Acupuncture for a Clear Mind – The Spleen and Yi

Acupuncture for a worried, scattered mindAcupuncture for a clear mind is not usually a way that people think about when then think about having acupuncture treatments.

Imagine lying down for bed, but your brain won’t seem to shut off. The more quiet you try to create in your mind the more your mind revolts. It reminds you of all the things in your life you have on your “To Do List”. It tells you of all the things you have to worry about tomorrow and in the days ahead. It may seem like your mind is stuck on the “ruminate” setting!

This situation is all too familiar for many of us.

My last post looked at “shen” and acupuncture for mental alertness. The shen or “awakeness” is just one aspect of the mind. Today we look at “yi” – the cognition, or the intellect.

The health of the spleen (and also the pancreas) are critical for a healthy mind. These are the organs of the “earth” energy in the body. When the “earth” system is weakened it can result in a disturbance in the thought process. Often this manifests as over-rumination, but it can also show up as an unclear, foggy mind.

What is over ruminating? When people ruminate, they over-think or obsess about situations or life events, such as work or relationships. Research has shown that rumination is associated with a variety of negative consequences, including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, binge-drinking and binge-eating.

Acupuncture may be able to help you re-establish clear thought. To see if acupuncture might be right for you, give us a call at our Durham location or you may call us at 919-228-8448. If you find it easier to make an appointment online, you can simply click here to use our online schedule to set up a free face-to-face consultation.

Acupuncture for Mental Alertness- The Heart and Shen

Mental Alertness

Have you ever been awake, but just not quite mentally there? Maybe someone noticed you being “spaced out”. It’s not that you were daydreaming so much as “nobody was home”- you weren’t thinking of anything in particular. When this happens it feels like not being fully conscious.

The word we use for what is missing here in the mental state is “shen”. Shen is sometimes loosely translated as “spirit”, but that’s a bit of a loaded word in our culture with it’s religious overtones. A less exciting, but more accurate definition in the context of acupuncture might be “awakeness” or “mental presence”.

The heart is the organ that is said to generate or have dominion over the shen. When sleeping it is said that the shen retires into the heart. What this statement means from a practical standpoint is that when someone is having a hard time finding peaceful sleep it implies that somehow the heart is being energetically disturbed.

Acupuncture treats the body and the mind. I’ve spoken about the body-mind connection in a previous blog post. If you’ve read that post you know that it is actually impossible to treat the mind without the body and vice versa.

If you are experience issues with mental alertness or problems with sleep, you are experiencing an imbalanced shen. Acupuncture may be able to help.

To see if acupuncture might be right for you, give us a call at our Durham location or you may call us at 919-228-8448. If you find it easier to make an appointment online, you can simply click here to use our online schedule to set up a free face-to-face consultation.

Quench Summer Heat

It is so hot this time of year here in North Carolina. It’s a perfect time to talk about “external pathogenic heat”. With temperatures at or above 100 degrees lately, fatigue and dehydration due to heat exposure are not abstract concepts right now.

Watermelon for summer heatYou may be familiar with the concept of heat exhaustion and heat stroke from western medicine. Chinese medicine also concerns itself with injury to the body due to exposure to excess environmental heat. Having been at it for a few thousand years longer than western medicine, Chinese medicine goes beyond simple rest and rehydration protocols. Certain foods and herbs have been identified as particularly good for “beating the heat”. Here are a few you can use:

Watermelon- everyone knows that it is delicious and refreshing this time of year. Our bodies intuitively know that it is energetically cooling as well as hydrating.

Mung beans- not as fun and delicious as watermelon, mung beans are a traditional cooling therapy. You can often find these in an Asian grocery. In summertime these are often made into a cooling soup. You can even boil the beans in a few cups of water to make a cooling tea.

Chrysanthemum flower- also often found in an Asian grocery these dried flowers make a delicate and lovely tea that has cooling properties. Just drop a few flowers into some hot water or hot green tea.

