The adrenal glands are endocrine glands that produce multiple hormones. The adrenals are located directly above the kidneys and they are vital to human existence. The hormones produced by the adrenals are particularly important during times of stress. Adrenaline and naturally occurring steroids such as aldosterone and cortisol are made by the adrenals. These hormones help the body control blood sugar, burn fat, react to stressors and regulate the blood pressure. This makes the adrenals extremely important.
Traditional Chinese Medicine views things differently than Western medicine, but the adrenal glands are still an important part of the body. TCM treats the adrenal glands as part of the kidneys and the kidney energetic pathway. This means the adrenal glands are part of the water element. The kidney area is seen as a key role player that determines the quality of life in TCM. This is because the kidneys control the internal Qi (pronounced “chee”), which is considered the body’s life force.
The body is a complicated machine that has a very efficient self-regulating system. When the body is depleted of quality food or sleep, then it will not be able to function and carry out all the important functions. This is why many people experience eating binges or extreme fatigue accompanied by excessive sleep when they are under severe stress.
Everyday stress can drain the body of energy, nutritional reserves and Qi over time. When this occurs, the body may experience a breakdown, a drop in immunity or great fatigue. If this continues, adrenal fatigue may develop. Adrenal fatigue is a condition where the adrenal glands become weak and then produce insufficient amounts of the hormones needed for everyday life. Symptoms of adrenal fatigue include low libido, food cravings, general malaise, emotional problems, weight gain, low immunity, difficulty concentrating and thyroid issues.
TCM offers a couple of possible solutions to treating weakened adrenal glands. Acupuncture treatments and moxibustion can greatly help the adrenals. Regular acupuncture treatments can strengthen the kidneys. Over time, the adrenals/kidneys will regain some of their Qi, thus helping the body to fuel and heal itself. Acupuncture is so effective because it helps reduce stress and it turns on the relaxation part of the nervous system. When the relaxation side of the nervous system is turned on, the heart rate will return to normal, digestion will improve and sleep will become deeper and more restful.
Moxibustion is another tool in the TCM toolbox that can help heal the adrenal glands. Moxibustion is the burning of a dried herb, specifically mugwort. The mugwort is placed on specific acupuncture points that are known to tonify or improve the Qi associated with the kidneys/adrenal glands. Both moxibustion and acupuncture can be performed frequently to help bring the body back into balance.
Incorporating healthy eating habits, regular exercise and restful sleep can also keep the adrenal glands performing well. But when we are stressed, many of the things we know are good for us, tend to get moved to the back burner. This is where getting regular acupuncture treatments can be very beneficial. So if excessive stress is a factor in your life, consider adding acupuncture treatments that can help you relax mentally and keep you healthy physically.
The major responsibility of the heart in TCM is housing the mind and controlling the shen. “Shen” can be seen as the overall healthiness of the mind. When you look at a healthy person in good spirits, you know how you can see that in their eyes? There is a certain bright clarity and sense of health that shines from within. We acupuncturists would say that this person has good shen.
Have you ever looked into a person’s eyes and noticed they seemed, well, not all together? Maybe their eyes were shifting from side to side, or maybe they just seemed cloudy and dull, as if they were not really in the present moment. Perhaps they seemed dazed or confused. This is poor shen. Sometimes mild depression or distraction can cause this shen disturbance; if very severe, it can manifest as mental illness, such as schizophrenia.
A Chinese Medicine professor once described the heart’s job as maintaining appropriate timing in life. He used an example of a person wearing a bathing suit. If this person wore the suit out to the pool in the summer, his heart was doing its job. But if he put the bathing suit on for a business meeting, it meant the heart was not allowing him to make the right choice for the circumstances. In short, the Heart is all about maintaining the correct behavior for specific situations. Think about behavior patterns you might see in the case of mental illness: inappropriate speech or tone of voice, making unsafe decisions, misjudging situations and social cues.
The heart is not about moderation; it is an organ of extremes, from wild joy to crushing lows. Extreme joy may seem like a positive thing, but this is the type of joy unsustainable and it burns out quickly. Think of manic-depression: manic highs, followed by deep depression. Both depression and anxiety are linked to the heart. ADHD is also considered to be a result of heart imbalance; the hyperactivity is a result of the heart not properly controlling the mind.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the heart is the organ most closely linked to emotion. Think about all the terms we use every day to describe our state of mind: “heartsick,” “heartbroken,” “heartache” The heart is not the director of subtlety; the emotions it encompasses seem to always be on the far end of the spectrum, either extreme sadness or extreme joy.
