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Chinese Herbal Medicine

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Acupuncture and pain management

Pain management is one of the most frequently treated complaints in most acupuncture practices. Pain is also the reason most people first decide to try acupuncture, often as a last result. In reality, using acupuncture, herbs and Tuina massage for pain management is one of the best things you can do. For instance, a sprained ankle can benefit greatly from an immediate acupuncture treatment, as well as torn ligaments, muscle strain, and shoulder pain. Back pain is the number on reason for seeing an acupuncture practitioner (check out this study funded by the NCCAOM). I treat a lot of back pain, and have found that the combination of acupuncture, followed by Tuina massage, and cupping or gua sha to be the most effective. Many patients with chronic back pain find relief by using acupuncture along with Chinese Medicine plasters.

My favorites are:

Wu Yang Brand patches, are great for sports injuries, and come in a long plaster meant to be cut and used as needed. These work the best for sprained ankles and knee pain, in my experience.

Yunnan Bai Yao plasters (usually used to stop bleeding, and especially good for bruising and trauma): These are palm-sized patches that can also be used on any joint or bruised spot. I have used these with arthritis patients, a snowboarding patient who hit a tree with his leg and ribs (it immediately helped with the bruising), and knee and foot pain patients.

Salonpas capsicum patches: A larger plaster, meant to cover the low back or a section of the mid back. They can also be cut up and used specifically in sore spots, but I have found that they are most useful when used to help with cold-type back pain (usually a chronic condition.). These heat up very quickly, and remain warm for a while. A great idea for post-surgical and even post-partum back pain.

It's important to test these plasters in case of an allergic reaction, and I don't recommend leaving these on more than 8 hours. As always, it's best to check with your acupuncture practitioner before trying these out.

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Chinese Medicine in Late Summer: Preventing Colds

 

The down time after the summer rush of visiting friends, family and taking vacations, different schedules with a lot of last-minute changes, and the weather differences all make us susceptible to colds. I see a lot of kids and even a few adults who are starting to get colds- we don't realize that even though the amazing summer months are fun and full of freedom, the lack of routine and late summer nights around the fire start to catch up when the summer winds down.

Eating schedules are always different in the summertime, and the abundance of food the warm weather  offered brought so many delicious delights of the garden. However, now is the time to make the switch from green salads with something a little warmer, like a root vegetable side or nourishing soup. Yes- the time for ice cream has passed, my friends. Start thinking about a nice warm fruit crisp for a sweet end of summer treat. The farmers markets are still full of amazing and delicious

Ideas to avoid catching a cold right now:

-Take a supplement- I like Health Concerns Astra C  which includes Astragalus (huang qi), zinc and vitamin C. I recommend this formula for patients who are teachers, frequently fly for work, or have low immune systems. If you already have a cold, Gam Mao Ling is my next favorite patent herb.

-Get regular acupuncture. BEFORE the symptoms start! Acupuncture helps boost your immune system naturally, but if you already have a cold or cold symptoms, it helps the symptoms pass more quickly.

-Keep covered up (use a scarf!), and dress appropriately for the weather.  The mornings and evenings are becoming chilly, so don't forget to keep little ones dressed warmly.

- Be sure to wash your hands after blowing your nose and cover when you cough! Those who are around small children know how fast germs can spread.

Be well and have a wonderful late summer!

 

 

 

 

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Traditional Chinese Medicine in the Winter

Winter has arrived. The weeks of rain, wind, and colder temperatures have notified us that the season is here. Staying indoors and sleeping are more appealing as our bodies try to keep warm, and cravings for certain foods may also be at the forefront of our minds.

In Traditional Chinese medicine, each season has an organ that belongs to it. Winter is the season of th Kidneys, which holds the essence of  our being and the root of our energy. Winter is also the season that has the most "Yin" aspect of Chinese medicine (think of the black side of the Taiji or YinYang symbol).

Yin is dark, movement is slow, and it represents cooler temperatures (in contrast to the Yang summer season, which is light, with more activity and warmth).

If you have an acupuncture treatment in the winter, the practitioner may use moxibustion to warm your cold extremities, low back, or abdomen. Moxibustion is a wonderful way to warm the body slowly, with lasting effects. Your acupuncturist may also recommend herbs to fight off colds, or to help with overeating that often occurs with the holidays.

