Friday, February 27, 2009

Consumers Turn to Herbs over Prescription Medications

Kristen Kemp, right, gives her 1-year-old son Soren some black elderberry extract at their home in Montclair, N.J. Kemp uses home remedies and herbal medicine for her kids’ sore throats and colds instead of prescription medications to cut costs.

According to this story from the Associated Press, more and more consumers are turning to herbal remedies over prescription medications, in part to save money in this down economy.

“The doctors are so much higher (in cost), the insurance isn’t paying as much,” said the 61-year-old self-employed bookkeeper and notary. Her husband, a retired dispatcher, has high blood pressure and seizures. Recent changes in their health insurance coverage resulted in $1,300 in monthly premiums, double what they used to be.

The story also points out an important safety factor: most people who use herbs are self-medicating. While herbs themselves are quite safe, people may end up hurting themselves if they use them without guidance. Most of the time this comes from taking something long-term that is only meant to be taken for a short period of time.

For instance, many people know Yin Chiao as the product to take when they feel the first symptoms of a cold (银翘解毒丸 Yin Qiao Jie Du Wan). This herbal remedy works so well that some of my friends started to take it all the time, thinking that it would work as a sort of herbal prevention. A daily dose of Yin Chiao is actually indicated for people with herpes, to prevent outbreaks. Taking Yin Chiao when you're not sick at all can lead to a chronic stuffy nose.

The best way to take Chinese herbs safely? Consult a licensed acupuncturist (L.Ac) - nearly all of us have extensive herbal training. Hate needles? Ask them for an herbal consultation, sans acupuncture. Most will be happy to oblige.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Doc Hay

Today we bring you the story of Ing Hay, an herbal doctor from China who lived in Oregon in the late 1800's. He established an excellent reputation as a doctor despite the violent racism of the time.

He was the most famous Herbalist between San Francisco and Seattle in his day. He was a master of pulse diagnosis. Doc Hay could tell his patients what was wrong with them just by feeling the pulse in their arm. Then he would prepare an herbal mixture from local plants and herbs from China. Doc Hay was blind. When he shut the building up in 1948 to go to the nursing home, Doc Hay left behind over 500 different herbs, many that have never been identified.
-Kam Wah Chung Museum

What's interesting to me is that Doc Hay used both "local plants and herbs from China." An important part of Chinese medicine is to use an appropriate treatment according to your geographic location. For instance, what happens when your grandma who's lived in Queens all her life retires? She moves to Florida! Because the winters are too harsh in New York. Florida is much warmer and easier on the joints. All living things are a part of their environment and respond to their environment in different ways.

Doc Hay didn't only use Chinese herbs, he educated himself about the local herbs in his environment. In this way he was a naturalist as well as an herbalist. In southern California we have many native healing plants, sage being one of the most well-known.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

You're Sitting in a Chair - IN THE SKY!!!

This is somewhat off-topic, but I really like this video of a comic named Louis CK on Conan O'Brien's late night show... he says some excellent stuff about how amazing life is right now. On the internet it's been named "Everything is so amazing and nobody is happy." It brings some much-needed perspective to our modern lives. Do we really need to do everything faster?


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Licorice and Green Tea Save Me a Call to the Poison Control Center

Yesterday morning I took pity on my dog's relentless scratching and dosed her up with imidacloprid, the topical anti-flea medication known as Advantage. It comes as a liquid in a little vial that you put on the skin up and down the dog's spine.

You're supposed to let it dry before touching the dog again. Not only did I violate that rule, somehow I also got the stuff in my mouth just before we left the house for the morning walk. As we walked, I could feel a dry sensation in my mouth spreading from the point of contact with the insecticide. Oh God, I'm going to die, I thought, before more rational thoughts took hold - chemicals are unavoidable in the modern world, you're going to die eventually anyway - and I decided to head home and call the poison control center, as the package suggests if you get the stuff on your hands or in your mouth.

As I got closer to home, I tried to think about what I could use from Chinese medicine. Finally I thought of licorice root - 甘草 Gan Cao, the "sweet herb" used in almost every Chinese medicine formula for its gentle harmonizing properties. Gan Cao affects all twelve major meridians of the body and has a detoxifying effect when used with herbs that have extremely drastic actions.

