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Acupuncture, Massage, Newsletter - August 2006 | Issue 26

Acupuncture, Massage, Newsletter - July 2008 | Issue 53

In this issue you will find: Important PCOM Dates


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Massage Benefits for Hospitalized Children

A study conducted at University of Miami Medical School in Florida revealed that massage might offer considerable benefits for children suffering from stress-related disorders. A 30-minute back massage was given daily for a 5-day period to 52 children who were hospitalized due to depression and adjustment disorders. Subjective assessments were made by the children themselves and by the nurses based upon perceived anxiety levels, sleep patterns and the willingness of the child to be co-operative. Evaluating stress hormone levels in both the urine and saliva also made objective analyses. The results were then compared to a control group who were shown relaxing videotapes for 30 minutes instead of massage therapy.

Study results revealed that the children receiving a 30-minute massage were less depressed or anxious and had lower saliva cortisol levels after their massage. In addition, nurses rated the massage group as being more co-operative on the last day of the study, and noted that the children were not only sleeping better than the children in the control group, but that that their night-time sleep had increased over the 5-day period.

Tina Allen, founder of the children’s health and nurturing touch organization, Liddle Kidz™ Foundation, and internationally respected educator, author and expert in the field of infant and pediatric massage therapy, has appeared on NBC, The Learning Channel’s “Bringing Home Baby”, KCET, and PBS’ “A Place of Our Own.”

Allen understands the varied physical and emotional needs of hospitalized and medically complex infants, children and their families. As a volunteer, she has provided massage to individuals with advanced HIV/AIDS, children with special needs and senior citizens at the end of life. Most recently, as Director of the Children’s Program for The Heart Touch Project, she provided specialized education and inspiration for massage therapists committed to addressing the needs of medically challenged infants and children who are hospitalized or in hospice care. She developed pediatric massage programs at Mattel Children’s Hospital at UCLA and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, as well as developed a program focusing on introducing gentle compassionate touch to women and children who have survived domestic abuse.

Asked how the medical profession has accepted massage therapy for helping hospitalized children, Allen replied,” Before beginning any program for children in the hospital, there is a large educational component for the healthcare faculty.  This can be from as little as explaining the type of massage used to actually providing a demonstration for the healthcare team.  Once they understand the pediatric massage treatment, reviewed the literature and witness a session, they understand the benefits and are very willing to work with you to offer these services to more children in their facility. Over time, I hope to see massage therapy as a regularly prescribed form of treatment for all children who can benefit from this nurturing touch.”

Asked how her treatments have helped others, Allen offered this example, ”In one instance I was working with a 2-year old girl diagnosed with Retinoblastoma (cancer of the eye) and she had been visiting the hospital every three weeks for procedures.  Children with Retinoblastoma are put under anesthesia every time they visit the hospital, even for something as simple as an eye exam.  When I provided her with massage therapy prior to her procedure, she demonstrated much less anxiety, which I did expect; however, in the recovery room, she woke up much more relaxed, especially when her mother was taught to immediately comfort her by gently stroking her back.”

Allen then recalled another instance; “A 14-year old girl undergoing rehabilitative treatments for Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis in her legs had difficulty sleeping and was very uncomfortable. During her massage treatment, she reported feeling much more relaxed and much of her pain had diminished.  After her session, I learned from the nursing staff, and the child's parents, that she slept for a long time, which in the words of her father, ‘provided her with the medicine she needed to heal.’”

Allen will be returning to Bangkok Thailand for two weeks to help instruct caregivers and parents responsible for over 600 children.

For more information, visit:

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Discussing CAM Can Lead to Better Health Care

By, Kathleen Rushall

The acronym ‘CAM’ stands for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. CAM is a group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products that include treatments such as herbal remedies, naturopathy, acupuncture, and meditation. CAM is currently not considered to be a part of conventional medicine, and because of this, it is not covered by all health care providers.  However, CAM is becoming increasingly popular and accepted by the medical community and many hospitals are beginning to include these alternative services. Helping the public to become more aware of the benefits CAM can offer is the first step to improving its availability for patients in need.

