Osteoporosis: Western & Eastern Medicine

Osteoporosis in Western Medicine

By The National Council for Aging Care

Are you one of the 44 million people at risk for Osteoporosis?

According to the International Osteoporosis Foundation, more than 44 million Americans aged 50 and older either have or face the threat of developing osteoporosis. Projections put this number at more than 60 million by 2020. Across the world, a fracture due to osteoporosis happens about once every three seconds, causing nearly 9 million fractures—just from stress being put on weak bones.

Osteoporosis is a degenerative bone disease that causes the loss of bone mass and bone tissue.

There are little to no symptoms of the disease, so easily breaking a bone may be the first sign that you have osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis can develop from a wide range of reasons, including:
• Menopause
• Cancer
• Poor diet
• Autoimmune Disorders
• Medications
• Excessive alcohol consumption
• Tobacco use
• Inactive lifestyle (not regularly exercising)
• Diet lacking in vitamin C and vitamin D

Continue reading to discover the symptoms, prevention and treatment of osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis Defined: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments - By The National Council For Aging

Osteoporosis in Chinese Medicine

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

Osteoporosis is the gradual loss of bone density that causes the bones to become brittle, thus increasing the risk of fracture. Women are at a higher risk of developing osteoporosis because of the steady loss of estrogen after menopause. There are some risk factors that contribute to your chances of developing osteoporosis and they are:

  • Age – bone density decreases naturally as we age
  • Heredity and genetics – osteoporosis tends to run in families
  • Being thin with fine bones increases your risk
  • A diet high in sodium
  • Carbonated drinks
  • Stress
  • Dieting
  • Caffeine
  • Smoking
  • Heavy alcohol use
  • Excess sugar intake
  • Certain medications such as the birth control pill and drugs for hypothyroidism weaken bones
  • Lack of exercise – weight bearing exercises cause the body to lay down new bone, increasing bone mass
  • A diet lacking in calcium, phosphorus and vitamin D
  • Too much animal protein in the diet can leach calcium from the bones
  • If you have broken many bones in your adult life, you are more susceptible

Although some of these risk factors cannot be avoided, many can and things like diet and exercise are vital to the health of your bones. Eating a diet high in calcium and balancing that with adequate levels of vitamin D which is responsible for the absorption of calcium, are important for the strength and density of bones. Most people associate dairy products with foods high in calcium, but for those who prefer not to eat dairy, there are many foods that are extremely high in calcium. Here is a list of non dairy sources of calcium.

Acupuncture and Osteoporosis

Non Dairy Sources of Calcium

  • Tofu
  • Chia seeds
  • Almonds
  • Sesame seeds (ground or pulverized for better absorption)
  • Tapioca
  • Collard greens
  • Kale
  • Bok Choy
  • White beans
  • Figs
  • Black eyed peas
  • Broccoli
  • Sardines with the bones
  • Seaweed
  • Turnip greens
  • Oranges

Acupuncture and Osteoporosis

Vitamin D & Calcium Absorption

Getting enough vitamin D is crucial to absorption of calcium. Common wisdom says that 30 minutes of sunshine a day is adequate for the average adult. Note that people with a diet high in animal proteins will cause calcium to be absorbed poorly, so if you are trying to build up calcium and strengthen bones, consider limiting your intake of animal proteins. It is also important to note that if we are not getting enough calcium in the diet, the body will take the calcium it needs from the bones, so make sure you are getting enough! The recommended daily amount is between 800 milligrams – 1200 milligrams for lactating women.

Fosamax and Boniva

Fosamax (Alendronate) and Boniva (Ibandronate) belong to a group of drugs called bisphosphonates. They alter the cycle of bone formation and breakdown in the body, decreasing the rate at which bone cells are absorbed. They are both commonly prescribed to postmenopausal women for osteoporosis.

Acupuncture & Chinese Herbs

Although sometimes drugs like this are a good option if your are suffering from severe bone loss and your bones have become dangerously brittle, my suggestion would be to always try to rebuild bone naturally. Medications often just treat symptoms and do not tackle the underlying problem which is what Chinese medicine is all about. Of course there are times when medications are necessary, but even so, I would always encourage a patient to be working towards balance so that eventually they did not need the drugs.

Acupuncture and Chinese herbs have been shown to be extremely effective for osteoporosis. There have been many clinical trials that show that both acupuncture treatments as well as Chinese herbal formulas that treat the kidneys (in Chinese medicine the kidneys govern the bones, growth and maturation) are very effective in building bone mass making the bones less brittle and susceptible to fractures.

Exercise

Weight bearing exercise is what the body needs to lay down new bone and this type of exercise is prescribed for people with osteoporosis. Weight bearing exercise is defined as exercises one does on your feet working the bones and the muscles against gravity. While that doesn’t mean going to the gym and pumping weights, there are many types of exercises that fall into this category and will improve bone health.

Acupuncture and Osteoporosis

  • Walking
  • Jogging
  • Dancing
  • Climbing stairs
  • Tennis
  • Volleyball
  • Tai Chi
  • Yoga
  • Golf
  • Gardening or working in the yard

As you can see, these are activities that almost anyone can do. Exercise is not only good for osteoporosis, it is also vital to our overall wellbeing. I always encourage patients to try to go outside every day, take some deep breaths and spend time in nature. It is a very grounding activity and often pulls us out of our heads and reminds us of what is important.

Acupuncture and Osteoporosis

In conclusion, my best advise on what to do about osteoporosis is to make changes to your diet, including as many calcium rich foods as possible, as well as making sure that you are getting adequate vitamin D to ensure that the calcium you are eating is being absorbed fully. Remove things like excess salt, sugar and alcohol from your diet and try to limit caffeine. Take some time every day to exercise, even if it is going for a walk to give your bones a workout which will stimulate them to lay down new bone and increase your bone density. And last but certainly not least, I would highly recommend seeking out an acupuncturist for regular treatments with the addition of Chinese herbs which are excellent for building up the kidneys and building strong healthy bones.

