Migraine headaches are a bit of mystery to the medical world. This ailment tends to be poorly understood and frequently undiagnosed and undertreated. According to the Migraine Research Foundation, this neurological disease affects nearly 39 million Americans. Migraines are characterized by severe, throbbing pain usually found on only one side of the head. Migraine headaches can also be accompanied by visual disturbances, dizziness, nausea, vomiting and extreme sensitivity to light and sound. These types of headaches can last from four hours to several days. Because modern medicine doesn’t completely understand this neurological phenomenon, the typical treatment is somewhat hit or miss.
There is an alternative though and this alternative is Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which may include acupuncture, herbal formulas, tuina massage and cupping. Because TCM is customizable to the individual, it can do much more than just relieve pain. Here are five reasons why migraine sufferers should consider getting acupuncture:
1. Acupuncture has been proven to relieve migraine pain. This is the number one reason TCM practitioners have people walk through their office doors. Pain, whether associated with migraines or not, is epidemic in the United States. Literally thousands of studies have shown acupuncture treatments can effectively relieve and reduce pain. This can be done both for acute and chronic pain. When acupuncture is coupled with tuina massage or cupping, the results can be even longer lasting.
2. Acupuncture reduces inflammation. While migraines are not completely understood, it is agreed upon by most professionals any headache involves some sort of inflammatory response by the body. Acupuncture promotes the release of vascular and immune-mediating factors that actually decrease inflammation.
3. Acupuncture can reduce serotonin levels. Serotonin is a hormone the body creates and many researchers, scientists and neurologists believe serotonin may be linked to the initiation of migraines. Since acupuncture can be used as preventive medicine, it can also help to balance serotonin levels on a long term basis, thus making migraines less likely to develop.
4. Acupuncture can help with the symptoms of migraines. Acupuncture and herbal formulas can treat much more than just pain, including the symptoms of migraines. Studies have shown things like nausea, dizziness and vomiting can all be reduced through the use of regular treatments. Herbal formulas can be used in between acupuncture treatments to keep the symptoms under control.
5. Acupuncture improves blood circulation. Many times, when a person experiences pain, it is because of a lack of proper blood flow and decreased oxygen. This is as true for migraines as any other type of pain. Acupuncture can improve blood circulation, which also increases the amount of oxygen that reaches the tissues. Cupping on the muscles surrounding the head, neck and shoulders is another modality that can assist with this as well.
Next time you’re in a wide open field, pasture or meadow dotted with beautiful yellow dandelions, know that these prolific little delights are not only beautiful, but packed with nutrition and offer a host of healthy benefits. Let’s explore this amazing flower.
Dandelions are known as Pu Gong Ying in pinyin and are used frequently in Traditional Chinese Medicine. The name comes from the French “dent-de-lioun,” which translates into “tooth of the lion” due to its sharp leaves. They are known to aid the liver, kidneys and gallbladder in particular. In Chinese medicine herbs are used to heal, this includes flowers, bark, roots and seeds. For example, if an herb is considered “warming,” it is given for cold conditions. An herb that is bitter would clear heat and detoxify. If an herb is sour it benefits the liver. If an herb is red it benefits the heart and blood. TCM creates herbal formulas that use a combination of different herbs to balance the formula and keep it safe.
Dandelion is considered a cold, bitter and slightly sweet herb. Its milky juice clears heat, detoxifies blood, reduces swelling and helps the early stages of a cold. Dandelion helps the liver and gallbladder by increasing bile production, and helping in cases of jaundice. Often dandelion is combined with licorice, milk thistle and fennel.
Here are some other key benefits of this flower:
It is ALSO in my favorite Coffee Alternative called Rasa which I kind of drink every day now. Full of adaptogenic herbs, that it TCM are usually longevity herbs or light tonics, it can improve energy while also strengthening your adrenals and improving your stress response. Basically - it's awesome. You can learn more by clicking HERE or you can check it out in my Portland office!
