A study published in the Journal of Acupuncture and Meridian Studies looked at the efficacy of acupuncture to control the symptoms of primary dysmenorrhea. The study examined 60 women who were split into two different groups: the study group or the control group. The women in the study group received acupuncture for 15 days per month over a 90-day period.
The women in the control group did not receive acupuncture. At the end of the study, it was concluded the women receiving acupuncture experienced far fewer symptoms with less severity than those who did not receive acupuncture. Symptoms such as cramps, pain, mood changes, diarrhea and fatigue all were reported less frequently in the study group. This study indicates that acupuncture is a viable tool for treating dysmenorrhea.
Dysmenorrhea, also known as painful menstruation, is the most commonly reported gynecological problem in women who are menstruating. Dysmenorrhea is a subgroup of pelvic pain that can manifest as painful menstrual flow. The cause of dysmenorrhea is not specifically known by conventional medicine, but it has been determined that women suffering from this pain have increased levels of the hormones prostaglandin, oxytocin and vasopressin. These three hormones stimulate pain fibers in the uterus, leading to increased overall pain that can last for several hours or days.
To help determine if a woman is truly suffering from dysmenorrhea, a monthly journal is usually kept to note any similarities from one period to the next. Typically, dysmenorrhea is diagnosed through the use of a pelvic exam, blood and urine tests and possibly a pelvic ultrasound or x-rays. Conventional medicine treats dysmenorrhea with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications and hormonal supplements, like oral contraceptives. But these are not without their side effects.
Eastern Medicine, however, considers the whole person when diagnosing and treating. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) looks at the patient holistically, considering all aspects, including the mind, the body and the environment of the person. Diagnosis of a person includes inspection and observance of the expressions, colors, appearance, smells and any idiosyncrasies that may be present.
TCM also looks at the patient’s tongue and pulses on both wrists. These two practices are the primary diagnostic tools used in TCM. The tongue and pulses can reveal quite a bit of information about what is going on internally. Different areas of the tongue correspond to body systems and energetic pathways. For example, the tip of the tongue can show irregularities related to the heart and the mind. The rear of the tongue can show irregularities related to the urinary bladder and kidneys and is associated with the emotion of fear. The pulse is also broken down into six locations, three on each side, all of which correspond to a body system and the related energetic pathway.
With dysmenorrhea, the liver energetic pathway is the most commonly involved. When the liver pathway is involved, it is most commonly due to emotional issues, rather than physical problems. However, over time, emotional issues such as anger, irritability and frustration can lead to physical problems in the body, including breast tenderness, large blood clots during menstruation, headaches and high blood pressure.
Acupuncture is one of the tools used by TCM practitioners to help bring balance back to the body. Studies have shown that women who receive regular acupuncture tend to have fewer symptoms of dysmenorrhea or their symptoms are less severe over time. This is because acupuncture helps decrease pain and inflammation, while also calming the mind and digestive tract. Many women who receive regular acupuncture treatments also take power naps while the needles are in place, which can help with the symptoms of dysmenorrhea.
To treat dysmenorrhea, a licensed acupuncturist may use several tools, including acupuncture, herbs, nutrition and possibly even mind body practices like meditation. It all depends upon the severity of the condition. To find out more, contact a practitioner in your area.
Most acupuncture points are located on the 12 primary channels that flow along the surface of the body. However, there are eight Extraordinary Vessels that flow more deeply in the body, and are perhaps even more powerful that the 12 primary channels. The Extraordinary Vessels regulate the 12 channels, and are deep lakes of energy, which can feed the 12 primary channels when they are depleted.
Chong Mai is one of the most important Extraordinary Vessels, and some texts place it as the nexus of the whole Extraordinary Vessel network. It has numerous branches throughout the body and has even more physiological and energetic functions.
The Chong Mai, also called the Penetrating Vessel, originates in the space between the kidneys, along with Extraordinary Vessels Du Mai (Governing Vessel) and Ren Mai (Directing Vessel or Conception Vessel). Its internal branch descends through the uterus and emerges in the perineum. Its descending branch flows down the inner leg to the medial foot and big toe. Meanwhile, its abdominal branch flows upward through the abdomen, following the kidney meridian, and spreads out throughout the abdomen and chest. The head branch further extends through the throat, chin and eyes. While the spinal branch flows along with the Du Mai up the spine.