Green tea- easy to find and, unlike coffee, has a cooling effect on the body.

Stay cool out there!

To see if acupuncture might be right for you, give us a call at our Durham location or you may call us at 919-228-8448. If you find it easier to make an appointment online, you can simply click here to use our online schedule to set up a free face-to-face consultation.

The Mind-Body Connection

The Mind Body Connection

In the west when we speak of the mind-body connection we typically are considering it in a fairly limited way. We separate the concepts of mind from the concept of body as if they two were separate entities that communicate. We speak as if the mind and body require some sort of connection. Perhaps the mind communicates to the body through telegraph, or a system of interconnected tubes.

In the context of Chinese Medicine (and others) the mind and body are seen as different aspects of a single entity. There is no need to identify a connection between them because they are one. This is why some write “body-mind” or “bodymind” in deference to this notion.

The organs of the body create the aspects of the mind. Conversely the mind affects the functioning of the organs of the body. Chinese Medicine and acupuncture theory goes farther than this to identify the specific relationships between the body systems and various aspects of the mental state.

It is because of this that acupuncture provides such a powerful tool to tune and balance the “bodymind”. In future posts I will go in to more specific detail about these mind-body relationships and how they affect the state of your holistic health.

To see if acupuncture might be right for you, give us a call at our Durham location or you may call us at 919-228-8448. If you find it easier to make an appointment online, you can simply click here to use our online schedule to set up a free face-to-face consultation.

Acupuncture and Religion

Acupuncture and Religion

Acupuncture comes to us from the foundation of Taoist philosophy. Since Taoism is also a religion, this has led some people to ask me (and others) if acupuncture is compatible with their particular religious beliefs.

I am not a clergy member of any religion: I’m just an acupuncturist. As such I can not speak authoritatively for any particular religion. I can make some observations that I hope will put some people’s minds at ease, however.

The first observation is that while the foundation of acupuncture and Chinese Medicine is Taoist philosophy, the foundation of “western medicine” is Greek philosophy. I have yet to hear of anyone concerned about going to a medical doctor and being asked to worship Zeus or other ancient Greek gods. Both the eastern and western systems of medicine have been secular for centuries. No particular belief systems are required.

The second observation is that acupuncture is practiced on billions of people around the world on people of many different faiths. Even in China people of diverse faiths receive acupuncture.

As for my practice, I don’t ask my patients about their religion. Still, I am fairly certain I have treated people who were Christian, Jewish, Hindu and other religions. I even have treated a Christian minister. In the Durham area, many people have deep religious conviction which is a wonderful principal to live by. Acupuncture does not go against that ideology.

If you have doubts, ask your clergy member if acupuncture is okay. I think it is important that you feel comfortable with whatever health care you are receiving.

To see if acupuncture might be right for you, give us a call at our Durham location or you may call us at 919-228-8448. If you find it easier to make an appointment online, you can simply click here to use our online schedule to set up a free face-to-face consultation.

Examples of Yin and Yang

As I discussed in my last post, “What are Yin and Yang?”, the concepts of yin and yang are difficult to impossible to define. The best anyone has yet come up with to teach these concepts is to provide examples of each.

Here are some classic examples of yin and yang to help illustrate the distinctions:

Yin Yang
cold hot
female male
dark light
hard soft
low high
winter summer
matter energy
structure function
inner outer
descending ascending
accretion expansion

These are all complementary pairs. Each defines and contrasts the other. Without the one the other has no meaning.

It’s also important to realize what yin and yang are not. Not all pairs of concepts we generally hold to be opposites in our society are examples of yin and yang. For example, absent from this list are such pairs as “good” and “evil” or “right” and “wrong”. These concepts, while very important, are created by humans in order to establish order in our society. Nature has no need for concepts like right and wrong.

To see if acupuncture might be right for you, give us a call at our Durham location or you may call us at 919-228-8448. If you find it easier to make an appointment online, you can simply click here to use our online schedule to set up a free face-to-face consultation.

