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Acupuncture, Massage, Newsletter - October 2008 | Issue 57


In this issue you will find: Important PCOM Dates


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Pediatric massage for children

by Alex A. Kecskes

More commonly known as pediatric acupuncture, Shonishin literally translated means sho for little, ni for children, and shin for needle (though typically no needles are used and nothing actually penetrates the skin).

Tracing its roots back to 17th century Osaka, Japan (and ultimately to ancient China), the specialized acupuncture technique was developed specifically for babies and children up to the age of seven. Practitioners insist Shonishin offers a viable alternative to pharmaceuticals in the treatment of childhood health problems—everything from behavioral and emotional to many physical conditions. It has been used with some success in treating infants and children afflicted with a wide variety of conditions, including colic, indigestion, GERD, constipation, and diarrhea. It has even shown some success in the treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), allergies, asthma, eczema, hives, bedwetting, and stuttering. Children as young as one month old have been effectively treated.

To understand how Shonishin works, one must first realize that a child’s bio-energetic systems are in the “yang” phase and not fully developed, which means their energy (Qi) moves very quickly. Due to their rapidly growing bodies, infants consume large amounts of Qi. This often depletes the organs most responsible for producing Qi, which can result in hyperstimulation and offers a fertile ground for health problems. Enter Shonishin.  Its gentle, mostly non-invasive treatment techniques involve non-inserted needles — the enshin, the teishin and the zanshin. Experienced practitioners rhythmically stroke, rub, tap and press the skin to produce a variety of gentle stimulation sensations. Rounded tools, including stones, shells, silver, or gold rods are typically used. Sometimes a press sphere—a tiny round ball—is taped in place and left for a few hours to stimulate an acupuncture point. These techniques serve to harmonize and boost a child’s vital energy.

There are many variables to consider in the application of Shonishin treatment.  The frequency, dosage and strength of therapy, for example, will depend on the individual practitioner, as well as the age, health or illness of the child. Keep in mind that a child’s treatments will usually be short in duration, generally taking only one to five minutes—with older children usually requiring longer treatments. Shonishin is administered quickly, usually within 15-20 minutes, and is typically performed with the child clothed or just wearing a diaper. The technique is most effective when given several times per week until the symptoms are alleviated. Once the primary health concern is addressed, treatments may continue on a limited protracted basis to prevent recurrence. While only skilled acupuncturists administer initial treatments, many procedures can be performed by the child’s parents at home (a silver teaspoon makes an ideal home-based Shonishin tool). The techniques are quickly and easily learned, allowing parents to perform daily treatments between visits.

Regardless of treatment type or length, practitioners frequently develop a kind and gentle rapport with the child. In fact, regular Shonishin treatments help strengthen the parent-child relationship and can improve the spiritual and emotional development of the child. Regular daily preventative massage done by the parents may increase circulation of Qi and blood, and may strengthen the child’s immune system. The soothing, relaxing massage can also improve sleeping and eating habits. In some cases, Shonishin can even help children to be more sociable and better disposed.

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Improving Vision with Traditional Chinese Medicine

by Steve Goodman

It has been said that the eyes are the windows to the soul. In TCM the eyes are more accurately described as the window to the inner workings of the body, for in TCM the eyes are connected to all of the internal organs.   

In Chinese medicine each part the eye is associated with a particular element and corresponding zang organ. The iris is represented by the liver zang. The heart zang relates to the corners of the eyes or the canthi, the upper and lower eyelids correspond to the spleen, the conjunctiva the lung, and the pupil the kidney.

TCM recognizes six environmental or external pathogens that can lead to vision loss. A person’s resistance to environmental pathogenic factors is based on how healthy their immune system is, which in turn is a function of Qi. This balance between vital Qi and external pathogens forms the basis for all aspects of TCM, with degenerative eye diseases and vision loss being no exception. According to TCM a person with poor Qi flow or imbalances in Qi in any of the zang organs relating to the parts of the eye will have decreased resistance to the six specific environmental pathogens that can influence vision.

