Gua Sha

A unique technique used in AOM is gua sha. Gua sha is a medical therapy using strokes on the patient's body with applied pressure to help return the body into balance and harmony. Gua sha can be used for many AOM patterns. The most common clinical applications are cold, heat, and stagnation.

For example, if a patient has a common cold, it's is often diagnosed as a wind-cold or a wind-heat. That diagnosis means either pathogenic wind and cold, or wind and heat has entered the body and is causing the patient's defense qi (wei qi) to work to push out the pathogen. Many times, applying gua sha to the patient in the initial onset of the wind-cold or wind-heat can help the body release the pathogen.

Another common indication for gua sha is when a muscular trauma has occurred. If a patient is presenting a trauma with excess heat (inflammation), cold, or qi and blood stasis (circulatory issue), the use of gua sha can release the heat or cold as well as improve circulation. There are many other indications for gua sha, but these are among the most common.

A very strong gua sha response in a patient.

When applying gua sha to a patient, the practitioner is looking for a sha response. Sha is the color the skin turns during and after receiving gua sha. If the area becomes bright red, there is pathogenic heat being released. If it becomes purple, cold or stagnation is being released. If it is pale-pink, either cold is being released or deficient energy is being moved.

Many types of tools can be used for making the gua sha strokes. Some common tools are ladles, carved animal horns, and stones. I have used many tools, but my tool of choice is a quarter. I have found the ridges of the quarter help bring the sha to the surface the best. Additionally, the thinness of the quarter allows easy maneuvering.

At times, the application of gua sha can be uncomfortable for the patient. Since the strokes are applied in regions where pathogens have accumulated, such as heat/inflammation and stagnation, having pressure on these areas can temporarily provoke more pain. But, the result of gua sha is often a relief or complete absence of pain or pathogen. Patients often recover from colds and muscular skeletal traumas very quickly after receiving gua sha.


Included in this blog are pictures of very strong gua sha response. There are many apparent regions of sha. The placement of the sha follows several acupuncture meridians. The sha response is very red with a little purple. This response, along with other clinical findings, indicates heat and stagnation have been released. The sha usually disappears in 2-7 days.

AOM Student Body President

Being an AOM student at NUHS offers many options of participating in scholastic programs. This week I interviewed Cynthia, the AOM student body president. Cynthia is in her second year at NUHS. She has been dedicated to her studies as well as many extracurricular activities since becoming a student at NUHS. Cynthia has had previous educational and career experiences. She is dedicated to continuously furthering her education and ability to positively impact others. Her video explains her journey to NUHS. It also highlights how she feels about being a student at NUHS and what her involvement is on campus.

Reaching Your Goal

I recently had the opportunity to interview Erika and Carlin. Erika is currently an NUHS AOM student. She is in her final trimester at NUHS. She has already successfully passed one of her boards, and is currently in the process of taking her national AOM boards. Erika shares with us how this experience feels for her.

Carlin is an alumna of NUHS. She graduated with her MSOM last trimester. She has completed all her licensing boards and is in the process of preparing for her herbal board. To become a licensed acupuncturist in Illinois, practitioners are required to pass 3 boards: Foundations, Acupuncture Points, and Biomedicine. To receive herbal certification, an herbal board must also be passed.

I hope this video helps you have an idea of how it feels to reach the desired goals as an AOM student. If you are considering becoming an AOM student, hopefully this video conveys how gratifying it feels to begin attaining graduate and professional goals.

Being an NUHS Student

The NUHS campus is home to many beautiful plants and flowers. The foliage appears infused with life and vibrancy. While looking at them, I feel their energy spark extra joy inside me. I instantly begin smiling when I see them.


These flowers caused me to think about the usage of a flower to symbolize essence in AOM. Essence is core energy comparable to one's genetics. The flowers caused me to think about how we to sprout up from a seed. We have the ability to bloom into so many directions. I then wondered what brought each student to NUHS. What caused them to bloom in this direction? 

