Posts Tagged ‘immune system’

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.

Keeping Up Your Health in a Time of Wearing Down

Thursday, November 7th, 2013 by Sharon Sherman
personal investment in health

personal investment in health

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’m tired.”

“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.





Acupuncture in Cold & Flu Season

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012 by Sharon Sherman

Yes, the crisp air is here. Maybe like me, you’ve felt it the past few mornings as you saw your breath in front of you on a chilly walk to your car. Maybe also like me, you are OK with the colder weather as it means no more hurricanes (at least not this year – I hope you are all doing OK and fared well through the recent storms).

As welcome as this autumn chill may be, it also means that peak cold and flu season is upon us. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says that peak flu season is usually between late November and early March. Each year, we all battle it – the kids fight it off at school, you steer clear of handles and germy phones at work…but, nonetheless, between 5% and 20% of Americans will get the flu this year and more than 200,000 will be hospitalized for seasonal flu symptoms.

Many doctors and the CDC recommend that you get a flu vaccine, especially if you are very young, older than 60 or already susceptible to the flu due to any other conditions or illnesses. Many of my patients take this route.

Still, for those that do get a flu vaccination as well as for those that choose not to, Traditional Chinese Medicine and acupuncture can be great ways to keep your immune system strong and hold the seasonal flu at bay.

Here are my tips for using making it through flu season happy and healthy:

Drink plenty of fluids – water is best. Your body needs to stay clean and if there is any virus working its way into your system, flushing it out with plenty of water will help. Also, if you do catch a cold or are battling the flu, staying hydrated will help combat any fever.

Keep moving – this is more a preventative tip, but remember that a healthy body is less likely to succumb to colds and flu. Even if you only walk 20 minutes every day, keeping your body moving and your system in good shape is the best way to stave off illness. (And it’s great for stress, muscle tone and weight loss, too!)

Acupuncture can help – rebalancing the body’s energy and regulating your Qi will help stimulate the immune system, which can help fight off colds and the flu virus.

Eat (and drink) well – a balanced, healthy diet will keep you body fueled and provide you with critical vitamins and minerals that can protect against colds and flu. Here are some great foods to eat to keep your body strong against the flu:

  • Apples are great for the digestion and can also be cooked. They really help to keep the lungs moist.
  • Pears help stop coughs and aid the body in the expulsion of phlegm and heat in the lungs.
  • Aged tangerine peel in Chinese medicine is known as chen pi and is one of the most commonly used Chinese herbs. It helps expel excess phlegm and mucus, as well as harmonize digestive complains such as nausea and vomiting to prevent illness.
  • The inner bark of cinnamon is known as Rou Gui. This commonly used spice is very warming and is effective if your ailment includes a feeling of cold or cold with shivering. I also offer patients ready-made and customized herbal medicines that can be used during flu season to prevent illness.

So, follow these tips to avoid the autumn flu season and stay healthy.


And, enjoy the last few days of this crisp fall air…it will be winter before you know it!



Here are some additional resources that may be interesting and helpful: article on acupuncture and the flu article about herbal treatments for colds and flu article outlines Top 10 Foods to Eat to Avoid the Flu


