Main Blog Theory Forum Store Clinic Tw Fb G+



In reading this sites theories and point functions i came across the term 'tonification' quite regularly.

Like 'tonifies qi', 'tonifies yang','tonifies yuan qi', etc.

I might sound silly by asking this but what exactly does it mean to tonify your yuan qi?

Is it made more focussed, stronger, more pure?

And what are the limits to how tonified something can be?


There are eight main priniples within Chinese Medicine ( Interior/Exterior, Cold/Heat, Xu (Deficiency)/Shi (Excess), Yin/Yang). These principles generally intermingle when you are looking at patterns of disease. So you may have a yin deficiency which creates heat on the interior causing an excess syndrome (i.e. nightsweats for example). The term tonification is used as you state to strengthen the energy in a system. This can be quite broad as in some cases you are talking about using tonification techniques with needling (generally needling with the flow of the meridian), and in others you may be talking about a set of points or other treatments to raise the persons immune system in biomedical terms.

And, yes, there are limits - hence the yang excess patterns. Generally it is difficult with acupuncture to over tonify as the body will only allow so much of a change (it is possible however). As you get into herbs, however, those with strong tonification properties (ginseng, for example) can be over used which will eventually cause harm to the person. Over tonification generally raises the yang principle and adds heat into the body - too much and the person loses yin and tissues may dry up, heat may rise causing acne, or anger, or any number of imbalances... Chinese Medicine is all about creating balance within our bodies and over doing anything (i.e. clearing too much heat, adding too much energy, etc.) can cause the patient to not respond well to treatments.


Thank you for your in depth answer but it just raises more questions.

Like why wouldnt we want our yuan qi as potent as possible since we only have a fixed amount

and why can somebody be stronger energetically from birth than someone else without ill effects if the perfect system is one where the delta between opposing forces is zero?

Wouldnt great strength be considered an imbalance in tcm and consequently lead to health problems?

I know my understanding is very little and thank you Chad for your in depth answers and patience.

Francois van der Westhuizen


As you are finding within the "What is Qi" article, there are various types so discussing "Qi" can be difficult without using all of the proper terminology - and even then it can still be difficult.

The concept of Jing and Yuan Qi (they get mixed to some degree) is that there is some aspect of our qi which is present at birth and that is all we get. Strong initial deficiencies would lead to conditions such as mental retardation, strong learning disabilities, poor physical and/or mental development, etc. In theory, other than building the post-natal qi there is little you can do about this initial deficiency - it cannot be built up.

Now a strong initial level of Yuan Qi does not necessarily mean that you will have a healthier life or a longer life span, it just means that you will have more reserves to draw from over a longer period of time. Yuan Qi cannot be in an excessive state, in theory.

For an example, someone with strong yuan qi faces a bout of cancer and survives - the amount of yuan qi that their body had to pull from to get through this period of illness was small in relation to the total amount so their overall lifespan may not be affected much. Someone who starts with very low yuan qi and experiences a stomach virus that takes a month to clear up may have greatly lowered their lifespan.

Now to continue the example, the person with low yuan qi decides to practice Tai Chi everyday for the rest of their life strongly building their post-natal qi and rarely utilizing their pre-natal qi - they may offset any changes to their lifespan through healthy living. And the cancer survivor decides to travel the world and go out drinking and dancing every night getting little sleep and strongly using their pre-natal qi to survive may use up their pre-natal blessings and pass on early.

The way I usually explain this go as follows: You are born with a fixed amount of yuan qi. The yuan qi is a catalyst for all of the functions in your body. The vast majority of these functions can run on any qi if it is available, but some require only yuan qi and if you have low energy then your body will pull from the limited resource of yuan qi. When the yuan qi is used up there is no more catalyst, so you die. Life preservation, then, is about maintaining usable amounts of post-natal qi in your body so your "need" to dip into your fixed amount of yuan qi is minimized.

The concept of strength, then, does not apply directly to yuan qi in the sense that you can build this aspect up - what you really want is preservation.

To answer your other questions, you would have to define "strength". This term can mean any number of things. Certainly you want adequate amounts of qi and to preserve them as well as you can. So building them with proper diet, exercise, acupuncture, etc. and preserving them with moderate lifestyle habits, staying healthy, etc. should be the focus. Having strong or plentiful qi is in and of itself not a problem. But how you build, or strengthen, this qi can be. And there are downsides to physical strength within Chinese Medical terms as well.

What it really comes down to is that you cannot just take tonifying substances and expect to live longer - if it was that easy we would find life increased by simply taking ginseng everyday. Your body has to be able to assimilate your qi into a usable format and store it when necessary. You could, for example, take tonifying herbs everyday but have excessive amounts of sex and physical activity and never build a surplus leaving yourself open for deficiency issues. On the other hand you can have adequate amounts of qi, and lead an immobile lifestyle and develop serious health problems and low energy due to poor circulation, physically and energetically. Also physical muscular strength constricts circulation so generally does not lead to longer lifespans per se.

