Treating Infections with Herbal Medicine

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac

We all occasionally succumb to infections. Thankfully nature always gives us ways to heal and recover. I am continually amazed at the healing properties of plants and am convinced that every ailment out there has a plant based cure.

Herbs can be used in 2 ways to treat infections; through their anti-microbial action they work directly against microbes and in addition, they increase and the body's defences helping it to better fight things on its own. Fortunately, in most cases they will be performing both functions at the same time.

Myrrh is an example of an herb which combines direct toxic action on bacteria with the ability to stimulate our body's production of white blood cells - or leucocytes - which are an integral part of the immune system and do the majority of the defensive work in the body. Other actions that are indicated in treating infections are those that help to eliminate toxins, such as diaphoretics (things that make you sweat), laxatives and diuretics. Any accumulation of waste materials and toxins are the perfect environment for microbes to breed in. Most herbs can play a role in treating infections.

When treating infections, it is always important to treat the underlying cause and not the symptoms. This is at the root of Chinese Medicine as well. The symptoms are the clues that tell you what is happening in the body. For example, a fever should not be seen as something that needs to be stopped immediately, the fever is often a symptom of the healing process which should be supported, not suppressed. The body has an incredible intelligence and most often knows what to do without our interference. Here is a basic mixture that helps the body work through a fever.

Herbal Remedy for Fever

Boneset - 2 parts
Yarrow - 2 parts
Echinacea - 1 part

Parts refers to the amount of herb mixture used per cup of water. 1 teaspoonful of the mixture per cup of water should be simmered for 10 minutes to make a decoction. Drink half a cup as hot as possible every 2 hours.

Echinacea is included to help the body deal with any microbes, but the simple use of diaphoretics (things that make you sweat) like Boneset and Yarrow are often enough. If the diaphoretic strength needs to be increased, you can add a pinch of Cayenne. If the glands are swollen indicating lymphatic involvement, thenMarigold or Cleavers can be included. If the mucous membranes are involved, Golden Seal can be added as a useful general tonic and is specifically helpful to dry things up. If there is a lot of restlessness, then nervine relaxants like Chamomile and Skullcap can be included. These mixtures can be used not only in fevers where the cause is not clear, but also in diseases such as chicken pox, measles or scarlet fever.  This is because herbs do not simply stop the disease, they bring balance to an unbalanced system. Thus the same herbs  may suit a range of  people with a range of infectious diseases.

If the skin is itching, the irritation may be eased by sponging the body with diluted distilled Witch Hazel. In more intransigent viral infections such as glandular fever, a most beneficial mixture that can help even if the problem has turned into a low level, debilitating weakness  that might go on for months is as follows:

Echinacea - 2 parts
Poke Root - 2 parts
Wild Indigo - 2 parts
Wormwood - 2 parts
Myrrh - 1 part

Parts refers to the amount of herb mixture used per cup of water. 1 teaspoonful of the mixture per cup of water should be simmered for 10 minutes to make a decoction. Drink half a cup as hot as possible every 2 hours.

The mixture should be drunk 3 times a day. If you do not like its unpleasant taste, you can mask it with the use of Licorice.

In any infection, you should increase your intake of vitamin C to at least 2g daily. Vitamin B complex should be included and Garlic (preferably raw) should be added to the diet. Garlic is especially helpful when you feel the first signs of illness. You can take a clove and crush it into a spoon and swallow. This will usually fight off what is trying to take up residence. A diet of fruits, fruit juices and vegetables is important for nutrition. Sometimes fasting is advisable during an infection (but not if you have never fasted before). It is best to continue with the medication for a short while after recovery to make sure that the body is fully rebalanced.

Definitions:

Diaphoretics

Diaphoretics aid the skin in the elimination of toxins and promote perspiration.

Laxatives

Laxatives promote the evacuation of the bowels

Diuretics

Diuretics increase the secretion and elimination of urine.

Herbs

Boneset

Boneset is perhaps the best remedy for the relief of the associated symptoms that accompany influenza. It will speedily relieve the aches and pains as well as aid the body in dealing with any fever that is present. Boneset may also be used to help clear the upper respiratory tract of mucous congestion. Its mild aperient activity will help clear the body of any build up of waste and ease constipation.

Part Used:

Dried Aerial Parts

Collection:

Boneset should be collected as soon as the flowers open in late summer or early fall.

Yarrow

Yarrow is one of the best diaphoretic herbs and is a standard remedy for aiding the body to deal with fevers. It lowers blood pressure due to a dilation of the peripheral vessels. It stimulates the digestion and tones the blood vessels. As a urinary antiseptic it is indicated in infections such as cystitis. Used externally it will aid in the healing of wounds. It is considered to be a specific in thrombotic conditions associated with high blood pressure.

Part Used:

Aerial Parts

Collection:

The whole of the plant above ground should be gathered when in flower between early summer and early fall.

Echinacea

Echinacea is the prime remedy to help the body rid itself of microbial infections.It is effective against both bacterial and viral attacks. It may be used in conditions such as boils, septicemia and other infections of that sort. In conjunction with other herbs it may be used for any infection, anywhere in the body.  For example, in combination with Yarrow or Bearberry it will effectively stop cystitis. It is especially used for infections of the upper respiratory tract such as laryngitis, tonsillitis, and for catarrhal conditions of the nose and sinus. In general it may be used widely and safely. The tincture or decoction may be used as a mouthwash in the treatment of pyorrhea and gingivitis. As a lotion is helps septic sores and cuts.

Part Used:

Cone Flower, Roots

Collection:

The roots should be unearthed in the fall. It is suggested that the fresh extract is more effective than the dried root.

Poke Root

Poke Root has a wide range of uses and is a valuable addition to many holistic treatments. It may be seen primarily as a remedy for use in infections of the upper respiratory tract, removing catarrh and aiding the cleansing of the lymphatic glands. It may be used for catarrh, tonsillitis, laryngitis, swollen glands (adenitis), mumps, etc. It will be found of value in in lymphatic problems elsewhere in the body and especially where it is long standing. Care must be taken with this herb as in large doses it is powerfully emetic and purgative. Externally, as a lotion or ointment, it may be used to rid the skin of scabies and other pests.

Part Used:

Root

Collection:

The root should be unearthed in the late fall or spring. Clean it and split lengthwise before drying.

Wild Indigo

Wild Indigo is an herb to be considered wherever there is a focused infection. It is especially useful in the treatment of infections of the nose and sinus. Taken both internally and as a mouthwash  it will heal mouth ulcers, gingivitis, and help in the control of pyorrhea. Systematically, it may be helpful in the treatment of  enlarged and inflamed lymph glands (lymphadenitis) and also to reduce fevers. Externally an ointment will help infected ulcers and ease sore nipples. A douche of the decoction will help leucorrhea.

Part Used:

Root

Collection:

The root is unearthed in the fall after flowering has stopped. Clean the root and cut; dry well.

Wormwood

Traditionally, Wormwood has been used in a wide range of conditions, most of which have been vindicated by analysis of the herb. It is primarily used as a bitter and therefore has the effect stimulating and invigorating the whole of the digestive process. It may be used where there is indigestion, especially when due to a deficient quantity or quality of gastric juice. It is a powerful remedy in the treatment of worm infestations, especially roundworm and pinworm. It may also be used to help the body deal with fever and infections. Due to the general tonic action it will be of benefit in many diverse conditions  because it benefits the body in general.

Part Used:

Leaves or Flowering Tops

Collection:

The leaves and flowering tops are gathered at the end of the flowering period between mid summer and early fall.

Myrrh

Myrrh is an effective anti-microbial agent that has been shown to work in two complementary ways. Primarily it stimulates the production of white blood corpuscles (with their anti-pathogenic actions) and secondarily it has a direct anti-microbial effect. Myrrh finds specific use in the treatment of infections in the mouth as well as the catarrhal problems of pharyngitis and sinusitis. It may also help with laryngitis and respiratory complaints. Systematically it is of value in the treatment of boils as well as glandular fever and brucellosis. It is often used as part of the treatment of the common cold. Externally, it will be healing and antiseptic for wounds and abrasions.

Part Used:

Gum Resin

Collection:

The gum resin is collected from the bushes that secrete it in the arid regions of East Africa and Arabia.

This info and recipes from The Holistic Herbal by David Hoffman. One of my herbal bibles, it is a wonderful book and offers a huge variety of ways to keep yourself healthy with herbs.


The Common Cold - Causes and Food Therapy in Chinese Medicine

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

How many of us, with the coming of winter and colder weather, succumb to the common cold? Sore throat, stuffy nose, fever and chills are all symptoms that accompany a cold, and ones most of us have come to know so well.

In Chinese medicine, the common cold is seen to be caused by external pathogens invading the body. There are several kinds of external pathogenic factors leading to the common cold. The first is wind-cold, the second is wind-heat and the third is summer-heat and dampness. Remember, if your immune system is depressed or under stress then your defences are less able to fight off a cold or any pathogenic factors.

