Did you know that chicken soup really is medicinal? Studies prove it!Read More
Acupuncture treats "pins and needles." Here's how:Read More
Eczema (or atopic dermatitis) is a particularly uncomfortable condition, with itchy, inflamed red patches on the skin that often don't respond well to Western drugs and ointments and can get worse in cold, dry climates. Oolong tea, which is made from partially fermented leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, has been shown to markedly decrease skin inflammation and itching. Japanese researchers speculate that the tea has anti-allergy properties such as polyphenols and tannins that calm an overactive immune response. Steep 10g/.35oz of oolong tea in a liter (~34oz.) of boiling water for 5 minutes, then drink one-third after each meal. You should notice improvements within 1-2 weeks.
For those unable to drink a liter of oolong daily, try probiotics such as 1x109Lactobacillusfermentum, which has been shown to be helpful for eczema in young children and babies. Take liquid or capsules twice daily for a minimum of 8 weeks.
Raw honey produced less than 100 miles from where you live may help improve your immune response and can be especially beneficial for people with hay fever. (For kids — check with your pediatrician). Give it a try! Click here to find it at your Los Angeles area farmers markets.
If you suffer from heartburn, here are some easy suggestions for effective food therapies. 1. Avoid tomatoes, dark chocolate, raw onions, fried food, mint teas, and red wine.2. Drink demulcent teas such as slippery elm, marshmallow and licorice. Fennel tea is also good. Stay away from peppermint tea, which relaxes the esophagus and can actually contribute to reflux. 3. Drink carrot juice (1-2 cups/day). Carrots are alkaline-forming and anti-inflammatory and help many digestive problems. 4. Eat fresh papaya or take papaya enzymes. 5. Eat smaller, more frequent meals.6. Take acidophilus or other probiotics, or drink kefir. 7. Drink other fresh vegetable juices such as cabbage, celery and even raw potato (leave skin on). 8. Avoid eating for at least 3 hours before bedtime.9. Avoid aspirin and ibuprofen, which can aggravate heartburn. 10. Reduce carbonated beverages and caffeine.
Acupuncture and Chinese herbs are also great for reducing heartburn as they can resolve "Stomach Heat," the most common Chinese diagnosis for heartburn and GERD.
Follow these guidelines for a month and see how much better you feel! You might even be able to eat a bowl of spaghetti bolognese again without worry.
Taking the hormone melatonin 30 minutes before bedtime can help prevent migraines. That’s because headaches may be related to disturbances in our biorhythms, and melatonin can help regulate our sleep-wake cycles. Melatonin taken nightly for 1-3 months reduces the frequency, intensity and duration of migraines that may occur, but melatonin cannot treat migraines that have already started. In Chinese medicine a propensity for migraines usually signals a pattern of excess and deficiency where the Qi (“chee”) or energy of the body is hyperactive and shoots upward instead of flowing smoothly. Our treatment focuses on subduing the Qi, and tonifying and regulating the blood in the channels that flow to the head. Acupuncture also relaxes muscle tension in the shoulders and neck and relieves spasms by increasing circulation throughout the body.
American and Chinese researchers found that a combination of three traditional Chinese herbs could be as effective as conventional medicines at relieving asthma, but without such severe side effects seen with steroids like oral prednisone.
The study, a collaboration between Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York and the Waifeng Asthma Hospital in China, was conducted for four weeks on people with moderate to severe persistent asthma. The herbal formula — a combination of ling zhi (ganoderma), ku shen (sophora), and gan cao (glycerrhizae) — had a positive effect on lung function and immunological and inflammatory responses.
If you know a child or an adult who is suffering from asthma, please have them contact mefor a consultation. The above formula is available by prescription only from a licensed acupuncturist, and should only be used under his or her supervision.
According to a Duke University Medical Center review of over 30 research studies comparing acupuncture versus medication for chronic headaches, acupuncture is significantly more effective. The studies included nearly 4,000 patients with migraines, tension headaches and other forms of chronic headaches. A bonus finding: “Acupuncture patients also reported better physical well-being compared to the medication group." See duke.edu for research article.
