No Drugs for Back Pain, New Guidelines Say
The American College of Physicians says to use natural and alternative therapies first, such as acupuncture.
Acupuncture for back pain, not "alternative" anymore, but first line of treatment.
No Drugs for Back Pain, New Guidelines Say
The American College of Physicians says to use natural and alternative therapies first, such as acupuncture.
A recent article in Time magazine (1) announced that the world-famous Cleveland Clinic in Ohio has integrated Chinese Herbal Medicine into its patient treatments (2). Why, you may ask? There are many reasons for using Chinese Herbal Medicine in treatment protocols and some of them include:
- To offer treatments for which there is no Western Pharmaceutical treatment available
- To be able to customize treatments for complex diseases, especially when there is more than one disease involved
- To offer safer alternatives with no to minimal side effects
- To augment pharmaceutical treatments
Chinese Herbal Medicine is as old as acupuncture and is a sophisticated system of customized treatment. It looks at each patient individually and takes into account one’s constitution, disease presentation and accompanying symptoms. There are thousands of known Chinese herbal formulas and the ability to customize them to individual patients is something that cannot be achieved with pharmaceutical drugs.
As with acupuncture, Chinese Herbal medicine works best as a first line of treatment and in the early stages of a disease. It is also helpful in chronic conditions for which the body needs external support and for some conditions it provides answers when there is no effective Western treatment available.
There are several forms in which Chinese Herbal preparations can be taken:
- Decoctions (dry herbs are boiled and drank as a tea) – this is one of the traditional ways of taking Chinese Herbs and is often the most effective (the downside is that preparation is necessary and sometimes the tea has an unusual taste)
- Herbal granules - this is a modern invention where decoctions of individual herbs are put on a base of maltodextrin (potato starch) and dried. They can be mixed to create custom formulas.
- Tinctures – alcoholic or water-based tinctures of single herbs or formulas
- Patented Formulas (tablets, capsules, tea pills) – these are either classical formulas or formulas patented by various manufacturers - they are easy to take by patients, but cannot be further customized beyond what is available on the market
So the next time you feel a cold coming on, stop by the office for an appropriate herbal remedy that will help you get over your cold, allergies, ear pain, cough etc. more quickly.
Although very safe when prescribed properly, you should not take Chinese Herbal Medicine without consultation with a Board Certified Chinese Herbalist. Some herbs can produce side effects that can be unpleasant or if the wrong remedy is taken, conditions can worsen. There are also special protocols needed if you are pregnant or nursing, or if you are taking prescription or over-the-counter medication.
To stay healthy, wear weather appropriate clothing (think socks and hats), and get adequate sleep. Avoid salads, smoothies and raw foods in the fall and winter and eat more soups, stews and steamed veggies. Always have some fresh garlic and fresh ginger in your refrigerator and ask your doctor to check your Vitamin D levels (most people are deficient and need to supplement for optimal functioning of the immune system).
Sleep Disturbances and Chinese Medicine
From the vantage point of Chinese Medicine, sleep is one of the cornerstones of good health. As important as the food we eat and the air we breathe, sleep can nourish us, repair damage and return balance. When sleep is disturbed, when inadequate in length or quality, the body will compensate as long as it can, but then it will slowly deteriorate into disease.
It is vital for our health that we leave adequate time for sleep and do not steal time from it for other activities. A few tips for good sleep hygiene can make a tremendous impact on the quality of sleep we experience every night.
Chinese Medicine views sleep disturbances as either a blockage in the normal flow of energy (Qi) in the meridians or as a lack of substances and organ imbalances.
During a typical consultation with a Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner the following questions will be asked:
1. How many hours per night do you sleep?
2. What is your bedtime?
3. Do you have problems falling asleep?
4. Do you have trouble staying asleep?
5. Do you wake up during the night? Is there a specific time that you always seem to wake up?
6. Do you fall back to sleep easily or have troubles and stay up?
7. Do you feel rested when you wake up?
The answers to these questions, together with the rest of your health history, pulse and tongue diagnosis will help formulate a diagnosis. Although insomnia in Western Biomedicine is a catchall term; in Traditional Chinese Medicine it is a much differentiated diagnosis and treatment can be varied depending on the root cause.