The physical job of the heart in TCM is very close to what we know it to be in Western medicine. It controls the blood vessels, and also controls the sweat. If the heart is healthy, the heartbeat will be strong and regular, without palpitations. The blood pressure will be normal, the blood will circulate well, and the heart will settle back into its regular rhythm shortly after exertion. You may notice people with heart issues tend to sweat more than the average person. Excess sweating is a sign the heart needs to be tonified (built up and supported). Heat signs in general, such as facial flushing, might be a sign that the heart energy is out of balance. On the other end of the spectrum, if the energy is deficient, a person may present with a complexion that is pale or chalky.
The heart energy also controls the tongue. When this organ is working effectively, your tongue will work to help you taste your food, and to assist normal, clear speech. Stuttering, loss of words and other speech difficulties can result from a deficiency of the Heart. If someone talks incessantly, this can also point to an imbalance of the heart. If there is excess heat in the heart, it may show up as sores on the tongue, and the tip may be red or painful.
When the heart is balanced and healthy, it results in an easy transition into sleep. When we acupuncturists learn you have insomnia, we often treat the heart. Difficulty falling asleep, nightmares and sleep terrors can result when this organ is unhappy. If you are the type of person who lies in bed forever, unable to fall asleep because your mind is racing, acupuncture can help to settle the heart energy and give you a great night’s sleep.
2/28/2018 0 Comments
The common cold is something everybody deals with and there are a thousand different suggestions on how to avoid catching a cold. Everything from megadoses of vitamin C to increasing your sleep time. And while some of these are not bad ideas, there is not a lot of proof they can prevent a cold. Some people have stronger immune systems than others and this plays into how often they get sick. Also, there are many environmental factors to account for. And while nothing is going to work every time for every person, there are still ways a person can prepare for cold season.
Traditional Chinese Medicine has been around for nearly 3,000 years and it utilizes many different tools to help people stay healthy. According to TCM theories, there are six causes of disease: wind, cold, summer heat, dryness, dampness and fire. The human body has to adapt to changes in these elements in order to remain healthy. The main cause of the common cold is wind and it is often associated with sudden or abnormal changes in the weather. Wind frequently combines with other forces to cause different types of illnesses. The most common are wind cold and wind heat.
Wind cold invasions cause the types of colds that are usually experienced during the snowy winter months. Wind heat invasions cause the types of colds that are commonly seen during the warmer months, when the seasons change from spring into summer and summer into fall.
Traditional Chinese Medicine has been very successful in treating people who suffer from frequent colds. Every person has an immune system that usually fights off invasions of bacteria and viruses. But sometimes, when a person is under a lot of stress or doesn’t sleep well or doesn’t eat right, then that immune system can become compromised and a cold may develop. TCM emphasizes prevention through the use of acupuncture, herbal formulas and diet.
Regular acupuncture treatments can increase a person’s immunity, making it easier to fight off any foreign invaders. Herbs such as Angelica root is also frequently prescribed to rid the body of viruses. Andrographis or Chuan Xin Lian in Chinese is another herb that is frequently used because it reduces the severity of cold symptoms while strengthening the immune system. Forsythia fruit or Lian Qiao, is another herb that is used frequently to treat the common cold.
There are other things that can be done to prevent the common cold and they are not specific to TCM, but they are recommended. For instance, covering the back of the neck is very beneficial. The nape of the neck is thought to be the entry point for many viruses. Therefore, keeping this area covered up especially when it is windy, may help keep a person from getting sick. Also, it is recommended to eat according to the season. So as the weather gets colder, one should eat more warm and cooked foods.
One last thing that may be very beneficial in the prevention of colds is exercise. To keep energy flowing throughout the body, it is necessary to move. This is where incorporating a daily practice of tai chi or qi gong might be helpful. Both tai chi and qi gong are very easy to learn and the practices are low impact. Tai chi is even being used around the globe in senior homes to help the residents regain balance and keep them healthy, both mentally and physically.
Consider adding Traditional Chinese Medicine to the toolbox when a cold comes on. A licensed acupuncturist and herbalist may be very beneficial to your health and well-being. Lucky for you we have both... ;)
Traditional Chinese Medicine is a medical system that dates back nearly 4,000 years. Auricular acupuncture was first mentioned around 500 B.C. in the Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine, which is the equivalent of the Bible for TCM practitioners. However, the method in which auricular acupuncture is practiced today is actually based upon discoveries that occurred in France in the 1950s. Modern auricular acupuncture is based upon the work done by Dr. Paul Nogier of France.
