Not Even The Chinese Doctor Can Save Him! The History of Chinese Medicine in Cuba

by John Voigt

The History of Chinese Medicine in Cuba

Throughout Cuba there is a common slang expression people use when someone is thought to be incurably sick: ¡A Ese No lo Salva, Ni el Medico Chino!  - Not Even The Chinese Doctor Can Save Him!

Not many know the origins of this phrase, or the man behind it. But that phrase and that man helped lay the foundation for an alternative healthcare revolution within a revolutionary country. In China he was born Chang Pon Piang. Having trouble pronouncing it,  Cubans called him Cham Bom Biam. Then to give himself a Spanish sounding name he called himself Juan Chambombián. We begin with a summary of the adventures of his life:

His Early History

Chang Pon Piang was born as one of the Hakka people, an ethnic group found in the Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Macau areas of southeastern China.  In the mid-nineteenth century these areas, along with most the rest of China, were in chaos: the last of the Opium Wars with Great Britain still raged; technological changes to the farming system put many out of work; there was a dramatic increase in the size of population. All that along with widespread political discontentment, natural disasters, banditry, and ethnic strife led many young people to look for work overseas.

Chang grew fascinated with the advertisements he saw that promised a better life by working in Cuba.  All that was needed was to sign an eight year contract. (Only men could sign. Chinese women were not allowed to enter Cuba.)

What was not mentioned on the posters was that this was no more than a scheme to trap unsuspecting young men into an eight year long indentured servitude at the pay of four pesos a month. Once in Cuba the émigré was usually sent to large sugar plantations and once there was treated like a indentured slave, (or “coolie” - 苦力; pinyin: kǔlì) meaning "bitter work" or "bitter use of force.”

The situation was so severe that in 1873 the imperial Chinese government sent investigators to Cuba to investigate the large number of suicides by Chinese laborers, as well as allegations of abuse and breach of contract by plantation owners. Shortly after, the Chinese labor trade was prohibited and the last ship carrying Chinese laborers reached Cuba in 1874. By 1877 a treaty was signed between China and Spain completely banning the contracting system. [Source]

In 1854 Chang Pon Piang entered Cuba with a contract for agricultural work in the province of Guamacaro, in the western province of Matanzas. Chang as many other Chinese of the time was familiar with herbal medicines. He had a working knowledge of the healing properties of certain herbs, roots, bark, leaves, grasses, fruits, even shells. Legend has it that as a field worker he was able to prepare medicines made from the roots of shrubs and tubers that saved many lives.

In 1858, four years before the contract was supposed to be over, somehow he escaped his servitude and began practicing medicine in Havana. His knowledge of botanical medicine served him well for the preparation of herbal teas, poultices, ointments, powders, soaps, and healing incenses.

He also knew about arsenic, mercury, and opium. This knowledge may have lead to his eventual downfall.

He grew successful in Havana; not only Chinese, but now Spanish, Afro-Cubans and people of mixed blood came to him for help. Other doctors began losing patients and because of that, along with a jealousy  triggered by Chambombián’s successes, they began a series of law suits against him. In 1863 Juan Chambombián was accused of the illegal practice of medicine. It was claimed that he was  practicing medicine without a license (which was probably true), and that he had just received a consignment of medicinal drugs from Chinese suppliers in San Francisco, California. To his accusers the techniques of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) seemed bizarre, no more than unbelievable occult garbage. (“Imagine making medicine out of weeds, such utter nonsense.”) But what really made it unacceptable for the other doctors is that these “bogus” methods all too often worked better than their own!

in 1864 he was placed on trial. The judge and jury agreed with the doctors and Juan Chambombián was found guilty.  He lost his home and was forced to stay with Chinese friends. He soon he relocated fifty-six miles away to Matanzas and undaunted again began practicing Chinese Traditional Medicine (TCM).  There he lived on 11 Calle Mercaderes (11 Merchants Street) in the Chinese district of that city. Again the allegations of practicing illegal medicine were raised; to his enemies he was no more than a charlatan, a mountebank, an unscrupulous foreigner cheating other people. With new court trials pending against him—and because of his having few patients—in either 1871 or 1872 (accounts differ) he moved to  Cárdenas, which had a large Chinese population. There he continued to develop his own medicines. He is said to have used rhubarb, aconite, sulfur, arsenic, and opium— along with folk medicines native to Cuba, and especially to its Afro-Cuban population—in his extensive collections of healing formulations along with the TCM medications he still continued to import from San Francisco.  He also worked at and operated a Chinese pharmacy, which gave him a way to make money and to find more patients for his private practice.

It was said he had a number of miraculous cures of clients said to be terminally ill by western doctors: those who had been blind could now see: those with paralyzed arms or legs could now move them. His fame began to spread throughout Cuba. Most likely it was during this time that the expression, Not Even The Chinese Doctor Can Save Him!—(meaning that a person was in such bad shape that not even a miracle worker such as Juan Chambombián could help them)—appeared.

To promote his own medical and business activities he would travel back and forth the ninety-seven miles between the cities of Cárdenas, Matanzas and Havana. In a Matanzas newspaper the following appeared:

CHAMBOMBIAN, this old Chinese doctor, authorized as a botanist by the government, sent a card to a newspaper of Matanzas in which he announced that he had invented a medicine to cure fevers and a patch to treat rheumatism. He also announced that he would next visit Matanzas, a city where he was well known and to whose inhabitants he offered his services, from his home at Calle Dragones 94 in Havana.

A month later in the same newspaper the following appeared (one should not be surprised if the enterprising Juan Chambombián had written both of these notices himself and paid for their publication):

Your enlightened mind and gifts exalt

your knowledge and appliance,

intelligence, and science,

to win applause from the world of thought;

a monument to you well wrought

where your historic fame will rest,

where memories will be the best

the living spirit to preserve;

itself enriched it will observe

with the laurels of your glorious quest.

Signed: Some friends.

Dr. Juan Chambombián was described as a tall statuesque man, with a solemn, if at times, bombastic bearing. He had small penetrating eyes, a slightly drooping mustache and a small skimpy goatee at the end of a long sloping chin. He spoke Spanish and some English with a quirky Chinese accent in a formal but artificial literary style. He dressed professionally in the manner of a western doctor: jacket, top-hat and loose fitting linen frock coat, which he often carried formally draped over his arm.  But he never forgot his humble past: when people came to him for medical treatments he would say, “If you have the money you pay. If you have no money you do not pay. I am no more than one simple man giving medicine to someone else.”

His Death: Was He Murdered?

One morning in 1872 (the exact date is unknown) Juan Chambombián was found dead in his home, in Cardenas.  He lived alone. He had seemed perfectly healthy the day before, and no cause of death could be determined.

Rumors began to spread. Given the lack of any physical trauma to his body it seemed likely that he had been poisoned—but by whom? There were many possibilities:  perhaps an irate local doctor infuriated that Juan Chambombián had taken away his clientele. Or perhaps by the relatives of a patient whom he was not able to save with his herbal medicines. It was possible that the death was accidental, that he was trying one of his newly prepared experimental medicines and it proved deadly. Or perhaps seeking longevity he prepared and drank some exotic version of a Daoist elixir of immortality—but the recipes for such elixirs might contain toxic substances such as lead, arsenic, and mercury, all chemicals which he owned. Or possibly he as many other Chinese in Cardenas became depressed and committed suicide.

And there had been whispered stories of a love affair gone wrong. He had children by eight different concubines. (No one knew the total number of lovers he had throughout his life. There are no extant records of his ever having married. At that time it was illegal for any Chinese person to marry a Caucasian; and back in China having many concubines was a common custom for rich men.)  One popular story had it that he was secretly murdered by one of his jilted mulatto concubines by her use of some secret African poison. Rumor also had it that it was she was the same person who had taught him the use of certain medicinal herbs. Others said she had brought about his death by the use of a Santeria curse. (Santeria is a cult like religion, a fusion of Yoruba [Nigerian] gods and goddess with holy figures taken from the Catholic Church.)

Santeria Central Havana / Author Bernardo Capellini / Source - Wikipedia Commons

A recent source  says that he is buried in the Chinese Cemetery in the Nuevo Vedado section of Havana (at Calle 26 & Zapata, Calle 26), and that the grave site is often covered with flowers or other offerings left by people hoping to be cured of some incurable disease.

It is no surprise that such a flamboyant and exceptional person as Dr. Juan Chambombián—along with the TCM that he practiced—would have its critics,  especially among the privileged upper classes. For example, sixteen years after his death he was mentioned in the lowest of terms as being a faith healer (which he was not) in a speech at the meeting in Havana of the Anthropological Society on March 4, 1888:

Even today among the most civilized nations abound in the lower classes of people, healers who exploit the innate good faith in men to cure diseases with a mixture of empirical remedies, and religious or mystical formulas that are a real medicine imagination; such as examples the treatment of erysipelas [an acute bacterial infection of the skin] saying prayers and making crosses on the diseased part, the various cures of Lourdes, trumpeted in all shades, and among us, not long ago, the supposed wonders of Chinese famous Chambombián.

Source: Revista Cubana: periódico mensual de ciencias, filosofía ... Volumen 7.

 

NOT EVEN THE CHINESE DOCTOR CAN SAVE HIM!  Began to be used to refer to other famous Chinese physicians of the 19th Century, although none ever would gain the legendary status of Juan Chambombián.  

Kan Shi Kom lived in at the corner of Rayo and San Jose streets in Havana. He died in 1885. According to historian Antonio Chuffat Latour the great pomp of his funeral made history in the city.