Incredible, but the U.S. Centers for Disease Control says that approximately 50% of antibiotics are prescribed unnecessarily. Why should we be concerned? According to the CDC, "Antibiotic resistance has been called one of the world's most pressing public health problems." In response the CDC launched a program to educate doctors and the public about the problem, which especially affects kids. "Get Smart: Know When to Use Antibiotics" is a website that helps you evaluate whether you might have a health issue caused by bacteria (antibiotics sometimes necessary so see your doctor), or a virus (antibiotics are not effective). "Get Smart" provides lots of great tips on self-care, such as rest, fluids, pain-relievers and humidifier use for a common cold, for example.
We need to think twice before asking our doctors for antibiotics for upper respiratory infections such as colds, flu, sore throat, cough, earache, and clogged sinuses - most of which are viral. A responsible doctor will rarely write a prescription without an office visit and physical exam.
If you do go home empty-handed, don't worry. Chinese herbal medicine offers many alternatives to antibiotics, such as the herbs isatis, honeysuckle, coptis and forsythia - to name a few. Under the care of a licensed acupuncturist, these herbs can replace antibiotics in certain cases, while also benefiting the immune system. While we can never replace the incredible role that antibiotics have in our world, we definitely need to get a lot smarter in their use.
Another reason to keep the ginger coming: Studies show ginger to be an effective pain reliever for sore muscles caused by exercise. Both raw ginger and dried supplements showed "moderate-to-large reductions in muscle pain." More commonly recommended for upset stomach, ginger is a proven anti-inflammatory.
A study funded by the Army and the National Institutes of Health helps explain how acupuncture eases chronic pain. Using brain imaging, the study showed that acupuncture increases the availability of receptors in the brain that process and weaken pain signals. Moreover, acupuncture treatments – in this case twice a week for four weeks – affect both the brain’s short- and long-term ability to reduce pain sensation. A beneficial implication of this research – published in 2009 by the University of Michigan Chronic Pain & Fatigue Research Center – is that patients treated with acupuncture might be more responsive to pain medications like codeine and Vicodin.
Other studies have shown that acupuncture triggers a variety of physiological responses, such as:
✔ Stimulating the immune system and increasing white blood cells, which defend the body against infection ✔ Decreasing cholesterol and triglycerides ✔ Regulating blood sugar metabolism, which helps the body use energy more efficiently ✔ Increasing blood circulation and producing beneficial changes in blood pressure ✔ Increasing stomach peristaltic activity and regulating digestive fluids, thereby improving digestion ✔ Regulating and stimulating serotonin, a neurotransmitter that is directly related to sleep, appetite, and mood
Did you know that the most common symptom of stress is insomnia? Did you also know that people who sleep fewer than seven hours a night are three times more likely to get a cold? By sleeping longer and more deeply we can protect our health. But how do you do this if you suffer from insomnia? Sleep therapists long ago developed “sleep hygiene," also known as good sleep habits. I've adapted the rules of sleep hygiene into the following eight simple steps to help you get better ZZZZ’s:
(1) Sleep in a cooler room. As night falls and body temperature drops, the brain slows down and drowsiness sets in. Turning down the thermostat can facilitate that.
(2) Make your room completely dark. Cover up all LED lights (even tiny ones) on alarm clocks and any other electronic equipment. If it’s still not dark enough, buy some classic eyeshades available at most drugstores. Darkness causes the body to produce more melatonin, the hormone that signals the body to sleep. Even small amounts of light decrease melatonin production and signal the body to awaken. And don’t fall asleep to the TV or iPad screen (too stimulating); even better, move all gadgets out of the bedroom.
(3) Get a saliva test to check cortisol levels. Even a little bit of lost sleep can cause your stress hormone levels to rise the next night, increasing the likelihood of chronic insomnia. (If you'd like a cortisol test, I can order one for you — please contact me).
(4) Go to bed and wake up around the same time every day, even on weekends.
(5) Avoid alcohol and heavy meals at least 3 hours before bedtime.
(6) Exercise regularly but not within 2 hours of retiring. It may take 2-4 months of regular exercise for you to start sleeping longer and more deeply, and better sleep will then help your exercise routines. (See "How Exercise Can Help Us Sleep Better", NYTimes, 8/21/13.)