Auricular acupuncture is the stimulation of the external ear for the diagnosis and treatment of health conditions. These health conditions may be taking place anywhere throughout the body. The stimulation of these acupuncture points can be done manually, with an acupuncture needle, a laser, magnets or ear seeds. Regardless of the means of stimulation, auricular acupuncture can be a very powerful addition to regular acupuncture treatments.
The current form of auricular acupuncture came about after Dr. Nogier noticed a scar on the upper ear of some of his patients. When he inquired about the scar, he found out a local practitioner had been treating his patients for sciatica pain and she was cauterizing this specific area on the external ear to relieve their low back pain. Dr. Nogier conducted similar tests on his own patients and found their low back pain was also relieved. He tried using other means of stimulation as well, such as acupuncture needles and found it to be just as effective as cauterizing the area. So Dr. Nogier theorized if an area of the upper external ear is effective on treating low back pain, then perhaps other areas of the ear could treat other parts of the body. This led to the model now used when teaching auricular acupuncture. The ear is thought to represent the whole anatomical body. However, it is upside down in orientation, so the head is represented by the lower ear lobe, the feet are at the top of the ear and the rest of the body is in between. According to history, the Chinese actually adopted this model of auricular acupuncture in 1958.
Auricular acupuncture is considered a microsystem, in that the ear is like a microcosm of the whole body, meaning one part of the body, the ear in this instance, represents the whole body. Microsystems also appear on foot and hand reflexology, facial acupuncture and scalp acupuncture.
This system has been practiced in Asia, albeit in a different form, for over 2,000 years. Auricular acupuncture has been used in Europe for the past 40 to 50 years. And it is finally starting to take root in the United States. The U.S. military, over the past 5 to 10 years, has started utilizing auricular acupuncture for its battlefield personnel. This form of battlefield acupuncture is used to help soldiers deal with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) brought on by being in combat.
Since auricular acupuncture allows for every part of the external ear to connect through the microsystem to every part of the body, many conditions can be treated using only a few very tiny needles. Not only can PTSD be treated using auricular acupuncture, but also things like chronic pain, drug addiction, high blood pressure and nausea. And for those who are a little needle-shy, auricular acupuncture is a great way to treat them because they will never see the needles and they will still get the help they need to achieving health and wellness.
Everyone feels cold sometimes, but some people are perpetually chilled to a point where it interferes with their lives.
From a Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective, there are two different kinds of cold in the body: full cold and empty cold. Full cold refers to a condition where there is an excess of cold-type energy in the body leading to a feeling of cold, and most likely other health problems, as well. The other kind of cold is empty cold. This means there is not an abundance of cold energy but rather a weakness of the warm fiery energy. When there isn’t enough warmth in the body, you will feel cold – not because the cold is so strong, but because you don’t have enough fire to balance it out.
As mentioned, a full cold condition refers to an over-abundance of cold type energy in the body. This is often an acute case and may relate to being outside on cold weather, or exposing a certain area of your body to cold water, cold wind or cold weather. Symptoms really depend on the location of the cold in the body.
For instance, you might feel really cold when you are coming down with a cold virus. From a TCM perspective, this is cold being trapped under the skin or in certain channels on the back of the neck. Other associated symptoms may be a stiff neck, a runny nose or an occipital headache.
Full cold can also lodge itself in the digestive system – this may happen following a meal of cold food, drinking cold beverages in a cold environment or following exposure to very cold temperatures. Full cold in the digestive system can lead to a feeling of cold, as well as painful cramping, diarrhea or loose stools and pain in the abdomen.
Another common site of a full-cold condition is the uterus. This can be from exposure to cold temperatures such as swimming in cold water or sitting on a cold surface. Certain gynecological procedures can also introduce cold into the uterus. This type of cold manifests as a feeling of cold, particularly with the period and very painful cramping before and during the period. There will likely also be clots and possible problems with fertility.
All of these full-cold conditions can be avoided by limiting exposure to cold environments and cold foods. Also introducing heat internally through teas, soups and warming herbs can help.
In TCM, health is a state of balance between yin and yang. Yin refers to the cool, watery, passive parts of our physiology, whereas yang refers to the hot, fiery, active parts. When the yang energy is weakened, there isn’t enough fire to balance out the cool and watery yin. This leads to a pervasive feeling of cold that is hard to shake, even with lots of blankets and warm drinks. This is someone who always feels chilled, no matter what. There may be other symptoms, as well, such as loose stools, a lack of energy or motivation, wanting to sleep all the time or fluid accumulation. Yang deficiency cold often requires use of herbal medicine, acupuncture, and moxa to treat appropriately.