To help spread the word, The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), which is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has launched Time to Talk. Time to Talk is an educational campaign to encourage patients – particularly those age 50 or older -- and their health care providers to openly discuss the use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). The National Institutes of Health (NIH) -- The Nation's Medical Research Agency -- includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

As evidence for CAM’s popularity, a consumer survey recently conducted by NCCAM and AARP showed that almost two-thirds of people age 50 or older is using some form of CAM. The only problem is that less than one-third of these CAM users talk about it with their providers. An increase in the discussion of CAM between patients and practitioners can lead to an increase in the availability of CAM.

According to the NCCAM/AARP survey, some of the reasons why this
 doctor-patient dialogue about CAM does not occur includes reasons such as the physician never asked about the patients treatments outside of their records, the patient did not know they should discuss CAM, and that the doctor’s visit was too short for such a talk. More than one-half of respondents who had talked about CAM with their physician said they (not their physician) initiated the CAM discussion.
The Time to Talk campaign is aimed at addressing the need for this
 dialogue to help ensure safe, coordinated care among all conventional and
 CAM therapies. Talking not only allows integrated care, it also minimizes risks of interactions with a patient's conventional treatments. When patients tell their providers about their CAM use, they can more effectively manage their health. When providers ask their patients about CAM use, they can ensure that they are fully informed and can help patients make wise health care decisions.

Patients are encouraged to fully complete patient history forms, making sure to include all therapies and treatments used. Making a list in advance may be helpful. The patient should tell the health care provider about all therapies or treatments used, including over-the-counter, dietary, or herbal supplements. Asking questions about a certain CAM therapy can also be a great introduction to the discussion of complementary medicine with one’s physician. By actively discussing and combining the best of Western medicine with an interest and appreciation for Eastern remedies, optimal health can not only be achieved, but can be better introduced to coverage by health care providers and the attention of Western physicians.


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A Holistic Approach to Parkinson's Disease

By Alex A. Kecskes

Parkinson's disease is caused by the death of dopamine-producing brain cells that control movement. The second most common neurodegenerative disorder in America (after Alzheimer's), Parkinson's affects about one percent of all people over the age of 50.

The holistic approach to treating this disease combines nutrition, environment, emotions, and spirituality. These include an array of mind-body techniques like meditation, biofeedback, Reiki, and spiritual healing, as well as traditional Eastern remedies like herbal therapy, homeopathy and Ayurvedic medicine. Yoga, Tai ji, and a variety of vitamin, enzyme and other natural supplements have also been proposed. Some of these therapies are described below:

Ayurvedic medicine -- Practiced in India for thousands of years, Ayurvedic medicine relies and focuses on maintaining health through the body, spirit, and mind. It begins by establishing one’s metabolic type, then examining other factors such as a person’s environment. Treatment consists of detoxification, restoring the balance to the body through palliation, and finally, tonification.

Yoga --A complement to Ayurvedic medicine, Hatha yoga, which involves performing a series of poses and breathing awareness, has been shown to help with motor-skills symptoms of Parkinson's disease when practiced on a regular basis.

Acupuncture --Based on achieving a yin-yang balance in the body, acupuncture may help return this harmonic balance by inserting fine needles into certain points on the body.

Massage therapy --Therapies like reflexology and therapeutic massage can help sufferers of Parkinson's by keeping joints and muscles supple. Most commonly used massage therapies that may alleviate Parkinson’s symptoms are shiatsu and acupressure, which is a touch-based therapy along certain pressure points on the body.

Tai-ji --An ancient Chinese healing therapy, tai-ji is based on slow movements or exercises that may help Parkinson's sufferers keep their joints and muscles supple.

Exercising regularly boosts both oxygen and blood sugar levels to the brain.  All it takes is a daily 20-minute walk. In fact, it has been observed that regular exercise can actually slow the progress of Parkinson’s disease, the same seems to hold true for deep R.E.M. sleep.

A detailed discussion of the various therapies can be found in the book What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Parkinson’s Disease: A holistic Program for Optimal Wellness by Jill Marjama-Lyons, MD and Mary Shomon.

Feeding the Body 

In terms of general nutrition, recent research has shown that people with Parkinson's disease respond better to treatment when placed on a high-carbohydrate, low-protein diet. This would include whole grains, fresh vegetables, beans, and fruit, as well as occasional low-fat animal foods, like fish. Eating healthier gives your body the vitamins, minerals, trace elements, essential fatty acids, and proteins it needs. It’s important to adopt a diet that ensures your brain is nourished with high levels of oxygen and glucose. This means you should eat foods extremely low in fat and rich in complex carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals.  A high fat diet reduces oxygen levels to your brain, so it functions at less than optimum levels. The same is true when glucose levels drop. A diet rich in complex carbohydrates (eating whole grains, vegetables, and fruit) helps ensure optimal blood sugar levels.