Based on its pathways alone, it is easy to see why the Chong Mai is such a powerful vessel, as it covers so many areas of the body and touches so many of the 12 primary meridians and organs.
The Chong Mai is called the “Sea of Blood,” making it incredibly important in treating gynecological conditions. It is said to transform kidney essence into menstrual blood, and plays a key role in maintaining healthy menstruation. Particularly concerned with adequate movement of blood throughout the body, it can be used to treat any sort of blood stasis pattern, including certain gynecological, circulatory, musculoskeletal and hormonal pathologies. The Chong Mai is particularly linked to heart blood, through its action of dispersing through the chest. Therefore, the Chong Mai is related to heart rhythm, cardiac function and emotional issues such as anxiety and panic attacks (as the spirit resides in the heart blood, from a Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective.)
Chong Mai helps to keep energy and blood moving throughout the whole body – when there is stagnation or pain, the Chong Mai isn’t functioning optimally. By maintaining flow throughout the primary channels, the Chong Mai also is closely tied to the correct directional flow of energy in each system. The Chong Mai also has a close relationship with the stomach, so for nausea as well as other stomach symptoms, treating the Chong Mai can help.
The Chong Mai doesn’t have any points that lie on it directly – rather, it is opened through certain points on the wrists and feet. The Chong Mai can thus be stimulated with acupuncture, but also with Chinese herbal medicine and techniques to direct energy such as Taiji and Qigong.
The kidneys are vital organs that allow our bodies to process waste and turn it into urine and filter our blood of toxins before it gets back to the heart. The kidneys also maintain our overall fluid balance and create hormones that regulate blood pressure, support bone health and produce red blood cells. To support your kidneys, it’s beneficial to stay plenty hydrated and avoid extra salt in your food.
Jam-packed with vitamins and healthy fats and low in sodium from all the fresh fruits and veggies, this smoothie is a kidney-boosting wonder!
Cranberries are often praised for their bladder-healthy benefits. They are also full of Vitamin C and fiber and have anti-inflammatory effects. Walnuts are a great source of healthy fat and also benefit the kidneys, according to traditional Chinese medicine. You can make this smoothie with water or almond milk for an extra calcium boost. Making sure you have enough calcium in your diet can help to prevent kidney stones. Lastly, ginger is always a great smoothie addition, making the flavor more dynamic and contributing to the smoothie’s anti-inflammatory effects.
To make, combine the ingredients in a blender and enjoy!
A study published in the European Journal of Integrative Medicine looked at how acupuncture might be able to inhibit injury to the liver caused by the prescription combination of morphine and acetaminophen. The study was conducted on rats that had been fed morphine and acetaminophen. Then, acupuncture was applied once daily to the rats. The researchers discovered the rats who received acupuncture also had less damage to their livers. This occurs because of the antioxidant-stimulating effects of acupuncture treatments. The researchers concluded acupuncture may provide a safe alternative detox method for people chronically taking morphine or acetaminophen.
Traditional Chinese Medicine, a medical system that has been around for thousands of years, views the human body quite differently from Western medicine. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), there are energetic pathways are associated with specific organs in the body. When these pathways, or meridians, and the energy flowing through them, are out of balance, then the body may become diseased.
In TCM, the liver and its corresponding pathway are responsible for the smooth flow of qi (pronounced “chee”) or energy, blood and emotions. The liver is easily affected by excess stress and uncontrolled emotions. The liver is paired with the gallbladder and the two work very closely as a unit. When one is imbalanced, the other may display the symptoms. For example, if a person is consistently stressed, this may cause the liver energy to become blocked. When this happens, the gallbladder may become affected. It is not uncommon for people in high stress jobs to end up with gallstones. The liver becomes blocked and the emotions remain bottled up inside, which then manifests in pain and possibly stones.
Anger is the emotion commonly associated with the liver and gallbladder. If a person gets angered easily, frequently feels frustrated, has difficulty relaxing or letting things go, and is unreasonable, it is safe to guess their liver energy isn’t flowing smoothly. There are many methods of balancing liver energy and returning proper flow throughout the body. Learning to stay calm and channel one’s anger appropriately is a good place to start. Practice some deep breathing, meditation, yoga or even take a walk. All of these things are great for balancing stagnant liver energy.
