Updated: Dec 19, 2022
Mark Parzynski, DAOM, L.Ac.
Metals have long been used in the healing arts for their unique properties and energetic qualities. In Japan, the type of metal used in teishin-based acupuncture techniques, such as shonishin, Tyohari School, or Funamizu Style treatments, is often a primary consideration. The best metal used for a facial gua sha tool can be determined by the user's complexion, and creating the correct bronze alloy for a singing bowl is a critical factor in its resonant qualities. Each metal has its unique personality that can be enhanced or shaped using the appropriate techniques.
In this article, we will explore the energetic qualities of different metals commonly used in the healing arts, such as copper, silver, gold, and platinum, and discuss their uses and benefits. We will also discuss some scientific evidence supporting the use of metals in this way and provide tips for incorporating metal-based therapies into your wellness routine.
Silver is a cool nourishing rain washing away the dirt on a warm summer day.
One of the most widely used metals in the healing arts is silver. This precious metal is known for its potent antimicrobial properties, which make it an effective tool for fighting infection. In fact, silver has been used for centuries as a natural remedy for a wide range of health conditions, including wounds, burns, and even cancer. In addition to its antimicrobial properties, silver is believed to have calming and soothing effects on the mind and body. Some healing arts practitioners even use silver to help promote restful sleep and reduce anxiety.
Silver in East Asian medicine is traditionally considered sedating and can easily transmit the practitioner's intention. Since silver takes on the practitioner's intention so well, it is often the best choice for a first teishin. From a physics standpoint, silver is the most thermally and electrically conductive metal. The two types of silver used are fine silver and sterling silver. Fine silver is over 99.9% pure and is slightly softer than sterling. It offers purer energetics and is somewhat more sedating. Sterling silver is 92.5% silver and 7.5% other metals (usually copper). Sterling has a flatter, energetic feel but offers slightly superior durability making it ideal for tools used for scraping and rubbing. Silver is often used as a polarity agent or Yin-Yang pair with gold.
Gold is a bright ray of the sun over a fertile field.
This precious metal is known for its lustrous yellow color and its versatility. In east Asian medicine, it is thought of as tonifying, slightly warm, and easy to manipulate. Solid gold teishin are heavy in weight and have a bright, lively feel. They are fast-acting, so practitioners must be careful not to over-treat patients when using teishin or other tools made from gold. Gold is traditionally linked to longevity, clarity of the soul, and spiritual enlightenment.
Gold-plated healing implements are popular for their cheap price, but this comes with a significant drawback. Gold plating is extremely thin, usually 0.25 – 5 micron range (0.00001" -0.0002"), and has little effect on the energetics of the metal. In fact, the material that has been plated, usually aluminum or pot metal, will have more impact on the tool than the tiny amount of gold used to plate it. Gold-plated teishin with lightweight aluminum cores have become popular in recent years due to the lower price. Unfortunately, these teishin usually have the dull energetic quality you would expect from aluminum.
Silver and Gold as a Yin-Yang Pair
In Japanese acupuncture, silver and gold are often used together as a yin-yang pair. This is because the two metals have opposing, yet complementary, effects on the body. For example, silver is thought to have cooling and soothing properties, while gold is believed to have warming and stimulating effects. Therefore, practitioners can provide a more balanced and effective therapeutic approach by combining these two metals.
Silver and gold teishin are often used as polarity agents for Manaka-style acupuncture treatments to stimulate the flow of qi in specific directions through the channel systems. This approach is commonly used to balance the Eight extraordinary vessels.
Copper is warm blood continuously cycling through the body.
This reddish-brown metal is known for its ability to conduct electricity and heat, which makes it a popular choice for various therapeutic applications. In East Asian medicine, copper is considered slightly tonifying without being too warm. In addition, it has an affinity to the blood level, which makes it an excellent choice when treating Luo Channel issues. In Traditional Chinese medicine, the luo channels are believed to be connected to memory and mental health. When these channels become blocked or imbalanced, it can lead to various mental health problems, such as memory loss, confusion, or anxiety.
Copper offers excellent corrosion resistance and has potent antimicrobial and anti-viral properties, which make it an effective tool for fighting infection. Hospitals and medical clinics have recently started coating door knobs and other commonly touched items with a thin layer of copper to help fight the spread of infections. This property makes copper an ideal choice for acupuncture guide tubes.
The antimicrobial properties and blood level actions make copper the ideal choice for gau sha tools. Copper is also often used in teishin by students who are not ready to invest in gold. This is better than gold plating for a practitioner on a budget.
Zinc is empty, like a dry riverbed waiting to be filled.
