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Welcome to Femme Vital

We use Acupuncture, Chinese Herbs & Coaching to support women to feel happy and vital again.

What Is Chinese Medicine? 

Chinese Medicine is an ancient medicine. Essentially, it evolved in China years ago. The first recorded documentation was three thousand years ago. It is complete health system, that was so excellentthat it was continually passed through dynasties and spread throughout Asia. Now we are fortunate enough for it to support our health here in Melbourne.
Specifically, there are quite a few modalities within Chinese medicine;
  • Acupuncture: The insertion of fine needles into Acupoints on the body.
  • Acupressure: Manual pressure applied to Acupoints instead of needles.
  • Tai Chi: Exercise as art for the Body, Mind and Soul.
  • Gua Sha: Spooning or scraping the skin to bring toxins to the skin surface.
  • Chinese Herbal Medicine: Chinese Herbs prescribed to restore balance.
  • Cupping: Suction cups applied to the skin to move stagnant Blood, energy or Qi.
  • Bleeding: Micro-bleeding particular Acupoints to move deep stagnation .
  • Moxibustion: Application of heated mugwort (herb) near skin to warm Meridians.
  • I Ching: An ancient Divination Art pioneered by Confucianism.
  • Tui Na: “Pinch and pull” is the literal translation; a form of massage therapy.
  • Dietary Therapy: A complete system of dietetics and eating for best health.
Chinese Medicine considers every aspect of the person, their constitution and condition.

Notably, Acupuncture is the most famous and renowned discipline of Chinese Medicine.

What Is Acupuncture?

Actually the word derives from the Latin “acus” ie. needle and “puncture” meaning penetration. In particular, the body connects from the exterior to the interior via Meridians. Meridians are lines of energy that run through the body.
Hence, an Acupuncturist needles specific Acupoints to influence the selected Organ and Meridian energy. The insertion of very fine, sterile, single-use only needles activates the Acupoints. With this in mind, the patient then relaxes until the needles are removed after 15-30 minutes. Interestingly, different styles of Acupuncture exist. Such as Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Tung, Ba Gua and more.

“Meridians are like the energetic circuits that allow vital substances to flow through your miraculous body”. Ilana Sowter

How does Acupuncture Work?

Acupuncture can stimulate corresponding areas of the body. In a like manner, the Acupuncture needles activate dermatomes. This produces an effect on the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS). Acupuncture can stimulate activity in nerves, muscles and connective tissue. Then, this releases feel-good hormones such as endorphins and reduces stress-hormones like cortisol. Accordingly, studies suggest that Acupuncture is beneficial for a range of conditions.

What Is Acupuncture Used For?

Traditionally, Acupuncture treats a range of ailments and imbalances. In fact, you can use it for almost any imbalance in the body.
In my Melbourne clinic, Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine is sought for:
  • Cold and Flu: Cough, Sore throat, Hayfever & Sinusitis.
  • Period Problems: Period Pain, Irregular Bleeding, Menstrual issues & hormonal imbalances.
  • IVF & Fertility Support: Dr. Ilana has been doing this for a decade!
  • Pregnancy: Acupuncture can support mothers to have a balanced pregnancy.
  • Post-Partum: A very important time to have nourishment and support.
  • Women’s Health
  • Anxiety, Depression, Insomnia & Stress
  • All Types of Pain: Acute to Chronic.
  • Beauty and Cosmetic; Improving Skin Clarity, Tone and Circulation.
  • Wellbeing, Chronic & AutoImmune Support
  • Post-Surgery; supporting pain and sequelae.
  • Gut, Circulation & Immunity
Coaching Consultations are also available to support patients to relax and reset their mindset.

Is Acupuncture Safe?

Acupuncture has an excellent record of safety with little side effects (Chan et al, 2017). Ensure that your practitioner is an Acupuncturist and has studied the full degree. Unfortunately, some practitioners have done a short course in Acupuncture. They then claim to “do Acupuncture” or “dry needling. Note, this is not the same as having years of study, training and experience of the discipline. In fact, the research shows that major complications with Acupuncture are associated with poorly trained therapists.

