Your journey to better health
One of the most common complaints seen in most health
clinics by practitioners and doctors of all kinds is sleeplessness. Insomnia is a condition that can negatively
affect our well being on many levels if it is not treated right away, as it can
turn into a chronic problem. If you have
only experienced restlessness randomly a few times in your life you might not
be as aware of the health implications it has on your body the way a person who
has suffered from it for weeks, months or years.
Unfortunately, many of the pharmaceutical drugs used for
insomnia have side effects that can be quite dangerous. This makes holistic
health options for insomnia a very attractive alternative for those who do not
want to use pharmaceuticals as a first line of treatment, and also for those
that have experienced bad side effects from the pharmaceuticals and no longer
want to depend on them as the only option for better quality sleep.
Here at Stepping Stone we have many services that positively
impact one’s sleep. Sleeplessness can have many causes at its root, so
depending on the root cause the recommended combination of modalities and
results may vary. It is a good idea to first set up an appointment with one of
our acupuncturists to get a full assessment so we can come up with a Chinese
medicine diagnosis to inform us of what the cause may be in order to create an
appropriate treatment plan and to recommend the best modalities in your case.
, Chinese herbs
, ear seeds,
, and massage
are all potentially beneficial treatment
options for insomnia, in my experience. As clinicians, we get to hear from our
clients and patients how these modalities have helped them through times when
they are trying to function and be productive while being sleep deprived. Once
we get to the root cause and make progress, it is not uncommon to quickly hear
how symptoms can quickly start to disappear.
Some of the benefits for insomnia received from these
modalities include: clearer thinking, better memory, mood enhancement,
increased energy, greater desire for sex, improved immunity, no nodding off in
the day or need for naps, and less bags under the eyes with all around better
skin complexion. And this is only a short list of things that can improve with
better quality sleep. In fact, it is not uncommon for new acupuncture patients
to first comment on how acupuncture impacted their sleep in a positive way. It
is not uncommon for patients to say, “I slept like a baby for a couple days
after my first treatment” or “I don’t think I have slept straight through the
night without waking for years until the night of my first acupuncture
Adaptogens are a category of herbs that exert a normalizing
effect on body processes and help the body to better tolerate stress. They have
been shown to increase the body’s resistance to myriad types of stress,
including physical, emotional, chemical, and biological. Furthermore, they are
able to counteract, reduce, or negate the negative body processes that can
normally result from these stressors. This means while we can’t always change
the source of your stress, these herbs have been shown to change how your body
reacts to it.
Most herbs that are considered to be adaptogens come from forms
of traditional medicine that have been practiced for thousands of years. These
herbs have been used medicinally since long before we knew about their myriad
biochemical effects in the body. Many of the most common adaptogenic herbs come
from Traditional Chinese Medicine or Ayurveda (traditional Indian Medicine.)
Adaptogens are unique in that they exert numerous, at times
contradictory, effects on a biochemical level in the body. For instance, some
adaptogens have been shown to both increase blood pressure in cases of low
blood pressure, and reduce blood pressure in cases of hypertension (high blood
pressure.) Thus they are said to have a homeostatic effect on the body, meaning
bringing the body back into balance.
Through myriad biological effects including modulating
formation of stress hormones (corticosteroids and ACTH), regulating secretion
of numerous stress hormones (including catecholamines), regulating central
nervous system function, reducing oxidative stress and increasing protein
synthesis, adaptogens may improve mood, increase energy, improve sleep
quality, regulate immunity, improve recovery, and increase
From a modern understanding of the body, we know that
adaptogens are particularly helpful in cases of over exhaustion, adrenal
fatigue, and prolonged periods of stress.
In their native traditions, adaptogenic herbs traditionally
appear as “tonic” herbs, known to have strongly nourishing effects of various
body systems. This makes sense given our modern understanding – they are
offering the body additional support, and they are able to identify the areas
that are lacking.
From a Chinese Medicine perspective, we use some of these
adaptogenic herbs in traditional herbal formulas alongside other herbs to
target a particular symptom or condition. Common Chinese Herbs that have
adaptogenic properties include Reishi Mushroom* (Ganoderma lucidum), Cordyceps
(Dong Chong Xia Cao), Licorice (Gan Cao/Zhi Gan Cao), Eleuthero (Ci Wu Jia),
Panax Ginseng (Ren Shen), and Astragalus (Huang Qi). Many traditional Chinese Medicine formulas
contain these herbs naturally – in other cases, we can add these herbs into a
traditional formula as appropriate for a particular condition. That way, you
have the best of both worlds – the traditional use of these herbs, and the
modern understanding of all the ways they can help you once in your body.
It doesn’t have to feel as overwhelming or
exhausting as it does.
*Reishi mushroom is pictured above.