The common cold occurs at any time of year, but is most common in winter and spring. The incubation period for a cold is about one day. Symptoms usually begin around the nose and throat, with a stuffy nose, sore throat or sneezing, and sometimes there may be a slight fever. Here is how, in Chinese medicine, you can tell what kind of cold you have and below are some simple Chinese herbal recipes to help relieve symptoms and help you get over your cold more quickly.

 

Wind-Cold Common Cold

The symptoms of a wind-cold invasion are:

~ strong aversion to cold

~ slight fever without sweating

~ headache

~ stuffy nose

~ watery nasal discharge

~ cough

~ expectoration of thin, white sputum

~ thirst with a desire for hot drinks

~ pain in the limbs

 

Wind-Heat Common Cold

The symptoms of an invasion of wind-heat are:

~ high fever

~ slight aversion to wind

~ distending pain in the head

~ a little sweating

~ sore throat

~ stuffy nose

~ thick yellow nasal discharge

~ cough with sticky yellow phlegm

~ thirst with a strong desire to drink

 

Summer-Heat and Dampness Common Cold

The symptoms of a summer-heat with dampness type cold are:

~ fever

~slight aversion to wind

~ heavy and distending pain in the head

~ aching pain in the limbs

~ thirst but little or no desire to drink

~ chest oppression

~ loss of appetite

~ nausea

~ yellow or cloudy urine

Food Therapy Recipes for the Common Cold

Wind-Heat Common Cold Recipe

Peppermint Porridge (Congee)

Step 1

1. Take 30g (1 oz) of fresh peppermint, or 15g (1/2 oz) of dried peppermint.

2. Add 2 cups of boiling water to fresh or dried peppermint

3. Cover and allow to steep for 5 minutes

4. Strain and save the liquid to add to step 2

Step 2

5. Take 90g (3oz) round grain rice, 3 cups of water and 1 tsp of honey

6. Bring rice and water to a boil, then allow to simmer for 30 minutes

7. When the rice is cooked, add the peppermint tea and teaspoon of honey

8. Stir and allow to boil for 5 minutes

9. Divide porridge into 2 servings and take on in the morning and the other in the evening.

 

Wind-Cold Common Cold Recipe

Ginger Rice Soup

1. Take 10g (5 slices) of fresh ginger, 100g (3 1/2 oz) polished round grain rice or glutinous rice and 30g (2 pieces) green onion

2. Cook the fresh ginger and rice in 4 cups of water for 30 minutes

3. Then add the green onion and simmer for 30 minutes

4. Eat the entire amount while it is still hot

5. After eating, lie in bed under a thick blanket to sweat out the cold that has entered the body. (This soup enduces sweating!)

Summer-Heat and Dampness Common Cold Recipe

Porridge of Job's Tears Seed & Hyacinth Bean

1. Take 30g (1oz) Job's-tears seed, 30g (1oz) white hyacinth bean, 100g (3 1/2oz) round grain rice

2. Bring all ingredients to a boil in 4 cups of water

3. After bringing to a boil, reduce to a simmer and allow to cook for 40 minutes

4. Separate porridge into 2 servings, and take one in the morning and the other in the evening.

There are several things we can do to prevent catching a cold. Things like dressing warmly (so wind doesn't get in), getting enough sleep to keep your immune system strong, staying hydrated, eating well and exercising are all important to staying healthy in the winter months and all year round. But, with our busy lifestyles, if you do happen to come down with a cold, resting, and using Chinese food therapy is a good way to get over your cold as quickly as possible.


Why Acupuncture Works for Seniors

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac

For more than two years I worked at a pain clinic that happened to be attached to a long term care facility inhabited by elderly patients. Many of them were my patients, and although their treatments at the clinic were multidisciplinary (seeing many types of doctors and receiving different types of treatments depending on their issues), I found that acupuncture really worked wonders on the eldery patients from next door.

Older patients present some unique problems. Firstly, many of them are on a myriad of medications for a wide variety of conditions. I found that I really had to sit down with them and take the time in the initial consultation to document what medications they were on and then research and make sure that none of them could be reacting with each other and causing any of the problems they were coming to see me for. I was really amazed at how many medications my elderly patients were taking. Many of them weren't sure what they were for, and others had been on them for so long that they had forgotten why they had been given.

In Chinese medical theory, as a person ages, their vital energy, life force or "Jing" is seen to be in a gradual decline. This is healthy and a natural part of aging. However, we are only born with a finite amount, and the way we live our lives determines how it is used, wheather it is wisely, or not. This is illustrated by a person who has lived hard, done a lot of partying, drinking, drugs... they usually have a worn out appearance and often look older than they actually are. They have been depleting their Jing, and it is aging them prematurely.

The other thing that I noticed about the seniors that I treated, was what a huge difference taking some time to sit and speak with them made. Making a connection and showing that I was really listening to them made a huge difference in their treatment and ultimately, their prognosis. This may seem obvious, that a little kindness goes a long way, but often in the medical profession, and in particular with seniors, doctors don't have (or take) the time to really listen. Of course, they are the experts on disease and illness, but who knows their body better than the patient? Allowing a patient to relay to you their experience of what is happening, what is out of balance or causing them pain is an important aspect of the treatment and subsequent healing process.

Another thing that I noticed is that my senior patients were rarely touched. Touch is such an important part of our lives. Important physiologically for things like the nervous system, and emotionally for a feeling of connectedness, affection and purpose. I found that sometimes they would hold my hand while telling me how they were doing just to feel a connection to another person. So, I always tried to incorporate some massage into the treatment which they always loved. Because stagnation occurs often in the elderly, massage (and acupuncture of course) are very moving and stimulating to the body helping to move stagnation and keep things flowing freely.

Why Acupuncture is So Good for Seniors

Because of all these factors acupuncture works very well for seniors. You don't have to worry about drug interactions (which are especially dangerous in the elderly), and it can be applied in as gentle a fashion as needed depending on the patients requirements.

Because many seniors exhibit long standing deficiencies, they are not as sensitive and by the time a symptom is felt, it is often very serious (children are the opposite), and acupuncture is a powerful tool and able to be used on sensitive or very deficient patients. It's many modalities are also useful like dietary therapy (I found many seniors were not eating a balanced diet), emotional wellness (which I was attending to by speaking with them and allowing them to express what they were feeling), and the importance of exercise. Many did not get out or even do much moving around. As part of their treatment I always advised walking, even if it was around the halls, but going outside and getting some fresh air and being out in nature is always preferable. This is good for moving energy, getting the blood flowing and improving mood.

We had a physiotherapist in the clinic and we set up a program for her to go next door 3 times a week to do an exercise class with the seniors. It was so popular the class was always packed and the staff noticed a marked improvement in the overall health and mood of the residents.

Another common problem is depression. Often senior citizens are living in facilities like this because they are unwell, unable to take care of themselves, and have lost a spouse. These all take a toll on our psyche, so depression is common. Any of these on its own is a huge adjustment, but they often come together so it isn't hard to imagine that many people become depressed when these major life changes occur. Some withdraw and shut down, some become angry and frustrated at their situation, and some become sad and depressed. I found that the more connected to the world and other people, the better they did. If they had visitors, saw their friends and children, or went on outings, they were happier and more balanced and overall, healthier.

Thankfully, acupuncture and Chinese medicine have many ways to deal with depression. Like everything in TCM there are many types of, and reasons for depression to take up residence, but a thorough intake and accurate diagnosis can help the patient on their way to recovery. I saw many patients improve dramatically, and seeing their healing was perhaps the most rewarding of my career. My senior patients were some of the most interesting (the stories! They have seen so much of history!), most kind hearted and appreciative patients I have treated.

We live in a society that does not value its older citizens the way most cultures do. In many cultures around the world the oldest members of the family, village, or town are the most revered as they have something the younger people do not... wisdom. And wisdom is something that can only be gained by living, so the oldest among us are the wise. In our culture in the West we do not have the same reverence for our elderly, and they are often put into homes, abandoned and forgotten when they have so much to offer and to teach us. I learn so much from all my patients, but I think I have learned the most from my senior patients who have lived longer, seen more and experienced life to an extent that I have not, at least not yet... ;)


Natural Remedies for Varicose Veins

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac

Varicose veins are unsightly, sometimes painful, swollen, knotted veins, usually in the legs. They are the result of poor circulation and weakened elasticity in the walls of the veins (that carry blood back to the heart). There are many factors that can contribute to varicose veins, like heredity, standing for long periods, lack of exercise, being overweight, pregnancy and poor nutrition can all contribute to varicose veins.

Dietary Factors

One of the most important things to eat to improve varicose veins is to eat more fiber. When we strain or hold our breath when we pass stool it puts added pressure on the veins in the rectum which can lead to hemorrhoids (just vericose veins in your anus). If you want to have stools that flow freely, then more fiber in your diet is the way to do it.

Adding vitamin C, vitamin E and garlic to your diet to help combat varicose veins.

Another consideration is to always try to avoid processed foods. The biggest baddies (the 4 evils) are processed oil, sugar, flour and rice. Always seek out the healthy, unprocessed alternative to each. Cold pressed oils, eating fruits like blueberries (which will also add fiber and antioxidants) instead of sugary snacks, whole wheat, spelt and other whole grain flours, and brown or wild rice will improve your nutrition and add fiber to your diet.

