Chinese Medicine for Seasonal Allergies


shutterstock_262207715After a long, bitterly cold winter, one of the best things to do is get outside and breathe in the sunshine. The longer days and influx of Vitamin D helps to shake off the wintertime blues. Unfortunately for many Philadelphians, with the warmth of spring come the runny nose, sneezing, wheezing, and itchy, watery eyes brought on by the pollen, weeds, flowers, dust and grass that makes the season so beautiful. Nearly 35 million Americans suffer from the allergy symptoms that lead them to spend millions of dollars on medications to survive the season without looking like their days were spent crying.

So, how can allergy sufferers get outside without pumping up on the chemicals? Acupuncture can be the answer. Known for helping to boost and regulate the immune system, acupuncture has been used for centuries as a safe and effective way to combat the symptoms of seasonal allergies. Seasonal allergies are caused by the body’s hypersensitivity to elements in the environment. When treatment is focused on clearing the nasal passages, relieving allergic rhinitis, and strengthening the immune system, the body is able to stand up to the allergens in a more effective way.

Working with a regimine of Chinese herbs and acupuncture can help where traditional medications fall short because treatments are personalized and the person is cared for, not just the symptoms. Because each person brings a unique constellation of strengths and challenges, a personalized combination of treatments is a great way to achieve health and overcome allergies and other illnesses. While herbs do help to treat the immediate symptoms, the body benefits from strengthening of the overall immune system

As warm spring weather approaches, there’s no reason to fear the buds on the trees. A regimen of acupuncture and Chinese herbs can help you to enjoy the season – call for a consult today!

Come See Us at the Philadelphia Science Festival









It’s time to get nerdy, Philadelphia.

Entering its fifth year, the Philadelphia Science Festival is back, running Friday, April 24th and through May 2nd. Throughout the city there will be opportunities to explore the way things work and a chance to finally get some answers to the things you’ve always wondered about. Like, what makes us happy? And how can dinner come from weeds? It’s the perfect excuse to leave your glasses on, get out, discover something new and be amazed by the dynamic folks of Philadelphia studying what makes the world tick.

On Saturday, April 25th, join me to celebrate science at the first ever Chestnut Hill Discovery Day at John Story Jenks Academy of the Arts and Sciences. Learn all about the chemistry of bread making, how paint gets it’s color and see Empirical Point to learn all about “How to Know Where Those Pins Go?” I’ll be there from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m., giving the inside scoop on how I know where to stick the tiny pins that make such a difference. I’ll share tips on how to find acupuncture points and teach people where to press to alleviate some of the most common problems like headaches and sinus pressure.

The event is free, no registration is required and a FunFest will be hosted on site with games, science themed activities and face painting, making for a great afternoon. Join me at John Story Jenks Academy of the Arts and Sciences, 8301 Germantown Ave, Saturday, April 24, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

For a full calendar of Philadelphia Science Festival events, click here.

How Pinellia (Ban Xia) is Used in Chinese Herbal Medicine


Pinellia Tuber, Ban XiaPinellia, is a Chinese herb from the Araceae family. Pinellia is native to southern China and Japan and commonly referred to as the Green Dragon because of the color and shape of the plant’s flower with its long, tongue-like extension of its spadix. Pinellia’s root is the part of the plant used in Chinese Herbal Medicine. To process the root for medicinal use, it is boiled, salted, soaked, steamed and fried with ginger, alum solution, licorice or lime to eliminate all the toxicity of the raw herb. This now processed root is known in Chinese Herbal Medicine as Ban Xia. It is one of the most important herbs in Chinese medicine to dry dampness and transform cold phlegm. While commonly used as an assistant in formulas to expel phlegm in the lungs, ban xia really takes center stage in transforming cold phlegm conditions in the spleen and digestive tract. Thin cold phlegm in the digestive tract is often the result to chronic insufficiency or hypo-functioning. In our culture, this is commonly attributed to dietary intemperance and overeating, which we’re pretty good at. 

The spicy and warm nature of the root has an affinity for the lung, spleen and stomach channels. Ban Xia’s actions in the body helps to dry dampness, transform cold phlegm, and descend rebellious qi which can cause stomach upset and vomiting, due to excessive bogginess in the digestive system. By drying excessive mucus and providing directionality in the digestive system, Ban xia is pivotal in reducing distension and stuffiness in the chest or abdomen.