What are “yin” and “yang”?

Sign displaying the Taijitu and Bagua

What are Yin and Yang?

If you let most any acupuncturist speak for long the words “yin” and “yang” are likely to come out of his or her mouth. What do these words really mean?

First, I hear lots of people pronounce “yang” as if it rhymed with “rang”. Instead pronounce “yang” like it rhymes with “gong”. (i.e. with an “ah” sound) With that out of the way, on to the origin of the words.

The terms come from Taoist philosophy. The ancient taoists were extremely adept at observing and describing the universe and its dynamics. The terms came from the observation of the differing characteristics of the shady (yin) and sunny (yang) sides of a hill. Taoists realized that this dichotomy and duality exists in everything in nature. Furthermore they realized that without yin yang would have no meaning, relevance, or existence and vice versa.

Chinese words tend to be dense with meaning. These two words are no exception. Yin and yang are especially tricky as they somewhat defy classification as a part of speech. I would call them “noun-adjectives”, as they are slightly more noun than adjective. In use I might say “the yin of the body” or “kidney yang”.

Since yin and yang can be used to describe everything in the universe it is difficult to apply a definition to them. Instead the words are best understood through example. In my next blog post I will provide some examples of yin and yang to help create understanding of the concepts.

Yin creates Yang and Yang activates Yin.

To see if acupuncture might be right for you, give us a call at our Durham location or you may call us at 919-228-8448. If you find it easier to make an appointment online, you can simply click here to use our online schedule to set up a free face-to-face consultation.

Prevent Motion Sickness

Prevent Motion Sickness

Anyone who has ever experienced motion sickness knows it’s no fun.

Medications are available to prevent sea sickness and can be a big help, but they also can have side effects.

I like to SCUBA dive. Dive boats are notoriously small and can bob and roll in even relatively calm seas. Sea sickness is often a problem for divers while on-board the boat.

But diving requires a clear mind in order to stay safe underwater. You need to stay aware of your surroundings and make smart decisions. As a diver your life and your buddy’s life depend on this.

It’s because of that I find the grogginess I experience from medications for motion sickness intolerable when I’m diving; I never use them. Yet, I’m never the one getting sick over the side of the boat. (Knock on wood!)

How do I prevent motion sickness without drugs? I use acupressure.

Today I’m going to show you a point you and your buddy (or enemy- why not be nice and make friends?) can stimulate on each other to prevent or treat motion sickness.

Ear acupuncture point for prevention and treatment of motion sickness

Acupuncture Point for Prevention of Motion Sickness

The point I’m sharing with you today is located on the outside of the ear. I have marked the point on the ear diagram to the right. The point is small, so you will need to be precise. To find the point probe around a bit and try to find the most tender spot in the approximate area I have marked. It should be pretty close to where I have placed the red dot in the diagram.

I normally stimulate the point with an ear seed, which I consider the ideal method. Ear seeds are great because they can stay in place for days. In a pinch you could use anything small, hard, and blunt to stimulate the point. The tip of a retractable ball-point pen works fairly well as does the end of a wooden matchstick. The corner of a fingernail can also work when you have no other options.

To stimulate the point apply pressure on the point for about 30 seconds. You can repeat this as needed, such as when you feel nausea returning. I suggest doing it at least a few times every 30 minutes if you have started to feel sick. If you are using it strictly preventatively you can stimulate it maybe every hour or two at first, and then as you think of it during the day.

To see if acupuncture might be right for you, give us a call at our Durham location or you may call us at 919-228-8448. If you find it easier to make an appointment online, you can simply click here to use our online schedule to set up a free face-to-face consultation.

Navel Piercings – Bad Idea

Navel piercings inhibit the flow of qi and jing in the conception vessel.

Conception Vessel Blockage – Not a good thing

A navel piercing may seem like a benign adornment, but acupuncture theory strongly suggests that this is not a healthy or safe practice.