Add Foods Containing Rutin to Your Diet

The best foods to combat varicose veins are ones that contain rutin. Rutin is part of a large family of riboflavanoids which have multiple effects on the body, the most important of which is to reduce the fragility and permeability of capillaries which reduces your risk of developing new varicose veins.

Rutin has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, vaso protective (protects the blood vessels) and anti-thrombotic (protects from blood clots) properties. Pretty awesome!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Natural Sources of Rutin

• Buckwheat

• Apple (especially the skin, so try to buy organic to avoid pesticides)

• Cherries

• Grapes

• Blackberries

• Apricot

To avoid or improve varicose veins, one should eat a diet high in fiber, vitamin E, vitamin C and rutin (a riboflavonoid found in buckwheat and the pith of citrus fruits). Also, use garlic as a supplement and/or use it in cooking.

Supplements

One of the best supplements you can take for varicose veins is horse chestnut. It has the specific action of strengthening the walls of blood vesels.

What Can I Do?

• Exercise gently

• Do not sit with legs crossed

• Avoid standing for long periods

• Rest with legs raised

• Sleep with legs slightly elevated

• Inverted yoga postures are beneficial

• Don't take hot baths

Beneficial Aromatherapy Oils

Cypress, geranium, rose, yarrow, Virginian cedarwood, clary sage, frankincense, myrrh

Notes

Cypress and rose are extremely helpful to tone blood vessels and reduce dilation

Massage Oil/Cream Recipe for Vericose Veins

Make up a massage oil or cream containing 7-10 drops each of geranium (or 5 drops of rose), yarrow and cypress oil in 2fl oz/50ml calendula oil or cream and rub gently into the area around or above the veins. DO NOT apply pressure directly to them or below them, and work up the legs towards the heart. Elevate your legs after the massage. Repeat this massage daily.

To Help Swelling

To help reduce swelling, apply local cold compresses soaked in witch hazel.

Improving the Circulatory System

Take warm (not hot) baths with 8-10 drops of a circulatory stimulant such as rosemary or juniper can help improve the condition of the circulatory system as a whole.

Leg Exercises for Varicose Veins

A list of beneficial leg exercises for varicose veins


Foods for Beautiful Skin

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac

The skin is the largest organ in the body. It protects us from harsh weather, keeps bacteria and infections out, and all the vital bits in. Having healthy skin is a barometer for the health of the entire body, so it is important that we keep it healthy and looking beautiful.

There are many foods that benefit the skin. Foods that build and maintain the immune system are good for the whole body and reflect in healthy, radiant skin. Eating seasonally and locally has a multidimensional effect on the body, and the earth. They have the added benefit of not having to travel very far, thus being fresh and by eating locally, we are supporting local farmers and businesses, and using less fossil fuels which helps us and the planet. Win/win!

skin

Our bodies require a change in diet when the season changes. Eating fresh, local foods gets a little harder as the cold weather approaches, but thankfully, we still have a lot of choice, and thanks to the infinite wisdom of mother nature, the foods that grow in the present season are exactly the ones our bodies need.

Staying on top of your skin, digestive health and cancer prevention can be done by adding these colourful foods to your diet.

Asparagus

is loaded with vitamins B, C, Potassium and K, making it a great vegetable for balancing blood pressure, cholesterol and reducing the water retention that occurs premenstrually. Chinese herbalists have used asparagus to treat cancer and infertility.

Avocados

are high in monounsaturated fat, potassium, and vitamin C, B and E. This fruit is very high in fiber making it a great food to help lower cholesterol.

Bananas

are low in calories and a medium banana has only 105 calories. They have lots of potassium and magnesium, which can lower blood pressure. They can be used to stop diarrhea by adding fiber to your body. The can also stop constipation.

Blueberries

have a high percentage of antioxidants, making them the best anti-cancer fruit around. Loaded with phytonutrients, blueberries have shown positive results in studies conducted on colon cancer and ovarian cancer. So eat them up to reduce your risks!

Broccoli

can also reduce the risk of cancer. More importantly, the fiber content of broccoli along with it’s anti-cancer phytonutrients, makes it a great preventative food for all types of digestive cancers.

Carrots

are rich in beta-carotene, a precursor to vitamin A, which happens to be an amazing vitamin for skin protection. Carrots are also sweet, so if you suffer from a sweet tooth, carrots can be the answer.

Watermelon

is not just your typical thirst quencher. Loaded with vitamin A, C, and lycopene, this fruit is a powerful antioxidant addition to your summer menu.

Tomatoes

pack a punch when it comes to their content of vitamin C and lycopene, and what is more interesting about these nutrients is that it appears that organic does matter. A USDA study shows that organic ketchup far surpasses the conventional varieties when it comes to the level of lycopene. Go organic!

Cucumbers

are primarily composed of water and contain high amounts of vitamin C and Caffeic acid, which are important for soothing skin irritations and preventing water retention, which may explain why cucumbers applied topically are often helpful for swollen eyes, burns and dermatitis.

The skin is rich in fiber and contains a variety of beneficial minerals including silica, potassium and magnesium. Want a radiant complexion? The silica in cucumber is an essential component of healthy connective tissue, which includes muscles, tendons, ligaments, cartilage, and bone. Cucumber juice is often recommended as a source of silica to improve the complexion and health of the skin, plus its high water content makes it naturally hydrating—a must for glowing skin. Cucumbers are also used topically for various types of skin problems, including swelling under the eyes and sunburn. So, without question, cucumber gets the vote for one of the best beauty foods you can eat!

Eat a mix of colours and keep your diet local to get the most out of your food and to protect your local environment.


Interview with Andrew Schlabach - Co-Founder & President of The Acupuncture Relief Project

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

Andrew Schlabach, who is co-founder and president of the Acupuncture Relief Project, kindly agreed to sit down and answer a few questions about his organization and all the good things they are doing with their clinic in Nepal.

For those who don’t know about your organization, could you tell us a little bit about it?

Acupuncture Relief Project (ARP), along with our local partners, operates a small primary care clinic in a rural village of Nepal. Founded in 2008, Acupuncture Relief Project provides healthcare practitioners of various disciplines an opportunity to gain valuable field experience while making a positive impact on the local community. Our efforts include the treatment of patients living with HIV and AIDs as well as people suffering from extreme poverty and social disenfranchisement. We are a completely volunteer-based project and rely on a grassroots approach to sustainability and community support.

Why did you choose Nepal? Did you have a personal connection to it, or did you think it would be the place that would most benefit from this type of clinic?

I had the privilege of working as a mountaineering instructor at the notorious Himalayan Mountain Institute in Darjeeling India and participated in several expeditions in Nepal, Tibet and Northern India. Through this experience I fell in love with Nepal and its people. Later when I trained as an acupuncturist I envisioned a program which would not only provide service to a community that had very little access to medical care but would also provide an opportunity for healthcare practitioners to experience the complexities and hardships of the developing world. Hopefully providing an experience which challenges practitioners to connect to a deeper understanding of their medicine and foster the growth of compassionate wisdom.

Were the local Nepalese people open and receptive to coming to the clinic to get acupuncture, or did it take some time for them to warm up to it?

We don't characterize ourselves as an "Acupuncture" clinic even though we are primarily staffed by acupuncture physicians. Mostly we are just a primary care clinic... a place where anyone can come to get medical care and advice. Like anywhere in the world, some people are very open-minded about acupuncture and some are very skeptical. Once we establish trust, it doesn't really matter whether we are using acupuncture or allopathic medicine, people know they can come in and we will do our best to help them. It is very difficult to describe to people in developed countries what it means to live without access to care. Many times our job is more about patient education, assessment and referral than it is about any particular treatment modality. Just the fact that we can assess whether a child's fever is manageable or an emergency provides the community with a priceless resource.

Acupuncture Relief Project

Did the locals have any prior knowledge of what acupuncture was?

Not really. We get asked many times a day "what kind of medicine is on the needle". We explain that there isn't any and that we are simply assisting their body in healing itself. That is probably a bit mystifying but then, after couple treatments, they start getting better. Then they bring their whole family.

You have a group of wonderful local interpreters who work with the practitioners. Is the language barrier still difficult?

Our interpreters are world class professionals and they continue to improve. Several of them have worked with us since the beginning. The difficulty for both us and the interpreters is the limitation of the language itself. There are three common languages in the area in which we operate. Nepali, Newari, and Tamang. Each language has it's own unique limitation. For example in Newari there is only one word for the torso which translates in English to "heart". A patient may come in complaining of "Heart Disease" which for us only narrows it down to the torso. They could be suffering from anything from indigestion to angina to hepatitis. They don't have specific words or an understanding of internal organs so our interpreters do the best they can and we rely on many non-verbal cues and diagnositics to direct our assessments.

What are some of the conditions that you treat most?