Don’t Give in to Holiday Stress: 3 Simple Practices for Beating the Holiday Blues

Stress and depression can ruin your holidays

Stress and depression can ruin your holidays

At what point did the holidays’ stop being magical and start being a nerve wracking, demanding, and a hectic collection of weeks of the year? With decorations creeping into stores in October, it seems impossible to escape the end of the year without a being physically, emotionally and spiritually drained.

Why do we do it?

It’s easy to get caught up in the extra activities, expectations and demands that the holiday season brings. There is little or no time to relax and regroup before you’re whisked off to accomplish the next thing on your list. Thinking that you’ll be able to do it all without leaving any time to just be makes the holiday season ripe for stress, irritability, anxiety and depression.

Acupuncture and Chinese medicine can help balance both the mental and physical symptoms of anxiety and help to create the harmony and spaciousness we need to keep calm and to feel stable in a sea of frenzy. Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine helps keep the body, mind and spirit supple, flexible and buoyant.  This generally manifests in the body as a sense of ease. If the season has already wreaked havoc on your personal integrity, acupuncture and Chinese medicine can release the physical knots and constriction as well as create a healing, safe and tranquil environment for you to settle in, decompress and recalibrate. This creates a potent foundation to build a healthier and more resourceful self (and sounds like a great New Year’s resolution!).

Incorporating a mindfulness meditation practice into your routine, especially during the holidays, is a very powerful tool to living informed and fully. Being mindful is the purposeful practice of making choices based on being in the moment, checking in and making decisions by being fully present rather than responding in a habituated way to events, people and situations. We can summon and reflect circumstances, feelings and choices rather than being enslaved to our automated and predictable reactions.

Even a few quiet, deep breaths practiced throughout the day will help you slow down the inertia of the holiday season and allow you to proactively and intentionally take your holidays back. It will give you a chance to remember what’s really important and what holiday celebrations are for.

Acupuncture, Chinese medicine and mindful meditation can definitely help to lead you to a more tranquil and meaningful holiday season – but don’t forget to acknowledge and feel gratitude. Gratitude is a feeling of appreciation and thankfulness for blessings or benefits we have received. As we cultivate a grateful attitude, we are more likely to be happy and resilient.

While controlling how our bodies react to stress is difficult, choosing healthy strategies and approaches can be a much more attainable and kind way to embrace “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.”

The Use of Eucommia Bark (Du Zhong) in Chinese Medicine


duzhongEucommia bark comes from the eucommia tree, or hardy rubber tree, that originates in the Sichuan, Yunnan, Guizhou and Hubei provinces of Central China. It is grown as an ornamental and shade tree that can reach heights up to 60 feet in temperate climates. To obtain the bark of the tree, small patches are peeled away from mature trees in the late summer and early autumn. This allows cultivation of Du Zhong without harming the tree. Wild eucommia trees are rare and are protected; most of the trees used for medicinal purposes are cultivated. The inner bark that is revealed contains a white, rubbery liquid that accounts for eucommia’s healing properties. While this elastomeric sap contains many benefits, it is noted that people with latex allergies may also be allergic to du zhong.

In Chinese Herbal Medicine, Eucommia is considered spicy and sweet; its thermal property in the body is warming. Du Zhong has an affinity for the liver and kidney channels. This affinity lends itself to strengthening muscles and bones and to treat arthritic pain in the lower back and knees. Du Zhong does this by promoting circulation. Du Zhong’s ability to aid in regulating the flow of the qi and blood also proves helpful in lowering high blood pressure. Eucommia is also known as a stabilizer in pregnant women. Eucommia can also be used in a charred form to help calm a “restless fetus” and prevent miscarriage.

Gardenia: Chinese Herbal Medicine and Zhi Zi


Chinese Herbal MedicineGardenia is a popular ornamental shrub that is a genus of flowering plants in the coffee family, Rubiaceae, native to the tropical and subtropical regions of Africa and southern Asia and is found in warm climates worldwide. Best known for their fragrant white flowers and deep, glossy green leaves, Traditional Chinese Medicine uses the orange, berry-like fruits, better known as Zhi Zi or Cape Jasmine fruit, in many herbal preparations. These berries are harvested in autumn and winter, and used either raw or after being fried and parched and made into a tea or soup for consumption.