Please note that herbs should always be prescribed under the guidance of a licensed health professional. There is no one herb that is appropriate for everyone, and there are absolutely health conditions for which you would not want to take adaptogenic herbs.
In order to
examine the relationship of the Five Phases (Elements)
and how they manifest in
the body, it is best to go back to the two thousand year old source text of
this cosmological and medical union of information from ancient China, the Neijing
, or Inner Classic. It is
considered the “bible” of Chinese medicine, as this classical medical text is
still used today to help enlighten students and doctors in the art and science
of Chinese medicine. In chapter four of the Inner Classic, in a discourse
between the Yellow Emperor and his minister Qibo (who served him as an imperial
doctor), the Yellow Emperor asks, “Each of the five zang organs correspond to a
season, but do the Five Phases have other correspondences? If so, how do these
affect the flow of energy?” Qibo replies, “In the east we have the color green,
an energy which corresponds to the Liver. The Liver energy opens up into the
eyes. The natural elements related to this are grass and trees, the flavor of
sour, the animal is the chicken, the grain is wheat, the planet is Jupiter, its
number is 3 or 8, its smell is rancid, its season is spring, its direction is
out, its sound is shouting, its emotion is anger and it controls the ligaments
and tendons.” All of these aforementioned correspondences are classified as
belonging to the Wood Phase in Chinese medicine.
This dialogue tells us that the
Liver has functional and physical correspondences to observable phenomena in
nature which we can synthesize to better understand the role of the Liver in
the body. The Liver is associated with rapid growth and movement, as observed
in nature during spring. This is the time that seeds go from dormant to active,
and energy changes from potential energy to kinetic energy. On Earth, the manifestations begin to appear
before our eyes as we start to notice green grass growing, warm winds blowing,
and all of the other changes around us that are associated with this time of
year. From a biomedical perspective, the liver is like a biochemical factory. It
is responsible for metabolic activities such as manufacturing proteins, processing
fats, and detoxifying the body from harmful substances. The various processing
and metabolic activities of the liver energetically mirror children and teens,
as they rapidly metabolize food, grow rapidly like plants in the springtime,
are volatile, and are quick to process and react to changes in their
surrounding environment. Just as when teenagers easily anger at their parents
and shout or rebel by doing foolish things, when the Liver is diseased and out
of balance, we may feel compelled to act out of anger. The Liver is said to
“store the emotions” in Chinese medicine. From a Chinese medicine point of
view, when emotions are stored and not dealt with in the moment, this manifests
on a physical level. These emotions are capable of damaging our organs and
causing symptoms of disease simply because on a mental/emotional level they
have not been expressed in a way that is pleasing to our soul.
Many diseases can be diagnosed and
treated in Chinese medicine as diseases of the Liver. The Liver has a
holographic correspondence with body parts including the eyes, the tendons, the
sinews, the ligaments, tears, nails and other bodily fluids and functions,
including the menstrual cycle. For example, eye problems
like floaters, can be
diagnosed as a problem relating to the Liver and blood. Someone who has weak
ligaments or tendons and has had sprains and tears might have a deficiency
problem related to the Liver and Gallbladder since those are the Wood organs in
Chinese medicine, and Wood is related to movement. Without proper ligament and
tendon health it is impossible to move the muscles and bones to perform our
daily activities. Excellent clinical results can be achieved when treating pain
and restricted movement with Chinese medicine.
As we move into the spring season
from winter, it is important to start adapting our habits and diet
correspond with the changes in nature so as to prevent new symptoms and disease
processes from arising, and to keep old problems at bay. It is not uncommon in
this season to see a lot of allergies
, emotional anger and frustration
eyes conditions and Liver problems arise this time of year if the Liver Organ
system is out of balance and not adapting well to the change of seasons. For
many of these issues, we can treat them with acupuncture and herbs to minimize
symptoms and keep old problems from resurfacing. Something you can do for
yourself is to start modifying your diet to eat more seasonally. Chinese
medicine theory often suggests reducing sour flavored food and increasing the
sweet and pungent flavors this time of year, as this helps to protect some of
the other organ systems that are often negatively affected by Liver problems,
according to Chinese medicine. Generally speaking, organic, local and in season
food are a great general guideline to follow for eating the freshest and most
nutritious ingredients. In the spring, foods like leafy greens are readily
available- kale, spinach, lettuce, swiss chard and mustard greens are often abundant
and great for us. Many members of the onions family can be harvested now if
grown over winter. This includes, onions, leeks and scallions, for example.