Another way to smooth liver energy is a technique known as dry brushing. Using a hairbrush with rounded bristles or a soft bristle brush, one can lightly brush down along the liver energetic meridian, which runs along the inner thighs and inner calves, all the way down to the inside corner of the big toe. This can be done for about five minutes per leg. Dry brushing gently stimulates the liver meridian, allowing the blood and energy to flow more freely and relaxing not only the liver, but the whole body.
Acupuncture is another great way to balance the liver energies. Regular acupuncture treatments help balance the body holistically and without any real side effects. Acupuncture can increase the flow of energy throughout the body, remove blockages and stagnation and allow the liver to function properly, which will ultimately allow the body to detox more effectively.
If you deal with anger, stress or have a history of gallstones, it might be a good idea to give acupuncture a try. Be sure to find a fully licensed and properly trained acupuncturist who can help guide you through balancing the energy of the liver meridian. Over time, your body will most likely respond favorably.
In May 2018, a team of researchers from the Acupuncture Trialists Collaboration published an update to previous chronic pain research in the Journal of Pain, the journal associated with the American Pain Society. The new article updates a study first released in 2008 that looked at acupuncture as a treatment for four chronic pain conditions. The updated study now includes data from nearly 21,000 patients.
The new study confirms what was shown in the researchers’ previous work: acupuncture relieved pain and improved function when compared with sham acupuncture and not receiving any acupuncture. The researchers also showed that the effects persisted over at least a 12-month period. This study adds to the body of literature that suggests acupuncture can be a viable treatment for chronic pain, and the findings cannot be explained solely by placebo effects since they did not observe significant changes in the group that received sham acupuncture.
Chronic pain affects approximately 50 million Americans or just over 20 percent of the adult population, according to a study from the Center for Disease Control released in September 2018. That statistic, when combined with the growing opioid epidemic in the United States led one of the country’s largest health-insurance providers, Blue Cross Blue Shield, to start covering acupuncture as an alternative to opioids. The change went into effect January 1, 2019.
Acupuncture relieves pain by releasing endorphins, the body’s natural pain-killing chemicals, at the acupoints in which the needles are inserted. Licensed acupuncturists can access the specific areas of their patients’ bodies that are causing them pain by inserting needles at acupoints connected to those painful areas. Acupuncture may also help relieve pain by affecting the area of the brain that governs serotonin, a chemical in the brain involved in regulating our moods.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), acupuncture meridian points activate the body’s innate healing abilities acupuncturists call Qi (chee). According to TCM, Qi is the vital energy that animates the body and protects it from illness. Qi flows through pathways called meridians and provides nourishment to the body’s cells, tissues, muscles, organs, and glands. When there is an imbalance or blockage in the flow of Qi, symptoms such as chronic pain may appear.
If you or someone you know suffers from chronic pain, suffer no more! Contact a licensed acupuncturist in your area to learn how they may be able to help you find relief in an all-natural way with no risk of harmful side effects.
Traditional Chinese medicine says aligning your diet with the seasons is one of the best ways to stay healthy. Mother Nature provides exactly what we need to be healthy. Paying attention to the fruits, vegetables and herbs that grow during different seasons in the region where you live is a great way to incorporate the philosophies of traditional Chinese medicine into your own life and access greater healing.
In the spring, TCM suggests eating cooling foods to balance out the effect of warmer temperatures outside.
TCM also suggests taking the time to be mindful about the environment and energy around you when you eat. If you are stressed out or rushing when you eat, that will affect how your body is able to process the nutrients you’re consuming. Breathe deeply, chew well and take the time to digest your food.
For more spring in your step, here are four specific foods that can support your health and wellbeing this spring.
Lemon: In traditional Chinese medicine, the organ associated with spring is the liver and the flavor associated with the liver is sour. Sour foods, like lemons, help flush toxins from the liver. Adding fresh lemon to a cup of warm water each morning is a great, simple, practice that will do wonders for your liver.
Greens: Fresh leafy greens are most plentiful during the spring, and eating them is associated with cleansing and building. The bright green color of leaves comes from chlorophyll, which is a wonderful healing agent. Any greens, but especially those darker in color, like spinach or wild greens such as dandelion greens, are very beneficial.