This bluish-white metal is known for its versatility and ability to resist corrosion, making it a popular choice for various therapeutic applications. Zinc is often taken as a supplement to boost the immune system and protect against infection. Topically, zinc is used to help improve skin health and reduce the appearance of scars and blemishes.
Copper and zinc as polarity agents.
Copper and zinc discs are often paired in Manaka-style polarity treatments. If you remember 6th-grade science class and potato batteries, you know zinc and copper are often used in a dielectric to produce an electrical charge. Zinc is used as the negative electrode, or anode, while copper is used as the positive electrode or cathode. By combining these two metals, scientists can create a simple battery using a potato as an electrolyte. In Manaka-style acupuncture treatments, the patient is the dielectric. Dr. Yoshio Manaka originally developed this treatment method to speed healing in patients suffering from burns and later adapted it to his acupuncture system.
Platinum is a singularity with all its potential; explosive and life-giving.
This rare, silvery-white metal is known for its strength, durability, and ability to withstand high temperatures. Platinum is very tonifying, hot, and difficult to control. It is often used to improve mental clarity and focus. Care should be taken with platinum as it is easy to over-treat when using tools made from this material. Platinum tools are often prohibitively expensive, not only because of the cost of the material but its exceptionally high melting point (3,215°F) makes it difficult for artisans to work with it.
Bronze is uncommitted, waiting to be forged into resonance.
Bronze is an alloy of copper and tin. While it is slightly more tonifying than copper, it has a stiff, flat feel. Bronze was used in some of the earliest acupuncture needles but fell out of favor when metallurgy improved, and modern steel was developed.
The use of bronze in singing bowls and bells is a centuries-old tradition. These instruments can produce complex harmonic vibrations when played by a skilled musician. Singing bowls produce a beautiful, soothing sound that is believed to have therapeutic benefits and are used to treat a whole range of ailments. In addition, singing blows have a rich spiritual history and are used in various meditative and ceremonial practices.
Iron is a soft muddy field; it is difficult to traverse but will eventually bring new life.
Iron is a key component in our blood. It is neutral in its unoxidized state, but as it rusts, it becomes warmer. Magnetite is one of the main iron ores, with the chemical formula Fe3O4, and is used extensively in the healing arts to neutralize negative emotional states such as fear, anger, and depression. Magnets are also worn to relieve inflammation and pain associated with arthritis.
Iron is not generally used in modern acupuncture tools, probably due to its ease of corrosion. It was, however, used in ancient times before the development of high-quality steel. Please note only some steel contains iron; therefore, steel is only a reliable replacement for iron if the exact composition is known.
Steel is a clear, crisp winter night spent gazing at the stars.
Steel is an alloy, and its exact combination of metals will differ from steel to steel. The steel used in your kitchen knife differs from the steel used in your frying pan. They have been formulated for different purposes and require compositions of base metals. Steel is generally neutral and tends to feel flat and cold unless manipulated. Most modern acupuncture needles are made from steel. Modern surgical tools are often made from stainless steel for their durability and ease of sterilization.
Titanium is inert and unmoving, like the universe before the first sound.
This metal is very durable and lightweight but has very low electrical and thermal conductivity. It is incredibly flat and neutral energetically and is not commonly used in traditional healing arts. However, its often used in surgeries and prosthetics due to its inertness.
The Physical Properties of Metals
The chart below compares the physical properties of metals commonly used in the healing arts. For example, the most frequently used metals for teishin (silver, copper, and gold) are also the most electrically and thermally conductive. On the other hand, the materials used in most modern medical applications (titanium and stainless steel) have the least electrical and thermal conductivity and the highest hardness. The last column in the chart lists the traditional ideas on sedation versus tonification and is given as a frame of reference for comparative purposes.
The use of metals in the healing arts is a centuries-old tradition that is still relevant today. Each metal has unique properties and energetic qualities that can promote health and well-being in different ways. Some metals, such as silver and gold, are known for their conductive properties and make excellent teishin. Others, such as copper, with its antimicrobial properties and affinity to the blood, make excellent gua sha tools. Bronze is known for its resonant qualities and is often a choice material in sound healing. Choosing the most suitable metal for your healing implements can create a synergy that can bolster and amplify your work as a healing practitioner.
Whether you are a seasoned practitioner of the healing arts or simply looking for new ways to promote your health and well-being, exploring the energetic qualities of metals can be a valuable addition to your wellness routine. By learning about the unique properties and uses of different metals, you can make informed decisions about which ones may best suit your individual needs healer.
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Copyright 2021 Mark Parzynski