Raising Awareness: World Asthma Day

Over 22 million people living in the United States have asthma, a chronic lifelong disease that affects the lungs. Asthma can cause wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness, and coughing. Although asthma cannot be cured, it is possible to manage asthma to reduce and prevent asthma attacks, also called episodes. In the United States, approximately half of people with asthma had at least one asthma attack in 2012. More children (55%) than adults (49%) had an attack. To raise awareness about the health consequences of asthma, we are participating in World Asthma Day today on May 5, 2015 and Asthma Awareness Month throughout May! 

People with asthma can prevent asthma attacks if they learn how to avoid asthma triggers like tobacco smoke, mold, outdoor air pollution, and colds and flu. Asthma episodes can also be prevented by using inhaled corticosteroids and other prescribed daily long-term control medicines correctly. While many are turning to over the counter medication, consumers are increasingly looking to natural solutions on their own or to compliment their daily regimen. These natural options are proving effective to relieve against respiratory symptoms with great success. We suggest trying Rootology: Breathe Free, a proprietary blend of 13 concentrated herbal extracts that work individually and in synergy to immediately support nasal, sinus and eye health.

Asthma attacks cause adults to miss work and children to miss school. These dangerous and sometimes life-threatening episodes reduce the quality of life for people with asthma. The good news is that we can raise awareness about asthma and how it can be controlled.

It’s time to get asthma under control. Tips for successful asthma management:

  • Know the warning signs of an attack
  • Avoid things that may trigger an attack
  • Follow the advice of your healthcare provider
  • Create a personal asthma management plan

Using what you know about managing your asthma can give you control over this chronic disease. When you control your asthma, you will breathe easier, be as active as you would like, sleep well, stay out of the hospital, and be free from coughing and wheezing. To learn more about how you can control your asthma, visit CDC's asthma website or Facebook page.

Keep Your Heart Healthy The TCM Way

Since 1958, February has been designated Heart Month. No, it’s not because of Valentine’s Day, but because the Heart and Stroke Foundation created a campaign to fundraise for research and to bring awareness to heart disease and stroke.

Traditional Chinese medicine calls the heart the “king” because of its vital function to keep us alive. Unfortunately, heart disease and strokes end someone’s life every seven minutes, and 90% of Canadians have at least one risk factor. The good news is that since 1952, deaths from cardiovascular disease have dropped by more than 75%.

Risk factors for cardiovascular disease include high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, smoking, alcohol, and physical inactivity. All of these issues can either be managed or reversed. With one-in-five Canadians having high blood pressure (hypertension), and a further one out of five considered pre-hypertensive, this is one risk factor that many need help controlling. Limit your sodium intake and watch for packaged and restaurant foods that may be higher in salt. Though we often hear of the heart-healthy benefits of red wine, too much of any alcohol increases blood pressure, so watch how much you indulge.

Exercise regularly 30 to 60 minutes most days of the week. If you haven’t been active, starting a regular exercise program has been shown to help in just a few weeks. Even 10 minutes of daily exercise can help. It can also help manage weight, another cause of hypertension. And, as with most health issues, stress also affects your blood pressure, so look for ways to cope, like prioritizing tasks, asking for help, meditation, yoga, and breathing exercises.

Acupuncture has also been shown to help lower elevated blood pressure. In a 2007 randomized study published on the American Heart Association site, acupuncture according to traditional Chinese medicine, but not sham (fake) acupuncture, significantly lowered blood pressure after 6 weeks of treatment. Even some cardiologists support acupuncture to help manage heart disease. Pascal J. Goldschmidt, MD, FACC and chief of cardiology at Duke University in 2001 said, “It's not an accident that people have been doing acupuncture for so long. [It’s] pretty clear that it's not a placebo effect. Acupuncture seems to be having a relatively specific effect on the control of blood pressure."

Honour your “king” heart with a little extra care and attention, and you may enjoy the benefits for many more years to come.