People in the village are mostly subsistence farmers and they work very hard throughout their lives. About 65% of patients that we see are coming in for chronic pain. Low back, neck and knees particularly. This is something acupuncture is quite good at addressing and we see very good results in getting people back to work so they can take care of their families. We also see a multitude of other conditions including digestive disorders, hypertension, diabetes, stroke, febrile stroke, uterine prolapse, asthma, tuberculosis and typhoid. We also sometimes deal with social issues like domestic violence and substance abuse.

Do you only use acupuncturists?

No. We primarily use acupuncturists because this treatment modality allows us to treat a large number of people for very little money or overhead. The clinic also hosts herbalists, Tibetan traditional practitioners, homeopaths and massage therapists. We have also had several allopathic and naturopathic physicians work with us. We try to provide as much care as possible and we find that we do very well without the overhead of a pharmaceutical dispensary. We do utilize a small stock of antibiotics and other drugs when we need to but we will try to get a patient to an appropriate facility a patient has a serious or emergency condition.

Acupuncture Relief Project

What were some of the things that surprised you about running the clinic in Nepal?

I think what continues to amaze me is how much impact a small clinic can have on so many people. Not only our patients who of course benefit from our care but also our interpreters who have meaningful jobs supporting their own communities. Additionally our volunteer practitioners continuously report to us the effects of their experience in Nepal. Many have shared how they have gained a new appreciation for patient care and that has carried forward into their own practices and communities.

About how many people do you treat a day?

The clinic sees about 80-120 people per day. We also conduct several outreach clinics in outlaying villages each week.

Do you have any idea how many patients you have treated since the clinic began?

Well over 100,000 patient visits.

Is the clinic operational full time, or only at certain times of the year when you can bring volunteers?

Yes. There are practitioners at the clinic year round, however the clinic runs at varied capacity depending on the availability of volunteers and other resources. Organizationally, we focus particularly on our training program which operated from September to March every year. During this time the clinic opperates is at it's maximum capacity. The availability of healthcare in the winter months is particularly critical to the village so we prioritize our efforts for this time of the year.

Acupuncture is very cost effective compared to Western medicine. How much does it cost to run the clinic?

Again, we characterize ourselves as a primary care clinic and not an "acupuncture" clinic. We utilize a variety of modalities (including Western medicine) and attempt to determine the "best" care for a particular patient. In many cases, acupuncture is the "best" care.  The total cost of operation including all of our herbal and western dispensary, we provide primary care year round for about $4.80 USD per patient visit. I don't wish to take anything away from other types of service projects but for sake of comparison, you can compare us to a visiting medical/dental camp which operates in Nepal for a few weeks each year which costs $24-30 USD per visit. I will say that the dental services that they provide are worth every penny to the communities they serve.

Acupuncture Relief Project

What is the most difficult thing about running the clinic?

I think with any service project there are constant stresses around resources. There is never enough money, time or volunteers to accomplish everything you might envision. Also, as a US based non-profit there are many logistical complexities of operating a clinic half way around the world. All of these are relatively minor in the grand scheme but they must be constantly addressed in order to insure our long term sustainability.

What would you like to see the Acupuncture Relief Project do in the future?

Training local practitioners is our ultimate goal and one that we are actively trying to solve. In 2011, we fully funded a scholarship for one student only to be setback as the only Oriental Medicine school in Nepal became defunct. We have now adopted an apprenticeship program for two students and we are also exploring the possibility of sponsoring a student to study in the US, Canada, Australia or China. Our major obstacle is a lack of legitimate accreditation and licensure in Nepal so obviously this issue will be on our list for awhile.

Acupuncture Relief Project

Here is some more information about Andrew from the Acupuncture Relief Project website...

Andrew Schlabach MAcOM EAMP

Andrew Schlabach is the co-founder and President of the Acupuncture Relief Project having received his Masters in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine from the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine in 2008. His master’s research project founded a Practice Based Research Network for Oriental medicine practitioners and researchers in Oregon and Southwest Washington in collaboration with the Helfgott Research Institute. Now practicing at Healthwerks - Acupuncture Wellness Clinic, Vancouver Washington he is the author and publisher of the Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine - Clinic Survival Guide. Mr. Schlabach also served as President and Creative Director of Split Diamond Media, Inc. of Portland Oregon for 15 years. Specializing in business-to-business advertising, Split Diamond Media pioneered digital publishing technologies and internet services for a variety of regional and national companies. Mr. Schlabach is also an accomplished mountaineer with expedition experience in the Himalayas, distinguishing himself as an instructor at the prestigious Himalayan Mountain Institute in Darjeeling India. Having travel extensively in central Asia, Mr. Schlabach has become a student of world theology, Tai Ji and yoga. As a veteran of the U.S. Army, he received an Army Commendation Medal for distinguished service to his unit.

To learn more about The Acupuncture Relief Project and the wonderful work they are doing, please visit their website at www.acupuncturereliefproject.org

And be sure to watch the 30 minute documentary, Compassion Connects about their clinic in Nepal. It is incredibly inspiring!


Debunking Acupuncture Myths - Part 2

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac

Myth: Anyone Can Practice Acupuncture and You Don’t Have to go to School to Study it

Truth: Not anyone can practice acupuncture, and you must go to school for many years to become a licensed practitioner.

I love this one. I cannot tell you how many times I have been asked if I had to do any schooling to become an acupuncturist. The answer is yes, did I ever.

The amount of education required to become an acupuncturist varies by country, state and province. On average an acupuncturist spends between 3-6 years in school full time studying both Chinese and Western medicine and must have many clinical hours before they graduate. The number of clinical hours at my school was 780.

This question actually used to hurt my feelings. But now I realize that many people simply don’t know much about acupuncture and what is involved in its study. An important thing to note is that acupuncturists and practitioners of Chinese medicine study both Chinese and Western medicine. We must understand Chinese concepts like qi, jing and shen, but must also have a solid command of anatomy, physiology, pathology and diagnosis. Acupuncturists do a large component on nutrition, and have to learn many modalities used in TCM like cupping, guasha, moxibustion, electro acupuncture and tui na. There are also classes on how to speak to patients, being empathetic, listening and observation. The human component of the patient is an important part of both diagnosis and treatment. Meditation, qi gong and ba gua (a martial art) were large components of my TCM education. We meditated before each class to clear our minds and help us focus, and before exams. Discussions between students and clinic supervisors to go over case studies were common while doing our clinical hours and there were many papers written during our course of study.

Licensing, like education varies depending on where you are. In most places, you must finish your education with an accredited school of TCM where you have completed all your courses, passed your exams and completed all your clinical hours. You are then issued a license, must purchase insurance and you are ready to practice. If you would like to know what type of education your acupuncturist has completed and how licensing works where you live, ask them. I am sure they would be happy to explain it to you.

Myth: Acupuncture Hurts

Truth: Acupuncture does not hurt.

This is probably the one I hear the most. Many people have a fear of needles and are afraid that acupuncture will be painful. Your experience with acupuncture depends largely on your acupuncturist. My experience with my acupuncturist was painless. There was never pain with the needles. I have since had acupuncture with many practitioners and it really depends. Some were very gentle, and some were not. Acupuncture does not have to be painful. I am very gentle. I do not like pain if it is not necessary.

I think there is a lot of fear associated with acupuncture because people simply don’t understand it. I hope writing this will help. Acupuncture needles are tiny, not the hollow point needles used to take blood or give injections. Acupuncture is not painful, quite the contrary, most people find it relaxing and rejuvenating. Of course the treatment depends on your practitioner, but as a rule, I would say that acupuncture doesn’t hurt or at least, it doesn’t have to.

Myth: Acupuncture only works if you believe it will (Acupuncture has only a placebo effect)

Truth: If you don’t believe acupuncture will work, the effect will probably be lessened.

This is an interesting one. In my last year of school I wrote my thesis on the mind and its connection to healing. I read many books on the subject and I found them extremely enlightening. I think that the mind is a large component in most things we do. I think if you go into anything believing that it will help you, then chances are much better that it will. The mind is a powerful tool, and there are many studies illustrating its healing effect.

My basic answer to this one is that one of the most important things in life (and an acupuncture treatment) is being OPEN. If you come in for an acupuncture treatment being open to the possibility that it may work, the prognosis will be much better than if you are convinced that it won’t. This is just common sense. This has been illustrated time and again in trials using placebos.

If someone came to see me and said that they absolutely didn’t think acupuncture worked, I would wonder what they were doing in my office. I would suggest that they find something they thought would work and to try that. There is no point trying to convince a closed mind.

*Note - something interesting that I discovered during my research on my thesis about the mind and its effect on healing, was that attitude and openness had a huge impact on peoples ability to recover from serious diseases. They did many studies which illustrated that people who were rigid and closed in their thinking tended to suffer more and die more quickly than people who were positive and open to different types of treatment. The second group lived longer, had better quality of life and if there was recovery or remission, the people were usually in this group.

Myth: You can get diseases from Acupuncture because of dirty needles

Truth: Modern acupuncturists use disposable needles, so no worry about disease transmission

This is a common myth. Modern acupuncturists use sterile, disposable needles. In ancient China, there were problems with hygiene, and needles were reused and diseases spread. There may be places in the world where health regulations are not up to the standards we are used to in the West, so my advice to you would be to ask.

