Archive for the ‘Oriental Medicine’ Category
With the year winding down, the holiday season has us doing anything but. We’re programmed to spend the next few weeks running around, shopping, wrapping, decorating, cooking, meeting end of year deadlines at work, planning and attending gatherings – leaving our carefully planned routines behind to celebrate the season with friends and family.
In December it’s already easy to feel sapped of energy and moody from the cold and lack of sunshine, but add to that a long list of to-do’s, dizzying demands, and the personal and social expectation of exuding happiness constantly and it’s easy to see why some of us can crumble under the stress of the holiday season. For many, it is also a time filled with sadness, self-reflection, loneliness and anxiety – making a stressful time even more daunting.
This stress, anxiety and depression can cause a disruption in the flow of vital energy, or qi, throughout the body. These energetic imbalances mess with all of your body’s systems, causing symptoms of muscle pain, headaches, upset digestion, sleep disturbances and fatigue, and over time more serious illnesses can develop. Chinese medicine treatment can correct these imbalances and directly affect the way your body manages both your stress and your mental health.
Acupuncture treatments can serve to nurture and replenish energy reserves, enhancing the body’s immune system to thrive in times of stress, aid in healing, prevent illness and increase vitality. When enhanced with the use of Chinese herbs, meditation – along with a healthy diet and exercise – a regimen of Chinese Medicine can be extremely effective in helping to provide overall stress relief and well being this holiday season.
Winter is the season where all living things start to slow down, and if we do our best to do the same, we can find the time to reflect on health, replenish energy and conserve the strength needed to make it through the craziness of the coming weeks and the cold months ahead.
Maintaining a routine of health and wellness at this time of year is key to preserving your sanity, well-being – and won’t leave you crying on Santa’s lap.
On the Eve of Thanksgiving
To my friends: Offering gratitude and appreciation for your unwavering support and guidance.
To my clients: My heartfelt thanks for your steadfast confidence and belief.
To those that visit these pages that I have not personally met: Wishing peace, happiness and a thoughtful Thanksgiving!
Huang Qi, also known as Astragalus, is a perennial plant that is native to the northern and eastern parts of China, Mongolia and Korea, and is one of the fifty fundamental herbs used in Traditional Chinese Medicine. It has been used for thousands of years for its immune boosting properties for protecting the body against disease and stress. With it’s has a sweet taste and a warm properties, it is used for treating the spleen and lung, raising the spleen and stomach qi. This means it is considered a tonic herbs for both the immune system and the digestive systems
The root is the portion used in Chinese herbal medicine. Because of it’s ability to act as an tonic that can help strengthen and regulate the immune system, Huang qi is most commonly administered to treat or prevent the common cold, upper respiratory infections, allergies, and chronic fatigue syndrome. It can also be used to increase the production of blood cells particularly in individuals with chronic degenerative disease or in individuals undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy for cancer. The antibacterial and antiviral qualities also help Astragalus to act as a liver protectant, an anti-inflammatory, a diuretic, and vasodilator, so research continues to grow regarding its use in kidney disease, diabetes and high blood pressure.
After 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!
Pinellia, 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.
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.”
Eucommia 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 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.
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.