Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Herbal Dosing

Yesterday we went over raw herb dosing (one bag per day is the full dose - on the West Coast that seems to be halved). Now let's go over extract powder dosing. Today's post is a little more technical and student-oriented, but if you're a patient it's important for you to understand these issues as well.

Concentrated herbal extracts have made herbs much easier to prepare and take. Instead of the hour-long process we saw in yesterday's video, you just take your special pre-measured spoon, measure out a few scoops, mix with boiling water et voila! Your herbs are ready in liquid form, as easy as instant coffee.

The herb powder is generally in a 5:1 concentration, meaning for every 1 gram of powder herbs, it should be the equivalent of getting 5 grams of raw herbs. So, how much powder should you take?

Many practitioners and students prescribe 3 scoops, 3 times per day no matter what the formula. This is a mistake! 3 scoops 3 grams a day is not the same as boiling a bag of herbs per day or even the same as boiling a bag of herbs every other day - because of the nature of concentrated granules, each dosage should be unique.

I'm going to show you how to dose concentrated herbal powder - a procedure I had no idea about until Fritz Hudnut (supervisor at the Yosan clinic) showed me how to do it.

  1. Write your herbal prescription as normal, using standard raw dosages. As an example, let's use the following:
    Chai Hu 9
    Dang Gui 9
    Bai Shao 15
    Bai Zhu 9
    Fu Ling 12
    Shu Di 15
    Shan Zhu Yu 12
    Shan Yao 12
    Mu Dan Pi 9
    Ze Xie 9
    Sheng Jiang 6
    Bo He 3
    Gan Cao 3
  2. Now, add up all the daily raw dosages: 123 grams. If you were taking a raw formula, this is how much herbs you would need to take.
  3. Now divide by the concentration ratio of the herbs you use. Let's assume it's 5:1. 123/5 = 24.6. Let's round off to 24 grams - that's how much powdered herbs you should be using per day.
  4. Using a standard 1 gram spoon and taking three doses a day, that works out to 8 spoons 3 times per day. It also means that, if you give your patient a 50 gram bottle of herbs, it will last all of two days.
  5. Suppose you wanted to give them a half-dose: just divide your final result by two. 24/2 = 12 grams, or 4 spoons 3 times per day.

Monday, September 29, 2008

How To Cook Chinese Herbs

This instructional video is pretty good. The lighting isn't great, but all the basics are there.

A few things to remember:
  • Soaking your herbs before hand is a good idea, but be careful you retain all the herbal material when tossing out your soaking water. If you have very small pieces of leaves or small seeds, be sure to use a fine strainer.
  • Don't use a microwave to heat up your leftovers! In fact, most of the time you don't even need to refrigerate it. If you drink it all within 24-48 hours, leaving it on the counter and reheating on the stove should be fine.
  • Dosing: be sure to follow your practitioner's instructions on how much to drink and how much to brew. For some reason, many practitioners in the United States prescribe half-doses - in other words, they have you brew one bag of herbs for every two days. In China, they use one bag of herbs per day. I've heard some practitioners say that Americans aren't used to the taste of herbs, and therefore can't take the higher concentrations of the regular dose. At my first TCM school, the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine - New York, we dosed one bag per day. All the private practitioners I saw did the same. Here on the West Coast, many people dose one bag for every two days.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

No Drugs Down The Drain Week

It's official, folks. There is a week-long celebration in the state of California dedicated to NOT dumping your pharmaceutical drugs down the toilet. Your BCP's and Viagra now join the likes of pet alligators and paper towels.... Just don't do it.

Why is it so important? Why are we focusing for an entire week on Drugs Down the Drain, when there is only one day dedicated to all of the presidents of the United States combined? Because that stuff can end up in your drinking water, that's why!!

Forget about saving the environment, and all that stuff about polluting the rivers and killing innocent plants and animals.... think about your internal environment!! Pharmaceutical drugs are nasty, they are meant to be nasty. They are designed to be pervasive and work really well at what they do, which is destroy their target micro-organism/chemical pathway/physiological process. Because they are so good at what they do, they sometimes do things that drug-makers and researchers had no idea they would do until after they'd been in use for a while. The pharmaceutical drug industry is still very young, beginning with the advent of penicillin in the 1930's. This revolution in health care has saved a lot of lives, but it has also bred a lot of super drugs that now threaten our ability to utilize them as useful tools, as well as threaten our own immune systems with their potency.

Here's a more eloquent quote from the book, The Lost Language of Plants, by Stephen Harrod Buhner:
Many excreted pharmaceuticals and their metabolites are not biodegradable and go on producing chemical effects forever. Most that do biodegrade are regularly replenished by the need for continual dosing or by new prescriptions for new people. As pharmaceuticals are excreted in pure and metabolized forms they also intermix in the waste streams that flow into the environment in ways that cannot be predicted, with effects that are not understood. Researchers have found that metabolites, chemicals produced as by-products of pharmaceutical interaction with the body, tend to be more persistent in the environment, and are sometimes more powerful in their actions, than the drugs from which they are derived.