However not all stories about Chinese doctors are favorable.  According to one such fanciful tale, an unnamed doctor (some say it was Kan Shi Kom, others that it was Juan Chambombián—actually it is unclear who the doctor was or even if the story is true). In any case, the doctor is said to have made a decoction using the stems of the tronquillos verdes plant, which people called “chopsticks” because of its appearance.  He taught the preparation to a colleague, a Spanish doctor who soon after made some, drank it and died.  In the story, the inscription on the tomb of the unfortunate dead man read, "Here lies, against his will, Pancho Perez Vitaluga:  Good husband, good father, bad drinker. Died by helping the Chinese doctor." When the Chinese doctor, whoever it was, heard about the death, he was nonplused. Without showing any concern for the other man and just being concerned about his own medication all he said was, “Carumba! It seems that stick is poisonous.”  (¡Calamba, palece que ese palito son veneno! ).  And so was born another popular Cuban slang expression. [Source]

Chang Bu Bian - Don Damián Morales.  Some say this man was the Chinese doctor referred to in the saying “Not Even the Chinese Doctor Can Save Him!”  Beginning August 20th 1856 a series of Apocalyptic earthquakes accompanied by torrential rain storms struck Santiago de Cuba. To the inhabitants it seemed as if the world was ending. Many others from all over the island came to help, but unknowingly they brought with them cholera.  Throughout October the disease quickly spread. November brought new earthquakes and storms and even more occurrences of the disease. (By the end of the epidemic 2,000 people had died.) City Health employees refused to move the corpses to the cemetery. Sometimes the bodies of the victims remained for days crushed under the bricks of fallen buildings. Prisoners had to be brought from Havana to remove the rubble and bury the bodies in mass graves.

Near the peak of the epidemic, and seemingly in answer to the prayers of those still alive,  there appeared an apparent miracle worker: an Asian man claiming to be a doctor; but he didn’t give out any pills or powders, he only used a strange kind of massage never seen before. In fact what he was practicing was his version of tuina (massage) techniques he learned from a classic Chinese text of the sixteenth century, the  T'uei na pi-kieu, or Treaty of Massage.   

His massage was tortuously painful. With his index finger and thumb of his left hand he pressed certain tender points and tendons in the armpits of the patient and forcibly vibrated the flesh. At the same time with his right hand he pulled the skin over the larynx (Adam’s apple) producing a hematoma (a solid swelling of clotted blood within the tissues). He then would vigorously rub the patient’s shoulder blades and spine with his arms, elbows and knees. The patients suffered, but many of them were healed. [Source: “Cuban Characters.” thecubanhistory.com]

Chinese Siam - Juan de Dios Siam Zaldívar. Coming from Beijing in 1840 he originally was known by the names “Sián” or “El Siam”, or “Chinese Siam.” Unlike most other Chinese immigrants, he entered Cuba with 20,000 Spanish gold pesos. Using his version of TCM he brought about many cures, which not surprisingly frightened certain inhabitants of Santa María del Puerto del Príncipe, the city in which he lived. Rumors spread that he was some sort of a black magic wizard in league with strange demonic forces. But all that changed when during a religious procession, El Siam unexpectedly knelt before a statue of the Virgin of Veracruz; after which he was considered a Christian.  He made it official by being baptized on April 25, 1850, taking on the name Juan de Dios Siam Zaldívar—but remaining true to ancient customs, he signed his new name with a Chinese calligraphy brush. He had two families, one with his wife, a white woman, and another with a black mistress. Today descendants of both branches are proud of their famous ancestor. Possessing a great fortune, he died in 1885.

[Source]

These legends about the outstanding Chinese doctors of the nineteenth century helped create a foundation for the widespread use of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) in 21st century Cuba. This is addressed in my next article, Traditional Chinese Medicine in Today’s Cuban Health Care.

This entry originally appeared as part of “Traditional Chinese Medicine in Cuba” in Qi Journal, vol. 26/3; autumn 2016. 

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Images

Juan Chambombián in Chinese clothing.
Source: https://www.artsy.net/show/taikang-space-portrait-hot-taikang-photography-collection

Juan Chambombián as a young man of about 20 years old soon after his arrival in Havana in 1854.
The photography was damaged in a hurricane.
Source: http://hojassdeprensa.blogspot.com/2011/09/cham-bom-bia-el-famoso-medico-chino-de.html

Juan Chambombián in his western doctor suit.
October 20, 2010 Opus Habana Magazine.

Santeria Centro Habana / Author Bernardo Capellini
Source: Wikipedia Commons

Author John Voigt in Havana at a paladar (a small private restaurant in a family home) mulling over
the cause of the death of Dr. Juan Chambombián.
Source: Author.

Chinese cemetery in Havana where Juan Chambombián is buried.
Source: Tripadvisor.  

 



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


Cancer & Chinese Medicine - Part 3

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

The Treatment of Cancer with Chinese Medicine

Because of the way that Chinese medicine looks at health and the human body, the treatments for any disease in Chinese medicine are varied and complex. In Chinese medicine, a practitioner is not treating cancer, they are treating YOUR cancer. And they are not in effect treating the cancer, they are treating you. In essence, Chinese medicine works to treat the person, not the disease. And although this might sound like a nice tagline, it is the way Chinese medicine works, and why it is so effective.

When a patient comes in with a diagnosis from a Western doctor of cancer, the first thing we do, is to look at what is happening in the body and what is causing the cancer. We do not just treat the cancer, because if you treat the cancer without fully understanding why it has occurred in the first place, then even if you do manage to get rid of the cancer, the factors that created it are still present and the cancer will return. This is the reason why looking at absolutely everything about a persons health, be it physical, emotional and especially their lifestyle is integral to successfully treating any disease in Chinese medicine. The cancer is the symptom, so we must, as practitioners, find the root.

There are literally an infinite amount of factors that contribute to diseases, especially one as complex as cancer, so the search for the cause or, more likely, causes is not an easy task. Many factors are things I wrote about previously in this article - nutrition, toxins, unresolved or unexpressed emotions, the quality of our water, stress, the list goes on. This vast ocean of potential causes is the reason why the practitioner of TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) does such a thorough intake and asks many questions at each session, trying to collect as much information as possible. Something I always tell my patients when we are talking is that they should tell me everything, no matter how silly or seemingly irrelevant it may seem, because in my experience, everything is significant and is another piece of the puzzle that I am trying to create for each patient to get to the bottom of their present condition.

As a side note, this is why many times patients will ask why, if they have come in for sleep problems, would I be asking about their digestion or emotional state? I tell them it is all connected and we do not draw distinctions in a holistic model of medicine. It is not the reductionist model of allopathic or Western medicine that likes to reduce the body into parts, focussing on each if it breaks down. In a holistic system, every part functions synergistically with all the others, they cannot function in isolation. Every part affects every other part. This is the reason that we need a picture of the whole to determine what is going on, and why it works so well, because treatments are tailored to the individual. Cancer can arise from a myriad of reasons, so we need to understand why the cancer has manifested, correct those imbalances and the body will readjust to a healthy balance and the cancer should disappear. Chinese medicine believes in the body's powerful and innate healing abilities, so when we are diagnosing we must ask ourselves: "what it is that is blocking the healing process? Why is the healing not being allowed to occur?" Chinese medicine also believes that if the body has everything it needs, then health and certainly healing will be the result. Disease is just the body's way of telling us that something is missing, and needs attention. This is why listening to your body is also so important for your health. Your body will always tell you when things are not right. At the beginning when the imbalance is only minor, it may only be a whisper, which gradually moves to a full blown yell by the time we get to a very severe imbalance which is what we see in cases like cancer. Learning to listen to the subtle communications of your body is such a good way to be able to correct things before they become more serious and practice what Chinese medicine is all about - preventative medicine.

Self Love and Loving Kindness

One of the biggest things that practicing Chinese medicine has taught me has not been about medicine at all. It has been about the pain and the immense struggles that human beings go through in life, and often, on a daily basis. The things that I have heard from my patients over the years about what they have been through have been humbling to say the least. As I am a highly sensitive person who can strongly feel what others are feeling simply by being in the room with them, this information, at least at first, was very difficult to process. Hearing stories of such pain and suffering took a toll emotionally and I quickly had to learn to manage those feelings so that I would not be consumed by them (because they could also make me sick!). This also taught me something very valuable. That I could never, ever judge someone from what they were projecting on the outside, because I realized that I had no idea what was going on in their life and what struggles they were facing. It gave me enormous empathy for people, especially ones who were rude or otherwise unpleasant to be around. It also made me realize why people get sick as I began to see a correlation with these struggles and pain, and the kinds of illnesses that people develop. Many people are suffering alone because they feel they have to. Many people have no outlet for such problems or simply do not want to burden others. I think this is what we desperately need from each other. We need each others kindness, love and understanding. We need to really listen to each other and not just wait for our turn to speak.

The other part of this is that I think we need to be kinder to ourselves. To look at any TV reality show or movie you would think this was insane. From what we see in the media, it seems that we are a hedonistic bunch, very capable of looking after ourselves, and only ourselves, and that is certainly the culture we are living in these days. It feeds this kind of narcissism. But, in my experience, overwhelmingly, people are working hard, sleeping less, and struggling more. It seems to be getting harder, certainly in the last generation or two, to get ahead and be able to live a simple life and provide for our families. Gone are the days when someone could have the same job working at the same company for their entire lives or that a married couple could survive, and even thrive on the salary of one working person. Children now leave school saddled with so much debt that they cannot afford to leave home, and things like social security are something my generation and the ones after will never see. It is these things, these stresses in our lives that contribute to disease. We must all have hope. We must all believe that we can achieve our dreams and make a life for ourselves if we are smart and work towards that goal.

Self love is a hard thing for a lot of people, and it is something I talk to a lot of my patients about. We are all energetic beings, and when we are so stressed and exhausted by modern life, it is difficult to find the time to take proper care of ourselves. And this is so important for our health. Having the intention of being kind to ourselves, eating well, spending time with our friends and people we love, doing things that feed us energetically and make us happy are just as important to health as herbs and acupuncture. And this goes back to listening. If you have had a particularly stressful day at work, or have had a particularly negative interaction with a stranger on the way home, recognize how it is making you feel and take the time to cleanse that energy and feed yourself to build yourself up again. Take a walk in the park and breathe deeply the cool, clean air. Have a hot bath and read that book that you have been meaning to start for weeks. Make yourself something delicious and eat it mindfully, really savouring it. These are the things that recharge batteries and let your body and psyche know that you love it and are taking care of it. In the cases of cancer that I have treated and indeed in so many of the illnesses that I treat, there is a definite connection to this loss of self love and care. Think of these personal acts of kindness as medicine of prevention. It is your health insurance policy, a way to make sure you never get sick.