In a 2014 study published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology, researchers conducted a meta-analysis of six randomized, placebo-controlled, clinical trials and found acupuncture had a statistically significant, positive effect on IBS symptoms. The study found acupuncture was helpful in alleviating a variety of symptoms, including abdominal pain, stool state, and abdominal distention, among others.
Between 25 and 45 million people suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, IBS, in the United States. Symptoms of IBS vary from person to person, but IBS is commonly characterized by intestinal pain and either diarrhea or constipation. Symptoms also vary from moderate to severe, but either way, the discomfort needs to be managed long term.
The cause of IBS is not completely known, but one hypothesis suggests it has to do with a disruption of neurotransmission between the intestines and the central nervous system.
Along with diet and lifestyle changes to manage the symptoms, some people turn to medication for support. Systematic reviews of IBS medication have shown inconsistent success, and no one drug has been found to treat all the symptoms of IBS. In light of ineffective and expensive medications, many people have started turning to acupuncture in order to address the symptoms of IBS.
Digestive disturbances are often related to inflammation of some kind, which is one of the conditions acupuncture has been proven to address very well. There are also acupuncture points specifically related to metabolism, increasing gastrointestinal muscle contraction and relaxation, reducing gastric acid secretion, regulating large intestine function and balancing stomach acidity, all of which can support balanced digestive function and support patients with IBS.
Digestive disturbances are also often related to chronic stress in a person’s life. Many acupuncture points are related to reducing stress in the body.
Lastly, digestive disturbance is also linked to people’s diet and nutrient deficiencies in the body. Traditional Chinese Medicine, or TCM, is the medical umbrella under which acupuncture falls. TCM treatments are often a combination of acupuncture, herbal tonics and exercise or movement. Chinese herbs can balance out many nutrient-deficiencies a person might be experiencing that can exacerbate IBS. TCM is a holistic philosophy that incorporates symptom relief as well as lifestyle and diet considerations to develop a well-rounded, personalized treatment plan.
IBS can be a debilitating condition, but it doesn’t have to be. Acupuncture and Chinese herbs can be a great alternative for managing the symptoms. If you or a loved one struggles with IBS, contact a licenced acupuncturist in your area to learn how they may be able to help you find relief.
Digestive disorders can be simple like flatulence or gas, or they can be much more serious, such as Crohn’s disease. But regardless of the severity of the disease, there is no doubt digestive disorders affect far more people than they should, especially in the United States. A recent survey reports nearly 74 percent of all Americans are living with digestive issues. Most people don’t report it to their doctors either, because they assume it is normal to have gas, bloating or abdominal pain. But these symptoms can be indicators of much more serious underlying problems.
The gut is also the “second brain” of the body. When there are problems in the gastrointestinal tract, it can manifest mentally as well as physically. The enteric nervous system, our gut/second brain, is composed of more than 100 million nerve cells that line the gastrointestinal tract from the esophagus to the rectum. The ENS can trigger emotional shifts experienced by those suffering from gastrointestinal issues. But what science is also discovering is that emotional problems can also trigger issues in the ENS. It’s a two-way street and if one is out of whack, then the other may be also.
There are ways we can help our gastrointestinal tract and digestion, though. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a medical system that has been around for thousands of years, and it focuses on treating the person holistically, meaning every part is addressed at once instead of individually. TCM uses modalities like acupuncture, acupressure, herbs, formulas and nutrition to treat each patient. Here are some herbs used frequently in TCM to help with digestion and gastrointestinal issues.
1. Dandelion or Pu Gong Ying: This herb has been used for millennia for liver and digestive problems. It is used specifically for its diuretic properties. Pu Gong Ying promotes healthy digestive functioning and unlike pharmaceuticals used as diuretics, this herb actually restores potassium rather than depleting it.
2. Hawthorn Berry or Shan Zha: Shan Zha is a great herb to have on hand after those big family dinners, like Thanksgiving. This herb works to remove food stagnation in the digestive tract, and it works especially well on meats and fats that are harder to digest.