The mixing of chemical compounds in the environment is like mixing your drinks; if you start the night with a fine wine and end it with plastic-bottle vodka and whisky, you're going to regret being alive the next morning. But unlike alcohol, which does metabolize and degrade in our bodies and in the environment, these synthetic compounds do not.

So, remember, when your hands reach for that bottle of pills you no longer need, and you feel the temptation of the shiny white porcelain, think of yourself for a minute. You don't want to drink that in your water later, do you?

Saturday, September 27, 2008

You Are What You Eat

We picked up a copy of the Healthy Times Newspaper today while at a grocery store in Corona. Here's a fun feature article from their Sept/Oct issue:

A stupendous insight of civilizations past has now been confirmed by today's investigative, nutritional sciences. Research has shown that what was once called The Doctrine of Signatures was astoundingly correct. The doctrine contends that every whole food has a signature or pattern that resembles the human body organ or physiological function that most benefits from it.

Here is just a short list of examples of whole food signatures:

Picture of sliced carrotA sliced carrot looks like the human eye. The pupil, iris, and radiating lines look just like the human eye…and YES science now shows that carrots greatly enhance blood flow to and function of the eyes.

Picture of sliced tomatoA tomato has four chambers and is red. The heart is red and has four chambers. All of the research shows tomatoes are indeed pure heart and blood food.

Picture of bunch of grapesGrapes hang in a cluster that has the shape of the heart. Each grape looks like a blood cell and all of the research today shows that grapes are also profound heart and blood vitalizing food.

Picture of split walnutA walnut looks like a little brain, a left and right hemishpere, upper cerebrums, and lower cerebellums. Even the wrinkles or folds are on the nut just like the neo-cortex. We now know that walnuts help delvelp over 3 dozen neuron-transmitters for brain function.

Picture of kidney beansKidney beans actually heal and help maintain kidney function and yes, they look exactly like the human kidneys.

Picture of celery sticksCelery, Bok Choy, Rhubarb and more look just like bones. These foods specifically target bone strength. Bones are 23 percent sodium. If you don’t have enough sodium in your diet, the body pulls it from the bones, making them weak. These foods replenish the skeletal needs of the body.

Picture of sliced AvocadoEggplant, avocados, and pears target the health and function of the womb and cervix of the female - they look like these organs. Today’s research shows that when a woman eats 1 avocado a week, it balances hormones, sheds unwanted birth weight, and prevents cervical cancers. And how profound is this?….It takes exactly 9 months to grown an avocado from blossom to ripened fruit. There are over 14,000 photolytic chemical constituents of nutrition in each one of these foods (modern science has only studied and named about 141 of them.)

Picture of sliced figsFigs are full of seeds and hang in twos when they grow. Figs increase the motility of male sperm and increase the number of sperm, a way to overcome male sterility.

Picture of sweet potatoeSweet Potatoes look like the pancreas and actually balance the glycemic index of diabetics.

Picture of Black and Green OlivesOlives assist the health and functions of the ovaries.

Picture of citrus fruitsGrapefruit, oranges, and other Citrus fruits look just like the mammary glands of the female and actually assist the health of the breasts and the movement of lymph in and out of the breasts.

Picture of an onionOnions look like body cells. Today’s research shows that onions help clear waste materials from all of the body cells. They even produce tears which wash the epithelial layers of the eyes.

There was also a little table of the 12 Most and Least Contaminated Produce (conventionally grown fruits and vegetables contaminated by toxic pesticides):

12 Most Contaminated:
Bell Peppers

12 Least Contaminated:
Sweet Corn
Sweet Peas
Kiwi Fruit

The accompanying article discussed how children were more likely to suffer negative effects from pesticide exposure because of their lower body weight, their less developed immune systems, and the fact that they're still growing. For all of us, unsafe levels of pesticides have a wide variety of side effects on the endocrine, nervous and immune systems.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Pre-Historic Health Spa

Stonehenge has long been thought of as a burial site, where cremated remains and bodies have been found that date as far back as 3000 BCE. But the history of the land on which it rests dates back even farther: there were post holes for large wooden poles found in that location dated back to 8000 BCE. It seems as though this point on Earth has always held a certain significance, drawing different people and cultures to it throughout time. It should be no wonder then that as time passed, the purpose of the place could have changed in significance to those who visited it.

In the most recent excavation of the site - the first one in 44 years - two archaeologists have theorized that Stonehenge could have actually been used as a place of pilgrimage for those who were sick and dying, a veritable health spa of sorts.

There are bluestones placed in the inner ring of Stonehenge that were determined to have come from Preseli Mountains in Southwest Wales, 140 miles from Stonehenge. To give you an idea of how significant that is, the larger rocks of the more recognizably Stonehenge structure came from only 20 miles north of the site. Whoever was building Stonehenge at the time made it a point to bring those big bluestones in there.

Bluestones, named for the bluish color that appears when the stones get wet or cut, are recorded as having healing properties:

The stones are great;
And magic power they have;
Men that are sick;
Fare to that stone;
And they wash that stone;
And with that water bathe away their sickness.