Environmental Pathogenic Factors Affecting the Eyes

  • Heat – Leads to swelling, inflammation, and the redness commonly found in many eye diseases such as conjunctivitis
  • Cold – Will yield pain and slow vision loss over time, as in chronic degenerative conditions such as macular degeneration and glaucoma
  • Wind – Results in sudden and dramatic onset of vision loss
  • Dampness – Causes secretion of mucus, and swelling
  • Dryness – Results in dry itchy eyes and redness
  • Summer Heat - Inflammation and mucus discharge

Of these six external factors, wind and fire bring on “Yang” conditions of the eye. As the eyes look out onto the world they are susceptible to the attack of wind pathogens that enter the body through the eye. Wind born eye disorders are characterized by rapid onset of acute conditions. The result of Fire pathogenic invasion is indicated by inflammation, ulceration, and redness.

The other environment pathogens, cold and dampness, result in “Yin” conditions. According to TCM the most common cause of poor vision is exposure to cold and dampness, which results in poor circulation to the eyes. The invasion of cold blocks flow of Qi, depriving the eyes of vital warmth and nourishment. Coldness also settles into the muscles, vessels, and skin around the eyes, resulting in further degeneration of visual acuity.

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Treating Winter and Fall Allergies with Traditional Chinese Medicine

by Alex A. Kecskes

Winter and Fall allergies can cause a great deal of discomfort in many people, young or old. Symptoms include sneezing, congestion, runny nose and red, itchy eyes. Western medicine typically prescribes antihistamines, decongestants, or drugs that act on the nervous system. Dovetailing these efforts are steps to avoid the allergens altogether. While these may be effective in treating the allergic response, they often have undesirable side effects, such as drowsiness, immune system suppression or over-reliance on medications.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) can offer an alternative to these Western approaches, treating the whole person and recognizing that people with chronic allergies often show signs of spleen or kidney deficiency, even lung problems. TCM considers allergies or hay fever as a manifestation of Wind invading the upper body. This occurs because one’s Wei (or protective Qi) has been weakened, which explains why a Chinese herbalist may address these allergies by building up the body’s defensive Qi. The goal is not only to treat one’s acute symptoms and provide immediate relief, but to treat any underlying immune system imbalances, which may be the real cause of one’s allergy problems. Such treatments may take the form of acupuncture and revising one’s diet, including the addition of specific herbal formulas.
There are many holistic Chinese herbal formulas that TCM practitioners use to treat allergies. Xiao Qing Long Wan or Minor Blue Dragon is one often-prescribed formula. It is usually taken when one suffers from a sensitivity to cold, or to treat chills, fever (without sweating), body aches, wheezing, a cough that produces clear to white mucus, congestion in the chest, and a thick white coating on the tongue. The pills should be taken with plenty of water and for short duration only.

Astra 8, another herbal formula, combines the advantages of an immune system enhancer with an energy tonic. It contains astragalus (huang qi), a herb that some believe can enhance the body’s immune system and offers some antiviral properties. What’s more, the herbs in Astra 8 are Qi tonics that support astragalus to boost the immune and energy systems. Other formulations include Pei Min Kan Wan, which can relieve the discomfort of fall allergies, and Fang Feng Xin Yi Wan, which may help those suffering from hay fever.

Besides these formulas, TCM further advocates replacing coffee with catechin-rich green tea, which provides anti-allergy actions. Even Chrysanthemum tea—made from dried flowers—can also help reduce allergy symptoms. Some TCM herbalists may recommend quercetin, a bioflavonoid, which has been shown to stabilize mast cells (this slows down the body’s release of histamine and other chemicals related to allergic symptoms). Lest we not forget radishes; they cool and moisten, which makes them ideal for treating dry, itchy allergy eyes. They can also help clear the sinuses, drain mucous and ease sore throats.

Those sensitive to ragweed and similar fall blooms, should boost their immune system before the fall allergy season arrives. That means seeing one’s TCM practitioner about acupuncture now, for it can take awhile for these procedures to help with allergic symptoms. People who wait until they start sneezing or suffer from a sinus headache, will find they’ve acted too late. Building immunity to fall allergies is best done weekly for four to six weeks. Those who suffer from ragweed allergies should begin treatment immediately.

We recommend in all cases that you consult with a trusted health care professional before taking any nutritional supplements or discontinuing any medication.

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Chinese Wisdom: Quote of the Day

The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor man perfected without trials.