*Beautiful featured image photo by Linda Xu on Unsplash


Spring Recipe - Stir Fried Chicken and Goji Berries

By Vicky Chan of NourishU

Spring Recipes

Spring is the season of new growth, the season of wood and the season of the liver. It is the season of wind and rain and very unstable weather. It marks the beginning of a new growing season including bacteria and viruses. People can easily catch cold/flu and infectious diseases in spring. Wind-injuries can be characterized by rapidly changing and moving symptoms such as a stuffy and runny nose, coughs, fever, body pain, sneezing, and dizziness.

Our livers are most vulnerable to wind-injury in spring. It is important to invigorate the liver by eating warming and pungent food to defend and expel wind evil. Foods that are sweet in nature such as dates, goji-berries, animal's liver and leek can benefit liver health and help to promote liver qi. Sour can nourish liver and promote blood. Salty taste can promote sour.

Spring tonics emphasize on light and healthful foods such as spinach, celery, onion, lettuce, leaf mustard, Chinese yam, wheat, dates, peanuts, onions, cilantro, bamboo shoot and mushrooms. Soybean, bean sprout, egg, and tofu are rich in protein and can promote liver health and healthy growth of tendons.

Chrysanthemum Flower

Chrysanthemum flowers are very effective in lowering liver heat and calming the liver. They can be used as a tea or cook with other ingredients to make soup or entree dishes.

Dandelion

Dandelion is everywhere in spring. It is bitter and sweet in taste, cold in nature, and attributive to liver and stomach channels.

Pick dandelion leaves from your garden or from a wild field where there is no chemical pollution to make a detoxification tea for yourself and your family in spring. It is diuretic, clears damp-heat and toxic material, and benefits liver health. You can repeat this once again in late summer when you see them bloom again. It is the most inexpensive and effect detoxification tea that you can give to your body.

Stir Fried Chicken & Goji Berries

THERAPEUTIC EFFECTS

Benefits the liver and eyes.

INGREDIENTS

  • Astragalus (huang qi) 黃耆 - 30 gm
  • Goji-berry / Chinese Wolfberry (gou ji zi) 枸杞子 - 15 gm
  • Chicken breast - one piece
  • Cucumber - one
  • Cooking wine - 2 spoonfuls
  1. Rinse astragalus and put with 2 cups of water in a pot and let it sit for 30 minutes. Then bring water to a boil and lower heat to medium-low to cook down to 1/2 cup of water left. Strain and keep aside.
  2. Wash and shred chicken and cucumber.
  3. Season chicken with salt, pepper, cornstarch and 2 to 3 spoons of astragalus water.
  4. Soak goji-berries for 20 minutes and rinse. Season goji-berries with some astragalus water.
  5. Warm one spoonful of oil in a wok and stir-fry chicken for a few minutes. Then sprinkle in cooking wine and the rest of the astragalus water, and stir.
  6. Add cucumber and stir for a few more minutes, then add wolfberry and stir for a couple of minutes more and is done.

USAGE

No restrictions.

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Photo by Tim Chow on Unsplash


Eat Your Way to Health: Chinese Superfoods

Chinese medicinal cuisine has been an important part of East Asian culture for hundreds of years. The concepts of a balanced and complete diet were noted down by the Chinese as far back as the second century BCE, with The Yellow Emperor’s Classic On Medicine (Huang Di Nei Jing) containing what is very likely the world’s first set of dietary guidelines.

As with a lot of things, some kinds of food are better than others, and this article enumerates five Chinese superfoods used to reach optimum nutrition and even treat some common ailments.

Goji berries

Also known as Chinese Wolfberries, goji berries are native to the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region and often come in dried form. Alive.com states that legend has it goji berries once helped a herbalist live to a ripe old age of 252 years. While there’s no way to prove the veracity of this claim, goji berries are in fact known for their anti-aging properties. They are rich in carotene, antioxidants, calcium, iron, and vitamins A1, B1, B2, and C.

This Wen (neutral) food is well loved for its nutritive qualities, and is used to treat eye, liver, and kidney illnesses. They are often recommended to boost immunity, relieve hypertension, and manage inflammation.

Chinese cabbage


This lovely image courtesy of Fit Day

The Chinese cabbage is a very common vegetable and is often served in a variety of everyday Chinese dishes. Also known as pak choi or bok choy, this Han (cold) food is one of the most nutrient-dense vegetables in the world. It comes in at just 9 calories, has barely any fat, but packs lots of protein, dietary fiber, and nearly all the essential vitamins and minerals.

Because of its rich nutrition profile, it is often used to promote bone health, regulate blood pressure, fight off inflammation, and even protect against certain forms of cancer, according to Medical News Today .

Bitter melon

The bitter melon is another Han vegetable that possesses lots of medicinal benefits. It is rich in folates, phytonutrients, and vitamins A, B3, B5, B6, and C, as well as minerals like iron, zinc, and magnesium. As a result, Organic Facts claims bitter melon is great for purifying the blood, improving immunity, promoting weight loss, and even treating diabetes, asthma, fungal infections, and skin irritation.

Gardenia fruit

The Gardenia fruit is a bitter Han food that is grown from an evergreen flowering plant common across Asia. Although mostly known for its fragrant white flowers, the gardenia also offers one of China’s superfoods in the form of a bitter orange fruit used in herbal medicine.

These fruits are rich in carotenoids, and combined with their 'cooling' effect, they are used to relieve fevers, halt bleeding, and reduce swelling. They have been known to control cholesterol levels, prevent urinary tract infection, and ease restlessness. Gardenia fruits are also known to be a natural alternative to mouthwash and chewing gum for treatment of bad breath or halitosis, according to a Patient.info feature. This matches the idea in Chinese medicine which indicates that the fruit’s cooling properties can help prevent 'dragon breath'.

Green tea

Green tea, which has been consumed in China and across the globe for centuries. The Daily Health Post revealed that it is believed to help flush out toxins, relax blood vessels, and reduce anxiety and stress. For the best effect, be sure to get whole loose tea leaves instead of powdered forms.

Do you have any favorite Chinese superfoods? Let us know in the comment section below!

