Monday, May 31, 2010

American Ginseng

Possibly one of the most well known Chinese herbs Ren Shen comes in several varieties depending on where it is grown. As a rule herbs grown in a particular climate or region have health benefits for people in that region and are usually used to treat conditions prevalent in that area.

In general ginseng strengthens the immune system, fortifies the body's resistance to stress and promotes homeostasis. Many studies have been done on Ginseng to determine which properties contribute to it's multitude of health benefits. American Ginseng has shown promise for treating both non-insulin dependant diabetes and type two diabetes, preventing upper respiratory infections and colorectal cancer. It's anti-cancer properties have been shown to aid in treatment of pancreatic, liver, breast, stomach and pharynx cancers.

Now even mainstream pharmaceutical companies are producing cold and flu remedies that are based on ginseng extracts, ever heard of Cold FX? Instead of manufactured pills why not try a natural, local product? BC grown American Ginseng in tea, wine tonic and honey form are all available at Meridian Flow Acupuncture. American ginseng has a cooler nature than other types making it more appropriate for the average North American prone to heat conditions due to diet and lifestyle.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Ling Zhi - TCM's 'magic' mushroom

Ling Zhi is considered to be a 'magic mushroom' for its mysterious power of healing the body and calming the mind. Also known as Reishi it has been used as a valuable medicine in ancient China until present day for promoting longevity.

In current Traditional Chinese Medicine ling zhi is used for its immune boosting properties. It nourishes the Heart and Spleen by tonifying blood and qi, which can help treat insomnia, forgetfulness, weak digestion and fatigue. Ling zhi is also used to treat asthma by stopping coughing and wheezing.

Research on ling zhi has shown benefits for neurasthenia, hypertension, high cholesterol and cardiovascular disease. In addition ling zhi has positive effects for different types of cancer such as prostate, lung and breast, which is contrary to what early investigators imagined.

Mushrooms appear to have similar characteristics to cancer, ie they are parasitic, fungus-like and fast growing, which is exactly why they are good for treating cancer. According to Chinese medicine theories on food remedies characteristics of the food usually represent what organs, conditions or symptoms it is used to treat. Obvious examples are animal livers, used to strengthen the liver and therefore blood production and regulation. Kidney beans strengthen the kidney especially the yin energy. Walnuts look like miniature brains and are good for memory. Tomatoes, which have different chambers like a heart, have shown to prevent heart disease due to the antioxidant lycopene.

Ling zhi tea is now available at Meridian Flow Acupuncture. The tea is locally grown and packaged in Prince Rupert. Tea is sold by the bag, tins of 5 or 10 bags. Each tea bag can be used to make 1 - 2 litres of tea. Ling zhi tea is mild enough to drink throughout the day.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Culture & Medicine

A recent article in the New York Times got me thinking about the role of cultural beliefs in medicine. Although I am a Western practitioner of an Eastern medicine I became familiar with certain cultural aspects of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) from years of living in Taiwan which helped prepare me for studying TCM. Now in my clinical practice I encourage clients to take an active interest in their health and treatments. In order to do that one needs to understand the medicine they are receiving, therefore TCM concepts are often "translated" into a Western medical model that makes sense to my clientele, which is why I began the series of TCM terminology.

Often people need some way to link their beliefs and new concepts. The article A Doctor for Disease, a Shaman for the Soul looks at how one hospital in Merced California is trying to bridge the gap between Western medicine treatments and the traditional beliefs of the Hmong people. It is an interesting article for me as it is a continuation of a book I read a few years ago called The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman. The book chronicles the medical treatment of a Hmong child with epilepsy and how cultural differences led to conflicts in her treatment.