Sprouts and seeds are also growing this time of year and are full of nutrients,
so add them to your salads, smoothies and garnishes for meals. Soups, salads,
and seasonal herbs like basil, peppermint, and whatever else you can find in
your garden are also great additions to spring meals. In general, food that are
cooling, heat clearing and ones that promote circulation of blood and energy
are the best general recommendations for this time of year. Of course, if you
come in for acupuncture this spring you can ask your acupuncturist if there are
any other specific food suggestions for you based on your conditions and
Many new patients often
ask what we are looking for when we take pulse and tongue and how we select our
acupuncture points for each treatment. This post is intended to answer these
questions and more as we walk through the general process of diagnosis and
acupuncture point selection.
Chinese medicine diagnosis process is broken down into what are collectively
called the “four pillars” of diagnosis. These four are looking, listening, question asking and palpation (touch). Each
practitioner and style of acupuncture might have some variations about how they
go about incorporating these “four pillars” in the clinic, and some might put
more emphasis on one pillar over another, but ALL acupuncturists should be
using a combination of these methods in practice regardless of style and
training. This is a methodology that is so crucial to the medicine that it is
considered one of the defining foundations of acupuncture practice. It is
important to distinguish Chinese medicine diagnosis from Western medicine
diagnosis. Legally, an acupuncturist is
unable to diagnose a according to Western medicine unless one is licensed as an
MD, so it is important for all acupuncturists to be well versed in the four
pillars even if the patient comes in having already been given a diagnosis from
a conventional medicine practitioner. The terminology we use, and how it guides
our treatment, is unique to our medicine. For example, when your acupuncturist
says “Liver,” they may or may not be referring to your physical liver. In
Chinese medicine the “Liver” means three things- 1) the physiological functions
associated with the Liver according to Chinese medicine theory. 2) The
acupuncture channel/meridian called the Liver. 3) The actual organ. Thus, when
referring to the Liver of Chinese medicine we often use a capital L to
distinguish it from the liver of biomedicine so as to prevent confusion when
writing about the two.
first of the four pillars is looking, or observing the patient. This happens
the minute the patient comes into the clinic as we first observe the gait and
then the eyes as the come closer as we greet them. The classics our medicine
state that the shen (spirit) is best observed in the eyes. In fact, the medical
classics also go so far as to say the eyes can give us an indication as to the
prognosis of the patient as well. If the quality of the shen is very weak, the
prognosis is poor for the patient being able to heal quickly or fully recover,
where as prognosis for quick recovery or full healing is greatly increased if they
person has good shen in their eyes. Other things we observe are the skin color
and tone, the nails, the lips and the tongue. Since many people ask what we are
looking for in the tongue
, I will tell you that we look at the color, coat,
shape and for other abnormalities like cracks, bumps, and deviation of the
Listening/ Question Asking
part of the initial treatment that often takes the most time is the
conversation we have before the actual treatment. For Chinese medicine practitioners, listening
carefully to your story and asking many questions is a primary way we gather
information to determine our Chinese medicine diagnosis and the point selection
for treatment. We do a detailed initial intake asking many questions about the
chief complaint as well as gathering information about different bodily systems
to try and obtain the whole picture. The intake form for new patients also
includes gathering information such as family health history, any medications,
surgeries, or other things that may be impacting your current situation.
this information is very important, so don’t forget to mention something even
if it seems trivial or unrelated to your primary reason for coming! The more
information the better, as it gives us more to work with for the purpose of
diagnosis and treatment. Information is
to INFORM us of what is going on inside your body. Question asking is a real
skill, and the best doctors know how to ask the right questions to obtain
pertinent information for the case.
classical Chinese pulse diagnosis
we look for much more than in Western pulse
taking. Yes, we do observe the speed and if it is regular or irregular like
Western doctors do, but we also look for quite a bit more. This is why we feel
the pulse on both wrists, not just one. We are feeling 6 different positions
and at 3 depth levels. And we are not feeling only for rate and rhythm but
particular qualities all of which have their specific meaning in the diagnosis.
Chinese medicine has over 25 different pulse qualities!
Acupuncture practitioners utilize abdominal palpation. This is especially
popular in Japanese styles, as originally only blind people were allowed to
practice acupuncture in Japan, thus extra emphasis was placed on palpation of
the body since the blind are unable to use the observation of the patient to
obtain information. When palpating the body, we look for masses, tender spots,
temperature changes and other factors that help diagnosis excesses and
deficiencies of the channels, organs and other layers of the body.
now you hopefully have better insight into what it is we are doing when we
assess you before we stick you with the needles. Hopefully, this information is
helpful and answers some of the burning questions you have about the whole
acupuncture process. Also, don’t forget to tell us if you ate or drank anything
that might affect your pulse or tongue, such as coffee, candy, curry, etc. Changes
in medications are also important to mention not just for contraindications of
herbs, but also because it can affect the pulse and tongue.