Nature’s Way to Beat Flu Season According To Traditional Chinese Medicine

The flu strikes hardest in February, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most of us know people who have been hit hard with colds and viruses this winter. Have you explored natural ways to boost your immune system and prevent yourself from becoming sick?

This year, flu shots have only been about 23 percent effective. The CDC has stated that this year's influenza vaccines are less effective than usual. The viruses used to make them aren't a good match for the viruses now spreading across the country.

Flu strains have mutated too quickly and are genetically different from the flu viruses used in this year’s vaccine. Nature is kind of smart like that. Just as chemical pesticides have created super bugs that attack our gardens, vaccines and antibiotics have created super bugs that attack our bodies. The good news is that where Western medicine stumbles, holistic methods usually succeed. Just as organic gardening is making a comeback, it’s time holistic health practices do too.

According to traditional Chinese medicine, food plays a vital role in our health. TCM teaches us to eat according to the seasons. Seasonal, local food from nature is best. It’s not just what you eat, but how you eat that counts. Paul Grobins, the acupuncturist at True North Sports Acupuncture in Gig Harbor, says that TCM has three main rules for eating.

First, eat on schedule. Eating at the same time every day reduces stress on the body and regulates cravings. Second, stop eating before you’re full. Overeating creates a traffic jam in your digestive tract, says Grobins, slowing down digestion. Your digestion will make or break your health. Good digestion passes toxins quickly through your body and makes it easier to absorb vitamins and minerals. Poor digestion does the opposite. Furthermore, our Western culture eats the wrong portion sizes at the wrong times of day.

Breakfast should be small to break our fast (get it?). Lunch should be large to supply us with energy for the day. Dinner should be medium-sized so we can digest it before we go to sleep.  This way, our bodies can use their energy to repair and restore instead of digest food.

Third, a cold body should eat warming foods and a warm body should eat cooling foods. Our bodies are always seeking balance and homeostasis. As Grobins puts it, “We wear parkas in the winter and flip-flops in the summer for a reason.” The seasons directly affect this principle. In the winter, our bodies are a cooler temperature and digestion takes more energy than normal to “cook”the food in our stomach. Cooked food takes less energy to digest than raw food, which puts less stress on the body.  

“Warming”foods, such as soups, root vegetables and pungent spices, dissolve mucus and easily digest in winter’s cold, damp environment. Vaccination or not, it is wise to boost our immune systems for added protection this month. TCM offers us holistic, common-sense tools for our healthcare toolbox this flu season.

*Read the original article on Key Peninsula News.

The TCM Way: Your Tongue Can Be A Surprising Health Indicator

Ever since we were little, doctors have been asking us to stick out our tongues and say, “Ahhh.” But while traditional Western medical doctors are likely only looking at our throats, acupuncturists and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioners are inspecting our tongues. Annie Scholl asks in QC Online, what is the reason?

“The tongue is kind of a microsystem,” says Alice Spitzner Claussen, a licensed acupuncturist, Chinese medicine practitioner and owner of Twig & Needle Chinese Medicine in Iowa City. “It gives you an overview of the internal landscape of the body as a whole.”

When you stick your tongue out for Spitzner Claussen, she’s checking out your tongue’s shape, size, color, coating and moisture. “All of these tell me about the spirit of the tongue,” she explains. “Is it lively or does it look like dead meat? Is it flaccid? Is it tight? Is it really stiff? I also look underneath the tongue for veins.”

What does a healthy tongue look like? First and foremost, it’s pink or pale red, like fresh meat at the butcher counter. “You don’t want it to be too red or too pale,” she says. It should also be a nice size — not too big, not too small. “It should look like it fits in the mouth,” Spitzner Claussen explains.

The tongue also should have a nice round shape to it. She also looks at both sides of the tongue for teeth marks, which are not ideal. The tongue should be moist, but not “sopping” wet. It also shouldn’t be too dry. And when you stick your tongue out, it shouldn’t tremble.