Glycyrrhizin, generally considered to be one of the main constituents of Gan Cao, has a marked detoxifying effect to treat poisoning, including but not limited to drug poisoning (chloral hydrate, urethane, cocaine, picrotoxin, caffeine, pilocarpine, nicotine, barbituates, mercury and lead), food poisoning (tetrodotoxin, snake and mushroom), and others (enterotoxin, herbicides and pesticides). On the other hand, Gan Cao is not effective in treating poisoning caused by atropine, morphine, and sulfonmethane. It may increase the toxicity of ephedrine. The exact mechanism of this action is unclear, but is thought to be related to its regulatory effect on the endocrine or hepatic systems. Oral ingestion of Gan Cao reduces the absorption of toxins via direct binding, an effect similar to that of activated charcoal. Gan Cao significantly reduces the toxicity of Fu Zi (Radix Aconiti Lateralis Praeparata) when the two herbs are decocted together. (Zhong Yao Tong Bao Journal of Chinese Herbology, 1985; 11(10):55)

-Chinese Medical Herbology and Pharmacology, p. 869

I also decided to use green tea. Green tea is another gentle herb with detoxifying actions. I boiled a small handful of Gan Cao for about ten minutes and used the liquid to make tea. I felt immediate relief from the dry mouth, but I skipped breakfast anyway.

If you've accidentally ingested something suspicious, call a poison control center at 1-800-222-1222.

Monday, February 23, 2009


Back in the 70's there was a soul group called Acufunkture. It looks like they were so underground their records are now collected by English people (note: this doesn't necessarily mean they were any good). Were they interested in acupuncture? Who knows.

Also, here's an amateur DJ from France who calls himself Acufunkture.

Finally, there is also a contemporary group called Acufunkture that is either the house band for a BDSM club or very single-minded when it comes to making fliers. An image search on google gives some interesting results. No links for that, you'll have to do it yourself.

Happy Monday!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Chuan Xin Lian, Kold Kare, Kan Jang

Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon write a syndicated column called "The People's Pharmacy." Recently they ran an item from someone who asked about a product called Kan Jang, produced by the Swedish Herbal Institute. Kan Jang not being available on the U.S. market, they recommended something called Kold Kare. The main ingredient in both products is andrographis, known to the Chinese medicine community as 穿心蓮 Chuan Xin Lian.

Chuan Xin Lian is extremely cold and bitter, and goes to the Lung, Stomach, Large Intestine, and Small Intestine meridians. It's often used for its anti-inflammatory and antibiotic effects. One study shows that a decoction of Chuan Xin Lian enhances the immune system and increases the phagocytic activity of white blood cells (Zhong Yao Yao Li Yu Ying Yong Pharmacology and Applications of Chinese Herbs, 1983:824).

Although the People's Pharmacy column discusses the use of andrographis for colds, I recently used a Chuan Xin Lian product to help control an infection that developed after a puncture wound in the palm of my hand. A friend tossed me a key, and as I caught it between my hands, the point dug into the center of my palm, almost exactly where the acumoxa point Laogong PC-8 is located. I ignored for a day or two, but it wound started to throb and get redder. I even started to feel some pain up my forearm. Then I squeezed some yellow pus out of the wound. That worried me, to say the least.

Along with an external application of 三黃散 San Huang San, I took 穿心蓮抗炎片 Chuan Xin Lian Kang Yan Pian. San Huang San, the "three yellows powder," consists of Huang Qin, Huang Lian, Da Huang, Hong Hua, Pu Gong Ying, and Zhi Zi. I mixed a small amount of the powder with green tea, put it directly on the wound and covered it with a band-aid. The pills I took at a high dose for three days, and continued to change the San Huang San each day. After three days my hand and forearm no longer hurt and the wound had almost completely healed over with no redness or swelling.

Chinese herbs have incredible antibacterial and antiviral effects. People sometimes tell me that they canceled an acupuncture appointment because they "felt sick." That makes no sense! Go to the acupuncturist when you get sick! A lot of people only see the acupuncturist for physical pain, but acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine are excellent for treating the common cold, flu, infections and so on.