3. Orange Peel or Chen Pi: One of the best herbs around for regulating the whole digestive system. It is used for spleen and stomach issues in TCM, including nausea, belching, vomiting, abdominal distention and pain. Due to its bitter flavor, it can also drain dampness that may cause loose stools.
4. Ginger or Sheng Jiang: Ginger is a great digestive herb, as well as a warming spice that helps the circulatory system. It is a natural remedy for heartburn and nausea. It also helps expel gasses from the gastrointestinal tract.
5. Peppermint: While not formerly used in TCM, it is still one of the best digestive herbs available. Peppermint can be used to relieve indigestion, soothe stomach aches and relieve diarrhea caused by colic. It is also a good addition to help treat irritable bowel syndrome.
Herbs can be very beneficial and help keep the body free from illness. The herbs mentioned above are just a few examples that would be good to have around if you suffer from digestive issues. Ask us to find out more about these herbs. We can help you navigate the world of medicinal herbs and find the exact combination right for you.
In a 2017 study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, researchers tested the efficacy of regular acupuncture treatments as a preventative measure to reduce the number of migraine headaches their subjects experienced. From a group of 249 participants, ages 18 - 65 years old, the researchers split up the participants into three groups. One group received verified acupuncture once a day for four weeks, one group received so-called “scam acupuncture” during that time and one group was told they had been placed on a waiting list and would receive free acupuncture eventually.
The group that received regular true acupuncture treatments experienced a significant reduction in the number of migraines they experienced compared with members of the other two groups. Researchers also conducted follow-up interviews with all participants for 24 weeks after the treatment ended and found the frequency of migraines, the number of days people had a migraine and the intensity of the pain of those migraines were significantly lower for the group that had true acupuncture treatments than for those in each of the other groups. This study suggests acupuncture can be a powerful preventative measure for migraine headaches as well as a method of reducing the intensity of migraine pain.
In Western medical circles, the jury is still out on the cause of migraines, but doctors largely agree on a few of the factors that can contribute. Many researchers and doctors believe migraines involve some kind of inflammatory response by the body. Acupuncture is often used to manage inflammation in the body. Some researchers have suggested a connection between serotonin production and migraines. Acupuncture can be used to balance serotonin production in the body, thus helping to prevent a migraine from developing. Pain, including migraines, is often connected to reduced blood circulation in the body, which can also be restored through acupuncture.
To be most effective, acupuncture is often combined with herbal medicine and prescribed exercises, such as Tai Chi. Some common herbs, easily found in Western grocery stores, have also historically been used to address headaches. Ginger, peppermint, coriander seed, caffeine and rosemary all have headache-mediating properties. None of these herbs or roots are proven to prevent headaches on their own, however. If you’re curious, contact a licensed acupuncturist for a personalized prescription based on your symptoms.
Overall, acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine seek to address the causes of pain and migraines rather than medicating their symptoms. By reducing inflammation, balancing serotonin production and increasing blood flow, regular acupuncture can help prevent migraines and mitigate their intensity. If you or someone you know suffers from regular migraine headaches, maybe acupuncture can help them! Contact a licensed acupuncturist in your area for more information.
Whether you’re in the middle of a total diet overhaul or just looking to bring more balance and resilience into your body, this morning cleanser is one of the simplest dietary habits you can introduce, while also having a huge positive impact on your health.
This lemon and ginger cleanser is full of nutritional benefits. Lemon is an alkalinizing food, meaning when the body metabolizes lemon juice (as well as other citrus fruits), it breaks it down into alkaline elements. All food, when it is metabolized in the body, it either breaks it down into acid or alkaline elements. Our bodies are normally slightly alkaline, so a diet that is too high in acid-forming foods, causing the body to become too acidic, can contribute to mucus buildup in the body.