In conclusion, when it comes to a disease as complex as cancer, there are many factors at play both in its development and treatment. In a holistic system like Chinese medicine, it is not the cancer that is important, it is determining why the cancer has manifested and making corrections necessary so that the cancer is both able to resolve itself, as well as not be recreated in the future. In contrast, in a Western model of medicine, giving chemotherapy or radiation without any investigation to the causes, the factors at play in the persons life, no nutritional counseling, no inquiry to the persons emotional life might lead to a temporary remission of the present cancer, but it will no doubt return as the circumstances that created it are still present. This is not to say that Western medicine does not have its benefits, not at all. I only say that the approach to healing is different, and in my opinion, by not looking at the system as a whole, there is so much that is missing. Treating cancer, like any other disease is a delicate balance of searching for the reasons that it has manifested, dealing with them thoroughly especially any emotional ones, rebalancing the system and giving the body, mind and spirit everything it needs to thrive allowing us to regain our health so we can be healthy, happy human beings.


Cancer and Chinese Medicine - Part 2

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

Nutrition - The Biggest Weapon Against Cancer

It is always amazing to me that patients receiving conventional treatments for cancer (chemotherapy and radiation) are given little to no information about what to eat. I know because I always ask if there was any nutritional counseling that went with the other therapies and more often than not, the answer is no. This shows an alarming lack of understanding about how important what we eat is to our health, and especially in the case of cancer.

I think that the correlation between what we eat and our overall health is understood by many industries, and certainly by many informed people, but the cancer industry (and I say that because it has turned into an industry), seems to be decades behind. Now, without getting into why that might be (which would be a whole other article), let's just say that there is a tonne of evidence to suggest that our food can both give us cancer and help keep us healthy so that we never get cancer. Food is also a powerful weapon in detoxing the body and healing from a cancer that already exists.

Foods to Avoid

Sugar

In my opinion, the number one thing to know concerning diet and cancer is to stop eating sugar. Completely. It is literally the food that cancer eats. The tests that Western medicine uses to find and diagnose cancer in the body, called PET (Positron Emission Tomography) and CT (Computed Tomography) scans, actually inject glucose - a type of sugar - and watch the cancer gravitate to it because sugar is what cancer eats. Eliminating sugar from your diet is the most important thing to do if you are either struggling with cancer, or having health issues in general. Sugar is a poison to the body, and most people in the developed world eat far too much of it. Now, let me be clear, I am talking about refined sugar which is in a huge amount of our foods, especially processed foods. There are naturally occurring sugars in things like fruits, and although we need some of these, it is a good idea to cut back when you are trying to heal from cancer. Refined foods of all types should be avoided whenever possible, and refined sugar is the worst of all.

Chemicals

We also have seen an unprecedented increase in the number of chemicals used in our foods, many of which are untested on human beings and cause harm to not only us, but pollute the earth we live on, the water we drink and the air we breathe. Our food becomes more and more processed all the time with the addition of these dangerous chemicals, and our bodies are not designed to deal with them. There are also the dizzying amounts of chemicals in other products that we use in our homes, like makeup and personal care products, soaps and detergents, cleaning products, gardening products, etc.. not to mention toxic chemicals that are the byproducts of industries which are released into our soil, water and air.

It is a good idea BEFORE you get sick to have a look at how many of these chemicals you have in your home and are coming into contact with on a daily basis so that you can eliminate any that are not absolutely necessary. I would always recommend eating fresh, local, organic food (more about that below), using completely natural beauty and personal care products free of toxic ingredients, make sure the water you are drinking is as clean as possible and limit any environmental toxins that you can. All these toxins combine to place a huge burden on our immune systems which we need to be at full strength to keep us disease free.

Eat Real Food

Because of the philosophy of living as harmoniously with nature as possible, this obviously bleeds into the foods we consume as well. I believe that many of our current health problems as a society are due to the UN-natural nature of the foods that we eat. Small farms are disappearing and being replaced by large-scale factory farms, our soil is depleted of essential vitamins and nutrients, and men in hazmat suits spray toxic herbicides and fungicides on the foods we are supposed to confidently feed our families. It is becoming increasingly difficult to even understand food labels, and corporations spend billions of dollars to keep what is actually IN our foods off the labels, which is certainly a worrying trend and not designed to make us feel confident about what is being put into our food.

My solution is to keep it simple. Eat as few processed foods as possible (this means anything in a box or can that has been altered from its natural state), eat as many fresh, local and organic foods as possible. Keep your diet mostly plant-based, especially if you have cancer. If possible, grow as much of your food as you can in a backyard or front yard garden. Vertical gardens are awesome for this! If you have limited space or live in an apartment, make friends with a local farmer, or frequent a farmers market. Also, take time to lovingly prepare meals for you and your family. Energetically, this is important too. Be mindful and thankful to the food you are eating for sharing its life force with you. Being grateful is also a powerful tool and beneficial to your health and the way you feel.

Acid & Alkaline Foods

Disease thrives in an acidic environment and cancer is no exception. As a culture, we eat a disproportionate amount of acidic foods (as you will probably see the list below) and precious few alkaline ones. Use the information below as a guide and a good way to begin is to slowly start replacing acidic foods with alkaline ones. It may seem hard at first (because who doesn't love a burger every once in a while?), but you will soon notice how much better you will feel, as that you will no longer have the cravings for the fatty, sugary foods that are so acid forming once they have been out of your system for a while. I promise you will definitely feel a difference!

Acidic Foods

**Note - there are different ways to measure the acidity and alkalinity of foods, but this one - from Energise for Life - makes the distinction of measuring a foods acidity and alkalinity AFTER it has been ingested - therefore, how it is affecting your body. If you would like to have a copy of a good few charts detailing acid and alkaline foods, you can find them here - Energise For Life.

Below is a list of acidic foods. If dealing with cancer, cut out as many of these as possible (I would recommend ALL) and introduce alkaline foods as an alternative. Remember, cancer thrives in an acidic environment.

Acidic Foods

Look yummy? *sigh*, I know. But these foods are highly acidic. Try eating some cucumber instead!

MEAT

  • Bacon
  • Beef
  • Clams
  • Corned Beef
  • Eggs
  • Lamb
  • Lobster
  • Mussels
  • Organ Meats
  • Venison
  • Fish
  • Oyster
  • Pork
  • Rabbit
  • Sausage
  • Scallops
  • Shellfish
  • Shrimp
  • Tuna
  • Turkey
  • Veal

DAIRY & EGGS

  • Butter
  • Cheese
  • Milk
  • Whey
  • Yogurt
  • Nuts & Seeds!
  • Cashews
  • Peanuts
  • Pecans
  • Pistachios
  • Walnuts
  • Brazil Nuts
  • Chestnuts
  • Hazelnuts
  • Macadamia Nuts
  • Oils!
  • Cooked Oil
  • Solid Oil (Margarine)
  • Oil Exposed to Heat,
  • Light or Air
  • Cottage Cheese
  • Ice Cream
  • Sour Cream
  • Soy Cheese
  • Eggs

FRUIT

  • Apple
  • Apricot
  • Currants
  • Dates
  • Grapes
  • Mango
  • Peach
  • Pear
  • Prunes
  • Raisins
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries
  • Tropical Fruits
  • Berries
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cranberries
  • Currants
  • Honeydew Melon
  • Orange
  • Pineapple
  • Plum

NUTS & SEEDS

  • Cashews
  • Peanuts
  • Pecans
  • Pistachios
  • Walnuts
  • Brazil Nuts
  • Chestnuts
  • Hazelnuts
  • Macadamia Nuts

DRINKS

  • Alcohol
  • Black Tea
  • Coffee
  • Carbonated Water
  • Pasteurized Juice
  • Cocoa
  • Energy Drinks
  • Sports Drinks
  • Colas
  • Tap Water
  • Milk
  • Green Tea
  • Decaffeinated Drinks
  • Flavoured Water

SWEETENERS

  • Artificial Sweeteners
  • Carob
  • Corn Syrup
  • Fructose
  • Processed Sugar
  • Saccharine
  • Sucrose
  • Sucralose
  • Honey
  • Maple Syrup

OILS

  • Cooked Oil
  • Solid Oil (Margarine)
  • Oil Exposed to Heat,
  • Light or Air

SAUCES

  • Mayonnaise
  • Ketchup
  • Mustard
  • Soy Sauce
  • Pickles
  • Vinegar
  • Tabasco
  • Tamari
  • Wasabi

OTHER

  • Mushrooms
  • Miso
  • White Breads, Pastas,
  • Rice & Noodles
  • Chocolate
  • Chips
  • Pizza
  • Biscuits
  • Cigarettes
  • Drugs
  • Candy

Alkaline Foods

Some super yummy alkaline foods. They look fresh, cleansing and delicious, don't they? ;)

VEGETABLES

  • Asparagus
  • Broccoli
  • Chilli
  • Capsicum/Pepper
  • Courgette/Zucchini
  • Dandelion
  • Snow Peas
  • Green Beans
  • String Beans
  • Runner Beans
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Wakame
  • Kelp
  • Collards
  • Chives
  • Endive
  • Chard
  • Cabbage
  • Sweet Potato
  • Coriander
  • Basil
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Cauliflower
  • Carrot
  • Beetroot
  • Eggplant/Aubergine
  • Garlic
  • Onion
  • Parsley
  • Celery
  • Cucumber
  • Watercress
  • Lettuce
  • Peas
  • Broad Beans
  • New Potato
  • Pumpkin
  • Radish

FRUIT

  • Avocado
  • Tomato
  • Lemon
  • Grapefruit
  • Fresh Coconut

GRAINS & BEANS

  • Amaranth
  • Buckwheat
  • Brown Rice
  • Chia/Salba
  • Kamut
  • Millet
  • Quinoa
  • Spelt
  • Nuts & Seeds!
  • Almonds
  • Coconut
  • Flax Seeds
  • Pumpkin Seeds
  • Sesame Seeds
  • Sunflower Seeds
  • Oils!
  • Avocado Oil
  • Coconut Oil
  • Flax Oil
  • Udo’s Oil
  • Olive Oil
  • Lentils
  • Lima Beans
  • Mung Beans
  • Navy Beans
  • Pinto Beans
  • Red Beans
  • Soy Beans
  • White Beans

GRASSES

  • Wheatgrass
  • Barley Grass
  • Kamut Grass
  • Dog Grass
  • Shave Grass
  • Oat Grass

NUTS & SEEDS

  • Almonds
  • Coconut
  • Flax Seeds
  • Pumpkin Seeds
  • Sesame Seeds
  • Sunflower Seeds

OILS

  • Avocado Oil
  • Coconut Oil
  • Flax Oil
  • Udo’s Oil
  • Olive Oil

BREADS

  • Sprouted Bread
  • Sprouted Wraps
  • Gluten/Yeast Free
  • Breads & Wraps

SPROUTS

  • Soy Sprouts
  • Alfalfa Sprouts
  • Amaranth Sprouts
  • Broccoli Sprouts
  • Fenugreek Sprouts
  • Kamut Sprouts
  • Mung Bean Sprouts
  • Qionoa Sprouts
  • Radish Sprouts
  • Spelt Sprouts

This comprehensive list of acid and alkaline foods came from a great chart I found from energiseforlife.com There is an 8 page PDF that you may download with more information which can be found here - Acid & Alkaline Food Information.