Chuan Xin Lian Kang Yan Pian and San Huang San are both available from Fat Turtle Herb Company (online shopping coming soon).

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Book Review: Keeping Your Child Healthy With Chinese Medicine

My sister had a baby last year, the first one in our lot to do so, and for the last year I have been pre-occupied with pediatrics. As we've noted in some of our past posts, Chinese medicine is very effective at treating most childhood illnesses with little to no side effects. Since we are focused on the physiology and not just the disease, we can help the little ones recover from their diseases at the same time as correct the physiological imbalance that brought on the symptoms in the first place.

I understand that when a child is sick, however, that a parent would want to do everything they can to make sure their child gets better. We are taught in the US that the only way to cure diseases is to take drugs prescribed by a medical doctor. What if we could save those medicines for when they are truly absolutely necessary, making them more effective in turn, and instead adopt a model of graduated care where parents can be consulted to treat their children naturally first and allopathically when needed.

This would require teaching consumers of medicine of all the things that Chinese medicine can successfully do for them and their kids. Being in school for the last four years, and surrounding myself with other students and doctors of the medicine by default, makes it easy to forget that we use a completely different language to describe the anatomy even though we're speaking English. People like my sister, who has little knowledge of health care let alone Chinese medicine, need information that is straightforward, easy to understand, and comprehensive. The book Keeping Your Child Healthy with Chinese Medicine: A Parent's Guide to the Care and Prevention of Common Childhood Diseases does just that.

The book starts with a nice introduction on TCM, and goes into comparing the benefits and drawbacks of both Chinese and Western allopathic medicine. Bob Flaws, the author, does a great job of describing each of the commonly encountered illnesses in pediatrics, including ones that are not in Chinese medicine textbooks from China. He explains that because our lifestyles are different from those in China, including our overuse of antibiotics, children suffer from different kinds of recurring illnesses here in the West. He also advises parents on when to trust the wisdom of Chinese medicine, and when it would be better to see a Western MD for the treatment of more severe cases.

As the title suggests, it is a parent's guide, and does not go into great detail about the actual treatment of illnesses or their protocol. It does provide readers with an understanding of how Chinese medicine would go about treating these diseases, and what to expect from a TCM physician. It has a great chapter on how to go about finding a TCM practitioner, and what kinds of questions to ask when looking for someone to treat your children.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Community Style Acupuncture

Community acupuncture is springing up all over the place. This practice model uses a sliding scale, usually $15-$45 a treatment, which allows patients to come more often. Acupuncture works best when more treatments are done in less time - 12 treatments over two weeks are usually much more effective than 12 treatments over 12 weeks.

Here's a link to a story from upstate New York.

There is no standard practice model for acupuncture and Chinese medicine. It's a young field and prices are all over the map. Some insurance covers acupuncture, some doesn't. Some acupuncturists accept insurance, some don't. Chinese medicine is not fully integrated into the mainstream health care system, and might never be. But as someone about to graduate from a 4-year TCM school, I've noticed that most acupuncturists in private practice charge between $65 and $150 per treatment.

Community style acupuncture uses a group treatment room and mostly chair acupuncture to reduce overhead. With a group treatment room, more people can be treated at one time. Having to maintain a private room for each patient reduces the number of patients one can see in any given time period.

The people who popularized community-style acupuncture, Working Class Acupuncture in Portland, bring a very stridently socialist outlook to their practice. For more, take a look at this blog entry by Lisa Rohleder, entitled "A Guide to Understanding CAN's Anger, for Any Member of the Acu-Establishment."

There are some valid points in the article, for instance:
  • No one is going to hire you to be an acupuncturist. There are very few salaried jobs available to people fresh out of acupuncture school. It's an entrepreneurial profession, and will likely remain so for quite a while. (President Obama might bring substantial change to American health care - if so, I hope Chinese medicine is integrated on a wide scale so that more people can benefit.) But I knew that when I started school, as did nearly all of my classmates. I can't imagine that anyone was seduced into Chinese medicine school and then was shocked (shocked!) to discover upon graduation that they had to start their own practice.