If you’re heading to the mirror to stick out your tongue and you discover it doesn’t look ideal — pink, lively, moist and with a thin white coat — don’t fret. “Nobody has it,” Spitzner Claussen says, except maybe little kids. That’s because children, in general, haven’t developed enough internal issues for them to show up on their tongues, she explains.

When you stick out your tongue to inspect it, don’t hold it there for more than a couple of seconds at a time. “The longer your tongue is stuck out, it starts to turn slightly purple and it will get more swollen,” Spitzner Claussen explains. So stick your tongue out, look at it, and pull it back in your mouth for a few seconds before you look at it again. Otherwise, you’ll get the wrong results.

What should you mostly pay attention to? The coat is a big thing, Spitzner Claussen says. “If someone has a really thick coat on their tongue, you can be sure there’s an imbalance in their system,” she says. “There’s a mismanagement of fluids. They might have a lot of phlegm in their system. Something. If someone has no coat, or a peeled patch on the tongue, that’s what we call ‘yin’ deficiency.”

“It’s very easy to get that kind of yin deficiency if you’re burning the candle at both ends, not sleeping enough, eating at odd hours, stressed, and not getting enough relaxation and downtime,” she says. Women, she adds, by nature are more prone to yin deficiency than men. Want a healthy tongue, which essentially means a healthy body?

Spitzner Claussen offers these tips:

  1. Get plenty of sleep: “People don't realize how important that is to the body.”
  2. Don’t eat late at night: “Eating late is really detrimental to the body.” Her rule of thumb: Eat your last major meal three to four hours before bedtime.
  3. Eat cooked, warm foods: While raw food diets are all the rage, Spitzner Claussen isn’t a fan. “People often don’t realize those cold, raw foods are hard on the system. If you want to boost your digestion, eating cooked, warm foods is the easiest way to do that.”
  4. Go easy on the usual suspects: Flour. Sugar. Dairy. “They’re not inherently evil,” Spitzner Claussen says, “but if they’re a huge part of your diet, it can cause problems.”

If you’re concerned about your health after looking at your tongue, Spitzner Claussen suggests seeing a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner for a thorough exam. In Chinese medicine, she explains, there are the four examinations: questioning, observing, palpating, and listening/smelling. “The tongue is one part of a bigger picture,” she says.

The TCM Way: 6 Foods To Improve Sleep Quality


Adequate sleeping time is an important part of healthy life. Unfortunately, today’s busy society makes it a challenge to get enough sleep. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) or the right diet are said to have effective methods for dealing with this problem.

A person needs six hours of sleep to maintain a healthy life. Yet, nowadays in big cities this six-hours-of-sleep requirement cannot be easily met. “It is obvious we are now living in a 24/7 society,” Carl Hunt, MD, director of the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research at the National Institute of Health in the US.

Chronic lack of sleep has been proven to be related to serious illness, including heart problems, depression, cognitive impairment, diabetes and obesity. “Not many people are aware of the importance of sleep. Sleeping is seen to be less related to health than exercising and diet,” explained Hunt. As people think sleep is less important, they rarely consult with their doctors about their sleeping disorders and chronic lack of sleep goes untreated.

From the point of view of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), lack of sleep may stem from tension. “So the solution should be simple: there is relaxation, spa treatment, massage, meditation, or breathing practice,” Dr. Rachmat, a TCM specialist from Klinik Shanghai.

Stress and tension, he admitted, are common among busy city people. “When the body and mind are overworked and tense, spend just one hour for reflexology or other relaxation massage. Make relaxation part of a lifestyle so that body and mind can be refreshed,” he said.

Rachmat added that tiring physical activities rarely contribute to tension and sleep problems. “It is brain activities that are not coupled with physical activities that cause sleeping disorders. It is inadvisable for a body to not sweat,” he cautioned. "Poor sleep quality is also likely to derive from lifestyle and eating patterns." Here are six foods that can contribute positively to our sleep quality.