Water

Water is also something that I don't think people think about enough in terms of health. I think there is a misconception that if we are drinking bottled water and not water out of the tap that we are somehow safe from many pollutants that may be in our waterways and make their way into water processing plants. Unfortunately, this has been shown not to be true, and many bottled waters' are just as unhealthy as drinking straight out of the tap. If you must drink tap water, find out from your local city or town, what they are adding to it. Is there flouride in it? What levels of certain contaminants are acceptable as far as they are concerned? Do some research. If you have a water filtration system, again, do your research and get one that filters out as many undesirable chemicals as possible. Water is incredibly important for our health and it is worth the effort to be drinking the healthiest and cleanest water possible. The good news is, that there are many good water filtration systems out there that will allow you to enjoy clean, healthy water which is essential for a strong, healthy body.

Emotions

Expressing emotions freely is just as important to our health as a strong, flexible body.

I really feel that the emotions do not get enough attention or recognition for the role they play in our health. This is another area that seems often entirely left out of the diagnostic as well as the healing process in Western medicine. In Chinese medicine, the emotions are just as important as what is physically happening in our bodies. The two are inseparable and when someone is going through the intake process with a doctor of Chinese medicine, there are a lot of questions inquiring about a person's emotional life. You may be wondering how much of a role the emotions can play in a disease as devastating as cancer. My answer is - a HUGE one.

In my experience with my own cancer patients, the emotions are often where it starts. Complex and serious diseases often begin with extremely stressful, difficult, and emotionally devastating events that the body is simply not able to cope with. Preceding almost every case of serious disease I have treated, there was either one or a series of extremely stressful/emotional or difficult events that the patient had to contend with. I have made this observation over and over again. The body can handle a lot, but it has its limits, and the way we live along with the pressures and stresses we are under often are too much for our bodies and psyches to bear which can result in disease and illness.

In terms of how this relates to the emotions I want to be clear, it is not HAVING emotions that can make us sick, in Chinese medicine, it is how we deal with our emotions that is the key. In modern culture, at least in North America, we are not taught what I like to call "emotional intelligence". We spend decades in school learning how to live in this world, but I find that so many of the most important things that we need to be healthy and happy in our lives are missing. How to express our emotions in a healthy way is one of them. This expression is important not only to our health but to our happiness and well-being as well. So often our emotions can come out in hurtful or destructive ways to ourselves or the people around us, or worse, they are held in where they fester and eventually turn into disease. So, find healthy ways to express the emotions you are having. Write, talk to a friend, acknowledge them, process them in a healthy way and let them go. They are taking up precious space, that, once they are dealt with and let go, can be replaced with lovely things like love and light, happiness and feelings of joy and gratitude.

Managing Stress

Stress is something we hear about a lot and I believe is also a huge factor is our health and well-being. Stress is something I ask every single patient about both in our initial consultation, and at almost every visit. I give it a one to ten scale and ask patients to rate where their stress is in relation to that scale. Most people are at the top end, and many have become resigned to living there. Stress is difficult to avoid, but what we do have control over is how we deal with it. Managing the stress we are feeling is the key, not eliminating it altogether. I am not even sure if that is possible considering the world we live in. I have seen patients doing everything right - eating the right foods, exercising, sleeping enough, really taking care of themselves and still they get sick. Those cases very often lead back to stress. You can't work hard to eat well and live a healthy lifestyle but be in an unhealthy relationship that is driving you crazy or going to a job that you hate every day and still expect to be the picture of health. Unfortunately, it just doesn't work like that. In Chinese medicine, as in life, it is all about balance.

One of my keys to managing stress is meditating. Now the thought of meditating can be intimidating for some people and I understand that. This doesn't mean having to give up all your worldly possessions, shaving your head and going to live in a cave in the Himalayas. That is totally cool if that is how you want to do it, but what I am talking about for the rest of us is just taking some time for yourself every day to sit quietly and try to empty your thoughts. In our hectic, modern lives, we hardly ever get a chance to do this. Stop. Listen. Relax. Breathe deeply. Meditating is like a gift you give yourself. It benefits your brain, your nervous system, your heart and your psyche. Think of it as preventative medicine. I think we all need to start thinking about medicine and health differently and Chinese medicine can teach us how to do it. Do small things every day. Tend your garden (the body and spirit), and disease will never develop. Disease cannot thrive in a healthy garden.

If you would like to read about a bit of a hardcore immersion into meditation (and the amazing benefits that it yielded) you can read about my two intense Vipassana meditation retreat experiences. They are not quite the shaving your head and disappearing into the Himalayas, but they were definitely the most intense meditation experiences I have ever had. They were also the most edifying and positively life-changing experiences of my life.

 


Integrative Approaches to Cancer Palliative Care

By Dr. Kevin Curran

Dr. Kevin Curran, a cell biology professor, and Dr. Walter Tsang, an oncologist, have co-written a summary about integrative approaches to palliative care. Serious diseases, like cancer, often lead to some incredibly uncomfortable side effects. Often, there are no traditional medicines available to treat these issues. In these moments, it is good to remember that there are alternative remedies that can be very effective in relieving the problem.

A Review of Effective Treatment Options for Cancer - Related Palliative Care

By Walter Tsang MD and Kevin Curran PhD

What is palliative care?

Palliative care is a form of medical care that is focused on providing relief from the symptoms of a serious illness.

A serious illness, such as cancer, creates many stressful and uncomfortable symptoms (nausea, fatigue, anxiety). These symptoms may be caused by the biological progression of the disease or they may be the side effects of the treatment.

Palliative care seeks to improve the quality of life for the patient and the patient's family by providing relief from the symptoms of an illness and the side effects of treatment.

An integrative approach to palliative care includes both conventional and alternative treatment options.

  • Conventional therapy includes:  prescription drugs, surgery, chemotherapy
  • Alternative therapy includes:  herbal supplements, vitamins, diet, probiotics

It makes sense to be open to the best possible palliative care. Often, the best treatment includes a combination of both conventional and alternative therapy. Below, we summarize the most effective integrative approaches to common symptoms experienced by patients struggling with a serious illness.

Read Full Article Here - A Review of Effective Treatment Options for Cancer - Related Palliative Care

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Featured image photo by Marcelo Leal on Unsplash


Cancer and Chinese Medicine - Part 1

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

Cancer and Chinese Medicine

I get a lot of people writing to me, telling me that someone they love has been diagnosed with cancer and asking if there is anything Chinese medicine can do. This is a good question, but it has a complex answer. It means looking at a disease like cancer in a completely different way than we have all been taught to look at it through the eyes of science, which is difficult especially if the world science is all you have ever known.

To begin a discussion about cancer and Chinese medicine, we must first gain an understanding of where Chinese medicine came from, the philosophy behind it, and a little bit about how it works. Let us begin.

The Proliferation of Cancer in Modern Society

For at least the last fifty years there seems to have been an explosion in cancers, especially in industrialized nations. According to the American Cancer Society, there will be 1,688,780 new cancer cases diagnosed and 600,920 cancer deaths in the US in 2017. According to a WHO report, there has been an alarming increase in cancer rates all over the world. The report also states that:

"Globally, life expectancy has increased from 45 years in 1950 to 66 years in 2000, but the population of the world is aging rapidly—the median age will have risen from 23.5 years in 1950 to 36.5 years in 2050. By 2050, more than 20 percent of the population will be 60 years and over, versus 10 percent in 2000. By comparison, the number of cancer deaths increased by 35 percent during the period 1985-1997. The report states that “[w]hile extending life expectancy is desirable in itself, it is equally important that increased expectancy is accompanied by freedom from any prospect of years of suffering as a consequence of chronic diseases, pain or disability.”

Why is There So Much Cancer?

Why is this? Why has there been such an apparent increase in the numbers of people getting cancer in the world? Perhaps our diagnostic methods have gotten better, and there is certainly truth in that. Perhaps people are taking better care of their health and going for regular checkups more than they have in past years and that is also probably true. But would these factors account for the explosive numbers of cancer diagnoses in the past half a century?

Living in an Unhealthy Way

In my experience and opinion, these are not the main factors contributing to the huge numbers of cancer being diagnosed every year, it is the way we are LIVING. And what you may ask, do I mean by that? Well, that is what I am going to try to tell you. Most human beings on this planet, save a few communities scattered around the world, are living in a way that is not conducive to health. This lifestyle becomes more toxic every year resulting in more disease, mental health problems, addictions, violent crimes, and suicides. We are an unhealthy and deeply unhappy culture.

