Toning and its role in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is an ancient form of medicine. It is based on the concept of qi, or your body’s life force energy. Qi is said to flow through bodily channels called meridians.

TCM also revolves around the idea of ​​yin and yang, or the opposing elements of qi. Yin and yang must be in harmony for qi to be in balance.

In TCM, overall health depends on a balanced qi. This includes mental, physical, emotional and spiritual well-being. But if qi is out of balance or blocked, or if yin and yang are not in harmony, illness can occur.

TCM aims to rebalance qi using toning, a therapy believed to improve energy flow. This can be done through various techniques, such as acupuncture and massage.

However, there is no hard evidence that toning is effective. Scientists have not proven the link between toning and health, let alone the existence of qi.

Let’s look at what toning typically entails, along with its purported benefits.

The body toning process can be done in different ways. These treatments are provided by a TCM practitioner.

Depending on your specific health concerns, a practitioner may use:

Toning by massage

Massage involves stretching and manipulating your skin, muscles and joints. A supplier uses his hands to do this.

In TCM, a type of massage used for toning is called shiatsu.

Shiatsu involves gentle pressure, which focuses on the body’s meridians. It is believed to balance the flow of qi and encourage self-healing.

Toning with acupuncture

Acupuncture is also used for toning. The therapy uses fine needles, which are inserted into certain meridian points in your body.

The needles are said to trigger the flow of energy, which helps balance qi.

Acupuncture can also be practiced in the form of acupressure. In this treatment, the provider uses their hands or thumbs to exert pressure on the meridian points. It is also believed to rebalance the flow of qi.

Toning by diet

A diet guided by TCM is said to stabilize or unblock qi. The idea is to nourish the parts of the body located along the meridians.

Here are examples of foods included in a TCM diet:

  • Chinese yam porridge
  • steamed chicken
  • mung bean congee
  • fried walnuts with leeks
  • angelica, ginger and mutton soup

A MCT diet is also said to help the body get rid of toxic substances.

Tonic with herbs

Another form of toning is phytotherapy. In TCM, herbs are used to promote well-being by restoring qi.

There are many herbs used to tonify qi. Commonly used herbs include:

Depending on your treatment, herbal medicine can be taken as:

A practitioner may also use moxibustion, which involves burning dried herbs on or near your skin. Heat is believed to stimulate energy flow and promote healing.

Typically, moxibustion uses Chinese mugwort, but other herbs can be used.

However, research is lacking on the benefits of moxibustion for toning. According to a balance sheet 2010the therapeutic value of moxibustion is not well documented and considerable uncertainty remains about the benefits of this practice.

Toning through sexual activity

According to some, sexual activity can regulate and maintain qi. It is recommended to lead a healthy and balanced sex life to enjoy this benefit.

Toning through breathing exercises

Toning can also be achieved through mindful breathing exercises. These therapies use meditative movements and breathing techniques to restore qi.

Here are some examples of exercises used for toning:

According to TCM, each organ has its own qi. If your qi is out of balance, your symptoms depend on the organ involved.

Toning is said to help the following:


Apparently tonifying kidney qi can treat:

Digestive system

In TCM, the digestive system refers to the spleen and the stomach.

The tonifying qi in the spleen and stomach is said to treat:


Practitioners say that toning treats symptoms of an imbalanced lung qi. This includes:


Toning is thought to help symptoms of liver qi problems:


If toning focuses on heart qi, it can purportedly benefit:

There is research on the practice of toning. However, the evidence for its effectiveness is weak. Many studies lack solid scientific explanations.

Also, the effectiveness of TCM in general has not been proven. According to a 2020 review that analyzed the 100 most cited TCM studies, high-quality research is lacking. The herbs often used in TCM have also not been thoroughly studied.

There is also no evidence that qi exists. Without tangible proof of its existence, it is impossible to determine how toning methods affect it.

In traditional Chinese medicine, toning is a form of therapy that aims to balance qi. This can be done in several ways, including massage, acupuncture, herbal medicine, and dietary changes. Other methods include leading a healthy sex life and practicing breathing exercises.

A balance of qi throughout your body is said to promote good health. Yet there is no hard evidence that qi exists or that toning is effective.

If you are interested in toning and TCM, talk to a doctor first. It is generally recommended to use TCM as a complementary treatment rather than as a primary treatment.