January 28 marks one of the most important
days of 2017 in China. This is because it is the first day of a two week long
New Year celebration. The date changes yearly, as the celebration occurs on the
second new moon after the winter solstice each year. The Chinese use both a
lunar and solar calendar, but many of the traditional celebrations follow the
lunar cycle, so the dates can vary by several weeks from year to year. In
Mandarin, the pinyin (written spelling) for Happy New Year is gōng xǐ fā cái.
In China, people eat lots of traditional foods, travel to
see family, participate in parades and dragon dances, and hand out red
envelopes with money in them to children. People wear red for good luck, as it
is also said to repel the mythical creature named Nian. Each day of the
festival is associated with different activities, culminating with release of
red lanterns into the sky on the 15 day for what is known as the
Twelve different zodiac animals exist in Chinese astrology,
and this year will mark the Year of the Fire Rooster. According to Amanda Starr in Chinese Astrology, people born in the
Year of the Rooster are congenial, independent, industrious, brilliant,
well-groomed and original. They make friends easily, are witty, cheerful,
intelligent, charming, and love to impress and be the center of attention.
Roosters enjoy engaging in verbal sparring and are quick to anger, but also
quick to simmer down. By nature, Roosters are often inclined to be conceited
and impatient, and those born in the Rooster year take themselves very
seriously. Morally speaking, they are honest and brave, as well as daring and
optimistic. They have a penchant for exaggeration, are not critical, and loathe
The last paragraph refers to Roosters in general. As far as
the Fire Rooster goes, this is what Theodora Lau has to say in The Handbook of Chinese Horoscopes: this
type of Rooster will be more authoritative and highly motivated compared to
other types of Roosters. This Rooster will be even more independent, and will act
with great precision and skill. On the negative side, their temperament might
be more over-dramatic and nervous. They will possess above average managerial
abilities and leadership. The Fire Rooster will fanatically stick to his or her
own views and conduct his own fact-finding tours and feasibility studies. He
will be unswayed by the feelings and personal opinions of others, although he
is professional and ethical in his dealings.
At times he could be too inflexible to effect workable
compromises. As a result, he will take to putting people and situations under a
microscope for observation. If things do not measure up to his expectations,
this could cause major upheavals. The Fire Rooster does have organizational
talents and can project a stimulating and dynamic public image. And despite his
shortcomings, this type of Rooster will have the noblest intentions behind his
I’m a big fan of goal setting. Anyone who knows me well
knows that. I definitely believe in the phrase, if you don’t know where you
want to be, how can you figure out how to get there? This time of year, of
course, lots of people are setting New Years Resolutions. But here is the thing
– how many New Years Resolutions have you ever actually kept? I am a huge
believer in resolutions and goals, and I’ve kept exactly ONE New Years
Resolution in my decades of making them. A quick informal survey of many friends
and patients leads to the same results – people either don’t make resolutions,
don’t keep them, or have only successfully kept them once or twice.
Why is this? Maybe it is because a year is a long time.
Maybe it is because we think too big too quickly. Maybe it is because we are
all busy and change takes time and energy. But I think it is more likely
because people make bad resolutions.
Here me out. It isn’t that the intention behind your
resolution is bad – it is that the way we make resolutions isn’t conducive to
success. Resolutions usually expect us to make a change cold turkey - something many people aren’t that good at –
and also don’t take into account the many steps, iterations, highs, and lows,
that it takes to truly achieve a goal. I stumbled upon a great article by
Elizabeth Scott, MS
, a wellness coach and stress management expert, that
delineates the difference between a resolution and a goal:
- Resolutions are rigid, whereas goals are fluid.
This means that goals can account for the gradual build-up necessary to really
affect lasting change.
- Goals give you a sense of accomplishment,
whereas resolutions can set you up for a sense of failure.
- Resolutions are usually a means to reach a goal,
whereas a goal is the end result with many possible paths to reaching it. This
means that if a resolution is too hard, you usually drop it and forget about
it. However, if your way of reaching your goal isn’t working, you can drop it
AND FIND ANOTHER WAY to reach the goal, without abandoning ship.
So let’s think about New Years Goals, as we head into 2017.
I’ve compiled a list of “Goal Categories” that you might
consider when taking stock of where you are and where you’d like to be. Think
about each of these categories of your existence, and if there are areas that
you want to change or improve. It is important to focus on things that you have
agency to change – it isn’t fruitful to wish something was different that is
out of your control. Then think about a specific goal, and a plan of action for
reaching it. (Remember, it is the goal itself that is important…the plan can
change!) My advice is to think about each of these categories, but choose 1-3
goals total to focus on in the coming year as your “New Years Resolution” – but
the exercise of evaluating your life in each of these categories can, in and of
itself, be a useful exercise!
Health: What could make you a healthier person this year?