A book that I often recommmend to patients is "Staying Healthy with the Seasons," by Elson Hass, MD. This book discusses how to eat and exercise with each season and the changes that occur in nature and within our own bodies. In winter, it's best to eat warm foods such as nourishing soups (my favorite is Chinese chicken herbal soup) and hearty stews help our bodies be still and keep warm.

It's also important to keep up with some form of exercise routine, such as yoga, pilates, or your usual gym workouts. Even though we may not be sweating as much, out bodies still need water in this season. After all, it is the season of the Water element...

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Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Chinese Medicine

"]There are an estimated 20 million Americans who suffer from IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), a condition also known as spastic colon, spastic colitis, nervous stomach, and functional bowel disease. If you have ever experienced about of diarrhea before a performance or major exam, or had loose stool during times of stress, then you have experienced what it's like to have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). There is also Lynn Jaffee, LAc, describes the symptoms of IBS on the Acufinder site:

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is labeled a "syndrome" because is involves a group of symptoms that varies for each individual who is affected. It involves abnormal movement of the small and large intestines (which is often referred to as a motility disorder). Symptoms of IBS include abdominal cramping and pain, and constipation and/or diarrhea (often in alternating episodes). IBS may also be accompanied by other gastrointestinal problems, such as gas, bloating, and nausea, and the symptoms are almost always aggravated by stress. Episodes may also be aggravated by eating, and are frequently relieved after a bowel movement.

Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine work very well for for IBS symptoms. There are many techniques we can use to help with the symptoms of IBS, and with regular acupuncture treatments, some lifestyle changes, and an herbal formula made specifically for your constitution (body type), I have seen a lot of success and immense relief of symptoms in those suffering from IBS. Acupuncture is very good in reducing stress, which is a huge trigger for IBS symptoms. By reducing this stress and making changes towards better living, your chances of getting some relief from IBS improve greatly!

Here are a few simple tips to get you started:

-Be careful with food sensitivities and/or allergies. Gluten and dairy can cause a whole slew of gastrointestinal problems

-Avoid eating too many types of foods at one time (i.e. please don't eat an entire cake in one sitting....it will cause problems...)

-Steam vegetables rather that eating them raw

-Emphasize a high fiber diet, and include freshly ground flax seeds and whole grains as part of your daily carbohydrate intake

-All foods must be eaten slowly, chewed and salivated well (the enzymes in your saliva break down food)

-Eat in a calm and somewhat quiet atmosphere (no reading or watching television while eating)

Watch this video with Dr. Igor Schwartzman at WellWire.com. Dr. Schwartman demonstrates an easy way to calm your breathing, and offers additional information on some causes of IBS. He also recommends some beneficial herbs and teas that may also help with IBS symptoms, such as camomile and slippery elm.

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Breastfeeding and Chinese Medicine

I've received a lot of calls lately about acupuncture and breast feeding. Many mothers are concerned with lack of milk production, and others have experienced the dreaded mastitis on more than one occasion. Both of these issues are something that acupuncture and herbal medicine can definitely help with (be sure to find an acupuncture practitioner who specializes in women's health, especially fertility and pregnancy!)

Lack of milk: There are several ways to boost milk production, and acupuncture combined with Chinese herbs is a great way to help promote more milk and improved flow. Getting a an acupuncture treatment is a great way to determine why milk production is lower, and finding the best herbal formula to help.  Each person has a unique constitution, and your practitioner will help you get the safest herbal formula for you and your baby.

A reduction in the flow of milk is often caused by either restricted flow of energy in the Liver, which is usually due to stress, or a blood deficiency. In Chinese medicine, the Liver influences the breast and chest regions. Stagnant Qi obstructs these channels to the breast, and then the milk cannot flow. Reducing stress whenever possible will help- finding half an hour to have for yourself every day will help immensely.
With blood deficiency, the lack of milk production is directly related to the blood. In Chinese medicine theory, blood produces the milk, and therefore a lack of blood will cause your body to produce less milk. This can be resolved with acupuncture an herbal treatment, as well as taking a good look at your diet, and making sure you are eating enough protein, such as beef, chicken, or vegetable proteins.

