Dump the Ginseng!

Ginseng for energy or acupuncture?Dump the Ginseng!

Non-medicinal products containing ginseng abound in America. You can find:

  • Sweet iced green tea with ginseng
  • Multivitamins with ginseng
  • B Vitamin complex with ginseng
  • Energy drinks with ginseng

Ginseng comes to America from its use in Chinese Medicine for thousands of years. In Chinese herbal formulas ginseng (红参 or “ren shen” in Chinese) is used as an energy booster. And it is a really powerful energy booster when used in these formulas.

The problem is that the inclusion of ginseng in all of these products is primarily for marketing purposes. Some brilliant marketing person probably figured out that their products would sell better if they were marketed as containing this amazing herb. So many of us are dragging ourselves through life with low-energy that the promise of a quick fix can be very appealing. The problem is this:

Ginseng is completely inappropriate for most of the people to whom it is being marketed!

Don’t self-medicate with ginseng. If you are not middle-aged or older with symptoms like low appetite and a cold body, ginseng is probably not for you. If you are experiencing low energy do your body a favor and skip the caffeine-loaded energy drinks, mega-size coffee or ginseng-containing products.

There are many different causes of low energy. A licensed acupuncturist can help you get to the source of your low energy. You shouldn’t need rocket fuel just to get through your 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.

The Acupuncture Meridian Myth

The Acupuncture Meridian Myth

I am an acupuncturist who says that acupuncture “meridians” are a myth! Do I have your attention? Read on…

Acupuncture Defined

I often see acupuncture defined in terms similar to this:

Acupuncture is a system of healing using the insertion of thin needles at 365 specific points on the body to supposedly “balances the flow” of a kind of mystical bio-energy, called qi (pronounced chee), along invisible lines on the body called “meridians”.

To which, I say hogwash! This statement is just plain wrong! The statement contains multiple incorrect assertions about acupuncture. Here I’m going to focus on the part about “meridians”. The others will be addressed in future articles.

Meridians vs. Channels

Acupuncture chart of the xin bao luo "meridian"A meridian is infinitely thin imaginary line on the surface of a body. It is a term taken from geography and cartography. It is a good description of what the first westerners saw when they first observed an acupuncture chart. It looks like a map. Consider the chart on the right. But, as Alfred Korzybski famously noted, “the map is not the territory.”

The human body contains no meridians. What it contains are channels. Channels have width and are located at different depths in along their path through the body.

That the channels run deep to the surface of the skin is pretty obvious when you stop to think about how acupuncture is performed. If the acupuncture points and channels were on the surface there would be no reason to puncture the skin with a needle! You could just lightly touch the point to get the same effect.

So please, let’s use the word “channel” for paths of energy in the body. “Channel” provides a much more accurate and specific term for what actually runs beneath the surface of the skin in our bodies.

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.

Is Acupuncture “Energy Medicine?”

Is Man Experiencing Energy Medicine - AcupunctureAcupuncture Energy Medicine

More and more these days I’ve noticed people advertising or discussing various forms of “energy medicine”. It seems like every few weeks I learn of some “amazing” new form of energy healing that involves fancy devices, laying on of hands, crystals, sounds, colors, smells, elixirs and so forth. As many of us find ourselves frustrated with what is missing from modern “western medicine” new alternative therapies continue to appear to meet those needs. The latest and greatest energy medicine modality can sound very attractive.

Crystals and Incense and Auras… Oh My!

Sadly there are many charlatans out there willing to take advantage of the sick and desperate. I would go so far as to say that most of the “latest and greatest” energy medicine modalities out there amount nothing more than a simple placebo. It is a strange and amazing universe in which we live, of course. Simply being different, strange, unconventional, or difficult to explain does not rule out effectiveness or truth. Likewise, simply falling under the label “energy medicine” does not make a particular healing practice a sham.

Mainstream Energy Medicine

One could certainly call electronic defibrillation a form of energy medicine, for instance. This therapy works time and time again and is as central to conventional western medicine as it gets. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), cancer radiotherapy, electrocardiograms (ECG), phototherapy, laser vision correction (LASIK), nerve conduction studies, deep brain stimulation (DBS), among many others are all very mainstream therapies yet could all rightly be labeled as energy medicine. Indeed most of these would be considered science fiction or fantasy just a few decades ago.

Acupuncture – Energy Medicine or not?

So where does acupuncture fall? Is it energy medicine or something else?