We need some mucus, but excess mucus in the body can be conducive to the growth of bacteria and viruses. Mucus buildup also contributes to congestion, which leads to many illnesses. According to traditional Chinese medicine, a diet consisting of 70 to 80 percent alkaline-forming foods will support harmony in the body, keeping the digestive and nervous systems strong.
Especially first thing in the morning, when our stomachs are basically empty, it can be very beneficial to start the day with an alkaline-forming drink. Lemon also boosts immunity with vitamin C and potassium, helps keep your skin clear and aids in digestion. Adding ginger to the alkaline-forming lemon juice packs an additional punch to the drink. Ginger stimulates digestion and can help reduce nausea. It also improves circulation in the body and has been shown to reduce inflammation.
One of the great things about introducing this cleanser into your daily routine is that it can be modified or tweaked to support your personal health needs. Adding cayenne to the mix will help boost your metabolism, and it works as a decongestant and a pain reliever. Turmeric can be added for powerful anti-inflammatory effects. Honey is also a great addition, simultaneously balancing out the sour taste of the lemon while adding antimicrobial, antiviral and antifungal properties to the drink.
Time: 5 minutes
1 cup warm water
½ lemon, juiced
1 TB grated fresh ginger
¼ ts ground cayenne
1 TB grated fresh turmeric
½ ts raw honey
There are four main types of headache: tension, cluster, sinus and migraine. And, there are varying triggers for these headaches, such as food, stress, hormones, dehydration and weather. Fortunately, eliminating the triggers and finding natural ways to prevent and help an ongoing headache are possible.
Tension: Tension headaches are the most common and are the result of impinged blood flow due to muscle tightness and contraction. Tension headaches are mild to moderate and are most commonly found behind the neck, on the forehead, behind the eyes and the top of the shoulders. Causes of tension headaches are stress, fatigue, cold, poor posture, skipping meals, and dehydration.
Cluster: Cluster headaches are the most severe and commonly affect men under the age of 30. Cluster headaches are usually one-sided and are accompanied by watery eyes, a red face and affect the face where the trigeminal nerve travels. Cluster headaches last days, weeks, even months and happen the same time every day, multiple times a day. Research shows the hypothalamus is involved in these types of piercing headaches. Causes include alcohol and smoking.
Sinus: Sinus headaches are from a sinus infection and feel like painful pressure around the eyes, cheeks, forehead, teeth and may have other symptoms such as post-nasal drip, congestion with green mucus or fever. The mucus is trapped in the sinuses causing inflammation, which creates the painful pressure.
Migraine: Migraines are another severe type of headache. What differentiates a migraine from a tension headache is the accompanying symptoms such as visual disturbances and auras prior to onset, increased sensitivity to light, nausea and vomiting and one-sided throbbing pain. Triggers may include hormonal changes, food sensitivity, weather, iron deficiency or thyroid issues.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the goal is to get to the root of the headache, not just treat the symptoms. There is a diagnosis and treatment plan based on a history, as well as a pulse and tongue diagnosis. Typical triggers for all types of headaches are wind, cold, heat and damp conditions either internally or externally. A wind type headache would be moving, a damp type would feel heavy, and a cold type would feel piercing and worse with cold conditions. Blood deficiency, which is a type of anemia, might also cause headaches, as the blood is not nourishing the head. Blood stagnation, which would be a severe headache, can also be a factor. After diagnosing the correct cause of the headache, a Chinese medical practitioner would apply acupuncture and offer herbs or other type of treatment to facilitate blood flow and alleviate pain. There would also be dietary advice and maybe some acupressure self-care.
Some foods have been shown to help headaches. This includes coffee, B3 (niacin, found in liver), magnesium, potassium, calcium, spicy foods, ginger and watery foods. A common herb for migraines is the magnolia flower. Others include lavender, peppermint, feverfew and basil.
