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Five Things I Wish Everyone Knew About Chinese Herbal Medicine

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While acupuncture has grown significantly in popularity over the last several years, there is much less awareness and understanding of Chinese herbal medicine. Used in conjunction with acupuncture or on its own, herbs have tremendous healing power and vast uses. Here are five things that I wish everyone knew about Chinese herbal medicine and its benefits:

1. It can be used to treat a wide range of conditions.

Chinese herbal medicine has been used for thousands of years to address serious chronic and acute issues. Some examples of conditions that Chinese herbal medicine can alleviate include insomnia, breathing disorders, digestive issues, headaches, depression, anxiety, allergies, skin rashes, fertility, PMS and menstrual issues, hormonal disturbances, pain and common colds, among others.

2. It can address multiple issues at the same time.

Like acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine addresses both the manifesting symptoms and the underlying imbalance(s) or root cause(s). As a result, one formula can address what may appear to be a random constellation of physical, emotional and mental symptoms. In addition to hundreds of patented formulas available, formulas can be designed specifically for an individual and his or her unique needs by adding, removing and modifying dosages of the herbs.

3. The sum is greater than its parts           

Chinese herbal medicine predominantly uses formulas instead of single herbs. Formulas combine herbs that are designed to strengthen and balance one another’s effects providing a more holistic outcome.

4. It comes in a variety of forms

Chinese herbal medicine comes in capsules and liquid tinctures as well as granules and in raw form to be simmered and drank as tea so it can fit into any lifestyle. Formulas also can be used topically as a plaster to help heal injuries or a rinse for skin issues.

5. You are already familiar with Chinese herbal medicine

There are many Chinese herbs right in your kitchen or available at your supermarket that you can incorporate as part of your diet to support overall wellbeing. In all cases, select organic and the highest quality possible to reap the most benefit.

Ginger (Sheng Jiang) warms the stomach to support digestion, prevent nausea, alleviate vomiting, expel a cold and alleviate cough with phlegm.

Goji berries (Gou Qi Zi) nourishes yin and blood to address issues such as insomnia, dizziness, dry eyes, dry cough or sore back and legs.

Nutmeg (Rou Dou Kou)­ stops diarrhea, particularly chronic diarrhea that occurs first thing in the morning and supports digestion especially when there is reduced appetite.   

Mint (Bo He) soothes headaches, red eyes and sore throat and can help relieve constraint in the chest.

If you want learn more about the many benefits of Chinese herbal medicine, consult a licensed acupuncturist who prescribes Chinese herbal medicine within the scope of their professional practice to work with you. A good practitioner will want to know about all aspects of your health and life as well as use Chinese tongue and pulse diagnosis and other observable signs to prescribe an appropriate formula for your individual needs.

 

What I Learned As A Patient

Long before I became an acupuncturist, I was a patient. It was once all new and a complete mystery to me as well. Here are some valuable lessons that I learned being a patient, now, with the perspective of being a practitioner:

It Has Far Reaching Side Effects

I initially discovered acupuncture to address a hip injury that prevented me from running, simple enough. What I found was acupuncture and later, Chinese herbal medicine was a powerful way of addressing many aspects of my and my family’s health. Just a couple side effects I’ve experienced include improved immunity, greater mental clarity; deeper, restful sleep; a regular menstrual cycle; and more balanced mood. Most people think of acupuncture for pain and it can do much more as well. Ask yourself is there an aspect of your body, mind or heart that is preventing you from fully showing up in your life?

It’s Not Going to Fix Everything

On the flip side, going to acupuncture once a week, every two weeks or monthly magically won’t make all your issues disappear. Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine has resolved many of many issues, alleviated others significantly and given me a greater awareness of how to better cope with other issues. Acupuncture was a powerful catalyst for learning to take better care of myself. As I became more aware of and used to feeling good, I also became more aware of the choices I made that sustained that quality of life and the choices I made that left me struggling. Acupuncture has tremendous benefits and can be used to treat a host of serious chronic and acute conditions. And making good lifestyle choices is a critical component in sustaining good health and wellbeing.  This isn’t just the case for acupuncture. It goes for any medicine.

You Don’t Have to Understand It or Believe In It to Reap the Benefits

For a long time, I never asked a single question about my treatments. I’d go in, spend 10-15 minutes rattling off my issues and pains at break-neck speed while my acupuncturist listened empathetically, sometimes offering a nugget of wisdom and often times, just quietly listening as she read my pulses and placed needles in various parts of my body. Inevitably, about halfway through my appointment, I’d get quiet, sometimes fall asleep and wake up feeling more grounded, centered, with more energy and less pain. At the time, I had no idea why she chose to place the needles where she did. When I became a student and started to learn the theory, I started asking a lot of questions and then I spent a lot of time thinking about my treatment as well as trying to diagnose and label myself. I quickly found that it didn’t make my treatments any more effective or offer any greater benefit. In fact, sometimes, it actually hindered my ability to get out of my head, relax into my body and the moment to let the medicine do its work. I encourage my patients to ask questions and am always happy to share my treatment strategy. I also encourage them not to get too fixated on thinking about it but rather let go, relax then observe what shows up in their body and life.