Acupuncture relies on needles and heat (moxibustion) to cause various therapeutic effects on the body and/or mind. The foundation of acupuncture (or at least the kind of acupuncture I do – Classical Chinese Medicine) is the homeostatic functional balance between the various organ systems of the body. Acupuncture points are locations on the body that over thousands of years of observations have been empirically shown to cause a certain effect on the body and/or mind when stimulated. The relationships observed between these points ultimately lead to the theory of channels of energy or information linking these points.

It is pretty clear to me that acupuncture, as it is most commonly practiced, is a form of energy medicine. The functional and energetic effects on the body/mind are considered when selecting acupuncture points. Furthermore, moxibustion is a form of energy medicine involving the application of infrared energy to stimulate acupuncture points.

However you label it, energy medicine or not, acupuncture is a form of healing that has truly stood the test of time.

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 Menopause

Acupuncture for Menopause

Every once and a while a study of acupuncture comes out that has me take notice. This time it was a study on post-menopausal women who were experiencing symptoms such as hot flashes, irritability, depression, and decreased libido.

First I want to point out that I am not big on studies of acupuncture. Almost never are these studies well designed or conducted by people who understand that acupuncture is a science of the particular. In real acupuncture each person needs to be diagnosed treated independently and given a treatment appropriate for their exact condition. This doesn’t match well with western-style studies which usually involve attempting to test a single variable.

So it is with some surprise that I’m sharing a study that Consumer Reports Health (of all places!) brought to my attention. The poor doctor who wrote the Consumer Reports article couldn’t even spell “yin” right, but at least he found this fascinating study.

The study, published in BMJ, studied the effect of acupuncture on postmenopausal symptoms and reproductive hormones. They made sure to pick experienced acupuncturists for the study, which impressed me. But what I really like here is that they measured both improvements in symptoms and in the hormone levels of the participants.

Acupuncture has always been a great substance-free choice to treat health concerns related to menopause. In perimenopause- the years of transition into menopause the body is looking to find a new kind of balance as it adjusts to changing hormone levels. Helping the body find a homeostatic balance is what I feel that acupuncture does best. This is exactly why I called my practice Balanced Being Acupuncture.

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.

Artificial Sweeteners Are Not For Fat Loss

The sweet flavor from a dessert adds insulin to the blood, making weight loss difficultArtificial sweeteners are not for fat loss.

There is a concept in Chinese Medicine that refers to the energetic impact that the flavor of food imparts. The ancient doctors called this the impact of the Five Sapors (Wu Wei), or flavors. This idea has been essentially ignored in “the west” until recently. If you are trying to lose weight (fat) or are diabetic you will want to take note. You will see why diet drinks and artificially flavored foods are not your friends!

The ancient Chinese identified five flavors and associated these with the energetic system that they most affect:

  • Sour – Wood
  • Bitter – Fire
  • Sweet – Earth
  • Pungent – Metal
  • Salty – Water

For example, this means that if I eat a sour food that it will increase the Wood energetics in my body. They went further than this to say that the taste of the food, without even swallowing it, would immediately start to impact the body.

Flash forward a few thousand years to 2008 where a study was conducted on “Cephalic phase insulin response after taste stimulation“. In the study human volunteers tasted various solutions which contained either sugar, artificial sweetener, plain water, starch, etc. The subjects then spit out the solution.

Chinese Medicine would predict that the sweet solutions, the sugar and artificial sweetener, would impact the Earth energetics resulting in increased insulin release and other earth-related effects. So what did they find?

A significant increase of plasma insulin concentration was apparent after stimulation with sucrose and saccharin. In conclusion, the current data suggest that the sweeteners sucrose and saccharin activate a CPIR even when applied to the oral cavity only.

Surprise, surprise. As soon as the tongue sensed the sweet flavor, even if it was from an artificial sweetener, the pancreas started dumping insulin into the blood. This is one of the reasons artificially sweetened foods aren’t especially helpful for people looking to reduce fat on their bodies and loose weight. Your body doesn’t much care if it is getting real sugar or fake sugar. Extra insulin will be released and that’s going to make you hungry. Your body will require that you eat those missing calories one way or another. Sweet is not your friend if you are looking to loose fat.

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 Depression?

Depressed woman - choosing acupuncture or drugs?Acupuncture for Depression

Depression is a huge problem. Did you know that in the United States doctors write over 150,000,000 prescriptions for anti-depressants each year? Drugs like Abilify, Pristiq, and Zyprexa net billions of dollars for their manufacturers each year.