  • Chinese medicine school is expensive. Typical costs are about $65,000 over four years, not including living expenses.

  • Acupuncture works best when people get more frequent treatments. True! Bob Flaws wrote a great article on this called Acupuncture and the 50-Minute Hour.

  • Acupuncture should be available to people of all income levels. This is, obviously, impossible to disagree with without looking like some sort of monster. No one will say that only rich people deserve acupuncture.

I dislike the whiny tone of this article and the setting up of acupuncture schools, the NCCAOM, ACAOM and others as "the acu-establishment" that needs to be struggled against (e.g. "The heads of the larger schools and of the NCCAOM make six-figure salaries." Horrors! No one should make that much!). I grew up in Berkeley and have seen these tactics used by people with left-leaning political views nearly all of my life. Perhaps they don't realize that by indulging in this kind of "otherization," they are fostering further division and creating more problems than they solve.

I give the Community Acupuncture Network kudos for all the work they have done. Most people just whine and let it be. The people of Working Class Acupuncture have done a wonderful job of setting up a practice model that new acupuncturists can use to make a reliable income and at the same time, help so many people with their health problems. A friend graduated from acupuncture school last year and started out with the standard model, renting a room once a week from another acupuncturist, seeing three or four patients a week, trying hard to get the word out. Our online chats filled me with dread: "I'm so bored," she would say. "I'm so lonely." Is this what would happen to me when I graduated?

Then she joined a community-style acupuncture group. All of a sudden she was seeing twenty patients a day and making almost enough money to quit her "day job" that she'd had all throughout school. In addition to financial benefits, seeing so many patients gives you an incredible amount of experience. In the clinical portion of our school education, we see one patient an hour (the exception being externships, where students often work at low-cost or free clinics and see many more patients). Seeing four patients an hour forces you to make good, fast diagnoses, and the low cost means you get to see the patient the next day and the next day and adjust their treatment as the condition progresses. This is priceless.

I do take issue with one particular point: Acupuncture is easy and we should have less training. Wha-a-a?? In Lisa Rohleder's own words:

the disconnection between how simple acupuncture actually is, and how much we paid to learn it. Acupuncture and herbs are not the same thing. You can get excellent clinical results with acupuncture with a minimum of training in Chinese medical theory. After a little time working with real patients in the real world, most of us come to the conclusion that we could have learned what we needed to know about acupuncture, in order to help most people, in eighteen months of schooling, tops. Most of what we spent armloads of money to learn has no direct (or even indirect) usefulness to our patients. That curricula are designed and accredited in this way suggest to us that what patients need does not interest you.

Now, I haven't treated any "real patients in the real world" yet so maybe I'll be changing my tune after the licensing exam later this year, but really... eighteen months? Yes, sticking a needle in someone and getting the qi is a skill that can be learnt relatively quickly. But that's not all there is to acupuncture. Like tai ji, acupuncture is easy to learn but difficult to master. Any argument for less training seem counter-intuitive.

Acupuncture is also not all there is to Chinese medicine. The process of Chinese medicine starts with diagnosis. If you get the diagnosis wrong, your treatment will be wrong. I don't think you can make the case that TCM diagnosis can be learned in eighteen months with a straight face.

Rohleder does bring up an important point: the disconnect between acupuncture and herbal education. In China, acupuncture and moxibustion are a separate department of medicine. Many TCM doctors who were trained in China, including many of our professors and clinic supervisors, think that acupuncture is inferior to herbal therapy. Our education in TCM school reflects these ideas. I don't necessarily think one type of therapy is better than the other (in fact, I think exercise and a healthy emotional life is the best medicine of all), but this is how it is. Your effectiveness as an acupuncturist certainly isn't stunted by learning about herbal medicine.

There is already a short training course available which certifies one to do acupuncture after only 300 hours of training. You just have to be an M.D. first.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Read this Face

Anyone care to analyze Alex Rodriguez's face from the perspective of Chinese medicine?

This story in the NY Times asks some body-language experts their opinions on Alex Rodriguez in his 2007 interview with Katie Couric, where he denies ever using steroids. Now that we know that was a lie, it's easy to try and analyze his body language.