According to Chinese herbal medicine, Gardenia possesses a bitter taste and thermally is cold in the body. Zhi Zi enters the Heart, Lung, Stomach and San Jiao Channels. Due to its affinity for multiple channels, it is one of the safer herbs in Chinese medicine for eliminating pathogenic heat in the body through urination. Heat in the body can present as irritability, sores in the mouth, or jaundice. Zhi zi also can act directly on the blood to help cool the blood to stop hemorrhaging. Zhi Zi also facilitates faster healing of traumatic injury by circulating stagnant blood.

In Western Medical terms, Gardenia is recognized to help to lower blood pressure and is effective in treating certain presentations of insomnia and delirium. Zhi Zi has also been shown as an effective agent in urinary tract infections. It is also considered a mild antiseptic and can help to reduce swelling and alleviate pain associated with sprains and abscesses when applied topically.

It’s Not Just Needles and Herbs: How to choose an Acupuncturist, Herbalist and Practitioner of Oriental Medicine




You’re looking for an acupuncturist. You launch your browser and type Acupuncture or Traditional Chinese Medicine Philadelphia into the search field.  Enter.  Pages and pages of results load as you wonder:  what should I be looking for? How do I know which acupuncturist is best for me? Who has the most extensive education and training? Who can offer a full range of treatment options including both acupuncture and herbal medicine?

There are certain steps you can take to make the most informed decision. Licensing requirements vary widely by state and most, but not all, acupuncture schools combine acupuncture and herbal training. So, it is important to know what you are looking for. Licensed Acupuncturists have credentials that use the term L.Ac. or M.Ac. In Pennsylvania, practitioners who have studied Chinese Herbal medicine have taken at least an additional 700 hours of training. Even if you are not necessarily interested in taking herbal medicine that distinction and commitment to additional training, education and specialization is important. Coursework expands entry level training so that more complex principals in the diagnosis and treatment of disease from a Chinese medical paradigm are explored.

While people who have completed this class may be registered with the State as an L.OM. or a licensed Practitioner of Oriental Medicine, it’s ideal to find a practitioner that has gone the “extra mile” and has become Board certified in Oriental Medicine (Dipl. O.M. NCCAOM). This entails not only passing the National Board for Foundational Theory, Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal medicine, but also passing the Board certification for Western Biomedicine. This distinction shows a professional commitment not only to Chinese medicine but to having a comprehensive grasp of Western medicine principals, treatments and appropriate referrals. 

In Pennsylvania, less than 8% of licensed acupuncturists have undergone the educational and Board certification rigors to be licensed in Oriental Medicine. This means that the majority of practicing acupuncturists have not demonstrated a command of Chinese herbology or advanced treatment principals for a recognized Board of professionals.

The National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) is the premier certifying organization recognized by the Oriental Medical profession.  A non-profit established in 1982, the mission of NCCAOM is to establish and promote standards of competence and safety in acupuncture and Oriental medicine. NCCAOM certification is a professional distinction and it requires 60 hours of additional study every four years. While not required, my passion for Chinese Medicine and providing the best treatment and health outcomes for my patients has driven me to study an average of 150 hours each year – or 600 hours every four years (compared to the minimum requirement of 60 hours). These studies have included two-year advanced courses in Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture. They have also included studies in chronic autoimmune conditions, care for patients undergoing cancer therapy and dermatology, while also going deeper and integrating into my specialty of pain management.

Selecting a practitioner with a NCCAOM certification in Oriental Medicine ensures that you will be treated with the most comprehensive clinical expertise and the highest level of professional integrity. Oriental Medicine is more than needles and herbs. Mastery of the curriculum requires years of advanced coursework and clinical practice. The Diplomate of Oriental Medicine has demonstrated competence in nutritional principles, biomedicine, herbalism and Oriental medical theory in addition to acupuncture. OM certification expands the acupuncturist’s diagnostic and treatment resources, allowing her to create the most comprehensive, individualized healing plan for each client.

Sharon Sherman holds a NCCAOM certification in Oriental Medicine, placing her nationally among the highest trained in the art and science of acupuncture and the Chinese Medical model, as well as the prescribing of Chinese herbal medicine.


Thanks for Your Support – Empirical Point Acupuncture Makes the Philly Hot List, AGAIN!

thank you
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
Empirical Point Acupuncture has again been named one of Philadelphia’s top acupuncture practices, according to this year’s PHL 17 Hot List
It’s an honor to be chosen as one of the region’s top practices and we are proud of the achievement. As you know, we strive to offer our patients the most comprehensive, informed and whole-body approach to actively managing their health and well-being. Providing patients with treatment regimens that impact their health and can change their outlook on their day-to-day lives is our proudest accomplishment…but, being recognized for it is also wonderful.
Thanks again!