Oatmeal with milk and honey. Oatmeal may already be on the breakfast menu, but why not consume oatmeal before sleeping? Oats are one food that is known to contain melatonin. High melatonin production inside the body can help a person sleep. Melatonin production suffers as we age, so we often find older people suffering from insomnia. To fight insomnia, consume melatonin-rich foods, such as oatmeal. For added flavor, mix half a cup of melatonin with a glass of warm milk and one teaspoonful of honey. Eat it 90 minutes before going to bed.

Banana with almond. Eating a banana is said to help with sleeping disorders. Research indicates that bananas contain potassium and magnesium, which can induce sleeping. You can eat a banana with almonds, which are also rich in magnesium and tryptophan. Have a banana on a plate with crunched almonds. Consume this fruit 90 minutes before hitting the pillow.

Cherry juice. Cherries contain more melatonin than other foods. Research by the Journal of Medicinal Food reveals that drinking a glass of cherry juice before sleep can help deal with sleeping disorders we often suffer as we age and helps us sleep soundly. Drink a glass of cherry juice in the morning and another glass two hours before sleeping.

Rice and nuts. Nuts are rich in magnesium, folic acid, potassium, and vitamin B. These substances can help manage a person’s circadian rhythm. Add rice rich in glycemic to help sleep faster as it increases blood sugar in the body. This menu should be consumed four hours before bed.

Cheese and biscuits. For evening snacks, consume cheese mixed with wheat biscuits. This food can increase serotonin and melatonin levels. Research conducted by the British Cheese Board reveals that eating cheese can lead to dream-filled sleep. The increase of the serotonin hormone can improve mood and lessen stress. This snack should be consumed 30 minutes before going to bed.

Yams and vegetables. Eating yams and green vegetables can help increase potassium in the body, thus help us sleep well. Among other green vegetables that are rich in potassium are spinach and broccoli. Eat one of these vegetables 90 minutes before turning in.

TCM: Using An East-Meets-West Approach

According to Today Online, more young patients are incorporating TCM into their back-treatment programs.

For years, persistent back and neck pains made Mdm Anisah’s life miserable. The 35-year-old housewife (she has requested to withhold her full name) said the pain worsened during the past six months, rendering her unable to bend, squat or even turn her head.

When conventional treatment did not ease the pain, her doctor suggested giving acupuncture a shot. “I’m glad I did because my back and neck don’t hurt as much now,” said the mother of two children aged five and 10.

Like Mdm Anisah, an increasing number of younger adults are using an East-meets-West approach to relieve chronic back pain.

The number of patients seeking treatment for back pain at the department of Complementary Integrated Medicine (CIM) department at Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH), which offers alternative therapy such as acupuncture and cupping, has doubled in the past three years.

The CIM department, which gets referrals from TTSH’s orthopaedic department and National Neuroscience Institute, sees an average of 50 new cases of back pain each month. About 15 per cent of them are under the age of 30.

Mdm Anisah attends back-to-back physiotherapy and acupuncture sessions at Raffles Hospital twice weekly. She is also on medication to control her chronic pain.

According to consultant Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) physician Miao Meng from Raffles Chinese Medicine, patients such as Mdm Anisah are referred to the clinic by doctors from Raffles Medical or Raffles Hospital to seek complementary treatment.

Most of them complain of stiff necks and shoulders, and lower back pain. The clinic’s TCM physicians also provide inpatient acupuncture treatment upon referral.

Nearly nine in 10 people will suffer from back pain at least once in their lifetimes, said Dr Lau Leok Lim, consultant at University Spine Centre at National University Hospital (NUH). The centre saw about 8,000 patients for spine-related back pain last year. A fifth were young adults in their 20s and 30s, shared Dr Lau.

Unlike older adults who get degenerative conditions, younger adults usually get back pain from overuse injury or chronic repetitive injury from long-term poor posture, said Dr Lau. Overuse injuries can occur from repeated strenuous activities such as over-exercising.