Nutritional Supplements

Taking the nutritional approach one step further, food rich in antioxidants, Omega 3 and CoQ10 seem to slow down Parkinson’s. Some alternative health practitioners feel that free radicals (damaging molecules such as heavy metals, organic solvent chemicals and other unstable molecules) created in the body may contribute to brain cell death/degeneration and ultimately lead to Parkinson's disease.

Finally, some believe that a person’s structural misalignments (caused by accidents, poor posture, etc.) in the upper back and neck can sap energy flow to brain cells and accelerate the effects of free-radical damage.

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Chinese Wisdom: Quote of the Day

A bit of fragrance clings to the hand that gives flowers.


Acupuncture, Massage, Newsletter - May 2008 | Issue 51

In this issue you will find: Important PCOM Dates

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Reducing Food Cravings with Traditional Chinese Medicine

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, 97.1 million adults are overweight, and 39.8 million of those people also meet the criteria for obesity. Even more disturbing is the fact that approximately 280,000 deaths and 39.3 million missed workdays are attributable to obesity each year. Health conditions that accompany obesity include high cholesterol, diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, osteoarthritis, gallstones and more.

Fortunately, the health community has recognized that weight control and healthy living are important issues that require immediate attention. Unfortunately, the result has been an excess of solutions. The number of diets on record has grown to such staggering proportions that people no longer know which ones are healthy and actually work. While Americans spend $33 billion annually on weight-loss products and services, the prevalence of obesity increased 61 percent between 1991 and 2000, according to a 2001 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. Those seeking an alternative to these fads and short-term solutions are turning to lifestyle changes that often include the use of acupuncture.

Acupuncture consists of the gentle insertion and stimulation of thin, disposable sterile needles at strategic points near the surface of the body. Over 2,000 acupuncture points on the human body connect with 14 major pathways, called meridians. Chinese medicine practitioners believe that these meridians conduct qi, or energy, between the surface of the body and internal organs. It is qi that regulates spiritual, emotional, mental and physical balance. When the flow of qi is disrupted through poor health habits or other circumstances, pain and/or disease can result.

The 3,000-year-old practice of acupuncture helps to keep the normal flow of this energy unblocked. Acupuncture obesity treatment works to control weight gain on several levels. When attempting to diet, many people experience withdrawal, or cravings, because of a lack of endorphins. (It is this same imbalance of hormone levels that causes women to crave chocolate just prior to beginning menstruation.) The need to eat is often so strong that dieters binge on food. This is one reason why diets often cause people to gain more weight rather than lose it.

Acupuncture counterbalances these cravings by releasing endorphins in the brain, which actually alleviate the withdrawal symptoms many dieters experience and eventually succumb to.

Weight gain can also be caused by stress, which increases cortizol levels in the body. This increase in cortizol, which is often referred to as the “stress hormone,” can alter metabolism, thus causing stressed people to gain weight. As with cravings, the endorphins released by acupuncture also help reduce stress, which can reduce the need to overeat.

According to Marly Wexler, a licensed acupuncturist and faculty member at Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, acupuncture can also help weight loss by regulating the body’s metabolism. “The reason I like using acupuncture [for weight loss] is because it really does help the body become more efficient in the digestive process,” Wexler said.
Wexler said that when people try to diet, metabolism becomes less efficient – yet another reason why many diets prove to be ineffective. Irregular food intake also weakens digestion, which often results in weight gain. “People cut back on food or calories, but what that does is make the body store up on fat and diminish ‘digestive fire,’ which translates in Western medicine to metabolism,” Wexler said.

By stimulating the hyopthalamus, acupuncture regulates the body’s thyroid and hormone levels, which in turn regulate metabolism. One patient who wrote about her experiences with acupuncture on acupuncture.com said that she had been suffering from weight fluctuation because of fad diets before she tried acupuncture. “I went to an acupuncturist in l984 in Boston because I was experiencing rapid weight gain and was dieting often to lose it,” she said. “I went up and down from 110 pounds to 160 pounds several times. After two months of acupuncture treatments, I began to stabilize at 127 pounds and have remained at that weight ever since (except when pregnant). This stays stable no matter how much I exercise or what I eat.”