Zhu Dan-Xi and the Yin Nourishing School in Chinese Medicine


zhu dan xi The fourth master of Chinese Medicine, Zhu Dan-Xi, had the opportunity to study and adapt his teachings based on the other three masters’ schools of thought – bringing together the Four Great Masters’ of Chinese Medicine.  

Zhu believed that people suffered from chronic disease as a result of overindulgence in pleasurable things and activities, resulting in weakness of the yin essence. His treatments recommended temperance and use of tonic formulas, especially those that nourished the kidney and liver. He systematized his findings into four categories. He believed that all diseases were rooted in pathology due to qi, blood, phlegm or constrained emotions.

Zhu Dan-Xi (1281-1358 c.e.), from Zhejiang Province, was a descendent of Zhu Xi. Zhu Xi was a historically prominent scholar of Confucianism and was pivotal in the neo-Confucianist movement. Zhu Dan-Xi also displayed a keen mind for understanding classical theory and immersed himself deeply in the study of Confucianism.

It was said that he was a very diligent student with a fondness for memorizing the Classics. He was originally planning on a career in government and was ready to sit for the examinations, but was led to study medicine when his mother and teacher both became severely ill. After determining his path to study medicine, he sought a teacher. He was a quick study and became a noted physician in a short period of time. He was also well versed on the works and methods of the previous Masters of the Jin-Yuan medical reform movement and developed an accomplished understanding of the Neijing.

Zhu Dan-Xi came to his own conclusions about the origin of diseases. He believed that a very large component in the stagnations leading to the four categories was based in an unchecked fire in the body known as “ministerial fire.” While this heat serves to warm and animate our being in health, it can also turn inward and lead to a pathological state fueled by excessive unfulfilled desires. This longing leads to heat and friction in the body that consumes our flexibility and fluidity leading to loss of kidney yin.

His philosophies became known as the Yin Nourishing School. As the name implies, Zhu Dan-Xi placed the emphasis in treatment on the preservation and maintenance of kidney yin.

He placed emphasis on the importance of the conservation of kidney yin and essence through self-care techniques. This allows vital substances to be preserved and not squandered indiscriminately, including adapting to seasonal variations in personal endeavors, hygiene and diet.

Zhu Dan Xi was also a member of the Tai Ping Imperial Academy. As a member of this prestigious consortium he was able to elucidate his theories into a number of herbal teaching formulas. Representations of Zhu Dan-Xi’s teaching formulas included Da Bu Yin Wan (Major Yin Nourishing Pill), which contains rehmannia (shu di huang), phellodendron (huang bai), anemarrhena (zhi mu), and tortoise shell (gui ban). The first three ingredients would later become the central ingredients of the most widely used formula for yin deficiency with damp heat in the lower burner, Zhi Bai Di Huang Wan. This is the “Rehmannia Six” formula with the added ingredients of anemarrhena (zhi mu) and phellodendron (huang bai).

Zhu Dan Xi was strongly influenced by Li Dong-Yuan’s teachings and while his thrust was on yin nourishing therapies, he considered  Yuan’s emphasis on homeostatic balance of the spleen and stomach integral in the replenishment of yin and fluids. He created the formula Bo He Wan (Citrus and Crataegus Formula, or Preserve Harmony Formula) to satisfy all the criteria in removing any and all impediment in the humors. This formula is in total alignment with his model of the four causes of disease.

Zhu Dan Xi wrote several books and some of his most important teachings were gathered and published as Dan Xi Zhi Fa Xin Yao (The Essential Methods of Dan Xi), which has been translated into English.

Zhu Dan Xi brought closure to the time of the Four Great Masters of Chinese Medicine. The contributions of Zhu Dan-Xi, Li Dong-Yuan, Zhang Zi-He and Li Wan-Su to Chinese medicine are comprehensive and vast. Their significance is timeless. They are teachings that shed light on what Man needs to thrive. Their collective wisdom is also a very clear commentary on what nourishes and what hampers our personal health and vitality. These teachings’ adaptability and applicability are an invaluable contribution to the cause of disease and strategies of healing.