Chinese Medicine and the Importance of Lifestyle

Our culture, with its ambitions, innovation, and reliance on technology as well as its obsession with bigger, faster and MORE has largely become disconnected from the way we were designed to live on this planet. We have, as a people, become disconnected from our true nature. This idea goes far beyond the reaches of Chinese medicine, this is a human being issue that touches each and every one of us regardless of religion, race, gender or nationality. But for the purposes of this discussion, let us talk about Chinese medicine, and how it views the human being and how it is designed to live in a harmonious and healthy way. I feel like the name Chinese medicine really limits the seemingly endless wisdom that encompasses what it represents. People think, oh yes, Chinese medicine means things like acupuncture and smelly herbs, but in fact, Chinese medicine grew out of Eastern philosophy that had been explored and understood for thousands of years, a wisdom that many people seldom encounter in their day to day lives. Lao Tzu, the Chinese philosopher credited with developing Taoism (or Daoism) is where much of Chinese medicine wisdom springs from. In Taoist philosophy, the person is connected to every other living creature, the planet and the universe itself. They are all one energy and indivisible. You cannot separate them into parts, or you would be hurting the sum total. Whatever happens to one part, also happens to the whole.

this incredible illustration from theawesomedaily.com

Our Relationship with Nature

What people have been doing (and only really for about the last 10,000 years, starting after the beginning of agriculture by then hunter gatherers), is that we decided in our wisdom that we did not belong in the throng with the rest of the plants and animals, living harmoniously within the perfectly balanced web of life. We began to have delusions of grandeur and wanted more for ourselves. It was at this point in history that people removed themselves from the food chain and started to grow crops, and begin to have more than they needed. This move also began a long descent into a relationship with nature that was no longer symbiotic and mutually beneficial, human beings began to try to dominate and control nature for their own personal gain.

A Medicine of Prevention

According to the philosophy behind Chinese medicine, a person doesn’t wait until they get sick in order to correct the illness. This philosophy teaches a way of life. The philosophy is intensely pragmatic, understanding (in a way that many modern people have forgotten) that living in a healthy way, or preventatively, is a much better approach to health that waiting until things become catastrophic (i.e., a disease) to correct the problem. So how did Chinese people live preventatively? Well, for the sake of explanation I love to use the analogy from the wonderful book Between Heaven and Earth - that the body is like a garden. You must tend your garden for it to flourish and grow. You must go out into your garden every day, pull weeds, water and inspect your plants to see what the garden needs. Small changes every day are much easier than large changes every few years, often when it is too late. This, in a nutshell, is the philosophy of Chinese medicine and part of what makes it so effective. That said, because of the ways that Chinese medicine describe the body, the organs, qi and their relationships, it is also excellent for correcting diseases when they do arise, and this is why it is so effective, even after 5000 years, at treating modern diseases in the Western world.

Waiting Until It's Too Late

In the West, we tend to wait until something is quite wrong before we seek medical attention. We wait until something hurts, there is a pain we can no longer ignore, a lump or some other symptom before we go to the doctor to get it checked out. We are not taught the value of living in a healthy, balanced way and instead, we rely on doctors, surgeons, and pharmaceuticals to cure our ills when they come up. It is a different approach, and we are not entirely to blame because it is the way we were taught by our parents before us and that thinking is galvanized by advertising as well as the medical profession and the pharmaceutical industry. This reliance on medications and complex surgeries seems to have increased also in the past fifty years (and is increasing all the time) as we become more and more disconnected from nature, each other and ourselves. In a country like the United States where people spend more than any other country on health care, they are some of the sickest people on the planet. Do you see something wrong there? In a PBS newshour report published in July of 2016, the United States saw a rise in healthcare spending that reached a mind boggling $3.35 trillion dollars which works out to $10,345 for every man woman and child. The report also stated that US healthcare spending is wildly unbalanced reporting that about 5% of the population, which encompasses the most frail and ill, accounts for nearly half of all healthcare spending in any given year.

this amazing illustration from theawesomedaily.com

A Healthy Way of Life

To give a brief overview of the “way of life” that the Taoists were talking about and Chinese peoples subscribe to, as I said above, Chinese medicine is a medicine of prevention. This means that there is a constant awareness of what is happening in (and out of) the body and that you learn to really LISTEN to what your body is trying to tell you. Does this sound strange? It may, but your body talks to you all the time. Consider your last headache after a long stressful day, pains in your stomach when you knew you had a presentation at work, the hair that stood up on the back of your neck when that person got on the bus behind you, the sense you got that maybe you shouldn’t eat that piece of sushi… there are all ways that your body speaks to you. And it is speaking to you all the time. Are you listening?

Living in Harmony with Nature

Because the Chinese were living in a way that was much more in tune with their natural environment, the way they lived changed in subtle ways according to the seasons. The foods they ate, their daily activities including how much and when they slept and how much physical activity was appropriate were ways in which they were able to stay healthy. Foods were eaten that were available at that particular time of year and grown locally, as these were the healthiest according to Mother Nature and her wisdom, and the people recognized this. The amount of sleep a person would strive for depended on how much energy would be exerted during the day. If a persons energy was to be conserved (as in winter) or expressed freely (as in summer). Internal practices were also important as things like Qi Gong and Tai Chi were a way to keep the body and mind supple and agile well into old age. 5000 years ago there was no retirement, a person had to work until they were no longer able, so keeping your body and mind in the best shape possible was the main motivation.

The Importance of Emotions

Another thing and this is unique to Chinese medicine and very different from how we view health in the West, was and is the importance of the emotions. A healthy emotional life was just as important as a strong, flexible body. The emotional life of a human being is complex, just as complex, it seems, as the workings of the human body. And being emotionally healthy has a great deal to do with a person's overall health. The fascinating part is that in Chinese medicine each emotion is associated with a specific organ so that an imbalance in that emotion can point to a problem in its respective organ and vice versa, an imbalance in an organ can point to problems with a particular emotion. It is all interrelated. So, being able to understand, and freely express emotions was and are an important part of overall health.

this image from huffingtonpost.com

Chinese Medicine and the Organs

Without getting too deep (because we could get so SO deep into this), let me explain a little bit about how the organs work in Chinese medicine and how important they are in the process of diagnosis. One thing that is important to note, is that the organs in Chinese medicine have very little similarity with the organs and their functions in Western medicine. This causes a lot of confusion when explaining things to patients so it is good to clear that up right away. There are certainly some similarities, but there are far more things that are completely different and unique to the organs in Chinese medicine. The organs in Chinese medicine each have a list of responsibilities. Processes in the body that they are responsible for. The organs are also, all connected. So, if there is a problem with one, then you must look at them all to discover where the root of the problem lies. This is another unique feature of Chinese medicine, is that everything is connected and nothing, be it physical, emotional or spiritual, exists in isolation. This is why as a practitioner, you have to have a very solid understanding of, well everything before you can begin to understand anything that might be happening to your patient. Our intake procedure and questioning are thorough and complex, and this is why.

How Symptoms Point to Specific Organs

Knowing each organ, its associated emotion and its list of responsibilities help one to understand what might be going wrong when problems arise. If someone is struggling with the loss of a spouse and having lung symptoms, in Chinese medicine, this would make perfect sense, as grief is the emotion of the lung. If a particularly angry person comes in with symptoms of red eyes, headache and bitter taste in their mouth, this would point to excess heat in the liver as anger is this organs corresponding emotion. Understanding the connection that the organs have to each other is also important as an excess or deficiency in one can spill over to the next in the cycle, affecting it adversely. Time also is very relevant, as the longer an imbalance has been active, the worse the imbalance will become, creating more severe symptoms and being more difficult to correct.

Location is Important

In a disease like cancer, we are always looking at where the cancer has been found which can tell us a lot about why it has come about in the first place. It is because of the way Chinese medicine sees the organs, their responsibilities, and their interrelationships that the location is so important. In treating my own patients with cancer, it became obvious after the initial consultations why the cancer had presented itself. Often, in listening to a patient's history it is clear that there have been particularly severe stresses on either the body, the psyche or both that have pushed the body to its breaking point, and cancer is the result. There is also often a long history of signs and symptoms that the patient has had but has either not been aware of or unable (or unwilling) to deal with for various reasons.

Having an understanding of the philosophy of Chinese medicine and the organs and their functions can do a lot to help you to stay healthy, and be able to recognize warning signs; ways that your body is telling you that something is not right. Cancer in many cases is the result of many years of imbalance that started small, building into something larger and more complex and thus, is more difficult to treat.

Resources

WHO report - increase in cancer rates: https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2003/04/canc-a26.html


Birth and Beyond

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

I thought I might write about what my birth experience was like and how motherhood has changed me, both as a person and as a practitioner. Because this could easily be a 50-page article, I will be succinct. At least I will try. My baby is 10 months old now! He is talking, walking, laughing and growing like a weed. That sweet baby is the light and love of my life.

It has been a fascinating/joyful/frightening/blissful experience to have a baby. Nothing could have prepared me for what it was and is like. And that is the thing about it, I don't think there is anything you can do to prepare for how it is going to make you feel, and how it will, in every way, change your life.

Natural Pregnancy & Birth : Chinese Medicine LivingMy very pregnant belly! About a month before I had Liam.

Labour

I was at work, treating a patient when my water broke almost a month early. I knew, and my midwives told me, that what we see in movies - the pregnant woman in the grocery store whose water breaks - is not usually the way you go into labour (this only happens in about 10% of cases). I also knew that most first time mamas go beyond nine months, often by a couple of weeks. So, let's just say that I was a bit unprepared when I was writing out notes with a patient on the table when my water broke. I wasn't sure at first what had happened, probably because I wasn't expecting it. It only took a second to figure it out, and then my mind took me all the way to the end of the thought... I was going to have a baby. Today! I politely waited for my patient to have her time on the table and then went in and whispered to her (thankfully, she was also my friend), that I thought my water had just broken and that I should probably call my midwife. Her eyes got as big as saucers and she said "just calmly take out my needles, and I am going to help you. My gods, we're having a baby today!"

