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There is a saying from one of classic Chinese Medicine texts “all pain comes from the heart” and this probably alludes to the fact that the heart as “supreme controller” reaches everywhere within our lives. Since from a CM perspective the spirit resides in the heart it is from there that we relate to consciousness and the totality of the moment that is.

Heart math acknowledges this but in its own way and using its own language. It tells us that not only are the heartbeats and heart rate important but the subtle differences in the beats and how well coordinated they are.

We have found that using a heart math device over a period of time is very helpful. You have to make a full commitment to use it regularly but after some time it does have a great calming effect and also seems to have more subtle positive effects in other areas, Ill keep you posted with developments.


Massage therapists know how effective massage can be and also that most people are quick to express a desire to be massaged. It has all kinds of thereputic effects including muscle & mind relaxation and improved flow of blood and lymph. But there are times when every therapy has its limitations. Times when something else would be more effective at that time and for that patient. So although massage may well be helping someone with depression or bone degeneration its likely that something else used alongside the massage would make it much more effective. One possability is acupuncture, it often complements massage very well because it works primarally on a persons “energy” or Qi and massage works primarally on their physical body. The theory behind acupuncture is very interesting and inspiring and it helps you to understand yourself and others better. Put it together with massage you just might have a winning formula.

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Cosmetic Acupuncture has been around for a few years in the UK and I first ran a class on it back in 2003. I remember that some established practitioners were quite sniffy about it at the time but now lots of people use it and it is well established. The first thing to note is that all acupuncture is potentially good cosmetically because if we ask what makes a person attractive then it’s health that is attractive. A person who is healthy and well balanced physically, emotionally and spiritually will radiate that for all to see, no matter what their age or genetics. Their health will be reflected in their skin, their body, their general demeanor and especially in their eyes. It’s interesting to note that most of the things that make us attractive to other people physically are things that reflect good strength and reproductive health like lips, skin, hair, muscle tone, body shape and posture. Things that make us attractive mentally/emotionally are things like self-esteem, humility, the ability to laugh and smile, empathy and self-confidence. And it’s through the eyes that we can convey an inner brightness or spirit that says more than words ever can no matter what condition we are in, actually even if we are not in perfect health. We have all met “good looking” people who are unattractive and those who are less obviously so but still have a sparkle in the eye haven’t we? So the good news is that acupuncture can help with all these things because it has an holistic approach to health and beauty. It will consider your physical health, your mental health and ultimately through those your spiritual health as well. This is achieved by looking at the totality of you as a person and then using acupuncture needles to adjust the balance of your Qi (energy). Add to this whatever lifestyle advice we can recommend and the first part of cosmetic acupuncture which is ultimately the most important part has been achieved. The other part addresses the physical, we have techniques to improve the blood flow to the face, tonify and invigorate the face muscles, soften lines and wrinkles, and restore a healthy glow. A Cosmetic Acupuncture treatment usually involves needles to the body and face as well as massage and other techniques. It is initially stimulating and then deeply relaxing. I find that even those people who do not “need” Cosmetic Acupuncture still really enjoy and benefit from the experience. This is why we still include a day specifically on Cosmetic Acupuncture on our one year course, for more details about the course click on this link.


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Quite a lot of research has been done into acupuncture and it has concluded that it works. But of course this is something patients and practitioners could have told the researchers before they started. There has also been research into particular areas and protocols like the Paulus protocol[1] for fertility treatment. These help because they establish methods and point prescriptions that are shown to work in particular circumstances. But I am still not entirely convinced by research and try and keep an open mind about it for reasons I will try and explain. Research may benefit the researchers by re-enforcing their beliefs and those of others when they pass their findings on. But in order to benefit from that you have to join up in the collective belief that reality is shared and unchanging. I’m not saying we should never do that, but if we do we need to be aware of what is happening and how far we wish to go down that path. Another concern is that although you can argue that research may raise standards and help in specialised areas there are still questions about how it is funded. It costs money so who pays, who sets the criteria and what is their agenda? I would contend that a lot of research is so compromised by funding that it cannot really be trusted at all. Experiments can be set up to prove just about anything you like and I think acupunctures reputation has sometimes suffered as a result. Especially since most of the media seems to favour the sceptics view of alternative medicine. Research assumes that it can identify patterns that repeat themselves and through experimentation predict how effective a practice will be. This works well if you are engineering bridges, building computers or possibly even doing Liver function tests, but does it work for acupuncture? I know that we assume it does because there are multiple sources of acupuncture theory derived from research that most of us use. But can you really predict the behaviour of an intangible and mysterious energy like Qi or are we just concentrating on the bit of it that suits us? Researching what works is inherently part of our practice of course and we are doing it all the time. But to a practitioner of Modern Acupuncture its real value must be to show us that all the assumptions and beliefs we have are unreal. Remember too that all research (not only into acupuncture) relies upon researchers who are impressionable, unpredictable and uniquely individual human beings. The researchers bias and expectations will influence the experiments and this is a huge elephant in the room that is virtually always ignored. Funded research into acupuncture I have seen seems primarily concerned with trying to establish its validity on terms acceptable to people like Richard Dawkins.[2] But this runs the risk that we will dumb it down and end up with only Medical Acupuncture. No matter what we do we will never convince Professor Dawkins and his apologists of the existence of a wider consciousness. But we may be missing out on development of our Qi and our own conscious awareness if we allow ourselves to be constrained by their delusions.