Are there things you’d like to change about diet, exercise, medication,
doctor’s visits, preventative health care, etc? Is there a specific ailment
that you would like to better understand, resolve, or control? What parts of
your health do you have control over?
Fitness: What are your fitness goals for 2017? Think about
frequency, and intensity, and what purpose your fitness routine serves in your
life. (Does it make you feel good? Give you a sense of purpose? Give you a
sense of community? Reduce stress? Help you reach specific benchmarks?
Challenge you? Keep you healthy? Strengthen your heart? Help you sleep? Etc.)
Are there specific fitness accomplishments you’d like to reach? (Do 5 pull-ups, walk 20 minutes each day, complete a marathon, join a swim team, walk every day?)
Intellectual: How do you want to stimulate your intellectual
curiosity this year? What do you want to learn, and why? How will you do that?
Emotional: In what ways does your emotional self need more
support? In what ways do your emotions serve you well? In what ways do you wish
your emotional responses were different? How might you help that be the case?
Character Development: What will make you a better person
this year? What lesson do you need to learn? In what ways can you challenge
yourself to grow in new ways?
Spiritual: What role does spirituality or religion play in
your life? Are you happy with that? Do you wish it was different? What
spiritual or theological questions do you want to devote time to this year? Are
there new spiritual practices you would like to introduce into your life?
(Prayer, meditation, drumming, yoga, etc) Or spiritual practices you already
have that you would like to deepen?
Love Relationships: If you are in a romantic relationship,
what could you do to strengthen that relationship? Be careful to only think
about goals that YOU can do, not things that require change from the other
person (for this exercise, at least!)
Family Relationships: Are there family relationships that
you would like to strengthen or heal? How could that happen? What would that look
like? What is one concrete step you could take in that direction?
Parenting: If you have kids, what is one area that you would
like to improve as a parent? (Like Love Relationship goals, think about things
that YOU can actively change…not things that you wish your children would
change.) Again, think big picture, and then come up with a plan to get there.
Social: What social relationships do you want to improve or
strengthen this year? Do you want to meet more people? In what kind of setting?
What purpose do your social interactions serve? Is that serving you? How would
you like that to change, if at all? Are there new social situations you’d like
to put yourself into? New groups you’d like to join? Or certain social circles
you would like to meaningfully pull back from?
Financial: Where would you realistically like to be financially
one year from now? What will it take to get there? Is this about budgeting,
cutting spending, or increasing income? Is it about reorganizing money, shifting
your priorities, or saving in a more smart way?
Professional: What areas in your professional life would you
like to strengthen or expand upon? What resources do you need to do that? How
will you better yourself in your career? What is the long-term plan, and how do
these goals align with that?
Societal: Are there ways that you could contribute more to
society at large, to your community? Are there certain community groups you
would like to be a part of? Volunteer opportunities you would like to take on?
Donations you would like to make? What social/political/moral causes do you
want to devote yourself to, as a way to better the world?
Physical Space/Home: How can you improve the physical space
you live in? What one project will make your home feel like a better place to
be? Or, can you redecorate a room to make it feel more your own? If you are
thinking of moving in the coming year, what do you need to do to make your
current space ready to sell or rent? What are you looking for in a new space?
Remember, start small. Pick one or two goals to focus on,
and then create a plan of action to help you get there. Re-evaluate your plan
periodically during the year – if it isn’t helping you reach your goal, then
try a new plan.
A few other goal-setting tips:
- Remember to make SMART goals when creating these new kind of
New Years Resolutions. SMART Goals are:
S – specific
M – measurable
A – attainable
R – realistic
T – time-bound
- Lots of us naturally think of things we can cut out of our
lives – which is sometimes the best possible approach! But also consider what
you can ADD to your life to make it better. For instance, instead of just
thinking about unhealthy foods you can cut out, also consider what healthy
foods you are not eating, that you could add in to your diet. Balancing what we
want to eliminate from our lives with what we want to add to our lives can help
us stay on track, and not seem to restricting.
- Put your goals in writing. You will have a far better chance
of sticking to them!
- Share your goals with someone else – then you have someone
to hold you accountable.
- Have fun with it. New Years Resolutions, ideally, should be
a chance to imagine the possibilities that change can bring. Allow yourself
that imagination. And then get down to work!
On December 21, 2016
the Winter Solstice will be celebrated by cultures all over the world. This day
has been a significant one in the history of humankind ever since ancient
cultures started to track time and the movements of the sun and stars. In
China, the Winter Solstice Festival is called Dōngzhì, which translates as the “extreme
of winter.” Unlike in Western culture,
this date does not mark the start of winter, but the midpoint, or height of
winter and cold, thus the “extreme” rather than start of the season.
