Traditional Chinese Herbs: Can They Work for People with Asthma?

By Sally Perkins

Asthma affects 1 in 3 people, and there are more than 25 million Americans living with the condition. Loss of productivity, health costs, and absences are some of the effects of asthma attacks among those who are affected. Standard treatments include corticosteroids and beta-2 antagonists, and theophylline. Unfortunately, steroids can have unwanted side effects and significant risks as they tend to be overprescribed to treat attacks. Another option is to use natural alternatives which are as effective as steroids without causing side effects.

Chinese Herbs for Asthma

Dr. Xiu-Min Li, a pediatric immunologist, and her team at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York have been studying and proving the efficacy of traditional Chinese herbs for asthma. The nonsteroidal blend of herbs called ASHMI or anti-asthma herbal medicine intervention consists of reishi, gancao or Chinese licorice, and ku shen or shrubby sophora. ASHMI has broad therapeutic effects increasing cortisol production, preventing smooth muscle contraction, and regulating the activity of immune cells.

The placebo-control trial results demonstrated significant improvements in lung function and immune function. Hence, ASHMI may be an effective future treatment and/or prevention for allergic asthma according to a 2013 editorial in Clinical & Experimental Allergy. It improves lung function, reduces the symptoms, and results to decreased use of beta2-agonist for dilating bronchial tubes or air passages. Furthermore, there are no adverse effects on adrenal function and no immune suppression.

Robina Weermeijer
Controlling Environment Factors

In addition to the use of natural remedies to treat flare-up or prevent episodes, controlling the environment is also an important factor in asthma management. First, identify asthma triggers so that you know when to stay away from them. For example, mould spores in the air can provoke allergic reactions that can set off an asthma attack as mites and mildew that may be found on walls, beddings, or furniture.

Hence, it is vital to properly allergy-proof your home from black mould and keep triggers at bay. Check if mould and spores exist in your heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC), bathrooms, basements, or other humid spots in your property. Ensure that the environment is dry and free from moisture and remove mould that you see immediately using homemade or commercially prepared solutions. Request a mould inspection visit if you suspect that your environment is contaminated.

Asthma attacks and symptoms are uncomfortable and could even cause death if not treated properly. In addition to standard treatments, natural remedies such as using Chinese herbs offer a safe future alternative to managing the chronic condition.

 



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Can Chinese Medicine Help People with Autism?

By Sally Perkins

Around one in 68 children in the U.S. have autism, and following a diagnosis of their child, parents consider a wide range of options that includes educational interventions and, at times, alternative approaches. Among the many natural approaches utilized with autism, one of the most often discussed is Chinese medicine. Relatively few studies have been conducted on the efficiency of this approach, but those that have been carried out show promising and positive findings for specific symptoms and behaviours.

Herbal Medicine Treatment for Children with Autism

Parents of children with autism often turn to traditional therapies, including behavioural treatments such as applied behaviour analysis (ABA), occupational therapy, and the Early Start Denver Model. Each child or adult with autism has unique talents and challenges, though, and for some parents, combining one or more of these therapies with Chinese medicine has been useful. A 2017 review of existing research on the efficiency and safety of herbal medicines for the treatment of autism found that when used alongside conventional therapies, the use of Chinese medicine in relieving symptoms led to a significant improvement of the patient's Child Autism Rating Scale (CARS) score.

Commonly Used Herbs

Some of the herbs which are commonly used to reduce autism symptoms include Poria cocos, Panax ginseng, Acorus gramineus, Schisandra chinensis, and Glycyrrhiza uralensis. These herbs have been studied in different settings. For instance, Acorus gramineus has been found to have a sedative effect, as has Poria cocos. Researchers have stated that these herbs may aid in the reduction of some behaviours as well as inattention. However, they added that further research would be required to demonstrate the specific behaviours that each herb could address, and to see if polyherbal formulations could wield similar benefits.

