Using Traditional Chinese Medicine to Improve Your Health
History of Healing in China
Chinese medicine has a rich history that is well over 5,000 years old. There are many modern, western medicine facilities in China today but the majority of the population still puts their trust in traditional medical practitioners that perform acupuncture and acupressure, or prescribe herbal remedies. Chinese immigrants, who came to the United States in the late 1800’s, mostly to build railroads, brought these traditions with them. For a long time western medicine had been largely skeptical of these medical ideas that were so different then our own. As American’s interest in more natural healing modalities grew, so did the interest in traditional Chinese medicine. Studies of these methods using modern medical research protocols have shown promising validity of their practices.
Principles of Acupuncture
The overall philosophy of acupuncture and Chinese medicine in general is that the body contains an energy flow known as Chi. Chi flows through your body via channels referred to as meridians. Each meridian brings energy to or from a different organ in the body. Just as electricity flow can have both a negative and positive charge, meridians have opposites as well. The Chinese call these opposites, Yin and Yang. These opposites must balance each other in order for the body systems to function properly.
Yin Meridians flow from the hollow organs such as:
- Large and Small Intestines
- Gall Bladder
Yang Meridians flow from solid organs such as:
When the meridians are open and flowing smoothly, the body is healthy and in balance. When flow is blocked or out of balance, sickness and disease occurs. Running along each meridian are acupuncture points which can be used to adjust the flow of Chi. Needles or applied pressure along these points are used to stimulate, block, or redirect energy, adjusting the flow and returning the patient to health and balance. As someone who has had acupuncture treatments the needles do feel like a little electric charge as they are inserted. It feels exactly like energy being redirected. As blood flow is increased and the body’s own pain killers and healing power are released the body sets about healing itself.
What to Expect During Treatment
Treatment usually begins with a simple question and answer session. They will often ask you to describe your symptoms or to tell them what you have been diagnosed with. They might also ask you to describe your normal diet to determine if you are over dosing on certain types of foods or minerals.
Thousands of years ago there were no such things MRIs or blood labs so health care providers had to find other ways to analyze what your body was communicating. They will probably look into your eye ball with a light, a science known as iridology. The doctor will analyze the iris in your eyes to determine imbalances. Looking into the eyes may tell the doctor such things as:
- Overall constitution
- Accumulation of toxins
- How well the body is healing
- Acid levels within the body
- Nutritional or mineral needs
They will often analyze your tongue as well. The tongue is divided into certain zones, each of which corresponds to an organ. Also the shape and coloration of the tongue itself can indicate certain things.
- If the tongue is swollen it may indicate that there is fluid retention.
- Coating on the tongue can mean digestive issues.
- Redness is an indicator of heat, meaning you are catching a cold. Red in different areas may portend sleep issues, heart anomalies, or lung issues.
- Cracks in the tongue coating can indicate dehydration.
- Pale pink or white areas can point to blood deficiencies or lack of energy.
After your acupuncture or acupressure treatment the doctor may prescribe herbs to assist with healing. Many modern western medicines have been developed from Chinese herbs. For instance, asthma and hay fever pills were developed from Chinese ephedra. Licorice roots were used to develop hepatitis treatments as well.
The Versatility of Acupuncture or Acupressure
Acupuncture has long been accepted as a tool for pain relief and many insurance companies even cover acupuncture practitioners for this use. Many people don’t realize the myriad of other conditions that can be treated with Chinese medical techniques.
Treating COPD or Emphysema with Acupuncture
In recent years there has been a lot or promising evidence to suggest acupuncture is a worthwhile therapy option for those suffering from the illnesses that fall under the COPD umbrella and also asthma or other lung related disorders. As of right now there is no cure for COPD but evidence has shown that receiving acupuncture treatments have many benefits for COPD sufferers in alleviating symptoms including:
- Reducing shortness of breath
- Improving stamina for walking or other exercise
- Better results in pulmonary functions testing
Anxiety is also a problem for COPD patients. When people feel short of breath, they become anxious and begin breathing more quickly and shallow, which compounds the problem and amplifies anxiety. Researchers have speculated that treating the muscles around the rib cage causes them to relax allowing patients to take fuller breaths.
Herbal Treatments for COPD
In addition to in clinical treatments, the doctor may prescribe herbal supplements. Your acupuncturist will probably ask what medications you are already on to avoid dangerous combinations so be sure to bring all your prescriptions to your appointment. Also be sure to consult with your respiratory therapist or primary physician before adding anything to your medication regimen. Researchers in Beijing have had great success with an herbal paste known as Xiao Chuan, or XCP for short. It is said to greatly reduce symptoms and frequency of COPD exacerbation. You can read the report on the experiment by clicking here.
To further study the benefits of herbs on COPD, the Taiwan China Medical University conducted a study of 83 different herbs and its effect on eosinophil cationic protein which is often found in buildup that leads to lung infections. Eight herbs were found to inhibit the ability of ECP to bind to cells, preventing damage.