My midwife said that I should come in and make sure that my water did in fact break. I asked if I could go home and get my hunny first and she said of course. I texted him and told him my water had broken and his response was shock, disbelief and surprise. My friend piled up some towels on my car seat (when your water breaks, the amniotic fluid keeps producing so it is like a continuous flow) and I drove, as calmly as I could, home. When I arrived, everything I needed was in a bag and on the bed. My hunny had been busy and looked like he was having a small heart attack when I walked in the door. We looked at each other and smiled, knowing our baby was on its way. We got into the car and drove to the midwives where they checked and confirmed that my water had indeed broken. If your water breaks before you are in labour, you have 24 hours to begin labour (at least this is the rule in Florida where I live) or you put the baby and yourself in danger because the "water" or amniotic sack is there to protect the baby and keep everything sterile, so there is some pressure to get things going once your water has broken. The midwives checked me over and said everything seemed fine, but that I needed to get things moving. They told me to go get a couple of homeopathic remedies to help speed up labour and said to go home and make out with my hunny, which was a sure fire way to kick start the process. They told us to call them as soon as my contractions were about 5 minutes apart, or in 4 hours, whichever came first.

A Note on Pain

Now, I want to be really honest with you about what came next. And by that, I mean the pain. I don't think there is anything I could have done to prepare myself for what contractions and ultimately birth felt like. I know that everyone has a different experience, and I certainly watched a thousand videos of women giving birth in the months before I was due. But none of them accurately conveyed what it *felt* like. It is a difficult thing to accurately describe, so let me say this. I think, because of various things and experiences that I have had in my life, that I have, or had a pretty high tolerance to pain. Previous to having a baby, my pain scale went from one to ten. I was blissfully unaware of any pain, capable of breaching the ten ceiling. My pain scale now goes to 37, and that is not an exaggeration or an inflated number used to be dramatic - that is a relative increase, a mathematical equation used taking my maximum experience of pain before birth and multiplying it appropriately.

Natural Water Birth : Chinese Medicine LivingYup, that was the pain. Woo, it hurt.  

The things I have heard over and over again from women about birth are the fears they have of how much it is going to hurt. This is why there is a delectable assortment of drugs used to dull the pain of childbirth and I would never judge any woman for using any of them. Especially not now. Of course, the intensity and quality of pain varies from person to person, but I have to say, the pain I experienced during childbirth was something that I could not possibly express in words. It was a pain I never knew existed, and the most painful experience I have ever had in my life.

But I don't want to scare you about the pain. Do I regret it? No. Would I do it again? Yes. Do I wish I had been a little more aware of how intense it was going to be beforehand so that I could have been more psychologically prepared? Honestly, I'm not sure. Maybe. Was it worth it and one of the best, most incredible experiences of my life? Yes. The pain, much like the giving birth, were literally cutting new experiences into both my body and my psyche. They were experiences so intense that they literally take you to another place that anything less would never be able to take you. Words, again, cannot possibly express the depth and breadth of the experience, but alas, they are all I have at this moment.

Birth

My labour, once it started, went so quickly that my contractions were almost immediately on top of each other. I was unaware of anyone or anything else in the room, except my love, who was clutching me through each contraction. I would lean into him, gritting my teeth, crying out, focussing all my energy on making it through each one. I didn't have time to think. I didn't have time to fear. I only had enough energy to focus on making it through each contraction. I didn't even have time to think about something that might help the pain. Not once did this thought enter my head, which was swimming in a pain I scarce thought existed. The only time I came out of my pain was when I looked up and said "girls?" There were two midwives in the room, apparently watching closely, but sitting back, not wanting to crowd the experience. I saw them then and Christina asked, "yes?" I remember asking - "Can you die from pain?" She smiled and assured me that I could not. I remember then deciding that if I couldn't die from it, then I could endure it, and that was what I was going to do. That was the only time I remember being aware of the room or the people in it. My friend Michelle was there, sitting in a rocking chair in the corner, photographing the whole thing, but I was completely unaware of her presence. I had ridiculously told her that we would have a wonderful chance to catch up and perhaps have a tea while I was in labour and it would be so great that she would be there. Unfortunately, I didn't say one word to her the entire time, I was engrossed in my work.

After what seemed like an eternity (but was in fact only a couple of hours from the start of my intense contractions), I was checked and told that I had dilated to 6 centimeters and asked if I would like to get into the tub. It had been my plan to have a water birth, but I knew that I had to be flexible and decided I would see how I felt when the time came. I eagerly said yes and thought that the warm water might dull the sharp nature of the pain. It did. The tub was a large jacuzzi style in the pretty bedroom we were in at the birth centre. My hunny and I both got into the tub and the contractions continued with me changing positions every few seconds as nothing felt comfortable. I kept trying to find a way to position myself that made the pain tolerable. Very quickly I got the urge to push. I remember looking up and there was one of my midwives smiling at me. I asked her if I could push, and she said if I felt like I wanted to, then I should. Things are a bit of a blur after that, but I remember only pushing a couple of times, and when I finally did push out my baby I didn't realize it right away. I remember hearing Christina, my midwife, calling my name, telling me to catch my baby. I then have a vague memory of Mathieu diving across me and scooping up the baby and putting it into my arms. It was a feeling of disbelief. The baby was here!! I looked at this tiny creature in my arms with wonder and disbelief. I remember coming out of it and asking if it was a boy or a girl... it was a boy. A boy!! We had both thought from the beginning that our baby had been a girl, even after an ultrasound had said it was a boy. He was so tiny! Tiny feet and tiny hands and he lay still curled up into my chest as I held him close. He did not cry. Mathieu and I looked at each other and then at this tiny being that had been so active in my belly for months. He was beautiful. And a darkish purple. And covered with a waxy substance all babies are born with called vernix. He had a full head of dark hair. I sat, in the tub with my new little family in a sort of daze, with love pouring out of every pore of my body and being. It was done. He was born. :)

A Baby

Sweet baby Liam was born in the tub and all natural after 4 hours of labour. He arrived more than three weeks early but was born a healthy baby to very happy parents.

After a few minutes in the tub together, the midwives said I should get out and come over to the bed so that they could listen to the baby's heart and prepare for the arrival of the placenta. As I held him, I was helped to stand up and get out of the tub making my way over to the bed where the midwives listened to his heart and measured him. All the while, he never left my arms. I laid on the bed, marveling at this tiny creature who seemed so calm. His eyes were closed and he snuggled into me as I stared in wonder at his tiny body.

The midwives checked him over and made sure he was healthy. My husband got to cut the umbilical cord after some time so that the baby could benefit from the blood coming from the placenta. I was then told that I would have to deliver the placenta. My midwife said that I shouldn't be concerned, as although it was about the same size as the baby, it had no bones and would be easy to deliver. One of the midwives held on to the umbilical cord and pulled slightly at the same time that she told me to push. The placenta came out in one push and was taken by the midwives to be processed, as I had requested for it to be encapsulated.

After that, I was sewn up. I had torn quite badly - probably because everything had happened so fast (one of my midwives remarked that my labour had been the fastest first-time mama labour she had ever seen). The sewing up was intense and there was no anesthetic. It felt like it took forever, and my midwife kept telling me to focus on my beautiful baby and stop focussing on the pain. I remember wondering how much more trauma my poor lady parts could endure...

I was then asked to sit up and eat a little something and was handed a plate of cottage cheese and fruit which I ate, not realizing how hungry I was. While I was eating, the baby was taken out of my arms and weighed beside me, then given back to me. I was told that I needed to have a shower and that a couple of the midwives would help me to the bathroom and stay in the room in case I felt a bit faint. I remember getting up and feeling a bit woozy. I had a shower (which felt great) but soon did feel a bit dizzy so was told by the midwives to sit and just soak in the hot water for a bit. After that, I was lead back to my room where I was shown how to nurse and then told to relax until we were ready to go. It was so nice to just all sit in the bed together, my new little family and bask in our love for a little while. It was surreal and wonderful. I remember thinking that it was the reason we were here and that I couldn't have felt any more love at that moment. Once we had sat for a bit, we dressed the baby in his tiny shirt and pants and a hat and the midwives helped us to put him into the car seat, showing us how to strap him in safely. The midwives gave me the clothes I had worn when I arrived, nice and clean from the wash (they had washed and dried them, bless them!) and we dreamily got into the car. I hugged my midwives and drove my little family home. I remember being so grateful for having such a wonderful birth experience. I felt safe and like the midwives were there if I needed them, but that they were hanging back and letting us have our baby ourselves. My friend Michelle said to me the next day - "my gods, you guys had that baby yourselves, it was incredible!!" She took amazing (and emotional) pictures of the birth. They really convey the intense emotions of the experience.

The Placenta

Now, I wasn't sure that I would talk about the placenta, as it is a subject that many people find strange. For me, ever since I could remember I knew that I wanted to ingest my placenta, as many animals in the wild do. The placenta offers many vitamins, nutrients and health benefits to the mother after the hardship of pregnancy and birth. I am not sure they would give you this option at the hospital, but most midwives and birthing centre's have the option to keep your placenta. Something that was new to me, was that they can now do something called "encapsulation" which means that the placenta is taken after delivery and refrigerated, then dried and made into capsules to make it easier to ingest. This is pretty cool as you used to get the placenta in its entirety and would have to cut it up into bits and be creative about what you did to it, either juicing it, adding it to a stir-fry or whathaveyou.

Because the encapsulation process takes between 24-48 hours, my midwife kindly cut a piece off to give to us so that I could have it for the next day or two until she could get the capsules to us. My husband and I ate it the next evening fried up with some oyster mushrooms. It was a bit spongy but surprisingly good (oyster mushrooms make everything delicious, don't they??). And let me just say that if you are lucky enough to find someone who believes the same things you do, will be in the tub with you while you have a baby and also eat the placenta with you, you are very lucky indeed. <3

I honestly feel that in those weeks after giving birth I felt better, stronger and more even keeled emotionally because of the fact that I was taking my placenta capsules. In Chinese medicine, pregnancy, and especially childbirth are very depleting to blood and qi, so resting (the Chinese concept of "golden month' is something I will write about later) and doing everything you can to build blood and qi are important for the mother's recovery.

