Updated: Dec 8, 2021
y Mark Parzynski, DAOM, L.Ac.
Metals have been used in the healing arts for thousands of years. In Japan, the type of metal used in teishin-based acupuncture techniques related to shonishin, Tyohari School, or Funamizu Style treatments is often a primary consideration. The two most common metals used for teishin are silver and gold. Silver is traditionally considered sedating and gold tonifying. This is a good starting point, but an overly simple one. Each metal has its own unique personality that can be enhanced or shaped using the appropriate techniques. Below are descriptions of different metals that you may commonly come across in the healing arts.
Silver is a cool nourishing rain washing away the dirt on a warm summer day.
Silver is traditionally thought of as sedating, but easily transmits the intention of the
practitioner. It is the most thermally conductive and electrically conductive metal used for acupuncture tools. 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 slightly 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. Silver is often used as a polarity agent or Yin-Yang pair with Gold.
Zinc is empty, like a dry riverbed waiting to be filled.
Zinc is often used for its dialectic qualities with copper. Zinc is charged negatively and copper positively. This dielectric effect is similar in principle to a potato battery a child might make in science class. As a polarity agent, a matched set of zinc and copper teishin works similarly to Ion pumping cords or zinc and copper discs.
Steel is a clear crisp winter night spent gazing at the stars.
Steel is an alloy and is, therefore, a mix of several different metals. The steel used in your kitchen knife is different from the steel used in your pan. They have been formulated for different purposes. In general, steel is neutral and tends to feel flat unless manipulated. Most acupuncture needles are made from steel. Modern surgical tools are often made from stainless steel for their durability and ease of sterilization.
Iron is a soft muddy field, it is difficult to traverse, but will eventually bring new life.
Iron is not generally used for acupuncture tools, probably due to its ease of corrosion, it was however used in ancient times prior to the development of high-quality steel.
Copper is warm blood always cycling through the body.
Copper is slightly tonifying without being too warm. Ideally suited for gua sha tools, copper is an excellent metal when treating blood level illnesses. Copper is often used in teishin by students who are not ready to invest in gold. It is also sometimes paired with zinc and use as a polarity agent. Copper offers excellent corrosion resistance and has recently been found to have natural antiviral and antibacterial properties.
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 hard, 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. Bronze is used in bells and singing bowls and is capable of producing complex harmonic vibrations when correctly forged.
Gold is a bright ray of sun over a fertile field.
Gold is a joy to work with. It is tonifying, slightly warm, and easy to manipulate. Solid gold teishin are heavy in weight and have a bright, lively feel. Gold is traditionally linked to longevity and spiritual enlightenment. Gold-plated teishin with lightweight aluminum cores have become popular in recent years due to the cheaper price. Plated tools have a flat feel and a very thin layer of gold covering them.
Platinum is a singularity with all its potential; explosive and life-giving.
Platinum is very tonifying, hot, and difficult to control. Care should be taken with platinum as it is easy to over-treat when using tools made from this material.
The Physical Properties of Metals
This chart gives a comparison of the physical properties of metals commonly used in the healing arts. It is of interest that the most commonly used metals for teishin (silver, copper, versus and gold) are also the most electrically and thermally conductive. The materials that are used in most modern medical applications (titanium and stainless steel) have the least electrical and thermal conductivity and the highest hardness. The last column lists the traditional ideas on sedation versus tonification and is given as a frame of reference for comparative purposes.
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Copyright 2021 Mark Parzynski