Some of the universal points used to calm the nervous system and bring on more parasympathetic dominance (most of us spend most of our time in over-active sympathetic nervous system state) are:
Heart 7 – Shen Men or Spirit gate
Pericardium 6 – Nei Guan or Inner Gate
Lung 9 – Tai Yuan or Great Abyss
Together these 3 points constitute a treatment group that is often referred to as Buddha’s triangle.
Ear Shen Men
Ear Point Zero
Performing acupressure on these points before sleep or whenever you are under stress can bring calmness and relaxation.
Cleveland Clinic Among First In U.S. To Open Hospital-based Chinese Herbal Therapy Clinic
from the www.clevelandclinic.org
Cleveland Clinic Among First In U.S. To Open Hospital-based Chinese Herbal Therapy ClinicWednesday, March 5, 2014
Blending Traditional Approach with Modern Medicine Provides Supplemental Option for Patients’ Care.
Cleveland Clinic has opened a Chinese Herbal Therapy Clinic, one of the first hospital-based herbal clinics in the U.S., to round out its integrative medicine services and provide supplementary options for patients seeking a holistic, natural approach to their care.
“Today’s patients are looking for a medical model that addresses both prevention and treatment of chronic disease using natural approaches in combination with Western medicine,” said Melissa Young, M.D., internist and integrative medicine specialist at the Tanya I. Edwards, M.D. Center for Integrative Medicine, part of Cleveland Clinic’s Wellness Institute.
Changes to Ohio laws in 2012 opened the door for licensed Chinese herbal therapists to legally prescribe custom herb blends and traditional formulas within a clinical practice. The clinical expertise of the herbalist coupled with attentive vigilance from a practicing physician decreases the risk of drug-herb interactions, similar to drug-drug interactions patients experience while taking multiple prescription drugs.
The Chinese Herbal Therapy Clinic offers this new avenue for patients interested in a holistic approach to their care in a safe and effective manner.
“There is a general assumption that ‘natural’ means ‘safe,’” said Jamie Starkey, LAc, lead acupuncturist. “That’s not always the case. As both medical professionals and specialists in Traditional Chinese Medicine, it’s our responsibility to address our patients’ needs, but also prescribe safe, high quality herbs that will be effective and beneficial to their health.”
Prior to state law changes, patients interested in Chinese herbal therapy had to seek out alternative options to fill prescription blends which made them vulnerable to negative side effects.
Requiring physician referrals for Chinese herbal therapy encourages a collaborative effort between the patient’s doctor and herbalist and increases the likelihood of a positive patient experience while using herbs.
While herbal treatment has been used for centuries in China to treat acute and chronic conditions, it has not been widely used in modern practice despite proven benefits. The unique mix of ancient Eastern therapies and present-day medicine is a progressive approach to care.
At the Chinese Herbal Therapy Clinic, herbalists will prescribe blends based on research which has shown that herbs may be used to help manage diabetes, decrease cold/flu symptoms, manage chronic pain, increase energy, improve breathing, digestion, sleep, and menopausal symptoms, and help address menstrual cycles if infertility is an issue.
Herbal therapy is best suited for patients who present multiple, complex symptoms, have exhausted other medical treatment options, need additional therapy to counteract prescribed medications, or are overall interested in integrative preventive medicine.
www.clevelandclinic.org. Follow us atwww.twitter.com/ClevelandClinic.
Please join me for a fun, informative course on Principles of Chinese Nutrition at the Adult School of Montclair 7:30-9pm, Tue Feb 25, Mar 4, Mar 11, 2014. For more info and to register please click here
NEWS: Certified in Mei Zen Cosmetic Acupuncture
I have just finished an amazing certification seminar with Dr. Martha Lucas in Mei Zen Cosmetic Acupuncture protocols. I have learned advanced protocols for cosmetic acupuncture for the face, neck and abdomen. The abdominal protocol doubles up as a fertility enhancing protocol as well. I am looking forward to offering my patients these new protocols. Please check out Mei Zen web page as well as featured stories in The Oprah Magazine and NY Times.