In upcoming blogs I will have video interviews of current students. Right now, I want to take a moment to write about what a day in the life of an NUHS student feels like. Since I am graduating this trimester, I have found myself reminiscing on my journey thus far at NUHS.

I have spoken with several students regarding their experiences at NUHS. From the feedback I have received, it seems the first time a student begins to fully feel like an NUHS student is during the Orientation Day prior to the first day of classes. Orientation Day offers students an opportunity to meet fellow students and faculty members. Initially, we are unaware of each student's enrolled program. This offers an easy way to meet each other and ask questions to learn more about one another. During my Orientation Day, there was an exciting energy and optimism in the air.

Typically, the next time the new student is on campus is to attend their first class. While this is often an intriguing time, it can also be a little overwhelming. Fortunately, the new students are able to connect with each other allowing everyone to feel at ease. There are also many upper classmen and faculty members on campus ready to help answer questions.


For many students, I think the first year can feel both demanding and very rewarding. Some students attend NUHS directly from their undergraduate program. For these students, the intensity of NUHS curriculum can be challenging and motivating. Other students attend NUHS for the purpose of a second career or extension of their current career. Many times these students are familiar with the fast pace and high demands, but may have become unfamiliar with daily studying and homework expectations. I think the first year of NUHS classes brings many transitions. Fortunately, these shifts find a balance and yield a high level of satisfaction.

From what I have been told and experienced myself, the first year of the NUHS scholastic lifestyle comes into place with a healthy and comfortable ebb and flow. By the final year of classes and clinic, most students are filled with anticipation of upcoming career opportunities. Many students complete their licensing boards during their final year. Studying for boards while enrolled in clinic and classes can feel a bit intense at times, but it also feels very satisfying. It feels very fulfilling to realize all the hard work has brought the desired outcome of being a licensed health care professional in the chosen field of study.

ILaaom Asian Moon Festival Dinner

On Sunday night, Sept. 23, ILaaom had its annual Asian Moon Festival dinner. ILaaom is the Illinois Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.


ILaaom is the oldest state organization representing practitioners of Oriental Medicine. They were founded with five distinct missions, which can be read about at ILaaom is a strong advocate for AOM practitioners. They are rooted in causes concerning legislation, the philosophy, science, and art of AOM. ILaaom is a wealth of information for both students and professionals of AOM. In my opinion, it is very important for anyone involved with the Illinois practice of AOM to be a member of ILaaom.


Many professionals and students attended the ILaaom Asian Moon Festival dinner. Some of the attendees included NUHS staff and students: Professor Hui Yan Cai, MD (China), PhD (China), LAc; Instructor Robin Fan, MD (China), LAc; Chief Clinician Hyundo Kim, PhD (Korea), MSOM, LAc; Asistant Professor Yihyun Kwon, PhD (China), DC, MSOM, LAc; Assistant Dean of AOM Frank Yurasek, PhD (China), MSOM, LAc, vice president of ILaaom, and several NUHS students.


During the event, many AOM students and professionals had the ability to meet and share information.  Several speakers spoke during the dinner including David Miller, MD, FAAP, LAc, Dipl. OM, legislative director of ILaaom and Kirk Moulton, Dipl. Ac, CA. Dr. Miller spoke about current legislative events and volunteer opportunities. Kirk spoke about the ongoing mission to help bring medical relief to those in Tibet. Information and ways to participate in the relief effort can be found at

In addition to gaining a wealth of knowledge and awareness during this ILaaom event, attendees also enjoyed a delicious dinner provided by the Phoenix restaurant in Chinatown. After the dinner, ILaaom presented raffle winnings for scholarships to three students along with drawings for a silent auction.

This was a wonderful event to attend. But this was only one night. Being a member of ILaaom is a great benefit that offers much unity in our profession.

Weekend Herbal Seminar

Welcome to all the new NUHS students! I hope you had a wonderful first week of classes.  Also, welcome back to all the returning NUHS students! 

