Monday, August 17, 2009

H1N1 - A TCM Perspective

The H1N1 "Pandemic" has received a lot of media coverage recently and now the vaccine is top priority. By now we all know that thousands of people die each year from seasonal flu while only a handful have died due to H1N1. So why is the H1N1 considered a pandemic? According to the WHO this is a new virus therefore people have little immunity, which potentially could result in more infections than the seasonal flu. Signs of influenza A(H1N1) are similar to seasonal flu, including fever, cough, headache, muscle and joint pain, sore throat, runny nose and sometimes diarrhea and vomiting. H1N1 appears to be as contagious as seasonal flu, with the severity of infection ranging from very mild to severe illness possibly resulting in death. The majority of cases are mild and most recover without medical care. With the more serious cases most people have underlying health conditions or compromised immune systems. Every year people are encouraged to get the flu shot, however it does not prevent all strains and new strains appear each year which begs the question why is the vaccine for H1N1 deemed so vital?

What then is the best way to protect yourself? Keep healthy by strengthening your immune system.
Traditional Chinese Medicine has an advantage because it does not necessarily target the disease but the imbalance in the person, therefore if one's body, mind and spirit is functioning optimally it should be protected from the influenza virus regardless if it is a new strain. In TCM the immune system is closely related to the functioning of the Lung energy system. The Lung system is related to breathing, the skin, the nose and conditions such as allergies, asthma, eczema, as well as colds and flu. How does the lung energy system relate to colds and flu? According to the TCM medical system there are different types of Qi, or "energy" circulating in the body. One form is called Wei Qi, or "defensive" energy, this qi circulates close to the surface and is responsible for protecting the body from invasion by exterior pathogens such as Heat, Cold, Dampness or Wind. Invasion by these pathogens correlates to the symptoms of the flu such as fever, chills, cough, sore throat, runny nose, head and body aches and possibly nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. The difference with TCM differential diagnosis is that symptoms and treatment vary according to the pathogen and the degree of toxicity. Of course prevention is the best alternative and below are some recommendations.

Of course regular acupuncture treatments can keep the body in balance. It is particularly beneficial to have treatments at the changing of the seasons to help it adapt smoothly to a change in the environment. Prior to flu season it is a good idea to get a series of treatments to boost immunity. There are many acupuncture points on the body that have been shown to have a positive effect on the immune system. In addition to acupuncture many Chinese herbs, such as, Huangqi (Astragalus root), Renshen (Ginseng), Lingzhi (Ganorderma), Dong Chong Xia Cao (Cordyceps), Baizhu (White Atractylodes rhizome), Fangfeng(Siler root)have immune strengthening properties. Generally most herbs are taken as a balanced formula to enhance therapeutic benefits while at the same time decreasing side-effects. Some common Chinese herbal prescriptions to prevent illness or hasten recovery are Yu Ping Feng San, Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang, Gan Mao Ling, Yin Qiao San, Ge Gen Tang. Herbal formulas are based on a TCM diagnosis, therefore not all prescriptions are appropriate in all conditions. Food is also considered medicine in TCM and is often the first line of defense, therefore adding immune boosting foods such as reishi, shiitake and maitake mushrooms can be very beneficial.

Keep in mind all the information here is for general knowledge and no treatment should be taken without the consultation and supervision of a licensed practitioner.

Chinese Herbal Medicine Formulas & Strategies
Chinese Herbal Medicine Materia Medica

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Happy Heart

The Heart Energy system according to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)
  • governs blood by the following actions: supplies blood to all body tissues, determines strength of constitution, converts food Qi (energy) into blood
  • blood vessels reflect the energy of the heart, if Heart Qi and blood is strong the pulse will be full and regular
  • manifests in the complexion - a rosy, lustrous complexion is a sign the heart is pumping blood all over the body and that the blood is abundant
  • houses the Shen (mind) which is considered to be all mental faculties as well as the emotional, mental and spiritual aspects of a person.
  • there are 5 functions in particular related to the heart: mental activity, consciousness, memory, thinking, sleep
  • opens into the tongue, therefore if the heart is out of balance there may be speech abnormalities
  • controls sweat because of the relation between blood and body fluids

Heart disease and stroke are two of the top three causes of death in Canada. High blood pressure and hypercholesteremia are risk factors associated with the diseases. There are many ways to help prevent or treat heart disease and Traditional Chinese Medicine offers a few options. One way is through acupuncture, which requires the expertise of a Doctor of TCM or a Registered acupuncturist, who will gather all pertinent health information to determine which organ systems are out of balance. Once this pattern of disharmony is revealed an individual treatment plan can be created, which may include dietary changes, lifestyle recommendations and herbal prescriptions.