Side Effects

The few side effects and complications associated with Acupuncture treatment are;

  • a drop of blood at the site
  • sharp pain that is usually eased with massage
  • bruising (haematoma)

Consequently, major adverse events are rare and associate with poorly trained and unlicensed Acupuncturists. The New Zealand Medical Journal has published this.

Hence, experienced, qualified and licensed Acupuncturists adminster safe Acupuncture treatment.

How Do I know My Acupuncturist Is Good?

An Acupuncturist has studied a full degree in the discipline of Acupuncture.
Someone who has studied a short course in Acupuncture is not an Acupuncturist.
Red flag is the therapist claims to “do Acupuncture” without the study & experience.
Ensure your Acupuncturist has experience, appropriate qualifications and registrations. Check that they:
  • have studied a proper degree or advanced diploma in Acupuncture
  • also have any extra studies in related disciplines or Masters level
  • are experienced in their treatments
  • have joined an Australian Acupuncture association such as ATMS.

How To Study Acupuncture In Melbourne

In Australia, there are there are various courses offered to study Acupuncture. More importantly, I recommend you experience a course of Acupuncture or Chinese Herbal Medicine treatment. There are plenty of good Acupuncturists in Melbourne to try. Then, decide whether it’s for you, before dedicating years of your life to it. Being an Acupuncturist is a rewarding and fascinating career. You must be a good practitioner, be passionate and be willing to work hard as at your small business. Most importantly, you must be able to run your own business and practice the art of Chinese Medicine well. I studied at Endeavour College of Natural Health in Melbourne (Endeavour). Southern School of Natural Therapies (SSNTis another. I also studied at RMIT which has a world-class clinic in Bundoora.

The Language of Chinese Medicine

Chinese Medicine lingo is very different to our usual medical language. To illustrate, it refers to terms which used medically such as Liver, Blood and Spleen. Throughout this article I explain what the specific Chinese Medicine terms signify. For example I refer to Organs such as the Liver. I refer to the Liver Energy as an energetic entity. Chinese Medicine depicts each energetic entity has specific functions and associations. The medical term “Liver” is completely different to the Chinese Medicine “Liver Energy“. Thus, I refer to Chinese MedicineOrgan Energies” as “Liver Energy” etc.

Chinese Medicine Theory

Ultimately, the foundations of Chinese Medicine Theory are Yin and Yang.

Yin Yang

Yin & Yang

Yin and Yang is the duality of opposites which combine to form one. That is, to make whole. In Chinese, yin means “shady side” and yang translates as “sunny side”. Yin and Yang are forever interchanging to maintain balance. Yin is dark, slow, heavy and deep. Yang is light, fast, bright and superficial.

yin yang Melbourne acupuncture

There are three main Functional Entities in Chinese Medicine Theory.

The Three Functional Entities

  1. The Five Vital Substances: Qi (vital force), Xue (blood), Jin Ye (body fluids), Jing (essence) and Shen (spirit).
  2. The Zang Fu Organs: that keep the body in functional harmony and control the vital substances. The Zang Fu Organs follow a Wu Xing (Five Element) Cycle. The Zang Fu Organs collectively refer to the Yin & Solid Organs and Yang & Hollow Organs of the body.
  3. Jing-Luo: The Five Vital Substances flow through the Jing-Lou (Meridians). They flow to the corresponding Zang Fu Organs.

These Three Functional Entities perform the Five Cardinal Functions. The Five Cardinal Functions maintain the complete health and existence of the body.

The Five Cardinal Functions

  • Actuation
  • Warmth
  • Defense
  • Containment
  • Transformation.

What are the Zang Fu (Organ Systems) in Chinese Medicine?

The Jing-Luo Meridian System integrates all aspects and functions of the body. And so, it connects the body as one holistic, functional and energetic being. There are 12 paired Organ Systems in Chinese Medicine. Chinese Medicine theorises that Qi exists in the body. Thus, the Organs exist as their own energetic entity. The Jing-Lou (Meridians) link every aspect of the body to the “Organ Energies“. Likewise, Chinese Medicine considers and analyses all aspects of life. It associates how functions relate to a particular organ energy. These associations and classifications are in the diagram below.

the-five-elementsAcupuncture Channels and Meridians

Jing-Luo, Meridian and Channel are all closely related and inter-changeable terms.