Handout from the 2013 Teal to Pink Fundraiser and Womens' Health Day
· Guiding principles of TCM – Yin and Yang, 5 elements
· 4 basic criteria for energetic food classification – temperature,
flavor, organ network and direction of
· 5 elements correspond to 5 seasons –Wood – Spring, Fire – Summer, Earth – late Summer, Metal – Autumn, Water – Winter
· Temperature of foods: hot, warm, neutral, cool and cold
· Flavor of foods: sweet, acrid, sour, bitter, salty
· Organ networks – Liver & Gallbladder, Heart & Small Intestine, Triple Warmer (San Jiao) & Pericardium, Spleen & Stomach,
Lung & Large Intestine, Kidney & Urinary Bladder
· Direction of movement – upbearing, floating, downbearing and
· Wood – Spring – Liver & Gall bladder, upward and out movement, sour taste
· Fire – Summer – Heart & Small Intestine, Pericardium &
Triple Warmer (San Jiao, upward, bitter taste
· Earth - Late Summer – Spleen & Stomach, in and out movement,
· Metal – Fall – Lung & Large Intestine, inward movement,
pungent (acrid) taste
· Water – Winter – Kidney & Urinary Bladder, inward and down
movement, salty taste
· Ideal food combining is having all 5 tastes and temperature
according to the season and person’s constitution
· Cancers can be hot or cold as well cancer treatments. Most cancer treatments produce heat in the body and require cooling foods to counteract ill effects thus juicing and raw vegetables are
· However if digestion is weakened then foods that support Spleen
& Stomach are important to restore appetite as well as more cooked foods
· Role of mushrooms in cancer treatment and prevention
Some species of medicinal mushrooms are listed here:
· Chaga, Inonotus oliquus (Birch mushroom)
· Cordyceps, Cordyceps sinensis (Cordyceps)
· Coriolus, Trametes versicolor (Turkey tail)
· Himematsutake, Agaricus blazei (Royal sun agricus)
· Maitake, Sclerotum grifola frondosa (Cloud mushroom)
· Poria, Poria cocos (Indian bread, Holen)
· Reishi, Sclerotum ganodermae (Mushroom of immortality)
· Shiitake, Lentinula edodes (Flower mushroom)
· Tremella, Tremella fuciformis (Snow fungus, White wood ear)
Spring and summer are usually times of increased physical activity, and with that, the risk and frequency of sports-related injuries are also increased. Twisted ankles, torn ligaments, shin splits or simple bruises can all be successfully treated with acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) herbal remedies. If the place of injury is too painful or inflamed and cannot be needled, the opposite part of the body is used as a
mirror. This is effective because acupuncture meridians are bilateral (except 2 that run front and back midline of the body) so the meridian on the other side of the body can be needled to affect the change in both. Acupuncture is also very useful after surgery (knee, shoulder) or broken bones (1, 2). It reduces
recovery time and speeds up the healing (3).
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, pain is understood to be a product of energy not moving (qi stagnation) that is sometimes coupled with blood stagnation. With acupuncture treatment we remove energy stagnation, which in turn moves blood, lymph and other fluids resulting in pain elimination and tissue healing. There are several topical preparations of TCM herbs that help greatly with any physical injury or trauma.
For example, when my son was fiveyears old he ran into a metal bar on the playground after school. He quickly developed a bruise on his forehead that started to “egg”. It was literally swelling into an egg shaped growth on his forehead. After applying an essential oil blend immediately at the playground; at home I soaked a cotton ball with a traditional TCM liniment for bruises and applied this directly to the bruise. After about half an hour the swelling was starting to subside and it was completely gone within a few hours. He still had a slightly sore spot there for several days, but there was no black and blue bruise and certainly no “egg”
on his forehead. This trauma liniment is great for any bruise, twisted ankles or any joint/soft tissue injury.
There are also TCM herbal remedies that can be taken internally,
or that can be used internally and externally for acute trauma, sore or tight muscles, muscle knots, deep body pains and more.
One thing that I always have in my purse is a small vial of Arnica (200C potency), a homeopathic remedy for any fall, bruise, shock or trauma. Consequently, homeopathic Arnica gel is great for pain and bruises and Calendula gel is excellent for burns and cuts.