The archaeologists also found that natural springheads, where water comes up from the ground, had been enhanced by the erection of small walls to dam the water that came up, creating little pools they proposed the sick would be able to sit in. Some of the springheads were "adorned with pre-historic art."

Bodies buried nearby that are contemporary to the time the bluestones were in place also support their theory. The remains of the buried show injuries that were possible causes of death, suggesting that these people had come to the site in hopes of being healed.

The full article about their new findings is printed in the October issue of the Smithsonian magazine.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

太极图 Tai Ji Tu

The 太极图 Tai Ji Tu, or tai ji diagram, illustrates the everchanging nature of yin and yang. Yin and yang are mutually supportive, oppositional, dynamic, and so on. For every up, there is a down. For every inside, there is an outside. Not only that, for the concept of "inside" to exist there must be an "outside". If everything was "inside" there would be no need for the term "outside".

This philosophical argument becomes real when applied to medicine, fighting, art, sex or any other area of life. What starts as the common cold, affecting the yang or upper part of the body in the nose and sinuses, can become pneumonia, affecting the deep interior or yin parts of the body. When your opponent attacks high, you attack low. When he advances, you retreat. When he retreats, you advance. Tai Ji is the separation of the essential wholeness of the universe into two parts, yin and yang.

Yin and yang must work together harmoniously in your body and in relation to the "outside" world. When there is a disturbance, you get sick. When there is no disturbance, you have health. All we do in acupuncture is balance yin and yang. There are further divisions of yin and yang, complicated disease models and mechanisms, but it all comes back to yin and yang.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Acupuncture for Portland

Artist Adam Kuby performed a month-long, single point acupuncture treatment for the city of Portland last March. This project "explores the interface between art, regional planning, traditional Chinese medicine and the health of a city."

Chinese medicine has for thousands of years recognized the fractal theory, although they didn't name it as such. (A fractal is a geometric construction wherein each part of the total structure is an exact copy of the whole. There are many other attributes as well - see here for more information on fractals.) In essence, the entire universe is a fractal, with each part reflecting the structure and relationships of the whole. This is most clearly seen in the relationship between the human body and the planet earth. The human body has twelve main meridians; Earth has the Nile, the Yellow River, the Amazon, the Mississippi, the Rhine, and so on. Earth has storms, thunder and lightning; humans have their emotions. Earth has five continents (six if you count Antarctica); the human body has five major organs (six if you count the Pericardium).

The parallels go on and on. So, if humans have acupuncture points, what are their equivalents on earth? The character for an acumoxa point is 穴 xue. The meaning of this character, taken alone, is cave, den, or hole. Therefore, earth's acumoxa points are its caves.

Caves have particular significance to spiritual traditions the world over. The prophet Muhammad received the first revelation of the Koran after meditating in a cave. Jesus Christ was entombed in a cave for three days before being born again. Some qi gong masters live in special caves in order to connect more directly with the qi of the earth. Think about that - you can go live in one of the earth's acupuncture points! We're no more than mites feeding on the earth's crust.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

How Long Should You Live?

For many people, the answer is "as long as possible." Some people are deathly afraid of getting older - maybe they've seen their parents or grandparents descend into dementia or become blind, deaf and crippled.

If you've been following this blog, you already know that old age doesn't necessarily mean being fragile and useless. Chinese history is full of stories about qi gong masters who live full, vital lives, with the same bodily functions at age 80 as they had at age 40. Heck, forget history, just go to Chinatown. New York's Chinatown is full of old Chinese people exercising, walking, shopping, and elbowing their way down the crowded streets in search of the best bargain. You can see the same thing in Southern California, but to a lesser degree because everyone here is in a car.

There are also people who are indifferent about living a long time, as long as they accomplish their goals. These people often have exciting lives, full of sex, drugs, adventure, and high stress situations. The payoff is they can often pack incredible achievements into their short lives, making millions or billions of dollars, or lighting the world on fire with some kind of outstanding art or music.

Which way is better? Given the bend of this blog, you might expect an endorsement of the quiet, simple life, full of meditation and bland food. The fact is, how you live your life is up to you, and no one can live it for you. As long as you're fulfilling your responsibilities, no one can shake their finger at you.

It's my personal belief that everyone has special talents and abilities, and it is your responsibility to develop them fully, so that others may benefit. Don't waste your life! Don't waste it on excessive drinking, but don't waste it on a purposeless office job either. Don't waste your life on partying, but don't waste it watching television either. Once you discover your purpose in life, everything else can become subordinate to that, including your health. Just keep in mind that for most people, taking the time to maintain optimal health will give you the tools to fulfill your purpose with more skill, energy and passion than if you're running on empty.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Acupuncture Mitigates Side Effects of Conventional Breast Cancer Treatments

There's a new study which confirms that acupuncture can relieve the unpleasant side effects of standard medication. In this case it's tamoxifen and anastrozole, which are used to help prevent recurrence of breast cancer.

Tamoxifen is a selective estrogen reuptake modulator (SERM), which disrupts the body's ability to bind with estrogen. Anastrozole decreases the amount of estrogen made by the body in the first place. Estrogen is targeted because some breast cancers respond to estrogen.

