Posts filed under ‘About Chinese Medicine’

9 Ways to Boost Your Immunity

Fall is always the time of year when colds and flu begin to spread; but this year, thanks to the infamous swine flu, it’s being talked about more than ever. The whole thing may be overblown, but it’s certainly a good year to take care of your health.

Chinese medicine has a lot to offer in terms of immunity and prevention (in large part because of the history of terrible plagues in China when the medicine was being developed). If you are concerned about your immune functioning, consider using acupuncture and herbal treatments to boost your resistance. And, try the suggestions below to keep your body’s natural defenses going strong:

  1. Cut back on sugar, especially refined sugars: studies show that immune functioning is compromised for up to 5 hours after consuming even a small amount of sugar – in part because it interferes with the absorption of Vitamin C.
  2. Take Vitamin C. Vitamin C is an essential nutrient for immune functioning, and helps you fight off colds and flu. Foods high in vitamin C include parsley, green leafy vegetables, broccoli, cauliflower, and red peppers. You can also take a multivitamin or Vitamin C supplement.
  3. Get enough sleep. It goes without saying that our resistance is higher when we are well rested. It’s easy to compromise on sleep when we have a lot to do, but it’s really worth it to prioritize your rest so you can stay healthy. Plus, life is a lot easier and more fun when you’re not sleep-deprived!
  4. Eat root vegetables and other immune-boosting foods. In Chinese dietary theory, root vegetables are strengthening to the lungs and therefore to your immunity. Try roasting sweet potatoes, beets, carrots, parsnips and onions; or make a fall root vegetable stew. Other good foods for your immune system: cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower), garlic, onions, and leafy greens.
  5. Wash your hands, well and often. This means using soap, getting a good lather, and washing the front and back of your hands, wrists, and between your fingers. You should wash for 20 seconds- about as long as it takes to sing “Happy Birthday”! And, skip the antibacterial soap – it’s useless against viruses, and bad for the environment.
  6. Call in sick when you’re sick and encourage colleagues to do the same. (If the swine flu scare does nothing else, perhaps it will counteract the ridiculous idea that it’s responsible to come to work when you’re not feeling well).
  7. Cover your neck. According to Chinese medicine, illnesses invade through the back of the neck, which is often left uncovered. It is particularly vulnerable if you’ve been hot or sweaty, or if it’s windy or drafty. Wearing a turtleneck or scarf helps keep you protected.
  8. Sleep with a humidifier. The air, both outside and inside, gets drier this time of year, which can dry out the mucus membranes in your nose and throat. This causes tiny cracks to form, giving germs easy access to your bloodstream.
  9. Take immune-boosting herbs. If you have a compromised immune system, or a history of catching colds easily, consider taking a Chinese herbal immune formula during flu season. The most famous of these is “Jade Windscreen Powder”, a classical formula with three very gentle ingredients (it’s often given to children). It helps boost the “wei qi”, which is the energy that circulates on the surface of the body and prevents illness from invading. Talk to your acupuncturist if you’d like to get started!

October 6, 2009 at 9:06 pm Leave a comment

Chinese Medicine and Stress

It’s official. A recent survey by the American Psychological Association found that 80% of Americans are stressed about the economy, 60% are angry about it, and 52% are having trouble sleeping.

It’s not news that most of us are stressed out about the economic situation. But these numbers suggest a serious health concern. In the West, we tend to take stress for granted. We are used to being under pressure, and we often think about stress as a kind of unimportant background noise, or as something that is inevitable and therefore acceptable. Or worse, we may see it as a sign of our virtue or importance. It’s quite common to hear people actually brag about how busy and stressed out they are.

Chinese medicine views stress as a very important health issue. The physical and mental tension that accompanies stress inhibits the flow of qi, or energy, causing body systems not to work properly. Stress in Chinese medicine is considered to be the source of many diseases, and to complicate and aggravate any existing imbalance or poor health.

The American Institute of Stress has estimated that 75-90 percent of visits to primary care physicians are for stress-related problems. In my opinion, Chinese medicine’s success as a preventative medicine is largely due to its effectiveness in reducing stress and its impact on the body.

