Tuesday, June 30, 2009

After Treatment, Then What?

From Dana Jennings prostate cancer blog:

When I had radiation for about two months last winter, it began to feel as familiar as a job. I knew the names of the hospital parking attendants and the receptionists. The nurses, doctors and therapists all smiled and said hello, and I did the same.

Each day I arrived at radiation oncology, checked in, got my hospital bracelet, changed into a drafty gown, then waited with my fellow patients — my colleagues in cancer — to be treated. Once a week, my weight, blood pressure and temperature were taken and I met with my radiation oncologist. I had become a regular at the radiation spa, had even learned to artfully jiggle the key in the stubborn locker doors.

You can read the rest here...

Is it just me or does this seem kind of perverse? How could you love treatment so much that you would be disappointed when it ends? As a patient you should be looking to get better, not enjoy your treatment. If medical treatment is so enjoyable, why not be sick all the time?

Monday, June 29, 2009

Dao of the Day

"Venerable Teacher, what is the relation between a soul and its physical life?"

"Kind prince, take this pine tree as an example. It has strong roots, a stout trunk, numerous branches, twigs, cones and needles, yet it started from a tiny seed. The original seed from that tree was formed from warmth, wind, water and earth; however, this combination alone does not make a tree. The most important components are the energy rays emanating from numerous sources. Even the energy of remote stars and the sun and the moon. The spontaneous integration of all these ingredients nurtures the chance of a new life and brings beauty and intelligence to life."

-Hua Hu Ching, Chapter 37
From The Complete Works of Lao Tzu, translation and elucidation by Hua-Ching Ni

Friday, June 26, 2009

Vegan Waffle Party

Take a look at these delicious vegan waffles our friend Jen made. Yum! Her blog is devoted to delicious (sugary!) vegan cooking.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Dr. Xu Jun Ming of Monterey Park, Die Da Expert

Hey this is Jonah and two days ago I too got a treatment at the hands (literally) of Dr. Xu Jun Ming. Nini previously posted about how we found Dr. Xu and her treatment. Tuesday we were back for a follow-up and I got to thinking about the strained muscle in my back that was bothering me.

Usually pain doesn't stick too closely to me, but this muscle strain wasn't going away for two to three weeks, and thoughts of mortality began creeping in (does this mean I'm "old"? If I had been doing yoga every morning would it not have happened?). So I took the 3 pm appointment.

We all went into the treatment room and Dr. Xu turned to face me.

"So, what's your problem?"

I described it to him - a nagging soreness to the left of my spine in the midback region, difficulty twisting, some sacral pain. After about one minute of questions, he had me lie down and started palpation. Does it hurt here? How about here? More here? Or here?

"Mm," he said. "Muscles problem."

Then the treatment: 20 minutes of continuous intense tui na with hands like iron. Following that, 4-5 stationary cups left on for about 10 minutes - I'm not sure, I dozed off. Then finished with electroacupuncture directly into the affected muscle - six needles in all, all hooked up to leads, pulsing strongly and regularly and making the muscle jump for another 20-30 minutes.

"Is it too strong?"

"Well, it's hard to tell. It feels pretty strong, but it's okay."

"Sometimes it feels strong in the beginning, and then not so bad." He left the room.

The electroacupuncture felt like six strong dwarves punching me in unison. For half an hour. It didn't stop feeling strong, but it wasn't excruciatingly painful either. Afterwards I felt very sore, but good.

The next day, Wednesday, I felt even more sore. Even after graduating from an acupuncture program, I had the same treasonous thoughts most patients have: "my god, what did he do to me? I'm worse than before!"

Oh ye of little faith. Today I feel great. The muscle is noticeably looser, the pain is nearly gone. Go get acupuncture for all your aches and pains. Do it now, don't be afraid.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

National Health Care Day of Service, June 27th

Get out and volunteer this Saturday! It's a great opportunity to help your neighbors, educate yourself, and find out first-hand how our current health care system functions.

Volunteer options include letter writing, donating blood, open house and teach-in events, and even fresh yard fruit collection for donation.

Here's a list of activities within 75 miles of Mar Vista.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Women's Voices Makes Plants Grow Faster

Photo of Havy Hoag from Berkeley, CA with her home gardened tomato plant.

A fun little study they did in the UK showed that tomato plants listening to a woman's voice grew at least an inch taller than one's listening to a man's. As a matter of fact, some men's voices caused the plants to stunt in growth compared to ones left to grow in silence. Ha!

Thanks to Yo Sanner Jessica Smith for the article!