Acupressure around the eyes, temples and in the web between the thumb and forefinger are helpful. Pressing the hollows of the neck with the thumbs can relieve the pressure, as well as visualizing hot energy flowing downward from the head and out the feet while making a “whooooooo” sound (breathlessly, as if blowing on a candle).
Reducing stress is a key factor; do deep breathing exercises and take a walk where there is greenery. It is best to see a health care practitioner and not to self-diagnose or take herbs without consultation. A headache could indicate something serious.
Digestion is a complex task performed by the body. It begins in the mouth and finishes when the ingested food leaves the body through the rectum. For all we have learned over the years regarding digestion, there is still so much more we don’t know or are still learning. For example, it wasn’t until recently, the last 10 years or so, that modern medicine confirmed our gastrointestinal tract is our second brain. This discovery is drastically changing the way the body and its many functions are viewed, because everything we put in our mouths can potentially have life-altering effects on the mind, as well as the body.
Digestive disorders are rampant in the United States. Surveys estimate nearly 70 million people in the United States are affected by some sort of digestive disorder. This could be anything from gallstones to acid reflux to pancreatitis. For many, these disorders are extremely debilitating. But for every person dealing with a debilitating digestive disorder, there are thousands more that just assume everything they are experiencing is “normal.”
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is just one of the many ways people can deal with their digestive disorders. TCM is a very old medical system that utilizes many different modalities to treat imbalances in the body. Acupuncture is just one of the modalities that can be used. More and more studies about the effectiveness of acupuncture are being performed every day, many of which hold great promise for those who suffer from digestive issues.
Acupuncture helps with digestion because it treats the person holistically, meaning all parts are considered when treatment is rendered. There is no compartmentalizing as in Western medicine. So, a person being treated by a licensed acupuncturist or TCM practitioner will not only notice changes in their digestive issues, but they may also notice changes in their psyche too. And since the mind and body are closely connected, this can be very beneficial for the patient.
Studies have shown acupuncture can stimulate peristalsis in the intestinal tract. This is very helpful for people who deal with chronic constipation. In as few as one to two treatments, a person suffering from chronic constipation may find relief.
Nausea and vomiting are another frequent problem associated with digestion. Acupuncture and even acupressure are wonderful tools for calming the upset stomach. One acupressure point on the underside of the forearm has been studied extensively just for this function. In most cases, the nausea and vomiting are greatly decreased or stopped altogether.
Bloating is another common problem associated with the digestive tract. This can be caused by eating too much food or improper digestion. Acupuncture treatments help the digestive process of breaking down foods without the excess gas that frequently causes bloating.
Diarrhea isn’t just a problem that occurs when somebody is suffering from the stomach flu. In fact, it is much more common than many people think. Acupuncture treatments can help resolve diarrhea by clearing either excess heat or excess dampness from the digestive tract, while also strengthening it.
If you are curious about how acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine can help you with your digestive issues, ask us! We are happy to guide you along your healing journey.
Acid reflux is very common in today’s world. Statistics show 60 percent of the adult population in the United States will experience some type of gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD at some point in their lives. Currently there are seven million people in the U.S. living with some form of GERD.
Acid reflux is the acute form of GERD, but it can become chronic and create much bigger problems for the sufferer. Acid reflux can affect anybody, including infants. It occurs when the muscle at the end of the esophagus, the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), doesn’t close properly or tightly enough. This allows digestive juices and stomach content to “back up” into the esophagus. Modern medicine treats acid reflux with medications like Omeprazole. However, long term usage of this medication can to side effects.
The alternative to pharmaceuticals with harsh side effects is Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). TCM has been around for nearly 3,000 years and it has a very good track record for treating this condition. TCM uses things like acupuncture, single herbs and herbal formulations to treat acid reflux. According to TCM theory, acid reflux is usually caused by emotional upset and ingesting the wrong foods.