I hope that your summer will be injury-free, but in case you need
help I am only a phone call away.
Wishing you a happy summer,
As the winter is winding down, most people can’t wait for the spring to start. Unfortunately for some, spring and autumn are two dreaded seasons filled with swollen eyes, nasal congestion,
sneezing and fatigue. If you or someone you love suffers from seasonal allergies, hay fever or allergic rhinitis, then you know what I am talking about. Acupuncture is very effective in addressing these issues and will treat the root of the problem – your imbalanced immune system. In one randomized controlled trial of 238 participants, patients in the active acupuncture group
experienced a statistically significant reduction of symptoms of allergic rhinitis (1). Another controlled randomized trial of 5237 participants concluded that treating patients with allergic rhinitis with acupuncture in addition to standard medication leads to better outcomes in the acupuncture group with
persistent clinical benefits (2).
This is the ideal time to start treatments, about 8 weeks before the start of the allergy season. Once the season has started, acupuncture can mitigate some of the symptoms, but it will
not be as effective as if you start treatments preventatively. As always, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) works best when used as a prevention, to keep your body in tip-top shape so disease has no chance to take hold.
One of my teachers, Jeffrey Yuen (3), related once a story that in ancient times, doctors in China were paid to keep the villagers healthy with preventive medicine. Once someone got ill, the payments would stop until that person got better. Those doctors certainly had an incentive to keep their patients healthy!
To go back to our topic of seasonal allergies, clinical experience shows that many patients find that seasonal tune-ups with intensive treatments (with some maintenance treatments in between) provide much needed relief. After several seasons of treatments their allergies either disappear or are manageable without medication (4,5). The usual course would consist of 6-8
weeks of bi-weekly treatments, followed by one treatment every 3-4 weeks.
In addition to acupuncture, many patients find that use of essential oils and neti pots helps in reducing symptoms. Neti pots are an ancient tradition of rinsing nasal passages with salty water. Daily rinsing helps remove mucus and offending allergens and the patient can breath better. If using neti pots you would want to use either boiled or distilled water (there were 2 incidences of fatal brain infection due to the use of neti pots with contaminated tap water). For salt use non-iodized sea salt, 1/4 teaspoon for 1 cup of water.
It is important to reduce or eliminate dairy, peanuts, citrus and fried foods as they all tend to produce mucus in the body.
According to the ancient Chinese, we are already in spring season
since the Lunar New Year was Feb 10, 2013. Spring belongs to the Wood element and the liver and gall bladder organs. The color of Wood is green/blue-green and it’s taste is sour – a perfect time to do some liver cleanse and include some sour foods in your diet. One of the easiest ways to make sure your liver is in good shape is to start every morning with a glass of warm water with a squeeze of lemon first thing upon waking up. This helps with the liver detoxification and helps with bile secretion.
P.S. Stay tuned for our next newsletter topic - Acupuncture and Chinese herbs for traumatic injuries (sprained ankles, broken bones, shin-splits etc.)
Wood Element Supporting Recipe: Spinach or Swiss Chard with Mango Salsa
Spinach has a special affinity for the Liver meridian and organ in TCM and thus it is well suited to be eaten in spring time. It is often
one of the first fresh vegetables available at the farmer’s market. You can substitute Swiss chard, Lacinato Kale or even Mustard Greens. Mango salsa is tangy, sour and pungent and supports liver function. Cilantro is a great liver detoxifier. It is a great way to get kids to eat greens as the slight bitterness of the greens is masked by the sweetness of the salsa.
