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Acupuncture, Massage, Newsletter - March 2010 | Issue 76

In this issue you will find:

Important PCOM Dates:


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TCM for Sinusitis

Still locked in the troughs of winter in much of the country, many of us continue a daily battle with head colds and sinusitis. Yet, with the coming of spring, for these same individuals there is not necessarily relief in sight. As spring blooms, it brings with it allergies, hay fever, and continued sinus pressure and pain for patients.

It is estimated that some 30 million Americans suffer from sinus problems. Sinus infections are usually the result of a cold, a sudden change in weather conditions, or an allergic reaction. No matter the cause, the resulting condition, sinusitis, is a swelling of the mucous membranes and increases production of mucus. This swelling and increased mucous production causes the symptoms most associated with sinus congestion, the pressure and pain of sinus headaches along with an annoying stuffy and/or runny nose.

In Western medicine, typical treatment for sinusitis is the prescription of antihistamines or antibiotics that may relieve the symptoms, but do little to get at the cause of the condition. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) has been effectively treating sinusitis naturally for centuries with herbal and acupuncture modalities.

Sinusitis in many individuals tends to become a chronic condition. The reason is that after each recurring infection, most methods of treatment fail to drain the sinus cavities completely of mucus and discharge. This creates an ongoing pattern of infection after infection. Continually treating the infections with antibiotics can weaken the immune system, causing further problems. TCM modalities can break this pattern, and are actually designed to boost, not damage, the body’s immune response.

In TCM, sinusitis is the result usually of a wind pathogen, wind cold or wind heat, that has entered and concentrated in the head. Acupuncture can be very effective in opening up the nasal passages, and allowing patients with sinusitis to breathe more easily. The most common acupuncture point for sinusitis is the Bitong point, which literally means "opening up the nose."

Herbal medications indicated for the treatment of sinusitis include Xanthium Powder, magnolia flower, Angelica root, and field mint or peppermint. These are considered “warm herbs.” If the sinusitis is accompanied by a fever, which is often the case, herbal formations will likely be used in conjunction with “cooling” herbs. Cooling formulations may include honeysuckle flowers and Scutellaria root. Since sinusitis can also be caused by floral or pollen allergies, TCM practitioners must take particular care when prescribing herbal medications for sinusitis, and as always in TCM, evaluate the patient overall, basing his or her treatment on a detailed patient history.

As in all modes of TCM, observation is very important to make a proper diagnosis and determine a course of treatment. To the TCM practitioner, the color and nature of the mucus and nasal discharges are indicative of the qi disharmonies causing the sinus condition.

Once the sinus infection has been cleared, to prevent recurrence the patient is given treatment to strengthen Spleen Qi. Strong Spleen Qi prevents the build up of mucous and improves the immune system overall, preventing colds and other infections which can lead to sinusitis.

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Herbal Supplements for Women’s Health

The value of herbal supplementation is being increasingly validated by scientific research. Herbal supplements such as Ashwagandha, Ginseng, Ginkgo, Bromelain, and many others have been proven time and again in published studies to have measurable therapeutic benefits. Herbs can be used to promote heath and well-being in any individual, but also, there are specific herbal formulations that are particularly conducive to boosting a woman’s health, and dealing with common health issues unique to women. There are multi-formula herbal supplements that combine many ingredients that are specifically tailored to a woman’s metabolism.

Cranberry juice, and cranberry extracts have been widely used by many women for the treatment of cystitis, urinary tract infection, (UTI) and other bladder conditions.

With the recent controversy over Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT), more and more women are turning toward herbal medications for relief of the symptoms of menopause. Such formulas abound on the internet and drug store shelves, but a careful examination of the ingredients will reveal that they are usually a combination of the same botanical derivatives.

Soybeans, yams, and related plants are natural sources of estrogen, and estrogen-like compounds. These will be common ingredients in herbal supplements for women that are intended to ease the symptoms of menopause.

Kava Kava and Valerian root are also commonly found in women’s herbal formulas, as they can help with sleep, relaxation, and restoring emotional balance.