Now at the Merced hospital shamans are allowed to perform certain rituals to help in the healing process. They are also educated in Western-style medical treatments in order to better bridge the cultural gap. People's belief and support systems are important factors in healing as demonstrated by the following excerpt from the NYT article
A turning point in the skepticism of staff members occurred a decade ago, when a major Hmong clan leader was hospitalized here with a gangrenous bowel. Dr. Jim McDiarmid, a clinical psychologist and director of the residency program, said that in deference hundreds of well-wishers, a shaman was allowed to perform rituals, including placing a long sword at the door to ward off evil spirits. The man miraculously recovered. “That made a big impression, especially on the residents,” Dr. McDiarmid said.
For those of us accustomed to allopathic medicine often it is the placebo effect and not our belief in shamans which will play a part in recovery. The placebo effect has been studied with regard to cancer treatment and the use of anti-depressants. In both cases researchers felt belief in the medicine, whether it was a sugar pill or prescribed pharmaceutical, had an impact on the effectiveness of treatment. On BBC2 alternative health program the placebo effect is examined with regards to complementary and alternative medicine. Many Therefore I believe incorporating rituals that are an important part of a person's belief system can only have beneficial results.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Arthritis, Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine - Part Two

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) occurs when the immune system attacks the lining of the joints causing inflammation. This inflammation may involve other organs and tissues often the heart, lungs, eyes, and in about 20% lumps may form under the skin.

Rheumatoid arthritis commonly affects people between the ages of 25 and 50, although it can occur at any age. In RA joints affected are symmetrical with the most common being the wrist and hand except the most distal finger joints although elbows, shoulders, neck, jaw, feet, ankles, knees, and hips can also be affected.

Studies on using acupuncture to help RA symptoms show that electro acupuncture has the best results with a significant reduction in the number of tender joints and measurable reduction on pain, swelling and mobility. The traditional acupuncture group experienced benefits but at a slower rate. To read the evaluation click here

Arthritis in general falls into the category of Bi syndrome which translates to joint pain due to wind, cold, heat and damp. The pain characteristics will vary according to the cause
  • Wind causes pain to come on suddenly and move around
  • Cold will cause local or general pain and stiffness which improves with warmth
  • Heat will result is hot, inflamed joints with local redness, swelling, excruciating pain and limited movement
  • Dampness leads to heavy sensations with swelling, numbness and is often worse in damp weather
With regards to RA, as in OA an assessment is done to determine which joints are involved, severity of pain, quality of pain, duration of condition, changes in condition, as well as general body condition.

For dietary guidelines for RA can be found here

Monday, May 3, 2010

May is Arthritis Awareness Month

Looking at Arthritis, Acupuncture & Traditional Chinese Medicine - Part One
Arthritis comes in several forms, the most prevalent being osteoarthritis (OA), affecting approximately 10% of the adult population. Below are some quick facts on OA plus links to well known studies. The traditional Chinese medicine viewpoint will be discussed along with the benefits of acupuncture and herbal therapy.

  • symptoms include pain and stiffness of the joint with the possibility of locking
  • due to degeneration of the joint cartilage, frequently in hands, feet, knees, hips and spine
  • risk factors include old age, previous injury, obesity and hereditary factors
  • treatment includes medications, physiotherapy, exercise and weight loss
  • acupuncture may be used to reduce pain and increase mobility
One well known study looked at the effect of acupuncture on osteoarthritis of the knee and found that by the end of the study those that received acupuncture had a 40% reduction in pain and almost a 40% improvement in function compared to baseline levels. The course of treatment consisted of 24 sessions during a 26 week period. By the 8th week there was a marked improvement in pain. Read the press release for more details.

In TCM assessment of the joint function and pain is important including which factors aggravate or improve the condition. The overall body condition including sleep patterns, energy, digestion and mood will also be taken into consideration when developing a treatment strategy.

In OA age is often a factor and as we age our kidney qi starts to decline, the kidney energy is also related to the back and the knees, therefore acupuncture points or herbs to strengthen this energy may be used.

If a previous injury has predisposed a person to arthritis there may be residual blood stasis or swelling. Acupuncture or herbs may be used to reduce swelling, reduce pain and heal injuries by improving blood circulation in the body.

Often a person is limited in the amount and type of exercise due to pain and mobility of the joint either from the arthritis or a prior injury. Exercise can be beneficial to maintain range of motion, joint stability through strengthen the surrounding muscles. Physical activity has the added benefit of keeping weight at a healthy level thereby taking pressure off of joints especially knees and hips.