Ahhhh-choo! Acupuncture and Seasonal Allergies

Friday, April 20th, 2012 by Sharon Sherman


acupuncture helps seasonal allergies

chinese medicine helps seasonal allergies

Ahhh…daffodils, robins and budding trees. It’s spring! We must rejoice…right? Well, most of us will happily greet this warming up and greening of our surroundings, however for the 35 million Americans that suffer from seasonal allergy symptoms like sneezing, runny nose and dry or itchy eyes, the welcome is far more reluctant. And, this year, it’s even worse. Our very mild winter and early warm temperatures mean an earlier bloom for many flowers, plants and trees, which – you guessed it – can mean earlier and increased amounts of pollen and more seasonal allergies. In fact, CBS 2 in Chicago just did an interesting segment on what this year’s early spring means for allergy sufferers – you can see it here. So, what’s a spring-lover to do? Well, acupuncture could be the answer. Acupuncture has been shown to be a safe and effective way to combat the symptoms of seasonal allergies. In 2004, a study published by Allergy: European Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology showed that patients treated with acupuncture for six weeks and given a Chinese herbal medicine formula to take daily saw improvement in their allergy symptoms, higher energy levels and improved emotional well-being. The study was covered, along with tips about how acupuncture can be used to treat allergies in this Seattle Post-Intelligencer article. In acupuncture, there are seven key pressure points that can help bring relief to seasonal allergy sufferers. By focusing on these points, an acupuncturist can help relieve and reduce symptoms like runny nose and sinus pain or headache. Six of these points are found on your face and the seventh is on your left foot. To get started, you can even stimulate these pressure points on your own – here’s a recent Huffington Post health blog post that tells you how. Chinese herbal treatments can also help. I have worked with patients for years to not only treat the symptoms of their seasonal allergies – which in Traditional Chinese Medicine are sometimes referred to as the “branches” – but also to strengthen their overall systems throughout the year – or the “root”. Herbs that can be used for seasonal allergies include butterbur, which is known in Chinese herbal medicine as ping hua feng dou cai and was featured in a recent paper in British Medical Journal. The study showed that butterbur, when taken four times daily, can be just as effective as antihistamine drugs in controlling hay fever symptoms, but without a drowsiness side effect. Other Chinese herbal medicinals used to treat seasonal allergies include Cocklebur Fruit, or cang er zi, and Angelica Root, also known as bai zhi. Now, go enjoy this glorious weather!

Acupuncture & Your Immune System

Thursday, March 31st, 2011 by Sharon Sherman

acupuncture can help strengthen the immune system

As you may know, acupuncture has been in use for more than 2,000 years – and over a decade here at Empirical Point in Philadelphia – and is more and more being used for the treatment of common conditions and ailments like stress, pain and immune system disorders. When the immune system is overstimulated, your body reacts (as in a seasonal allergy reaction) and can be calmed by acupuncture. At the other end of the immunity continuum, you have a weakened immune system. Several important recent studies show that acupuncture is an effective treatment for patients looking to address this weakened state and strengthen their immune systems.

When it comes to cancer and the immune system, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) has cited numerous preclinical studies that suggest that acupuncture can reduce vomiting caused by chemotherapy and may help the immune system be stronger during chemotherapy. The NCI has also highlighted animal studies that support the use of electroacupuncture to relieve cancer pain and that additional preclinical research has examined how acupuncture works for cancer treatment, including the role of acupuncture in stimulating immune functions. The NCI also talks about human studies and the effect of acupuncture on cancer patients, saying that it has “shown that it changes immune system response” and “boosts immune system activity.” also provides patients with information about managing their cancer and states that “researchers propose that acupuncture stimulates the nervous system to release natural painkillers and immune system cells. They then travel to weakened areas of the body and relieve symptoms.” In addition to this immune system response, outlines that recent studies show that acupuncture may help fight fatigue, control hot flashes, help decrease nausea, reduce vomiting and lessen pain.

Additionally, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), a part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), supports acupuncture research by neuroscientists at Harvard Medical School, that has shown “physiological effects – changes in the brain’s pain centers – with acupuncture…gene expression and molecular changes in the nervous and immune systems.”

There is a growing wealth of research and data pointing to the real and significant impact of acupuncture on the immune system. Here at my practice, I see patients from all over the Philadelphia region who are also seeing these benefits. This increase in measurable effect along with the growing use of acupuncture and Chinese Medicine could translate into broader acceptance of this centuries-old practice in the future.

Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine: Treating Your Overstimulated Immune System & Seasonal Environmental Allergies

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011 by Sharon Sherman
seasonal allergies

spring pollen can cause allergies

As the seasons change here in Philadelphia, we get to experience the beautiful buds of spring or the gorgeous foliage of the fall…but, many of us also get to experience seasonal allergies. It’s estimated that more than 35 million Americans suffer from sneezing, wheezing, runny nose and itchy, watery and red eyes each year as pollen from trees, flowers, grass and plants circulates in the seasonal breezes. The impact is especially significant here in the Philadelphia area where we experience seasonal temperature swings and the oh-so-familiar yellow pollen dustings.

As you may know, acupuncture has long been used to bolster and regulate the immune system, including this reaction to seasonal environmental allergies. In fact, in a research study of 26 hay fever patients published in the American Journal of Chinese Medicine, acupuncture was able to reduce allergy symptoms in all 26 patients without damaging side effects. Another study of about 70 patients showed that symptoms could be totally eliminated in more than half of the patients, with just two acupuncture treatments.