Consequently you may have noticed that some research projects have concluded that “sham” acupuncture is just as effective or nearly as effective as “real” acupuncture. This could even be right, but what these projects do not include in their criteria are some of the things that matter the most. These are things such as a practitioners feel for Qi, their self-concept and with what level of conscious awareness they practice. We would also need to know what the expectations of the patients and the researchers are because this almost certainly has a huge impact on the outcomes. Anyone who says that it does not would need to show how we would eliminate that possibility. Acupuncture is about the energy and dynamics created between patient and practitioner but there is not much research done into that. It is very difficult to research anyway because since energy follows thought just thinking about doing anything will alter the outcomes. It is impossible to replicate a moment of existence or the exact energetic dynamic created in one treatment for comparison with another. Every person is unique, every moment is unique and now is always now and cannot be again. This renders acupuncture research to be of limited value even when the outcome is positive. What is past is past, it no longer exists and fixating on the idea that it will predict a future that does not exist either is distracting. In fact it is worse than that because it tends to close our minds to what is outside the parameters set by a scientific or evidence based approach. It puts in place a belief about what acupuncture can and cannot do that is actually completely meaningless. Please don’t let other peoples research saying that acupuncture does not work for a certain disease or condition stop you from treating it. These are just some of the problems you can have when you try and assess one view of the world using beliefs and assumptions formulated according to another. After all, there is a really simple way to know if your acupuncture works, ask the patients!


[1] A well-known study into the effects of acupuncture during the time of embryo transfer in IVF treatment.

[2] Author of “The selfish gene” and “The god delusion” a known critic of alternative medicine.


Why does it take 3 years and £30k to study acupuncture Acupuncture courses have always been 3 years in length since I first became aware of them 30 years ago. I don’t know exactly who made the original decision that they should be or exactly why. But I would assume that it was considered a reasonable timescale because it was in accordance with the norm for degree courses.  It is really very difficult to say how much time it takes to become proficient at anything and particularly something like acupuncture. If we were making televisions it would probably be a bit easier but you would still find it difficult to find an exact time because some people would learn quickly and others slowly. You would end up choosing a timescale that seems reasonable and during which most people seem able to learn how to make a TV. But we are not making televisions we are dealing with something far more “fluid” and that is people. Both students and patients vary enormously in their approach and receptiveness to different things. They also have moods and good and bad days, changing circumstances etc etc. Some may understand concepts quickly, others struggle until they can apply them in a practical way. Some may work brilliantly with patients who love their company and their energy but need to be helped to make a diagnosis, and so on.

Further to that, I have another question, assuming that everyone believes in good health and safety, beyond that how do you define an acupuncturist? Is it to do with how much they know about Chinese Medicine, or 5 Elements Acupuncture, or Japanese Acupuncture? is it about their level of practical skills, or their bedside manner, or their counseling skills, or the little massage they include with their treatments. Or is it that they must be Chinese or must have a white coat or must have a good website or the right letters after their name. Do they have to be successful, expensive, or busy, or is it more important that they are caring and compassionate or that they specialize in your condition or helped your friend?

Well, it could be all of the above but I think you would find very difficult to find an acupuncturist if it were. Acupuncturists vary enormously and how they work depends on them and their training, their knowledge, their experience (including life experience) their approach, skills and attitudes. People come to acupuncture from all age groups, backgrounds and orientations, these are their unique features. This is what defines an acupuncturist, what makes them special and different. Different acupuncturists will suit different patients just as different courses and learning styles will suit different students of acupuncture.

How could they possibly all take exactly the same amount of time to train and all be perfectly suited to the same kind of course?