Acupuncture is a medical modality that uses tiny, hair-thin needles to stimulate the body’s own ability to heal itself. For acid reflux, there is an acupuncture point that works wonders. This point is known as Pericardium 6. It is located two thumb widths above the wrist crease on the underside of the arm, between the two visible tendons. Pericardium 6 is frequently used to calm anxiety, relax the chest and decrease rebellious energy or Qi (pronounced “chee”) from rising up in the esophagus. So, based on the theory acid reflux is caused by emotional distress, Pericardium 6 would be an excellent choice to stimulate. Acupuncture, in general, is very effective at calming the mind and quieting anxiety. When the mind is calm, the stomach will settle also.
Acupuncture is just one component of TCM. The use of herbs and herbal formulations is also an integral part of TCM. Licorice root, also known as gan cao, is one such herb that can help with acid reflux. Gan cao is used in many herbal formulations, but by itself it can also soothe the esophagus with mucus. The mucus contributes to cellular healing of the esophageal lining over time. Green tea is another herb that can be used to treat acid reflux. Green tea stimulates the lower esophageal sphincter and prevents stomach acid from refluxing back into the esophagus.
There are specific herbal formulations that can be used to combat acid reflux as well. One of the more commonly used formulas is liu jun zi tang. The herbs in this formula help to calm the stomach and expel excess dampness. The one nice thing about TCM is it is completely customizable. So a practitioner can develop a customized formula based on the patient’s needs. This is much different from the cookie cutter approach to healing utilized by modern medicine.
If you or somebody you know suffers from acid reflux or GERD, consider giving TCM a try.
Postoperative nausea and vomiting, often caused by the body’s response to anesthesia, is a very common symptom. Depending on the severity, this can prolong a patient’s recovery time and the length of their hospital stay as well as cause complications to the surgery depending on the type and extent of nutrient-depletion caused by the vomiting.
Medications aimed at treating nausea are expensive and can cause side effects of their own, but a growing body of research is showing acupuncture can be an effective alternative.
A 2013 report published in the Public Library of Sciences measured the efficacy of acupuncture in treating postoperative nausea and vomiting by statistically analyzing the results from over 1200 patients. Acupuncture was determined to be a safe, efficient and economic prevention and treatment method.
In 2017, a study published by the National Institutes of Health looked at the effectiveness of the specific acupuncture point, P6, in treating postoperative nausea and vomiting for women after gynecological surgeries. In the study, 47 women were given a wristband that applied pressure to P6 during the first 12 hours after their operation. Fifty other women, the control group, were given traditional nausea medication during and after their operation.
The study found the wristbands were effective in preventing vomiting, and even more effective in significantly reducing the intensity of the nausea the women experienced. The researchers concluded wristband P6 acupressure application is an excellent alternative to pharmaceutical methods of treatment.
Other studies have shown acupuncture is effective in treating nausea caused by chemotherapy, gag-reflexes induced during dental work that can limit the ability of dentists to provide care, and morning sickness during the beginning of a woman’s pregnancy term.
Acupuncture and acupressure are natural methods of treating nausea, allowing people to limit the amount of pharmaceuticals entering their system, which can be especially beneficial in the case of postoperative care or chemotherapy, where the body is already being bombarded with synthetic drugs. With acupuncture, patients can avoid complicating their health by introducing further side effects that can arise from synthetic drug use.
Acupuncture can also be done in conjunction with Western treatments, which can reduce the dosage of pharmaceuticals a patient needs and provide even better overall results. Acupuncture is also often used as part of a multifaceted treatment plan that can include Chinese herbal tonics and exercise or movement plans. Traditional Chinese Medicine, TCM, often employs these three practices together to get the best results. Traditional Chinese medical thought looks at the body holistically, and therefore addresses ailments holistically, treating the root problem instead of just the presenting symptoms.
By learning more about the uses and availability of acupuncture, you can make personalized decisions about your healthcare should you find yourself in one of these circumstances. If you would like to learn more, or to seek treatment for yourself or a loved one, contact a licensed acupuncturist in your region.
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