Every place I have ever had acupuncture, the needles were disposable - one time use. That is the only kind I use. One of the exams that acupuncturists take is dedicated to clean needle technique. This covers all aspects of needling, including hygiene, hand washing, germ theory, sterilization, etc. It also covers everything that could happen when needling a patient.

When you fill out the initial intake form when you first go to see an acupuncturist, they will ask you questions like if you have a bleeding disorder (which affects treatment), or if you have any blood borne diseases like HIV. This is for the safety of the acupuncturist, so they can be aware to be especially careful when dealing with blood.

Myth: Acupuncture is for people who believe in witchcraft, voodoo and astrology

Truth: Maybe. And so what? I hear voodoo is pretty dope.

I sometimes hear that acupuncture has been lumped in with things like witchcraft, voodoo and astrology. People sometimes think that if you believe in acupuncture that you must not have a rational mind and are incapable of logic and reason. If you are an intelligent person, you would never subscribe to something like acupuncture, you would stand firmly on the side of science and medicines that can be quantified and qualified.

I would say to anyone with this thinking that they are just misinformed. I do not profess to know much about witchcraft, voodoo or astrology, but I do know a little about acupuncture. I can tell you that there are no goat entrails, dead chickens or astral charts used in my practice. Acupuncture is based on a long history of medicine in China and is still employed by a large part of the population there. Acupuncturists have an honest desire to help people get better. The TCM practitioner teaches how to live, not dependence on their treatments. The goal is wellness.

The truth is, we need both - Eastern and Western medicine. Western medicine has much to offer. Advances in diagnostics, testing and imaging have helped save many lives. It is my opinion that if the two could work together, there is no limit to what we could achieve and the lives that could be saved. Every modality has its strengths and weaknesses. You can’t use a wrench to fix every problem with your car, you need a full set of tools at your disposal. And the most important thing is choice. We are blessed to live in a world where we have choice. We are all lucky to have the ability to seek out whatever type of treatment we want, depending on our ailment and our beliefs. Opinions are one thing, but trying to take choice away from people is something else altogether. I sincerely hope that through education, and an openness to information, more and more people will learn about the benefits of this wonderful medicine, so that for those of us who believe, will always have the choice to use it.

I will leave you with a quote...

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.  ~ Aristotle

Acupuncture Research Studies

Studies on Acupuncture and Chinese medicine, listed by category - Acupuncture.com

http://www.acupuncture.com/research/

Acupuncture studies - Science Daily

http://www.sciencedaily.com/search/?keyword=acupuncture+research
List of acupuncture studies - National Centre for Complementary and Alternative Medicine
http://search2.google.cit.nih.gov/search?q=acupuncture+research&site=NCCAM&client=NCCAM_frontend&proxystylesheet=
NCCAM_frontend&output=xml_no_dtd&filter=0&getfields=*&proxyreload=1&x=0&y=0

Articles about Acupuncture in the military

http://www.ukiahclinic.com/blog/doctors-specialists-use-acupuncture-to-treat-vetrans/
http://www.statesman.com/news/local/military-tries-acupuncture-to-treat-troops-for-ptsd-757786.html
http://hprc-online.org/blog/acupuncture-in-military-medicine-is-a-growing-phenomenon#.UDU3-GhShXc
http://www.news-medical.net/news/20120105/Special-issue-explores-military-applications-of-acupuncture.aspx


Grief. A Chinese Medicine Perspective

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

I have been dealing with a lot of grief lately. This is usually the way it goes. A patient comes in who is suffering with loss. Perhaps it is the breakup of a relationship, the loss of a pet or the death of a loved one. There is nothing more devastating to us than loss. It hurts the heart, and leaves us with an emptiness that is difficult to fill. It is something that everyone on the planet will have to deal with many times in their lives, so I thought that I would talk about some of the ways that it can be made a little easier, less painful, and with minimal suffering in the context of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

I find that I tend to treat conditions in waves. It is common for a patient to seek out treatment for say, anxiety, and then you find that for the next little while, there is a constant stream of anxious patients coming to see you. You can speculate as to what the reasons for this are, and I suspect that might be the subject of another article, but for now lets just say that in my experience, this is how it happens. And lately many patients have been suffering with grief. Overwhelmingly.

Who doesn’t have to deal with grief at some time or another? Grief is a natural, healthy emotion and is an important part of being human. Unpleasant as it may be to feel, it is important that we feel it, make our peace with it, and let it go. I am not talking about letting go of the memory of the pet, the person you are no longer with, or the loved one who has passed away. Those are memories you will have forever. It is the grief itself that must be expressed so that it can be let go. This is healthy.

So, how do we measure grief? How do we know what we are experiencing is not “normal” and that we may need help in letting it go? It is true that you cannot listen to grief with a stethoscope, or measure it with a blood test. How it is experienced is highly individualistic. The severity of the grief is not reflected in how it is seen from the outside, it is measured by how it is felt by the individual, or experienced from the inside. The breakup of a relationship may to one person be sad but manageable, but to another may cause the fabric of their life to unravel. The loss of a pet to one person may be unpleasant, and devastating to another. The severity of the loss is measured in how it is FELT, not by some external metric, comparing situations with levels of grief.

Chinese medicine is concerned with grief that is repressed, unexpressed, (unable to be expressed), expressed without control or in the proper context. Emotions are only considered pathological when they are particularly intense, felt for prolonged periods, unacknowledged or unexpressed.

eye

So how do we express grief in a healthy way? This is what I would like to share with you. And to do so, we will have to look briefly at the way Chinese medicine sees the body, the emotions and their connection to our health.

The Chinese Approach To Health - A Holistic System

Chinese medicine has a holistic view of the body. Everything is seen to exist within the continuous circle of nature. When the elements of nature are in balance, life is in harmony, and flourishes. Humanity cannot be separated from nature, we are nature, manifest as people. Living in harmony with the world around us is the way to maintain health. If one were to live out of balance with nature, illness would develop.

Another vital aspect of the TCM model is the psychological aspect of our beings. What we feel has a huge impact on our physical bodies, thus, emotional wellness is an important aspect of our health. In the West I believe this connection is just recently being acknowledged and accepted, but the Chinese have known this for thousands of years. How could it not be a factor? Our bodies are the way we physically experience the world, but only one aspect of how we experience our existence. In TCM, every aspect on every level is important, and all must be considered when evaluating a person’s overall health.

Grief - The Emotion of the Lung

The Function of Lungs

Let us look at the lung, the relationship it has to specific mental states, diseases and our ability to maintain health.
Every organ in TCM is associated with an emotion. For example:
Liver = Anger
Spleen = Worry or Over thinking
Heart = Joy
Kidneys = Fear
Lungs = Sadness or Grief

The lungs are responsible for taking clean, oxygen rich air into the body, and breathing out air full of harmful carbon dioxide. They are responsible for taking in the new and letting go of the old, the constant cycle of life.

Every Organ in TCM has a partner organ. One is yin, the other yang and they work together to keep the body in balance. The lungs are yin and their yang partner is the large intestine. The lungs take in the new, and the large intestine releases the waste. Many breathing and bowel disorders are rooted in excess grief and sadness and excessive grieving can lead to disorders of both the lungs and the large intestine. Therefore, our abilities to accept and be open to new experiences, and to let go of things that are painful or harmful is important to both our emotional and physical well being.

Overview of the Lungs in Chinese Medicine

In traditional Chinese medicine, every organ has a series of things associated with it. These are the clues to dealing with the organ when it is out of balance, either in excess or deficient. For example - when the lung is weak, eating pungent foods is beneficial. The best time to tonify the lung is in the autumn when its energy is at its peak, and the emotion of sadness affects the lungs more than any other organ.

Related Organs (Yin-Yang Partner): Large Intestine
Emotion - Grief / Sadness
Season - Fall / Autumn
Flavour - Pungent
Colour - White
Healing Sound - sssssssssss

In Chinese medicine, we don’t use words like “disease” or “illness”. These are Western terms. In TCM, we say the body is suffering from an Imbalance, or a disharmony. In TCM, the emotions can be either the cause, or the result of the imbalance. For example - asthma can be caused by prolonged sadness (the emotion of the lung), conversely, a person suffering from chronic asthma over many years may develop grief (the cause of the grief is the asthma). It is a circle of interaction.

From a seasonal perspective, autumn is the season of the lungs, so this is the season where it is most important to take care of this delicate organ so that we can avoid colds, flus and allergies. From an emotional standpoint It is the season where we should become a little more introspective and concentrate on resolving or at least coming to terms with any underlying emotional issues and letting them go. This will allow us to make new space to bring positive emotions into our hearts and lives. Walks in nature, and breathing in the crisp, dry air will help immensely in this process.

The energy of the lungs is the lung "qi" (pronounced chee). Qi is best translated to “energy”. Lung qi is the energy by which the lung functions take place. If these aspects are functioning properly, then your lung qi is strong. The lungs have many functions in TCM. Here is what the lungs are responsible for...

breathe

Qi and Respiration

The lungs are the organ that take qi from the world and breathe it into the body. The lungs govern qi. Qi is the energy that is needed for all the body’s processes. It is like the gasoline that a car needs to function and go. The stronger the lungs, the more qi they are able to take in and distribute to the rest of the body, necessary for all its vital functions. The weaker the lungs, the less qi there will be, and an imbalance is created.