In an interview with the website WebMD, Dr. James Dillard, clinical advisor to Columbia University’s Rosenthal Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine and assistant clinical professor at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, says “Acupuncture can be particularly useful if you are suffering from multiple allergies, since it works to quiet the areas of the immune system that are overstimulated by exposure to multiple irritating factors.”

I see many patients from all over the Philadelphia region suffering from seasonal allergies here at Empirical Point. Using a customized regimen of acupuncture and Chinese herbs, we are able to work together – these patients and I – to tailor a treatment that can have an important health impact and bring much-needed relief. For example, the use of Chinese herbs as an internal medicinal intervention, when prescribed correctly, is a great way to start to move the chronic congestion or relieve a runny nose. Most of the herbs used for this condition are generally antibacterial and anti-inflammatory to help shrink the swelling in the nasal passages and to eliminate mucus and phlegm. Depending on the severity of the congestion I have also successfully used herbal nasal drops to help drive out more stubborn presentations. You may not know this, but while acupuncture is used to address the local symptoms, I also use it to work to correct the underlying imbalance that causes a patient’s immune system to trigger an inappropriate over-reaction to our outdoor environment

So, as spring approaches, please do take a few moments to savor the warmer breezes and to stop and smell the flowers…but, if seasonal allergies make you sneezy and wheezy this time of year, you may want to plan on a consultation or treatment soon!

Alternative Medicine – Not So Alternative Anymore…

Thursday, February 17th, 2011 by Sharon Sherman
Acupuncture and Chinese medicine are health alternatives

Alternative medicine, acupuncture and Chinese medicine are gaining popularity

While it may be seen as a new or “alternative” medicine in the United States, Chinese Medicine is actually one of the oldest complete medical systems practiced today. In fact, acupuncture – a part of Chinese Medicine – has been in use for over 2,000 years and is one of the most commonly used medical procedures worldwide. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 80% of people rely on alternative medicine for their primary care in many Asian and African nations and that in many developed nations, 70-80% of people have used alternative medicine.

And, the use of alternative medicine is growing here in the U.S., becoming more of a complement to traditional Western medical treatments, and making it not so “alternative” anymore…

In fact, studies conducted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), USA Today, ABC News and Stanford University all point to increasing numbers of Americans using acupuncture and Chinese Medicine. The most recent CDC study found that nearly 3.3 million U.S. adults and children had used acupuncture in the previous year. Additionally, a 2005 USA Today/ABC News/Stanford University Medical Center poll found that 5% of American adults have turned to acupuncture for pain relief.

Even the U.S. military is bringing alternative medicine into the mainstream of its medical services and treatments – the U.S. Army recently announced a program utilizing acupuncture to treat post traumatic stress disorder in soldiers and a recent Army pain management report recommended alternative medicine treatments like acupuncture, mediation and yoga.

In another illustration of how acupuncture and Chinese Medicine are taking hold and being evaluated as not-so-alternative medical treatments, the NIH’s National Center for Complementary & Alternative Medicine is currently recruiting for nearly 100 clinical trials evaluating alternative medicine as a safe and effective treatment for ailments and diseases ranging from back pain to autoimmune disorders.

The good news is, to meet this growing demand, there are more practitioners of acupuncture and Chinese Medicine than ever before. A study published in the Annals of Family Medicine journal in 2005 cites that there are now more than 50 acupuncture schools accredited in the U.S. and that 42 states have statutes that allow the practice of acupuncture by nonphysicians.

So, it may be that in another few years, “alternative” medicine has a new not-so-alternative name…

Empirical Point Chinese Medicine & Acupuncture Practice Launches “Healthy New Year 2011”

Thursday, February 3rd, 2011 by Sharon Sherman
Chinese New Year  - Year of the Rabbit

Staying healthy with acupuncture and Chinese medicine

Empirical Point, LLC, a leading Philadelphia Chinese Medicine and acupuncture practice, today announced the launch of its “Healthy New Year 2011” campaign, designed to give patients more hands-on information and real-world tips about how to live healthier in the new year. This new program is kicking off today, the first day of the Chinese New Year, with a series of online information and news. More information can be found at

“The new year usually brings with resolutions and promises to improve our health. It also brings a renewed commitment to living well and living healthy,” stated Sharon Sherman, M.S.O.M., D.OM., L.OM and founder of Empirical Point. “Empirical Point was founded to deliver on that commitment – to provide patients with a Chinese medicine and acupuncture practice dedicated to improving their health. I don’t just treat patients. I work with them to get to the root of their ailments and to then map out an interactive and holistic plan to improve their overall well being. This Healthy New Year 2011 program is just one more way for us to provide the latest news and tips to our patients on how to be well.”

