One of the things Chinese Medicine and acupuncture has to offer modern society is its ability to help regulate the nervous system. Whether from day to day stress, a traumatic event, pain, lack of sleep, etc., the nervous system can get stuck in the sympathetic state. When this happens, the body is unable to drop down into its parasympathetic mode, where most deeper healing and restoration happens.
A traumatic event, physical or emotional, large or small, can scatter the energy of the body, disrupting homeostasis. The natural rhythms of the body can be affected, and over time create various issues. Acupuncture can help gather the qi of the body and help regulate and re-stabilize the nervous system, supporting the body back into a state of balance.
For those of you who have worked with me in clinic, you have likely heard me talk about Restore. It is the top supplement I recommend. It's the first place I start when someone is dealing with digestive issues, autoimmunity, inflammation, autism, or just wanting to feel better.
Restore works on sealing and strengthening the tight junctions of the digestive tract, which can get compromised by stress, diet, medications, environmental toxins, etc. When the tight junctions of the gut lining are compromised, things are able to pass into the bloodstream that should not normally be there. The body responds to this by creating inflammation, having immune reactions, and so forth.
There has been some great research done on Restore's efficacy in helping those with gluten intolerance, which you can read about here. And another great article on Restore's effect on intestinal permeability here.
As always, we have it here in clinic if you want to avoid shipping costs, but for the next two weeks (until 12:00 am on 3/13/19) you can click below to get 20% off ordering online with discount code B9PGYR4. Feel free to email if you have any questions.
As colds and flus are going around, I wanted to share with you one of my teacher's favorite remedies when sick: thyme tea.
You can use fresh thyme and infuse it in hot water for 15-20 minutes and then drink.
You can also add a drop or two of thyme essential oil to warm water (stir and let sit for a moment) and then drink. This can be more potent, so just go slowly and make sure the oil is a high quality one. If you have thyme essential oil, you can also place this in a diffuser to help keep the air clean.
In Chinese medicine, thyme is considered a warming herb, and can help clear common colds and flus, as well as help promote circulation and clear phlegm. For those following the Medical Medium, he also speaks often of the antiviral properties of thyme, which parallels the Materia Medica's understanding of this herb.
In Oriental medicine, insomnia and sleep issues can come from a variety of different patterns: digestive issues and inflammation, a deficiency (where the yin substance of the body is not substantiated enough to hold and house the spirit at night), inflammation and agitation of the nervous system, and so on.
It can take some sleuth work to get to the root cause, but these are some of the first things I recommend and can be helpful regardless of what pattern is at play.
OmniBlue Ocean Minerals. In Oriental herbalism we look at the energetics of a substance to understand how it works within our systems. Minerals, like rocks, are heavy and descending in nature (if you pick a rock up and let go, it will drop quickly to the ground). Taking this at night can help bring the energy of the body down out of the mind and calm the body to help transition into sleep. *Start with a small dose and work up, to make sure it agrees with your stomach.
Taking an Epsom Salt bath in the evening. This can be extremely calming to an inflamed or sensitive nervous system.
Mighty Plugs: The World's Finest Earplugs. I learned of these from an amazing Osteopath who was recovering from a traumatic brain injury and used these to help seal off her nervous system at night so she could sleep. When the nervous system is inflamed, or even just agitated, it can increase noise sensitivity. These earplugs help limit the input one is exposed to at night, allowing the body to drop into sleep.
Ease Magnesium Spray. A few sprays of this onto the body before going to bed is a great alternative to taking magnesium internally, as you bypass the digestive system for people with sensitive stomachs, and the body can absorb it transdermally.
As we head into warmer weather, and more opportunities to be outside, I wanted to share this short (15 minutes) documentary called Down to Earth. It looks at how powerful having our bare feet on the earth can be for our health and reducing inflammation. Worth a watch!
One of the significant differences between Chinese medicine and Western medicine is the premise of wholism vs. reductionism.
In holisitic medicine, one is concerned with wholeness and complete systems, aiming to increase health, resilience, and radiance. Its focus rests on what is right about the individual being and the principle that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
Reductionism shifts its attention to isolating, separating, and then identifying and attacking what is wrong. The focus is on the dissection and analysis of parts, with a basis that there are innate flaws.
An example of this can be seen in looking at two viewpoints of the immune system:
- Theory that focuses on germs and microorganisms (bacteria, viruses, etc.) places its emphasis on the pathogen. The bug and it's impact on the body is seen as primary.
- The holistic emphasis starts with the terrain of the body, the host state. It shifts the focus to the body (tissue) environment, and the understanding that pathogens are only able to invade when the terrain has become vulnerable (from malnutrition, stress, trauma, etc.).
Acupuncture and herbs are tools to do just this: support the vitality and balance of an individual's landscape and the integrity of the body terrain.
The bedrock of supporting the body in this way is of course the things we do every day: good nutrition, adequate sleep, regular movement, etc.
"Mosquitoes seek the stagnant water, but do not cause the water to become stagnant." - Rudolph Virchow
There are many herbs in the Chinese Herbal Materia Medica that are rare and exotic, but there are also quite a few that are familiar and common within American kitchens. Two of these herbs are ginger and fennel, and some of their medicinal benefits can be utilized by drinking them in a simple tea form.
GINGER in the Materia Medica is called sheng jiang and known for its characteristics of benefiting the stomach, alleviating nausea, stopping coughing, and transforming phlegm.
Drinking a cup of ginger tea can be particularly helpful when:
- starting to feel the onset of a cold,
- experiencing nausea (any sense of queasiness in the stomach) or vomiting,
- dealing with a cough accompanied by phlegm (it's acrid and dispersing properties help break up the mucus).
FENNEL in the Materia Medica is known as xiao hui xiang, its English translation being "small return fragrance". Fennel is known for its ability to harmonize the middle (one's digestive center), and warm the lower burner (the area of the abdomen below the umbilicus).
Drinking a cup of fennel tea can be particularly helpful when:
- experiencing abdominal pain / distention, indigestion, or having a reduced appetite (due to an etiology of what Chinese Medicine calls cold in the body), and
- women dealing with painful period, PMS, or diarrhea associated with menstruation (again, due to a cold pathology in the body).
There are many wonderful tea brands out there, but Traditional Medicinals is a great one that you can find at most supermarkets and health food stores.
Thanks to Michael Phelps in the 2016 Olympics, cupping has become increasingly popular in the media, and many have asked what exactly it does and how it can be used.
Cupping is a powerful tool that has been used alongside acupuncture throughout history. When a cup is applied, low air pressure (either from a flame or air extractor) creates suction that pulls the fascia and local tissue up and out. This helps release tension and promotes the free flow of qi and blood to the area. This can help move the lymph and increase blood flow and nutrient exchange to facilitate healing and tissue health.
One tenant of Chinese medicine is, when qi and blood are flowing freely, the body is able to self heal. It is when the flow of qi and blood are compromised (whether it be from stagnation due to trauma, a postural issue, a nutritional deficiency, etc.), that the body is unable to function properly resulting in pain or some sort of dis-ease.
Along with acupuncture and herbs, cupping is another tool that can help support the body when flow is interrupted and things feel stuck. It is most commonly used to support lymphatic congestion, back or shoulder pain, but can be used for much more, like facilitating the release of emotional stress held in the body.