Auricular, or ear, acupuncture is especially popular for the treatment of obesity. The vagus motor nerve, which drives the internal organs, has one sensory branch in the ear, as well as fibers that connect to taste buds and the saliva glands in the jaw. By applying pressure to the sensory branch of the vagus nerve, acupuncture “calms” the stomach and taste systems so that they do not crave food.

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Flaxseed and Other Natural Remedies for Hot Flashes and Menopausal Symptoms

by Alex A. Kecskes

Hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings are just a few of the symptoms women in their 40’s and 50’s have suffered from menopause. New techniques like hormone replacement therapy have emerged as common remedies. But there are other natural remedies besides HRT (hormone replacement therapy) that can help control these symptoms.

A 2007 Mayo study showed that 21 women who consumed 40 grams of ground flaxseed daily had a significant decrease in the frequency and severity of their hot flashes. High in phytoestrogens (especially lignans), flaxseed can help minimize symptoms like hot flashes and prevent heavy bleeding. It’s also high in omega-3 acids, so it may help ease symptoms like breast tenderness, cramping, and other PMS-type discomforts.

Recent studies have found that soy can also help reduce hot flashes, as well as night sweats, and other menopausal symptoms. Rich in phytoestrogens, especially isoflavones, as well as omega 3 fatty acids, calcium, folic acid, iron, and other vitamins and minerals, soy offers a variety of health benefits for early menopause. Soy can help lower cholesterol -- which tends to rise when you enter premature menopause. It can also help lower triglycerides, which often rise when you take estrogen.

Some studies have shown that taking vitamin E and citrus bioflavonoids in the morning and again before bedtime may reduce the frequency and severity of hot flashes.  One cautionary note: If you have rheumatic heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, or if you take digitalis drugs, vitamin E can be harmful.  Always check with your doctor before taking these supplements. Studies have also shown that bioflavonoids may help relieve anxiety, irritability, and other emotional side effects associated with menopause.

To help maintain tissues, skin, mucous membranes, and to reduce vaginal dryness, you might try vitamin A or beta-carotene. B vitamins can boost your energy levels, support your liver function, prevent vaginal dryness, and build up your resistance to infection. B vitamins also help your body cope with stress—ideal for all those emotional symptoms of premature menopause—like mood swings, anxiety, irritability and insomnia. This popular herb may help reduce hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms. Black Cohosh can also help with cramps, heavy periods, and other menstrual irregularities.  Most studies suggest taking black cohosh extract that contains either 20 or 40 mg twice a day. It may take two to four weeks before you notice results. 

Widely praised as a natural tranquilizer, St. John’s Wort helps relieve irritability, depression and fatigue.  Over 23 different studies have found that it’s effective in fighting depression, especially when hormone levels drop after surgical menopause. Keep in mind; St. John’s Wort can interact with other medications, including birth control pills, so check with your doctor before taking. Valerian is also widely used to treat sleep disturbances, nervousness, menstrual problems, mood swings, and tension.


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Green Practices and Traditional Chinese Medicine

By Steve Goodman

The philosophies of balance within the body, and between the physical self and the natural world are basic to the practice of traditional Chinese medicine and most naturopathic physicians. Many people, from political candidates to environmental activists, talk about “Going Green” today. As a patient or advocate of TCM, you will surely agree that taking steps to reduce the “toxicity” of your body and your own personal space is integral to your overall well-being. And by extrapolation, such practices will also help to bring balance and healing to the planet.

In the theory and practice of TCM, there are Five Elements that make up the material world: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water. These elements are in constant movement and flux. Obviously then, the tenets of TCM would hold that humankind’s negative influence over these basic elements through pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and unbridled use of natural resources without restraint, disturbs the natural order of things  - in essence the world’s “qi,” or energy essence.

Tips for Going Green

As believers and practitioners of TCM, it is our responsibility to help restore the planetary qi. There are dozens of very simple things you can do to “Go Green.” – many of which will improve your health, as well as the health of the planet, and all of which are harmonious with TCM.

Avoid Fast Foods – these not only pollute the body, but almost all fast food is over- packaged and fast-food companies are responsible for producing unbelievably large volumes of trash.