This type of body language reading is a bit different than the face-reading Nini posted about earlier. It seems to be a more scientific version of "Look at the way Brad is leaning away from Angie in this photo. They are clearly headed for a breakup."

Book Review: The Face Reader

I highly recommend Patrician McCarthy's The Face Reader for anyone interested in what our faces say about our innate gifts and misgivings. It is a very quick read, especially if you already have an understanding of Chinese medical theory, but is also easy enough to follow if you don't. The book includes a summary of personalities based on the five elements, with a full-color insert of each of the types of faces and combinations of those types. It has pictures and descriptions throughout, highlighting the major differences between facial features. My only criticism of the book would be that it is too short!

A really fun thing about the book is that a handful of the models are former Yo San students. Patrician McCarthy used to teach a course on Mien Shiang here at Yo San, but now does lectures and seminars all over. It's too bad I missed it; the class had been described to me as "life-changing."

Here are excerpts from the book that describe some of my features:
The little wispy hairs that some people have along their hairline are what I call the Veil of Tears. Those delicate hairs act as a veil, hiding the true shape of the hairline, just as these people hide their true feelings when they are hurt.

A rounded nose belongs to the material girls or boys. They are not greedy, but they appreciate things of quality. They would rather go without than put up with an inferior substitute.

If you love good-quality food and drink, you most likely have a gourmand's nose, one with a fleshy tip. If you don't have one yourself, these are the people to dine with.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Weight Loss Update

Earlier we brought you the story of Alonzo Bland, the Detroiter who lost over 250 pounds at the Aimin Weight Loss Clinic in China with the help of Chinese herbs, acupuncture, massage, cupping, and of course a well-planned diet and exercise regime. Here is a video on the same story.

I like that he says "Weight loss... it's up to me. But Traditional Chinese Medicine will help that along." The number one thing that can help people, no matter what your disease, is changing your mindset, changing your thoughts. You can take any kind of medicine from drugs to surgery to herbs and acupuncture, but if you don't change the way you think, you'll never get better. It looks like Alonzo Bland is on the right track.

FYI: This story was produced by New Tang Dynasty Television, which was founded by and affiliated with followers of Falun Dafa, and organization which has been labeled an "evil cult" by the Chinese government. Some of the stories therefore have a very anti-PRC government flavor.

Here's a link to a radio story that ran on NPR.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Green Tea Blog

Continuing the tea theme, here's a link to a great blog about tea. It's called Cha Dao, meaning the way of tea.

The guy who writes it is REALLY into tea, as you'll see from reading just a few of the posts. Has some great information.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Green Tea vs. Breast Cancer

Regular consumption of green tea may reduce a woman’s risk of breast cancer by about 12 per cent, according to a new study from the US and China.

See the full study here.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Alcohol Extracts of Chinese Herbs

Chinese medicine has a long history of using medicinal wines and liquors. For some herbs, alcohol is a better choice to extract active ingredients than water. If you go to some herbalist's shops, you may see a big jar of dark liquid with some herbs floating in it. Alexa Hulsey, formerly of Yosan University, saw some in China, as you can see here.

Chinese Medicinal Wines and Elixirs, by Bob Flaws, details some traditional recipes and methods. Chinese Medicated Liquor Therapy, by Song Nong, also has hundreds of recipes for everything from indigestion to impotence.

Jake Fratkin, an American practitioner, has combined traditional Western methods with Chinese herbs and uses them in his practice. In this article, he details his method, which uses ground raw herbs and a shorter soaking cycle than the traditional Chinese practice (1-2 days rather than 5-10 days). He considers it an important way for people to take herbs long-term and says he has success with conditions as varied as chronic cough to ovarian cysts.

If you'd like to make herbal alcohol extracts, Fat Turtle Herb Company can help you with all stages of the process, from getting high-quality raw herbs to grinding.

Monday, February 9, 2009

More About Sugar

That's a model of the Mormom temple in Salt Lake City, made with sugar cubes.

Most Americans eat too much sugar. We drink too much soda, eat too much ice cream, and ingest a huge amount of sugars from sources we might not suspect, like bread. Many commercially available pre-sliced breads (great for sandwiches!) have high-fructose corn syrup added as a softener and preservative.