Asparagus: Asparagus is a finicky plant with a short growing season: spring. Make a point to catch this plant powerhouse. Asparagus is full of vitamins A, C and K as well as folate and fiber. According to TCM, asparagus builds the nourishing fluids in the body, meaning it soothes irritation and helps fertility. It also promotes healthy lungs, clearing congestion and conditions like bronchitis.
Fruits and vegetables: In general, spring is the time of year when more fruits and vegetables become available locally. Peruse your local farmer’s market or take note of any produce in the grocery store that’s labeled “local.” Incorporate these items into your diet in abundance!
Try incorporating these foods and cleansing principles with this delicious spring salad!
Asparagus, snap pea and quinoa salad
Getting enough truly restful sleep is one of the most biggest factors in staying healthy and balanced, mentally and physically. Actually sleeping enough is much easier said than done for a lot of people, though. Our busy lives can prevent us from placing a premium on sleep, and anxiety and a restless mind are commonly linked to poor sleep as well as sleep apnea.
These three suggestions for getting better sleep draw from yogic philosophy and the traditional Chinese medicine practice of acupressure. Each step is a way to calm the mind, slow down the thoughts and foster a more intentional transition to sleep at the end of each day.
1. Legs up the wall pose.
This is a very simple, restorative yoga pose that can be done anywhere you have a blank wall space. To get into the pose, sit down on the floor with one hip as close to the wall as possible. From there, lie down on your back and swing your legs above your hips, so they are supported vertically by the wall and your head is away from the wall, facing the center of the room.
Stay in this pose for as long as feels supportive, anywhere from one to 15 minutes. While you’re here, try to breathe deeply and relax into the posture. Laying with your feet above your head eases the effects of gravity on tired muscles and joints, can help lower blood pressure by increasing the flow of blood toward the heart, and signals to your body that it’s okay to fully relax. Your body also will digest all the food in your system in this position, which can also support you in getting more restful sleep.
2. Equal part breath
Equal part breath, also known as sama vritti pranayama, is a simple, calming breath practice that you will feel the effects of even if you do it for just two minutes before bed.
Sit in a comfortable position where your spine is straight above your hips. It can be helpful to prop your hips up on a blanket or pillow in this pose. You can rest your hands in your lap or anywhere that feels comfortable. Start to inhale for a count of four and then exhale for a count of four. Repeat this a few times, inhaling and exhaling for the same length of time. Then, increase the breath to a count of five. After a few rounds, you can increase to a count of six. Once you have reached a length that feels both deeper than how you normally breathe, but also sustainable, maintain that breath for as long as you want.
3. Spirit Gate acupressure point
This acupressure point is located on the inside of your wrist, in the crease directly below your pinky finger. This point is often used to alleviate stress, over-excitement, anxiety or cold-sweats, all of which can contribute to insomnia or sleep apnea.
Apply mild pressure to the point on your right wrist for one minute and then switch to the left. You can do this before bed, lying in bed before you fall asleep or in the middle of the night to support yourself in falling back to sleep
Aches, pains, fatigue, constipation, skin tags, stress, anxiety, colds, bad breath, sleep apnea, muscle soreness, etc. The list of the everyday ailments many people face is endless. And the medical profession is cashing in on all of it. Why? Because we’re programmed to believe our family doctor has a pill or procedure for everything. But that’s just not true and more importantly, how many pills are you willing to take every single day? Or how many procedures are you willing to undergo? Pills and procedures have side effects, and some can be quite harmful.
Many of the pharmaceuticals we’re now familiar with are derived from naturally-occurring substances. For instance, aspirin was originally derived from the bark of the willow tree and written about by ancient Egyptians. Now, most of the “cures” we use daily are man made in a factory somewhere, using chemicals that tend to be toxic to our bodies when used long term. But there are always alternatives.
Here are some everyday ailments and the alternative/uncommon cures that have been documented over the past few decades.
1. Muscle pain and soreness – This common affliction can be treated using cherries or cherry juice. A recent study at the University of Vermont showed drinking 12 ounces of cherry juice twice daily led to faster muscle pain relief. This is because cherries contain inflammation-fighting antioxidants that help ease muscle achiness. The juice also has a positive side effect of helping insomnia sufferers fall asleep more quickly.