Skin, Body Hair & Sweat

The condition of the skin and body hair is a direct reflection of the strength of lung qi. This includes the sweat glands which are part of our ability to remove toxins and waste materials from our bodies, as well as protect us from the outside from things like pathogenic factors. The skin, body hair and sweat glands can be loosely translated as a part of our immune system. If your lung qi is weak, you are susceptible to colds and flus. If these colds and flus are not resolved quickly they get deep into the body and can turn into bronchitis and pneumonia. The lungs are particularly susceptible as they are one of the few organs that have a direct connection to the outside of the body.

Dominates Descending

The lungs are the boss of qi. They are located in the upper region of the body and are therefore responsible for making sure the qi descends into the lower part of the body and gets everywhere it needs to go. A chronic cough illustrates this function as a cough in TCM is energy ascending rather than descending due to weakness of the lungs energy.

Opens into the Nose

As anyone with allergies can tell you, we need our noses for breathing. The energy, or qi of the lungs is needed for proper respiratory and olfactory function in the nose. When the lungs are strong, we will breathe easily and our sense of smell will be sharp. When lungs are deficient, we will be congested, have a runny nose and our sense of smell will be impaired.

The Emotional Aspect of the Lungs

The lungs are associated with clear thinking and communication, openness to new ideas, positive self image, and the ability to relax, let go and be happy. When the lungs are out of balance or you are dealing with excessive grief, you will have difficulty coping with loss and change, a sense of alienation, and experience a prolonged sense of sadness that does not dissipate. The lungs are also associated with attachment, so if you have a hard time letting go of people, objects, experiences or spend a lot of time reliving the past, this can point to a deficiency of the lungs. If the energy (or qi) of the lungs is weak, you may experience an overwhelming, constant state of grief that does not ease. This deficiency, if prolonged, can lead to depression and other issues.

In contrast, grief that is expressed fully and resolved is strengthening both physically and psychologically. Therefore it is not avoiding grief, but rather dealing with it in a healthy way that is the key to being happy and maintaining balance in all aspects of life.

What Can I Do To Help With My Grief?

There are many things that you can do to help you through a difficult period of grief. One of the most important is to acknowledge how you are feeling. It is common for people to avoid feeling emotions that are overwhelming and/or unpleasant, but it is only in acknowledging our feelings that we may begin to deal with them and move on. Secondly, don’t judge. One of the most harmful things that we can do is to judge our own feelings. This is often worse than the emotion we are judging.

Here is an example:
I am feeling frustrated because I have been plagued by headaches lately. The pain makes working difficult and it is hard to concentrate or get anything done. When I think about my anger I instantly feel ashamed because my best friend is in the hospital dying of cancer. How can I be irritated by headaches when she is suffering so much more than I am?

You see, anger is the emotion and shame is the judgement. There is nothing wrong with being frustrated by having headaches. That is normal. But judging that emotion is not healthy and only makes you feel worse. It is also entirely self imposed. I mention this because I have seen this so much in practice. I find that people are very hard on themselves, as there is a constant comparison to what other people are dealing with. So, my advice to you is this. Feel what you are feeling. Don’t judge it. It is good and valid. Try to step outside of it. Observe it, and let it pass. And be kind to yourself. I think we could all use a little more self love too.

Below are some exercises specific to grief, some beneficial foods for the Lungs, and other recommendations to help deal with grief in a healthy way, and let it go so we can move onto better things.

breathing

Breathing Exercises - Releasing Grief

Because grief is associated with the lungs, the way to release it most effectively is through deep breathing exercises. By deep I mean by breathing into the diaphragm and filling the lungs to capacity. Deep breathing is practiced in meditation, yoga, tai chi, qi gong and many of the internal arts. Even more powerful is breathing with visualization which helps to cleanse, detoxify and release grief from the body. Below are some breathing exercises for releasing grief.

Breathing Exercise 1- Deep Breathing

Breathe in through your nose, and think of breathing in all the way to your belly, taking is as much air as possible. Once the lungs are completely full, hold the lungs full for a count of five. Once you have counted to five, exhale through your mouth from the very bottom of your Lungs until they are completely empty. Do this three times. This exercise should be done three times daily.

Breathing Exercise 2 - Healing Sounds

Find a comfortable place to sit with both feet flat on the ground. Place your hands in your lap, left over right. Mentally locate your lungs in your chest, and connect to them. The more clearly you are connected to them, the better and quicker the results.

Practice the breathing technique from above, filling your lungs (through your nose) to capacity. Do this a few times and really connect your awareness to your physical lungs in your chest. As you exhale, tilt your head back with teeth loosely clenched, tongue pressed gently to the roof of your mouth.

Exhale while making an ssssssssssssss sound. It is like the ‘s’ in snake. Repeat at least three times. Do as many times as you wish, but always in multiples of three. You are breathing out the toxicity and negative energy in your lungs. You are literally breathing out the grief and sadness.

The more you do this exercise, the more grief you release and the better you will feel.

love

Breathing Exercise 3 - Love and Light Technique

This technique uses two things along with deep breathing. Love and light. The colour associated with the lungs is white, so we will envision white light.

If your grief is the loss of a person, or animal, imagine a happy time or funny situation you shared with them. This will cause you to smile and feel love. We will use this energy to heal the lungs. Use this technique after doing the healing sounds exercise.

Using the same breathing technique as the healing sounds, take this love energy after a deep breath (through the nose) and hold the breath while directing the love energy down into the lungs. Exhale through the mouth. Send the love energy down into the lungs as many times as possible, at least three times. Sense the love energy in your lungs.

Use the same breathing technique but now, when holding your breath, picture white light flooding your lungs and filling them to capacity. This is white, healing light. Exhale through the mouth. Repeat at least three times and repeat as many times as possible in multiples of three. Sense the white light healing your lungs.

noodle bowl

Beneficial Foods

Below is a list of foods that are beneficial for the lungs. Since these foods strengthen the lungs, eating them will give the lungs the energy they need to help you to move through your grief more quickly.
The flavour of the lung is pungent, so foods that are the most nourishing to the lungs are considered pungent in TCM.

~ Garlic
~ Sweet potato
~ Ginger
~ Onion
~ Cabbage
~ Pears
~ Walnuts
~ Black pepper
~ Radish
~ Rice
~ Chili
~ Cinnamon
~ Cardamom
~ Leek
~ Miso
~ Navy Beans
~ Soy Beans
~ Almonds
~ Asparagus
~ Broccoli
~ Cucumber
~ Celery
~ Mustard Greens
~ Apricot
~ Banana
~ Eggs

acutx

Get an Acupuncture Treatment

Once grief has taken up residence in your body and psyche it is doing damage that is important to have undone. Experiencing prolonged grief has a negative effect on every part of your being. The acupuncturist will help you to rebalance. When you are speaking with your acupuncturist, be honest. Tell them how you are feeling. That you have experienced a loss and are feeling sad is just as relevant to them as having diarrhea or a yeast infection. Acupuncture works to rebalance the body, but is also immensely helpful for moving emotional blockages, and opening things up so they can be released.

I have treated grief many times. I have many protocols for moving it out of the body. There is often crying. Sometimes people cry and can’t stop. Frequently they are alarmed by their own outburst, but I know why they are crying, it is because the grief is moving, and they are finally letting it go. I am prepared with tissues and a kind heart.

In the privacy and safety of an acupuncturist's office, people manage to let go of what has been festering for weeks, months and sometimes years. And that is wonderful. I include this because I think that many people don’t know about both the scope of acupuncture and what it can treat, and the importance of the emotions in the TCM medical model. If you have emotional issues that you are having difficulty dealing with, I urge you to try these exercises and foods, and if they are not enough, to seek out an acupuncturist and work with them to deal with the issues once and for all.

massage

Massage

Massage is a very good way to move any stagnant or “stuck” grief in the body. Massages, like acupuncture are very moving. If you have ever had a massage and been surprised by knots in your muscles that you didn’t know you had, you will understand how emotions affect the physical construct of our bodies.
Unpleasant emotions cause our bodies to constrict and stiffen up. That is why when people are sad, depressed and angry, their bodies often ache and they have a tendency to headaches, and other problems. These are the body’s way of communicating to you that there is something wrong. Massages of all sorts are wonderful for releasing tension, alleviating pain and moving grief and sadness.

Like acupuncture, it is not uncommon for someone to cry when they are having a massage. But, that is good, that means that the pain, grief and sorrow is being released and moving out of the body. A massage along with the breathing techniques listed above, walks in nature (while breathing in the fresh, new air), and adding some beneficial lung foods to your diet will have a huge impact on your ability to deal with your grief.