8 Beneficial Herbs
- Tao Ren
- Sie Cao
- Wei Ling Sian
- Gan Cao
- Jhih Mu
- Dang Guei
- Sheng Di Huang
- Mu Tong
Several of the other 83 herbs we also found to guard air passageway from ECP damage to varying or lesser degrees.
Can Acupuncture Help You Stop Smoking?
One of the best things that you can do for your overall health, especially heart and lung health is to become tobacco free. Acupuncture has been used to help those trying to break this addiction.
Acupuncture helps to ease the physical hardships of withdrawal.
- Curbs Cravings
- Improves Mood
- Steadies Shakiness
- Fosters Relaxation
- And most importantly Curbs Cravings by Speeding Detoxification
There are some acupressure techniques that you can practice on yourself.
With your palm facing up, measure one finger width above your wrist crease. Apply pressure. This is said to alter the way cigarettes taste making them less pleasurable. Do this treatment twice daily on each wrist for 5 minutes each.
To help cope with cravings, ear massages can help. Start at the top, gently massaging your ears in a circular motion. Gradually move down to the earlobes. This will release endorphins and lead Chi into a more balanced alignment.
Sipping green tea throughout the day will also aid in the detoxification process.
Chinese Medicine and Weight Loss
One of the other factors that will most improve overall health is maintaining healthy body weight. To aid in weight loss, Chinese doctors will focus primarily on figuring out the culprit for the specific patient’s weight gain. There are many factors that could be involved including fluid retention, poor diet, lack of energy to exercise, hormonal imbalances, thyroid malfunction, or a combination of things.
Adrenals and ovary glands will be targeted to treat menopausal or other PMS factors
Hormones will be rebalanced by adjusting Chi in the spleen and thyroid
Kidney imbalance will be addressed to treat water retention
If lack of exercise is due to physical pain or low energy levels, those factors will be treated
Food cravings can also be quelled by administering adjustments to the auricular, or ear system
Chinese medicine can help you along your weight loss journey by making sure that your body systems are in alignment and help curb cravings but there is no substitute for exercise and healthy diet.
- Fresh vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and organic, lean meats are loaded with natural Chi.
- Eat slowly to avoid overeating and promote healthy digestion.
- Flow with the body’s natural rhythm eating bigger meals during the day and lighter at night.
- Get plenty of sleep.
- Green tea helps boost metabolism as well!
- How Does Chinese Medicine Help Other Overlapping Conditions
People with sleep apnea experience stoppages in breathing for short periods of time while asleep. There are many anatomical causes for sleep apnea including over-sized tonsils or adenoids and obesity. Certain medications, alcohol use, or sedatives can also relax muscles enough to trigger apnea.
Researchers have discovered that acupuncture centered around the ear system may help people with sleep apnea. This area is connected to the reflexes and central nervous system. Treatment stimulates the upper respiratory muscles causing them to stay open instead of collapsing during the night.
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
GERD is a medical condition in which stomach acid moves upward into the esophagus. Over time this acid can damage the lining of the esophagus and further degrade the proper functioning of the mechanisms that keep stomach acid down. This condition is mostly experienced as uncomfortable heartburn.
Other symptoms may include
- Chronic Bronchitis
- Sore Throat
- Voice Change
Eating food that is high in acid content, fatty foods, spicy dishes, and overeating may trigger GERD. Those with mild cases can likely avoid symptoms by avoiding these triggers. Chinese practitioners treat this illness from the perspective that the gallbladder, liver, spleen, and pancreas work together to help the stomach digest food. They will try to figure out which of these organs has a Chi imbalance and perform treatments accordingly. They will also focus on the relaxing the sphincter which prevents acid form rising into the esophagus.
They also believe that stress management is essential in treating this ailment. Chinese practitioners believe that emotional stress stimulates the cranial nerve that controls the production of stomach acid. As a result, they may suggest energy work such as yoga, tai chi, or Qigong to help with stress levels.
Suggested dietary changes and lifestyle improvements will also be a component of this treatment regimen.
Things to Know if You Decide to Try Chinese Medicine
- As with any new treatment, consult your doctor or respiratory therapist first
- Most states require a license to practice Chinese Medicine so be sure your practitioner is licensed
- Find out what your treatment will entail. Some programs are ongoing, some are just a few times, some are quite often at the outset and then taper off over time. Ask what your practitioner has in mind as the entire course of treatment will be necessary for it to be effective, so make sure you are ready to commit to the full run.
- Speak to your insurance to be sure they cover this type of treatment. If you have to pay out of pocket there are generally low cost alternatives at licensed clinics if you ask around.
Does it Hurt?
A tetanus or flu shot is much more painful than an acupunture treatment. You will feel a slight tingling when the needle goes in. At times you may feel a dull ache at the base of the needle. The needles are long so that the acupuncturist can easily manipulate them, they only go in about 1/4 inch or sometimes less, depending on the placement on the body.
When I had my treatment I didn't really feel anything after the initial poke and then some slight aching as time went on. It took roughly 45 minutes for the entire thing. I had a needle placed on the top of my hand on the fleshy part between my thumb and first finger that hurt. I told the acupuncturist who adjusted it slightly and it stopped hurting so if you do feel some discomfort, be sure to tell the doctor.