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Beautiful featured image by Hao Ji on Unsplash


Dining Out When Following Traditional Chinese Medicine: 3 Tips

By Freelance Writer Sally Perkins

Whether you are a recent or lifelong follower of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), your perspective on nutrition is unique to that of the Western perspective. Instead of eating for indulgence and pleasure, TCM considers food to be as good as medicine. When balance is achieved in one’s diet, balance can be achieved within the body, mind, and soul. In addition to this notion, TCM also does not make universal dietary recommendations for all people. Instead, the foods that are good for one person may not be beneficial for another.

Since these principles vary so significantly from what is considered to be healthy in Western diets, dining out can quickly become a challenge. The majority of foods and beverages offered in restaurants are often heavily processed, full of sodium, sugar, and other toxins. Because of this, is it impossible for someone following TCM to dine out? Thankfully, the answer is ‘no.’ With a bit of planning and research, you can continue to follow your lifestyle while enjoying local restaurants and events. Here are three tips to help you meet your nutritional needs when dining out. 


Photo by Lan Pham on Unsplash

Research Restaurants in Advance

These days, nearly all restaurants make their menus available online. This makes it much easier to know which restaurants will have foods that are appropriate for you, and which ones you should avoid. Before deciding where to eat, research which local options have the most choices for your needs. It is also extremely helpful to follow this tip while traveling. If you have questions about a menu you have viewed online, or are wondering if certain dietary accommodations can be made, be sure to call the restaurant prior to your arrival. 

Bring a Nutritional “Cheat Sheet” With You

If you have an extensive list of foods/beverages to limit and include within your diet, it can be difficult to remember what is ok to eat and what isn’t. When going to a restaurant (or even to the grocery store), bring a “cheat sheet” that lists all of your essential nutritional items. Rather than the unreasonable alternative of bringing a TCM book with you, or even the inconvenience of looking up information on your phone, a concise list is all that you need. Carrying a TCM “cheat sheet” will help you stay focused and on-track with your nutritional needs. 

Speak with Special Event Coordinators About your Nutritional Needs

Planning or attending a big event (such as a wedding or a corporate retreat)? If so, you might be concerned about how your TCM dietary needs can be accommodated. Thankfully, there are ways to ensure that the catering company will have items that you can eat. First, if you are the one planning the event, find a local health focused caterer who is open to bringing at least one item that adheres to your needs. Be sure to also find out if there will be other individuals in attendance who have specific dietary requests as well. If you are simply attending an upcoming event, inquire about the foods that will be provided. In the event there is no food that will meet your needs, you will at least have advanced notice. Plan on eating prior to or after the event to avoid the temptation of indulging in foods that are heavily processed.

Although it may seem like a challenge, dining out while following TCM can be achieved. Rather than skipping fun dinners and events, research and plan in advance so that you can enjoy special moments with family and friends while maintaining balance in the body.

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Delicious featured image photo by Edward Guk on Unsplash

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Would you like to learn more about nutrition according to Chinese Medicine? Check out these fancy downloadable information sheets about all things Chinese Medicine to learn how to use this wonderful medicine to live a healthy lifestyle in the modern world. Get them here - Learn Chinese Medicine Living :)


The Most Important Qigong – III (Standing Post Zhan Zhuang)

By John Voigt

This is the third and concluding article about Standing Post, a qigong pose of stillness, complete relaxation, and no observable movement. It features two versions of Standing Post, the latter version attributed to the legendary qigong master, Dr. Yan Xin http://www.yanxinqigong.net/aboutdryan/index.htm .

A list of books, online articles, and videos about Standing Post – Zhan Zhuang will be given at the end at the end of this article.

Many masters of Chinese health, martial arts, and spiritual practices say this type standing meditation is the most important of all exercises to do. The previous two articles about Standing Post appeared in the January and February 2018 issues of Chinese Medical Living. The Most Important Qigong - Standing Post Zhan Zhuang & The Most Important Qigong - Standing Post Zhan Zhuang II

Standing Post With Seven Imaginary Beach Balls, complied by
John Voigt

This image from https://sciencekungfu.wordpress.com/tag/zhan-zhuang/

First and most important: Have the entire body and mind complexly relaxed ignoring any discomfort—but if there is any pain immediately stop doing this exercise.

The feet stand straight ahead at approximately a shoulder’s width. The knees are slightly bent and never protrude past the toes. The spine is straight. The chin is slightly tucked in. Imagine that the crown of the head is gently being pulled up by a thread to the heavens.

The tongue rests on the palate. The eyes are half closed (as the Chinese say, “Look but don’t look). Breathe softly, slowly, deeply through the nose in a natural rhythmic way down into the lower abdomen. Don’t think, but do be silently aware of what is happening internally in the body; in other words keep the mental focus on your posture and especially on how it feels.

Hold an imaginary beach ball. The picture shows a typical way, at the upper chest, but the ball can be held at a higher or lower position. The hands and wrists are relaxed with the fingers pointing at each other; the thumbs point to the upward. The shoulders and elbows are also relaxed.

Next imagine that your elbows are resting on smaller beach balls, and that you are holding a smaller ball in each of your underarms, and one between your upper thighs.

Now imagine a super-sized beach ball and sit back on it (like sitting on the edge of a bar stool). Be careful—seriously, don’t fall over, this is imaginary after all. We want the weight of the trunk, head and upper limbs to rest on the thighs; and the weight of the body to be evenly distributed on both feet.

At the end of doing the Standing Post pose do some mild stretches, and it’s also good to take a walk.

Dr. Yan Xin on Zhan Zhuang

Image from www.china.com

The legendary Qigong master Dr. Yan Xin (born 1950 - ) http://www.yanxinqigong.net/aboutdryan/index.htm (pronounced “Yan Shen”) wrote the following: Now we talk about Standing Post (Zhan Zhuang). You always need to stand in the correct and relaxed way, then the movement is very easily learned; with just one "stand" you'll get it. But if you stand in your old incorrect way, that will easily produce or make you feel irritable and bored. Then you will loose any interest in learning it or doing Standing Post. It will be difficult to get started and gain any significant progress or results that way. Therefore, for those who say that they want to do this practice, we must nurture and cultivate their interest, and their desire to learn. How is this done? By having them recognize the importance of qigong and become aware of its many benefits. [From Eighty Characters: The Essentials of Qigong Practice. http://www.yanxinqigong.cn/fali/temp_lifa_yaoling_80zi_01.htm ].