Mastitis: Acupuncture treatment includes acupoints in the hands, legs, upper chest, and possibly a few near the inflamed breast itself. Mastitis is inflammation of the breast, often caused by blocked milk ducts. It's necessary to move the stagnant blood and energy in the local area to clear the blockage, clear the inflammation, and get the milk moving again. Herbal medicine is also safe to take while breastfeeding- as long as you are taking the right herbs! Your practitioner will know what to give you.

If milk production just isn't working for some other reason, purchasing milk from another lactating mother is another option, and this is usually this is done through breast milk banks. You can contact a midwifery organization or your local hospital for more information about this. You can also make your own formulas- a rice or goats milk substitute is commonly used (I don't personally have experience with either of these, but would love more information from those who have used either of them!).

Another great resource is the La Leche League, a world-wide organization offers help to nursing moms, and can help with all breastfeeding concerns. It may be that you need to change the feeding schedule you are on to boost milk production, and often these small changes can make a big difference. This site has a great outline of what happens when you are breastfeeding.

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Morning Sickness and Chinese Medicine

Why oh why is it called "morning" sickness? For so many women, this part of an otherwise joyous experience lasts all day, sometimes through the night, and occasionally in the afternoon. Many women I've spoken to say that they either had no symptoms, a little nausea, a lot of nausea, or were just constantly sick. The consensus seemed to be that the majority of the nausea was over by around 12 weeks, but for some it lasted 20 weeks (halfway through the pregnancy).

There are often changes with the symptoms as the levels of hormones change, and the body begins to adjust to life with extra hormones and blood. The hormone HGC (human chorionic gonadotropin) is said to be the possible cause of the heaving and nausea. Others say the shifting hormones make you out of balance, which is very close to the way we see it in Traditional Chinese Medicine. In the early stages of pregnancy, a woman's body is Yin. When egg is fertilized, it begings to bring more Yang into the body, which in turn causes something of an upheaval and imbalance of the Yin and Yang within the body, leading to nausea.

Acupuncture practitioners have wonderful tools to help ease this sometimes difficult transition. Besides using acupuncture needles, a common formula for nausea is Gui Zhi Tang, which contains cinnamon bark, red dates, white peony, and ginger- a great combination to warm and ease the stomach as well as help balance out the struggle with the Yin and Yang of the body. Once this balance is achieved, the nausea should improve. There are other formulas that may be helpful, and acupuncture treatments are very safe and effective if you are worried about taking formulas or anything besides prenatal care. Also, keep in mind that this formula may not be for everyone- ALWAYS check with a practitioner before taking formulas during your pregnancy.

Common tips from women were:

-eat small meals frequently,

-try to eat a little protein in the morning

-keep crackers, dry toast, and clear soda near the bed to avoid getting hungry (which may lead to nausea)

-take prenatal vitamins on a full stomach

*If you experience a fever, or are vomiting so severely you cannot keep food or liquids down, contact your health care provider immediately*

I welcome any more tips for discussion! Chinese Medicine is a great tool, and I feel that sharing the wisdom passed down from women is the best way to learn more about how we can help each other at this special time. Also, check out Blossom Clinc's recommendations for morning sickness!

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October 24 is National Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine Day

Happy Oriental Medicine Day on Saturday!

Hug an acupuncturist, or try a delicious (?) Chinese herbal tea! They taste odd, but are oh-so helpful for the body.

If you are fortunate enough to live in Portland, Oregon (my beloved city), then get out there and take a look at the massive acupuncture needle in our beautiful, if not a slightly damp city!

According to Acupuncture Today, the informative new source for all things acupuncture,

October 24, 2002 marked the first annual observance of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine Day. Conceived of as part of a national campaign to educate the public about the benefits of acupuncture and other forms of Asian healing, many of the leading national acupuncture and Oriental medicine member associations, research organizations and educational institutions lent their support to AOM Day, in the form of open houses; lectures and demonstrations; free acupuncture treatments; and educational seminars.

A lot of cities are signed up with special rates on Saturday as well as other events- check out the homepage for the Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine site, and don't forget to check out the Acupuncture Today article that lists schools around the country that are celebrating National AOM day in style!