Of course there is always stress in life. If you are participating in the world, and stretching your limits at all, there will be some stress, and that’s a good thing. But if it’s affecting sleep, appetite, mood, relationships, pain level, or the frequency or severity of symptoms like headaches, asthma attacks, or digestive problems, then it’s not just unpleasant, it’s important to address. See below for a few suggestions!

First Aid for Stress

Here are some suggestions from Chinese medicine to help reduce your stress level and maintain balance.

  1. Get regular acupuncture treatments, especially if you feel stress affecting you mentally or physically.  It’s easier (and takes fewer treatments) to prevent stress-related health problems than to wait until they really take hold. And, it will make you feel more relaxed and balanced throughout the week.
  2. Do acupressure on yourself, or with a friend.  Your acupuncturist can show you some pressure points to do at home to help extend the effects of your treatment (there are also many books available on this subject).  One good point for stress is Liver 3.  For instructions on using this point, look on this blog under “emotional health and sleep” for a post entitled Acupressure for Stress.
  3. Chinese herbal medicine can also be a good support.  There are some great formulas for reducing stress, depending on your constitution and how stress affects you.  The most famous is named Xiao Yao Wan, or “the Free and Easy Wanderer”, because it releases your spirit from tension and allows you to roam happily through the world.  Most of these formulas are available in pill form, so they are easy to take and inexpensive. Ask your practitioner for suggestions.
  4. Exercise. I know, I say this all the time.  But it’s one of the best things you can do to blow off steam, promote relaxation, and help your body and mind stay balanced.  Often exercise is the thing we cut out when our schedule gets tight.  Make it a priority, even if it’s just fitting in a short walk or dancing around the kitchen!
  5. Maintain some kind of balance between action and allowing.  It’s tempting to think we should eliminate our stress by fixing whatever it is we’re stressed out about.  I’m all for constructive action, but it needs to be balanced with relaxation and self-care, or it becomes yet another source of pressure.  Some things we can’t fix by ourselves (the economy, for example), and other things take quite a bit of time to change even with our good efforts.  In the meantime, it’s actually more important to accept how things are at the moment and be kind to ourselves in the midst of it.
  6. Do things that make you happy. Anything you enjoy will help get your energy flowing.  Spend time with people you love; eat your favorite foods; go dancing or hiking; get a massage; see a funny move; you get the idea!

March 8, 2009 at 9:08 am 1 comment

How to Get the Most from Your Acupuncture Treatments

As many of you know, getting acupuncture treatment can be a wonderful investment in your quality of life and long-term health.  People who get acupuncture often report better energy and emotional balance, a stronger immune system, and less susceptibility to stress, along with relief from specific symptoms.

In general, those who get the most benefit from acupuncture are people who cultivate balance and health in their daily lives, and are willing to make changes that reinforce the effects of acupuncture treatment. During these times, especially, all of us are concerned with using our money and time efficiently and wisely.  To that end, there are definitely things you can do to make your acupuncture treatment more effective and make sure you are getting the most out of each session. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Commit to a full course of treatment.Acupuncture has a cumulative effect; in order to achieve lasting health effects, treatment needs to be consistent for a period of time.  Acupuncture sessions should be frequent enough that symptoms don’t backslide a lot between meetings, and treatment should last until the underlying causes have been corrected.  Following these guidelines will ultimately get you the best, most lasting, and most cost-effective results.  You and your acupuncturist can discuss the best schedule for you, taking into account your condition, health goals, budget, and time constraints.
  2. Pay attention to your day-to-day health and let your acupuncturist know how you are doing. It can help to keep a log of symptoms if it’s hard to remember. This helps your practitioner assess progress and fine-tune your treatments for maximum effectiveness.
  3. If herbs are prescribed, make a commitment to take them on a regular schedule. If you have questions or concerns about your Chinese herbs, call your practitioner right away so they can correct any problems and keep you on track.
  4. Make room for relaxation in your life. We live in a very active, busy, and often pressured society; it is hard to maintain any kind of balance between activity and rejuvenation without making a conscious and consistent effort to slow down sometimes.  This balance between yang (activity) and yin (quiet) is a fundamental component of health in Chinese medicine.  Try meditation, yoga, relaxed cooking and eating, listening to music, making art, spending time in nature, or whatever helps you calm and settle your energy.
  5. Get exercise regularly. A major source of health problems, especially in the West, is “qi stagnation” — energy not moving freely and evenly in the body.  Stress, unfortunately, tends to shut down energy flow, and the fact that many of us spend a lot of the day sitting doesn’t help.  Getting your body moving helps restore the normal flow of qi and aids healing.
  6. Commit to making other lifestyle changes as suggested. For example, your acupuncturist may suggest avoiding or eating certain foods, eating on a regular schedule, changes in sleep schedule, or trying to eliminate certain stressors. Recommendations that are tailored to your particular pattern of disharmony will help reinforce the effect of your acupuncture treatments.