The Use of Ukgansangajinpibanha Granule in Children with ASD

One small trial currently being led by S Haeng Lee is focusing on the efficiency of Ukgansangajinpibanha (UGSJB – a legitimately prescribed herb for nervousness, insomni, and night crying) in the treatment of children with ASD. The trial is set to conclude at the end of this year. Currently, the trial has already established that this herbal treatment can reduce aggressive behaviour by suppressing the excess activity of a particular neuron type in the hippocampus. It has also been found to successfully reduce anxiety and insomnia.

Acupuncture for ASD

A review report by academics at Cochrane has found that needle acupuncture might be linked to an improvement for people with ASD, specifically in the area of communication, linguistic ability, cognitive functioning, and global functioning. Other small studies have limited the success of acupuncture to cognitive and global functioning alone. Two additional studies, on the other hand, showed no benefits for acupuncture when compared to conventional treatment, yet acupressure did seem to lead to small improvements.

Although herbs and acupuncture are considered ‘alternative therapies’ for autism, few studies have been carried out on their efficiency. Those that have been carried out seem to indicate the utility of some herbs, and one current trial is seeking to discover that of UGSJB. Acupuncture does not seem to be too effective overall, but as stated by the Cochrane scientists, this may be because we have only a small number of studies to rely on, and all of these have been carried out on children. Further research, therefore, needs to be conducted to see whether or not acupuncture can make a positive difference in the treatment of ASD.

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S. Laiba Ali


Supporting a Safe and Healthy Pregnancy Using Traditional Chinese Medicine

By Sally Perkins

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) diagnoses are now included in the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD) of the World Health Organization (WHO) beginning 2022. The inclusion is good news for practitioners and patients, as TCM is increasingly becoming a part of global health care. One of the areas where TCM can help is during pregnancy where a woman can manifest symptoms that need intervention or treatment.  Chinese medicine, when used properly, could offer a safe option to ensure a healthy pregnancy.

Herbal Medicine for Expectant Mothers 

TCM has several components such as acupuncture and herbal medicine. Much in the same way that traditional medicine can assist in improving fertility rates and eventually in conceiving, it can also help during the gestation period. Pregnant women can take herbs such as ginger, chamomile, or peppermint that reduce the symptoms of early pregnancy specifically nausea or morning sickness.

However, it should be noted that there are other complications that may arise if you are pregnant. As the body undergoes hormonal changes, you will also experience side effects. For example, the placenta produces hormones that can contribute to an accumulation of glucose in the blood. If your pancreas cannot produce enough insulin, sugar levels will increase and a pregnant woman might develop gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM). Fortunately, it resolves once a woman has completed pregnancy or has given birth.

In the meantime, there are several things that you can do to control GDM. If properly used, herbal medicine can help bring down glucose levels. Other ways to manage the symptoms of GDM include wearing of stockings for good circulation, paying attention to diets, and exercising.

Acupuncture to Consolidate Energy

Acupuncture is another key component of TCM that can benefit pregnant women. It should be noted that the usual precautions apply -  avoidance of infection and dangerous pressure points.

For expectant moms, you don’t want to touch pressure points that can induce any pain, touch vital organs, or puncture the fetus. In addition, there is a list of acupuncture points that must be avoided because of their oxytocic effect which may induce the mother to go into labor or at worst, a miscarriage.  Overall, acupuncture may be practiced using gentle needling that will aim to enhance a woman’s energy without over stimulating or disturbing the pregnancy.

TCM can benefit a pregnant woman in several ways. It can consolidate her energy, improve mood and enhance overall health contributing to a safe and healthy pregnancy.

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Chinese Medicine Aids Deep Sleep to Revitalize Mind and Body

By Sally Perkins

It is widely recognized that sleep is essential for good health, and new research confirms that irregular and insufficient sleep can lead to a greater risk of experiencing metabolic disorders. Chinese medicine places importance on preventative measures to help the body remain balanced and free from disease, and its treatments and formulas have been shown to be effective in aiding deep and restful sleep. This is when critical body restoration takes place, resulting in increased immunity, the correction of internal imbalances and the strengthening of organ function. In addition, quality sleep, during which REM is experienced, can help stimulate and heal the mind.