(7) Establish a pre-sleep ritual such as a bath, meditation or reading.
(8) Avoid sleeping pills. The so-called Z drugs (Ambien, Sonata and Lunesta) only increase total sleep time by 28 minutes compared to a placebo, according to a 2005 NIH study. They may be habit-forming, cause next-day drowsiness and memory loss, and mask the fact that your underlying cause of sleeplessness could be depression, anxiey or simply poor sleep hygiene.
Of course, acupuncture is well-known as a beneficial treatment for short- and long-term insomnia, and Chinese herbs such as suan zao ren (Zizyphus) are natural and safe alternatives to prescription sleeping pills.
So, how do you catch a cold virus anyway? No surprise here, the leading theory shows the hands touching the nose to be the culprit. Not even sneezing or kissing spread a cold to the extent that contaminated hands do, with active rhinovirus being found on skin and household surfaces even three hours later. When you then touch contaminated surfaces, you pick up the virus at least 60% of the time and it enters the body through your eyes, nose or mouth. This explains how you can catch a cold without even having contact with someone who has one. (Even weirder, scientists are surprised at how difficult it is to catch a cold from a kiss.)
The best way to get rid of germs is to wash your hands by rubbing them together for 10-20 seconds under running water, using regular soap. Soap doesn't kill germs, it just loosens them so they’re rinsed off (and antibacterial hand wash doesn't work on viruses).
But the frustrating fact remains that medical researchers are still confounded by the common cold, and the basics still hold true: no cure yet, wash your hands, chicken soup really does work, and wait for "exciting cure found!" Meantime, an acupuncture treatment and Chinese herbal medicine to boost your immune system will help reduce the length and strength of a cold. Try to get treated at the first sign of symptoms for best results.
When life is interrupted by sudden sneezing or a sore throat, you can easily make the following at home from common pantry items: • For common cold with runny nose, chills, head/neck ache, but no sore throat: Sweat it out with a soup of fresh ginger, scallion, cilantro, cabbage, and cayenne (high in vitamin C). Drink cinnamon stick tea (gui zhi) or fresh ginger tea (sheng jiang) with brown sugar. Avoid cold foods like salad, iced drinks and ice cream (sorry!). This is called "wind-cold" in Chinese medicine and is the most common type of cold.
• For swollen sore throat, bodyache, fever and possibly a cough: Drink tea made from a Chinese herb like peppermint (bo he). Chrysanthemum tea (ju hua) is also great but you might have to make a trip to the Asian market. Keep food intake light, drink lots of fruit and veggie juices, and add honey to your tea. This is called "wind-heat" and can correspond to the flu or tonsillitis in Western parlance.
Have you ever felt feverish, then been slightly confused when the thermometer reads “normal” or even below? In the last decade the average body temperature benchmark of 98.6° has been shown to be too high.
Since 1851, when a German doctor named Carl Wunderlich established that benchmark through his singular research, this figure went unchallenged. But in recent times, many doctors and researchers have observed that body temperature is influenced by several factors, including time of day, gender, age and race.
They’ve found that women (98.4°) are slightly warmer than men (98.1°), and blacks (98.2°) are slightly warmer than whites (98.1°). Further, children are warmer than adults due to their rapid metabolism, and everybody’s temperature is lowest at around 6 a.m. and peaks at 6 p.m. That makes the overall average 98.2°.
So, how did poor Dr. Wunderlich get it wrong? The thermometer he used, now in a Philadelphia museum, was calibrated a little too high. And because his research took into account more than a million temperature readings of 25,000 patients over many years – an astounding feat of patience for any scientist — the number stuck, and for over a century has been puzzling people who report feeling feverish but whose thermometers read “normal.”
In Chinese medicine, when someone says they feel hot or feverish, we accept that despite what the thermometer reads. That’s because Chinese medical doctors are more focused on the patient’s subjective physical experience. Our treatment then is to “clear heat” by needling acupuncture points and/or prescribing herbal remedies. So trust yourself whenever you feel “off” — you should take it easy, drink lots of fluids and consult an acupuncturist.
