Archive for the ‘Acupuncture’ Category
As 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.
In the mad world of newer-better-faster-stronger, it’s important to take a minute and remember that all of the advances that we have—from iPhones and micro-computers to laser treatments and super drugs—evolved from earlier innovation. The foundations of modern medicine are no exception. Often the basics that new techniques are built upon trace back to systems laid out centuries ago and are still formidable in shaping new ideas and thoughts on disease treatment and prevention. Chinese medicine is arguably the oldest, continually practiced form of medicine in the world. There definitely is a reason these strategies have survived the test of time.
It’s become a pretty common practice to spend time on the internet diagnosing ourselves and thinking about treatment options. As more practitioners and patients move towards collaborative medicine and incorporate Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) into Western treatment plans, it’s not a bad idea to have a better understanding about the theories developed, the physiology around why it works, and the historical context that shaped the paradigm shift. Exploring the important contributions made by masters of Chinese medicine helps provide a better understanding of how medicine has evolved to where it is today. Never a bad thing to know where and why things started.
So, what and who shaped Traditional Chinese Medicine? Much and rightful attention is paid to the Han Dynasty (220 B.C. to 220 A.D.). The masters of Chinese medicine of this era included Hua T’o and Zhang Zhong Jing. This is when the most famous texts of Chinese medicine were published; these seminal texts include the Shang Han Lun (Treatise on Cold Damage Disorders) and the Jin Gui Yao Lue (Essential Prescription from the Golden Cabinet). Chinese medical knowledge during the Han dynasty is expansive. Hua T’o is credited for self cultivation practices known as daoyin exercises as well as surgical and anesthesia protocols. Zhang Zhong Jing is recognized for the development of the Six Stages Theory. This theory is a model for the diagnosis and treatment of disease based on the progression of pathogens once they enter the body. This becomes a foundation for the practice of herbal internal medicine.
The historical time known as the Jin-Yuan period will be the focus of our of next four blog articles. The Jin-Yuan period covers the 13th and 14th centuries and is a catalyst for the development of great innovation in Chinese medicine.
From the Jin-Yuan era came the development of four distinct schools of thought, created by men who came to be known as the Four Great Masters of Chinese Medicine – Li Wan Su, Zhang Zi He, Li Dong Yuan, and Zhu Dan Xi. Their mastery of Chinese medicine coupled with their personal circumstances during the times they lived helped shape four distinct philosophies in the causation, prevention and elimination of disease. Their critiques of the classical canons and doctrine create new developments and ways of thinking thus expanding the medicine for more modern times and conditions. Their novel new approaches helped usher in a renaissance in Chinese medicine.
Women are more likely than men to have Raynaud’s disease and, perhaps not surprisingly, it’s more common in people who live in colder climates.
“Treatment” for Raynaud’s disease often consists of activities like layering clothing, wearing gloves and donning extra thick socks. Some patients take medications deigned to open up or widen their blood vessels and promote circulation.
Increasingly, I am seeing patients who are interested in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) approaches to easing Raynaud’s disease. These treatment regimens are often focused on herbal formulas that warm, increase peripheral circulation and work on improving the integrity of qi and blood in the superficial channels. Depending on the Patient’s presentation we evaluate and use herbs such as astragulus (huang qi), aconite (fu zi), ginger (gan jiang), ligusticum (chuan xiong) and cinnamon (gui zhi) to ease the chill, move blood and reduce pain in their extremities.
Patients are also finding relief with acupuncture as it can increase blood flow and decrease pain. In fact, a study published in the Journal of Internal Medicine showed that acupuncture treatment decreased the symptoms or “attacks” of Raynaud’s disease by 63%.
Finally, avoiding too much caffeine, getting a good amount of exercise and eating a balanced diet rich in Omega-3 fatty acids can also help your body successfully combat Raynaud’s disease.
More information and helpful resources for Raynaud’s disease can be found here:
The mind-set, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” has become an ingrained attitude of embracing decay in America. It is played out in our current political arenas, our values and in matters of personal growth and self care. As a result of our quest to tighten fiscal belts, our infrastructure is also experiencing malnourishment and neglect. This has been highlighted in numerous articles and recent studies, and has been the source of outrage and, often, despair once something finally surrenders in a cataclysmic manner (think bridge collapses, levy failures, government shutdowns).
This was discussed in an interesting and thought-provoking 2012 article from The Economist, “A Question of Trust”:
For decades America has underinvested in infrastructure—even though poor roads, delayed flights, crumbling bridges and inefficient buildings are an expensive burden. Deficiencies in roads, bridges and transport systems alone cost households and businesses nearly $130 billion in 2010, mostly because of higher running costs and travel delays. This filters through to all parts of the economy and increases costs at the point of use of many raw materials, and thereby reduces the productivity and competitiveness of American firms and their goods. Overall the American Society of Civil Engineers reckons that this underinvestment will end up costing each family in the country about $10,600 between 2010 and 2020.