What does this
“extreme” indicate? It is also the extreme point of yin, as the Chinese see
this day as the return of yang. Since yin represents darkness, cold and
stillness, this day is celebrated as a return of light, warmth and movement on
our planet. Since it is the end of yin, it is also the darkest day of the year.
It is also the day our shadow is the longest or tallest. These all indicate the
extreme of yin.
philosophy views the yin/yang symbol as one of movement. Energy moves around
the outside of the taiji and when it reaches the top of the taiji circle we
have arrived at the summer solstice, or the time when yang is at its peak. The
bottom of the taiji circle represents the Winter Solstice, as this is the day
when yin reverts to yang. This endless interplay of yin and yang goes on
without end. One always turns into the other, just as fall always turns into
winter and winter into spring, etc. The seasons are part of a yearly cycle, and
the repeated patterns of nature allow us keep track of things on our planet.
The predictability of this is paramount to human life. Without such
predictability our lives would be full of chaos, as unpredictability would mean
we wouldn’t know when to plant seeds and harvest their bounty, for example.
Chinese medicine we often advise patients to “recharge their battery” this time
of year in order to get ready for the next year. This means, limiting strenuous
activities such as vigorous exercise to more gentle and nourishing spiritual
and physical activities such as yoga, tai chi, and meditation in place of
running and lifting weights, for example. Patients are told to try and go to
bed earlier and sleep in a little later to help preserve their qi for the more
active time of year- spring and summer. Yang is also preserved by keeping warm,
so bundle up in layers and don’t forget to wear your hat, gloves and scarf when
you go outside!
the clinic, moxa is a very popular treatment method the week before the
solstice because it is said to bring warmth and yang qi into the body. It helps
to tonify the body in order to reinforce this recharging of life. We can also
do specific points and needle manipulation techniques that are tonifying to the
body in order to strengthen the organ systems and increase the supply of blood
and qi in the acupuncture channels and other layers of the body. The treatment
point selections are also often influenced by the seasons and the state of yin
and yang in the body, so a skilled acupuncturist can modify the point
prescription to incorporate the influences of the seasons into the treatment
Almost everyone reading this has a friend, family member or
co-worker that struggles from addiction. Perhaps, you might not even be aware
that someone you know struggles from an addiction of some sort. Sometimes it is
obvious, but most cases aren’t so apparent unless you pay careful attention to
the signs. Chances are, most people you know struggling with an addiction are
not open to talking about it, and they do a good job of hiding their habit
unless they are hanging out with their addict friends. Often times, an addict
will not confess they have a problem until they have already gone past the
point of no return. Meaning, they have done so much damage to their physical
and mental/emotional being that even after they quit they will still have
strong urges to use or they will have certain mental and physical conditions
that they may never fully recover from as a result of long-term abuse.
The good news is that for those who are willing to seek
help, acupuncture can be a very effective treatment method for helping the
person reduce cravings, detoxify their blood and organs, and help return them
to better mental, emotional, physical and spiritual health. People who are
coerced into treatment tend to make minimal progress to recovery, in my
experience. That is why the first step of Alcoholics Anonymous is “We
admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.”
This effective system is based around the idea that addicts must be aware of
the damage they have done to themselves and other around them. If they are not
ready to admit they have a problem, then AA is not for them. I find this to be
true with acupuncture for smoking, drugs, alcohol and even for food
In Chinese medicine, the
Stomach organ network is said to be that which has an appetite for earthly
delights. All things that give us pleasure, not just food, can fit into this
category. Many addicts often have an exuberance of Stomach Fire, as this fuels
their passion and desire to consume things that bring them pleasure. The animal
of the zodiac that goes with the Stomach is the dragon. Think of a fire-breathing
dragon that consumes everything in its path. It can’t help itself. The
excessive “dragon-like” human being is much like this in life. They might
easily give into peer pressure because they have a hard time saying “no,” or
they are just open to the idea of trying things that can make them feel good
(even if they are aware the long-term consequences might lead to depression or
other harm to the body).
I was fortunate to have a
chance to intern at Hooper Detoxification Center in Portland, OR when I was
still a student. I went there once a week for 4 hour shifts for about 9 months.