Sleep to Stimulate The Mind

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Reaching the REM stage of sleep is important as this is when neural connections essential to health and well-being are made. REM only takes place after 90 minutes of sleep, so to aid a deeper sleep, jujube seed is often prescribed as it strengthens circulation and calms the mind. REM is also the period of sleep where dreams most often occur, as activity in the brain resembles that seen during wakefulness. During REM sleep, it becomes possible to stimulate lucid dreams where control can be exerted over the unconscious self and the fabric of its surroundings. As the wonders of the mind are explored, lucid dreaming can promote emotional healing, help overcome fears and encourage problem solving.  Occasionally, even when the REM stage of sleep is successfully reached, some people may experience REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD) where they act out their dreams physically, so disrupting their sleep. However, studies have shown that, as well as aiding restful sleep, herbal remedies are as effective as tranquilizers and antidepressants in treating RBD.

Rest to Repair The Body

Sleep is vital for the body to grow and repair muscles, organs and other cells, so ensuring a good night’s sleep is essential to avoid serious health issues. For over 2000 years, a variety of Chinese medicines and formulas have been successfully used for the treatment of insomnia and other sleep disorders. In Chinese medicine, insomnia is typically linked to heart function and so the heart tonic Fu Ling is recommended as it also has a sedative effect. As well as herbal remedies, studies show that acupuncture can improve the quality of sleep. It triggers the release of neurotransmitters including serotonin, which helps to regulate sleep patterns and induce REM sleep.

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A good night’s sleep is vital for health and well being. Herbal medicines and alternative treatments aid restful sleep, and once the body and mind are relaxed, balance and health can be restored.


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Shed The Pounds By Adding Goji Berries To Your Diet

By Sally Perkins

93.3 million Americans are obese and spend a whopping $147 billion U.S dollars on medical treatments alone. Obesity still remains a major risk factor for heart disease, a leading cause of death in the United States. While this may be prevalent among adults, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry consider the onset of obesity to occur between five and six years old, with an 80% chance of growing into an obese adult if this is not resolved before reaching twelve years old. Goji berries are a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) believed to nourish the kidneys, liver, lungs, and stomach from ‘burn out’. Today, people predominantly consume this tonic herb for weight loss.  If you’re planning to turn your life around and make changes to your diet, start by including this bright orange-red berry dubbed as a ‘superfood’.

Goji Berry Benefits and Nutritional Value

Goji berries, also known as wolfberries, are the fruits of a Chinese medicinal plant, and look similar to raisins, with a slightly sour taste. This fruit contain nutrients such as vitamin A, zinc, fiber, iron, and vitamin C essential for building the immunity of the body. However, goji berries are also famous for their weight loss and antioxidant properties.

Your Handy, Go-to Snack

Goji berries are low in carbohydrates, making them an ideal energy booster snack. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine published a study noting increased energy levels, better physical performances, and mental sharpness for test subjects taking goji berry juice for two weeks. Scoring low on the glycemic index (GI), this superfood is nutritious, while helping keep weight off.

Goji Berries Can Be Integrated in Most Diet Plans

The Atkins and Keto diets are low carbohydrate meal plans with varying portions of protein and fat. Berries are often used as part of the meal plan since they only contain 88 calories per quarter serving. These can be eaten raw, or used in smoothies mixed with other fruits or yogurt, or included in banana-stuffed pancakes, jams and pastries, such as almond and Goji berries brownies. The Atkins diet focuses on controlling insulin levels in the body using a four-phase low carbohydrate meal plan to achieve a healthy weight and maintain it. As part of your meal plan, use one serving of dried goji berries. Ideally, these berries may be added between phase 2 (balancing) to phase 4 (maintenance).

Meanwhile, a Ketogenic diet is a high fat and low carbohydrate diet to achieve nutrition ketosis, a process where your body uses fat (ketones) as fuel instead of your usual carbohydrates. This type of diet plan works best with intermittent fasting, so you should only take the berries before your fasts. If you’re still starting with this type of diet, having six small meals per day may help you develop an eating pattern, allowing your body time to adjust.