Ride a Bike Whenever Possible – Bike riding is great exercise and reduces global warming.
Recycle and Buy Products Made of Recycled Paper – Remember in TCM one of the 5 elements is Wood and that can include its products – like paper.

Change Incandescent Light Bulbs for Compact Fluorescents – Saves a lot of energy.
Don't Use Aerosols - Aerosol cans cannot be recycled and many of their ingredients contribute to air pollution and are otherwise toxic. Look for chemical-free spray bottles or roll-ons, especially for products that come into contact with your body.

Buy Organic - Organic produce contains far fewer chemicals than other produce. That is better for you and the planet.

Plant a Garden and Put out Bird Feeders – A garden is your own space of tranquility. Bird feeders bring nature into your space and birds naturally control bugs and other pests.

These are just a few of hundreds of things you can do in your everyday life to help restore your own qi and the qi of the earth. Advocates of TCM should protect The Five Elements by always practicing The Three R’s – Refuse, Reuse, and Recycle. If something is over-packaged or heavily laden with toxic chemicals - Refuse it. If it comes in something that you can reuse for something else -Reuse it, and if it can be Recycled - Recycle it. 

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Chinese Wisdom: Quote of the Day

Be not afraid of growing slowly; be afraid only of standing still.

~ Anonymous

Acupuncture, Massage, Newsletter - June 2008 | Issue 52

In this issue you will find: Important PCOM Dates

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Acupuncture and In Vitro Fertilization

By, Kathleen Rushall

Some of the best health results from the combination of Eastern and Western medicine. Fertility is no exception, and when combined with the Western idea of in vitro fertilization (IVF), Oriental acupuncture can increase chances of pregnancy. Some studies have demonstrated that acupuncture can affect the levels of pituitary and ovarian hormones, which can increase chances of pregnancy. Also, electro-acupuncture (the application of a pulsating electrical current to acupuncture needles as a means of stimulating one’s “qi,” or life force) has been shown to improve blood flow in the uterine arteries of infertile women.

Acupuncture is widely known for its ability to induce relaxation. Infertility can be extremely grueling; it often leads to stress and other intense emotions. This can be a vicious cycle for some women, stress can inhibit pregnancy; when the body is relaxed, it functions better. The feeling of well-being provided by acupuncture can serve to relax the muscles of the uterus. If the uterus is in a relaxed state at the time of the IVF embryo transfer, it is less likely to produce contractions that could push the transferred embryo away from fertilization. Acupuncture also improves blood circulation to the ovaries, which will boost the health of the eggs, as well as the uterus, which will increase the lining and make it strong enough to carry eggs full term.

By providing better circulation and blood flow to the womb, acupuncture will give the eggs a better chance to be nourished and supported throughout the pregnancy.
The best results can be achieved from acupuncture when it is practiced regularly. Rather than a quick fix, it should be viewed as a lifestyle change, like eating healthy, or regular exercise. Studies indicate that receiving acupuncture treatments about 30 minutes before and after in vitro fertilization can increase the chances that the embryo will be successfully implanted, and can also reduce the risk of miscarriage.

Studies published in the British Medical Journal in 2007 tested 1,366 women in four Western countries. Some of these women were given traditional acupuncture before and after in vitro fertilization, and for comparison, others were given sham acupuncture or no acupuncture. The women who received acupuncture before and after IVF had a 65 percent increase in pregnancies than the control group, and the rates of live births were nearly twice as high than the women given sham or no acupuncture.

IVF drugs and the in vitro procedure itself are thought to be more effective if acupuncture is done once a week in the two months prior to the beginning of IVF treatment, as well as continued regularly at least once a week during IVF treatment. A German study, published in the medical journal Fertility and Sterility tested 160 women, giving 80 of them acupuncture with their IVF treatments. The results were significant: “The analysis shows that the pregnancy rate for the acupuncture group is considerably higher than for the control group (42.5% vs. 26.3%).”

Another benefit of acupuncture is that it is affordable, and is gaining increasing coverage by health insurance plans. In vitro fertilization can cost up to 20,000 dollars, and is often not covered by insurance. Prices in acupuncture range, but are usually between 30 and 150 dollars. Using these two practices in conjunction may be women’s best fertility option to date. It is exciting to be able to reap the benefits of two worlds, both ancient and innovative.