It is a short-term addiction program for people who are willing to go past Step
1 and do something about their problem. About 10-12 people a day are allowed to
voluntarily check themselves in for about 10-14 days of daily treatment. Most
of these people came in off the streets still high on their drug of choice. We
would feed them, take their blood pressure, pulse, look at their tongue and ask
them a handful of questions about their addiction. Then we would do a simple
needle protocol in the ear to help them begin the process of detoxification of
the vital organs along with reducing their cravings and helping to calm their
spirit and nervous system. I can tell you what I witnessed every week was
powerful. It didn’t matter if the person was addicted to cocaine, oxycontin,
alcohol or any other drug you can name. The acupuncture worked! When people
came in off the streets, most were still high on their drug of choice and the
energy in the room was always chaotic. To witness the shift in energy week
after week for 9 months was truly amazing. Every week the energy would shift to
a more calm, peaceful one within minutes of everyone having needles placed in
their ears. Prior to the insertion of the needles, the room would be loud,
people would be fidgety, and overall it would feel somewhat chaotic with each
new group every week. 5 minutes after the needles were in, people that couldn’t
stop talking became quiet, those that were fidgeting would often nod off for a
quick nap, and overall the energy and spirit in the room would transform from
negative to positive.
To this day, I still
remember my weekly trip to the Hooper Detoxification Center. It is forever
embedded in my memory as one of the most miraculous experiences I have
encountered with acupuncture in a clinical setting. I highly suggest you
mention this to any person you know who is openly struggling with addiction and
is asking for help. It might be an idea they never thought of before, and it
may just be the one that helps them the most to get their life back on track
Recommended Daily Dosage:
Internally- 3-4 drops, 3 times daily for adults.
Externally- 1-2 drops in
Do not use if pregnant or nursing, or if suffering from stomach or intestinal
ulcers. Cinnamon may cause irritation
taken internally or applied externally. Use a skin patch test or reduce the
dosage by half if someone is particularly sensitive to be sure that there is no
reaction. Sensitive individuals may have
a rash appear. If stinging and redness occur, dilute it with a carrier oil. If
no reaction, it is safe to use the recommended dosage. If used in excess, possible
side effects are: mucous membrane irritation, tachycardia, increased
respiration, increased peristalsis, convulsions and perspiration through
stimulation of the vasomotor center, followed by a sedative stage characterized
by sleepiness and depression. It is also hepatotoxic in large doses, so be
careful with individuals with sensitive livers. From a Chinese medicine
perspective, it is contraindicated for Heat and Empty Heat conditions.
Spicy, sweet, hot
Possible Therapeutic Actions-
antibacterial, antifungal antiviral,antispasmodic,
anti-ulcer, blood-thinning, cancer-preventative, stomachic, circulation stimulation,
estrogenic, febrifuge [reduces fever], hypoglycemic [lowers blood
sugar], hypotensive [lowers blood pressure], insecticide, nerve
sedative, nerve stimulant
mental exhaustion; nervous depression [especially in devitalized,
emaciated and/or anemic people]; depression caused by relationship problems;
post-partum depression; introversion; feelings of isolation; emotional
coldness; fear; nervousness; insomnia; viral infections; fever; cholera;
typhoid fever; fainting; periodontal disease; toothache; circulatory debility
with chilliness; hypotension; respiratory weakness [expands the chest
volume]; colds; bronchitis; pleurisy; gastrointestinal spasms; lack of
gastrointestinal tone; pancreatic deficiency; dyspepsia; colitis; flatulence;
diarrhea; nausea; vomiting; amoeba infection; intestinal worms; kidney weakness;
cystitis; dysmenorrhea; scanty menstruation; deficient uterine contractions
during birth delivery; vaginitis; leucorrhea; impotence; frigidity; muscle
spasms; rheumatism; foot fungus; head lice; scabies; insect bites; warts
Cinnamon, a member of the Lauraceae family, is a native of Sri
Lanka (formerly Ceylon) and southwest India, but is now cultivated extensively
in other tropical areas. The evergreen tree grows from 15-40 feet tall in the wild, but the
cultivated trees are kept short and shrub-like (approximately 7.5 feet tall)
for the purpose of easier harvesting of the shoots. The glossy, opposite leaves
are ovate-oblong, from 6-9 inches long, bright red at first, then turning green
when mature. The yellow, silky, inconspicuous flowers arise in long panicles. The
thick, rough bark and leaves emit the well-known cinnamon scent. The flowers
produce bluish, acorn-like berries. Collection of the dried inner bark of the
shoots, the part most commonly used in commerce and medicine (and from which
the best essential oil is distilled), generally begins when the tree is five
years-old. Using special knives, the bark the of two year old shoots is
harvested during the rainy season and left to rot for a day after which the
inner bark can be easily separated from the coarse outer layer; the inner bark is
first shade-dried and then sun-dried. The tree requires a great deal of rain
(at least 100 inches annually) and heat, prefers sheltered places and
consistent temperature and grows best in a well-drained, very sandy, yet nutrient
has long been used in herbal medicine, the medicinal parts being the bark
(primarily) and the leaves. In herbal medicine, cinnamon is considered to exert
the following therapeutic actions: stimulant, sedative, tonic, stomachic,
carminative, hemostatic and
astringent. The digestive tract is one of cinnamon’s main spheres of
influence, and the herb has long been used to stimulate appetite and gastric
secretions and to relieve dyspepsia, gastrointestinal spasms, flatulence, nausea,
vomiting and diarrhea (including infantile diarrhea). It is also a powerful
hemostatic agent used to stop nosebleeds,
pulmonary hemorrhage, gastrointestinal hemorrhage in alcoholics, dysentery and
bloody diarrhea related to other causes (e.g. ulcerative colitis), hematuria,
post-partum hemorrhage, flooding during miscarriage, menorrhagia and uterine
hemorrhage related to other causes. Cinnamon is one of the most effective
remedies in the herbal materia medica for uterine hemorrhage. Cinnamon acts directly
upon the muscle fibers of the uterus, causing contraction and arresting hemorrhage.