We should celebrate this day as a time when we are able to choose what we want in terms of our own healthcare, and take matters into our own hands by using preventative medicine. Acupuncture, herbal medicine, naturopathic medicine, massage, reiki, and all of the other wonderful techniques are treatments that do so much more than "fix us." They heal us!

I still remember my personal experience with acupuncture - which is the reason I practice this amazing medicine. I was living in South Korea, where the pollution was so bad you could see and taste it! I was taking extra medications to try to control my  allergy symptoms and wheezing, but it wasn't enough. Just as I was about to throw in the towel and leave, a family member suggested acupuncture. So I walked into the nearest clinic where no one spoke English (and my Korean was very poor), but doctor was surprised to see a foreigner but was very nice. He patted my arm and said "it's okay!" He then felt my pulse, looked at my tongue, then gave me my first acupuncture treatment. It  was incredible- I still remember how much better I felt after that first treatment, and went back three times a week for four months. By the end of that treatment regime, I was off all of the medications, and was feeling great. I've been a firm believer in this medicine ever since, and started school at the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine two weeks after we arrived home.

See what you can find in your city at the sites listed above, and enjoy the day!

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Acupuncture and Allergies in Portland

Portland Japanese Garden by Roger Isabell

Allergy season is year round in Portland.

While that is a common joke here in Bridgetown, there really are those who suffer from allergies (especially dust and molds) year round. The use of acupuncture and traditional Chinese herbal medicine is best the way to help keep your symptoms under control. While Western medications alleviate the symptoms temporarily, they won’t treat the underlying cause of the allergic reaction, which is what we do with Chinese medicine.

A treatment from an acupuncture practitioner will help open the nasal passages, clear the excess phlegm, and reduce inflammation that causes the allergic reaction. This excessive reaction is not just the inflammatory response of the body to a foreign object (such as pollen), but also a weakened Lung, Spleen and Kidney organ system. Acupuncture strengthens these organ systems, which in turn helps the body react appropriately to the foreign object.

Common allergy symptoms may include: -Runny nose -Nasal itching -Wheezing -Red, watery eyes -Skin irritation (rashes, itchy skin)

An ideal treatment plan for year-round acute allergies is treatments twice a week, and after the symptoms are under control the treatments may be stretched to every other week. Everyone reacts differently to the treatments, and you need to give it time (Trust me- this is what got me into acupuncture in the first place)! If you suffer from seasonal allergies, you will need treatment before the your "season" begins. For example, if you suffer from hayfever in the spring, start your treatments in January to help with symptom relief before the sneezing begins.

So if you are one of those who suffers from allergies when the rains begin, call your practitioner now, or find one on acufinder.com. Also, check out Dr. Nishant Rao's post at Wellwire.com for helpful tips on how to prevent seasonal allergies.

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Acupuncture and Menopause

Menopause is a time of transition and change in a woman's body. For some, it is a peaceful passage, with few symptoms or worries. For others, it may be an entirely different journey. Many women experience symptoms that are dif?cult to deal with during menopause, which may last a few months to several years. Symptoms vary from mild to severe, and are brought on as the body adapts to a decrease in the amount of estrogen.

Such symptoms may be: • Hot ?ushes • Mood changes, such as irritability or sadness • Insomnia • Memory loss • Headaches • Palpitations Menopause is a normal physiological process that all women enter into, and Traditional Chinese Medicine is a natural way to help with the transition. Acupuncture practitioners believe that to treat symptoms associated with menopause, we need to treat the cause of the body’s energy imbalance.

Using techniques such as taking the pulse, looking at the tongue, and interviewing the patient help us treat according to each individual diagnosis. By inserting needles at acupuncture points according to this diagnosis, we treat the reason the symptoms are occurring instead of masking them. We call this treating the "root" of the disease, instead of the "branch," which are the symptoms the patient is experiencing.

Acupuncture treatments for menopause related symptoms will involve weekly treatments, and patients will often be prescribed herbal remedies to be taken in conjunction with the acupuncture. Traditional Chinese medicine can make a big difference when trying to cope with the symptoms of menopause. I recommend you talk to a practitioner as soon as you feel these symptoms occurring. We can help make this life change better than expected!