It Takes Time to Heal But Real Healing Lasts

I noticed the immediate benefit of feeling more relaxed and had more energy the next day. My hip felt a bit looser and all those benefits faded after awhile. So I went back, every week for awhile, then every two weeks, eventually monthly or when time would allow. Over time, the relaxation and energy became more sustained and my hip pain was both less intense and stayed away for longer until it didn’t bother me at all, even while training and ultimately running a marathon! That was ten years ago. We live in a culture where we want immediate results and that’s not always realistic. You should notice shifts and changes with treatment and sustained, genuine healing can take time but it is worth it.

The Acupuncturist Matters

I’ve seen three practitioners since I started receiving treatment. All of them, gifted in their own ways, also has a unique style, bedside manner and approach to treatment. As patients, we all have different needs, goals and expectations and those also change over time depending on where we are in life. Chinese medicine has developed and evolved over thousands of years and in many different countries representing a vast body of knowledge so there is no ‘one way to treat.’ Every acupuncturist brings their own specialized toolkit of knowledge and skills as well as unique life experience to the treatment room. Finding someone who meets you where you are in life, listens to your goals, addresses your needs and expectations can require a little effort. Think of it like dating. Ask friends, trusted healthcare providers and me for referrals and then talk to the practitioner and trust your instincts about whether it’s a good fit. And if you don’t get the benefit you are looking for, ask yourself what is missing and try another practitioner before concluding that acupuncture doesn’t work.

I still get acupuncture regularly. I continue to receive treatment because it makes me a better practitioner to always remember what it feels like to be a patient.

Seasonal Stay Healthy Tips: Liver Spring Clean

One of Chinese Medicine’s great gifts is in understanding our relationship with nature’s cycles and addressing the issues that arise when we are out of balance with those cycles. This can be seen particularly in the shifting of seasons and is probably most evident as we move from Winter to Spring; surging upward from the cold and dark.  While we welcome longer days, warmer weather and the blooming flowers, it can also wreak havoc on our bodies and lives when out of balance, manifesting in everything from allergies and headaches to muscle pain, digestive issues and mood volatility.  In Chinese medicine, all of these issues trace back to the liver, and it’s no coincidence that the liver, the body’s great detoxifier, is the organ associated with Spring in Chinese Medicine.  If struggling with some of the symptoms above or others included in this article, it’s very likely your liver needs some love. Here are four easy things that everyone can do and some added tips for allergy sufferers:

Start Your Day with Warm Lemon Water:

Sour is the taste associated with the liver so this will help kick start your digestion and naturally detox your liver to keep things moving all day. Digestion is a cornerstone of health…if your body can’t move things through efficiently, it will cause all sorts of issues. If you don’t have lemons in the house, you can also use apple cider vinegar.

Lighten Up Your Diet:

Drink more room temperature water and eat more greens. Dandelion greens, arugula and watercress are particularly good for the liver. Spinach and kale are great too. Try to add some to every meal…in eggs or a smoothie for breakfast, salad for lunch and sautéed for dinner. Need some inspiration? Here is my favorite kale salad and a sautéed mushroom salad using dandelion greens.

Avoid Late Night Eating and Drinking:

Aim to eat your last meal by 8 PM and make it the lightest one of the day. In Chinese Medicine, the liver’s peak time is from 1-3 AM, which is when it does all it’s powerful detoxifying work and it can’t do it well if it’s too busy digesting a huge meal or processing alcohol.

Move:

Walk, run, dance, do yoga, take the stairs, stretch. It doesn’t have to be complicated or a major commitment. Pick something you like and aim to get 20-30 minutes of some movement every day. Your liver manages the smooth flow of qi in the body and movement is key for keeping things from getting stagnant and tight. If you are feeling particularly stiff or sluggish, soak in an Epsom Salts bath for 15 minutes.

If you are an allergy sufferer, here are two more things you can do to ease symptoms so you can enjoy the sunshine and the flowers.

Congested: Ditch the Dairy

It’s nature is cold, heavy and damp. It slows digestion down and causes inflammation, contributing to increased mucus and congestion as well as bloating and skin issues.

Red, Itchy Eyes: Discover Ju Hua/Chrysanthemum

Ju Hua/Chrysanthemum is a Chinese medicinal herb that is used specifically to clear heat from the Liver channel and particularly, the eyes. You can buy it as a tea or the blossoms. If using blossoms, bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes, then drain. Drink as tea and/or use it to make a soothing eye compress at the end of the day.

Love your Liver and bring on Spring!