Ms Dora Ng, principal acupuncturist at TTSH’s CIM, added that other lifestyle factors, such as lack of exercise, obesity and even smoking, which restricts blood flow around the lower back, can contribute to lower back pain.

For most patients, measures such as rest, painkillers or modifying lifestyle activities can help resolve back pain. But about 10 per cent of patients may not improve and may need further intervention, said Dr Lau.

In TCM, back pain is related to imbalances in “qi” (loosely translated as energy) and blood circulation in the meridians of the neck and back, said Ms Miao. Meridians are pathways in which “qi” and blood flow to ensure the body systems function properly, she said.

Practitioners believe that using traditional TCM methods such as acupuncture or acupressure to correct imbalances in the flow helps to improve circulation and relieve pain.

Some sceptics have suggested that improvements felt by patients are purely psychological. However, a 2012 study published in Archives of Internal Medicine suggested that acupuncture might really be effective in providing relief to chronic pain sufferers. The researchers analysed 29 studies involving almost 18,000 participants, and found that it relieved pain by about 50 per cent.

Ms Miao shared that while it is possible to use TCM treatments on their own to treat straightforward cases of back pain, patients can also use them to complement physiotherapy and medication.

However, Ms Ng advised seeing a doctor for an assessment to exclude more serious back conditions before seeking TCM treatment.

“I refer some of my patients who have back pain without any nerve issues for acupuncture. Some of them feel better after a course of acupuncture, but it is imperative to first establish a diagnosis,” said Dr Lau.

Without appropriate management, Dr Lau warned that back pain that results from infection may sometimes lead to paralysis.

Daily Nourishment: Drink Healing TCM Herbal Soups

Recover from the festive season with cleansing and nourishing Traditional Chinese herbal soups. When does soup cross over to tonic? A very long time ago. The Chinese herbalists know this well. Kenny Chen of Oriental Bowl restaurant in Kuala Lumpur is known for herbal soups. The third generation owner of Soon Hing Cheong Ginseng, a traditional Chinese herbalist, specialises in healing and nourishing the body and soul using herbs and natural food ingredients.

Chen grew up in a world where the squeaking of medicine cabinets as they were opened and shut was the norm. Hidden in those sturdy drawers were herbs of every shape and size, used for millennia to treat myriad ailments.

“Chinese herbs are natural. They’re from the earth. Don’t think of them as medicine per se, but as vegetables with healing properties,” he says. He is well aware of the stereotypes surrounding Chinese herbs: they’re exotic and foreign, far too bitter for human consumption and even deleterious to health.

To the sceptic, it’s all a bunch of hocus-pocus and pseudo-science. “The biggest misconception about Chinese medicine is that it works like Western medicine. It doesn’t. You won’t be instantly cured. Herbs are more like vitamins; they take time to work,” he explains.

As for their unpalatable bitterness? “That’s why you can get all their nutritional goodness from drinking delicious soups! Make the soups and incorporate them into your daily diet. “After any festive period, when you’ve eaten a lot of rich and unhealthy food, your ‘inner heat’ goes up, what the Chinese call ‘heaty’. These herbal soups will help you to lower your heat and release toxins from your body.”

'The Burdock Soup,' he says, is good for eliminating toxins and waste, and for preventing constipation and getting rid of wind (i.e. flatulence). Burdock is known as the king of vegetables because it’s so nutrient-rich. “To combat all that excessive eating and build-up of toxins and heat, you’ll also want to drink a cooling detox soup like the Eight Treasures Soup.”

The sweet soup is a colourful mixture of dates, white fungus, Chinese yam, lotus seeds, mushrooms, barley and Chinese wolfberries (goji berries). The good news for those who have “must lose weight” as a New Year resolution: It’s good for slimming and boosting your immune system, too.