Conclusions: What really matters is that acupuncturists help people. There are lots of good acupuncture courses and you can look around and find one that suits your style, time, location or other preferences. To read more about our course you can click on the links above including the FAQ’s page.


The first thing to say about this is that it is obviously a subject to bring out deeply felt emotions, attitudes, and opinions. Couples who want children but find they cannot conceive are often worried and vulnerable. If ever the phrase “you can prove anything you like with statistics” could be applied to something then I think “fertility” qualifies. We have all kinds of claims being made by all kinds of people and they usually quote statistics in order to justify themselves. There are the IVF clinics, many (or possibly all) of whom are not honest about the way in which they select their candidates and report their results. Then there are the vested interests of drug companies, researchers, and of course the specialist (often highly paid & high status) medical personnel. There is a prevailing view amongst some (not all) professionals in the NHS and outside that they are the experts and that nobody else either knows anything or has anything to contribute. Their cheerleader being someone who claims to be an expert in alternative medicine despite denying most of its key principles, one Edzard Ernst. 

This is not to say that specialist clinics and procedures such as IVF are all wrong or do not have a role to play but that I would strongly advise anyone to research other options first. Acupuncture and other alternative therapies do help and speaking to people who have been helped by them proves this. We don’t have “statistics” we just have happy people who never needed to go any further than having acupuncture and taking their practitioners advice. There are also many who have been assisted by acupuncture while going through IVF or other procedures. Others who have unfortunately had to accept that they cannot have children have been supported through that. The blunt truth is that fertility treatments (of any kind) do not always work and we must avoid giving false hope.

There are of course a few charlatans in this field offering all kinds of things including alternative or more conventional treatments but I have seen no evidence that they are acupuncturists.

Infertility can actually have many, many causes including some that most specialists and even most acupuncturists never consider. Here is a list of possibles and even this may not be 100% comprehensive:

All drugs/medication/long-term use of contraceptives, Age of parents (effecting eggs or sperm), Genetic weaknes or lack of development, Low sperm count, Poor physiological compatibility of partners, Poor Diet, Obesity, Malnutrition, Over-exercising, Overwork, Emotion (a very big one that is often ignored), Hormonal problems, Minerals, Fats & Acids (part of diet really), Heavy metal toxicity, Household toxins and molds, Other pollutants such as air pollution, Climate & lifestyle, Stress.

Most acupuncturists who do a lot of work with fertility find that they have to become quite knowledgeable about not only the CM (Chinese Medicine) perspective but also about gynecology and WM (Western Medicine). In fact, I know some acupuncturists who know so much about these things they could easily work in a hospital or as a GP specialist. Since patients often tend to seek the help of IVF first and then come for acupuncture this knowledge is necessary in order to help them as effectively and safely as possible. It is possible to treat people for fertility using basic acupuncture techniques but you would not be advised to do so in these more advanced cases. This is why we include two full days of our post-graduate part of the course (during the final 3 months of the year) with our specialist on this, Richard. He has extensive knowledge and experience in treating women for fertility and during pregnancy and childbirth. This key knowledge and guidance to additional resources will ensure that you are safe and confident to treat people for fertility.

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At first glance, it would appear that there are enough acupuncturists touting for patients already. Bristol is quite near where I live and its a direct train ride to one of the biggest acupuncture colleges in the country in Reading. Many of their newly qualified acupuncturists are very tech savvy with websites and fancy Facebook profiles, etc. All this competition means that it is difficult for some new graduates to get started doesn’t it? Well, that depends because not everyone advertises online. In fact some of the busiest acupuncturists I know never advertise and don’t even have an internet presence. This is because everyone is different and some work through networking or a process of osmosis over time to generate new patients. Some, of course, don’t make it and they go away and do something else after acupuncture because they are not suited to building a practice even when they are good practitioners. All this poses questions and I’m going to put forward a couple of points in order to explain why, despite this, I think we do need more acupuncturists and people training in acupuncture.