 

Seasonal Stay Healthy Tips: Cold and Flu

Cold and flu season is upon us and with full lives that include demanding work deadlines, families and other commitments, getting sick can be much more than unpleasant. Being out of commission for days or fighting a lingering cough for weeks is physically depleting and a very real source of stress. Here are six ways to help you ward off illness this Winter as well as lessen the severity and shorten the duration should you catch something:

Learn Your Early Alert Signal:

Our bodies are wise and great communicators, sending us messages constantly. However, many of us choose to ignore the signals until they are screaming at us in the form of illness. Start checking in with your body daily and notice what is showing up. A good time to do this is right when you wake up and again before you go to bed. It’s very likely you have an early alert signal that tells you when you are run down and on the verge of getting sick. In my family, we’ve learned to know that when my son has a sneezing fit in the morning, he’s got something going on. For my husband, he feels a tickle in his throat and I start to feel a little short of breath doing things like going up stairs. For others, it could be an achy neck, increased fatigue, some minor nasal congestion, a headache or a little runny nose. This is your body’s polite way of saying I need some extra care. A little bit of observing can help you catch it early and save you a lot of suffering.

Prioritize Self-Care:

Even when people recognize their early alert signal, most try to ignore, fight or push through the early manageable symptoms in attempt to will themselves better only to find themselves knocked down and unable to get out of bed a few days later or still slogging through with symptoms weeks later. Instead, heed the early alert and prioritize your self-care…go to sleep early, eat warm nourishing foods, drink herbal tea and take a warm bath with Epsom salts. This is often the hardest thing for people to do because of demanding lives so remember that slowing down for a short period will actually allow you to be more engaged and productive in the long run.

Eliminate Dairy

The cold and damp nature of dairy foods, even the healthy ones like Greek yogurt, results in greater mucous production, meaning you’ll have more phlegm in your nose, throat and chest, prolonging and intensifying the symptoms of the cold. So if dairy is part of your diet, skip the milk and cheese as soon as your early alert signal goes off. Dairy also exacerbates allergies so keep in mind come Spring time as well.

Drinking Healing Fluids:

Instead of orange juice, which is cold and full of sugar, choose warm water with lemon and herbal teas with healing properties. If you are experiencing more chills and stuffy nose with clear discharge, go for warming ginger tea. If you have a sore throat, thirst and stuffy nose with yellow/green sputum, go for cooling mint tea. Traditional Medicinals, available at most grocery stores has a great line of herbal teas for all kinds of symptoms. Be prepared and buy before you get sick so it’s one less thing you have to do when you’re feeling bad. Or try our family favorite throat soothing recipe: a mug full of hot water, a teaspoon of turmeric, the juice of half lemon and a heaping tablespoon of honey to taste.

Allow Your Body to Release Toxins

We clear away toxins by sweating, through our bowels, vomiting and out our nose so whenever possible, minimize medications like fever reducers or nasal decongestants, which mask but don’t cure symptoms and can inhibit our body’s natural defense mechanisms. This goes for kids as well…Fevers are one of the body’s most powerful ways of clearing illness and a sign on health. This does not apply to infants under six months however, where fever can be the sign of a serious issue Learn more and always check with your pediatrician if you have concerns.

See Your Acupuncturist

Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can help boost your body’s defenses as well as reduce stress, which in a constant heightened state weakens your immune response. Monthly or seasonal treatments are a great way to maintain your wellness. And get some herbal remedies from your licensed practitioner to have in your medicine cabinet so you’ll be ready at the first sign of a cold, which will strengthen your body’s natural healing abilities to fight off the illness. Missed the preventive step and are already sick, a visit to your acupuncturist can help alleviate symptoms and clear the pathogen out of your body more quickly.

Be Well, Juliet

A Vision for Empowered Wellness

silhouette of woman with open arms at sunsetThere is no shortage of health and wellness information available on the Internet. And much of this information is often conflicting, confusing and fear based. Trying to keep up can be overwhelming. Following constantly shifting guidelines based on new scientific research and “expert” opinions can be time-consuming, frustrating and demoralizing. In starting a blog, the last thing I want to do is to add to clutter, uncertainty and disempowerment.

As an acupuncturist, I’ve observed time and again, the power that Chinese medicine and empowered, awareness-driven self-care have in creating transformational healing, physically and emotionally. This is a truth that I find impossible to ignore and thus, inspired to share so that you can find new possibilities for living your life as fully as possible.

My vision for this blog is to bring the treatment room into your everyday life…to be an empowering and valuable resource that serves the individual and collective wellbeing based on the theoretical principles and practical application of Chinese medicine.

In service of this vision, this will be a space that:

~ Offers valuable and basic, holistic ways to enhance the quality of your living

~ Demystifies Chinese medicine, debunks myths and makes it more accessible

~ Helps you learn to know and appreciate your body deeply, which leads to greater wellbeing

~ Is a source of inspiration and empowerment

~ Evolves based on what most serves you, my patients and community, meaning your feedback and comments are encouraged!