The first topic tackled by the Healthy New Year 2011 program is “Alternative Medicine – Not So Alternative Anymore” which will look at the growing use and success of alternative medicine in the U.S. While Chinese Medicine and acupuncture have been used for thousands of years, they are just now really taking hold in many Western cultures as effective medical treatments. Through the Empirical Point website, blog and social media and events at our offices, the practice will explore and offer up information about the growth of alternative medicine – and how it may be helpful for patients who may have not yet considered it for common conditions like stress or chronic pain.

The Healthy New Year 2011 campaign will go on to address the following topics later this year:

• Pain – How to Address and Relieve it with Chinese Medicine

• Building a Strong Immune System…and a Stronger You

• Stressed?  How to Relieve Anxiety and Be at your Best

About Chinese Medicine & Acupuncture

Chinese Medicine is one of the oldest complete medical systems practiced today – encompassing acupuncture, Chinese herbs, nutrition and other modalities – and is recognized as an effective, empirical science. Acupuncture has been in use for over 2,000 years, and is one of the most commonly used medical procedures worldwide. Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture are regularly used to safely and effectively treat a wide range of health challenges, especially the treatment of acute and chronic pain management. Today, the use of and demand for acupuncture and Oriental Medicine is increasing in the United States. Recent reports conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), USA Today, ABC News and Stanford University all point to increasing numbers of Americans using acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. The most recent CDC study found that nearly 3.3 million U.S. adults and children had used acupuncture in the previous year.

About Empirical Point, LLC

Empirical Point’s overarching mission is to empower patients and to optimize their health and well being. Using her extensive Chinese Medicine and acupuncture training and expertise, founder Sharon Sherman has been treating patients and growing the practice steadily since 2001. Ms. Sherman has the highest level of licensure possible – an achievement rivaled by only 8% of her peers in Pennsylvania – and has logged more education and continuing education hours than the vast majority of other practitioners. Ms. Sherman is also licensed in New Mexico, which has one of the most arduous licensure processes in the U.S. Empirical Point welcomes patients at its Center City and Chestnut Hill offices in Philadelphia. For more information, please visit

Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine during Cold and Flu Season

Sunday, January 3rd, 2010 by Sharon Sherman
traditional Chinese medicine for cold and flu

traditional Chinese medicine for cold and flu

Cold and Flu is a hot topic in the acupuncture office this time of year.  Western medicine attributes cold and flu symptoms to viral infection, while practitioners of acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine take a holistic view.   Instead of blaming cold and flu symptoms solely on rhinovirus and influenza, Traditional Chinese Medicine considers unfriendly environmental influences the first in a series of factors responsible for the dreaded aches, sniffles, coughs and sneezes characteristic of cold and flu.

Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine helps prevent cold and flu by balancing the body, resulting in a stronger immune system or wei qi.  Wei qi can be thought of as our protective outer wrapper; when we are robust and healthy, it is consolidated, flexible and able to keep external pathogens from penetrating our system.  Various seasonal stressors can stretch wei qi inappropriately thin, allowing pathogens entry into the body.

In addition to professional acupuncture treatment, there are many herbal allies in the Traditional Chinese Medicine Materia Medica that have strong but safe action against cold and flu.   Easy early-onset preventative:  cook one ounce of fresh sliced ginger and two or three scallion bulbs in water for 5 minutes – drink the liquid until you feel a slight sweat at the nape of the neck.  About 2 cups total should be sufficient.  If the onset is very recent, often this will coax the illness out.

Beyond recovery, regular visits to your practitioner of acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine will help prevent new infection.  Both acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine will strengthen the immune system and wei qi so that subsequent seasons should be less eventful.