While these are the main reasons for feeling cold, there are two other energetic imbalances that can also lead to feeling cold – Qi stagnation and blood deficiency. When Qi is stuck, circulation is impaired and heat can’t get to our extremities effectively. This kind of cold often manifests as very cold hands and feet. It can be helped by regular exercise, reducing stress and limiting heavy foods. A weakness in the blood energy of the body leads to a low-grade constant feeling of cold less severe than a yang deficiency cold, but still pervasive and consistent. It can be helped with getting enough sleep, reducing stressors and eating a well-balanced diet of blood-nourishing foods.
2/6/2018 1 Comment
Acupuncture works well for many health issues and greatly stimulates the body's healing response. Yet in some cases, it can take many Acupuncture treatments over a period of weeks or months to see lasting results. By contrast, custom Chinese herbs bypass the Acupuncture channels and work directly on the body's organ systems guiding them back into healthy balance. Taken in divided doses 2-3 times per day, they can be used independently of Acupuncture, or synergistically with Acupuncture, to greatly enhance the speed and success of treatment.
A custom-designed herbal formula typically has anywhere from 2-18 herbal ingredients and is carefully tailored to each person’s specific health needs. It takes into consideration the state of each one of their body’s organ systems.
Unlike Western Medicine, two people that come in for Anxiety can have two very different Chinese medicine diagnoses, and thus will be prescribed two very different Chinese herbal formulas. We call this “syndrome differentiation” or in other words, individual treatment for individual people.
For example, say a 35 year old woman comes in with Anxiety and presents with heart palpitations, insomnia, a pale face, light-headedness, low energy, and a scanty period. She will be given herbs that specifically address her unique pattern of imbalance. If another 22 year old woman comes in for Anxiety and presents with different symptoms such as racing heart, insomnia, irritability, PMS, and abdominal cramps with her period, she will be given a completely different blend of herbs.
Both are coming in for Anxiety and yet each one is being treated for a unique and different pattern of imbalance. The first woman's symptoms indicate an energetic pattern of deficiency and needs nourishing herbs to heal, while the second woman's symptoms indicate an energetic pattern of excess and needs heat clearing and Qi regulating herbs to balance and heal. They might be on the same Western medications for their symptoms, but to a Chinese Medicine Practitioner's eyes, they are completely different presentations requiring completely different treatments.
If they were pursuing herbal-only treatment, these women would come in for a 30 to 45-minute Herbal Consultations during which a diagnosis and an herbal formula are identified and prescribed. They will either pick up their herbal formula at a nearby herb pharmacy, or receive their custom herbs by mail from Crane-West Herbs.
Most likely, their herbs will come in a powdered-extract form, all blended together into one bottle. To take the herbs, they would scoop a measured dose as prescribed into warm water and stir to dissolve, then sip or drink. They would repeat as prescribed, usually 2-3x per day.
Taking the herbs consistently throughout the course of treatment is key to achieving clear lasting results. Using the herbs regularly throughout each day allows the herbs corrective properties to shift a person from a state of imbalance to one of balance and health efficiently and effectively.
Chinese Herbal Medicine works well because it is tailored to address each person’s specific pattern of imbalance and also because the herbs are taken multiple times a day on a daily basis throughout a course of treatment. The specificity and the consistent application of custom Chinese herbs make them a powerhouse among healing interventions. Something that empowers the patient each and every day, and each and every dose to shift towards balance, thus making positive changes towards lasting health.
Would you like to know more about how Chinese Herbs can accelerate your healing with or without Acupuncture treatment? We’re extremely lucky to have our own talented Chinese herbalist on staff! Click the “book now” link at the top of the page to sign up for your Herbal Consultation with Jonathan today!
A study published by the Journal of Sleep Medicine shows acupuncture is a safe and effective treatment for insomnia sufferers. The study group was composed of 72 patients with primary insomnia. Acupuncture treatments were given three times a week for four weeks and the patients were required to wear sleep monitors, as well as complete regular questionnaires. The outcomes were measured by the Insomnia Severity Index, sleep efficiency, sleep awakenings and total sleep time. The Insomnia Severity Index of the patients improved greatly, as did the sleep efficiency and the total sleep time. This study provides evidence that acupuncture can be of great help to insomnia sufferers.