That’s good news for the drug manufacturers, but not necessarily good news for those suffering from depression. For one thing, anti-depressant medications can have serious side-effects. Furthermore people using anti-depressant medications can find it difficult to get off of them. Consequently there are lots of people suffering with depression who are looking for non-drug options.

Depression Statistics: Who Is Affected by Depression?

  • Major depressive disorder affects approximately 14.8 million American adults, or about 6.7 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older, in a given year. (Archives of General Psychiatry, 2005 Jun; 62(6): 617-27)
  • While major depressive disorder can develop at any age, the median age at onset is 32. (U.S. Census Bureau Population Estimates by Demographic Characteristics, 2005)
  • Major depressive disorder is more prevalent in women than in men. (Journal of the American Medical Association, 2003; Jun 18; 289(23): 3095-105)
  • As many as one in 33 children and one in eight adolescents have clinical depression. (Center for Mental Health Services, U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, 1996)
  • People with depression are four times as likely to develop a heart attack than those without a history of the illness. After a heart attack, they are at a significantly increased risk of death or second heart attack. (National Institute of Mental Health, 1998)

I’ve written another article about acupuncture for depression which describes this drug-free approach. Acupuncture provides a surprising amount of flexibility and specificity for treating conditions of the mood and mind.

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.

Pomegranate Juice Highlights Prostate Energetics

Pomegranate for anti-cancer - illuminating acupuncture theory

Pomegranate seeds

Pomegranate Juice

Highlights Prostate Energetics

In a recent post on Dr. Andrew Weil’s blog he writes about new research into the chemical biomechanics of how pomegranate juice inhibits the progression of prostate cancer. What intrigued me in these research findings is what it highlights about the relationships between the body’s systems.

Chinese Medicine and acupuncture define five main energetic systems in the body – Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water. The prostate essentially belongs to the “water” energy. The type of cancer that affects the prostate naturally has the water “flavor” as well, as it comes from these cells.

This new research shows how pomegranate juice inhibits a bone-marrow protein. This protein promotes the migration and propagation of prostate cancer cells into bone, allowing the formation of new tumors there. But why does prostate cancer tend to move into bone, instead of, say, the lymphatic system?

Chinese Medicine theory illuminates this dynamic. Bone also belongs to the body’s “water” energetics. Since these cancer cells are already imprinted with this “water” signature, they are compatible with bone tissue, and metastasize there more easily than to tissue of a different energetic signature.

Even at the cellular scale this research supports the relationships described in the classic texts of acupuncture and Chinese Medicine many centuries ago.

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 Heart On Valentine’s Day

Hearts- The role of the heart in acupuncture and Chinese MedicineSince it is Valentine’s Day I thought it would be appropriate to write a post about the heart.

In Chinese medicine and acupuncture theory the heart is closely related to a person’s spirit and consciousness. It is also the source of the experience of joy in the mind and body. The heart is associated with “fire” in the body and with the color red. When are heart is agitated we find peaceful sleep difficult to obtain.

I hope you are good to your (and your sweetie’s) heart! Create some joyful hearts today!

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.

Icing Injuries – “Ice is for dead people”

A man with an icy frozen beard

Icing I photo by Robert Thomson

Icing Injuries

Shelby VanCleve recently blogged about the common use of ice for sports injuries. I have to say that I totally agree with her. Icing injuries may be helpful immediately after an injury when swelling can really flare, but after that point you are probably doing yourself more harm than good.

When ice is applied it causes the blood supply to the area to be shut down. The tissue almost goes into suspended animation. But it is that blood supply that the body is using to bring nutrients and white blood cells to repair the damage and heal the injury. Icing injuries just doesn’t make a lot of sense.

I don’t work a lot with herbs, but one of the formulas I think no one should be without is called San Huang San. When I start selling a few herbal formulas this will definitely be one I offer. It is able to reduce the swelling of an injury while moving blood and energy through the area to help the healing process. There’s no real substitute.

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 Points Explored

Acupuncture - Needle in an acupuncture point

People often wonder how acupuncturists help people. What we do is located the acupuncture points. What is an acupuncture point?

Acupuncture points are the places on the body where an acupuncturist typically places needles. They are also the same points used in acupressure. But just what are they? What is special about these places on the body? How can points on one extreme of the body change what’s happening at the other end?

I wrote an article recently explores the topic of what acupuncture points are and how they are able to cause all of the amazing effects possible through acupuncture. It’s a heady look at the topic for the intellectually curious. The article is available here: What are Acupuncture Points?

I’d like to hear your thoughts on the topic. Does this clash with your understanding of acupuncture points? Does it fit well or poorly with modern science? Please comment below.

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.