The New York Times has a pretty good discussion of some of America's problems with sugar, corn syrup, obesity, soda and so on.

Here are some of the good parts:

Neither ordinary sugar — sucrose — nor high-fructose corn syrup contains any nutrients other than sweet calories, and both are added in prodigious amounts to beverages and many foods that offer few if any nutrients to compensate for their caloric input.

“What consumers need to do is cut down on both,” Dr. Jacobson said. “Sugary foods either add calories or replace other, more nutritious foods.”

The article gives first place to those who claim there's nothing really wrong with high fructose corn syrup, but ends with links to three studies showing the exact opposite:

“It is not surprising that several studies have found changes in circulating lipids when subjects eat high-fructose diets,” he wrote in an editorial in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2007. A study by Elizabeth J. Parks and colleagues at the University of Minnesota, for example, found that triglyceride levels rose when people consumed mixtures containing more fructose than glucose.

Another study, by nephrologists at the University of Florida, found that fructose consumption raised blood levels of uric acid, which can foster “metabolic syndrome,” a condition of insulin resistance and abdominal obesity associated with heart disease and diabetes.

And a study by Chi-Tang Ho, professor of food science at Rutgers University, found “astonishingly high” levels of substances called reactive carbonyls in 11 carbonated soft drinks. These molecules, which form when fructose and glucose are unbound, are believed to cause tissue damage. They are elevated in the blood of people with diabetes and linked to complications of the disease. Dr. Ho estimated that a can of soda has five times the concentration of reactive carbonyls found in the blood of an adult with diabetes.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Nature and Science: Huge Snake

From the Nature + Science files, we bring you the story of this huge snake: 43 feet from stem to stern, 2500 pounds of no-legged crocodile-eating power.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, snakes and snake skin are often used to treat rheumatism, aching joints, and skin problems.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Hunger is the Best Sauce

A story on fasting from the L.A. Times, which predictably covers it as a diet trend. Fasting has been used throughout history, usually for health, religious and spiritual reasons. For instance, Jesus Christ fasted for 40 days, and Siddhartha Gautama, before becoming Buddha, took up the life of the ascetic, eating very little each day (about three grains of rice per day, according to legend).

In TCM, fasting is an important tool which can be used to let the digestive system rest and recover, especially when there are Damp and Phlegm conditions in the Middle Jiao.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Sexual Desire - From a Patch?

Here's how it often goes down in the field of medical research: Pfizer, Merck or GlaxoSmithKline funds a study which confirms that the public is in dire need of another pharmaceutical drug to fix some new problem with an odd name. This month it's HSDD, which stands for hypoactive sexual desire disorder (remember attention deficit disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder? Those terms didn't exist 30 years ago, either).

The study was published in Value of Health - here's a link to an abstract. If you read it, you'll see that the study consisted of a telephone survey which asked post-menopausal women about their sex lives. Here's a shocker: "Given a prevalence of 6.6% to 12.5% among US women, HSDD represents an important burden on quality of life." You know what that means...

...a testosterone patch! Just slap this on your skin and chemicals will seep into your pores and your bloodstream, which will magically increase your quality of life.

At least there's a little bit of transparency on this study. This story tells us that one of the members of the research team "works for Procter & Gamble Pharmaceuticals, Inc., which also funded the research and provided consultation for the survey. Procter & Gamble makes a testosterone patch, Intrinsa, which is approved for treating HSDD in Europe. A U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory panel voted against approving Intrinsa in December 2004, citing lack of evidence for its long-term safety."

To reiterate: Proctor & Gamble, the company which makes a product to treat "HSDD", not only funded the study but also provided "consultation." Intrinsa has not been approved by the FDA for use in America. I would not be surprised if this official scientific study, paid for by PG and carried out by people with lots of initials after their names and who are affiliated with universities, will now become part of the evidence they will present to the FDA as a reason why their product should be approved.

Traditional Chinese Medicine has a lot to say about sexual desire and its relation to overall health. Sexual function is controlled by the Kidney. As you get older, Kidney function generally declines, and sexual function declines as well. In men, this can lead to impotence, premature ejaculation and lack of desire. In women there can be lack of desire, infertility and menstrual problems. Low levels of Kidney energy usually co-present with other symptoms, such as cold limbs, low back pain, knee pain, low energy, poor digestion and more.