This is from the National Cancer Institute:

The known, serious side effects of tamoxifen are blood clots, strokes, uterine cancer, and cataracts (see Questions 5–8). Other side effects of tamoxifen are similar to the symptoms of menopause. The most common side effects are hot flashes and vaginal discharge. Some women experience irregular menstrual periods, headaches, fatigue, nausea and/or vomiting, vaginal dryness or itching, irritation of the skin around the vagina, and skin rash. As with menopause, not all women who take tamoxifen have these symptoms. Men who take tamoxifen may experience headaches, nausea and/or vomiting, skin rash, impotence, or a decrease in sexual interest.

And this from the NY Times:

The acupuncture worked just as well as the antidepressant Effexor to curb hot flashes. Women who received acupuncture also reported fewer side effects and more energy, and some reported an increased sex drive, compared to women who used Effexor, the study showed.

So, to recap: All the women in the study were taking tamoxifen and anastrozole. Half of them took Effexor, and half got acupuncture once or twice a week for twelve weeks.

This sort of study is very important in advancing acceptance of acupuncture in mainstream circles. For those women who are taking these highly toxic medications, which suppress the production of their natural hormones, acupuncture should be available to alleviate their suffering.

If we accept the dominant bacteriological medical paradigm, this is the best that acupuncture can do: cleaning up around the edges after the worst diseases have taken their toll. This role is least threatening to pharmaceutical money and M.D. status, and therefore is not crushed.

The "modern" medical model ignores the role of emotion, jeers at notions of "energy" and would rather wait years for highly selective "evidence" to become available before admitting that dirty air and chemically-tainted water can cause disease.

But if we are true to our medicine, and do our best to advance the Chinese medical model of health, that is where I believe we will do the most good. Cancer is a form of stagnation. Therefore, to avoid stagnation, you have to move. It follows that exercise is one the single best ways to treat just about everything.

Stagnation can also be caused by overburdening the body's digestive system. Therefore, to avoid stagnation, don't eat too much. Limit your intake of fatty, greasy and sweet foods.

Lots of people talk about the "mind-body" connection, but in Chinese medicine there is no clear line between the mind and body. The mind, as a set of neuro/emotional habits distinct from the physical brain, is a part of the body just as much as your thigh bone or your endocrine system. In Chinese medicine, we say that long-term stagnation can transform into fire, and that is certainly true of emotions. It is therefore vitally important to your health that you understand your emotions. Meditation is a wonderful way to separate yourself from your "self", to gain some perspective on your personality and see yourself from the outside. When you realize that you aren't a slave to your emotions, the whole world becomes your playground. Or so I'm told... I've still got work to do in that department. ;)

Eat well, exercise, and express yourself - the three E's. It's easy advice to ignore because it's so bland. But it becomes less bland when you personalize it. One person's eating well is entirely different from another person's eating well - a small, weak person needs fortifying foods like lamb and small amounts of alcohol to aid circulation. But give that same prescription to a 6 foot tall, 300 pound 50-year-old man with high blood pressure and you'll be sending him to an early grave. Some people have a lot of energy and need to go to kickboxing class to work it off, while for some others, some gentle tai ji quan or qi gong would be best. And of course, emotional expression varies widely.

There is a fourth E! The three E's should be done everyday! Avoid cancer! Live your life! Be happy!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

An Audio Introduction to Chinese Tea

This afternoon on The Splendid Table, host Lynne Rossetto Kasper interviews Bill Waddington, the owner of Tea Source. Tea Source is a company in Minnesota that imports Chinese and Indian teas. Click here to listen (Realplayer).

Tea is one of the best possible things you can put in your body. It's a modern superfood with a legendary past, revered by cave-dwelling sages as well as research scientists.

In general, the best tea in the world comes from southern China and Taiwan (English tea is a little bit like Belgian chocolate - a remnant of the colonial past.) All tea comes from one plant, camellia sinensis. All the different varieties - green, black, white, et cetera, come from growing and processing methods.

To learn more about tea, take a look at this website.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Healing and the Mind

This is a clip from "Healing and the Mind", the PBS series from the early 90's, hosted by Bill Moyers. Moyers goes to China and sees first-hand the way qi, or universal life force energy, is utilized for healing and prevention, from daily exercises to in-patient treatments in hospitals. This excellent series is, amazingly, only available on VHS, making it something of a collector's item.

This particular clip bends towards the martial arts aspect of qi. Martial arts and healing are really two sides of the same coin, but that's a topic for a future post. For now, it's enough to say that martial arts and healing both utilize qi to bring about change in the physical body.

Speaking of which...
Yosan alum Yangchu Higgins is hosting a workshop that utilizes EFT methodology to bring about change in your emotional body (which may very well lead to changes in your physical body).

