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 and GOOP

Photo by ndosborn

I recently came across the photo of Gwyneth Paltrow that created quite a scandal a few years ago. Ms. Paltrow wore a dress that exposed her freshly cupped back when she walked down the red carpet, which shocked  members of the media who, at that time, were oblivious to the wonderful treatment that is cupping. As odd as many found it, the fascination with the octupus-suction-cup marks seemed to have sparked a fascination with Chinese medicine and alternative healing in Hollywood and beyond.

Since that time, Ms. Paltrow started a newsletter called GOOP and devoted an entire article to the healing modalities of  acupuncture, cupping, and Su Jeok therapy (also known as Korean hand acupuncture therapy). It's great to see how many people are recognizing this amazing healing technique and sharing it in all ways possible.

Gwyneth writes:

One day, when being treated by an acupuncturist, a Spanish friend who was visiting me in London walked into the room and remarked that I looked like a bull who’d had a run in with the picadores (the dudes on horseback who stick the bull with many little knives to rile him up before the actual fight). I assured her that although I was stuck with needles, I was faring far better than the bull would in the analogous scenario. In fact, those many little needles have helped me through many an ailment. Eastern medicine has a different approach than Western medicine – it’s more holistic. The root of the problem is addressed, as opposed to a symptom being attended to with prescription medication, only to return. Don’t get me wrong, I am thankful as hell for a round of antibiotics or surgery when necessary, but I have been helped tremendously by all of the practices below that help the body heal itself. When implemented by a professional with experience, the benefits can work wonders.

You can read the rest of the GOOP article here!

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Blossom Clinic opens in NE Portland

Liz Richards, LAc, opened the doors to beautiful Blossom Clinic in June.

Where did you come up with the name “Blossom"? The name blossom came to me one night as I was explaining my vision for a clinic to my husband.  It just felt right. I love the idea of something growing and blossoming from the deep ground up.  Every one of us has the potential to be whatever we dream of being.  It is my job to facilitate that growth help people move through change as gracefully as possible. I work hard to set up a good foundation for treatment and then solidify a plan for the future.  It is hard work to break that ground but once that crack is formed, anything is possible.

Blossom also has a special connotation to me personally as a women’s heath practitioner.  Being a woman is all about transformation and growth.  I primarily see patients who are pregnant or trying to conceive. It is an honor to see my female fertility patients get pregnant, bloom into pregnancy, and then grow as a parent.

What types of treatments are offered at Blossom clinic? Right now Blossom Clinic is providing Acupuncture, Chinese Herbology, Massage, Amma Therapy (Asian Bodywork), and Nutrition consultations.  It is my goal as owner of Blossom to provide the best care within the context of womens health, reproductive health,  and family healthcare.  Whether you are interested in a relaxing massage of an invigorating one, Blossom can provide that.  Interested in doing a cleanse or learning more about foods that are good for you? We would love to chat with you. The practitioners at Blossom are some of the best in their fields so when you come here, you know that you will be well taken care of.  Each practitioner at Blossom owns their own business and has their own area of specialty.  Blossom is their umbrella, and we are here to help them with the business ends of things so that they can focus on their patients 100%. We offer free phone or in-house consultations and refer patients regularly if we believe we do not have an acupuncturist, practitioner, or massage therapist who is the right fit for you.

Can you tell us about Blossom Blog? I love Blossom Blog, partially because  I created it all by myself and it is a creative outlet for me.  It is not perfect but I figure if I can reach just one person a day and help them, then I have done my job.  One of my favorite blogs is one in which I interview a mom who had her twins vaginally.  I have had such great feedback about how this helped people realize that they can establish their birth preferences without going straight towards scheduling a C-section. I personally had a c-section and a vaginal birth, and I know that when it comes to labor and delivery, things do not always go as planned.

My goal is not to tell people what is right and wrong, but to empower people and provide food for thought. I love answering the Frequenly Asked Questions about acupuncture and fertility, and I hope to catch people before they are far on the road of trying to conceive.  I think acupuncture in conjunction Assisted Reproductive Technology and on the day of IVF embryo transfer is also very important.

You can find Liz at Blossom Clinic:

Monday- Friday 9-5 Saturday 9-2 3531 NE 15th Avenue, Suite A Portland, Oregon 97212 503.287.0886



What Can Acupuncture Treat? Stress and Anxiety in Pregnancy

Pregnant Belly by kellyandapril

There are many reasons a woman maybe feeling stressed during her pregnancy. It's a time of change and growth within your body and withing your community. With these changes (not to mention hormones) may come added stress and anxiety about the health of the baby, relationships with family members, and the birth of the child. Using acupuncture is a drug-free method to help with your ever-changing emotions and other conditions that you may encounter during pregnancy (see previous post).