Some people suffer from severe cold hands or feet caused by blood vessel spasms, termed Raynaud's syndrome. In this painful but common condition affecting mostly women during episodes of stress and cold weather, the hands turn white at first. As they become deprived of oxygen, they turn blue and numb, then flush red when the vessels again relax. Acupuncture helps people with Raynaud's: In one study, acupuncture reduced attacks by 63% (Journal of Internal Medicine, 1997). Certain Chinese herbal formulas containing cinnamon are also beneficial for circulation, and the following home remedies will help you during an attack:
✔ Swing your arms in circles to force blood vessels to relax and open.
✔ Soak hands and feet in warm (not hot) water while massaging them.
✔ Use microwave hand warmers to get blood flowing. You can easily make your own by filling a sock or cloth bag with dried beans or rice and microwaving it for 30 seconds or until toasty.
[Note: Raynaud's disease is a common and mild disorder, while Raynaud's phenomenon is more rare and indicates a serious underlying problem. Read more about the differences at MayoClinic.com.]
Astragalus, or huang qi, is to Chinese medicine what echinacea is to the North American materia medica. It is the Chinese herbal practitioner's number-one herb to boost Qi (pronounced "chee" and translated as "energy flow" or "breath"), in people who are frequently sidelined by colds and the flu. In Chinese medicine, when someone gets sick we say that their "protective Qi" is deficient, and astragalus acts to stabilize this protective Qi running along the surface of the body. How do you know if you have a weak immune system? Exhaustion, food allergies and depression can all leave the body vulnerable to infection, leading to persistent colds or flu, frequent skin infections, and/or chronic fatigue — all key symptoms.
Astragalus also helps a number of other problems, including spontaneous sweating, low appetite, and recovery from long-term illness, and can improve immune function in people with cancer and HIV.
Note: One should not use astragalus during an acute illness — only as a preventative. For this reason it's best to take it under the care of a licensed acupuncturist, who can make a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.
Many people who try acupuncture for the first time are impressed with how relaxing it is. One of the tools we use is the infrared heatlamp, which feels like the warmth of the sun. People radiate infrared heat and we can absorb it at this same wavelength, thereby stimulating extensive circulation of blood, energy, and nutrients. Japanese, Chinese and German researchers have shown infrared light to have wide therapeutic applications. The light can successfully treat painful conditions such as arthritis, injuries and cramps. It also treats coughs; skin problems; digestive and cardiovascular diseases; and ear, nose and throat problems, among others. Infrared therapy is safe, efficient, and available from your friendly neighborhood acupuncturist!
Does your child ever complain of a tummy ache? Try fennel (xiao hui xiang), a Chinese medicinal used to treat stomachache and colic. Make a tea by pouring boiling water over 2 tsp. of crushed fennel seeds, let cool and then drink. You can also get fennel extract from an herbal practitioner.
If Irritable Bowel Syndrome or "nervous stomach” is what troubles your child, try enteric-coated peppermint capsules such as Pepogest brand. Peppermint oil (called bo he in Chinese/Pinyin) helps ease spasms but shouldn't be used for acid reflux.
Probiotics from the refrigerated section of the health food store will also help over the short and long terms, especially if your child has had to take antibiotics, and they now even make them specifically formulated for kids.
This month’s spotlight on Chinese herbs focuses on freshwater pearl, or zhen zhu (Margarita). Pearl has been used for centuries to create a smooth, radiant complexion. Not only is it a valuable source of minerals — including calcium, magnesium, zinc, iron, strontium, copper, and selenium — it contains dozens of amino acids and antioxidants that are necessary for maintaining health. Studies show that hydrolyzed pearl extract is easily absorbed, generates new skin cells and tissue, and controls acne. Other benefits include improving eyesight and reducing anxiety and insomnia.I prescribe pearl extract created by Far East Summit, an Oregon-based producer of state-of-the-art herbal formulas. Far East only imports Chinese raw herbs from companies that adhere to Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) as mandated by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration to verify quality control, safety and effectiveness. "Luminous Pearl Extract Skin Formula" is available by prescription only from a licensed acupuncturist.