Dozens of needles pierced Zhang Xing's belly. In just a few months, the young man's waistline has shrunk about 50 centimeters thanks to traditional acupuncture treatment.
Like Zhang, many people nowadays are looking to Chinese medicine practitioners for natural solutions to their beauty issues, such as weight and skin problems.
For three years, 26-year-old Zhang felt ashamed of his body and hated being photographed. Even walking had become difficult for him.
Reluctant to go on a diet or do any extensive physical exercise, Zhang started regular acupuncture slimming treatment at the TCM department of Tongren Hospital in Beijing.
The most obvious change Zhang found was that he did not feel as hungry as before. Also, before, it was common for him to be constipated for two or three days, but since the treatment, he was regular.
The acupuncture adjusted Zhang's disturbed neural control of appetite and hunger, sped up his intestinal movements and boosted his metabolism, says Wang Hong, a TCM cosmetology practitioner at Tongren Hospital.
According to Jiang Zaizeng, president of the World Federation of Chinese Medicine Societies' Specialty Committee of Cosmetology, TCM is becoming increasingly popular in the beauty industry.
TCM beauty services are now available in many of the country's large hospitals. The treatments have also spread to Japan, South Korea, Australia , Brazil and European countries.
In fact, beauty services have been a part of Chinese medicine for thousands of years, sought after by emperors and the upper-class.
Among the TCM practitioners' beauty treatments are acupuncture, moxibustion, herbal formulas, food therapy and massages.
"Compared to chemical beauty products, all these measures are safe, natural and without side effects," Jiang says.
To a TCM doctor, how you look on the outside reflects the condition of your insides. They believe that health issues manifest externally. For example, a spleen deficiency will make the body store more water, leading to weight problems.
"Through identifying and adjusting the inner problems, TCM doctors can help beautify one's appearance," says Wang.
Skin care, particularly targeting acne, is another important application of TCM in cosmetology, according to Wang.
TCM views acne and other skin rashes as a result of the obstruction of the flow of blood and qi (energy of life), which can be caused by stress, lack of sleep or a high-fat diet. Sometimes, abnormal menstruation and contraceptives can also play a role.
Wang combines blood-letting punctures and moxibustion in her clinical treatment of acne.
Blood-letting puncturing uses a needle to prick a superficial vein on particular acupoints on the back, cupping on it and letting a small quantity of blood out. The method can adjust qi and blood circulation of the corresponding channel and promote healing.
In addition, applying moxibustion on the affected areas of the face can help diminish inflammation.
According to Wang, most patients who had already tried ineffective Western medicines, such as antibiotics, see their acne improve after this treatment.
Acupuncture is also effective in alleviating eye twitching, hair loss and allergies, she says.
(China Daily November 7, 2007)