This article from Pregnancy Today is a great resource for mothers-to-be who may be nervous about trying acupuncture for symptom relief. Read the sections about a successful induction, a case where acupuncture stopped postpartum bleeding using a single acupoint, and how acupuncture can help with postpartum care.

Acupuncture can help you to enjoy a happy and healthy pregnancy, so be sure to find someone who is right for you, and who you are comfortable with. For a list of questions to ask when looking for a practitioner, read Acupuncture Health blogs post- 'Choosing the Right Acupuncturist.'


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Acupuncture and Heartburn in Pregnancy

Pregnancy Photo by J. Star The Chinese Medicine Times recently reviewed a study of acupuncture for symptoms of heartburn in pregnant women with positive results. The outcome of of treating 36 women - half with the standard treatment (medication and dietary advice), and half with acupuncture.  Those receiving acupuncture were treated once or twice a week with drastically reduced symptoms.

The reason heartburn occurs in pregnancy is due to the hormone changes, mainly pregesterone, a hormone produces by the placenta. Progesterone relaxes the smooth muscle of the uterus, but is also relaxes the sphinter that keeps stomach acid out of your esophagus. The growing baby also pushes stomach acid back up where it wasn't before. Even women who have never experienced heartburn may feel uncomfortable during pregnancy.

Besides treating heartburn, there is a long list of conditions acupuncture can treat during pregnancy (fatigue, morning sickness, and constipation to name a few). I recommend reading the article by Naomi Rabinowitz, Dipl.Ac., at to read her views on how to treat these symptoms. It's also important to find a pracitioner who is comfortable treating pregnant women, check out or

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Tuina in Chinese Medicine Treatments

Tuina is a massage form from China that is part of our training as acupuncture practitioners. It is a deep tissue massage that uses several different techniques (rolling, scrubbing, and grasping to name a few). The techniques are the same, but practitioners can use stronger or a gentler movements according the patient preference. Tuina is used for sports injuries, repetitive motion pain, back and shoulder pain, knee and elbow pain, and even hernias. “Tui” means pushing, and “Na” means grasping. Tuina is a form of massage used by Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners that is closer to a deep-tissue massage than Shiatsu. It is used in order to help relax the tendons and muscles, while opening the channels that flow through the body. Tuina is helpful with increasing blood circulation to alleviate pain, relieving muscle spasms, and gently breaking up adhesions in the muscles and scar tissue.


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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.



Acupuncture and Smoking

Photo by Fernando Gregory

Smoking is an addictive habit for 43.4 million adults in the United States. That's a lot of people, and even more that are affected by the habit just by spending time with smokers. Even with the constant ads to stop smoking, warnings on cigarette packs, and several state laws that ban smoking, the numbers aren't decreasing fast enough. The most difficult idea to comprehend is how much smoking affects not only the body of the smoker, but those they love. There are over 440, o00 deaths per per year that are related to smoking, not including the affects of secondhand smoke (check the CDC report for more information).

There is a protocol used when treating addiction that was developed several years ago, and has been proven to help with additions. This five-point auricular protocol is the Heart/Lung, Kidney, Sympathetic, Liver, and Shen Men (spirit) points. Together they rid the body of toxins, calm the mind, and help clear out the lungs, and help stop cravings. Often ear seeds are used at the points the needles were placed in to continue the effects.

A patient will be given handouts with ideas on how to quit the physical habit of smoking, and information on how to find a smoking cessation support group.  Our clinic also has herbal formulas such as EasePlus, which helps with digestion and elimination, a large part of removing toxins from the body. Getting rid of the pollution in the body gives you more time and energy to develop healthier habits and an improved lifestyle.

Watch the video below for a smoking cessation treatment.

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Naturopathic Medicine Discussion on OPB

Photo by educationdynamics A very interesting and informative discussion about the bill that will allow Naturopathic doctors (ND) to prescribe synthetic drugs is on OPB's "Think Out Loud" program. It aired today (June 16, 2009) from 9-10 AM. The title of this program is "Natural Medicine?" and there are two ND's (Dr. Igor Schwartzman and Dr. Mitch Stargrove)who give their opinion on this bill and how it will affect their practice.

Check out the article here , and be sure to listen to the show!

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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.



What can Acupuncture Treat? Asthma

Asthma: 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)



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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Having a Baby in Portland

megkids Portland was voted best city to have a baby! (Okay-I know it's been a few years , but I still think Portland has a lot to offer new parents and babies). Check out these Portland-based sites for new moms, moms-to-be, and parents with toddlers:

Urban Mamas is a site that "strives to create a dynamic online community for mamas who want to share tips, advice, reviews, ideas, fun, challenges, and more." A great site for all!

Moms Like Me - The network where Portland Moms meet ask questions, learn about local events, and plan activities with kids of all ages.

