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Chinese Herbal Medicine


Antibiotics and Chinese Medicine

Photo by sadalit

This time of year always seems to be prime for sinus and lung infections creeping up and knocking us off our feet. The cold weather has settled in, the excitement of the snow has passed, and the holiday season has come to a close. After traveling around more than usual and consuming rich holiday foods, our immune systems are feeling a bit low as well. This can lead to a serious problem if we aren't careful.

While antibiotics definitely have their place in getting rid of certain infections, Chinese Medicine can also be used to treat them without the side effects some antibiotics tend to have. Brian Carter wrote at, "Chinese Herbal Medicine can address the full spectrum of complaints and causes; we (acupuncturists) often treat the conditions which are not responding to conventional treatments like antibiotics."

Unfortunately, sometimes the wrong antibiotics are given, or there is an allergic reaction to them. By using Chinese Herbs and acupuncture, the use of antibiotics may be avoided altogether in some cases. However, preventative action is needed in order to stave off the respiratory infection in the first place.

Several herbal formula companies produce effective formulas for sinus and lung congestion, and due to the different stages of infections, it's a good idea to talk to your practitioner about which herbs are right for you before taking them. In the mean time, be sure to stay warm, drink plenty of water, and even use a nasal irrigation technique if necessary or recommended by your practitioner.



Acupuncture for Fertility

basal body temperature by by mitoztip

The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) states that there are 6.1 million women who may have an impaired ability to bear children. However, we are fortunate enough to have Traditional Chinese medicine to ease the stress and help restore balance within the body to help with conception.

The use of acupuncture for infertility is recommended for the relaxing and calming effects on the mind, but it also increases the flow of energy and blood to the woman's uterus. This has been known to enhance conception when using in vitro fertilization (IVF) (see previous post on IVF treatments). Acupuncture is also extremely beneficial for women who aren't using IVF.

Taking the basal body temperature is another helpful method that can help women become more attuned to their bodies and understand what is going on. The temperature is taken first thing in the morning and recorded daily. Check here for an online resource. Experienced acupuncturists may be able find diagnose a woman's by using her basal body temperature charts and taking her pulse. Certain temperature differences in the chart can help to prescribe a more specific herbal formula or chose different points each month.

A book that was recommended to me is The Infertility Cure. It's a great resource to educate yourself about the use of Traditional Chinese Medicine and how it can help enhance fertility.



Herbs for the Holidays

Photo by controltheweb

The season for eating and drinking is upon us once again. Foods we consume just once a year are now in abundance for our eating pleasure, and traveling to relatives houses and being off and a regular eating routine can wreak havoc on our bodies if we aren't careful.

Po Chai Pills and Bao He Wan are Chinese herbal formulas (in pill form- easier for travel!) to help with digestion or the "overindulgence" of food and even alcohol. Po Chai pills come in a small vial that you take as one dose. I've found Po Chai pills at Wing Mings and online, but Bu Nao Wan is an ancient formula that most herbal pharmacies carry just about everywhere.

The reason both of these formulas work so well is because when we over eat, we create stagnation in our digestive tract, thus slowing the ability of our body to move food. This creates a slower fermenting process which lead to an upset stomach, including gas and bloating. The the herbal combinations in these formulas help process the food and move the stagnation along.

While these pills can help digest a lot of the food we eat, I would also encourage at least a few short walks between a few meals. Remedies such as ginger or peppermint tea (my recent favorite is Eater's Digest Tea by Traditional Medicinals) can also help soothe an upset stomach.



Top 5 reasons to seek an acupuncture treatment

There are endless issues that acupuncture can treat, and unfortunately, a lot of people don't know just how many acute or chronic problems acupuncture can help with. 1. Pain (includes headaches, joint pain, back, shoulder and knee pain) 2. Weight loss management (acupuncture can help with all stages with the use of body and ear acu-points. Practitioners can even use ear seeds to help curb hunger. 3. Mental/emotional health (depression, grief, anxiety, addiction, and even insomnia) 4. Menstrual cycles (PMS symptoms, cramping, early or late cycles) 5. Menopausal symptoms (hot flashes, emotional symptoms, insomnia)

.....and so much more! If anyone has any other thoughts to add onto this "Top 5 list" please leave a comment and let me know your opinions. Thanks!