Monday, June 22, 2009

People Are Talking About Chinese Herbs on Twitter

Take a look as someone tries to convince a friend to try Chinese medicine.
  • Omg_me_normaltechnex: @Jools_jti Ouch dude, that sucks :( Hope you feel better soon.

  • Avatar_normal Jools_jti: @technex cheers, it's that or die trying :|

  • Omg_me_normal technex: @Jools_jti If the NHS is gonna take forever try some alternatives like chinese herbal medicine, I've had really good results from that.

  • Avatar_normal Jools_jti: @technex Already taken 7weeks, if I cant see specialist this week, am walking into casualty. Its a strong antibiotic job, ginseng wont do :)

  • Avatar_normal Jools_jti: @technex Was only joking, I have been using Manuka honey with better results than anything prescribed to date. However its now quite serious

  • Omg_me_normal technex: @Jools_jti It's worth a visit to a good chinese herbal doctor, they have real diagnostic skill. But yeah, casualty might be a good backup.
This is so interesting to me because it follows the format of many conversations I have had and overheard about Chinese medicine. Someone complains of a health problem, you recommend Chinese medicine, there's a flip blow-off ("ginseng won't do") and an earnest rejoinder ("they have real diagnostic skill") and then...? It all depends. Keep having those conversations! And do good work - if you get results that's all anyone cares about.

You can follow us on Twitter too.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Chinese Herbs for Pain

Recording artist T-Pain... could use some Chinese herbs.

For pain relief, most people think of acupuncture first, as they should. But Chinese herbs are very effective in combination with or separately from acupuncture. Here's a good overview of certain Chinese herbs that work well for pain.

There are a number of herbs in Chinese medicine that relieve pain by encouraging the blood flow and moving qi. Of these, Notoginseng, Red Peony, Curcuma rhizome (Turmeric), Ligusticum (Cnidium), Carthamus (Safflower), and Red Sage are some of the most frequently used herbs for encouraging the flow of blood and relieving pain. Notoginseng is probably the most famous for the treatment of pain and is also used to stop bleeding. Turmeric, Red Sage, and Red Peony are used for relieving pain, especially associated with various types of inflammation including, but not limited to arthritis.

The herbs referenced above are:
Notoginseng - 三七 San Qi
Red Peony - 赤芍 Chi Shao
Curcuma - 薑黃 Jiang Huang
Ligusticum - 川芎 Chuan Xiong
Carthamus - 紅花 Hong Hua
Red Sage - 丹參 Dan Shen

The whole article (by Thomas Avery Garran of Hawaii) is available here.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Today's Chinese Lesson

Chinese: 肠断
Pinyin: cháng duàn
Literal: "intestines cut/broken/snapped"
Meaning: heartbreak

Isn't this interesting?? I found this just flipping through my Chinese-English dictionary. Having your "intestines cut" is an expression meaning heartbreak! Chinese people love food. If your intestines were cut, you'd be so sad because you couldn't eat anymore.

Also, flipping the characters (断肠 or duàn cháng) yields the same meaning.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Today's Chinese Lesson

Chinese: 心肝
Pinyin: xīn gān
Literal: "heart-liver"
Meaning: 1. Conscience 2. (as a form of address) beloved; dear

In TCM, the heart and liver are the two organs most strongly associated with emotion.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Eric Brand is Serious About Ginseng

Eric Brand is one of my favorite bloggers on the Blue Poppy blog. In his latest entry, he calls out the Western scientific community for sloppy research on Chinese herbs. Bathe in the righteous indignation (emphasis and links mine):

I must confess that it really irks me when I find primary herbal resources that spread misinformation within our core professional community.

In most situations, these errors could be minimized with extremely basic efforts at rigor and scholarship. For example, the European ESCOP monographs are one of the most widely used and well-regarded resources in Western herbalism. They have an extensive section on ginseng, complete with an impeccable scientific review and a variety of excellent features. Yet they report the dose of ginseng as 0.5-2.0g per day, with anything over two grams considered overdose. Seriously, are they for real? How could a whole team of scientists and herbalists create a monograph on ginseng without noticing that the traditional and standard clinical dose range of ginseng is 3-9 grams per day? I mean, it isn’t rocket science to determine that ginseng is an herb with an extensive history of use in traditional East Asian medicine, and all the pharmacopoeias in the East clearly list this higher dose range.

The complete post, as you'll see, is more about the concurrent use of ginseng and other stimulants. Combining ginseng (and now reishi mushroom) with coffee is extremely popular - google "ginseng coffee" and you get more than 350,000 results.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Case Study: More of My Foot

Remember my foot injury about six months ago? It's mostly healed now; I would say about 90% healed, but every now and then it gets kind of funky. So I decided to find a good die da doctor to help me out.