Quantum Workshop: Tapping On What Others Think

1) To apply Emotional Freedom Techniques on feelings around “What others think”;
2) To relate primate behavior to individual emotional states;
3) To clear an incident where “what others thought” elicits energetic dissonance;
4) To create a pathway of new possibilities towards others’ thoughts.
Every third Wednesday of the month 7:00-9:30
1313 S. Hudson Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90019, call 323.936.5152
Cost $65

Friday, September 19, 2008

Tylenol Puts Children At Risk For Asthma

A study was performed in Hong Kong that showed children were at an increased risk for developing asthma and eczema by the age of 6 or 7 if they had been given paracetamol (or acetominophen, brand name Tylenol) during infancy. The study included 205,000 children in 31 countries, and determined that paracetamol use in the first year of life was associated with a 46 percent higher risk of asthma by the time the children were 6 or 7 compared to those never exposed to the drug. If the drug was given to the child at least once a year but less than once a month within the past 12 months, it increased the likelihood of developing asthma by 61 percent. If a child was given the drug once a month or more, the risk for asthma is tripled, the risk for eczema is doubled, and the child is also at high risk for developing rhinoconjunctivitis.

The pharmaceutical alternative for pain and fever, aspirin, is linked to the risk of Reye's disease, and is not recommended for babies. So despite the recent findings, the researchers claim that paracetamol is still the drug of choice for such pediatric problems, since asthma and eczema beats getting brain damage.

It's too bad there was no mention in the study by the researchers, or in the article in Reuter's, about alternatives to both of these drugs, especially because people love their herbal decoctions in Hong Kong. Chinese medicine treats a whole slew of pediatric diseases, and there are specific treatment plans especially for infantile febrile disorders. One of the most effective ways to treat fever in a baby is to massage it out with special tui na techniques along the channels (which are different in a baby than in an adult), using fast, light movements coupled with a little bit of water. There are also herbs that can be used to reduce a fever in a matter of minutes with little to no side effects in comparison to synthetic pharmaceutical drugs. Acupuncture can even be administered to vent the heat, though for babies it's more of a quick in-and-out pricking with the needles than a relaxing 30 minutes on the table.

Little bodies have a lot of things going on when they first enter the world, and a lot of biochemical changes are happening very quickly. It's kind of crazy to think about how just one exposure can put a child at such a dramatic level of risk.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Guan Yu

He is worshiped as a guardian god to some, god of brotherhood and loyalty to others, and sometimes as one who protects the money of the upright from the crooked. He was also a real person: a general during the late Eastern Han Dynasty.

During one of his battles, Guan Yu was struck by a poison arrow in his arm, and although the arrow was immediately removed, the poison had seeped into his bone. His subjects sent away for a physician, and none other than Hua Tuo came to the rescue.

When Hua Tuo arrived on the scene, Guan Yu was busy playing Go with one of his men. Hua Tuo examined his wound, and said that surgery would have to be performed immediately to save his arm. He suggested that Guan Yu put is arm through a ring that was fixed to a post - to keep him from flailing around while Hua Tuo scraped at his bone (without anesthesia) - and to put on a blindfold.

Guan Yu was like, "No way dude! Do what you need to, I'm going to keep playing this game of Go." Supposedly, he didn't want to affect the morale of his men, and talked and drank without flinching while Hua Tou scraped at the bone in his arm.

Minutes later, Hua Tou put medicine (presumably herbs) into the wound and sewed it up. Guan Yu no longer felt any pain in his arm, and Hua Tou left without accepting rewards for his work.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Chinese Medicine Case Study: Diabetes

This video follows one woman's experience with Chinese medicine. Note that in addition to acupuncture and Chinese herbs, she changed her diet, cutting out all greasy fatty foods, eating more fresh vegetables and less meat. Eating a healthy diet is important for everyone, but especially so for diabetic or pre-diabetic patients. Don't go see the acupuncturist expecting miracles if you won't change your bad habits!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Good Job, America!

The American Hospital Association reports that more and more hospitals are offering some type of complementary or alternative medicine. The number one reason? You asked for it!

The number two reason? It works! Or, as they say in medical language, "clinical effectiveness."

If your hospital or health group doesn't offer acupuncture, ask for it and they will respond! In America's non-governmental medical landscape, the market supposedly determines what is best for patients and responds accordingly. That means you've got to vote with your dollars. Tell your doctor, or better yet your hospital administrator, your insurance rep, that you want acupuncture, and if you can't get it at the hospital you'll go outside the insurance system to get it.

Monday, September 15, 2008

So Cold... So Cold...

A new study has shown that the so-called "cold shoulder" can actually feel quite chilly.

In Chinese medicine, it's understood that emotions can have a very clear physical effect. In fact, emotions are one of the three classical causes of disease (the other two being weather and external trauma - newer Chinese medical concepts include "miscellaneous qi" or "pestilential qi" which roughly correspond to bacteria and viruses).

For instance, grief is said to "consume the qi." If you've ever known someone who was in a major depression, you know this to be true (remember, qi is roughly equivalent to breath or energy). Anger makes the qi rise quickly - if you know someone with an anger problem, you know this is true. What happens? Their face gets red, they start yelling and screaming - all indications that the qi has risen quickly to the upper part of the body and needs to come out.