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Emotions and Traditional Chinese Medicine

Traditional Chinese medicine takes into account both external and internal factors in the creation of an individual’s diagnosis. The current emotional state of the patient is one internal factor that traditional Chinese medicine believes to be very important. In fact, emotions are believed to directly correlate to specific organs and their states of being. Traditional Chinese medical theory believes the body is in the control of the Five Elements: Earth, Wood, Fire, Water, and Metal. Each element corresponds to a specific organ as well as a specific emotion. The emotions are not believed to always be the direct cause of an ailment, but have an undeniable connection with the progress and condition of the problem.  

The Suwen, or Book of Plain Questions states “The five yin-organs of the human body produce five kinds of essential qi, which bring forth joy, anger, grief, worry, and fear.” According to the Five-Element school of thought, anger is associated with Wood; joy is associated with Fire, pensiveness with Earth, grief with Metal, and fear with Water. The liver is associated with Wood and therefore with anger, the heart with Fire and joy, the spleen with Earth and pensiveness, the lung with Metal, and grief and the kidney with Water and fear. This is not to say that to experience any of these emotions means that the related organ is out of balance but, rather, that any extreme case or fluctuation of these emotions may be related to a problem with that organ.

Emotions in TCM have slightly different meanings than their Western interpretations. In TCM joy, for example, refers to a state of agitation or over-excitement, rather than elation. Related to the heart, this emotion is correlated with heart palpitations, repeated agitation, and insomnia. Anger in TCM is considered to represent resentment, frustration, and irritability. An excess of rich blood is believed to make one prone to anger, and can affect the liver, causing this organ’s energy to rise to the head and result in headaches or dizziness. Pensiveness is thought to be an excess of mental stimulation that can affect the spleen (which rules over vital energy). This can result in fatigue, lethargy, and difficulty concentrating. Lungs are associated with the feeling of grief. Unresolved grief can lead to problems with general energy and one’s qi (life force) because the lungs are thought to distribute this throughout the body. Like the other emotions, fear is considered a normal and at times, inevitable emotion. However, if it becomes chronic, or settles as a deep anxiety, the kidneys can be affected. The kidney’s ability to hold qi may be impaired, and involuntary urination can also occur.

Traditional Chinese medicine is unique in its belief that cause and effect are not linear, but circular. This means that the cause of an ailment may be an emotion, but also that an ailment can lead to an emotion. By striving to balance the organ related to the person’s emotional state, the emotion can be balanced as well, and visa versa. Acupuncture is one way to accomplish this re-alignment. Acupuncture is the practice of gently inserting needles into specific points on the body to benefit a person’s qi, or life force. There are certain points used in acupuncture that accord with specific organs, and treating these points is how feelings and acupuncture can interplay.
Emotions are considered to be normal and healthy, it is only when they become extreme or uncontrollable that they can open the door to disease. TCM believes them to be the major internal cause of disease within the body, but also the most easily influenced – meaning, that with the right attention and treatment, emotions and their corresponding ailments can change.


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Restless Leg Syndrome and Traditional Chinese Medicine

By, Kathleen Rushall

Restless Leg Syndrome, also known as Ekbom Syndrome, can affect anyone, but it seems to most commonly affect women past the age of fifty. About ten percent of the population of the United States and Europe suffer from some degree of this condition. There is no specific known cause of RLS, but it is thought to possibly be genetic. Restless Leg Syndrome involves strong urges to move the to alleviate sensations in them like pins and needles, aching, or a “prickly” feeling. This uncontrollable urge can interrupt sleep, distract from daily tasks, and cause general discomfort. RLS can be a solitary ailment, but has been connected to several conditions. It is not uncommon for pregnant women to develop symptoms of RLS, but these symptoms usually dissipate about four weeks after labor. People with anemia are also susceptible to RLS due to their low iron levels, but once this is corrected, their RLS improves.

RLS is a sign of poor blood circulation in the legs, and a history of smoking, lack of exercise, or diabetes could be contributing factors. Some painless, side effect free treatments include a diet low in sugar, as well as a juice combining carrot, celery, and spinach. A lack of iron in one’s diet is thought to exaggerate symptoms of RLS. Traditional Chinese medicine believes that the cause of Restless Leg Syndrome is heat in the Heart, which is thought to cause agitation in one’s spirit, and can lead to restlessness during sleep.