[John Voigt speaking:] In the early 1990s my Chinese language tutor, Ms. Sheng Xue, learned Standing Post in Beijing from Dr. Yan Xin, or at times from his teaching assistants. (Dr. Yan moved to California in 1990, but made many trips back to China to do healings sessions with the then Premier.) She kindly gave me the following description of what he taught :

Preparation: “In the morning face east; during the night face north. Relax and the energy comes. [Note: In the profound words of Ms. Sheng, “You don't ‘have it,’ (if you think that) the qi-energy (will) go away.”] Have fingers not too tight—just a little bit open. Arms go up horizontally at sides to palms over the head to guide qi into the crown of the head (baihui). Then have palms gently and slowly come down in front of you which by itself—and without any word directions or mental will power—will cause the qi to flow inside through the face, eyes, lungs, into the dantian. Don't direct qi after its entrance in the baihui; just mentally focus on being aware of your dantian[the life energy storage center in the lower abdomen] and allow the qi to flow naturally down into the dantian. End by placing the hands over the dantian; then palms face the ground; drop hands slowly—that way the qi that has been built up is not lost.” [Note: this preparation is an example of the widely practiced Daoist qigong form, “Drawing (or “Pulling”) Down the Heavens.”]

Ball Holding Stance: More from Ms. Sheng: “Next slowly go into ‘Ball Holding Stance.’ Take three deep breaths, then [sit] down on the horse. Just standing you feel qi in the arms and hands—then it going into the bones. Then into shoulders; then upper legs, lower legs and feet; then shoulders and neck. Feet [pointed slightly in] helps keep knees from overlapping the toes. Think happy thoughts like family, [or being in beautiful] nature. Slowly go into ‘Ball Holding Stance.’ Take three deep breaths, then [sit] down on the horse. Feel hot qi in the arms. Do not go to thighs parallel with ground [i.e., extreme deep knee bends] unless [under the direction of a experienced] teacher. Expect to get hot [because of qi buildup] as well as working up a good sweat—this is a muscle exercise after all. Stand Pole [sic] has large quantities of life energy—qi power arms, legs and body.” End the same as beginning [with Drawing Down the Heavens] . . . then slowly place hands above dantian; then hands slowly return to the sides.

Concluding Odds and Ends

Zhan Zhuang in Chinese characters is站 ,and pronounced Jan [sinking tone] Jwong [high tone].

About Dr. Yan Xin. See: Yan Xin Qigong at http://yanxinqigong.net/
Many believe him to be one of the most outstanding qigong masters of all times in both in scientific experimentation, teaching, healing, and exhibiting paranormal abilities.

Highlights as a Healer: After a three year exile to the United States, he returned to Beijing to help heal the Chinese premier Deng Zhou Ping, who was dying of advanced metastasized cancer. Both Eastern and Western medical doctors had given up on Deng's survival, and the enemies of Qigong brought Dr. Yan back to China in the hopes of discrediting him and Medical Qigong. Deng Zhou Ping did not practice the qigong that Yan Xin asked of him, but at least Yan Xin was able to keep the Premier alive for another year and a half, essentially by his living off of Dr. Yan's bioenergy (Qi). This precipitated the "legalization" of Qigong in China under the [auspices of the] government controlled Chinese "Sports Authority."
http://www.michaelshaman.com/dr-yan-xin.html

He also went to the U.S. White House eight times to give energy treatments to President Bush, Sr., which gives some explanation to Bush’s paratroop jump in his 80s!
https://www.mind-energy.net/archives/246-the-highest-technology-of-all-technologies-the-yan-xin-secret.html

Since the 1990s, Yan Xin's main activities of teaching, writing, and participating in scientific research on external qi used for healing have been in the United States, and Canada.

A short biography exists on the Encyclopedia of Chinese Culture. https://contemporary_chinese_culture.academic.ru/907/Yan_Xin

As an example of his qigong superstardom, including some improvisational spontaneous standing meditation go to严新气功功理功法精选 1 [Yan Xin Qigong power law selection 1] on YouTube - [only in Chinese].
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pvdet8nmSOw

For Further Study: Books – Articles – Essays - Videos
Kenneth S. Cohen. The Way of Qigong; pp. 133-143. Ballantine Books, 1997.

Michael P. Garofalo. “Standing Meditation," research by Michael P. Garofalo [at]
http://www.egreenway.com/taichichuan/wuji.htm

Karel Koskuba. Zhan Zhuang. [at] http://www.yiquan.org.uk/art-zz.html

Master Lam Kam Chuen. The Way of Energy. Simon & Schuster, 1991.

John Voigt. “The Ultimate Energy Exercise: Zhan Zhuang – Standing (Like A) Post. Qi Journal, vol. 23/n.2; Summer 2013. https://www.qi-journal.com/store.asp?-token.S=qi&ID=3319

“Wang Xiangzhai.” [at] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wang_Xiangzhai

Wang Xiangzhai: Entering the Quiet State; [at] http://mitqigong.blogspot.com/2011/03/wang-xiangzhai-entering-quiet-state.html

Wang Xiangzhai. “Seek Fullness of Spirit and Intention.” [at] http://mitqigong.blogspot.com/2011/04/wang-xiangzhai-seek-fullness-of-spirit.html .

Wang Xuanjie & John Moffett. Traditional Chinese Therapeutic Exercises: Standing Pole; [text in English]. Foreign Languages Press, 1994. [Has seven standing forms, five seated postures, four lying postures, and three moving postures. Master Wang said that Zhan Zhuang can even be adapted and used by people without arms or legs.]

Grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit. Stance Training and becoming a Scholar-Warrior
[at] http://shaolin.org/general-2/stance-training.html .

Yiquan: Collection of Essays 1996-2010, (e-book); published by Andrzej Kalisz. Yiquan Academy International Network. [at] http://www.scribd.com/doc/44719012/Yiquan-essays .