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Acupuncture and Menopause

acupuncture needles by howaye

An article in the New York Times titled "Natural Remedies for Hot Flashes" discusses the use of progesterone creams for symptoms stemming from menopause. Hot flashes, weight gain, memory loss, fatigue, and irritability are often associated when women begin menopause.For some, these symptoms are manageable, but others will need more care, and more women are turning to alternatives. The article states:

"Gynecologists estimate that a third of women seeking treatment for menopausal symptoms are on conventional prescription hormones. Another third are on prescription bio-identical therapy. (Bio-identical hormones are synthesized compounds that mimic the molecular structure of human hormones and are derived from plants). The remaining third either tough it out, are not bothered by symptoms or are searching for over-the-counter therapies, including natural supplements and topical creams. They may try, for example, a supplement of phytoestrogens derived from soy and red clover, a low-dose progesterone cream, or swear by black cohosh capsules."

While these therapies do help with symptoms, Chinese medicine practitioners believe that in order to treat these symptoms, we need to treat the root cause of the body's imbalance. Using diagnostic techniques (such as checking the pulse, looking at the tongue, and interviewing the patient), help us treat according to individual patient diagnosis. By using acupuncture points according to this diagnosis, we treat the reason the symptoms are occurring instead of masking them.

Acupuncture treatments for menopause related symptoms will involve weekly treatments for 4-6 weeks, and patients will often be prescribed herbal remedies (also according to diagnosis). There are often Western herbs that practitioners use in the herbal formulas, and it is important to tell your practitioner if you are using an estrogen patch, progesterone creams, or any other remedies prescribed by an MD or self-prescribed.

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Acupuncture in Oregon: Kam Wah Chung

ph.KamWahChung360.jpg by oregonianphoto
Photo by oregonianphoto

Seeing that I am an Oregon native, I was surprised to hear of a Chinese medicine apothecary in Eastern Oregon that I didn't know about (I'm usually up on these things...). The herbal clinic, which has been restored and is now a museum called Kam Wah Chung, where Ing "Doc" Hay had his herbal clinic. Ing Hay left John Day in the early 1900's, but left behind his various Chinese medicine tinctures, herbs, and tools he used to distribute the herbal remedies.

Watch the video of how this clinic came to be in John Day at the Oregon Public Broadcasting website - I am amazed at how well this herbalist worked the ancient medicine, and how the people of John Day appreciated him and his medicine. You can also read about it here.

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What Can Acupuncture Treat? Endometriosis

Photo by Thunderchild tm Endometriosis is a condition that affects millions of women. It is is the presence of endometrial tissue outside the uterus, which causes pain during the menstrual cycle. This occurs becuase the endometrial tissue is supposed to shed every month, and if it isn't in the uterus, the tissue essentially "stagnates," and causes pain. Endometriosis is usually diagnosed between the ages of 30 and 40, but can begin as a young as the teenage years. Forty percent of  women are symptom-free and don't even realize they have it. The other sixty percent are well aware of the symptoms, which include mild to severe pain in the lower abdomen during the menstrual cycle, heavy bleeding, and even infertility.

Western medicine does not have a cure for endometriosis, but offers prescription drugs and laparoscopic surgery as an option to stop the pain. While it may stop the pain, this method doesn't address the inflammation that is occurs throughout the body with each cycle.

Acupuncture points and Chinese herbal medicine help soothe the pain, reduce inflammation, and help reduce the heavy monthly bleeding.  The diagnosis of endometriosis is Blood Stagnation (which is exactly what is sounds like), but there is often either excess Heat or Cold in the body. The practitioner will use acupoints to treat all of these symptoms.

Herbal formulas will be prescribed at specific times in the woman's menstrual cycle. One formula can be taken just after the menstrual cycle begins, and another after ovulation (or mid-cycle).

Randine Lewis's book, The Infertility Cure, is one of the best resources I have found for information about acupuncture, Western and Chinese herbs, and endometriosis. Read her book for more extenstive information on endometriosis.

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What can Acupuncture Treat? Asthma

Asthma: www.medical-explorer.com/asthma.php Asthma is a condition that affects over 162 million adults and 6.7 million children in the United States. This is a serious disease which needs treatment, and something I have personally been dealing with for the past 10 years. By seeking regular acupuncture and herbal medicine to control the asthma symptoms, I was able to dramatically reduce the amount of Western medication I was taking.