Often the first step to health is diet. It is an easy, inexpensive way to help prevent or treat certain conditions. Some recommended additions to help with lowering cholesterol and blood pressure are as follows

Celery - lowers cholesterol and blood pressure
Button mushroom - decreases blood fat
Shiitake - decreases cholesterol
Banana, persimmon - lower blood pressure
Kelp, seaweed, mung bean, sprouts - soften blood vessels to help prevent atherosclerosis
Oregano, black pepper, basil, fennel and tarragon - help lower cholesterol
Whole grains, legumes, oats - are high in fiber, which can help to lower LDL without impacting the HDL

Of course general dietary recommendations also apply
avoid saturated fats, trans fats and hydrogenated oils.
take omega 3 fatty acids found in seeds such as flax, hemp and pumpkin and fish, such as salmon, mackerel and sardine

Chinese herbs are the next step after dietary changes have been made. Many have been studied for their effects on the heart below are some results

Shan Zha (hawthorn) - lowers triglycerides and cholesterol, promotes vasodilation. Improves circulation in the blood vessels and is anti-clotting
Dan Shen (salvia root) - promotes vasodilation, lowers serum cholesterol. Used in treating angina pectoris and thromboangiitis obliterans (Buerger's disease)
San Qi (notoginseng radix) - lowers serum lipids and cholesterol. Powdered can be used for angina pectoris to decrease nitroglycerin and blood pressure.
Ge Gen (radix puerariae) - increases blood flow, decrease serum cholesterol. No affect on blood pressure but can moderate associated symptoms
He Shou Wu (polygoni multiflori radix) - lowers cholesterol levels through reducing absorption by the small intestine, also relieves arteriosclerosis
Ze Xie (alismatis rhizoma) - decreases cholesterol and triglycerides
Shu Di Huang (rehmanniae radix) - lowers blood pressre and serum cholesterol
Ma Dou Ling, Du Zhong, Xia Ku Cao - all reduce hypertension

Although all the herbs listed above have an impact on blood pressure and cholesterol their actions in TCM are different and may involve other organ systems, since there is not just one pattern of disease. In addition herbs are generally combined to create a balanced formula to regulate the organ systems that are out of balance therefore it is always important to consult a Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine or Herbalist before taking any herbal remedies.

Regulating emotions is the final component to heart health, with imbalances resulting in scattered mind, excess or no laughing, loss of memory, speech problems, weak spirit and depression. Activities such as tai chi and yoga can benefit the spirit. Meditation, moving or seated is another option to help clear and calm the mind.

Journal of Chinese Medicine February 2009
Healing with Whole Foods

Chinese Herbal Medicine - Materia Medica

Saturday, July 18, 2009



put a few dried flowers in cup with boiling water - steep for several minutes
drink as a tea during the summer to treat
  • fever
  • headache
  • red, painful, tearing eyes
  • dizziness
  • blurry vision
  • spots in front of eyes
  • treats coronary heart disease
do not use if you have a poor appetite or diarrhea


can be added to food and drinks
cook for a short period of time

drink as a tea to treat
  • induce sweating for feverish sensation
  • headache, red eyes, sore throat
  • summer heat syndrome with abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhea
do not use if sweating heavily, high blood pressure


cook bean in soup
sprouts can be eaten raw or cooked
powder can be used for skin conditions
  • clears heat
  • moistens and lubricates, nourishing when cooked for a long time
  • promotes urination
  • treats eczema, itch, burns, mumps and ulcers

  • disperses blood stagnation
  • reduces high blood pressure
  • aids digestion, reduces food stagnation
  • treats jaundice, heart disease, dysentery, angina pectoris, coronary heart disease