Yu Yong Nian. “Still Life,” Metro Beijing, March 23, 2011. https://www.scribd.com/doc/145816955/Still-Life-Yu-Yong-Nian-on-Zhan-Zhuang .

Videos on the Internet
Ken Gullette. Zhan Zhuang: Standing Stake Tai Chi Lesson. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cnckgTx3-rE .

Standing Meditation Basics - Yiquan Masters Demonstrate. YouTube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rtUKTd2WKsc&feature=related .

Zhan Zhuang Lineage and Memorial. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5OIcCTrLsCA

Sources of Pictures
Holding The Ball. https://sciencekungfu.wordpress.com/tag/zhan-zhuang/
Dr. Yan Xin. http://news.china.com/history/all/11025807/20161226/30114727_all.html


The Role of Coffee in Traditional Chinese Medicine

By freelance writer Sally Perkins

Next to oil, coffee is the 2nd most prevalent legally-traded item in the world which is not surprising, seeing that almost 500 billion cups of coffee are consumed worldwide every year. While Scandinavian countries top the list in terms of coffee consumption, Europe, and the Americas aren’t that far behind. Even Asian countries such as China are experiencing an increase in coffee consumption, as industry giants Starbucks pushes into the East and more and more millennials are wanting to explore the ways of the West.

The benefits (and dangers) of the world’s most popular beverage has caused numerous debates as people fail to realize that a lot of the readily-available information about coffee is slanted. As more scientific research surfaces pointing towards its health benefits, coffee is being embraced increasingly by Chinese and Western medicine alike. The coffee bean forms part of the rubiaceae family from which numerous Chinese medicinal herbs such as gardenia fruit, rubia, uncaria and morinda stem. From a Chinese Traditional Medicine perspective, coffee holds numerous benefits if consumed in the correct dosages.

This delicious photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

How to get the most out of your coffee

Coffee is considered to be an herb in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and should be treated accordingly, with a proper dosage.  Your primary consideration should be to determine whether you have a cold or heat imbalance in your body. If you tend to lean more towards the heated side you might want to limit your consumption of roasted coffee and opt for green coffee extracts instead. A person who is overly Yin, however, can benefit the most from a cup of freshly brewed, roasted coffee complete with a delicious homemade creamer and a sweetener of choice.

How does coffee benefit the body?

According to Eastern belief, coffee has an invigorating, diuretic effect that encourages the elimination of waste products from the body. Coffee is considered to be fairly nourishing and boasts noteworthy amounts of Vitamins B5 and B12. By nature coffee has a slightly bitter taste which can clear heat from the body, helping to stabilize the extreme heat of the hot general consistency of coffee.  This could be the very reason why so many people in warmer climates proclaim that they drink coffee to cool them down.

The lovely photo by Daniel Ruswick on Unsplash

Coffee is seen as a bronchodilator and increases peristalsis. Many asthma patients claim that a cup of hot coffee help eases their symptoms significantly. It is furthermore believed that coffee has, due to its acidic flavor profile, a strong influence on the human liver. Qi and blood is moved by coffee and because the liver is most prone to becoming stagnant, coffee can boost the smooth flow of liver qi in tiny increments.  Coffee consumption is also known to help cleanse the livers partner organ, the gallbladder effectively.

There is no food or beverage in the world that is ideal for everyone to consume.  As long as coffee is enjoyed in moderation it poses no threat. Coffee consumption, like that of any Chinese herbal remedy, needs to be matched to the constitution of the individual consuming it. An experienced Chinese Medical Practitioner will be able to conduct a swift analysis to determine exactly what the personal tolerance and requirements of an individual are.

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The lovely featured image photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash 


Winter Recipe for Kidneys - Fox Nut Rice Pudding

By NourishU

Kidney/Bladder Disease

Kidney deficiency is the cause of many illnesses and over 80% of people have a certain degree of kidney deficiency. Cold hands and feet, lack of energy, ringing in the ears, sexual dysfunction, joint pain, menstrual disorder, prostate problems, back pain, hearing impairment, premature aging, incontinent are some typical examples.

Winter time is the best season to preserve and promote kidney health. Eating black color food such as black beans is good for kidney. Salty taste can benefit kidney but too much can damage kidney too. Kidney stones are formed by the buildup of substances which crystallized into stone-like deposits. Diets high in protein and lack of exercise will result in severe overall net calcium loss and increase calcium presented to the kidneys. Western doctors’ advice in reducing the burden and workload of the kidney is by eating a diet low in meat, high in carbohydrate, restricted salt and drink plenty of water to dissolve smaller stones. And by avoiding peanut, chestnut, soy, asparagus, spinach, corn and egg and eating more celery, apple, pear, and beans.

The symptoms of a kidney infection are a sore throat, fever, lower back pain, tiredness, fatigue, thirst and loss of appetite. When there is edema, the volume of urine decreases and so is the blood pressure. Infections of the urinary tract are more common in females than males. It could be due to poor hygiene or food allergy. Bacteria grow more easily in alkaline than in acid urine and vitamin C can promote acid urine and also improve immunity.

The food treatment for kidney infection should include a low-sodium and high protein diets such as fish, meat, egg and soy products. Water intake should be increased. Diuretic foods such as watermelon, winter melon, black bean, broad bean, see qua, and small red bean are effective in expelling dampness. Corn silk and corn kernel cook with water to make tea can alleviate urinary tract or bladder infection. Grape juice can treat female urinary tract infection. Avoid spicy foods, garlic, and chive.

The other kidney dysfunctions include frequent urination, nephritis, leukorrhea in women, and nocturnal emission and spermatorrhea in men.

According to Chinese medicine, kidney problems are caused by yang deficiency, spleen, and heart deficiency. Emission is induced by excessive fire due to yin deficiency, weakness of kidney qi or the descent of heat-dampness. Treatments include nourishing kidney yin, removing fire, clearing heat and dissipating dampness.

Fox Nut Rice Pudding


Dried Fox Nut Seeds

Symptoms

  • Frequent urination especially at night
  • enuresis
  • whitish and turbid urine
  • nocturnal emission
  • leukorrhea

Therapeutic Effects

Tonify kidney and spleen, preserve essence, strengthen the muscles that control urination, relieve diarrhea.