The Aftermath

Calling this section "the aftermath" may seem a bit negative, like the phase experienced after a war, but that is literally what it felt like. Physically and emotionally, I felt like I had been through a sort of war. I was very lucky to have had an easy pregnancy with very few symptoms or discomfort. My appointments at the midwives usually consisted of a conversation like this:

Midwives - "How are you feeling?"
Me - "Great! I am feeling really good."
Midwives - "Ok, excellent, we will see you next month."

Near the end, things got a little uncomfortable - and that is just because you are so enormous. Things like sleeping, lifting things, and getting around get a little harder too. All in all, I had a very easy pregnancy. I remember thinking during all those midwife appointments that I barely needed them. Little did I know, I would need them later. A lot. :)

The first couple of weeks after the birth were the hardest. The worst part was that I couldn't sit. Everything was so, um, sore that sitting was impossible. I had to get very creative about nursing. My body was exhausted, and all of my focus was on this tiny person, who, for many days didn't even have a name. My husband and I were so absolutely sure that we were having a girl that we didn't have a name for a boy and it took us some time to choose the right one. ;) The baby was nursing every few hours and he was so tiny that I was terrified that he would get crushed or that we would roll over on him or that the cat would try to eat him... and you are so tired that everything becomes very surreal and your ability to cope becomes eroded because of a serious lack of sleep. I also had terrible digestive problems after Liam was born that went on for about 6 months. We had a lot of company in those few months after he was born too, which was difficult. Of course, your friends and family are so happy and want to see the baby, but you are not at your best and still figuring out your new life with your babe and having people there all the time was stressful and made me more exhausted than I already was. I think if I were to do it again I would take some time, at least a month or two before I would have family come and stay just to get some time to bond with my new family.

I also had a hard time nursing and the baby was underweight at my first postnatal appointment which was hard and very emotional. He was put on a rigorous feeding schedule and I had to keep track of every feeding for weeks as well as have him weighed constantly to make sure that he was gaining enough weight.

All in all, those first few months after Liam was born were the most difficult. You have this new life to worry about that is completely dependent on you and your good judgment. Everything is new and you are trying your best to do everything right while only sleeping a few hours at a time (if you're lucky). You are feeling like an emotional train wreck because your hormones are readjusting and everyone around you is giving you advice and telling you what to do. Your body feels ruined and like it will never be the same. You want to cry because you are so happy. You want to cry because you are so tired. We got through it, and things got better once I set up a bit of a schedule and returned to listening to my instincts, which have never failed me.

The Choice is Yours

With all the books, blogs, doctors and mothers out there, having a baby can be a daunting experience. Everyone has advice they want to give you. Often when you have not asked for it. There are a billion theories on how to have a baby and raise a child and it is hard to know what to do. If you are strong willed and stubborn like I am, then you have some pretty clear ideas about how you want to do those things and you may spend a lot of time justifying and explaining to friends and family who don't agree with the way you are doing things. This uses up precious energy that you should be spending on your sweet baby!

I think that we live in a world of magnificent diversity, and there are many ways to do all of the things we do. Each person needs to find the way that resonates with them. This is sometimes easier said than done, but having a baby and raising children is an intensely personal experience and I believe everyone needs to do it in a way that makes sense to them. I decided to have a baby at a birth centre, in the tub, with midwives because that was important to me. I wanted to bring my child into the world in the most natural and gentle way possible. I wanted to be in control (well, as much control as possible) of my birth experience, and I knew that my midwives would respect my wishes. They absolutely did and I ended up having a wonderful birth, exactly the way I wanted it. I feel very lucky that I could choose to have that experience because I know that many women do not have the luxury of choosing how they give birth.

A New Life

Sweet Liam is now 10 months old, and a very sweet, good-natured, happy baby. I learn so much from him, and I love watching him discover and explore the world. He is a pure Buddha in that he is absolutely in the moment and the embodiment of joy and love. I realize that all of the experiences that I have had and all the things I have done in my life were to make me a better mother for him, so that I could share the things I learned and give him the wisdom of those experiences. I also feel so blessed that I get to be his mother in this life. I believe that children choose us, and I am honoured that he chose us to be his parents. I love him more than I knew was possible.

Something else that I have noticed, is a razor sharp focus on my child and my new family. I want to fully experience every moment and look forward to every day I have with my new family. I have had a crazy life. I could write several books on the insane experiences, wild travel and other crazy things I have done. Let's just say that I have lived my life FULLY. I am so grateful now, that I did all those things before I had Liam. I can't wait for the next chapter when I get to live this new adventure with him and my sweet little family. <3

 

Natural Water Birth : Chinese Medicine Living

** to my wonderful friend and excellent photographer Michelle Donner who was there throughout (although I didn't say a word to her as I was really concentrating) who beautifully photographed the entire event. She took all the photographs in this post. Please see her site here for more of her beautiful photographs. **

Thank you my friend. I love you.


Cooling Cucumber Salad - Summer Recipe

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

Cucumbers are an important part of Chinese medicine food therapy and are packed with a multitude of health benefits. They are also the perfect food for summer. In Chinese medicine cucumbers are sweet, affecting the spleen, and cooling - helping the body stay cool in the hot weather. They have a high water content and are very moisturizing, helping you stay hydrated in the hot summer months. Cucumbers are also excellent detoxifiers, cleansing the body of impurities which build up no matter how hard we try to avoid toxins in our food and the environment. Cucumbers are great in a salad, delicious pickled, an excellent addition to any juice, and adding a few slices to your water will pack an extra punch of hydration niceness whether you are working out at the gym or on the beach doing yoga. Below is an impressive list of cucumbers health benefits.

Health Benefits

  • Clears heat from the body; resolves fevers from summer heat and helps to prevent heat stroke
  • Detoxifying
  • Anti-inflammatory (most inflammations are due to heat)
  • Cleanses & purifies the blood
  • Strengthens the spleen
  • Relieves thirst
  • Benefits the heart
  • Moistens the lungs
  • Moistens and cleanses the large intestine
  • Strongly alkalizing
  • Reduces cholesterol
  • Treats depression
  • Benefits the skin - cucumbers speed healing in the skin and the juice speeds the healing of burns and wounds
  • Aids digestion
  • Stimulate hair growth
  • Treats kidney and bladder infections
  • Promotes urination
  • Helps with weight loss
  • Anti-cancer
  • Aids constipation
  • Relieves bad breath
  • Promotes joint health
  • Benefits the eyes (placing cucumber slices over the eyes calms hot, puffy, dry or irritated eyes).
  • Kills tapeworms!

Cooling Cucumber Salad - Summer Recipe

Cooling Cucumber Salad : Chinese Medicine Living

Ingredients

  • 2 cucumbers
  • 1 medium white onion (you can also use red onion)
  • 1/4 cup vinegar (2oz)
  • salt & pepper to taste

Cooling Cucumber Salad : Chinese Medicine Living

Directions

*You can make this tasty salad with the skin on or peel it off, its up to you. There are many health benefits to eating cucumber skin but as cucumbers are sensitive to pesticides, always try to buy organic, or soak them in a little apple cider vinegar which will neutralize the pesticides.

  1. Peel and cut the cucumbers lengthwise, then slice into 1/4 inch slices (or thinner if you like)
  2. Slice the onion in half, then slice thin
  3. Add cucumber and onion to a bowl and mix
  4. Add salt (I like pink Himalayan salt) & pepper to taste
  5. Add the vinegar
  6. Mix thoroughly and serve

This dish actually gets tastier the longer it sits, so you might want to make it a couple of hours before you plan to eat it for maximum deliciousness. ;)

Enjoy!

Cooling Cucumber Salad : Chinese Medicine Living

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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 Summer season in Chinese Medicine, you can find it here - The Summer Season in Chinese Medicine.


How Acupuncture Can Improve Your Eyesight

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

Did you know that acupuncture, Chinese herbs, acupressure, exercises and nutritional therapy can help to naturally improve your vision?

There are 2 organs that are largely responsible for the health of the eyes and vision in Chinese medicine, and they are the liver and the kidneys. The liver is said to open into the eyes, and an imbalance of the liver can result in ringing in the ears, red, blood shot eyes and floaters, so the health of the liver is important in maintaining good vision. The kidneys are responsible for the brain, the eyes, the marrow and bones, and a kidney imbalance can manifest as ringing in the ears, dizziness and vision problems. When someone presents with problems with their vision, these are the two organ systems we are looking to re-balance.

Improve Vision with Acupuncture : Chinese Medicine LivingThis beautiful eye image from deviantart.net

There are 400+ acupuncture points on the body, and on the face, there are 18 acupuncture points that surround the eyes. Each of these points stimulates and increases the circulation of Qi and blood to the eyes as well as stimulates the muscles and nerves that control the eyes, helping to improve vision. There are three acupuncture points that, if you apply pressure to them (called acupressure), can help to improve vision. They are Bladder 2, Stomach 2 and Stomach 3. You can use your fingers and apply gentle pressure to each of these points helps to stimulate optimal blood flow and nerve function. There are images of each point below for your reference.

Bladder 2

Improve Vision with Acupuncture : Chinese Medicine Living

Bladder 2 is located at the medial end of your eyebrows. These points are bilateral, meaning on both sides of the body. When applying gentle pressure, it is best to come up from underneath, placing your fingers on the body ridge of the brow bone. You can apply about 30 seconds of gentle pressure to the points simultaneously a few times in the morning when you get up, and in the evening before bed.

Stomach 2

Improve Vision with Acupuncture : Chinese Medicine Living

Stomach 2 is located directly under the pupil when looking straight ahead, right on the lower edge of the eye orbit (or socket). It is located about one finger width below the eyelid. Use your finger to gently find the point, you may feel a small notch there. Apply about 30 seconds of gentle pressure to the points simultaneously a few times in the morning when you get up, and in the evening before bed.

Stomach 3

Improve Vision with Acupuncture : Chinese Medicine Living

Stomach 3 is located directly under the pupil when looking straight ahead, directly below each cheek bone and level with the base of the nose. You can apply pressure to both stomach points simultaneously, or, if you are dexterous enough, all three points at the same time. Apply about 30 seconds of gentle pressure to the points simultaneously a few times in the morning when you get up, and in the evening before bed.