Cinnamon has also been employed to stop the secretion of breast milk. Other
conditions that cinnamon may prove of useful include: toothache; influenza,
diabetes, anxiety during childbirth, sexual debility, worm infestation and wounds. Cinnamon contains a substance which
destroys bacteria and other harmful microorganisms, including Clostridium
botulinum (which causes botulism) and Staphylococcus aureus. It
exerts a similar action upon Aspergillus parasiticus and A. flavus,
fungal organisms which produce the carcinogenic poison aflatoxin.
In Chinese medicine, cinnamon
is considered useful for promoting the circulation of blood and qi. It is viewed
as having a hot energy that moves upward and strengthens Kidney Yang and sexual
vigor. Cinnamon dispels cold and relieves pain. Prolonged use of cinnamon is thought
to relieve chronic tension in the neck and shoulders, warm the Spleen and Stomach
and the skin, thus adding color to the complexion and helping clear the skin of
blemishes. Cinnamon is also used to calm the nerves and to treat: anemia;
hypertension; fever; gastrointestinal pain due to cold; headaches; colic and lumbago.
oil of cinnamon is distilled from the leaves, twigs and dried inner bark of the
cinnamon tree. The essential oil distilled from the inner bark is considered
the highest quality. The most important chemical component of the bark oil is cinnamaldehyde,
an aldehyde which promotes gastrointestinal motility and is a powerfully
antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral. In general, aldehydes exert
anti-infectious, anti-inflammatory, hypotensive [In debilitated individuals,
however, cinnamon oil can be used to elevate low blood pressure. In general,
whether cinnamon will act as a nerve stimulant or sedative, hypotensive or hypertensive
is a dose-dependent phenomenon.], sedative and tonic effects.
You have had a long day, you know you are exhausted, and you can't wait to fall asleep, but then when your head hits the pillow - you are awake! Or you fall asleep and wake in the middle of the night, only to lie awake for hours, counting down how much more time you will be able to sleep before the alarm goes off. Insomnia, or persistent problems falling or staying asleep, can be an incredibly frustrating issue to deal with.
There are numerous causes of insomnia, including emotional or physical stress, pain or discomfort, illness, environmental factors such as light or noise, irregular sleep schedules, depression or anxiety, certain medications, or hormonal imbalances. Sleep problems are usually treated from a biomedical perspective with pharmaceutical medications that often leave patients feeling groggy or out of it the next morning, and many require a larger and larger dose over time.
From an acupuncture perspective, there are likewise numerous energetic systems that may be out of balance leading to insomnia. A blood energy
weakness can make it hard for people to fall asleep, whereas waking up frequently during the night is related to a weakness in the yin foundation
of the body (which often happens during menopause or post-childbirth or trauma.) Sleep disruption can also be caused by excessive heat in the body, which agitates the mind and doesn't allow it to fall asleep, or can be caused by a weakness in the qi energy that doesn't allow the body to fall into a deep enough state of sleep to be rejuvenated.
In acupuncture and Chinese Medicine, different times of day and night correspond with different energetic systems, as well. For instance, 1:00-3:00 am is a time associated with the Liver meridian. If someone is waking up routinely in this window of time, there is likely an imbalance in the Liver energetic system, which controls how the body processes stress and how energy physically circulates within our bodies. 3:00-5:00 am is associated with the Lungs
- when someone is waking habitually at these hours, there is likely Lung involvement - the Lungs control respiration, sweating, breathing, how the body processes grief, and how we find our voice. The Lungs are also connected to the Large Intestine
energetically, so sometimes digestive pathologies can cause the 3:00-5:00 wake-up, as well (or emotionally, if we are holding on to something too tightly, that is a Large Intestine pathology, as well.)
Acupuncture and Chinese Herbs can help to rebalance the body's energy systems for longer, more restful, more rejuvenating sleep.
Counting sheep not working? Call today to start working towards better sleep!
For an old blog post that includes some to-at-home tips for promoting restful sleep, start here.