I know.  In the context of our daily lives, doing all of these things all the time is a tall order.  You don’t have to be perfect about it, but anything you can do will help your treatments move faster and help you feel better. The big plus is, these are also things that will help you stay healthy when you are done with treatment, and ultimately put you in charge of your own health.

January 9, 2009 at 3:51 pm Leave a comment

What Conditions Can Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine Treat?

 Below is a partial list of conditions that can be successfully treated with Chinese Medicine. 

·        Headache, migraine
·        Back pain, sciatica
·        Carpal tunnel syndrome
·        Knee, hip, ankle, shoulder and elbow pain or injury
·        Fibromyalgia

·        Indigestion, heartburn, ulcer
·        Constipation, diarrhea, gas, irritable bowel
·        Nausea, morning sickness

·        Asthma, bronchitis, sinus infection
·        Colds and flu, cough

·        Depression, anxiety
·        Irritability and tension
·        Insomnia

·        Cramps, irregular periods
·        PMS
·        Menopausal symptoms
·        Infertility

Chinese Medicine is effective for many other conditions, including cardiovascular, urinary, and nervous system issues.  If you have any health concerns not listed here, just ask!

January 24, 2008 at 1:49 am Leave a comment

What is Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine?

Traditional Chinese Medicine, which includes both acupuncture and herbs, is a complete system of medicine that has been practiced for over 3000 years. Today it is widely used in China, Japan, Korea, Europe, and the United States, and is being continuously refined and modernized through the experience and innovations of its many practitioners worldwide. Chinese Medicine is a natural and gentle way to enhance the body’s ability to cope with stress and heal from injury or illness.

Acupuncture works with a complex system of channels in the body called meridians. The energy that flows through these meridians is referred to as Qi (pronounced “chee”). When the Qi is not vigorous, or does not flow, or is not evenly distributed in the body, illness results. Acupuncture corrects this flow by stimulating key points along the channels.

Chinese Herbal formulas are based on a sophisticated system of internal medicine. Prescriptions are developed specifically for each individual, to relieve symptoms and address their underlying causes. Formulas are also designed to predict and minimize the side effects that are common with Western medications.

What is an Acupuncture Treatment Like?

Each session begins with asking a series of questions, including your reasons for seeking treatment, health history and current symptoms. Along with information from reading your pulse and tongue, your answers are used to develop an individual diagnosis and treatment plan.

Treatments usually last about one hour, and involve insertion of acupuncture needles at specific points on the body. These needles are extremely fine and can be inserted painlessly. For your safety, most acupuncturists use only sterilized, single-use, disposable needles. Your treatment may also include non-needle therapies such as heat therapy, massage, or herbs.

Most patients find acupuncture very relaxing, and use it as an opportunity to rest and clear the mind. In addition to relief of specific symptoms, many report an increase in energy, calmness, and overall well-being as a result of treatment.

How does Chinese Herbal Medicine work?

Chinese herbal formulas are prescribed based on the same diagnosis as your acupuncture treatment. Your formula will be individually tailored to your situation, and will be reviewed and updated on a regular basis. Herbal therapy supports your body’s healing process between sessions, and helps acupuncture treatment work more quickly and effectively. Herbs are available in pill, powder, or tea form.

Changes in diet, exercise, or daily habits may also be recommended. These are intended to help you positively affect your own health, and to increase the effectiveness of your acupuncture and herbal treatments.

January 24, 2008 at 1:48 am Leave a comment


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