Ingredients: (serves 2-4)
2 bunches of Swiss
chard or a large box of baby spinach
1-2 garlic cloves
2 springs of spring
1/2 bunch of cilantro
juice of 1/2 lemon
juice of 1/2
1/2 lb of frozen mango chunks
4 tbs olive oil
Take mango chunks from the freezer and let them sit at room
temperature for about 30 minutes. Wash Swiss chard and tear or chop into small pieces; discard the bottom of stalks if they are very thick and fibrous. You can either steam or sauté Swiss chard. If sautéing, heat some olive oil over medium heat, add one clove of chopped garlic and sauté the chard until wilted, about 5-10 minutes (only 5 min for baby spinach), stirring frequently; season with a bit of salt and pepper. Set aside. Prepare mango salsa by chopping partially frozen mango chunks into smaller pieces (if they defrost all the way, they get soft and are harder to chop). Add finely chopped cilantro, spring onion and garlic (best to use a garlic press), about 1/4 teaspoon of salt, some pepper, juice of 1/2 lemon and 1/2 orange and about 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Mix well. Serve over spinach or Swiss chard. Salsa will keep well in the refrigerator for several days. Enjoy!
Did you know that Chinese Medicine (acupuncture, herbal preparations and other treatments) can help you stay healthy and fend off colds this season? A lot of people don’t think about acupuncture as a treatment for colds, flu and sore throat but in fact it can be very effective especially if you come in for a treatment early and the illness is not far advanced. Acupuncture will move energy and pathogens out, cupping will relieve body aches and pull pathogens to the surface so the body can expel them better. Moxibustion will warm the meridians and activate acupuncture points.
Some simple things to do at home to stay healthy: Avoid eating raw foods (salads and such). Avoid drinking drinks straight out of the refrigerator (if you wonder why – the research has shown that in cold temperatures white blood cells are less active and thus less
able to fight the intruders. Cold drinks and foods also impair digestion as our body needs to work that much harder to bring them to 98F). Take vitamin C and D3 supplements (ask your doctor to check your vitamin D levels, most people
are very low and require heavy supplementation). Drink ginger and cinnamon tea and sleep enough. Your immune system is in repair mode while you sleep, thus it is important to have adequate rest every night. If you have trouble falling asleep, a very hot (as much as you can tolerate it) foot bath with some ginger slices is a great remedy for insomnia. Soak your feet for about 20 min and then immediately go to bed.
It is a good idea to stay away from too much dairy especially if you are prone to mucus formation; and, of course, consume sugar
sparingly! If you have a sore throat, a great remedy is a raw honey and lemon tea, in my home we also like Thieves oil spray or gurgling with salt water.
There are great Loquat or Honeysuckle lozenges that can be bought in Chinatown or online that are excellent for a sore throat.
Homeopathic remedies, although not from the Chinese Medicine tradition, that are of great help are RoxaliaTM for sore throat, Cold CalmTM for cold, and OscillococcinumTM for flu. Homeopathic remedies are safe for even the smallest children and are energetic medicines, similar to Chinese Medicine.
A simple miso (made with scallions) or chicken soup is great for colds or flu, or whenever you need nourishment.
I hope that these tips for self-care will help you stay healthy this winter season and if you have any questions please free to leave a comment.
P.S. Stay tuned for our next newsletter topic - Seasonal Allergies and Chinese Medicine
Try something new:
Congee is a thin rice soup, much like a porridge, cooked over several hours. It can be sweet (very slightly) or savory and usually eaten for breakfast. Try it instead of oatmeal or cereal for breakfast. This congee is meant to
warm the body, replenish fluids and preserve yin of the body and moisten lungs as they are often injured by cold, dry winter weather.
White organic rice
(best is sushi or other short grain rice) 1 cup
Filtered water 10 cups
Solomon seal root – Yuan Zhi - 1 small handful
Lily bulb – Bai He - 1 small handful
Red Chinese dates – Da Zao - 10 dates
Licorice root – Gan Cao - 1-2 slices
Lotus seed – Lian Zi - 1 handful
Cardamom - 1 tsp
Cinnamon - 1 tsp
Nutmeg - 1/2 tsp
Organic raw honey - 1 tbs
Organic brown sugar - 1 tbs
Preparation: wash rice with a cold water, put it in a pot with
thick bottom and add water, bring to boil and then turn heat to low. Add remaining ingredients except sugar and honey and cook for 2 hours stirring every 10 minutes or so. At the end add honey and sugar. Rice needs to be cooked so well that all the grains are broken up. You can get all the ingredients in Chinese/Asian grocery stores. Congee will keep in the refrigerator for several
days and can be re-heated on the stove. Enjoy!
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Herbal Medicine LLC, All rights reserved.