2. Sleep apnea – According to the National Sleep Foundation, this ailment affects more than 18 million American adults. Sleep apnea is a disorder caused by flabby throat muscles and tends to be exacerbated by those carrying extra weight. A recent study published in the British Medical Journal listed a surprising way to decrease sleep apnea….blowing on a didgeridoo. Yup. Those long wooden trumpets used by the aborigines of Australia can actually help ward off sleep apnea by strengthening the muscles and tissues in the throat and mouth. When these muscles are strengthened, there is less chance of the tongue obstructing the airway. Obviously, this one takes some time to see results, as the muscles and tissues have to build up over several months.
3. Skin tags – These common skin growths that stick out from the surface of the skin can be large or small, flat or rounded and affect nearly three million United States citizens each year. While these little annoyances can be removed by a doctor, there is no need. Apple cider vinegar works well at removing these unsightly blemishes. By simply soaking a cotton ball in apple cider vinegar and then covering the skin tag with the cotton ball and a bandage a couple of times per day, the tag will eventually dry up and fall off.
There are many different approaches to treating everyday problems and afflictions, there are even books written about the subject. While many of these “home remedies” are available for anybody to try, it is recommended to do research before taking the leap. You might be surprised how easy it is to “cure” yourself using uncommon and unconventional methods.
In 2015, the American Journal of Rhinology and Allergy published research that found acupuncture is effective for the treatment of allergic rhinitis. Allergic rhinitis is also known as hay fever. The researchers compiled the results from 13 quality studies, which followed 2,365 participants. The various studies confirmed that acupuncture significantly lowers the antibody known as immunoglobulin E or IgE. IgE is the antibody associated with allergies and hypersensitivities. The researchers found not only was the IgE antibody lowered, but so too were the symptoms associated with allergic rhinitis. Additionally, the participants reported better quality of life.
Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) can offer a solution to seasonal allergies that is all natural and will save you money. TCM uses an elemental system to determine where there are excesses and deficiencies in each person, allowing the treatments to be completely customized to each patient. The unique treatment plans not only make them more effective than one-size-fits-all, over-the-counter medications, they also address imbalances in each person that would not necessarily be connected to an aggravation of allergies in Western medical thought.
When using TCM to treat allergies, practitioners focus heavily on something called Wei Qi. Wei Qi is similar to the immune system in Western medicine. Wei Qi protects the body against foreign materials that can lead to inflammation and eventually allergies. People with lower immunity or Wei Qi are more susceptible to allergies and frequent colds. Acupuncture helps to boost the Wei Qi making it more difficult for allergens to attack the body.
Acupuncture by itself will make a difference in fighting allergies, but adding herbs and herbal formulas will provide the final punch to help eliminate allergies for good. Because each patient has different causes for their allergies, adding herbal formulas can greatly increase the efficacy of the acupuncture treatments by extending the effect of the needles. For example, if a patient specifically gets itchy, watery eyes when their allergies flare up, then the practitioner would likely want to draw the excess energy down. In this particular case, the patient would have an excess of fire-creating wind. The practitioner would use acupuncture points known to decrease fire and wind in the body. Then, adding herbs that do the same thing would create a one-two punch type of treatment that has longer lasting, more permanent effects.
Ultimately, acupuncture boosts the Wei Qi while decreasing the inflammatory response in your body that occurs when an allergen is encountered. The other aspect of treatment, as stated earlier, is to look at the patient as a whole versus just the symptoms, perhaps bringing other elements into balance that you might not think would have an effect on allergies. A good acupuncturist will focus on dietary habits that may be contributing. Many times a person’s Wei Qi is depleted from within due to the foods they are eating. Foods like sugar and dairy are often associated with a lower immune system. Eliminating or drastically reducing these items will allow the body to recover more quickly, making allergy attacks easier to resolve.
A comprehensive plan that includes acupuncture treatments, herbs and dietary changes will yield the best results when it comes to fighting allergies. Be sure to seek out a professional, fully trained and properly licensed acupuncturist and you will be grateful year after year for the relief they provide when it comes to treating allergies.
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.
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