Self Massage

Another thing that you can do to help with grief is to massage along the lung meridian, which is located on the arms. When a patient comes in suffering with grief, I always include this in the treatment to help move it. The lung meridian is located bilaterally (on both sides of the body), begins under the clavicle, and descends down the arms, terminating at the corner of the nail on the thumb. I have included an image so you can more easily visualize it. Massaging the arms along the lung meridian is helpful, and they will often be sore if you are grieving. You can massage your arms, or have someone do it for you. Remember if you are using long, sweeping motions, always massage towards the heart.

In summary, I hope this gives you a better understanding of grief and how it is viewed in TCM. One of the reasons I wanted to write about it is because grief is so common and something I see so much in my practice. It is something we all experience, and Chinese medicine offers us many ways in which to deal with it in a healthy way. Our emotional lives are just as important as our physical ones, so staying balanced in all aspects is important to our overall health and wellbeing.

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .

If you suspect you are having problems with grief or your lungs and would like an expert opinion, Emma Suttie D.Ac, AP offers skype consultations. Please email us at info@chinesemedicineliving.com for more info.

 

 Grief. A Chinese Medicine Perspective 


Acupuncture and Addiction

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac

Acupuncture has been successfully used to treat addictions for many years in the West. It has been used in hospitals in conjunction with standard Western treatments, like methadone for heroin addictions, and many addiction clinics operate using acupuncture to combat the symptoms and root causes of addiction.
The ancient healing art of Chinese medicine has been used to treat illness and disease for thousands of years, but it is only relatively recently that it has been used in the West to specifically combat the effects of addiction. Acupuncture has been proven effective for treating many types of addictions, from cocaine and heroin, to nicotine and even overeating.

A Tale Of Success

There is excellent clinical evidence that acupuncture is effective in treating addictions. The first acupuncture detoxification clinic in the United States, called The Lincoln Clinic, opened in 1974 in the South Bronx borough of New York. At first, heroin addicts were being treated with a combination of acupuncture and methadone. The acupuncture treatments proved so successful however, that methadone was dropped from the program. According to Dr. Michael Smith, the clinic’s director, the success rate using acupuncture is substantially higher than with other, more conventional programs.

Here is some information about The Lincoln Clinic, taken from an article about Acupuncture and Addiction:

The Lincoln Clinic

The Lincoln Clinic in New York City is the premiere detoxification center utilizing acupuncture in the U.S. Its director, Dr. Michael Smith, says the need for effective substance abuse treatment in the clinic's neighborhood is evident:

The South Bronx is a racially marginalized, high poverty, high unemployment, high crime, high infant mortality, low literacy neighborhood devastated by several decades of substance abuse.
When the doctors at the Lincoln Clinic read in 1974 that a neurosurgeon in Hong Kong, Dr. H.L. Wen, had noticed a reduction in the withdrawal symptoms of opiate-addicted patients to whom he had been giving acupuncture treatments, they decided to experiment with the procedure at what had been until then a methadone clinic. Over the years they developed a protocol that they have taught to more than 500 clinicians in 150 different programs.

The Lincoln Clinic protocol relies on four major tools in helping serious addicts recover: acupuncture detoxification, urine testing, individual counseling, and participation in 12-step group-based therapy. Smith argues that the advantages of integrating acupuncture into more traditional treatment programs are overwhelming. The primary value of acupuncture, however, is that its immediate effect is often a cessation of withdrawal symptoms, encouraging patients to come again for treatment in the future.

Smith cites a few remarkable statistics to support the effectiveness of the Lincoln Clinic method. Among pregnant women with a history of abusing crack cocaine, those who receive acupuncture have higher birth weight babies than those who do not receive the treatment. Mothers with more than 10 visits have babies with an average weight of 6lbs. 10oz, while those with less than 10 visits have babies weighing an average of 4lbs. 8oz.

A seven-day inpatient drug treatment program in Delaware using the Lincoln Clinic method reported a decline in rates of recidivism from 87% to 18% one year after the date of admission.

Dr. Smith attributes this effectiveness to a number of factors. One of acupuncture's greatest strengths, he argues, is that it forges a bond between doctor and patient even before verbal communication is established: "acupuncture will be just as effective even when the patient lies to us." Unlike verbal counseling, during which the patient may be in denial or feel angry or intimidated, acupuncture's immediate effects are not dependent on the cooperation of the patient.

As stated previously, acupuncture's primary effect is to stimulate relaxation. "In addition to reducing withdrawal symptoms acupuncture provides a strong calming effect on substance abusers and substantially reduces drug craving. Clients describe the effects of acupuncture as allowing them to feel relaxed yet alert," according to Dr. Smith. That feeling of relaxation is the essential benefit of the acupuncture protocol. Unlike methadone treatment, acupuncture affects the patient's state of mind during withdrawal, not the body's need for a drug.

Addicts enrolled in the program reported a marked reduction in cravings for drugs, feeling more relaxed and less anxious, relief from symptoms of withdrawal and improved sleep. The success of The Lincoln Clinic and its results have inspired the opening of publicly funded acupuncture detoxification programs across the country and abroad.

addiction

How and Why it Works

Auricular - Acupuncture of the Ear

Addiction treatments with acupuncture are done with acupuncture points (specific anatomical locations) in the ear. There is an entire branch of Chinese medicine dedicated to treating the body and its disorders using only the ear. Acupuncture practiced specifically on the ear is called auricular acupuncture. An important discovery occurred in 1955 by a French doctor - Dr. Paul Nogier, who, by testing electrical activity on the surface of the skin found that every traditional acupuncture point had a corresponding point on the human ear. Through his discovery, auricular acupuncture was created. Auricular has been the most effective treatment for addictions, and has the advantages of not requiring privacy (no need to remove clothing so points can be applied), and thus, the ability to treat many patients in the same room at the same time. Many standard auricular addiction protocols have been developed, and their ease of use makes them easy to teach to both physicians and acupuncturists.

Western Medicine

In Western medical terms, the positive effect of acupuncture for treating addiction can be attributed to the fact that research has shown acupuncture to raise endorphin levels in the nervous system. Endorphins are the body’s natural painkillers and are similar in structure and function to opiates (heroin) which also have a strong analgesic effect. Research suggests that combating the strong withdrawal symptoms for people suffering from addictions to drugs is to raise endorphin levels in the nervous system. The desire to eat is also mediated by endorphin levels, which would also explain why acupuncture has a beneficial effect on people trying to lose weight by helping to control their appetites.

Traditional Chinese Medicine

Chinese medicine has its own way of explaining why it is so effective in treating addictions. Chinese medicine is a holistic system where every part of the body works synergistically. It is a unified system. The concept of yin and yang is at the core of Chinese medical theory. Yin and yang are two opposing forces, and when a person is in good health, yin and yang are seen to be in relative balance. Yang is the “fire” aspect, and yin is the “water”. Yang is substance, yin is function. Yang consumes and yin nourishes. Addicts are very often deficient in yin. Physiologically, an excess of yang causes hyperactivity, restlessness and an excess of frenetic energy, behaviours which push an addict to constantly seek out drugs. Psychologically, excess yang causes anxiety, agitation and anger.

These yang attributes are dominant because there is not enough yin (or water) in the body, to balance, or tame the yang (or fire). An abundance of fire (yang) drives the addict to use, which exacerbates fire and depletes yin (water). Narcotics also are considered yang, which continues the cycle. Addicts feel anxious and restless, seeking out drugs to make them feel “better”, which in turn introduces more yang into the body, further depleting the yin they desperately need to rebalance the system. A vicious cycle.

The treatment involves nourishing yin by doing acupuncture points in the ear. There are several protocols, but usually 1-5 points are needled in each ear and retained from 30-45 minutes. The patient can be lying down or seated, and most patients find the treatment is very relaxing and calming to the mind and body, adding to a sense of well being which is so often absent for the anxious patient suffering with addiction. As an adjunct, and especially helpful in treating addiction, ear seeds are used in between treatments. These are tiny metal balls, or natural seeds (vaccaria seeds are most often used) applied to the acupuncture points of the ear with stickers, and patients are told to press on them to stimulate the points in between treatments to help with cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Points on the ear for treating addiction include the lung, kidneys and liver, the major organs of elimination that aid in removing toxins from the body, imperative in treating addiction.

The frequency of treatment for addiction depends on the substance. People addicted to “hard drugs” are advised to have treatment daily until they are clean and then a couple of times a week thereafter until they feel able to manage cravings on their own and are not tempted to use. Alcoholics also receive daily treatments in the initial stages of treatment, and it tapers off as their symptoms decrease. Interestingly, alcoholics receiving acupuncture rarely suffer from seizures during the withdrawal period.

Nicotine addictions are in a different category as nicotine is seen as a milder drug. It does not produce the dramatic physical effects “hard drugs” do, but is more prevalent and may be seen as more insidious. Treatments are usually not needed daily and smokers usually notice a drastic decrease in cravings for nicotine after the second or third treatment. Duration of treatment is dramatically less for smokers, and the average length of treatment is 2-3 weeks. After 4 or 5 treatments spread out over a 2-3 week period, 7 out of 10 patients have kicked the habit. Others will have drastically cut down on the number of cigarettes smoked daily. Ear seeds will be applied to the ears with instructions for patients to apply pressure to them often which will help with cravings and withdrawal symptoms in between treatments.