Ingredients (2 Servings)

  • Fox nut (qian shi) 芡實 - 120gm
  • Sticky rice powder - 6gm

1.   Wash fox nut and soak with 2 cups of water for 4 hours.

2.   Pour fox nut and water into a grinder and grind it into a fine paste. Add sticky rice powder and mix well.

3.   Pour mixture into a small pan and cook over medium-low heat to become a thick soup (about 10 minutes). Stir frequently and add water if necessary.

4.   Add a little salt to serve.

Usage

Eat half before dinner and the other half one hour before bedtime. Continue for 10 days as one course of treatment. If necessary, continue up to one month or two to see a complete recovery.

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If you would like a downloadable information sheet that will tell you all about how to live in harmony with the Winter Season in Chinese Medicine, you can find it here - The Winter Season in Chinese Medicine.

Beautiful featured image photo by Julien Pianetti on Unsplash


My Struggles Have Made Me A Better, More Empathetic Doctor

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

Some of the most useful things that I have been able to bring to my patients are things that I have learned through my own experiences with trauma, pain, emotional issues, illnesses - and how I was able to get through them. These experiences also allow me tremendous empathy for the people I see, both in clinic and in everyday life. My thinking is that the more I go through and GET through, the better I can serve my patients and ultimately, my fellow human being. No matter our financial status, where we are born, our religion, colour or beliefs, we will all experience difficulties, pain, fear, sorrow, and illness at some time in our lives. And it helps to know that you are not alone and that you will ultimately get through it, and be stronger for the experience.

An Unusual Life (Let me get philosophical for a moment)

I have had, well, an unusual life. This has been mostly of my own making, and even though there have been a lot of ups and downs (oh *so* many), I wouldn't change any of it. I have never believed in regret. I believe that every experience that we have in this life contributes to making us who we are - that we are an accumulation of those experiences. I also think that it is important that we are at peace with the person we have become, no matter what may be happening in our lives. This certainly is not always easy. Remembering to be kind with ourselves as we are a young species, and here to learn a great deal which includes things which we judge to be unpleasant like pain, grief, loss, fear, anger, and frustration are all important pieces of the whole. Like Chinese medicine, I believe in a holistic system, with every part synergistically connecting to every other. I can draw so many parallels back to Chinese medicine, which is why I connected to it so strongly and why I fell so deeply and passionately in love with it. It is an allegory for life, and perhaps, all things in the universe and beyond.

Ever since I can remember I have been hungry for so many of the experiences that life has to offer. I didn't have a choice in the matter, it was like there was a force driving me, and I could either allow it to push me in the direction of experience or be crushed and ultimately destroyed by it. I wanted to do everything, try everything. I was driven by a curiosity about the world and my existence that has lead me to live a very, uh, interesting life. I was fascinated with travel and wanted to see as many places and cultures as I could. I loved the way that each place had a unique smell, a look, a feel and each would arouse such emotion. I also loved the newness of a different country, a new city or tiny village. I thrived being immersed in a completely alien culture and absorbing as much of it as I could, being exposed to its magic, its customs, rituals, food, and music. There is such beauty, creativity, and wonder that permeates the cultures of the world, and that is what I was after. I loved seeing what each had to offer, and learning how its people communicated, loved, celebrated and mourned. I absolutely think that travel is the best education. I learned more in my travels than I ever could in a classroom or books.

I have also been living my life in, I suppose, a unique way. I knew from very early on that I would never live the life that most people end up living. Buying a one-way ticket to another country and not knowing where you were going to stay, not having a job and not knowing how long you would be there? This is insane! they would say. Going to China alone to work in a tiny city so small (6 million people) it wasn't even on the map, and just hoping it would be ok? Foolish! Moving to Central America with a tiny baby to make a better life with hopes to buy land, live off the grid and create a sustainable community and healing retreat without the resources (yet) with which to do it? Madness. And yet, I have done all of these things with varying degrees of success. With these experiences came a lot of worry, grief, loneliness, frustration, and despair, I am not going to lie to you. And yet, even though they involved a lot of pain and emotions which are hard to deal with, I am glad I did those things because I learned a lot about myself, and how to process all the crazy things that life can throw at you. And even when things are difficult and painful, you do come out the other side, and the feelings then, are often intensely joyful because you have passed through such darkness to get to them. And yet, these experiences are not for the faint of heart. And many would say choices made by someone who may be a few crayons short of a full box.

I was once sitting in a session with a therapist before my imminent departure to a foreign country and he said to me "you know, this thing you are doing, would scare the hell out of most people. Aren't you afraid?" And, this was the first moment that I really thought about fear in connection with the situation. After a minute I said, "no, I am not scared of this at all." And then he asked me the inevitable question. "Well then, what are you scared of?" And the answer came to me quickly. I said "I am scared of being married to someone I don't love, working a job I hate and feeling trapped in a life I don't want. I fear getting to the end of my life and feeling like I never really lived."

Pain & Growth

In my experience, it has been the darkest moments, the most difficult times and when I was deeply suffering that I learned the most. It took me a long time to admit because I didn't want it to be true. I wanted to be able to learn from happiness, joy, freedom, and love, and I have. But not like I evolve when I am facing darkness. But maybe it is just me...

Take Vipassana meditation for instance. This, by definition, is taking a stroll through the winding path of your consciousness, that inevitably leads to some of the darker places in your subconscious. Vipassana is defined as "seeing things as they really are", which, at least in my experiences, have meant the whole she-bang. The light bits and the darker ones as well. And it is the darker ones that we tend to hide from, the ones that hurt us, leave scars and can hinder us in the present until we are able to heal them (acknowledging them first which is usually not easy and can bring up a lot of difficult feelings) and finally let them go.

**if you would like to learn more about Vipassana Meditation you can read about my two Vipassana retreats here - My Ten Day Vipassana Meditation and Vipassana 2.0.