A search on the Chinese yellow pages under 跌打 led me to 許俊明,醫師 Xu Jun Ming, PhD, LAc. Yesterday, he took a look at my foot and said, "needles are not going to help this." He proceeded to tui na the heck out of my ankle in a two-inch square space, producing a pain which I wasn't even aware could possibly exist before. He then moved on to a one-inch square space on the inside arch of my foot, complete with this popping thing he did similar to snapping his fingers, except that my foot was wedged in-between.

After about 30 minutes of solid tendon work, he grabbed my foot with two hands and manipulated the joint back into place, sending a shock of blinding pain followed by a sensation that can only be described as the best my foot has felt in months. I asked him what he thought was causing the problem, and he said that my joint was slightly dislocated. Had I gone to get imaging, he suspects that they would not be able to find anything wrong with it because nothing is fractured or severed and the joint is not grievously dislocated. According to him, it was ever so slightly off, and when he popped it back into proper alignment, I believed every word he said.

He finished with a hand-made herbal plaster that he mixed up in the treatment room next door as I waited, and came back with two patches that he placed over the spots he had done tui na to. He expertly bandaged my foot into middle position with some gauze, and I was told to stay off of it for the next two days.

I'll be going back to see him on Tuesday, and will let you know how it goes! In the meantime, if you need a recommendation for a good TCM traumatologist and physical medicine specialist, try this guy:

John Jun Ming Xu, PhD, LAc
617 S. Atlantic Blvd. #C
Monterey Park, CA 91754

Call for an appointment: 626-300-8986

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Meet the Herbs: Wu Shao She

Chinese: 乌 蛸 蛇
Pin Yin: Wu Shao She
Pharmaceutical: Zaocys dhumnades
English: Black snake
Vietnamese: Rắn Cạp

Snakes are generally used to dispel wind-damp and open the channels and collaterals. Soaked in liquor, the herb can be taken as shots everyday to help with aches and pains of the muscles and joints. A study noted in Chinese Medical Herbology and Pharmacology cites that an alcohol extract at 40mg/kg proved to have an analgesic effect on rats.

It can also be used for wind-damp in the skin by grinding it into a fine powder and eating it with a bit of honey to cut the stink.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Deepak Chopra

Today's post is from Deepak Chopra, a stirring defense of "alternative" medicine and Oprah Winfrey's embrace of same.

The medical profession is burdened with a host of problems that Oprah addresses with more candor and force than the AMA. She promotes wellness and prevention, two areas that drastically need improvement. She brings up creative solutions to problems that medical science is baffled by, such as the healing response itself and the role of subjectivity in patient response. These are issues that few M.D.s are willing to explore, yet she has done so for decades.

Full article here...

Monday, June 8, 2009

"I Don't Believe In Acupuncture"

Beach Community Acupuncture
has a good piece today on people who think you have to "believe in acupuncture" for it to work. In my opinion, you do have to believe in acupuncture for it to work, just as you have to believe in any other medical treatment for it to work. In the dominant scientific-technological paradigm of the 21st century, most of us are brought up with a specific set of unquestionable beliefs. In fact, to question some of these beliefs is considered completely unexplainable and therefore "crazy."

For instance, everyone "knows" that when taking antibiotics, you have to take the full course, or utter mayhem will ensue.

Everyone "knows" that slipped disks, pinched nerves, muscle strains and other physical abnormalities are the cause of back pain, not an associated symptom (except this guy, I guess).

Everyone "knows" that HIV causes AIDS, and everyone "knows" that AIDS came to the U.S. accidentally from a guy who was bitten by a monkey in Africa.

For treatment to be successful, patients must accept acupuncturists into their established belief system. That's why all TCM schools in the U.S. require their student interns to wear white coats and take blood pressure readings - we wear a costume to create the association in a patient's mind to the established image of a doctor with the power and authority to heal their sickness. That image is incredibly powerful.

Your self has a natural tendency towards health. The body, mind and spirit are incredible organic systems that work in harmony with the inner and outer world. Medical systems are designed to remind you of that, to nudge you back towards health when you forget your own power. What have you forgotten?

Friday, June 5, 2009

Plants are Important

An archaeologist and a botanist have teamed up to study artwork from the Mayan Classical period, dating from 250 BCE to 900 CE.

You might wonder, what is a botanist doing studying ancient art? Turns out the Mayans created lots of ceramic pieces depicting various plants of the rain forest, many with such accuracy that the genus and species of the plants can be determined. The scientists are trying to identify which plants were of importance to the people, in "hopes [that] the research will unveil secrets known to the Maya that have become lost in time."

