure charlatanism.

Acupuncture, Qi Gong, & Healing Energy

As far as healing goes, many chinese medical practitioners believe in practicing qi gong in order to increase their qi so that they can pass this increase or finer quality qi on to their patients for healing. Others say you can use your qi (instead of various needle techniques) to supplement or disperse an acupuncture point while needling. These same people say it may take 10-20 years to achieve this ability.

I have a few questions about these ideas-

1. The basic scientific question- how do you know it was solely your special qi that did the healing and not just the actual acupuncture treatment? It has been shown through studies that patients will often answer in such a way as to please their doctor... I myself have felt the resistance to saying, "No, that didn't do anything," during a treatment. Even though the doctor needs the truth to help you, you don't want to shake their confidence.

2. If you believe it, you'll see it. If you tried to feel anything for 10-20 years, isn't it possible you would finally experience it? Does that mean it's real? Or did you make yourself believe it? Many people believe they develop beliefs based on what they see in real life. Research shows that people often see and experience only those things that are consistent with their beliefs.

3. Investing your time wisely. If it takes so long to achieve this qi healing, is it really that much more effective than just doing acupuncture? If not, why not spend your time pursuing more time-efficient ways of healing your patients? Like learning to do acupuncture better, for example, really getting to know the classic texts, learning Chinese, learning more about musculsokeletal acupuncture, psychology, or some other proven (and believable) healing modality. You won't find me gambling two decades of learning on a possibility.

4. If qi healing is so important and effective, why even learn chinese medicine? If this state of our internal energy has so much to do with the results patients get, then what do we do with the therapeutic techniques which tonify or sedate? If a tired person uses a tonifying technique, you're telling me that they'd still sedate the patient? If both internal qi and technique are involved, then which is paramount? But the experience of many practitioners (especially of psychology) tells us that even when we feel horrible, our patients don't always see it, and they can get well despite us. Isn't it a little egotistical to think that we practitioners have so much power in the process of healing? We may facilitate healing, but we don't actually heal.

Some of our teachers at school said, "What really matters is your intent." Students that bought this idea, when told they had accidentally needled the wrong point, would say, "But it was my intent to needle such-and-such point." As if that made up for it. Haven't you heard that the road to hell is paved with good intentions? This new age idea that our thoughts and beliefs are more powerful and determinant than our actions is obviously false. If it were true, why even learn any medicine? Just go around and intend to heal people, and everyone will get well.

Breeding Ground for Cults

This kind of unverifiable knowledge that is passed on one-on-one also makes for a situation ripe for arrogance and deception. Basically, it is the stuff of cults. Be very careful in any master-apprentice situation.

Prove Me Wrong about Energy Healing

Again, I must say I am open-minded if anyone has some answers to the above questions or alternative perspective. I know that not too long ago, the efficacy and mechanisms of acupuncture seemed fantastic. So I hate to apply the same kind of skepticism to qi/energy healing... but somewhere we will find the edge of what is real and what is fantasy, and I don't know which side energy healing will be on.

And please understand I am voicing not only my own questions, but also the ones I expect would be raised by conventional MD's and other skeptics - questions I can't answer myself!

The Responsibility of the Healer

I do believe, however, that healers must be in good shape to help their patients. By that I mean at least these 5 things:

  1. Physician Heal Thyself. Commit to your own physical health. The healthier they are the better example they are to their patients. Of course, no one is perfect, and a healer that tries to appear perfect will inspire guilt and emotional distance in their patients.
  2. Know Thyself. Commit to your spiritual, psychological and emotional growth. When it comes to helping patients understand their motivations and internal blockages, a healer must have gone through some internal process of inventorying, confronting, and changing their own baggage. This is why psychologists are required to get counseling during their training. If you don't know how to be healed, you can't heal.
  3. Walk Your Talk. Authenticity is indispensable. If you don't live the way you ask your patients to, you lose their trust. I find it much easier to just "Talk My Walk"- that means I talk about what my life is really like.
  4. Be Willing to Be Wrong. You don't know everything, and you never will. You're not perfect. That means knowing that your emotional and mental reactions may be wrong. Listen to your patients with an open mind. Learn lessons from them.
  5. Real Love. We have a skewed idea of love. The best model of love is parent-child. To raise a kid well, you have to be supportive and encouraging. Plus, when they do something that's bad for them or someone else, you have to confront them. Love means to both support and rebuke. It's hard to tell someone they're wrong, but we don't love someone if we don't try to stop them from going down a destructive path. Finally, we have to let go of them. Whether they heal and grow up and no longer need us, or stay hooked in to destruction, we can't control them. Let go. Love requires compassion, courage, and humility. This is how God loves us.

Hope this helps, and all the best!

Find a licensed acupuncturist here: "Resources for Finding Acupuncturists and Herbalists"

Letter to the Editor in Response to this Article:
Go back to the beginning of the original article

Dear Brian,

An interesting article.

I am a TCM practitioner and "feel" that qi gong does aid in the regulation of the body, and currently am wondering how much and or little it might improve patients' situations.

Your article is food for thought indeed.

My personal impression is that intent and qi gong and needle stimulation are intertwined to a certain level and may be different aspects of a similiar if not the same process.

In recent years I have observed that some very "gentle" needle forms (mainly Japanese) do have an influence on the treatments and I hope to do long-term follow ups.

However, I just wanted to say that like your article, maybe some more articles in the future on Qi gong and healing with cautionary words as this article has done...


Marco, thanks for your feedback.

I've come to believe that chinese medicine generally does not share quite the same burden of proof that western medicine does- that is, anything that has stood the test of time and has significant clinical evidence already carries some weight. (That is not to say, of course, that more research is not needed- it certainly is.)

I also believe that the ways that acupuncture and chinese herbs might work (within most people's world-view) makes sense. It's easier to see how a needle going through the skin affecting specific nerves, or various phytochemicals might change the body's activites in a specific direction.

It's not so easy to see how touching the skin, or just touching the needle, plus a change in the practitioner's intent can have specific effects. This requires a specific belief- namely that qi exists as an electrical-like energy that can leave the body, travel through the needle, and then enter the other's body while retaining its integrity and the "message of intent."

For me, that's a little far-fetched.

I know all kinds of people have used the ideas of quantum physics to come up with explanations... but again, if those ideas were true, we wouldn't even need the needles or the herbs. And everyone would be getting well. Unless there are other blocks to this kind of healing and it requires training etc.

But again, it's not all that believeable, nor does it sound like a good gamble t to spend all that time learning it when we haven't seen a lot of convincing evidence that it works. I'd be happy to let someone write qi gong articles if they shared my interest in evidence-based medicine. But I personally don't have enough interest in it at this time to investigate it further.

All the best!

Dear Brian,

Let's say that Qi Gong per se existed before the so-called"energy" model. I agree this does not mean it is right or wrong, but qi and energy are not synonyms at least not from a lingustical nor philological view (nor cultural, probably not even a practical viewpoint).

However do not get me wrong; I am certainly not sure about the worth of qi gong transmission... but as a medium for self-healing and work that patients can do in their own time it is certainly worthwhile. I find Chinese medicine so vast that to try to master and grasp "all" aspects would be slightly "big headed" indeed. That is why I felt your article was/is good and food for thought.

Thanks for the hard work you are doing by publishing Pulsemed.


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