Acupuncture Energy, Qi
as Propagated Signal Transfer

“The universe is moved by a power which cycles endlessly from day to day. Such greatness endures for all time. As in Heaven, so on Earth.”

I - Ching


Acupuncture energy, the flow of Qi in the channels, can be explained by an electro-physiological model.

Let me quickly ensure you that I`m not that short-sighted that I think that Qi is nothing else but merely an electrical activity, I`m sure the phenomenon is more complex.

Nevertheless, the following proposed model is a fairly elegant explanation of how an inserted needle can generate and direct acupuncture energy in a respective channel. Let`s first look at our body from a new angle, - no needle, yet.

As we all remember from elementary school biology, our body is 60% of H2O. Not quite tap water, though, it rather resembles more or less to the ocean, filled with lytes and salts.

Positive and negative charged particles line up along the two sides of our cell membranes, creating a potential difference between the intracellular, (in the cell) and extracellular (outside the cell) spaces.


Our cells accumulate and store charges, they can be perceived like trillions of miniature, energizing-bunny batteries. These tiny cell-batteries make up large organ batteries, ultimately producing a net acupuncture energy field around our whole body. This is detectable as Aura on Kirlian photos, even visualizable by some adepts.

acupuncture needle Let`s see how we can dynamize this static field, pushing or pulling acupuncture energy throughout our body.

We need electrodes (needles), and wires (meridians).

I place this hair-thin, nice, sterile, disposable needle painlessly into one of your acupuncture points, and gently advance it into an underlying channel. As soon as it reaches the desired depth, your body "grabs" it, and you`ll feel the acupuncture energy shooting out, spreading along the projectory of the respective channel.

This is called the propagated acupuncture energy signal (sensation) along the acupuncture channels.

It is not painful, it is not quite electric, it is a very distinct feeling, you`ll know it when you feel it. Experienced patients expect it and acknowledge it as the sign of the proper needle position.

Electro-physiology offers a very elegant explanation of what is happening.

schematic bimetallic acupuncture needle

So here`s our needle, again.

It has a stainless steel shaft, and a handle, made of bronze, copper, or silver. Because the shaft and handle are different, it is a needle made of two metals, a so-called bimetallic needle.

And this is very important because bimetallic filaments, like hair-thin acupuncture needles, have special thermo-electric characteristics, if their two ends have different temperatures.

one needle neutal When an acupuncture (bimetallic) needle is inserted into the human body as shown on this schematic picture, the tip in the deep channel becomes body temperature (T: 36.7 - 38.0 C), whereas the outside end, left alone after the insertion, returns to room temperature (20-22 C).

This thermal difference on a bimetallic needle produces a thermoelectric potential gradient difference known as the Thomson-Kelvin Law. Warm tip in the body becomes positive, whereas the cold(er) handle outside turns negative.

The basic rule of electricity is that different charged particles attract one another, so the positive needle-electrode tip in the body-channel will attract negative electrolytes from its surroundings, from the extracellular space.

positive tips attract anions

Let`s insert another needle into a further acupoint upper on the channel.

We have two needles in the same channel now, with warm, positive tips. They both attract negative ions. They will have a pulling effect. This is called dispersion. Needles left neutral, will disperse energy.

Now, here comes the magic.

One can (obviously), as we frequently do, do something with the outside end of a needle. Either warm it or cool it.

Tonified left needle Let`s warm the needle on the left on this schematic picture with moxa. The handle becomes warm. The tip in the body is still body temperature, but it is the relatively cooler now, compared to the heated outside end.

What happens?

Right, the Thomson-Kelvin effect. Only just now the charges will be switched because the temperatures are switched. Warm is still positive and cool is still negative. But now the tip is the relatively cooler one. Cool(er) means negative, so the tip switches to negative.

This negative tip of this tonified (heated) needle won`t attract negative ions any longer, because according to basic electricity, similar charges bounce one another, consequently our left sided now negative tip will be pushing the other negative charges away....

...toward the not heated needle on the right, whose tip is still positive, so it continues to attract happily the anions and electrons...

directed electron flow

Basic axiom of electricity is that electric current flows where electrons (or negative charged ions) go, and they go toward the positive electrode...

so we can explain acupuncture energy as directed electron flow,

i.e. propagated sensation energy signal.


Heat one needle in the channel and you`ll start pushing energy. (Tonification)

Cool another one, (by an alcohol impregnated cotton ball around the handle so as the alcohol vaporizes it will cool), and you`ll pull energy. (Dispersion)

And this concludes one of the basic techniques in French Meridian Acupuncture, Qi explained as bio-electrical propagated sensation along the acupuncture channels.

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