The first main Meridians to consider are the Eight Extraordinary Meridians. These do not associate with the Organs. They are independent and have specific functions within the body such as

Eight Extraordinary Meridians

  • They store the precious substances (Qi and Blood) for the Twelve Main Channels. Due to the fact that they fill and empty as the body requires.
  • The Eight Extraordinary Meridians circulate Jing. Jing is essence, a most precious and anti-ageing substance. It is what we inherit from our genetics and what maintains our youth and wellbeing. The Eight Extraordinary Meridians circulate Jing around the body. Hence, these Meridians are closely tied to the Kidney Energy.
  • These Meridians circulate the Wei Qi (Defensive Qi). Wei Qi governs the surface of the body to maintain immunity and good health.
  • The Eight Extraordinary Meridians provide deeper connections between the Twelve Main Channels. These subtle, deep connections allows the body to function.

The Eight Extraordinary Meridians

  • Ren Mai – Conception Channel
  • Du Mai – Governing Channel
  • Chong Mai – Penetrating Channel
  • Dai Mai – Girdle/Belt Channel
  • Yin Wei Mai – Yin Linking Channel
  • Yang Wei Mai – Yang Linking Channel
  • Yin Qiao Mai – Yin Heel Channel
  • Yang Qiao Mai – Yang Heel Channel

The Twelve Main Channels

The Twelve Main Channels connect and pair with major Organ energies. So, a Yin & Solid Organ Channel (e.g. Lung) will connect with a Yang & Hollow Organ Channel (e.g. Large Intestine):

  • Lung Tai Yin connects with the Large Intestine Yang Ming
  • Spleen Tai Yin connects with the Stomach Yang Ming
  • Heart Shao Yin connects with Small Intestine Tai Yang
  • Kidney Shao Yin connects with Bladder Tai Yang
  • Pericardium Jue Yin connects with the San Jiao Shao Yang
  • Liver Jue Yin connects with Gall Bladder Shao Yang

Notice other correspondences between these channels

  • Lung Tai Yin corresponds to Spleen Tai Yin
  • Large Intestine Yang Ming corresponds to Stomach Yang Ming
  • Heart Shao Yin corresponds to Kidney Shao Yin
  • Bladder Tai Yang corresponds to Small Intestine Tai Yang
  • Pericardium Jue Yin corresponds with Liver Jue Yin
  • Gall Bladder Shao Yang corresponds to Bladder Shao Yang

What Is Qi?

Understandably, science and Chinese Medicine are forever debating the concept and existence of Qi. Regarding Qi, it is a most simple yet fundamental vital substance. In other words, it is often translated as “life force”. Qi flows through all the Jing-Luo (Meridians) to the entire body. That is to say, the difference between being dead and alive is whether you have Qi or not. Every living thing on earth has Qi, and you can observe the different levels of quality.

The Chinese meaning for Qi is air or gas.

what is qi? Chinese medicine strawberry

How Can You Quantify The Quality Of Qi?

Imagine a beautiful, plump strawberry with a red, shiny texture that is home-grown in your garden is full of Qi. In contrast, compare it to a sad whitish-green strawberry grown in winter. Because of the fact it travelled thousands of kilometres. Only to sit in supermarket fridge. This latter strawberry would have little Qi in it. Indeed, the former would be full of Qi. This is an example of the variance in Qi and its’ quality.

Chinese Character for Qi
The Traditional Chinese Character for Qi

How Does Qi Flow?

Where Qi flows blood follows.

Qi flows through the Twelve Main Meridians throughout every hour of the day. Thus, there is even a 24-hour Chinese Medicine Theoretical Clock.

How Does Qi Circulate?