I recommend the use of acupuncture and herbal medicine for asthma, and have had success in treating patients as well as being treated myself. NOTE: A severe attack will need immediate treatment from a Western medical doctor or possibly a visit to the emergency room. If the symptoms are severe (wheezing, blue lips and fingers, possible dizziness)

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Top 5 Chinese Herbal Formulas

Chinese herbal medicine is becoming more widely used in American than ever before. Even the skeptics are reaching for the cold remedy Yin Qiao San and drinking ginger tea before digging out the decongestants.

Most Chinese herbal formulas are now available in pill forms as well as the powdered forms. While it's best to use a powdered formula (the amount of each herb can be specially formulated for the individual), the pill form of the herb is also effective. What matters most is which form the patient will actually take!

According to the website To Your Heath, the top five most prescribed formulas for basic health issues are:

Gui Zhi Tang (Cinnamon Twig Decoction)-Induces sweating to fight off a cold

Ping Wei San (Clear Stomach Formula)- To move

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Acupuncture and Scar Tissue Therapy

Photo by Persiflage Acupuncture is a great for skin conditions, and it's also a very healing way to help with pain from scar tissue formation. Post surgical scars can be painful for months or even years after surgery, and these scars tend to disrupt the natural flow of blood and energy in the body. Scarring from operations, even the tiny incisions from a laproscopic surgery can cause pain in the body, and need to be treated to heal properly.

Examples of scars that can cause pain are lower abdominal scars (from a C-section birth, appendectomy, or hernia), shoulder, hip, and knee surgery (including joint replacement), and even plastic surgery scars.

It's best to treat a scar that is at least one month old to prevent infection. The

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Peonies in Herbal Chinese Medicine

Peonies by Donnali

The beautiful peony blossoms are in abundance in Portland at last. I recently learned from a peony cultivator that you can cut peony trees down to the root, and they will easily grow back to full bloom within the a year. The roots run deep into the ground, and are very strong and sustaining. It's no wonder they are often used in Chinese herbal formulas!

In Chinese herbal medicine, the root of both the red (chi shao yao) and white (bai shao yao) peony are used. Peony root is an herb that is often used in women's formulas. Bai shao yao is often used in formulas to stop pain, and it nourishes the Yin in the body. Chi shao yao is also used to stop pain and it cools the blood and clears excess heat.

The sour and bitter quality of these herbs allow practitioners to use them in formulas to help with stagnation-related syndromes, such as trauma or stress. The quality of these herbs can help relieve pain symptoms such as cramping during menstrual cycles, and swelling or inflammation of tissues.

For more detailed information on these herbs, check out Subhuti Dharmananda's website at ITM online.

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Acupuncture and Allergies

Pollen from Scots Pine: by goforchris

Allergy season has been here in Portland for well over a month now, and I have been seeing a lot of people with seasonal allergy symptoms. There is no doubt we are in the great Northwest when everyone is sneezing and rubbing their eyes in unison (click here for the current pollen count)!

If you are currently suffering, acupuncture and herbs will effectively treat the symptoms, because they are aren't going to improve on their own.  Benadryl and other allergy medications are helpful, but these only mask the symptoms for a few hours.

You will most likely need treatment once a week for the first few months, and once the symptoms are under control, treatments can be stretched to once every other week or every three weeks.

Herbal medicine also works well in conjunction with the acupuncture.- check out my previous allergy post for links and information

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Traditional Chinese Medicine and Breastfeeding

Trica and Liam: Photo by William Moon According to Bob Flaws in "A Handbook if TCM Pediatrics," breast milk is the single best food for infants. Children who are breast fed have better immune systems and gastrointestinal health than those who aren't. Breastfeeding induces the release of oxytocin, a hormone that causes uterine contractions and helps the mother's body recover from giving birth. Acupuncture is a beneficial way to treat the mother should any any problems arise, such as mastitis (the inflammation and infection of breast tissue).

Mastitis in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) terms is "Toxic Heat accumulation with Qi and Blood Stagnation," which is actually similar to the Western diagnosis of inflammation and infection. The TCM diagnosis is an interesting holistic view of the body, as the lower part, (mainly the uterus) is Cold and Deficient from giving birth, but the upper part of the body (the breasts) has Heat and Stagnation.