Finding Out What Works Best For You

Goji berries works well with various meal plans because of its ‘neutral’ nature. Meaning, you can consume these berries without gaining weight. Adapting a different meal plan may take some time for some people. However, lifestyle changes rarely happen overnight so expect to take this weight loss process one step at a time.


Thunder God Vine to Prevent Arthritis Woes Among the Elderly

By Sally Perkins

Are you experiencing a sudden joint pain, unexplained swelling and redness, or stiffness around the knees or wrists? Have you been experiencing a persistent dull joint pain for the past two weeks? Some seniors transitioning to an assisted living facility may find sufficient help with activities of daily living from professional healthcare workers. But with about 54.4 million adults in the United States experiencing some form of Arthritis, seeking alternative treatments such as Chinese herb thunder god vine may provide just the right solution.

The Role of Inflammation in Arthritis

Inflammation is our body’s defense mechanism against injuries, irritations, and germ invasion characterized by swelling, redness, pain, and increased temperature. With arthritis, inflammation happens because of several factors such as obesity, joint injuries, and genetics. Among older adults, aging cause cytokines, a chemical messenger of our body’s immune system, to add further to the body’s inflammatory state. Medical treatments such as DMARDS, NSAIDs, and Acetaminophen prevent swelling and pain in arthritis.

Lesser Swelling and Pain

Peking Union Medical College Hospital did a research on using thunder god vine (Triptergium wilfordii Hook F) with methotrexate (an anti-rheumatic drug) among 207 patients. Results showed patients who took both treatments expressed 77% of the ACR 50 response (American College of Rheumatology 50 response). Older adults may require assistance with daily living as they age throughout the years. Home remedies such as hot and cold therapy and consumption of food rich in omega-3 fatty acid with other organic supplements may prevent further progression of inflammation or flares.

Better Joints for Better Mobility

Older adults with arthritis do various range-of-motion exercises as part of their preventive therapy. In nursing homes, various physical activities such as swimming, stretching, and cycling custom-made for seniors. Some of these facilities also consider alternative medicinal treatments in combating age-related diseases such as arthritis. But with constant friction, cartilages wear out over time hence leading to joint pain and swelling. Using topical thunder god vine contains immunosuppressive properties to protect your cartilages. It is best to discuss this with your healthcare provider first before using.

Seniors with cancer may also experience chronic inflammation and pannus, a tumor-like formation in the joints. Triptolide, a component found in thunder god vine, prevents the growth of rheumatoid arthritis synovial fibroblasts (RASFs). By taking this herb regularly, it may help prevent cartilage damage and progression of arthritis.

A Good Complementary Treatment

Healthcare providers often see this as a ‘complementary’ treatment. Meaning, this would work best if taken with a drug prescribed by your doctor. Should you take thunder god vine with your current treatment, consult your physician and give an overall picture of your health before proceeding to prevent drug interactions and adverse effects. With exercise and proper diet, you may find yourself living a better and pain-free life in the long run.

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Healing Acne Holistically With Traditional Chinese Medicine

By Sally Perkins

Acne is the most common skin disease in the United States — 50 million Americans experience breakouts each year which can continue into your 30’s and 40’s, the American Academy of Dermatology reports. While most of us turn to skincare or makeup to externally treat acne, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) addresses the underlying root causes. TCM recognizes acne as typically the result of excess internal heat caused by imbalances in the body. Treatment involves herbal formulas targeted to specific skin types, as well as dietary changes which eliminate inflammatory foods. In most cases, acne improves in as little as one month but takes roughly six months to disappear completely.

Excess Internal Heat


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In Chinese medicine, acne is primarily caused by excess internal heat. Excess heat builds up in the body when it’s under constant stress or hormonally imbalanced. This acne-causing internal heat is generated in the lungs (which control the skin), intestines, menstrual system, and by specific toxins in the body. Often, however, acne doesn’t just originate from one place; there can be multiple influences involved. For example, facial acne can result from a block in both the lungs and stomach.

The Problem of Stagnation

Chinese medicine also recognizes stagnation (or impaired blood circulation) as a root cause of acne. If stagnation is the reason for your acne, your spots may be sore, stubborn, deep red, or even purple. You may also breakout before your period and experience painful menstrual cramps. Alternatively, fluids in the body can stagnate and result in phlegm. Cystic acne is often a result of phlegm stagnation (as well as blood stagnation).