It should therefore come as no surprise that even other people's emotions can affect you. A particularly devastating type of ostracism put to use during China's ruinous Cultural Revolution was to be "struggled" by your comrades - you would be put in the middle of a circle and made to confess to your various sins against the revolution. To be repeatedly publicly shamed (as well as physically beaten) drove many to suicide or insanity.

The next time you feel like shooting someone an evil look, or yelling obscenities at the guy in the parking lot who just took "your" spot, take a moment to reconsider. Beware of the casual use of insults or bad manners, even if you're "just joking" or "my friends know I'm only kidding". You could really hurt someone, emotionally and physically. The traditional Chinese belief is that the universe has a circular energy - what you put out there eventually comes back to you. So be nice.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Introduction to a Chinese Herbal Pharmacy Part Two

We continue today with a short explanation of Chinese herbal formulas, from the same people who brought you yesterday's video.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Introduction to a Chinese Herbal Pharmacy

This video is a good introduction to a typical Chinese herbal pharmacy that you might find in any major American city's Chinatown.

I feel obligated to point out that the doctor made one glaring error. 党参 Dang Shen (the long wrinkled-looking root) is not a type of ginseng. Ginseng is part of the Panax family. Dang Shen is a type of codonopsis. They do have similar functions, but don't let anyone try and sell you Dang Shen as a type of ginseng.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Large Hadron Collider Now Online

What is the Large Hadron Collider? The video above explains it better than I ever could.

As I understand it, part of what they're doing there is searching for the smallest particle in the universe. My guess is, they'll never find it. According to the laws of yin and yang, they certainly never will, because yin and yang are infinitely divisible. This might seem like an easy, almost flippant thing to say, but it's actually based on thousands of years of observation and fine-tuning.

Modern physics is a fascinating area for anyone interested in the natural world. Chinese medicine, with its roots in Daoism, is a natural area of research for physicists. As the tools and equipment get more sophisticated, we are able to detect different frequencies of energy waves we weren't able to see before. Experiments have been conducted which measure brain waves of experienced meditators, heat or cold in patients and practitioners as a result of qigong therapy, and other "insubstantial" or non-physical therapies which have a physical effect.

This is a complex subject which branches out in many directions. For now, enjoy the video!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Professional Attire

Last month, our colleague Jason wrote a post on the White Coat Syndrome, discussing the drawbacks of dress on patient care. With the potential of stress that it may cause, seems like it would be advantageous to do away with the white coat. However, since first impressions and appearance plays such a huge role in interpersonal relationships, it's hard to discard such a recognizable article of distinction. One of the arguments for wearing a white coat is that it gives patients a sense of comfort and professionalism: a practitioner who takes the time to polish her/his appearance must be someone well-equipped to help them with their concerns.

Beyond the white coat, what does the "professional look" actually entail?

The general formula for a male doctor would be dress shoes, dress pants, long-sleeved button-up shirt, tie, and white lab coat. For a female doctor the rules are generally the same, though the tie is not necessary, and it's sometimes acceptable to get away with capri pants or a skirt on occasion.

As an acupuncture intern, I've found that the long sleeves of a white lab coat are sort of dangerous. Getting caught on a needle, for instance, is a threat that I'd rather not take the chance on; it can either cause my patient undue pain, or a needle-stick to myself. Brushing on patients' clothing and bodies when reaching over them is also a possibility, which is not good if a patient has anything that I can carry on myself and on to the next patient. Washing my hands all day long after touching patients puts me at a higher likelihood of getting my sleeves wet as well. It is a known fact that damp and moist environments are playgrounds for germs, fungus, and bacteria. My solution to this has been to roll up the sleeves of both my button-up shirt and my lab coat, which deals with the sleeve issue, but at times restricts my movement making it difficult to maneuver into certain positions for needling.

I leave the bottom buttons of my coat unbuttoned for the same reasons, otherwise it's almost impossible to squat or bend at the waist. Although it would be more comfortable for me, leaving my coat completely unbuttoned makes it more likely for me to drag or snag on the chairs and table, as well as brush up on patients. I imagine that if I had to wear a necktie, I would feel even more restricted. I don't wear ties in the clinic because I don't have to, but I don't understand why anyone would considering they are known vectors for bacteria.

I won't even start with dress shoes and how impractical they are for long periods of standing and treating patients.

I actually enjoy looking professional and put-together, but I wonder why that can't be done without the restrictive clothing and the long sleeves. What if we created a new-era uniform for medical professionals? Not as surgical as scrubs, but not as impractical as a business suit.

Apparently, the National Health Institute in England is thinking about the same thing. In the interest of public health and safety, they've instituted a new dress code banning ties and urging doctors to wear short sleeves. That sounds great to me, but I guess it makes a lot of people uncomfortable. There are studies that show patients do care greatly about what their doctors are wearing. But what if we just change the expectations? It seems impractical and negligent to continue a practice as superficial as focusing on attire when it jeopardizes the health and safety of both practitioner and patient.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

New York Times: IBS Treated with Emotional Re-Education

This article in the New York Times shows that even M.D.s are rethinking their treatment of irritable bowel syndrome.