The Desire to Quit

The desire to quit cannot be overstated. As with most things, change cannot happen without first the acknowledgement of the problem, and the desire to make that change. Acupuncture, or any other treatment cannot be effective without the participation and desire of the patient. Treatment is always a joint effort, and the patient's desire is paramount for a favourable outcome.

For treatment of something as complex as addiction, acupuncture cannot exist in isolation. Addiction is not solely a physiological issue, it has deep psychological implications which must be addressed for recovery to be achieved. Acupuncture in conjunction other modalities such as therapy which addresses the psychological aspect as well as a strong support system are important parts of a complete treatment program. The relapse rate for addicts is high, so it is important that these treatments exist not only during the treatment itself, but remain afterwards to support the recovering addict on the long and often difficult road to recovery.

*Footnotes
“The Lincoln Clinic”
http://www.ndsn.org/sept95/guest.html


Love Your Spleen.

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

Helpful tips - How to Keep Your Spleen Strong According to TCM.

One of the most common things I see in my practice is problems with digestion. Interestingly, this isn’t usually the reason that people come to see me, but when I am going through the medical history, it usually comes up. The sad thing is that most people live with digestive problems when in TCM they are relatively easy to fix with a little treatment ,nutritional counseling and some tips on how to help support and strengthen our digestions.

Now, a lot of people think of the spleen as in the western medicine spleen, part of the immune system and responsible for the production of white blood cells (lymphocytes) and removal of old red blood cells. It is not the same as it is in TCM. The spleen in Chinese medicine is paired with the Stomach, and both are the main organs of digestion for the body. The difference is that they not only digest food, but also stimulus and information - everything that comes into the body through our sense organs.

What you learn your first year in Acupuncture school when learning TCM theory, is that we live in a Spleen deficient culture. We are constantly taking in information, and that information has to be processed by, you guessed it, the Spleen. We eat in front of the TV (taking in food, and stimulus at the same time), we are constantly looking at our mobile devices on the road and wherever we go, and we are always multitasking. Never doing just one thing at a time. And thus, we are overloading our poor Spleens.

So, what can we do? There are lots of things that, once you are aware of them, can help take the burden off your Spleen.

Don’t Put Ice In Your Drinks. Avoid Cold Foods.

The Spleen hates cold, so one easy way to help your Spleen is to avoid ice in your drinks. Because the Spleen is responsible for breaking down your food through the process of digestion, and this is powered by heat. Eating and drinking cold foods such as icy drinks, eating ice cream (a TCM nono!), or eating a lot of frozen or very cold foods (many foods in raw form are considered “cold”) taxes the Spleens energy, as it has to heat up again to be able to do the work necessary for digestion.

Be Mindful.

This is not just good advice for helping your Spleen, but a good life philosophy. One of the best things you can do for your Spleen is to do one thing at a time and be absolutely mindful when you do it. This means when you are eating, JUST EAT. Don’t sit in front of the TV, read, study or catch up on work. In such a fast paced world where everyone is short on time, it is understandable that people are always doing many things at once, but this small thing will not only help your Spleen, it will relax your mind and body as well.

Chew Your Food.

We can all help our Spleens by making sure that we really chew our food well. We tend to all be in such a hurry that we do not chew our food nearly as well as we should. Chewing will help the breakdown of the foods before they get to the stomach, making the Spleens job a little easier.

Eat Soups.

Since most of us have at least some Spleen deficiency, one of the best things you can do to be kind to your Spleen is to eat soups. These are warming (the longer and slower they are cooked, the more warming they become) and they are very easy to digest which is why they are prescribed to you when you are sick - your body requires less energy to digest them, focussing its energies to fighting pathogens and getting you well. Soups do not take a lot of energy to digest, saving the Spleens energy for other things. There are many foods that are beneficial to the Spleen which I will list later in the article. I will also list foods that the Spleen is not so fond of so you can at least be aware of what they are and avoid them when you can.

Take A Break.

Because we live in a culture that is so bombarded by stimulus, most people have deficient Spleens. The Spleen must take in and process ALL that information, including the food we eat and liquids we drink, so you can imagine, it is a very hard working organ. Something that you can do to give your Spleen a break, is to literally, take a break. Go for a walk outside. Leave your phone at home. Sit somewhere quiet and meditate away from the TV, the phone and try to avoid interruptions. Doing this even once a day for a few minutes will really help the Spleen and you will notice a big difference in how you feel. You will notice that you are calmer, more aware and feel more at peace. And your Spleen will love you.

The Spleens Functions in TCM

The Spleen is responsible for many functions, so that if you have symptoms in any of these areas, they point to a disharmony of the Spleen.

The Spleen Controls Blood

The Spleen is responsible for manufacturing the Blood and the Spleen Qi keeps it in the vessels. If Spleen Qi is weak, a person will bruise easily, and/or will have problems with bleeding.

The Spleen Controls The Muscles And The Four Limbs

The Spleen is responsible for circulating nutrients to the muscles and tissues. If the Spleen is weak, then the muscles and limbs are not nourished and become weak and tired.

The Spleen Is Responsible For Transformation & Transportation

The Spleen is responsible for the intake, processing and distribution of nutrients extracted from food and drink. The Spleen takes these nutrients and creates Qi and Blood, both vital substances for all the body’s functions and maintaining proper health. If transformation and transportation is functioning properly, the Qi is strong, digestion is smooth and the body is kept moist. When malfunctioning, the Qi is weak (lassitude and lethargy), the appetite is poor, digestion is sluggish and the stools are loose and watery.

The Spleen Opens Into The Mouth & Manifests In The Lips

Chewing is necessary for the functioning of the Spleen and if the Spleen is deficient, the sense of taste may be dulled. Red, moist and vibrant lips indicate a healthy Spleen. If the Spleen is deficient however, the lips will be pale from lack of nourishment.

Controls The Upright Qi

The Spleen is responsible for the body’s “holding” function. This is called the upright Qi. It is specifically the force that counteracts gravity when it comes to holding things, specifically the organs, in place. This is very important! Without healthy upright Qi, all of our organs would be at the bottom of our abdomen! When the Spleen is weak, we see prolapse of organs (uterus, bladder, stomach), prolapse of the vagina as well as things like hemorrhoids (prolapse of the anus, PLUS bleeding also attributed to the Spleen).

Houses Thought

Every organ in TCM is seen to have its own unique Spirit, and the Spirit of the Spleen is called the Yi. The Spleen is directly related to our capacity for thinking. How well we manage our thoughts, concentrate, exercise discernment and form intentions is dependent on the strength of the Spleen.

Worry - The Emotion of the Spleen

All organs in TCM also are associated with an emotion, and the emotion of the Spleen is worry. This works in two ways. Excessive worry will damage the Spleen Qi, and a deficient Spleen can weaken the mind and our capacity to think clearly and focus, leaving us susceptible to worry.

Foods Beneficial For The Spleen

  • Organic lightly cooked vegetables, corn, celery, watercress, turnip, pumpkin, alfalfa sprouts, button mushrooms, radish, caper
  • Brown rice, barley, amaranth, rye, oats
  • Legumes, kidney beans, adzuki beans, lentils
  • Small amount of lean organic meat, poultry and fish, tuna
  • Small amount of whole fruits, lemon
  • Sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds
  • Seaweed, kelp
  • Green tea, jasmine tea, raspberry leaf tea, chai tea
  • Raspberry, peach, strawberry, cherry
  • Walnut, chestnuts, pine nuts, pistachios
  • Lamb, venison
  • Lobster, mussels, prawns, shrimp, trout
  • Black pepper, cinnamon bark, clove, dill, fennel, garlic, ginger, peppermint, rosemary, sage, turmeric, thyme, horseradish, cayenne, nutmeg

Foods That Hurt The Spleen

  • Dairy
  • Wheat
  • Cold drinks
  • Fruit juice
  • Processed foods
  • Refined flour, pastry, pasta, breads
  • Cold raw foods
  • Refined sugar and sugar substitutes
  • Coffee, alcohol
  • Deep fried foods
  • Peanuts and peanut butter
  • Bananas, avocado

When the Spleen is functioning well a person will feel energetic, their digestion will be smooth, their bowel movements will be regular and firm (not soft), thoughts will be clear and one will be able to concentrate.

When the Spleen is imbalanced there will be symptoms of digestive upset, loose stools, poor appetite, low energy, edema (water retention), nausea, vomiting, weakness in the four limbs, pale lips, organ prolapse, bruising and a feeling of cold.

Because most of us have some level of Spleen deficiency, we can all help our Spleens by being aware of simple things we can all do to take some of the pressure off this important organ. Your Spleen will love you for it.

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .

Would you like to learn more about the Spleen in Chinese Medicine? Check out these downloadable info sheets available on www.learnchinesemedicine.com -

The Spleen - Theory in Chinese Medicine

The Spleen - Nutrition in Chinese Medicine

The Spleen - Dampness in Chinese Medicine

The Spleen - Patterns in Chinese Medicine

The Spleen Associations in Chinese Medicine - Poster

Love Your Spleen. : Chinese Medicine Living