This is the strength of TCM: integrating the patient's main complaint into a complete clinical picture. We then treat the complete picture rather than just one symptom. We call this "root and branch" treatment. If the branch is low sexual desire, the root could be in the Kidney, in which case we would focus on the Kidney. However, the root could also be due to constrained Liver energy, or low levels of qi and blood, or an accumulation of Damp Heat, all of which have different treatment strategies.

If you have low sexual energy, try these three things before you go shooting up testosterone or anything crazy like that:

1. Get up at 6 every morning and do some gentle stretching for about thirty minutes. Then go for a brisk walk outside (no treadmills).
2. Stop drinking soda, coffee and energy drinks. If you can't do without coffee, cut it down to one cup a day, or try substituting green tea.
3. Eat at regular intervals throughout the day, and keep that routine up day after day. Your body appreciates regularity - if you keep to a regular schedule of food intake, levels of blood sugar won't spike and fall as much throughout the day, giving you more energy and better, more even moods.

Some of you might be looking at those three changes and thinking it's impossible. If so, I ask you to try and shift your perspective on what's unreasonable. These three things are all completely natural ways to regulate your endocrine and nervous system, without popping pills or getting injections or surgery. Do your best to avoid taking drugs. Give yourself the best chance at a healthy life.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Vinegar of the Four Thieves

I have a dog, and I'm not looking forward to flea season. When the weather gets warm, they come out in force. This year, in addition to regular dog-washing, vacuuming, and personal hygiene, I'm going to try the Vinegar of the Four Thieves. The options for doggie flea control all seem pretty toxic, and this looks like an all-natural pest control that has gotten good reviews. I'll be using it on both myself and the dog.

Equal amounts of rosemary, sage, wormwood, peppermint, lavender and garlic are steeped in vinegar for two weeks. That's it! I'll let you know how it goes.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Meet The Herbs: Bi Zi

Chinese: 田鸡
Pin Yin: Tian Ji (translation - "field chicken")
Pharmaceutical: Rana limnocharis
English: Rice Frog
Vietnamese: Nhái

In Yang Shou-zhong's translation of the Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing, this herb is listed as Bi Zi. It is sweet and warm, and mainly treats evil qi in the abdomen. It also removes the Three Worms, snakebite, gu toxins, demonic influx, and hidden corpse.

Volume II of the Vietnamese Materia Medica, Cây Thuốc Và Động Vật Làm Thuốc Ở Việt Nam, lists the herb as having different functions depending on its preparation:
  • To treat jaundice: pound 1 frog with 12g unbleached black rock sugar and put inside a rooster's gizzard. Cook. When it's done, let cool and remove the frog and sugar. Eat the gizzard.
  • To treat mental illness characterized by crazy talk: cook one frog until charred, powder it, and drink it with liquor.
Some remedies for external use also included in the book:
  • To treat pustulent open sores: remove the entrails of one frog, fry it til it's black, powder it, mix it with sesame oil, and place on skin
  • To treat purple bruises: mix the frog with lá mau (sorry, don't know the translation of this herb) and the leaves of a garden egg, or Thai eggplant, plant. Chop everything finely and cook with water and rice. Wrap everything in cheesecloth or fabric, making a little bundle the size of your fist. Roast the bundle and place on bruises.
  • To treat phagedena (rapidly spreading destructive ulceration of soft tissue): crush one frog with Vietnamese coriander and wild betel leaf, then press onto skin.
  • To treat pink-eye: squash a live frog and place on affected eye.
I don't know about you, but I can't find enough live ones of these around to use them in my practice on a regular basis. I can, however, occasionally find the hind quarters of these little creatures at the supermarket.

It's what's for dinner!

Black bean and garlic frog legs, sauteed in a shallot and ginger sauce. Served with brown rice, steamed collard greens, and peppered acorn squash soup. Yum!

If you're interested in learning how to prepare this delectable dish, hit me up and I'll let you in on the joys of where to find, and how to cook, rare medicinal meats.