Li Dong-Yuan and the Earth School in Chinese Medicine


lidongyuanAs Chinese medicine evolved, practitioners began to realize that patients did not live in a vacuum and they could not be treated as such. Every patient affected by an ailment needed to be treated individually because many factors beyond just physical disease were playing a role and required attention. For Master Li Dong-Yuan, lifestyle was a major factor in the preservation of a patient’s well being. He felt that patients’ emotions could heavily influence the qi’s integrity and that physical illness could be eroded by the socio-economics of a war-torn society plagued with famine, epidemics and poverty.

Li Dong-Yuan, also known as Li Gao (1180 – 1251 c.e.), began his medical studies under one of the most famous physicians in the Hubei Province: Zhang Yuan-Su. Li Dong-Yuan’s family was wealthy, so he was afforded a great opportunity to apprentice closely with Zhang Yuan-Su and the teachings of the Yi Shui School. It was from this direct influence that he formulated his own school of thought that became known as the Earth School.

Once he completed his studies with Zhang Yuan-Su, Li Dong-Yuan became involved in managing his family’s property. After the decades of harsh Mongol conquests, he left home in Hubei to utilize his medical knowledge and training to treat the masses that were adversely affected by the unrest and upheaval of being a conquered region.

It was then that he began to deeply develop his thesis that the etiology of most diseases was a result of injury to the digestive system. The principle organs of the digestive system from a Chinese medical model are the Stomach and the Spleen, which are responsible for taking food and drink and transforming the raw material into energy (qi) for the body’s core functions. Li Dong-Yuan believed that the cause of damage to the stomach and spleen occurred as a result of three main factors: intemperance in eating and drinking (especially consumption of excess amounts of cold, raw, fatty or unclean foods), overwork which leads to exhaustion, and from the effects of excessive and habituated emotional expression — excessive emotions agitate the body and consequently weaken digestion.

When the conquered people were left powerless, poor and unable to access proper nutrition, opportunistic disease processes were able to also overcome and vanquish health physically, mentally and spiritually. This becomes the basis of the Earth School’s doctrine.

Weak digestion on a physical level leads to exhaustion and listlessness with loss of appetite, loose stools and visceral prolapse. On a mental level the organs of the stomach and spleen when distressed have lost the ability to problem solve and use intellect. There becomes a tendency to over-ruminate on the same subject without the ability to act on a resolution. This creates the concept of yin fire. Yin fire is the pathological state of habituated unresolved emotions that are unable to be expressed and manifested, which leads to a noxious feedback cycle culminating in repression and suppression of negative emotions.

Because these feelings have no outlet for expulsion from the mind or body, they become lodged internally. Over time, this leads to the generation of heat trapped in the body which further exhausts resources and causes further debility. We may recognize these states from a Western lens as syndromes of chronic inflammation or autoimmune responses.

Two of Li Dong-Yuan’s most important Chinese herbal formulas to treat digestive qi’s lack of strength and integrity along with the discharge of the injurious heat were Sheng Yang Yi Wei Tang (Yang Ascending and Stomach Nourishing Decoction) and Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang (Tonify the Center and Regulate the Qi Decoction). Both formulas include ginseng (Ren Shen), astragalus (Huang Qi), and white atractylodes (Bai Zhu) to strengthen the weakened person.

Another common feature is the use of bupleurum (chai hu) to ease emotional tension, allow unencumbered flow and to lift – holding the body’s structures in place. Historically, we are now at a turning point in the crafting of Chinese herbal formulas. Li Dong-Yuan is using a bi-directional strategy of both uplifting and rehabilitating the body’s resources while simultaneously draining out of the body injurious heat and dampness. He is also revolutionary in assigning directionality of herbs to ascend or descend when ingested and also creating a mapping of an herb’s proclivity to affect change certain organs and channels.

He also credited for the herbal formula Sheng Mai San (Pulse Generating Powder), which is still widely used in modern Chinese hospitals for cardiovascular cases, as well as Dang Gui Bu Xue Tang, which is a combination of astragalus (Huang Qi) and Dang Gui (in a ratio of 5:1), used to quickly and deeply nourish the qi and blood following extensive blood loss.

The addition of the Earth School’s ideas to Chinese Medicine helped to further incorporate the concept that exogenous pestilent factors were not the only etiology of disease – and that it was necessary to self cultivate to nurture and build health in order to maintain well-being. Li Dong-Yuan taught a way to live a proactively healthy life as well as a path to reclaim health when afflicted.