In TCM, the spirit is referred to as the Shen, and it is believed to be stored in the Heart. In traditional Chinese medicine, each organ is believed to be sensitive to one unique type of weather: while the Heart wants to feel warm, it should not feel hot. The theory of Zang-Fu (“internal organs”) holds that the Kidneys are the source of yin and yang in the body. When Kidney yin is low, it means that the body is susceptible to heat, contributing to the Heart’s discomfort (and therefore the Shen’s), and can lead to restless legs.

Herbal remedies can be recommended to help the Kidneys, Heart, and Shen, and this can in turn relieve the uncomfortable sensations of Restless Leg Syndrome. Two of the more common herb formulas that are recommended are RopinoHerb RLS and RopinoHerb PLMD. PLMD is an abbreviation of Periodic Limb Movement Disorder, which is a similar condition to RLS, but occurs most often during sleep (while RLS can happen during the day as well) and involves the cramping or involuntary movement of the legs and arms. About 80% of people with RLS also have PLMD, but the reverse is not true.

Nutritional supplements that include Vitamin E, calcium, magnesium, and folic acid have also been proven to improve symptoms of RLS. Another TCM treatment for restless legs is acupuncture. Acupuncture treatments have proven effective in patients with arthritis, and are believed to also stimulate those parts of the brain that are involved in RLS. Moxibustion, an ancient TCM practice, can also help to control RLS symptoms. Moxibustion is the utilization of the mugwort herb, or “moxa,” to stimulate the points on the body used during acupuncture. Stimulating these points can help to energize or align one’s qi, and also can induce a smoother blood flow, which will reduce the urges of Restless Leg Syndrome.

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Chinese Wisdom: Quote of the Day

He that would perfect his work must first sharpen his tools.


Acupuncture, Massage, Newsletter - April 2008 | Issue 50

In this issue you will find: Important PCOM Dates

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Pacific College Celebrates World Tai Chi and Qi Gong Day

Pacific College of Oriental Medicine is one of many institutions around the world to recognize World Tai Chi and Qi Gong Day (WTCQD). Groups around the world will gather at 10:00 am on Saturday April 26 to practice Tai Chi and Qi Gong. World Tai Chi and Qi Gong Day will see people in over 80 countries gather to practice these disciplines and to educate the public about the benefits of such practice. 

World Tai Chi and Qi Gong Day provides teachers, schools, and Tai Chi and Qi Gong associations with many free tools and services to educate communities about the potential benefits of these disciplines.  It is also a day to promote worldwide wellbeing.  

Qi Gong has a long history.  In ancient China, people believed that through controlled body movements and mental concentration, paired with various breathing techniques, they could balance and enhance physical, metabolic and mental functions. Qi Gong exercise relies on the traditional Chinese belief that the body has an energy field, known as qi. “Qi” in Mandarin Chinese means breath or to breathe, and “gong” means work or technique.  The pairing of the two is the basis for the art of Qi Gong.

Tai Chi is also a centuries-old Chinese discipline that aids health, relaxation, balance, flexibility, strength, meditation, self-defense, and self-cultivation.  It is referred to as moving meditation.  The practice began as a martial art and is based on the principles of the Yin Yang symbol, called Tai Chi in Chinese, meaning “grand ultimate.”

Activities at most events include Tai Chi and Qi Gong exercise demonstrations, and many feature prominent masters leading exercises.  Events are free and open to the public. A good way to find events in your area is to check with the nearest Oriental medicine school.  In stressful times such as these, a day such as WTCQD is much needed.  It can bring both relaxation and a sense of community and shared peace. It also brings people together across economic and geopolitical lines to celebrate health and healing.


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Spring and Traditional Chinese Medicine – 5 Elements Theory

The Five Element Theory serves as a major diagnostic and treatment tool in traditional Chinese medicine.  It is based on the observation of the natural cycles and interrelationships in the environment and within ourselves.  For example, there are five environmental elements – Fire, Earth, Metal, Water and Wood – each corresponding with certain body organs, such as the heart, spleen, lungs, kidneys, liver, intestines, stomach, urinary bladder, and gull bladder.  The five different elements are associated with different times of the year: Fire with summer, Earth with late summer, Metal with autumn, Water with winter, and Wood with spring. 

The five elements interact with each other (they depend on each other).  For example, the liver, belonging to the Wood element, directly affects the spleen, which belongs to the Earth element.  Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practitioners try to maintain a balance among the body’s organs.

