A Brief History and the Many Benefits of Acupuncture

By Dr. Marcia Steingraber

The history of acupuncture may not be as straightforward as is generally accepted. In fact, the first evidence of the practice (which is assumed to have originated in China) can be found in passing mentions in texts from around two centuries prior to the dawn of the 'Common Era' (or B.C.). The first mention of the practice that is beyond argument can be found in the medical text 'The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine' which was published in China in around 100 BCE (around BCE - or 'Before the Common Era'). There is evidence that sharpened bone slivers from much further back in history might have been used in acupuncture - however, it is recognized that these may have been used in other ways such as the drawing or letting of blood. Whatever the case, acupuncture has a long history as a treatment for a variety of ailments.

Today the practice of acupuncture (which consists of inserting thin needles into the skin at various depths) is an important part of holistic medicine. It has been accepted by medical researchers that acupuncture can be of enormous benefit to those who are experiencing chronic pain. However, the many other benefits of the practice that are claimed by those who administer acupuncture are still under investigation. One of the challenges of the ongoing research is that those investigating the benefits of the practice are still unsure of exactly how acupuncture works - does it (as is claimed by many traditionalists) balance the bodies' vital energies and improve the flow of 'Chi' (spiritual energy) through the insertion of the needles at the various meridians (there are 350 acupuncture points) of the
body, balancing out the opposing forces of 'yin' and 'yang' or does it have a measurable neurological effect (which would fit in more neatly to the Western concept of medicine).

Whatever the reason - as far as pain and discomfort is concerned, acupuncture works - and practitioners (as well as many beneficiaries of the practice) believe that it can be used to treat a multitude of diverse conditions, including persistent headaches [2], high (or low) blood pressure, dysentery, Biliary Colic, symptoms of ulcers and gastritis and a variety of conditions that affect mood and mental wellbeing such as depression. It has also been shown to be useful in the treatment of lower back and neck pain which is increasingly prevalent in Western society as a result of a sedentary lifestyle.

The idea that acupuncture may affect neurological systems [3] is one that is attractive to the adherents of modern medicine. the meridian points that are stimulated in traditional acupuncture are, in many cases at the nexus of nerve transmission and also places where muscles and various classes of connective tissue can be stimulated. This is turn stimulates the body's secretion of endorphins - natural painkillers and can also increase blood flow (which can reduce swelling and stimulate the repair of damaged internal structures).

For those who are suffering persistent pain, acupuncture provides an alternative to Westernized medicine and its focus on drug-fueled treatments. It is a holistic approach that is growing in popularity as consumers become more aware of the potential dangers of medicinal drug use.

Sources:
1. The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine (2008);
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2287209/
2. Acupuncture for Chronic Headaches - An Epidemiological Study (2006);
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16643558/
3. Acupuncture Effect and Central Autonomic Regulation (2013);
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3677642/

Beautiful featured image photo by Lian Rodríguez from Pexels


Dr. Marcia Steingraber is a practicing acupuncturist with a Doctorate in Acupuncture, specializing in Family Medicine with an emphasis in Fertility. Her focus is treating chronic pain, failed surgeries and internal disorders. Marcia’s true passion is rejuvenating her patients by relieving them of chronic pain or injuries.


Chinese Holistic Medicine Could Be The Ideal All-Round Treatment For Stress

By Sally Perkins

Western medicine has long espoused its own benefits while prescribing treatments from eastern and Chinese medicines as complementary. However, research is beginning to show that Chinese medicine can stand on its own two feet when it comes to certain conditions, including stress, as outlined in an influential study conducted by the University of Edmonton. When conducted with the supervision of experts and in a controlled manner, an anti-stress regimen lead entirely by Chinese medicine can be very effective.

Treatment Without Intrusion

Chinese medicine can effectively mitigate stress without ever requiring the prescription of medicine. Stress is a serious condition that impacts countless people and while many will brush it off on the odd occasion, several flare ups of stress can lead to long term consequences. As stress can strike anywhere – the commute to work being a common place, in addition to the comfort of the home – it’s important to find methods that can be called on for relief at any time. Chinese medicine has long provided for this through routines like tai chi. One article by NBC noted studies that found tai chi could be the best way to improve sleep and reduce long term stress. Most importantly, exercises it provides can be conducted at a miniature scale throughout the day to deal with sharp rises in stress, as well as creating a lower background level.

Using Medication

Stress, when left untreated, can manifest as long term conditions such as anxiety and depression. From here, the best solution is often a mix of western medicine and psychological treatment. As a result, up to 1 in 6 Americans are prescribed with anti-anxiety drugs today. However, what if many people could tackle their stress before it develops into something more?


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It goes without saying that many people are diagnosed with anxiety and depression for reasons other than overwhelming stress, but, for those who are, Chinese medicine can be used early and effectively to help alleviate symptoms and boost recovery. Acupuncture, for example, has been found by studies to have a statistically significant reduction on stress, according to one Metro summary.

A Way of Life

If medicine is not required, then Americans can look to some core beliefs in Chinese society that can help to alleviate stress. American life is very stressful; a Psychology Today analysis found that over 57% of those surveyed reported significant levels of stress. According to Viacom, a lower percentage reported such feelings in China, and a significant amount reported being happier. While there are many factors contributing to these findings, the basics of life seem important. According to Viacom’s research, Chinese people are 60% more likely to than others globally to take simple self-care steps to reduce stress, including walks, listening to positive music and connecting with family.

Stress is a complex condition, but there are more ways to deal with it than just the one. Chinese medicine is a proven way to tackle it holistically, though medication, self-care and relaxation techniques. Try looking at your self-care routines and adjusting them, with the guidance of your physician.


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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.