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What can Acupuncture Treat? Fertility Treatment Video

I found this video on the Lorne Brown's clinic blog for the Acubalance Wellness Center in Vancouver, British Columbia. It's a very informative video that discusses fertility assistance, and the doctor on the show, Dr. Dao, gives some interesting information in regards to health before becoming pregnant. [youtube][/youtube]

The Acubalance site and blog have a lot of great information in regards to fertility, and and I recommend exploring the rest of

The book recommended in the video is called the Dao of Fertility. You can read more about Dr. Dao and his book at his site: He has a practice in California, and is business partner is the author of the book Secrets of Self-Healing. Enjoy!

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TCM school

acupuncture chart by seventeenstars

It's all over!

I just finished my last NCCAOM (National Certificatoin Comission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine) board exam (finally!), and now I wait for my license. It's a really great feeling to know that I don't have to study for school any more! Any learning I do now is on my own, and I find myself surrounded by amazing books I've collected these past three years, and instead of wanting to get rid of them, I can't wait to start using them in my own practice! It usually takes about 2-3 months for a license to come through (so I've been told). In the meantime, I have a lot of small business "stuff" to figure out.

OCOM has a great resource in Jason Stein, LAc, who is the head of the Professional Development Center at OCOM. He recommened that we graduates check out SCORE to get some assistance in starting up a new business, which I recently did. They were incredibly helpful, and gave me everything I needed to start an LLC, as well as answered all of my questions (no matter how strange!). I recommend them to anyone starting a new business. Oh- did I mention it's free and that you can use their library of resources?

I also wanted to share a fantastic Australian TCM site! Chinese Medicine Adventures has been up since January, but I didn't discover until today (thanks, Yael!). There are photo essays, a few videos of life in a TCM school in Sydney. For those of you who have graduated, it will be a trip down memory lane. For those of you who are still in, it's definitely something you will be able to relate to. Check it out when you have time (not in class, of course....)



TCM and athletics

Running ManPhoto by Omsel

A friend of mine found this article about athletes and Traditional Chinese Medicine - seemed appropriate with the Olympics happening right now. The use of acupuncture and other TCM treatments to enhance physical performance and recover from injuries at a faster rate are becoming more widely used. There are no drugs involved, just better performance times and less time off the bench.

Check out this sports medicine article from the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine website for more information.



Herbal Medicine: Rosemary (mi die xiang)

Rosemary in flower

In our external herbs class this week, taught by Bob Quinn, DAOM, we were re-introduced to a wonderful herb that's in most of our kitchens. Rosemary, known as Mi Die Xiang, is a pungent herb that has more uses than I knew. Besides drinking a tea to clear the head (check out, you can also use the rosemary tea to soak your feet and hands in to clear the mind.
Rosemary has cleansing properties that help heal wounds, and can be used to treat asthma. Since we haven't learned too much about this herb in our program, and we don't have the herb in our dispensary, I found a great site that has good information on the nutritional values and more benefits of rosemary called
In searching for information on rosemary, I came across a really great site called, which is a wiki for "an alternative resource that brings about awareness and focuses on the individual." There are a lot of food and health posts, and their section on rosemary had a lot of good information on the plant.
As we left class, we were told that rosemary can help us to remember our dreams if we set an intention to remember the dream, eat a small amount of fresh rosemary (a few leaves off of a fresh sprig), then place the sprig under our pillow. I plan on trying it tonight :)


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PanAfrican Acupuncture Project

I recently found out that my classmate Malaika Lumen is working with a great organization called the Pan African Acupuncture Project (PAAP). The Project is similar to the Barefoot Doctor program in China, and a large portion of the focus is on HIV/AIDS care.

"The PanAfrican Acupuncture Project (PAAP) is a non-profit organization that was established in 2003 to empower the people of Uganda with acupuncture techniques. Since 2003 they have conducted several training programs, expanded into Kenya and are currently expanding into Malawi."