Consider Yuan Qi as a fixed entity where the level of which in and of itself doesn't mean anything to your health other than you probably have more possibilities of not being greatly harmed by long term illnesses, periods of sustained stress, all of the things that weaken our post-natal qi and require us to tap into our resources.


Is there an effect from natural child birth or breast feeding on the child's qi? Also for the Mom does it increase her post natal qi to have gone thru the birthing process with as little "interference" as possible? Is it that much of an equation where one's actions produce more or less qi?


There are many theories within Chinese Medicine that discuss the effect of the birthing process on overall qi and future development. In general any trauma to the body at anytime weakens qi. If these traumas happen at states where we have lower relative levels of qi the damage can technically be deeper and/or more systemic. So for the child, the mother, it is all the same theory. Our bodies are built to withstand stressors, traumas, imbalances - our whole system is built to constantly work toward homeostasis. The more we challenge it, however, the more we open ourselves to imbalances and their effects. When you meet with too many challenges all at the same time and you are in a weakend state (physically and/or emotionally), that is when you have to be more concerned. It gets back to the preservation and prevention ideas that are a large part of the theory and practical application.

For the mother the birthing process is one of many processes that run the risk of greatly weakening the body. Now in most cases this will be temporary and with rest, proper diet, perhaps acupuncture and/or herbs, the effects will be minimal and the body will recover quickly. For the child, this is the same. The less traumatic it is for both mother and child, the less challenged the bodies systems and qi will be.


This topic got derailed from tonification so badly...i love it

How does a fetus get a lifetime supply of yuan qi from a fraction of her/his father's and mother's?

And just to plug this in somewhere, how does tcm view the telomerase enzyme versus yuan qi?

Is it a matter of which runs out first(telomeres or yuan qi) or are they part of the same process?


Francois van der Westhuizen


Hi Chad (or anyone else who would care to comment),

I've been undergoing very regular acupuncture treatments for almost 6 years for chronic anxiety/depression. I was addicted to neuroleptic, antidepressant and anti-anxiety medication for many, many years. Thanks to acupuncture (I also take Ginseng sporadically and homeopathy daily, and I also meditate daily), I quit the meds and now have a better, freer, healthier, more open and rich life. I'm a kinder, more balanced and more empowered person than I ever was.

TCM has changed my life and is changing me on a deep level. I'm now interested in Chinese medicine, Chinese philosophy and Buddhism. I'm also growing spiritually.

Problem is that I was addicted to neuroleptic and anxiety medication for many years. I'm now, psychologically at least, addicted to acupuncture. I started out with 3 sessions per week (I had withdrawal symptoms from having stopped my latest neuroleptics and was suicidal) almost 6 years ago, 4 years ago reduced to 2 per week, and now I'm at 1 session a week.

The homepathic meds and daily detox baths allowed me to reduce the frequency while holding a stressful and demanding job. I'm very proud of what I've achieved thus far, only problem is: my body is slowly getting hotter every year. For the second summer in a row, I get slightly depressed, feel a burning sensation within my body, and have to rely on detox baths and cold showers to get me through the hot summer days. Winters, on the other hand, are great, I even get in a better mood as fall and winter approach!

Any reasonable person would suggest spacing out the sessions even more, once every 10 days for instance, then twice a month. This scares me, to be honest. I was so addicted to the meds that I replaced this addiction with an acupuncture "addiction", much less harmful but it remains an addiction nonetheless. My acupuncturist (a good man but not a true TCM specalist, he's an MD and does acupuncture on the side) thinks I should space out the sessions.

My question is: is there an alternative to spacing out the acupuncture sessions? I read on this forum that too much tonification can result in excess Yang and overheating. But can acupuncture also be used to disperse chi, not just tonify chi, and if so, could this be an alternative to spacing out the sessions? I'd like to avoid the extra pressure of absolutely having to reduce the sessions if I can, to keep all my options open. There are times when I feel I'm not ready to go more than 7 days without acupunctute, especially in regards to my job.

Thank you in advance to ANYONE who'd care to give an honest, thoughtful answer or comment.

Kind regards,



If regular acupuncture helps keep you stable then there are certainly far worse problems to have. While people don't need to come that often after their systems are better regulated, many choose to do so. I have many patients who come every week, who have absolutely nothing wrong with them - they just enjoy the treatment.

Acupuncture, properly applied, can be used often and you shouldn't worry about too much tonification or dispersion. These issues will happen when acupuncture is incorrectly used and/or the practitioners techniques are too strong. If this were the case, you would have had problems with the treatments long ago.

While I agree it is not necessary to go as often, if you feel it helps, then by all means continue. Acupuncture is simply a reset switch for the body that helps it to regain its natural level of balance. You cannot have too much when your practitioner is using relatively even techniques.

Ask A Question Start A Discussion
Main Blog Theory Forum Store Clinic Tw Fb G+
Copyright 2000-2018 Yin Yang House - All Rights Reserved
Website Design and Management by the Yin Yang House Media Services Group