Spring is associated with the Wood element, which governs the liver and gall bladder. Strong winds are typical during spring.  The blowing of wind in spring could over-strengthen the liver, which in turn could affect the spleen.  If so, a disharmony of the liver and spleen occurs.  TCM practitioners may detect this imbalance by observing symptoms such as stomach pain, acid regurgitation, stomach distention, and diarrhea.  

Allergy problems are abundant during spring.  If the liver is not healthy, it could affect the spleen and the lungs.  Symptoms of this disharmony between organs include: chest congestion, sneezing, running nose, itching eyes and other symptoms that are associated with allergy problems.  It is very important, especially during spring, to cleanse the liver and lungs and to bring a balance among them and other body organs.  Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can help to accomplish this balance.

TCM practitioners pay attention to weather, especially very extreme weather, like an unusually windy spring.  Extreme or unusual weather can cause health imbalances in people.  Health problems tend to occur during or immediately following certain seasons.  The liver, which is said to “open into the eyes” in TCM, is associated with cases of infectious hepatitis and cases of pink eye, which tend to be more numerous in the spring.

TCM practitioners believe that a person should cater his or her diet to the seasons.  Because spring is associated with the liver, it is important to have a diet that strengthens and cleanses the liver.  There are many foods serving the purpose of soothing and cleansing the liver.  Green is the color of the liver and of spring.   Green and leafy vegetables, especially if the plants are young, help by cleansing and freshening the body.  They benefit the liver’s overall well-being. Dandelion also works well as a spring cleanser.  A balanced diet with a variety of juices such as citrus fruits, pear, apple, celery, and carrot is very helpful. Sprouts from seeds such as beans, mung, and radish are valuable for spring use as well.


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Acupuncture Helps Dental Patients Control Gag Reflex

By Michelle Fletcher, B.A., michellefletcher.net

For many Americans, a visit to the dentist causes anxiety, pain, and fear. Many health experts estimate that nearly half of all adults will not seek dental care out of fear of going to the dentist. Some patients are particularly sensitive to dental equipment, which may cause them to gag uncontrollably when an instrument such as a mirror or drill is placed in the mouth. Others are so terrified, either due to a bad prior experience or to stories they've heard about bad dental experiences, that the mere thought of dental treatment causes them to gag even before any work has begun.

“The gagging reflex is a psychological reaction which safeguards the airway from foreign bodies ,” said Janice Fisk at the Department of Sedation and Special Care Dentistry in London in a recent article in the British Dental Journal. “In some people, this response is exaggerated to the extent that the acceptance/provision of dental treatment is not possible.”

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) has been making headlines in the past few years for its contribution to dentistry – namely using acupuncture to treat patients suffering from serious gag reflexes at dental offices. Studies have asserted that acupuncture, when applied to dentistry, is a safe, cheap, quick, and relatively non-invasive technique to control the gag reflex in patients.

“Acupuncture needles were inserted into a specific anti-gagging point on each ear, manipulated briefly and left in situ ,” said Fiske about her study. “Dental treatment was then carried out and the effectiveness of the acupuncture in preventing gagging was assessed. After treatment, the needles were removed and the patient discharged. All acupuncture was carried out by a dentist trained in its use.”

Results were quite positive: “Dental treatment could be carried out in all cases and at all visits ,” Fiske said. In another study at Weston Park Hospital in Sheffield, UK, doctors observed similar results. “Before acupuncture, the patients that had moderate to severe [gag reflexes] and after acupuncture the [gag reflex] had reduced to a level which only complicated dental treatment slightly.

“Ear acupuncture was successful in controlling the gag reflex,” concluded Fisk in her article. “It is a safe, quick, inexpensive, and relatively noninvasive technique. ” Including simple acupuncture techniques in dental medicine can greatly increase not only the effectiveness of treatment performed, but also decrease anxiety and fear in the minds of patients.

Fisk J, Dickinson C. The role of acupuncture in controlling the gagging reflex using a review of ten cases. British Dental Journal. 2001 Nov 24;191(10):537.

Fiske 537.

Fiske 537.

Rosted P., et al. The use of acupuncture in controlling the gag reflex in patients requiring an upper alginate impression: an audit. British Dental Journal. 2006 Dec 9;201(11):721-5.

Fisk 537.

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Chinese Wisdom: Quote of the Day

“Forget injuries but never forget a kindness.”

~ Confucius