Qi flows from the chest area out to the three arm Yin Meridians (Lung, Pericardium, Heart) to the hands. It then transfers to the three paired arm Yang Meridians (Large Intestine, San Jiao, Small Intestine). Then, it flows upward to the head. Then Qi connects with the three corresponding leg Yang Meridians (Stomach, Gall Bladder, Bladder). Finally, it then flows down the body to the feet. In the feet it connects with the corresponding leg Yin Meridians (Spleen, Liver, Kidney). By flowing back up again to the chest it completes the full cycle of Qi.

What Is Illness According To Chinese Medicine Theory?

If Qi stops flowing, the body cannot perform the Five Cardinal Functions. This is how illness occurs. For example, consider stagnation in the Liver Meridian. Headaches, red eyes and sore ribs are Liver Energy Signs given they occur on the Liver Meridian. Qi Stagnation can occur for many reasons. It may be due to lack of Qi or Blood or from an excess condition due to a pathogenic substance

What is Deficiency & Excess?

Chinese Medicine treatment always aims to redirect the body back into balance. So, when there is pain, sickness or disease, the body is in imbalance. This is where assessment, diagnosis and consultation achieves this. The Acupuncturist uses her knowledge and understanding of the body. For instance, she identifies which Organ Energies/Meridians are out of balance and need treatment. This is why it takes years to study Chinese Medicine. To practice Chinese Medicine you must have the education, experience and understanding. This makes an authentic and effective practitioner.

The body is almost always in either excess or deficiency, or a combination of both. Excess appears when there is too much of a pathogenic substance. Examples include dampness, heat, cold, toxin or the stagnation of Qi and Blood. Deficiency occurs when the body does not have enough of an essential substance such as Qi or Blood.

What Are The Vital Substances?

I discuss the Five Vital Substances that generate vitality and health of a human being:

Qi (Vital Force)

Qi is the basic life-force. It flows through the body and nourishes everything inside. Qi travels through the Meridians to communicate to the Organs. Qi provides life and movement to Blood. It keeps us alive.

Blood (Xue)

Is a denser form of Vital Substance than Qi. Blood connects to Qi and the two cannot be separated from each other. In Chinese language, Blood is called Xue. Qi moves Blood and is the mother of Qi. Blood nourishes the Organs that produce Qi. Blood and Ying (Nutritive Qi) are closely connected. Both Blood and Ying flow together in the Meridians. The Blood functions to nourish the body, moisten body tissues and support the Shen (spirit).

Jin Ye (Body Fluids)

Refers to the two types of fluids that moisten the body. Jin refers to the clear, thin and light fluids. These fluids circulate the skin, muscles and body exterior by means of Wei (Defensive) Qi by the Lung. The Jin acts to moisten the skin and muscles and thins the Blood to prevent stagnation. Ye are the turbid, thicker and stickier fluids that nourish the body internally. The Spleen and Kidneys control the Ying (Nutritive Qi). The Ye moistens the joints, spine, brain and bone marrow. The Ye acts to lubricate the orifices of the sensory organs such as the ears, eyes, nose and mouth.

Jing (Essence)

Jing means “essence”. It combines both the soul and physical body of a person. The Kidney Energy stores Jing and it is Yin in nature. Then, Jing circulates through the Eight Extraordinary Meridians and is the densest physical matter. Jing plays a significant role in the production of semen, menstrual blood, and bone marrow. Jing regulates the body’s growth and development. It works with Qi to help protect the body from harmful external factors.

Shen (Spirit)

Shen is the Yang portion of Qi. It translates as “spirit” and regulates emotions. The Heart Energy stores Shen and enters a rested state while sleeping. Blood nourishes the Shen and it flows through the blood vessels. Mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression and insomnia manifest as Shen DisturbanceJing and Qi form the foundation for the Shen.

What Are The Patterns in Chinese Medicine Diagnostics?

There are hundreds! They can be straight patterns or complex in various combinations. Here I discuss two examples.

A patient with weakened Qi presents with:

  • exhaustion
  • poor immunity (catch colds easily)
  • weakened digestion (such as flatulence and bloating after meals)
  • get short of breath when they exercise.

These are symptoms associated with Qi Deficiency. There is not enough Qi in the body to perform the essential functions of life well.

