Archive for the ‘Oriental Medicine’ Category

With Gratitude on the Eve of Thanksgiving

Wednesday, November 25th, 2015 by Sharon Sherman


Giving Thanks

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!

Best Regards,

The Use of Astragulus in Chinese Herbal Medicine

Thursday, November 12th, 2015 by Sharon Sherman
Ingredient used in Traditional Chinese Medicine contained in a modern glass - Beiqi (Astragalus membranaceus)

Ingredient used in Traditional Chinese Medicine contained in a modern glass – Beiqi (Astragalus membranaceus)

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.

Chinese Medicine for Seasonal Allergies

Wednesday, April 29th, 2015 by Sharon Sherman

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!

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

Friday, December 19th, 2014 by Sharon Sherman

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

Friday, December 12th, 2014 by Sharon Sherman
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

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014 by Sharon Sherman

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

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014 by Sharon Sherman

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.

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

Friday, August 8th, 2014 by Sharon Sherman

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

Friday, June 20th, 2014 by Sharon Sherman

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.


Chinese Medicine’s Zhang Zi-He and The School of Attacking and Purging

Thursday, March 20th, 2014 by Sharon Sherman

zhang Zi-heLike modern practitioners, the great masters of Chinese medicine learned from and were influenced by each other’s work. They were not only coming up with original conclusions but were building and refining the work of previous practitioners to form expanded ideas.

Zhang Zi-He, also known as Zhang Cong Zheng, was a military physician who lived from 1156-1228 of the common era. He shared Liu Wan-Su’s belief that medicine needed to be tailored to patients and that medicines and strategies of the Han Dynasty canon were ill equipped to combat present-day illness. After serving in the military, he left to return to his home town in Henan Province to work as a doctor.

His best known theories incorporated some of Liu Wan-Su’s most important contributions to the Chinese Medical canon and are known as the “Gong Xia Pai,” or “The School of Attacking and Purging.” Specifically, Zi-He’s theory of the “Six Doors and Three Methods” referred directly to climatic influences (wind, summer heat, dampness, fire, dryness and cold) that Liu Wan-Su observed. The three methods refer to Zhang’s favored therapeutic regimens: sweating, vomiting and purging. These were not new strategies; Zhang Zhong-Jing, one of the most eminent Chinese physicians during the later years of the Han Dynasty, recorded the use of these approaches in the most studied book of Chinese medicine, the Shang Han Lun. The practice of diaphoresis, emesis and purgation are also documented by Sun Si-Miao, the patriarch and innovator of Tang Dynasty Chinese medicine.

Zhang Zi-He’s treatment strategies are very telling of his seasoned military strategist background. He believed that both life and disease should be treated like battle. Similar to a small fortress, you want to keep the external terrain strong so that disease cannot enter. In Chinese medicine this is the concept of strong Wei Qi. When our interface is strong, pathogens cannot penetrate.

Zhang was a neoconfucianist and a firm believer that pernicious influences entered the body from the heavens, the earth and through man’s actions. The evils of the heavens included the climate—wind, cold, heat, dryness and fire. Insults from the earth came as damp influences that included fog, dew, rain, hail, ice and mud. Man’s abuses centered on dietary intemperance and vices such as lack of discipline. He believed that these insults were responsible for causing disease and in order to effectively cure an ailment, the responsible influence needed to be eradicated – thus the induction of sweating, vomiting and purging.

He believed if you have problems in your life, you need to take charge to destroy the negative influence. Sweating eliminated the harmful evils on the body’s surface. Zhang Zi-He listed approximately forty herbs, many which are still used today such as Schizonepeta known as Jing Jie and Angelica Dahurica Bai Zhi. In addition to herbs, he advocated the use of hygienic practices that included moxabustion, acupuncture, massage, steaming, washing and exercising.

The category of emesis (induced vomiting) was prescribed for digestive illness in the upper gastric abdominal regions with therapies that in addition to vomiting increased salivation, lacrimation and sneezing. The most popular Chinese herbal emetics he recommended were Dichroa Root, also known as Chang Shan, and stalk of Cucumis Melo, known as Gua Di. His use of acupuncture included the activation of points which would mirror his herbal strategies. He used the upward ascension of the spleen to encourage vomiting. An acupuncture point like Spleen 8 “Di Ji,” which translates to mean “Earth Pivot,” was chosen because it could be activated to encourage vomiting. He believed that employing this strategy would quickly release an evil and restore health by purifying the patient.

He also used other acupuncture channels and points to encourage peristalsis through the bowels. Purging methods (laxative effect) treated climatic and emotional evils that when lodged in the chest or abdomen cause intense discomfort. This phenomenon is known in Chinese medicine as heat clumping. By breaking down and pushing the obstruction down and out, the pain is eliminated and healthy function is restored. Of the many purgatives he employed, several are still popular in the TCM Materia Medica such as Rhubarb, known as the Chinese herb Da Huang and the herb Croton Ba Dou.

Zhang Zi-He was a student of Liu Wan-Su’s Cooling School philosophical doctrine and expanded the use of sweating, purgation and vomiting to include more symptoms and clinical scenarios. Zhang Zi-He believed that there are a myriad of influences that can cause disease. He understood that to move difficult obstructions and obstacles in the body, one needed to initiate a treatment strategy of equal force and measure. He believed these treatment strategies to be hygienic and their use encouraged the refinement of the body, mind and spirit.