For me, this is the start of my final trimester for my MSOM. I am filled with anticipation and excitement to see what this trimester will bring. This trimester, I am taking my boards and exit exam in addition to completing my classes for my MSOM.  

NUHS faculty member HB Kim

For many upper trimester MSOM degree (herbal) students, this weekend was the beginning of HB Kim's Herbal Treatment Strategy seminar. I blogged about HB Kim, LAc, and his accomplishments a few trimesters ago. He is the author of several books used by the AOM students at NUHS. He has two seminars offered in the NUHS AOM curriculum. One seminar is Acupuncture Treatment Strategies (blogged about previously) and the Herbal Treatment Strategy seminar. These seminars are crucial for furthering students' knowledge and understanding on acupuncture and herbs. HB Kim has a gift for helping students build on the knowledge already gathered. He helps us advance what we have already learned and built upon, prepares us for board exams and expands our clinical knowledge. I believe his seminars are instrumental for preparing us for board exams. 


Most herbal students have been looking forward to this seminar since the beginning of the herbal part of the NUHS program. As the pictures illustrate, everyone is in a pleasant mood and happy to be participating in this seminar. Through the intellect of HB Kim, we are being taught the intricate details of single herbs and herbal formulas. Chinese herbs are written in pinyin, Latin, and English. The way Chinese herbs are used and administered is very different from biomedical pharmaceuticals. That stated, many students have felt overwhelmed and intimidated by learning Chinese herbs during some point of their education. I can think of two distinct moments I strongly contemplated dropping herbs from my degree. I am very thankful I decided against that idea.  

In my opinion, Chinese herbs are instrumental in aiding the patients' health and progress. There are many conditions that the combination of Chinese herbs and acupuncture can successfully treat. The advancement in the patients' well being often happens rather quickly when herbs and acupuncture are combined. Additionally, herbs and acupuncture are able to restore well being to some conditions that biomedicine is unable to affect or takes a long process of taking biomedical prescriptions.  


Being in this seminar is aiding me, and all of the students, in how to further compartmentalize and deeply understand the usage and theory of herbs. It feels very satisfying to be participating in this seminar with my peers, especially given the struggles most students experienced initially in the herbal classes.

Another Trimester Comes to an End

This week marks another end to an NUHS trimester! As I've blogged previously, this is a time of endings and beginnings. Many classmates are preparing for the fall trimester. Some students are graduating. Others are deciding to begin a new adventure as an NUHS student! 

One event that happens near the end of every trimester is our clinic lottery. This is the time we sign up for our upcoming clinic shifts. It's called a lottery as it is based on seniority and chance. Groups divided by seniority enter the clinic room. Then, we draw numbers to sign up for our clinic shifts. Being a senior intern, this is a fun social time for me. 

Signing up for the clinic shifts lottery.

When I began at NUHS, the AOM student population was small. It has grown significantly over the past couple of years. It continues to expand each trimester. As a result, I think the lottery can be a time of luck and chance for the new students in determining their upcoming schedule.

Looking back at this past trimester, I think I experienced a great deal of education in class and clinically. The experiences I had at Stroger Hospital were priceless. I feel the patient interactions along with advancements in my clinical knowledge exceeded my expectations. Being a rotating resident at Stroger's offers a new depth of understanding in patient care and application of AOM. I am thankful to be invited to continue this opportunity next trimester!

Swans and their cygnets on campus.

I also experienced many increases in responsibilities in my home life. I was stretched by many circumstances. These circumstances helped me learn how to further balance being a student, resident/intern, mom, and more. I find it fascinating that some how everything always comes together. It seems the heaviest weight when trying to balance home life and school is my perception that they will be hard to balance. As I learned in Tai Chi, once I relax into the flow of events, everything comes together. It's when I resist or worry about them that stress prevails. So, much like "push hands," a Tai Chi exercise, when I relax into the flow everything balances each other.

Thank you for reading my blog each week! I look forward to sharing more with you next trimester!!!