The problem is that the piercing is creating a semi-permanent obstruction in the flow of a very important energy channel known as the Conception Vessel (or Ren Mai in Chinese). The conception runs from between the legs up the front of the body, ending below the mouth. Here’s a diagram of the Conception Vessel, for the curious. If you do look at the diagram, notice that the navel is an acupuncture point on the Conception Vessel- CV-8. You may also notice CV-8 is a point that one is specifically forbidden to needle.

When an obstruction like a navel piercing is placed in a channel it creates a physical blockage to the flow of the channel. The piercing represents a constant interruption in the energetic field of the body. As you might gather from its name in English, the Conception Vessel is a very important channel in the energetics of the reproductive system.

Consequently the blockage created by the piercing can possibly lead to problems down the road, particularly with the reproductive system:

  • Infertility
  • Amenorrhea (no menstrual periods)
  • Cervical Dysplasia (abnormal cells of the cervix which may lead to cancer)
  • Uterine fibroids
  • Endometriosis

When a woman comes to me for treatment with menstrual complaints or infertility it is very common for her to have either a navel piercing or surgical scar along or across the Conception Vessel. It is also pretty rare that I talk to someone who has had a navel piercing for more than five years who doesn’t have some sort of menstrual or cervical abnormality.

Some people can do okay with navel piercings for a few years, but problems may develop down the line. I’m sure it is possible that most people will never develop symptoms from a navel piercing. Is it worth the risk? You’ll need to decide for yourself.

To see if acupuncture might be right for you, give us a call at our Durham location or you may call us at 919-228-8448. If you find it easier to make an appointment online, you can simply click here to use our online schedule to set up a free face-to-face consultation.

Ginseng and Green Tea – Poor Combination

In last week’s blog post I wrote about how, despite is presence in so many products, ginseng is an inappropriate herb for many people. In fact it can cause problems. This is especially true for younger people on fatty western-style fast-food inclusive diets to whom these products are frequently marketed.

Today I want to look at one of the most popular products containing ginseng currently- sweet green tea with ginseng.

I would call these products a marketing triumph, but as a “supplement” a huge failure. The problem is that even if ginseng happens to be appropriate for the person consuming this product, they won’t see much if any benefit.

They way I see it there are are four reasons these products score a huge FAIL. These are:

  1. Green tea neutralizes the effects of ginseng.
  2. These products contain no herbs that harmonize or moderate the ginseng.
  3. They don’t taste like ginseng, so they can’t contain much of it.
  4. These products contain vast amounts of sugar.

The first point is that green tea neutralizes the effects of ginseng. You are supposed to avoid tea (as well as turnips and daikon radish) when taking herbal formulas containing ginseng. Fail one!

The second point is that ginseng is used alone in these drinks. In Chinese Medicine the ginseng is almost always combined with other herbs into an herbal formula designed to create a specific effect. These formulas often contain herbs to moderate the harsh side-effects of certain herbs (like ginseng). They also may be there to enhance or to focus the effects of the main herbs in the formula. Fail two!

I’ve tasted ginseng. I know what it tastes and smells like- it’s pretty yucky, like bitter dirt. I don’t taste or smell it in these drinks. They can’t contain much of it. Fail three!

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, these teas contain massive amounts of sugar! One very popular brand contains 54g of sugar per bottle. They even offer an “extra sweet” version with 69g of sugar! With the ginseng neutralized by the tea the primary effect of these drinks will be the result of the sugar they contain. Large amounts of sugar swamp the stomach and pancreas, causing large amounts of insulin to be dumped into your bloodstream. The result? A big energy crash and mental fatigue as soon as the caffeine wears off. Exactly the opposite effect being advertised! Fail four!

If you want more energy avoid sugar, exercise, and schedule an appointment with your friendly local acupuncturist.

To see if acupuncture might be right for you, give us a call at our Durham location or you may call us at 919-228-8448. If you find it easier to make an appointment online, you can simply click here to use our online schedule to set up a free face-to-face consultation.