I have seen this for many years with patients. As a practitioner, I like to get deep into things. I want to understand why you are having those headaches, the insomnia, and the panic attacks, so I ask a lot of questions in an attempt to get to the root of things. And I have found that so much of what makes people sick are things that have hurt them in their past that they are dragging with them into their present. That may sound strange, but in my experience, it is absolutely true. As a culture, we are all striving for health, but most of the time that is limited to the physical realm. And yet, as well as physical bodies, we all have emotions, but few of us are taught or have the skills to deal with them in a healthy way. I think that because I was such a sensitive child, and constantly overwhelmed by not only my emotions, but by the emotions of others, that I have been working my whole life to find a balance and a way to deal with them effectively so that they do not become demons that haunt me in my present.

Chinese medicine is well aware of this phenomena and the emotions are considered to be one of the causes of disease. Now, to clarify, HAVING emotions is not a cause of disease, but emotions that are suppressed, unexpressed or expressed in an inappropriate manner are seen to contribute to disease. So basically, emotional health is just as important as physical health, and so it should be. Patients are often surprised at how much attention I give to their emotional state as we talk in each session. And I tell them that it is a hugely important factor and that I need to be aware of how they are feeling so that I can better help them to rebalance and gain the equilibrium that will bring them back to health - body, mind, and spirit.

A Better Healer

I hope that because of all the experiences that I have had, and all the pain that I have been through, that those experiences have made me a better version of myself. A wiser, more compassionate self. And I also think that my struggles with pain, grief, anger, loss and my journeys into the darkness have given me the ability to recognize those struggles in others. I know that darkness, I have spent a lot of time there. I know that place and I can empathize with you if you are there too.

It is rarely the thing that people say they are coming in to see me for that is the thing that needs the most attention. And, because I have been there, in that dark place where you feel like you are hurting and all alone, that I can see that person, take their hand, and hopefully, lead them back into the light. Which is, after all, where we all want to be.

This beautiful quote by Ram Dass is one that has always really hit home for me, in my life and in my work. <3


The Most Important Qigong II - (Standing Post - Zhan Zhuang)

by John Voigt

In silence there must be movement, and in motion, there must be silence.

A small movement is better than a large movement,

no movement is better than a small.

Silence is the mother of all movement..

In movement you should be like a dragon or a tiger.

In non-movement you should be like a Buddha.

--Wang Xiangzhai, the Father of Standing Post Qigong

This is a continuation of the article - The Most Important Qigong - that appeared in Chinese Medical Living, January 2018.

A Quick Summary.

Stand straight and relaxed with chin slightly tucked back. Raise your arms and pretend to hug an imaginary large tree (or large ball). Breathe slowly, deeply, and smoothly. Hold the pose as long as possible. Relax into any discomfort you experience. If you experience any pain then stop immediately. With an empty mind be aware (feel) your posture; and gently correct it if necessary.

How Long to Practice.

Even a few minutes of serious practice each day should bring about some positive results.  As long as there is no pain, slowly extend the length of the practice. With an accomplished teacher several hours—even more—are theoretically possible.  However, for those who need more specific instructions: “Start by doing the standing exercises  for five minutes a day.  After three weeks, increase this to ten minutes.  Three weeks later, aim for 15 minutes, and 20 minutes after a further three weeks.  You can stand longer if you wish, but 20 minutes will refresh your whole system.”  Master Lam Kam Chuen.  The Way of Energy, pg. 25.

The important thing is to practice as relaxed, as long, and as often as you can.

MANAGING THE DISCOMFORT:

Photo credit: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/519532506985622303/

Discomfort is to be expected and dealt with by relaxing and breathing into the strained area.

Ignore any itches, tingling, even minor quick flashing pains which often are signs that energy blockages are being opened.  If it gets to be too much just stop doing the standing posture for a few seconds, then return to it with the arms not held so high, or the knees not bent so much. To alleviate some discomfort in the arms, imagine they are suspended up by strings from the elbows and wrists.  Or lower the hands down to in front of the belly.  Or imagine the arms are made of cotton.

Other ways to reduce discomfort are more fanciful, but perhaps more effective:  imagine you are floating in a pool of warm water; or you are a feather floating in the air.  For those that are more spiritually aggressive, imagine you are an angelic being of light floating in the heavens.

The simplest remedy is paradoxical: with the hint of a smile on your lips, just disregard the discomfort and sink into it as if it weren’t there—something like getting a “second wind” for a long distance runner.

However if sharp or intense pain occurs anywhere, especially in the knees or other joints, STOP!   If pain continues to occur during future practice, discontinue all practice until you receive professional advice from someone experienced in these matters.   

TECHNIQUES TO BETTER THE PRACTICE:

A Straight Back.

Be aware of the alignment and symmetry of your pose, and gently adjust and correct it as needed.

Although they may think that they are standing straight, most people lean slightly backwards or forwards when doing Standing Post. To experience what a straight back really feels like, lie on the floor in a supine position, or stand against a wall.  Or do it with a full length mirror to check your stance; or have someone look at you and tell you when are not straight.  Or imagine you are hanging from the limb of a tree by the hair on the top of your head.

Do not “tuck the tailbone under.”  Do not put that kind of force on your spine.  If you “sit back” on an imaginary high stool, the coccyx will properly straighten by itself.

Note:

Many people need to feel that they are leaning forward to get a correct straight posture.

Look at Grand Master Yu Yong-Nian with his students in the next picture.  For most (and especially with Master Yu) a theoretical plumb line could be dropped from the crown of the head through the center of the abdomen down to the perineum area.  Not only that: the Kidney-1 points (behind the balls of the feet) also line up, and all this is done so effortlessly!

Grand Master Yu Yong Nian with his students, Beijing, circa 1985.
Image source: http://www.yiquan78.org/postures.htm

MIND:

This is a mental as well as physical exercise, overcoming random thoughts is an important aspect …. Only [by] being completely relaxed and natural, not trying to control, just letting thoughts come and go Without  Attachment, can one really stabilize and liberate the consciousness. Wang Xiangzhai: Entering the Quiet State.

Other methods to clear the mind to gain that needed “quiescence”:  listen to the breath - make it silent - listen to the silence of the breath.  If that is too difficult, count each inhalation up to ten, then go back to one and repeat the counting.