A TCM practitioner will use acupoints and prescribe herbs that can either be taken orally or as an herbal pack to place on the breast. Dandelion (Pu Gong Yin) and honeysuckle (Jin Yin Hua) are commonly used to treat mastitis, as their action is to clear heat and toxicity out of the affected area. TCM offers many formulas that a nursing mother can safely take, including Shen Hua Tang, (the formula recommended in the post on TCM and Postpartum care), and the use of acupuncture relaxes the mother and ensures the smooth flow of Qi, or energy throughout the body (note: acupuncture points used to treat mastitis are rarely directly on the breast).

Check out this acupuncture website for an in-depth view of eating habits during breastfeeding, and the La Leche League for more resources.

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Traditional Chinese Medicine: Childbirth and and Postpartum Care

n648010412_5716899_8738 Kinsey & Zander

Bringing a new life into the world is an amazing process, but the time spent in labor and delivery takes a toll on the mother's body. After giving birth, a woman's body is depleted, and needs to be nourished by her environment (calm, quiet and warmth) and the foods she eats. She needs to take care of herself more than ever at this point, but must also take care of her infant. Balancing these can be difficult for the first few weeks, until both the mother and child are on a regular schedule.

Acupuncture and herbal medicine are extremely helpful in recovery after childbirth. The new mother will be sleep deprived and extremely tired due to the loss of blood and energy in labor and delivery. She may also have some post-partum blues due to the hormonal changes. There are acupoints that practitioners use to help the mother recover physically and emotionally, and other techniques, such as moxibustion to warm the body and help her heal.

A Chinese recipe from Angela Wu's "Fertility Wisdom" involves poaching an egg or chicken pieces with ginger, sesame oil, and rice wine. These foods have properties to warm the body after giving birth. From a Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective, the process of birth can create a coldness in the lower abdomen, as well as stagnation. Shen Hua Tang, or the "Generation and Transformation" formula, is a traditional formula often used to help with lower abdominal pain after childbirth.

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Acupuncture During Pregnancy

anya-talks-to-seth Photo by Paul: Anya says hello to Seth

Traditional Chinese Medicine is a wonderful tool to use during pregnancy. It's drug-free, and relaxing for both the baby and the mother. It can be used throughout the entire pregnancy, and even after delivery. Although there are a few acupuncture points that are contraindicated in pregnancy, there are many safe and very effective points that practitioners can use to help the mother feel her best during this special time.

During the first trimester (1-12 weeks) of pregnancy, a woman might feel fatigue and nausea, both of which may slowly disappear by the second trimester (13-28 weeks). There may be some herbal formulas to take, but these may be limited due to the fact that many herbs can't be used during pregnancy, and the taste may be difficult for a pregnant woman to swallow. Weekly acupuncture treatments are the best remedy during this time of the pregnancy to combat the nausea and help her gain some energy.

The second trimester is the time where the woman may start to feel slightly better in regards to the nausea, and also when she will begin to look pregnant and feel the baby move. That being said, heartburn, constipation, and even hemorrhoids may occur during this time. This is due to hormonal changes that affect the smooth muscle in the body as well as the veins. Acupuncture points can also be used effectively at this time to provide relief for the mother.

In the third trimester, acupuncture can help relieve edema, or water retention, around the ankles and feet as well as back pain and insomnia.  If the baby is in a breech position, moxibustion can be used to turn the baby around. It usually takes around ten days of using the moxibustion stick daily, but it can be very effective when using it properly. Acupuncture can also be used closer to the delivery date to help with effacement and to shorten the labor time. There are also some practitioners who will help induce labor in a baby that is past the due date, depending on the situation. There are some hospitals and midwives who also allow acupuncturists to be present during a delivery if requested by the mother.

Every pregnancy is different, and it's important to keep an open mind with the treatments. This site has some good suggestions about Western herbs to avoid during pregnancy, as well as some other helpful hints. Mother's Special Blend is an oil that several women swear by to help with stretch marks (you can also find this at New Seasons in Portland). Pregnancy is a special time in a woman's life, and I believe that acupuncture can effectively help her to have the best 40 weeks possible.

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