Insomnia is a pathology that affects an estimated 32 million people in the United States. Insomnia is a sleep disorder characterized by an inability to obtain sufficient sleep, due to difficulty falling asleep or difficulty staying asleep. Insomnia can be either acute or chronic in nature. Acute insomnia is brief and can happen because of certain stressful life circumstances. Chronic insomnia is disrupted sleep that occurs at least three times per week and continues for at least three months. Of the two, chronic insomnia is the worst to experience. Chronic insomnia can lead to fatigue, mental sluggishness, brain fog, irritability, depression, anxiety, excessive worry, difficulty focusing and even accidents.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) acknowledges adequate sleep as vitally important for physical, as well as mental well-being. TCM usually views insomnia as an imbalance of energies throughout the body. These energies are known as Qi (pronounced “chee”). There are multiple energetic pathways or meridians that run through the body. A person suffering from insomnia may have imbalances in one or more of these meridians. Most typically, the imbalances occur along the heart, liver and kidney meridians. Stress, poor diet and a lack of exercise can produce a blockage or stagnation of Qi in the body. This stagnation can create heat and deplete fluids or yin in the body. One of the ways to bring balance back to these meridians is through the use of acupuncture.
Acupuncture can be used very effectively, to treat all types of sleep disorders and with none of the toxic side effects associated with medications or sleep aids. Because acupuncture is very customizable to the individual, there may also be beneficial side effects associated with the treatment of insomnia. Many patients report after receiving acupuncture treatments for insomnia that they also notice an overall improvement of both their physical and mental wellness.
There is not just one set of points to treat every person with insomnia. Also the root cause of the insomnia may stem from one or multiple issues. Each person is treated holistically with TCM and their bodies are considered unique. Qi may flow differently in some people due to previous surgeries and medical implants. These are things the TCM practitioner considers before determining the treatment plan for each patient.
If you or somebody you know is suffering from insomnia, it might be worth the time to locate a properly trained and fully-licensed acupuncturist in your area. With two licensed acupuncturists in our office offering treatments 5 days a week, restful sleep may be just a few pins away!
The changing of seasons brings different discomforts to our sleep. It is important to our health and wellbeing that we stay mindful about which behaviors may impact our sleep and identify the ways we can cope with the changes in mood, weather, and time of year. Although there are countless things that can positively or negatively change the way we rest, during the winter season there are 3 common culprits to be most weary of.
Melatonin regulates the body's sleep / wake cycles. The lack of daylight can cause the body to produce more of the chemical in turn making the body feel drowsy and sluggish. Blue light can be considered melatonin’s arch nemesis. Studies have shown that blue light emitted by screens (TV, computer, phone etc.) suppresses melatonin levels making it more difficult to fall asleep. On the other hand, Red light would be considered melatonin’s best friend. Red light is the least likely to suppress melatonin levels and shift circadian rhythms. Consider red light options for bedside lamps and night lights.
Do you live where it’s frigid? When the air is too cold, it will negatively affect melatonin production and cause the body's sleep cycle to be disrupted leaving you with an inadequate amount of rest.
Throughout the holidays and much of the winter (hibernation) season, festive celebrations often feature sugary, fat-laden and high-calorie foods. These types of treats especially in an influx can significantly alter the body's hormone levels (specifically associated with metabolism and appetite). Most commonly, the hormone Leptin is impacted by eating too much of these types of foods in short sprints. The change in the levels of leptin in the body will disrupt our sleep cycles, while further altering our other hormones, often leading to sleep apnea or other health related discomforts. As with all hormone issues, Leptin resistance is a complex issue with no singular cause, but there are many winter related factors that can amplify and negatively impact Leptin levels.
3. Vitamin D:
The body produces its own Vitamin D, in response to exposure to sunlight. For this reason, Vitamin D isn’t actually considered a vitamin at all, but rather classified as a hormone. Besides from the sun, people also receive Vitamin D through the right foods and dietary supplements.
A Vitamin D deficiency is not just an excuse to take a tropical vacation. Since there is less sunlight in the winter, you may actually need an extra 1-2 hours of sleep to feel completely rested. Vitamin D deficient individuals experience less sleep overall and also more disrupted sleep cycles.
Sleep is undoubtedly important, and although we can’t control the seasons we can control what we sleep on. If you find yourself facing sleep discomforts, start by examining your bedtime essentials and replace aged or overused items. For the new innovation in sleep comfort, consider mattresses with hybrid foam construction and an open cell design - not only will this offer balanced support for spinal alignment but also help you to sleep cool.
~guest writer Kelly Nicolli
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