Muscles of the Eye

There are also 6 muscles that surround the eyes and one muscle inside the eye. If these muscles are too tight or too loose, it can affect our vision and ability to focus effectively. The muscles and their responsibilities are as follows..

  • Lateral rectus - Primarily moves your eye outward, away from your nose.
  • Medial rectus - Primarily moves your eye inward, toward your nose.
  • Superior rectus - Primarily moves your eye upward.
  • Inferior rectus - Primarily moves your eye downward.
  • Superior oblique - Primarily rotates the top of your eye toward your nose.
  • Inferior oblique - Primarily rotates the top of your eye away from your nose.

Improve Vision with Acupuncture : Chinese Medicine LivingThis image from kin450-neurophysiology.wikispaces.com

There are many exercises that you can do to strengthen the muscles of the eyes. Whether the muscles of your eyes are weak or strong determines what kind of vision problems you are having, if it is being near-sighted or myopic or far sighted or presbyopic.

One good, simple eye exercise that you can do every day is to relax sitting or lying and look directly up, to one side, down and to the other side, counting to ten at each position. Do this a few times and then reverse the direction. You will be able to feel a difference, as one direction will probably be easier than the other. Once you have done this a few times, try looking up and making a complete circle in one direction. Go slowly so you don't make yourself dizzy. Stop once you have reached the top and begin again. Do this a few times and then go in the opposite direction. Doing these exercises every day helps to use our eye muscles and keep them strong.

Here are some other things that you can do to help improve your vision and take some of the pressure off your eyes.

  1. If you work at a computer, take breaks. Take a walk and be sure to look into the distance (using different muscles in the eyes).
  2. Eat lots of antioxidants like cherries, pomegranates and blueberries. These foods help to protect the eyes from macular degeneration which is a leading cause of blindness.
  3. Eat foods high in lutein. Lutein is an antioxidant that helps to reduce free radical damage which can affect every part of the eyes. Foods high in lutein include eggs, leafy green vegetables like kale, spinach, turnip and collard greens as well as romaine lettuce. Also high in lutein are broccoli, zucchini, brussel sprouts and green peas.
  4. Supplement with DHA. DHA is a fatty acid that is found in the retina of your eyes. DHA can actually help to heal some degenerative changes that occur with macular degeneration. DHA is found mainly is animal products like eggs, fish and meat. The highest concentration is found in oily fish such as mackerel, herring, salmon, trout and sardines.
  5. Stay away from hydrogenated fats. Trans fats are bad for the whole body, but especially for the small blood vessels that supply the eyes and brain.

Get An Acupuncture Treatment

If you are having vision problems, seeing an acupuncturist can help to isolate where the problems with your vision are coming from. Because diagnosis in TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) is individualistic, each patient is diagnosed based on their individual symptoms so that the treatment can be designed specifically for you. Acupuncture, Chinese herbs, acupressure, exercises and dietary therapy may all be used to correct your imbalance and improve your vision. You do not have to suffer with failing eyesight when Chinese medicine presents so many solutions to this common problem!

Here are some scientific studies that discuss acupuncture and its beneficial effects on the eyes

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Featured image from luxorclinic.com
Beautiful face original image from modernfashionblog.com

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Fending Off the Common Cold with Black Elderberry

By Dr. Kevin Curran

We all know there’s no cure for the common cold. But the question remains…is there a natural way to treat the symptoms of a cold. Plant-based, natural remedies for cold or flu infections are popular because they tend to be less invasive and yield fewer side effects than pharmaceutical drugs. Black elderberry is one of these popular natural therapies. However, just because a remedy is popular, that doesn’t always mean it’s an effective approach. In this article, we explore the biology behind the proposed health benefits of black elderberry.

What is black elderberry?

Black elderberry is a shrubby tree native to the temperate regions of Europe. Black elderberry, or Sambucus nigra, has become widely used as a medicinal plant. This deciduous tree grows up to 30 feet in height and produces clusters of small, white flowers. These flowers generate green berries, which turn black at the end of summer.

The use of elderberry by humans is not a new concept. Archaeologists discovered that early humans buried their dead with elderberry branches. In North America, early settlers have been using black elderberry for the past 10,000 years. Native Americans ate the berries for food but they were also aware of the healing properties of the plant. They consumed the berries, leaves and flowers as a means to defend against rheumatism and viral infections.

Lately there’s been a resurgence in interest the health benefits of this medicinal plant. Fortunately this resurgence of interest has been accompanied by quality clinical and laboratory studies. These studies explore the capacity for black elderberry to strengthen our immune system and, thereby, minimize the negative effects of a cold or flu.

Below, we’ll explore some of this published work and, in doing so, we will explain how elderberries can help us stay healthy.

Black Elderberry for Fighting Colds : Chinese Medicine Living

Clinical tests probe the ability of black elderberry to treat colds or flu infections.

There are two notable clinical studies that both demonstrate the ability of black elderberry to reduce the symptoms associated with a cold or flu (Zakay-Rones, 1995; Zakay-Rones, 2004). One of these clinical trials, performed in Norway, tested 60 patients of varying ages. All of these test subjects had just begun to feel the effect of a flu (extreme fatigue, high fever, aching body, congestion). These recently ill patients were given 15 mls. of black elderberry syrup for a duration of 5 days. A similar control group was given a placebo treatment. The scientists found that patients who received elderberry treatment became healthy approximately 4 days earlier then the control group. The authors conclude black elderberry treatment is an efficient, safe and cost-effective treatment for influenza.

In summary, these clinical trials demonstrate the capacity for black elderberry to reduce the time duration of a flu.

How does black elderberry strengthen our immune system?

The primary job of our immune system is to attack and kill invading pathogens. In regards to a cold or flu, these invading pathogens tend to be either a bacteria or a virus. When our bodies fight a sickness - our immune system shifts into battle mode. Specialized immune cells are sent out to destroy the pathogens that have caused our sickness. Laboratory studies have explored the benefits of black elderberry syrup for colds. These studies have concluded that black elderberry strengthens our body by regulating our cytokine levels and by delivering antioxidants. We will explain all this biology below.

Anti-oxidants prevent cellular damage

First of all… what are anti-oxidants? Anti-oxidants are small molecules that defend our cells from free radicals. Free radicals are small, charged molecules that can bang around the inside of our body and cause inflammation and cellular damage. This is why you want to eat foods that are full of anti-oxidants.

Plants are a rich source of antioxidants. Turmeric, for example, the tropical plant used as a curry spice, is enriched with a powerful antioxidant called curcumin. Curcumin is a potent bio-active compound that fights free radicals. This antioxidant capacity makes turmeric a natural remedy for inflammation related health issues, such as arthritis and osteoarthritis.

Black elderberry is another plant that is enriched with antioxidants. In particular, black elderberries contain molecules called flavonoids. Flavonoids are a class of antioxidants often found in leafy plants and dark colored fruits. Multiple studies demonstrate that flavonoids in black elderberries protect cells from oxidative stress. In these experiments, living cells are exposed to damaging, oxidizing free radicals such as hydrogen peroxide, AAPH and α-tocopheroxyl. The authors then present data showing that the presence of flavonoids protects these cells from this free radical damage (Abuja 1998).

In summary, taking black elderberry delivers antioxidant flavonoids to our body. These flavonoids help protect our body from the damaging effect of free radicals.

Black elderberry controls our cytokine levels

Cytokines are small molecules that are incredibly important for our immune system. These small molecules move throughout our body and act as chemical messengers. Cytokines send signals that tell our body to either increase or decrease the intensity of an immune response. When cytokine signaling is functioning properly, our body will only mount an aggressive immune response when necessary. In contrast, if there is no threat to our body, then we want our cytokines to tell our immune system to take the foot off the gas. If our immune system is overactive, our body will experience chronic inflammation and tissue damage. We need our cytokines to help us mount an appropriate response to an infection.

Multiple laboratory studies reveal that a treatment of black elderberry can increase and regulate the cytokine levels in our immune system (Middleton, 1992). One especially convincing report by Barak et al., demonstrates that black elderberry extract activates a series of cytokines that are critical to our immune system (IL-6, IL-1 and TNF-α).

In summary, taking black elderberry when we’re sick can modulate our cytokine levels. Properly regulated cytokine levels leads to an appropriate immune system response.

When taken together, the clinical and laboratory studies discussed in this article certainly suggest that using black elderberry is a reasonable course of action. Our body is bolstered by the cytokines and antioxidants derived from the black elderberry tree. So, next time you feel a cold or flu sneaking into your body, consider lending your body a hand with this medicinal plant.

Black Elderberry for Fighting Colds : Chinese Medicine Living

Citations:

Abuja, Peter M., Michael Murkovic, and Werner Pfannhauser. “Antioxidant and prooxidant activities of elderberry (Sambucus nigra) extract in low-density lipoprotein oxidation.” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 46.10 (1998): 4091-4096.

Barak, Vivian, Tal Halperin, and Inna Kalickman. “The effect of Sambucol, a black elderberry-based, natural product, on the production of human cytokines: I. Inflammatory cytokines.” Eur Cytokine Netw 12.2 (2001): 290-296.

Middleton, Elliott, and Chithan Kandaswami. “Effects of flavonoids on immune and inflammatory cell functions.” Biochemical pharmacology 43.6 (1992): 1167-1179.

Zakay-Rones, Zichria, et al. “Inhibition of several strains of influenza virus in vitro and reduction of symptoms by an elderberry extract (Sambucus nigra L.) during an outbreak of influenza B Panama.” The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 1.4 (1995): 361-369.

Zakay-Rones, Z., et al. “Randomized study of the efficacy and safety of oral elderberry extract in the treatment of influenza A and B virus infections.” Journal of International Medical Research 32.2 (2004): 132-140.

Image Credits

Featured image - www.tophealthremedies
Black Elderberry closeup - www.gartenjournal.net
Black Elderberry Bush - science.halleyhosting.com

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