I believe that – unfortunately – this attitude of neglect and purposeful ignorance is affecting the state of our country’s personal health. We live in a time where most of us are connected to the web, texting and email 24/7. We are also over-connected to information that really is inane, unnecessary and just a diversion. Our personal infrastructure is overburdened and overly taxed! We tend to devalue expenditure on our personal infrastructure. We prefer spending on the novelty and status of newer and faster stuff that binds us more intimately to the accelerated disintegration of our body’s finite resources, our emotional stability and our potential for spiritual fulfillment.
Further, we tend to only pay heed when symptoms have gone from intermittent to fixed, subtle to untenable. This is a level of minimal engagement that is truly very costly, filters through all parts of the economy, reduces productivity and aides and abets the breakdown of community. If we were to become just an iota more introspective, and listen to the internal inspection reports that are constantly emitting as “the state of our infrastructure” we could CHOOSE to engage our efforts and modest financial resources to rebuild and recover our true innate personhood.
The potential net gain is infinite, but how do we engage in this process?
No it doesn’t require a new type of sporting gear, a faster processor or more mega pixels. It isn’t achieved through V8 German horsepower or a mani and pedi.
It is far more exclusive, but accessible by all.
To quote Elmer Fudd, “Shhh. Be vewy vewy quiet” and then check inside.
What is the state of your personal infrastructure?
If you are listening you might hear:
“I am anxious.”
“I am unhappy.”
“I am scared.”
“I am in pain.”
The next step is to disengage our familiar response toward the cry.
Challenge your automatic responses and habituations toward the predicament.
If you are tired, rather than reach for more caffeine, get more rest.
If you are discontented, rather than mindlessly eating more “comfort food,” sit and think about involving yourself in things that engender happiness and freedom of expression.
If something is hurting, stop ignoring it. Seek nurturing and expertise to understand and work toward corrective measures.
Most of the challenges we experience with our infrastructure come from the chronicity of ignoring our body’s own reports and cries for help.
Yes, there will come the day that our infrastructure can no longer withstand the neglect just like the day that the levees no longer could hold, despite the decades of countless warning. It’s the broken aspects of our situation that provide the richest opportunities for innovation and growth.
It isn’t necessary to suffer so intensely or be so outraged with the state of our infrastructure.
How can I be so certain of this? We all struggle with our mortality and the ebb and flow of emotional discontent, feeling powerless and pain. I think they call it “the human condition”. Try something new put yourself in the zone of reaching beyond your own resistance, if this doesn’t work for you, you can always go back to what you are doing now, no questions asked.
If we pay attention and give town-hall time to the inner self and it’s innate mission to survive, we can go way beyond the fundamental preservation skills of our lizard brain and really begin to have a symbiotic relationship with ourselves, our responsibilities and our commitments, This is how we tap into our infinite potential.
Dedicate yourself to a small amount of structured time and resources for the communion, I guarantee it WILL pay off.
Traditional Chinese Medicine to Reduce your Stress and Find your Rhythm
Those long, lazy days of summer are waning and crisper fall days are just around the corner. For many of us – parents, students, professionals – this means a return to our “normal” schedules of school, work and daily routines. This can also mean a return to stress and anxiety. So, how can you keep the relaxed vibe of the summer going into the fall?
Many of my patients make the conscious choice to really focus on reducing their stress this time of year. They try to be mindful of the anxiety that back-to-school and back-from-vacation can bring and they carve out time to rest, exercise and use Traditional Chinese Medicine to help.
For example, a recent Georgetown University study showed that acupuncture can help reduce the levels of proteins associated with chronic stress in rats and shed light on exactly how acupuncture works to reduce stress.
There are also numerous herbs used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to promote balance and reduce stress:
- Chrysanthemum tea – this has been used for 1000s of years in Chinese medicine as a daily soothing tea; it also helps maintain a healthy liver.
- Suan Zao Ren (Sour Jujube seeds) – in TCM, these seeds are used to reduce irritability, stress and to help treat insomnia.
- Xiao Yao Wan – is a very popular Chinese herbal formula, Xiao Yao Wan promotes free flow, smooth emotions and overall balance.
There are other ways to help reduce your stress this time of year that are also key to the tenets of TCM and in promoting body balance:
Get outside – even if it’s just for a short walk after dinner, getting out into nature can revitalize your mind and body and help de-stress after a long day in the office, classroom or car.
Sleep – your body can’t function at its best without proper rest; make sure to get your 8 hours!
Appreciation and Gratitude – while this may be a busy time of year, it’s always a good time to take a moment to appreciate what you have, be mindful about your health and be cognizant of your loved ones and family.
Enjoy the fall!
It’s summer. The days are looooong. And that is a great thing, but did you know that it can affect your sleep patterns and your ability to get a good, restful night’s sleep? In fact, there are so many things that can affect your sleep – stress, diet, work schedule and even computer or smartphone use – that it can be really difficult to get as much sleep as you need.
Experts at the Mayo Clinic recommend that school age children get 9-10 hours of sleep a night and that adults log at least 7-8 hours. But, there are other factors that can make even more sleep beneficial – factors like aging, pregnancy, previous sleep deprivation and sleep quality.
There have been numerous medical studies about the benefits of good sleep.