Black Cohosh has been used in traditional Chinese medicine to provide relief from hot flashes. Black Cohosh is also indicated for the relief of menstrual cramps and period pain, as are, Evening Primrose Oil, Dong Quai, and Red raspberry, Chamomile and Ginger Root teas.

Women dealing with sexual, or fertility issues can also find help in the garden, rather then the medicine cabinet. Low libido or decreased sex drive in women can be treated botanically with Damiana Leaf, which has been found in studies to increase sexual desire and pleasure, and stimulate arousal in women. Muira Puama has also been shown to increase libido and aide in sexual hormone production. Again, estrogen-mimicking herbs such as Black Cohosh can help improve a woman’s sex drive, in pre or postmenopausal women. While not specifically prescribed for female sexual dysfunction, herbs that are known to improve blood flow and stimulate the nervous system can also help alleviate this condition. Ginger Root, Aloe Vera, Gingko Biloba, Guarana, Black Walnut, and Passion Flower, are some such herbs.

Women dealing with fertility issues may stimulate egg production with many of the same hormone replacing, or hormone mimicking herbs that relieve the symptoms of menopause. Dong Quia, Red Clover, Wild Yam and Soy extract have all also been found to increase fertility in women.

Both men and women can benefit from herbal supplements to look and feel their best. Yet women do have certain unique metabolic needs, which fortunately can be fulfilled with some safe, proven effective, and readily available herbs and botanical supplements.

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A Model for the Action of Massage

Massage therapy has been practiced for thousands of years by many cultures. Today, Americans spend approximately $3 billion each year on visits to massage therapists.

While debate continues on the physiology of massage, experts agree that massage draws its benefits from more that just applying pressure to specific areas of the human anatomy. The Chinese believe, and so do many practitioners, that touch can serve as a natural, essential component to healing and the maintenance of good health. When administered properly by a trained professional, massage can reduce pain or adhesions, promote sedation, mobilize fluids, increase muscular relaxation, and facilitate vasodilatation (the widening of blood vessels due to the relaxation of smooth muscle cells within the vessel walls).

The actual mechanism of massage action is to revitalize the nervous system. By properly stimulating the pathways of nerve endings, massage affects the body's vital organs and tissues. A skilled massage therapist can positively influence the nervous system, accelerating the metabolic processes, and stimulating blood and lymph vessels. This helps to excrete metabolic products and excess fluids and relieve venous congestion. A good massage also enhances blood supply to the skin, subcutaneous tissue, muscle tissue, and internal organs.

Additional research suggests that massage may reduce inflammation, stimulate tissue oxygenation, and soften scar tissue. It may also reduce the excess buildup of lactic acid in muscles, and stimulate the healing of connective tissues or damaged muscles.

The basic techniques that facilitate these therapeutic mechanisms include:

Stroking—Characterized by even movements without losing contact with the skin. Uses a firm rhythmic pressure on an upward stroke, then glides down to the starting point with a very light touch.

Kneading—The skin is pulled together with subcutaneous fat and muscle to compress the tissues, which enhances muscle tone and stimulates blood circulation.

Rubbing—The skin is stretched along with subcutaneous fat and muscles in different directions. Here, the fingertips of both hands are continuously applied to a broad surface area.

Vibration—Moving the hands rapidly to stimulate tissues and other parts of the body. Vibration serves to enhance muscle tone and alerts nerves, dilates blood vessels, and speeds up metabolism.

Circulatory massage -- which uses vigorous kneading, rolling, vibration, percussive, and tapping to manipulate the body's soft tissues -- can help deliver nutrients and remove waste products from various tissues. It can help transform nervous energy into a more steady state. The rhythmic procedures of this massage can help re-establish balance by calming the nervous system.

When suffering from a disorder, consult a primary care physician before attempting massage therapy. The doctor may recommend the appropriate treatment that is best suited for the disorder. If massage is suggested, find a licensed massage therapist who is nationally certified through the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork (www.ncbtmb.org) or the American Massage Therapy Association (www.amtamassage.org). Note: Medicare and most private insurance do not cover massage.

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Chinese Wisdom: Proverb of the Day

“Wheresoever you go, go with all your heart.”

~ Confucius