From a Chinese Medicine standpoint, allergies are often due to a weakness of the wei qi of the body. The wei qi is the qi that circulates on the surface of the body and helps us stave off the entry of foreign or pathogenic substances. Therefore, for people who suffer seasonally, treatment is needed when acute symptoms attack in order to get them under control. In addition, treatment needs to take place during the off season in order to shore up the weakened wei qi. Using this approach, the allergies decrease over time and eventually become non-existent. Both Chinese herbs & acupuncture are an integral part of treatment.
I have worked with a number of patients who suffered from severe asthma, i.e., those needing to use a high dosage, steroid based inhaler three or more times a day. Using Chinese herbs and acupuncture, I have found it possible to strengthen the lungs and the body’s ability to take in oxygen to the depth of the kidneys. Treatments help decrease the need for inhaler use, lessen the threat posed by various asthmatic triggers (mold, smoke, cold, etc.), and significantly reduce the severity of an attack. Acupuncture, herbs, gwa sa or cupping are all used.
There is no substitute for Western Medicine when it comes to broken bones. If you think that you might have broken something, it is imperative to get it checked out by your doctor or go to an emergency room. But I have experienced times when there are broken toes, hairline fractures, or slow healing fractures that can be greatly aided by Chinese Medicine. There is little Western Medicine can do for broken toes, so this is a time when you might want to seek Chinese Medicine treatment. Acupuncture, internal herbs & external gaos or plasters can be used to reduce the initial swelling and pain, and speed recovery. These treatments, along with electo-stimulation, can be very helpful to speed healing of spiral, hairline fractures and slow healing fractures.
Candida or Yeast
An article by Dr. Laura Mann (click PDF symbol below), an acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist, details the signs and symptoms of the condition, and the role of acupuncture and dietary changes for healing.
Colds, Sore Throats & Coughs
Chinese Medicine is the perfect treatment for colds and sore throats. First of all, there are special herbal formulas that can dispel a cold before it takes hold and moves deeper into your throat and chest. There are also treatments, such as cupping and gwa sa, that help release heat from the body, and help move congestion out of the chest and lungs. There are Chinese herbal formulas whose sole purpose is to reduce nasal congestion and stuffiness in the head, to control coughs, and to dry up phlegm and congestion in the lungs.
Digestive issues such as heartburn, stomach pain, exhaustion after eating do not have a one size fits all solution. In Chinese medicine, there can be totally different causes and treatment protocols for two people suffering the same types of symptoms. Thus, it is important to assess each person individually to understand what particular treatment approach might work best for them. Acupuncture and Chinese herbs can be quite effective with digestive issues. They can help eliminate the rising heat that may be causing heartburn, shore up the deficient yin that is causing ongoing stomach pain, and tonify the Spleen qi to eliminate the deficiency that is making it difficult to take in enough nourishment.
Dizziness is often a sign of excess damp in the body, which can easily be recognized via pulse and tongue diagnosis. I have treated Meniere’s Disease and other types of dizziness using acupuncture and Chinese herbs.
Elevated Eye Pressure: Working with a local Ophthalmologist, I treated a patient who had elevated pressure in both eyes. The doctor, patient and I all wanted to give Chinese Medicine a try before resorting to Western medications. After one treatment (and a week of taking an herbal formula), the pressure in one eye dropped from 36 down to 28; and in the other, from 26 to 19. Thus, the pressure in one eye reached a normal range, and we continued treatments to reduce the pressure further in the other eye. Red Eyes/Blurred Vision: Some patients I work with occasionally get a kind of blurred vision and eye itchiness from overworking and stress. Whenever this occurs, acupuncture provides quick relief. Vitreous Hemorrhage: This is a condition where bleeding has occurred inside the eye which then obscures vision. I was initially successful using herbs & acupuncture to clear vision. Unfortunately, the patient later had another traumatic experience which caused additional bleeding. He opted to have the dried blood inside the eye removed surgically. Chalazions, Styes & Conjunctivitis: All of these external eye conditions can be treated with internal and topical Chinese herbs. However, in these circumstances, I recommend the patient see an Ophthalmologist.
The first thing I try to discern when one of my patients talks about fatigue is whether or not the fatigue is appropriate for the person’s lifestyle. For example, if one is raising two children & working a full-time job with a commute, it seems appropriate to be tired. Fatigue can also be the result of a serious illness or surgery, or due to long periods of over-work and extreme taxation. In each of these cases, treatment with herbs and acupuncture is strongly recommended. We also consider lifestyle to ensure that the energy expended is adequately replenished with good food, enough sleep, plenty of relaxation and a calming of the spirit.