Research has shown that people who sleep only a few hours of sleep a night over a number of nights don’t perform as well on complex mental tasks as people who are well-rested (getting 7+ hours of sleep a night). Studies also show that adults who get less than 7 hours of sleep a night have a higher mortality rate than those sleeping 7-8 hours. So, all in all – sleep is good!
But, what happens when you can’t sleep? What can you do? How might acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine help?
The good news is – acupuncture and herbal medicine have been shown to help improve sleep quality:
A 2004 study in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry showed that acupuncture increased nocturnal melatonin secretion and reduced insomnia and anxiety
A 1999 study in Germany showed that acupuncture improved sleep quality and lessened insomnia
Traditional Chinese Medicine has been using a variety of herbs to help promote good sleep and treat insomnia for thousands of years. Some herbs commonly found in Chinese herbal formulas for insomnia include:
- Suan zao ren – Sour jujube seed
- Fu shen – Poria
- Zhi mu – Anemarrhena rhizome
- Bai zi ren – Arbor vitae seed
- Mu li – Oyster shell
- He huan pi – Mimosa tree bark
It’s important to note that a licensed acupuncturist or TCM practitioner will examine the patient’s condition and health overall to determine a possible cause of the insomnia, instead of just treating that one symptom. An expert should take into consideration appetite, thirst, mood, tongue color and the quality of the pulse to customize a treatment regimen that is the best fit.
As women age – gracefully and with awe-inspiring beauty, of course! – two-out-of-three will experience sudden momentary sensations of heat, red, flushed faces and sweating. This is known as the “hot flash” that comes with menopause and it can also bring with it mood swings, rapid heart rate, chills and insomnia. The cause of hot flashes is not known, but they may be related to changes in circulation that occur when a women is experiencing menopause.
While there are hormone replacement therapies and over-the-counter treatments used for menopausal symptoms, there is a growing body of evidence that Traditional Chinese Medicine, including acupuncture, can be extremely effective.
ABC News recently highlighted a medical study that concluded that acupuncture curbed the severity of hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms, largely related to mood. The authors of the study based their findings on the experience of 53 post menopausal women whose symptoms were measured on a 5-point scale before and after treatment. One group of 27 women received acupuncture for 20 minutes, twice a week for 10 weeks. The other group thought they were given acupuncture treatment, but the needles didn’t actually penetrate the skin. The women who received real acupuncture showed significant drops in the severity of their hot flashes. You can watch news video of the study here.
A National Institutes of Health (NIH) effort to educate Americans about the benefits of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) also outlines the ways that CAM could help treat the symptoms of menopause. This helpful NIH Fact Sheet talks about how mind and body practices such as yoga, tai chi, qi gong and acupuncture may help reduce the severity of menopausal symptoms.
So, yes, while it’s summer and everyone is a bit warmer these days, you don’t have to suffer through the hot flashes associated with menopause. Think about Traditional Chinese Medicine and acupuncture as a potential treatment and speak to a licensed acupuncturist to see if it may be an option for you.
Did you know that in ancient China, eating disorders were considered to be the result of a ghost or demon invading the body? While modern science and medicine have ruled out that root cause, treating an eating disorder is still very much a battle for each patient…one that can be long, arduous and require several different treatment approaches to ultimately triumph.
There are two eating disorders that are most common here in the U.S. – anorexia nervosa (when a patient severely limits food intake) and bulimia nervosa (when a patient binge eats and then purges by inducing vomiting). Both are serious medical conditions that are best treated by psychological counseling and conventional medical treatment and supervision.
Chinese Medicine and acupuncture can also play a role in supporting eating disorder patients and accelerating their recovery. Specifically, there are three types of symptoms or conditions associated with eating disorders for which Chinese Medicine has been shown to be effective:
While an eating disorder has outward physical signs, symptoms and hallmarks, the root of the disease is psychological and driven by the patient’s desire to be thin. This unending quest takes a toll on the body, but also on the patient’s stress levels and emotional well-being. A recent study showed that eating disorder patients receiving acupuncture as an adjunctive treatment felt less stress and anxiety.
Eating disorder patients that are not on a regular diet or are struggling to return to a healthier eating regimen may be experiencing GI issues associated with their eating habits. This can result in abdominal bloating, nausea, constipation, diarrhea, abdominal discomfort, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and acid reflux. A review article in the Journal of Gastroenterology concluded that acupuncture was effective in helping treat GI issues and that “in the future, it is anticipated that acupuncture will be used to treat these [GI] patients in addition to the current therapy. This would also signiﬁcantly reduce the cost of medical treatment.”
Because diet and nutrition are literally the fuel for your body’s engine, eating disorders negatively impact your overall health by weakening all of the body’s systems – cardiac, GI, immune and reproductive. Studies have shown that patients with eating disorders can struggle with infertility later in life. Studies have also shown that Chinese Medicine and acupuncture can be used to effectively treat infertility, as highlighted in this recent WebMD article about “The Ancient Art of Infertility Treatment.”
Eating disorders are devastating to the patient, as well as his/her family and loved ones. Thankfully, there is an ever-increasing body of research and conventional and alternative treatments available to help patients conquer this disease.