Superstar martial artist Bruce Lee may have said it best in the movie, Enter The Dragon” with his “Don’t think, feel” … [that way you won’t miss ] … “All that heavenly glory.”

EYES:

Gaze in an absent minded way at the hands. As the Chinese say, “Look but don’t look.” This helps to more deeply relax into the static standing posture.

SHOULDERS:

If you have trouble keeping the shoulders loose, inhale and squeeze the shoulders up; then quickly exhale and drop the shoulders.

FINGERS-HANDS-ARMS: 

The fingers are slightly spread apart, and the thumbs are slightly bent—(imagine each hand is catching a ball).  Or, sometimes I tell my students, “think tiger claws.”  And keep the wrists loose.

Hands and arms are normally just below shoulder level, but they may be at the level of the lower abdomen (dantian), or the forehead, or the palms may face the ground;  there are many possible options.


The Eight Zhan Zhuang Posts of Yiquan
Image source: http://mitqigong.blogspot.com/2011/06/eight-zhan-zhuang-posts-of-yiquan.html

KNEES:

The knees should never go past the toes; doing that can harm the knees.

About Knee Bends. 

Many martial arts teachers say that with the legs wider apart than shoulder width, you can gain a lower crouching stance which will enable more vital energy (qi) to be packed into your body.  This certainly has validity.  However in the standard practice of Zhan Zhuang, it is only an advanced option, and is best done only under the supervision of an experienced master teacher.

Normally the knees are bent about an inch—but it is standard to bend them as

much as you can without experiencing pain.

The knees should slightly push outward. To accomplish this, imagine a large ball expanding against, but simultaneously being held in place (isometric-like) by your knees. Guide your body weight to—and slightly lift up—the yongquan (Kidney-1) acupuncture points directly behind the balls of the feet.  This lifts the arches and distributes the weight between the heels, toes, and sides of the feet.  This will help you feel lighter and more agile.  It also keeps the knees from pointing inward.

Be a TREE. 

Zhan Zhuang sometimes is translated as “Standing Like a Tree.”  It may be helpful to bring the concept of  Tree into the practice.  For example, do the exercise outdoors among large healthy trees—You can imagine that you too are a tree standing straight and powerful; drawing up earth-yin energy and drawing down sun-yang energy.

Or visualize you are squeezing a tree and making it smaller; not only with your hands and arms, but also with your knees and legs.  Or imagine that you are pulling it out by its roots. All of these are done without any external movement.

To Prevent Energy Leakage.

Very gently tighten the muscles in the anal and perineum area.

What Not To Do. 

Master Wang Xiangzhai taught that Conscious Awareness and Physical Form working together is the basis of this work: In his words, “Mind activity is born from the posture; posture follows mind activity.”  What this means is that although he did teach using certain visualizations, he rejected thought controlled qigong practices such as orbiting qi in the meridians, working with specific acupuncture points, or Daoist or Buddhist breathing techniques.  I think he wanted us to be without any words in a place of Oneness (the “Flow” or  what athletes call, “In the Zone”).

BENEFITS FROM DOING THE PRACTICE:

“I do Zhan Zhuang and I’m happy! I do Zhan Zhuang and I’m healthy! I do Zhan Zhuang and I have a long life!”  - Grand Master Yu Yong-Nian https://munndialarts.com/english/master-yu-yong-nian/  (he lived 93 years).

Standing Post strengthens the muscles, and increases qi (life energy) in the body. It grants an awareness of the self—which may lead to profound psychological and spiritual experiences. Relaxing and being able to ignore discomfort is a skill that may be used in dealing with many of the difficult situations we may face in life.

Health: 

A basic premise of traditional Chinese health practices is that illness is caused when qi (vital life energy) is deficient, stagnant, excessive or blocked.  Properly done, Standing Post helps correct these problems.

Psychological:

Standing Post trains the mind to be still and concentrated, thereby gaining alertness, self discipline and will power.  The mind does not lose itself so easily in the daily stresses of modern life which often trigger a variety of psychological problems.

Spiritual Growth:

“In Zhan Zhuang Chi Kung one learns to return to the source of all power, to enter back into the very womb of universal energy and to experience the truth of the power of the void, the still point, the wuji" [i.e., the empty potential for infinite creation], (from Internal Arts Journal. http://www.qigonghealer.com/zhan_zhuang.html . Standing Post, occasionally called “Standing Meditation,” can bring the Body, Life Energy, and the Mind into an experienced state of Unity.  A place of Oneness: first with the self, then with nature, then the world, then the universe.  And finally perhaps with what some might call the “Dao.”

WARNINGS: 

If you have substantial [qi-energy] blockage in your body, the accumulated energy derived from Zhan Zhuang would cause internal injuries.” Wong Kiew Kit.  The Shaolin Arts. p. 150.   Do not practice when sick, instead go see a doctor!  Some sources say do not practice if you have high blood pressure, or excessive blood flow during menstruation or menopause, or if pregnant or right after childbirth.  As always, consult with professional health providers before doing any exercise or qigong; especially if you have any medical problems or health issues. As mentioned throughout this article: if there is pain stop. If the pain continues consult with a professional healer.

Notes

(Zhan Zhuang is translated many ways: “Standing Post” is accurate but without meaning for most English speakers.  Other terms are “Standing Stake,” “Standing Meditation,” “Standing Pole,” “Standing Like a Tree,” or “Stance Training.” Even its most important teacher in the 20th century, Master Wang Xiangzhai, near the end of his life called it Health Nourishing Postures,” and “Postures of Primeval Unity.”

This article is a summation of  “The Ultimate Energy Exercise: Zhan Zhuang – Standing (Like A) Post. Qi Journal, vol. 23/n.2; Summer 2013.  https://www.qi-journal.com/store.asp?-token.S=qi&ID=3319

The next issue of Chinese Medicine Living for March, 2018 will have the concluding The Most Important Qigong – III:  (Standing Post - Zhan Zhuang). It  features

Dr. Yan Xin’s http://www.yanxinqigong.net/aboutdryan/index.htm version of Standing Post, as well as a list of books, online articles, and videos for further study.

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Featured image source: http://www.yiquan78.org/postures.htm