Clean Diet for Clear Skin


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TCM recommends avoiding inflammatory foods — particularly greasy, spicy, and damp foods — as they heat up your blood, which results in breaks outs. Don’t eat anything too hot or cold in temperature, either. Sticking to room temperature food will prevent contributing to excess internal heat. Your body needs to be relaxed in order to function optimally, rather than devoting its energy to digestion. Reducing overall stress also helps calm the body and clear the skin. Low cortisol levels help your skin stay clear and blemish-free.

Restoring the Body with Herbs

Herbs are essential for stabilizing the body. Traditional Chinese medicine treatment includes herbal mixtures which calm the body, cool the blood, boost circulation, and detox the lungs. Adaptogens are used to balance hormones, soothe the nervous system, and improve digestion — with the result of beating acne and calming irritated skin. The specific herbs used depends on your skin type and can be determined by your dermatologist.

Unlike Western medicine, traditional Chinese medicine doesn’t rely on a one-size-fits-all approach to treatment. Dermatologists tailor treatment to suit each specific case with the aim of cooling excess internal heat, cleansing and detoxifying the body and externally healing the skin. Your dermatologist will work with you to find natural, effective, and holistic treatments to keep your skin healthy and acne at bay for life.

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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.  

 



How Ginko Biloba Can Enhance Memory in Chinese Medicine

By freelance writer Sally Perkins

Around 1.6 million U.S adults use the herb ginkgo biloba which can help with various ailments, including memory loss. Experiencing memory loss may well set off alarm bells, but according to the National Institute on Aging, it is often a reversible condition. Although Alzheimer’s may be the first conclusion that people jump to, there are actually a variety of causes which can occur at any age and recognizing what the root of the issue is and addressing it could also help to alleviate the memory loss. Chinese medicines, such as ginkgo biloba, can benefit brain function through improved circulation to the brain and can be used in addition to other healing practices such as targeting acupuncture points for better memory.

Understanding the Causes of Memory Loss

Memory loss tends to occur naturally with age but it is not necessarily only a symptom of getting older. In fact, it often occurs in much younger people as well and once the root of what is causing it has been fixed, the problem of the memory loss is often also solved. Poor sleep and feeling fatigued can result in your brain not operating on all cylinders and lead to memory complaints. If you are taking several medications at the same time, that could also contribute to feelings of confusion and forgetfulness.

Another underlying health problem that could be the cause of memory loss is a nutritional deficiency. Checking the condition of your cognitive function can be done online with an IQ test. It is important to be aware of what is normal for you and not taking it as a personal criticism when people close to you make observations about your slower than usual recall or forgetfulness. 

Ginko Biloba leaf / Photo by Buzo Jesús on Unsplash

Ginkgo Biloba to Improve Memory

There are many different herbs that are used in Chinese medicine that can be used to treat all manner of ailments. However, ginkgo biloba is the most popular for improved cognitive function. The way it works is by dilating the blood vessels that nourish the brain, which increases the flow of blood to the neural tissue.

Ginkgo biloba improves concentration and cognitive function through increased blood circulation to the brain alongside a greater circulation of oxygen, helping to inhibit neural cell damage. It is suggested that a dosage of 120 to 240mg per day in two or three divided doses can help with memory impairment and that it ought to be taken along with meals so as not to upset your stomach.

Chinese medicine has evolved over thousands of years and is now commonly referred to in the United States as a form of complementary health practice. Memory loss can be attributed to a great many causes so panic need not be your immediate reaction since it is often treatable. Using Chinese medicine, such as ginkgo biloba, allows you to use natural methods to treat memory loss.

Featured image from vititaal.nl


Eat Your Way to Health: Chinese Superfoods

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

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

Goji berries

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

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

Chinese cabbage


This lovely image courtesy of Fit Day

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

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

Bitter melon

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

Gardenia fruit

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

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

Green tea

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

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

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Beautiful featured image by Hao Ji on Unsplash