What kind of secrets are they looking for? The archaeologist Charles Zadir says:
The Maya have lived and used rainforest plants to heal themselves for thousands of years. We are just beginning to understand some of their secrets.

That's great! Plants are awesome! It's wonderful that there are people out there advocating for the preservation of the rain forest and for research into the importance of plants in our lives.

But wait... keep reading:
This research has already been of interest to pharmaceutical companies that are looking to extract alkaloids from plants that were important to the ancient Maya.

Aw, man! Just when you thought that you could escape the clutches of greed, the truth comes out. In the researchers' defense, they probably had to provide some lucrative justification for the work that they're doing, otherwise they wouldn't get funding. But, it just irks me that there always has to be some kind of monetary motive.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Iggy Pop Practices Qi Gong

I caught an interview with Iggy Pop on the radio the other morning, and for a brief moment it sounded like he said he practices qi gong to stay fit and trim. After a little bit of research, I thought I'd share what I'd found, spoken by the man himself:
You've had almost thirty years in the spotlight. What do you do to stay fit and sane?

Half of it's just the simple shit, like, I try not to work too hard, too often, and try to avoid people. You know how I lurk. I avoid human beings, and I try to like sleep at night and get up in the morning. I eat what people say you shouldn't eat, but really good quality. So I devour gigantic steaks, cooked, fried, in butter and shit. Only really good ones. I don't eat much crud. And then I'll have fried eggs and bread dipped in olive oil. I don't snack a lot -- when I eat it's so fucking good. I have chocolate ice cream for dessert, you know. I get all satisfied, and that's it. And I do this exercise -- that's the one thing that really kind of helps my motor run. I do this sort of Chinese exercise called Qi-gong. It's very similar to Tai Chi, which I also do a little of. And I do that shit for about a half-hour a day. - Rolling Stone

Qigong is such a powerful form of energy that some of the masters in China can walk on tissue paper. You know -- twelve large men cannot push me. There are guys who can do that shit. I've learned enough of the qigong to deal with the musician's lifestyle. - Esquire

I’m 26 years old, and I have love handles. You’re 56 with a six-pack. What’s your workout regimen?
I do about 40 minutes a day of qi gong, the fundamental exercises of tai chi. It looks like nothing, but if you learn from somebody who knows the shit, it’s really hard. Or I’ll swim about 200 yards in a pool, just to get a little bulk. I’m about 140 pounds, but I was a big boy when I graduated high school — 160 pounds. Singers look funny at 160, unless you’re in Lynyrd Skynyrd. - Blender

What is your vital daily ritual?
I do Qi Gong. It’s Chinese shit, like Tai Chi. If you get good enough at it, then you can walk through fire and start a cult. - exclaim.ca

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Statement of Fact: Your Heart is Dirty


Zhuo qi gui xin.

Turbid qi goes to the heart.

This statement is usually interpreted to mean that the turbid part of the clear goes to or gathers in the heart where it becomes the blood. To understand this concept, we must know that, just like yin and yang, clear and turbid each can be subdivided into clear and turbid. Thus the clear of the clear goes to the lungs to become the qi, while the turbid of the clear goes to the heart to become the blood.

  • Statements of Fact in Traditional Chinese Medicine, by Bob Flaws

Monday, June 1, 2009

Welcome Back!

I love Spock.

I love Spock so much, I wanted to include him on our blog. However, there was nothing on the vast expanses of the interwebs that linked Spock to health. I couldn't help but put up a picture of him anyway.

On a similar note, here's an article written by a doctor from the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine, titled Star Trek and the Future of Family Medicine. It's an interesting look at how the evolution of the physician character on the show throughout the seasons reflects society's view of the role of physicians in real life.

These characters are the products of fertile imaginations and indeed are in all aspects fictitious. Yet, they represent an interesting mix of both the present perceptions and future hopes of their creators and their audience. A picture emerges of physicians who become more intellectual and calculating and less encumbered by human emotions and imperfections. They become less like the people they care for and less familiar, perhaps echoing the public’s loss of a sense of the intimacy of the doctor-patient relationship. These doctors literally come to embody the experience of personal alienation that patients feel within the present health care system. On the other hand, by using the extraordinary technologies of the day, the Star Trek physicians rarely fail in curing the most advanced and mysterious ailments. In this way they reflect the often unrealistic expectations of today’s patients regarding medicine’s ability to cure disease, an attitude that leads to mounting frustration for all involved.