On July 31st Academy Theater on Stark street (7818 SE Stark St) has will donate 10% of all concession sales from open until close to PAAP Malawi. So come down, check out a great movie at a classic 1940's building, and be sure to grab something from concessions to help out a great organization!

For more information, you can contact the PAAP:

The PanAfrican Acupuncture Project 113 Summit Avenue Brookline, MA 02446 USA Tel/fax: 617-277-7444

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Herbs to Try: Gou Qi Zi

Gouqi (Lycium Chinense)Photo By * Beezy *Gou Qi Zi (Wolfberry)

Gou Qi Zi, also known as Chinese wolfberry, goji berry, or lycium fruit, is easily available in Portland at Asian food stores, New Seasons, and even Trader Joe's has a goji berry trail mix. While there seems to be some controversy over the "best" kind of Gou Qi Zi, in my opinion (as with any herb), organic is the way to go until we are able to grow them locally. Which isn't too far away - check out what groups such as High Falls Garden are doing (more on the subject of local, organic, and sustainable Chinese herbs in a later post)!

According to the Materia Medica Gou Qi Zi is a sweet fruit that is often used in herbal formulas to nourish and warm the body, and also assist the yin in the Kidney and Lungs. This means that it's a great mild herb to help with fatigue, low sex drive, eye problems as well as a general all around nourishing herb. It's often referred to as the "longevity herb," and is thought to help those who consume it on a regular basis live a longer life.

A combination of this tasty herb with chrysanthemum flowers is a great way to clear excess heat out of the body and help your vision. So whenever those promised hot days start making their way here, put a small handful of gou qi zi and a few dried chrysanthemum flowers (Ju Hua) into a glass and let it steep in hot water for a few minutes. You can even add some ice cubes to make a refreshing iced  tea. Eat the berries when you're done- they're surprisingly sweet!

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Coffee as an herb...

coffee cupcoffee cup Photo By miketallman

I admit it. Coffee is one of my favorite herbs.

Having done several stints as a barrista through my undergrad, I continue to have a love/hate relationship with coffee that has finally developed into an appreciation I can live with.

I didn't really drink coffee until my 20's, which is about the time asthma became a bigger part of my being. I found that when I was having a difficult time breathing and didn't have access to an inhaler, I'd take a shot of espresso and would be able to breathe a little easier. Thus began my appreciation for "the bean."

Upon entering Chinese Medicine school a few years ago, I was afraid that they would ask me to stop drinking coffee. They didn't, and I was glad.

While searching for literature to prove to myself that it was fine to drink, I stumbled across Subhuti Dharmananda's article. He states that one cup a day is usually fine, and even beneficial for adults. Coffee is often seen as too much of a stimulant, which adds to the stress of life in America as a lot of us know it. Keeping it at a minimum is a good idea- pounding back two or more 20oz. coffees a day isn't. Check out a Canadian LAc's viewpoint of coffee here.

As with all herbs and substances that are potential stimulants, be careful of what you mix with medications and other supplements. Know what you are drinking, and choose organic and fair trade when you can. I recommend Stumptown.



Herbs vs Drugs

Ma huang, Chinese ephedra, was used to treat asthma,or at least wheezing, five thousand years ago. (

With all the bad press and the FDA trying to ban of some forms of Chinese herbal medicine, we as Chinese Medicine practitioners have to fight to prove that the herbs have truly healing medicinal properties when used appropriately in the correct combination.

If you haven't read about the girl who died of liver failure due to use of the drug by the name of Jin Bu Huan, then you should read this article and check out Chinese Medicine Notes on the story. Yael sites a lot of good resources and sites for more information about the drug (which is NOT an herb). The Mayo clinic and also have information on ephedra.

At OCOM and most TCM schools, we study herbs for 3 years, then take an extensive and difficult herbal board. So it's disheartening when I try to fill a patients formula and realize that there is no bulk form of ephedra because it's unavailable. The correct dosage and appropriate administration of the herb is safe for both kids and adults, and it's a main and very effective ingredient in a lot of asthma formulas.