“The thing about Chinese herbal soups is that you have to get the balance of ingredients correct for them to be effective. So if you have a ‘hot’ herb, you must counter it with a ‘cold’ herb,” Chen says. He discourages anyone without proper knowledge of herbs to create their own soups, because getting this balance right is imperative.

“Our recipes have been refined based on sound traditional Chinese medicine knowledge,” he says. Still, you don’t have to be a medicinal herbalist to enjoy herbal soups. Just follow trusted recipes. Chen also doesn’t subscribe to the rather ludicrous notion that Chinese herbs are only for Chinese people. They can be taken by anyone.

Ushering in another year means ageing another year, and we all go grey on top. To banish salt-and-pepper hair, drink 'Chinese Knotweed Soup.' “Chinese knotweed is good for darkening hair. The black beans in the soup help to enrich the blood as well.” This is the most full-bodied of the soups, but well worth making and drinking, because it leaves such a distinct aftertaste.

What about the bitter gourd soup? What’s the herb in that? “Bitter gourd,” Chen says with a laugh. “People don’t think of bitter gourd as a herb or having medicinal properties, but it does. You see, this vegetable-fruit is a ‘herb’ too!”

Steaming the bitter gourd in a soup takes away quite a bit of its bitterness, so even if you’re not a fan of the taste, the melt-in-the-mouth texture of the melon is very yummy indeed. Moreover, bitter gourd helps to lower blood sugar and is good for diabetics. It also expels toxins and improves liver function. Chen says that the secret to making herbal soup taste delicious lies in the stock. Make good stock and you’ll have good soup. So, get your ladles at the ready, and have yourself a soup-er start to the year.

*Read the original article on

Traditional Chinese Medicine Clinic: Eat 'Longan Fruit' For Better Sleep

Most people are familiar with the longan fruit, which can be eaten fresh, tinned in syrup or dried. No matter their form, they are equally efficacious for use in TCM and can help promote the quality of sleep, says Ms Ou Cuiliu, a consultant of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) at Raffles Hospital.

What Is It?  Longan aril is the ripe pulp of the fruit of an evergreen tropical tree which is native to southern China and was introduced to India and other warm regions such as Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Malaysia in the 18th century. The shape of the fruit has earned it the Chinese name of longyan, which means dragon eye. Longan aril is known as longyanrou, or flesh of the dragon eye.

How Do You Use It? The sweet-tasting longan aril is considered warm in nature. It is thought to move through the meridians of the heart and spleen. Meridians are channels in the body through which qi (vital energy) travels. In TCM, good circulation of qi and blood is required for optimal health.

Longan aril is used to address blood deficiency in the body, especially that affecting the heart and spleen. When a person has blood deficiency, he exhibits symptoms such as palpitations, headaches, dizziness, breathlessness, a pale complexion and a weak pulse.

The heart controls a person's mental well-being, including the quality of sleep. Those with blood deficiency in the heart have symptoms such as insomnia, are easily awakened and often have dreams. Longan aril is used to strengthen the heart and promote sleep for these people.

In one TCM formula used for invigorating the spleen, longan aril is used with largehead atractylodes rhizome (baizhu), angelica root (danggui) and astralagus root (huangqi). Blood deficiency is caused by a weak constitution, chronic illnesses or bleeding, for instance from an accident or surgery, she said. It is thought that blood deficiency can give rise to qi deficiency and vice versa. In TCM, blood produces qi and qi promotes the circulation of blood, so they are closely linked.

If there is qi deficiency, a person will have a pale or sallow face, feel tired all the time and be breathless, and sweat easily because his body cannot properly control pore closure without a good flow of qi.

Read on for the full article at Your Health Asia One.

Jumpstart Your Day The TCM Way

For some, the start of a New Year brings resolutions for change. Others specifically resolve not to make resolutions, feeling that it is simply setting up for failure within a few weeks. Either way, creating healthy habits is a good idea any time of year, and doesn’t need to take oodles of willpower. Dr. Melissa Carr, a registered doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), caring for patients in an integrative medicine clinic in Vancouver advises on how to kick start your day with simple routine activities below via Vancouver 24 Hours.