My Portland Baby is a site that lists several places to find organic foods, clothing and activities (if you

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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



New Health Sites: WellWire

A new and amazing hub of information about how to live well, check out the new and amazing WellWire. WellWire was started by two naturopathic physicians, Dr. Igor Schwartzman and Dr. Nishant Rao. They have created an space for practitioners and patients alike to share information, ask questions, read about nutritious foods, and watch informative videos by experienced practitioners. They post new recipes by professional chefs, and new videos by practitioners weekly.

Check them out!


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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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What can TCM treat? Male fertility

Photo by mandypantz

Male fertility isn't often the first thought when there is trouble with conception. However, according to statistics from the National Infertility Association (an organization also known as RESOLVE), between 35 and 40 percent of infertility problems among couples are actually due to male conditions.  Some factors that are known to affect sperm production are infections, varicocele (swollen veins in the scrotom), exposure to toxins and chemicals, smoking, and radiation.

Acupuncture may help some men overcome infertility problems by improving the quality of their sperm, according to a new study. Researchers found five weeks of acupuncture treatment reduced the number of structural abnormalities in sperm and increased the overall number of normal sperm in a group of men with infertility problems. Compared to the control group, motility levels increased significantly in semen samples in the men receiving acupuncture. While median motility levels increased from 32% to 37% in the control group, they increased from 44.5% to 50% in the acupuncture group. Read the entire article on Acupuncture Today.

Practitioners who work with female fertility are also successful in treating male fertility. We treat according to the Traditional Chinese medicine diagnosis while using acupuncture points to enhance fertility. Male infertility treatments with acupuncture would include points on the lower abdomen, back, and also some in the lower extremities. A practitioner may also prescribe an herbal formula. If you are working with an fertility doctor, it's good to let them know you are also receiving acupuncture.

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What can TCM treat? Fibromyalgia

Photo by postbear

Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that is characterized by pain in the muscles, ligaments and tendons. There is also fatigue, along with tender areas in the body where slight pressure causes intense pain. Many people who have fibromyalgia also find it difficult to sleep, which makes the fatigue and pain worse, as the body is unable to recover at night. Fibromyalgia was once diagnosed as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), but it is now known that these diseases have different diagnoses.

Fibromyalgia affects one in 50 Americans, and occurs more frequently in women than in men (according to the American College of Rheumatology). I recently spoke to a friend who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia several years ago. She told me that reflexology was the best thing she had tried so far, but since her insurance wasn't going to cover it anymore, she wanted to look into acupuncture. Her question for me was: "what can acupuncture do for me, and is it going to hurt more that I already do?"

Acupuncture is a great treatment for individuals with fibromyalgia. Practitioners are able to access the painful areas in the body without having to needle the place where there is pain. We are able to manage pain by using points in the wrist and hand, ankles and feet. There are points we can use in the scalp to help with pain management and auricular acupressure. I often incorporate some Shiatsu massage techniques into my treatments to help with the pain and even reiki can help gently move and balance the energy of the body.

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Acupuncture and PTSD: Radio Interview

 width=On Wednesday, May 20, 2009, a volunteer from Acupuncturists without Borders (AWB) will be hosting a radio interview about veterans with PTSD and acupuncture.  Dr. Joe C. Chang will be interviewed on this program, and will be discussing his integrative medicine program at both Army and Navy military bases. Acupuncturists without Borders is a non-profit organization that trains acupuncturists to organize and help out in crisis situations, and has also started the Military Stress Recovery Projects (formerly known as the Vets Project). To listen to this interview, go to and click on the listen now button (1-2 pacific time on Wednesday).

Photo by heidiheimsal

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What can TCM help with? Weight Loss

Weight loss is something many people struggle with at some point in their lives. For some, it is simple to drop a few pounds, but often it's a slow process that requires lifestyle changes and a dedication to taking care of our bodies. Acupuncture can be a great way to help with weight loss. The treatment may include the stimulation of acupoints in the hands, legs, and feet as well as the abdomen. The acupuncture points chosen by the practitioner are to help with craving for food, stimulate the metabolism, and boost energy.

Ear seeds by stillthedudeabides

When I am treating patients who are interested in weight loss, I often use ear seeds. These tiny seeds that stick to the ear using adhesive tape are to be pressed by the patient several times a day for one minute. They are very helpful in treating weight loss, and are painless and non-invasive. The auricular acupuncture points chosen are to help with craving for food, stimulate the metabolism, and boost energy. The points used might be Shen Men (to calm the mind), the Mouth point, and the Hunger point (enough said!)

There are also some good Traditional Chinese medicine herbal formulas that can help with weight loss. These are NOT formulas that contain huge amounts of ephedra, but are instead specifically aimed at the constitution of the patient. I would not recommend any of the fad diet regimes on the market today, so talk to your practitioner about an herbal formula that is tailored specifially to your needs and body type.

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