This is an extensive topic that could take up an entire website in and of itself. Chinese medicine can be exceedingly helpful with a host of different gynecological conditions, and provides treatments & solutions beyond the sometimes limited offerings of Western medicine. Menstrual Complaints: Cramping, clotting, breast pain, bloating, moodiness, etc. can easily be eliminated. Treatments have been effective even for those with such severe menstrual symptoms that they threw up and were bed ridden for days around their menses. Heavy Bleeding: If your menses include heavy bleeding (it may even go so far as to feel like the bottom has dropped out and that they just won’t stop), please see an herbal practitioner! We can stop the heavy bleeding before you are totally depleted, and build your system back up so that this no longer occurs. Cycle Longer/Shorter Than 28 Days: Your menstrual cycle wants and needs to be 28 days, give or take a few days. So if your menses have stopped altogether or there is very little bleeding, or if they are occurring every 21 days, or if some months you have a cycle and some months you don’t, it is good to get this diagnosed and treated. Such symptoms suggests that there is an imbalance in the body, such as blood or qi deficiency, or an excess where the body is over-stressed and constrained. Fibroids/Cysts: Practitioners view fibroids and cysts as being a type of blood stagnation or accumulation of damp. Clearly there has been some kind of process in the body that has formed these lumps that needs to be altered to make them dissipate. Our goal will be to identify the formation process at play, and then work to reverse it. I have worked with patients and successfully gotten rid of ovarian cysts. Fibroids, depending upon their size, can be reduced in size or dissipated. If they are quite large, treatment can help to ensure that more do not form. Endometriosis: There are key herbal formulas that can be used to reduce endometrial pain, and endometriosis itself. It is possible to heal this disease without using the pill (which doesn’t heal it, but masks its symptoms) and surgery. Menopausal Symptoms: A variety of symptoms can occur as one goes through menopause - hot flashes, night sweats, constipation, elevated blood pressure, vaginal dryness, insomnia, heart palpitations, headaches. Not a pleasant list. I find that treating these symptoms as soon as they start to occur is a good way to ensure the body does not keep producing them. But even if not treated immediately, acupuncture and herbs can diminish and ultimately eliminate them.
I have been successful in helping women to get pregnant. It is important to keep in mind that the female body up until about the age of 40 truly wants to get pregnant. So part of the process is to ensure that the woman and her partner are healthy, with no unproductive habits (drinking, smoking, workaholic, bad eating), while also making sure to regulate the menses to a constant 28-day cycle. Acupuncture helps calm the anxiety some experience around needing/wanting to conceive and stimulates the ovaries during ovulation. Herbs can help to shore up any deficiencies or eliminate any blockages that might be keeping the body from conceiving.
Headaches & Migraines
From a Chinese medicine perspective, there are a variety of reasons why people get headaches. It might be an excess condition where too much energy is rising to the head, or where there is stagnation that needs to be cleared, or a situation where there is a wind-cold or wind-heat invasion; or purely, an excess of damp. A headache can also source from an underlying deficiency, where there might be too little qi and blood. Even severe migraines can be treated. I have worked with a number of migraine sufferers that through regular use of acupuncture and herbs have reduced or totally gotten rid of their migraines.
There are a number of Western drugs used today to reduce high LDL cholesterol levels and high levels of triglycerides - both of which are correlated with heart disease. Some people have bad reactions to these drugs, and thus seek out other solutions. The success of using Chinese herbs and dietary guidance to reduce cholesterol and triglyceride levels is quite high. For example, one patient I worked with had been given Lipitor for elevated cholesterol, and started experiencing extreme joint pain from the drug. Thus, he decided to try a recommended herbal formula instead. Upon his next visit to the doctor, his cholesterol levels had dropped within normal range. Another patient came in with extremely high triglyceride levels (~500). After 5 months of Chinese herbs, acupuncture and dietary work, her levels dropped well within normal range (~100). Most of the herbal formulas I use in this arena are quite mild and can be taken over an extended period of time. One formula in particular includes herbs that act as digestive agents, so that fats and other hard to digest substances are more quickly assimilated by the body.