As with any news article you read, be sure to check your sources of information. Especially when it comes to herbs and drugs! A lot of unnecessary side effects can occur if too much of an herb is taken (just like a pharmaceutical). Be informed about what you are taking, and discuss your medications with a knowledgeable practitioner.



Chinese Herbal Burn Remedy


Lately, a lot of my friends have been asking about natural burn remedies and medicine that can help with  skin regeneration after scratches, so I thought I'd share one of the best I've tried.

I tend to accidentally burn myself a lot (I love to cook), and the herbal ointment Ching Wan Hung has always worked really well. Ching Wan Hung is a sesame-oil based ointment combined with several other healing herbs such as dang gui (angelica) and hong hua (safflower), but I should warn you that not everyone enjoys the scent!

Another 'secret' use for this is with acne or pimples, as this formula is meant to help regenerate the skin and speed the healing process. I have also used this with my dog when she developed a raw spot on her leg. It worked great!

Ching Wan Hung is very reasonable priced, and can be found at your practitioners office or at



What Can Acupuncture Treat? Skin conditions

Flower at the gatesFlower at the gates Photo by: leojmelsrub

Spring in the northwest is really very beautiful. There are so many different flowers and trees in bloom at different times, it's hard (for me) to keep track. Spring is the time of waking up, and the earth opens up in beauty after a reasonably cold winter here.

This season, while full of life and new beginnings, also signals the blossoming of certain plants which can cause those with sensitive skin a lot of discomfort. Rashes and reactions to the flowers, pollen, and pollution in the air can really wreak havoc on those with "thin skin." There are a lot of great techniques and herbal formulas that acupuncture and oriental medicine use to relive pain. There are several protocols for severe skin rashes that are effective, but they do take time.

The seven-star needle (also called plum-blossom) technique (check out this link for a quick video demonstration) sounds horrible, but is really very effective for relieving the itching sensation caused by rashes. The idea behind it is to release the heat that builds up from the histamine reaction, and it is done by tapping the tool over the area the rash covers.

My personal experience has been that while herbal TCM formulas are not as quick to treat the itching as a topical steroid cream, they are more effective in the long run. Treating the root of the problem is how skin diseases need to be treated- your body is reacting for a reason! Only treating the manifestation, which is the rash, doesn't stop it from  recurring.

Talk to your practitioner about your dermatological needs- acupuncture is also great for eczema, acne, and many other skin conditions, but each case needs to be individually assessed.

Enjoy the sunshine this week!



What Can Acupuncture Treat? Allergies and Hayfever

Cherry blossomsCherry blossoms in Ulsan May 2005 Photo by leojmelsrub

The mix of snow, rain, sun and hail all in one day (in the middle of March) can make you wonder what is going on here in the Northwest. If you've lived in Portland long enough, you know that it usually means spring is almost here. With it comes the beautiful cherry blossoms, tulips, and (unfortunately), allergies.

As I have mentioned before, I have a lot of experience in this field of health issues, and I will be the first to say that acupuncture has helped me the most with the misery of a runny nose, wheeze, and red, itchy eyes and skin. However, you must start treating it before the symptoms arrive.

So start now, while it's still raining! Check out your local acupuncturist for a series of visits- twice a week will work wonders for it. If you are here in Portland and twice a week seems like a lot of money, check out the CAN website for group acupuncture at a great price.

In the mean time, I recommend, Bi Yan Pian or Cang Er Zi Wan (Upper Chamber) to help open the nose and clear excess phlegm before the congestion takes over. You can find these from your practitioner or Wing Mings on 82nd Street.



What Can Acupuncture Treat? (Part 3- Psychology and Addictions)

Photo by jbalynas45

With winter on the way and the recent changing of the clocks, a lot of us in the Nortwest are spending more time inside and less time in the sun. This is the time of year when depression, SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), and general fatigue become more frequent complaints. Acupuncture, moxibustion and herbs can help with these issues. Acupuncture and herbs help to redirect the flow of energy and help to "lift the spirit" and nourish the body, and the moxibustion helps to support and warm the body. A regular weekly treatment can help with these issues whether they are felt in the winter or year round. And on the topic of psychology, addictions are another thing that acupuncture can help with. The NADA protocol has been studied and is used in addiction treatment centers throughout North America. Whatever the patients drug of choice may be, addictions are serious subject, and can occur in any city, or community. Fortunately for us, Portland has a wealth of treatment centers to help with surviving addiction. Go to to find more information about the Old Town Clinic and Hooper, and here to check out Project Quest. Help is always available at one of these incredible places.....