A small but growing number of specialists are seeking to reunite mind and body by treating patients with a combination of medications, dietary precautions and emotional re-education. Their early studies indicate that this mind-body approach is more effective than either alone.

Dr. Charles D. Gerson, a gastroenterologist affiliated with Mount Sinai Medical Center, works with his wife, Mary-Joan Gerson, a psychotherapist, and their daughter, Jessica, a hypnotherapist, at the Mind-Body Digestive Center in New York.

Dr. Gerson said in an interview that for patients who are seriously impaired by I.B.S., medications help but “there is no magic pill that solves the whole problem. Patients need a more holistic approach. Those who accept emotional as well as physical causes of their condition do better.”

Read the whole article here...

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Happy Birthday, Nini!

Today is Nini's birthday. Now that you know, please don't use this information as part of a voodoo curse. Thanks!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Acupuncture for Fertility

This video is from the Tao Of Wellness. The doctor you see, Dr. Daoshing Ni, is one of the founders of our school. This is a great introduction to Chinese medicine treatments for infertility.

Acupuncturists everywhere owe a debt of gratitude to the Tao of Wellness for putting together these short, polished videos. More accessible information about Chinese medicine can only help our profession. If you're an acupuncturist and you have a website, I would encourage you to put this video on your site, or a link to it in your email newsletter.

p.s. Check out Dr. Dao's needle technique. You like???

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Peking Acrobats!

I know this is a little off topic, but I just saw them perform with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and it was absolutely amazing! This was just one of their performances for the night. Other acts included contortionism all over the place, spinning plates, chair balancing, balancing on each other's heads, jumping through hoops, lion dancing, martial arts and the list goes on and on. The most nerve-wracking act was this one where this amazing woman did a one-handed horizontal flagging of her body on top of a stack of chairs as tall as the stage of the Hollywood Bowl. The four legs of the bottom chair stood on top of four empty glass bottles, which were on top of a platform about 6 feet high. It was quality entertainment.

The conductor of the Philharmonic was great as well. He was enthusiastic and entertaining, and the musical selection for the evening was superb.

I thought about relating this post to health somehow - like, it takes lots of qi and blood to be able to perform the way they do; or being in the open air and enjoying live music builds qi; etc, etc. But then it just takes away from the fact that these people are SUPERHUMAN and deserve their own post.

If you ever get the chance to see them, give me a call so I can go with you!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

How Much Sugar Should I Eat?

The short answer is: just a little.

The long answer? Well, you could turn to this misleading website by the Corn Refiner's Association for some incomplete answers on the "benefits" of high fructose corn syrup (thanks to Jason Moskovitz for the link). For instance, in the Q&A section, there's this helpful information...

Why do we crave sweetness?
People have evolved from the hunter-gatherers when sweetness indicated that a food was safe to eat. Sweetness was and still is a key taste marker to survival and good health. Sugars as carbohydrates are an important supply of energy to the body. This energy was essential to our survival in our not-so-distant, hunter-gatherer past. However, over the last 12,000 years our way of life has changed significantly. In contrast to our past, an abundance of calories is not essential, but the craving for sweet things remains.

If you can get past the appalling grammar, you may notice the stunted logic and historical inaccuracies. The one sentence that I agree with states that life has changed significantly over the past 12,000 years. We do still have hunter-gatherer instincts. But if you're hunting the aisles of a typical American supermarket for sustenance, sweetness is not a "key taste marker to survival". In fact, avoiding sweetness in this context will help you avoid many of the major "diseases of affluence" (those caused by too much of something rather than too little) such as diabetes.

This site is obviously designed to put you at ease as you wash down your Lil Debbie snack cakes with Dr. Pepper, but regular sugar is not so great either. I went through a phase where I wouldn't drink sodas made with corn syrup, only those made with real sugar. For some reason I thought I was being healthy - and then I realized that I was drinking way more soda than I usually did.

The corn syrup site also bad mouths supposedly natural sweeteners such as concentrated white grape juice. I have to admit that I was taken in by this sweetener at first, particularly in jam and jelly. I found this brand that was sweetened with fruit juice, and I thought "great! natural!". Again, it's what they leave out that gets you. The fruit juice they use is concentrated to such a degree that it's not much better than regular sugar.

The existence of this site is a testament to the popularity of books like Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation and Greg Critser's Fat Land: How Americans Became the Fattest People in the World. (The latter book is where I learned about Earl Butz, pictured above. He was Nixon's agriculture secretary and was chiefly responsible for the increase in corn subsidies to ridiculous levels, which in turn ensured the huge surplus of corn that led to the synthesizing of high fructose corn syrup and its subsequent injection into nearly every single packaged item on your supermarket shelf.) Just be aware that the Corn Refiners Association has millions and millions of dollars invested in getting you to eat more crap.

So, where should you get your sugars? Here's an idea: from whole food (which you can get at many places besides the overpriced Whole Foods Market). If you crave something sweet, try eating a piece of fruit. I remember when I was growing up there was always a fruit bowl around. Keep some fruit around all the time and you'll always have sweetness. Another thing you can do is chew your whole-grain rice more completely. Sugars are simple carbohydrates. When you chew your rice or sweet potato or whatever you prefer, salivary amylase breaks down starch into sugar. If you chew incompletely, you don't get the benefit of the full digestive process.