Hypertension is a very serious condition. If someone comes to me who is already taking medications for it, I will take no action to change that course. However, it is important to point out that if one is beginning to have borderline levels of high blood pressure, there are steps that can be taken before going on a drug regime. Acupuncture can help to drop the energy downward (the energy that is wanting to rise upward toward the head). Meditation and other stress-reducing activities can be incorporated into one’s lifestyle. There are also Chinese and Ayurvedic herbal formulas that I have seen be quite effective at keeping pressure within normal range. If the hypertension is a result of menopause, please know that there are specific herbal formulas designed to address this specific variant of it.
There can be a host of causes for insomnia that need to be diagnosed and treated appropriately. There are ear points that help re-set the body-clock (especially useful if there is prolonged jet lag), and other acupuncture points that can help to calm the nervous system. Often insomnia is a result of rising heat that harasses the heart, thus causing restless sleep. Or the liver qi might be constrained from the stress of life which can be released and calmed to allow for deeper sleep states.
I have worked with patients who have been diagnosed with osteoporosis. In this case both acupuncture and herbs are used to strengthen the body and increase calcium absorption. In one instance, a patient who had been thus diagnosed went for a follow up bone density test after having worked with herbs and acupuncture for about nine months. The doctors concluded that they must have given a false positive in the first screening since all the previous markers had disappeared.
My knowledge of working with skin conditions comes from study with Mazin Al-Khafaji, an acupuncturist and herbalist with a very successful dermatology practice in England. Dermatology breaks a major rule of Chinese Medicine, in that when treating skin conditions it is critical to know the western diagnosis, and to treat based on how it looks on the skin (e.g., pustules, degree of redness, itching, weeping, etc.). Each skin condition has specific herbs, at prescribed dosage levels that address it. In addition, there are different stages of these skin conditions that merit specific herbal additions or subtractions. And most treatments require two stages of treatment: (1) to treat the acute skin condition or flair up, (2) to consolidate the energy of the body once the condition has dissipated to keep it from returning. Chinese herbs & acupuncture can address conditions such as Atopic Eczema, Nummular Eczema, Perioral Dermatitis, Rosacea, Urticaria (hives/rashes), Psoriasis, Pompholyx Eczema, Acne, Athlete’s Foot, Herpes Zoster (Shingles).
Tendon-Muscular Aches & Pains
Tendon-muscular conditions include muscle pain, spasms & sprains occurring anywhere in the body. They are referred to by a host of names: low-back pain, sciatica, herniated disc(s), upper back pain, tendonitis, tennis/golfer’s elbow, repetitive strain injuries, carpal tunnel, bursitis, knee pain, ankle pain, feet pain, bone spurs, torn ACL or meniscus, hip pain, arthritis, neck tension. plantar fasciitis. Acupuncture can often relieve these symptoms quite effectively because the acupuncture needles are small and can go right to the root of the muscle pain - releasing the muscle that is constrained and causing pain, or helping to re-set a bone that has gone out of alignment due to a constrained muscle. For back issues, I find that acupuncture and herbs (taken internally) can quickly relieve back pain, no matter the cause. Some conditions are harder than others and take longer to treat, but most respond quickly after several treatments. Certain knee conditions, such as bad meniscus tears require surgery due to the elastic nature of the cartilage. But acupuncture can help to reduce pain before surgery, and accelerate the return to full range of motion post surgery. It is important to point out as well, that often knee pain is not due to the knee itself but may trace to tight muscles above and below the knee, as well as hip or ankle issues. For things like plantar fasciitis and achilles tendonitis, the calf muscles are typically constrained and need to be released with acupuncture. For arm and wrist pain or swelling, it is always critical to check for tension or constraint in the upper back. With all tendon-muscular ailments external plasters, gaos and soaks are usually recommended, along with 3-6 acupuncture treatments.
Upper Respiratory & Sinuses
I often work with people who have chronic bronchitis or chronic sinus infections. The typical course of action is first to alleviate any acute symptoms. Follow up treatments are needed to strengthen the lungs, dissipate damp, shore up spleen qi so that future episode are gradually reduced and ultimately eliminated.
Perhaps nothing is more difficult than a struggle with food. It can become an unpleasant focal point of one’s life. My work with patients around food and weight loss is to help establish a habit of “healthy” eating. The goal is to feel good and nourished at all times; to enjoy food for the wonderful pleasure that it is; and if weight loss is sought - to lose weight slowly without deprivation or drama. It is also important to make sure there are no underlying deficiencies at work. Having deficient Spleen qi can make it difficult to take in nourishment from the foods we eat, so that cravings for more fatty or sweet foods is heightened. Eating these foods then weakens the Spleen further - so that a downward draining spiral is created.