Introduction to Chinese Herbs

How do Chinese herbs work? How do they compare with pharmaceuticals? Kevin answers your herbal queries....

3:06 pm, Sunday, Chinese Medicine Shop
Photo by: yusheng

When people think about Oriental Medicine, acupuncture often comes to mind first. Yes, practitioners in the United States typically focus on using acupuncture. However, Oriental Medicine contains five branches: acupuncture, herbs, nutrition, qi gong and massage. In China, herbs may be the most widely used. Hospital patients in China routinely receive herbs as part of their medical treatment, and many Chinese intentionally use herbs in cooking to provide medical benefits. Within the university setting, herbalists spend five years or more studying before they can treat patients.

The list of Chinese herbs, known as the Materia Medica, includes over 400 substances, including not only plants but also minerals and animals products.  If you are interested, check out The Chinese Herb Academy ( for a database of herb information. Herbalists have used these substances for thousands of years, refining the list to include the herbs that most effectively treat a wide range of conditions. Scientific studies have looked at some of these substances, although much of the pharmaceutical research goes into isolating single compounds that can get patented.  Many of these herbal substances have complex effects, making them challenging to isolate and study from a biomedical perspective.

So how do herbs differ from pharmaceutical drugs?  Most pharmaceutical drugs contain a single active ingredient that targets a specific physiological process. Since they target a single process, dosage is often used at a relatively high level so it will significantly alter that process. They can achieve dramatic results but can also cause significant side effects. Chinese herbs contain multiple active ingredients, sometimes in the hundreds, but at a much lower dosage level. Because of this, they can affect a range of processes in a much milder way. One master herbalist said comparing pharmaceuticals to herb is like comparing jet fighters to bicycles.

Nevertheless, Chinese herbs can have a huge impact. At our school, we have seen a range of difficult conditions, from thyroid problems to skin disorders, brought under control.  So when you think of Oriental Medicine, remember that the Chinese have used herbs as a safe and effective treatment for thousands of years.



What Can Acupuncture Treat? (Part 2- Colds and Immune System)

Well, I'm sorry to say it, but it's fall here in Portland. Summer seemed to fly by, and autumn is on it's way in. The colder air, falling leaves, and the abundance of colds seem to represent the element of Metal, which correlates to the Lungs in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) theory. Each season is connected to an element, and that element is connected to a specific organ in Chinese medicine. I know it's a quick reference to what takes years of studying to comprehend and use efficiently, but here is a chart for your reference.

Late Summer
Climatic Qi
Yang Organ
Small Intestine
Large Intestine
Yin Organ
Sense Organ
Body Tissue
Blood Vessel

Chart borrowed from:

Finding ourselves in autumn, it truly does seem as though a lot of people tend to is get sick in one way or another. It's important to boost our immune systems, and TCM is a perfect way to avoid overusing antibiotics due to lung and sinus infections this year. There are a lot of great acupoints that boost the immune system, not to mention help with insomnia so we are able to get a good night's sleep to help our bodies heal.

There are also some really amazing Chinese herbal formulas that help stave off colds and sore throats. There are two patents medicines that I really like are Yin Qiao San and Gan Mao Ling. Taking Yin Qiao San at the first sign of a sore throat and stuffy head helps the cold not enter too deeply in the body, and Gan Mao Ling has some amazing anti-bacterial properties that help with sinus problems. There are a lot of formulas out there, so do some research or ask a practitioner which would be best for you. You can also buy these herbs at Portland stores such as FuBonn, Uwajimaya, and Wing Mings.

Colds and coughs aside, fall is such a beautiful time here in the City of Roses. Be sure to keep yourself and your family warm and healthy so you are able to enjoy it!

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