Sweetness is important. In Chinese medicine, the sweet flavor is associated with the earth phase, which in turn relates to the spleen, pancreas, stomach, and the colors yellow and orange. A nice piece of fruit for dessert lifts the digestive energy, or spleen qi.

So don't run from sweetness - run from added sugars both natural and artificial! Most of you have no need of them. By habit many of us are used to eating much more sugar than we need. If you can break the habit, you'll be much healthier!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Chinese Medicine Pharmacy

Take a look at this gorgeous Chinese medicine pharmacy. I don't know where this picture came from, but it's a nice example of a beautiful herbal pharmacy. A friend of mine went to China earlier this year and saw many pharmacies just like this.

If you're unfamiliar with Chinese herbal pharmacies, it's worth a trip to your local Chinatown to see one in action. You probably won't see one as nice as the one in this picture, but the idea is the same. You walk in with your prescription from your herbalist and hand it to someone behind the counter. They'll price it for you and, once you give the okay, will start assembling the formula.

A typical Chinese herbal prescription contains anywhere from 4-18 different ingredients. Each one has to be weighed and measured out - this all takes place on the counter in front of you, so you can see what's going on. If you want to get all Chinese about it, you can criticize the herbal pharmacists as they go about their job, telling them to give you the high-grade herbs or asking if they're sure they weighed everything correctly. Of course, this has to be done in Chinese, preferably in the dialect that the herbalists are familiar with.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Ben Cao Gang Mu

Do you know who Li Shi Zhen is? Well, you should. He's pretty awesome. During the Ming Dynasty, he compiled the book known as the Ben Cao Gang Mu 本草纲目, or the "Grand Materia Medica." He spent all of his life studying herbs, 27 years of which was spent writing this one book. It has 1,892 individual herbs listed, 374 of which were not previously listed in any other herbal manual. He also went through all other available texts for comparison and corrected errors he found. He is basically the biggest herb nerd in the history of the world... and my idol.

(Sun Si Miao is still the love of my life though... sorry, Li Shi Zhen)

The Ben Cao Gang Mu has an expansive variety of herbs listed, far more than any other herbal book in English or Chinese. Lucky for us, as of 2004, you can get the very first complete English translation of the Ben Cao Gang Mu in a six-volume set. I want it.

By the way, the video is of Jay Chou, that guy from that movie Curse of the Golden Flower. He's a big-time pop star in Taiwan and China, and he's singing his song called Ben Cao Gang Mu. Read the lyrics! I got a good chuckle out of it.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Broken Shelves

Earlier today, a 19-square-mile piece of ice in the Arctic broke free and floated out to sea like a giant, Manhattan-sized ship. It had been a part of Ellesmere Island, Canada for the last three to four thousand years.

That's a really big piece of ice, right? Every summer, the Arctic cap tends to lose some of its shelf, but usually regains it back over the colder months. According to today's article, the losses for this summer have equaled 82-square-miles.

These changes are irreversible under the present climate and indicate that the environmental conditions that have kept these ice shelves in balance for thousands of years are no longer present

For clarification, ice shelves are floating pieces of ice that are attached to land, but sit over the water. The good news for us is that sea level does not change when floating ice melts. But the breakup of an ice shelf leaves a glacier (ice over land) exposed and more susceptible to cracks and breaks. When a glacier melts, sea level rises. Melting glaciers also induce the breaking-off of shelf ice, further inducing glacial surges that can drastically change sea level.

Basically, this is not a good thing. Well, not for the ecosystems that live on the shelves, which will no longer exist by 2049 according to UCAR, and not for us or any other species that likes to live on land, and without being baked alive.

The planet, however, will be just fine and the creatures of the sea will start to take over again. Maybe the octopuses will become the next super species, and have pet sharks, and farm schools of guppies, and trade crabs as currency.

Or maybe it will be just like that Kevin Costner movie, and we'll all start to develop gills behind our ears and dirt will become a delicacy. Mmmmmm, delicious!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The Fire Shower

After a cold day on the tundra, there's nothing I like better than a warm, refreshing fire shower.

I've never seen this done before, but it's obviously another part of the acupuncturist's toolkit, things that can be done besides sticking needles into the body. We've already had a post about gua sha. In the future we'll cover moxa, cupping, and all the various scraping and tapping tools that acupuncturists use to access the body's meridian system. EFT is an example of a more modern tool which accesses the meridian system.

Monday, September 1, 2008


Check out this super awesome short film on fruits! (Not the fashion-minded Japanese youth, but the delicious kind that you can eat.) I wasn't able to embed the video clip, but if you click on the link, I promise you won't be disappointed. Towards the end you'll see images of Sang Shen 桑椹 mulberry fruit and Fo Shou 佛手 Buddha's hand citron, two fruits used in Chinese medicine.

You can read about the above picture here, or read about other things going on in the world of plants at The Botanical Society of America.