First, in practical terms can we really continue with health services as they are. Can we continue with a system where half the population either do not take their health seriously or do not know how to (especially when up against all kinds of vested interests who benefit financially from their disease)? When these people get ill they end up at their doctors, on medication and then at the hospital. As money gets ever tighter (because an elite few super-rich people have most of it as the global monetary/fiscal system is broken) more skilled people leave the service and it deteriorates further and further. In view of this we should remember that acupuncture is an holistic practice, it encourages people to look at all aspects of their lives and to take personal responsibility. A good consultation includes a conversation about diet, lifestyle, environment (toxins/ molds etc) and emotional balance. Much of what we do is to help people become aware of things they may not know are important for their health.
Next, in spiritual terms. Global consciousness is real and we are all tied to it and inexorably linked to it whether we acknowledge that or not. Human beings do not exist in isolation they are part of oneness, wholeness, Dao or God (you choose which language best suits you). Let’s face it this planet and life upon it is not looking too healthy at the moment, the planet has cancer and its called humanity. By making people aware of holism, of Qi, of personal responsibility and of the emotional and spiritual aspects of their lives we are working to rebalance this. Everyone who trains in acupuncture or who has acupuncture or even meets someone else who is doing so is potentially lifted by this. We should never forget that the ultimate level of healing is spiritual/conscious and that acupuncture is a great medium to take us in that direction.
So yes, more awareness of acupuncture, more people training in acupuncture, more people thinking about holism, personal responsibility, and consciousness, even if it’s only in a small way it makes for a better world.

Traditional Chinese Medicine does acknowledge the presence of the brain but not in the same way we do in western society. The brain in CM is seen as the “store of marrow” and an extension of the kidney. Its relationship with the heart is acknowledged but during my training as an acupuncturist, it was not much emphasized or discussed. Many of the things we might associate with the brain are in fact ascribed to the “officials” or organs in the body, especially the heart. The western view, on the other hand, does emphasize the brain and “intelligence” or “thought” are considered primarily as brain functions. This is the most fundamental contradiction between a western and an eastern approach to medicine/healing. Is it more to do with something we “work out” or “discover” or is it something we “sense” or “feel”? You can guess what I’m going to say…… it’s actually both!

What is really exciting about this is the work that pioneers in brain health and functional medicine are doing now. It transpires that the brain and heart are so closely and inexorably linked that it is folly to try and separate them. There are millions of nerve pathways between them and all those meditation and self-development techniques we have been using have been, on one level at least, aimed at improving communication and harmonization between them.

Perhaps the most effective and easy method I have found to help ourselves (and therefore all around us) with the heart/brain relationship is heart mapping or heart math as it is known. This is something we can do for ourselves simply by stopping our thoughts at moments of stress and shifting focus to the heart. We then find something to be grateful for at that moment. I think this also applies at important moments during a treatment such as when we are listening or at the moment we are needling an acupuncture point.

There are various devices available that monitor the heartbeat, its speed and coherence and then teach us to be more heart focussed. I may say more about that in another post.




We know that acupuncture is an ancient tradition and we know that we are using it in a modern context, but does it always fit? In ancient China they had no “immune system” no “thyroid gland” no “adrenals” and probably not even “high blood pressure”. In their environment they had no EMF’s (electro magnetic fields) no heavy metals, no toxic chemicals, no “junk” food or refined sugar and the air contained more oxygen. So it seems unlikely that its always going to be possible to make a simple diagnosis that will address all the problems associated with these factors.

This is what I like about ear acupuncture to complement body acupuncture and other relevant approaches to health. Since ear acupuncture was primarily developed in the west (France) in the last century its theoretical base embraces both Western and Eastern medicine. So there are ear points for “allergy” “prostate” and “thyroid” as well as the more traditional “Kidney” and “Heart”. How nice it is to have something we can use to treat some of those tricky “western” conditions!


I did two short videos on St36 recently. Its probably acupunctures best known point and certainly one that most practitioners will use on a very regular basis. It got me asking the same question that I find myself asking quite often: “How much of the efficacy of acupuncture is about the theory/diagnosis and how much is about the intention?” There is no easy answer to this question and as always it is essentially a matter of opinion. Since its my contention that most of acupuncture is actually about practitioner development and intent, Id say that most of the time intent is most of it. Others would say that adhering to tradition, fully understanding theory and implementing it in a serious and disciplined way is more important. But is that not just another way of developing intention? We know that there are many branches of acupuncture and we know that they all work which is one of the main reasons I have concluded for myself that acupuncture training is really a method of self development. For some this may be academia, for others doing TaiQi and for others seeing aura’s or even possibly a combination of these. But the net result is in many ways similar in that the practitioner becomes a healer through the medium of the way they relate to what they learn and then put into practice. It is very important that we get St36 in the right place, that we build a relationship with the point whereby we can feel its Qi. We need to understand and feel its effectiveness and how it works, to build up experience of using the point and then monitor its effects on the pulse and through feedback. But as I show on the video, not everyone puts it in the same place! This shows again that an acupuncture point exists as Qi that a patient has and that is running through their bodies but also as something that the practitioner relates to, feels and even creates within the treatment dynamic.