Another patient may present with an excessive pattern:

  • anger and rage
  • rib pain
  • severe Pre-Menstrual Syndrome (PMS)
  • headaches

This is an excess pattern in the form of Qi Stagnation. Qi is stuck in a particular Meridian, affects an Organ Energy and can no longer flow.

What Is Ben And Biao (Root and Branch)?

Chinese Medicine analyses the unique constitution, presentation and diagnosis of the individual patient. For instance, there are a myriad of patterns. Especially this famous saying in Chinese Medicine Theory that explains this:

Many diseases, one treatment. One disease, many treatments.

In Chinese Medicine, we always treat the cause (Ben), not just the symptom (Biao) presented. Chinese Medicine is holistic. Considering this, it works when you treat the underlying imbalance (Ben) along with the symptom (Biao).

What Are the Six Climactic Factors?

These Factors invade the body to block or disrupt Qi flow. This causes unwanted signs and symptoms. We live in a world where we are exposed to changes in the internal and external environment. This environment is ever-changing, as is our own.

The Six Climactic Factors are:
  • Wind
  • Cold
  • Summer-Heat
  • Dampness
  • Dryness
  • Heat (Fire)
If the harmonious relationship between nature and the body is out of balance. The body struggles to adapt and becomes vulnerable. This can lead to a Climactic Factor becoming harmful and invading the body.

The Characteristics of the Six Climactic Factors

  • The cause of disease is usually related to seasonal changes in living conditions.
  • The Six Climatic Factors attack the body. This can happen by a single Climactic Factor or via a combination.
E.g. Cold can combine with Dampness to cause Cold-Damp invasion.
E.g. Wind and Heat can combine to cause Wind-Heat invasion and so on.
  • The nature of the Six Climatic Factors allows them to transform.
E.g. A patient presents with Wind-Heat invasion. Symptoms are clear runny discharge, chills and exhaustion. Furthermore, two days later the symptoms change. The patient now has sore throat, green discharge and high fever. As a matter of fact, the Syndrome of Wind-Cold has now morphed into Wind-Heat.

The History Of Chinese Medicine In Australia

Historically, Chinese immigrants brought Chinese Medicine to Australia in the 19th century (1880s). Probably along with the gold rush. Did you know Acupuncture was practised only in the Chinese community until the 1950s? Since then, Acupuncture has been largely integrated into Australia. From the 1990s it has experienced a rapid growth spurt. It is now a registered profession with AHPRA. An article by Zhen Zheng, Acupuncture in Australia: regulation, education, practice & research establishes that Australians are fond of natural medicine. 


Ai-Ping, L., Jia, H-W, Xiao, C. & Lu, Q-P. (2004). Theory of traditional Chinese medicine and therapeutic method of diseases. World J Gastroenterol. Jul 1; 10(13): 1854–1856. Published online 2004 Jul 1. doi:  10.3748/wjg.v10.i13.1854 (Accessed 10 August 2018).

Kennedy, Brian & Beckert, Lutz (2010). A case of acupuncture-induced pneumothorax. The New Zealand Medical Journal. Aug; 123(1320). (Accessed 7 August 2018).

Chan, Wu, Wu, Wong, & Chong (2017). Safety of Acupuncture: Overview of Systematic Reviews. Sci Rep.; 7: 3369. Published online 2017 Jun 13. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-03272-0

Manheimer, E., Wieland, S., Kinbrough, E., Cheng, K. & Berman, B.M. (2009). Evidence
from the Cochrane Collaboration for Traditional Chinese Medicine Therapies. J Altern Complement Med. Sep; 15(9): 1001–1014. (Accessed 7 August 2018).
doi:  10.1089/acm.2008.0414

Ping, Liu. (2012). Modern research of TCM etiology and pathogenesis theory and translational medicine. J Transl Med. 10(Suppl 2): A36. Published online 2012 Oct 17.
doi  10.1186/1479-5876-10-S2-A36. (Accessed 10 August 2018).

Zheng, Zhen (2014). Acupuncture in Australia: regulation, education, practice and research. Integrative Medical Research. Sep 3(3):103-110. Published online 2014 Jul 3. doi: 10.1016/j.imr.2014.06.002

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