Most disease prevention and wellness care plans provide the best benefit when practiced routinely. You are hardly likely to receive much benefit from eating vegetables only every now and then. You will also miss out on most of the gains if you exercise just once a month or more sporadically. Following through with daily healthy habits makes for no-brainer routines with better positive outcomes.

There’s no big surprise that hydrating sufficiently, eating healthy whole foods, exercising regularly, breathing deeply with intent, sleeping soundly, and finding joy are the non-secret secrets to healthy living, but here are some easy things to do to make them habitual.

Start your day right. Before jumping — or crawling — out of bed, do like a dog or cat would do and stretch. Wake up your muscles, pump up your circulation, and get your breath moving deeper with a full body luxurious stretch. Stretching can move out the fluid that accumulates in your joints while you sleep, allowing you to feel less stiffness. It can also improve your energy, concentration, and focus as more blood circulates to the brain.

Drink water. Drink 8-16 ounces of room temperature or warmer water with lemon squeezed into it first thing in the morning to rehydrate your tissues. The combo will improve your digestion, assist in the elimination of waste products, support your immune system, promote healing, foster healthy skin, and boost energy.

Eat breakfast. No, a coffee and donut do not count as breakfast. Eat something substantial and healthy — something that includes fibre, good fats, and protein. Oatmeal with hemp seeds, fruit, and almond milk would be an example of that. Rushed morning? Look for overnight-oatmeal-in-a-jar recipes. Or eat dinner leftovers — yes, it’s OK to have non-breakfast foods in the morning.

All that goodness, easily completed before you even leave the house — what a great way to start the day. A traditional Chinese medicine practitioner can also suggest acupressure points, exercises, foods, or routines suited for you.

A Traditional Chinese Medicine Approach To Depression

Depression (also called major depression) is a mood disorder characterised by a persistent feeling of sadness and a loss of interest in regular activities. It affects how you think, feel and behave, making it difficult to get through day-to-day activities. It's not something you can simply 'snap out of' and may require treatment. According to Tracey-Ann Brown, an oriental medicine practitioner of acupuncture and herbal medicine, and adjunct lecturer at the University of Technology, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) offers a number of approaches in managing depression.

Treatments are created to:

  • Calm and settle the shen/spirit
  • Reduce anxiety, irritability and restlessness
  • Clear thoughts
  • Restore healthy sleep patterns
  • Improve energy and a general sense of vitality
  • Lift the mood and general feelings of sadness.

In some cases, TCM protocols are used in conjunction with other types of treatment plans such as herbal formulas. Herbal formulas are prepared using a combination of several herbs. Powdered shells and minerals are commonly used to relieve depression and to calm and relieve anxiety, irritability, agitation, restore normal sleep patterns, improve concentration and forgetfulness. These include:

Herbs such as suan zao ren (sour jujube seed), fu Ling (poria mushroom) or he huan pi (mimosa tree bark or 'collective happiness bark') are calming herbs that anchor, settle and calm the spirit. These substances have a tranquilising effect and are primarily used in cases of extreme agitation and anger.

In preparing herbal prescriptions, herbs may also be added to address other accompanying health issues in order to achieve an optimal feeling of well-being. For example, if depression is accompanied by digestive problems or body aches, then a formula would be prepared to address these issues simultaneously.

Acupuncture is also administered alongside herbal remedies to address the symptoms of depression. Thin needles are inserted at acupuncture points selected from more than 1,000 points on the body and gently stimulated. Primary points used are:

  • Sishencong: improves memory, mental function, concentration
  • Ear Shen Men: notably calms agitation and irritability
  • Yin Tang: especially enhances focus, concentration, memory and insomnia.

It is recommended to eat healthy, get regular exercise and sleep in addition to learning ways to relax and manage stress. To learn more, read the original article found on The Gleaner.

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