All About Moxibustion

All About Moxibustion

 

Traditional Chinese Medicine is a medical system that incorporates numerous methods for treating disease and illness. One of the tools found in the toolbox of the TCM practitioner is known as moxibustion.

 

Moxibustion is a technique that involves the burning of mugwort, known as moxa, which is an herb that facilitates healing. The purpose of moxibustion is to stimulate the flow of Qi (pronounced “chee”), strengthen the blood and maintain general health. Qi is translated as life energy. There are two types of moxibustion, direct and indirect. Direct moxibustion uses moxa shaped into a small cone and is placed on top of an acupuncture point and burned. This type of moxibustion has two subcategories, scarring and non-scarring. Scarring moxa burns until it distinguishes on its own. This may lead to localized scarring and blisters. Non-scarring moxa allows for the moxa to be placed on the acupuncture point, lit, extinguished and removed before it burns the skin.

 

Non-scarring moxibustion creates a pleasant heating sensation that penetrates deeply into the skin, but does not create a scar or any pain. Indirect moxibustion is the more popular of the forms. In indirect moxibustion, a practitioner lights one end of a stick of moxa and holds it close to the acupuncture point for several minutes until the area turns red.

 

Moxibustion is used to help people with cold or stagnant conditions. Burning moxa is believed to expel cold and warm the energetic meridians, which creates the smooth flow of Qi and blood. Moxibustion also supports the yang energy, which strengthens and increases the original Qi. Moxibustion can be used to treat many conditions including back pain, muscle stiffness, headaches, tendonitis, arthritis, digestive disorders, anxiety, menstrual cramps, irregular periods and infertility. Moxibustion is not recommended for diabetic patients, since they have decreased sensitivity to pain and compromised circulation.

 

Moxibustion is very effectively used in patients that have a cold constitution.  Many chronic conditions, even the ones that manifest as heat conditions, can have chronic cold as the underlying situation. A cold constitution is triggered or aggravated by over cooling the body systems. Because of technological advances, our bodies are exposed to cold at a much higher rate than in the past. Things like refrigeration, air-conditioning, iced beverages and even ice cream have created a society of people with cold constitutions. Also many pharmaceutical drugs including over-the-counter pain medications are known to decrease body temperature. Large consumption of fruits and raw vegetables and ongoing mental and emotional stress can also create cold constitutions. Therefore using moxibustion is frequently warranted in the treatment of many illnesses and diseases.

 

Moxibustion on the acupuncture point Stomach 36 also has the function of preventing diseases and maintaining health. In ancient China, this technique was known as reverse moxibustion. Even if a person is quite healthy, regular moxibustion on this point can invigorate healthy Qi and strengthen the immune system, thus increasing longevity.  Perhaps this is why the point has been nicknamed the “longevity point”.

 

As with acupuncture, only a licensed practitioner should be called upon for treatments such as moxibustion.

 

Valentines Day and Heart Health

Valentine’s Day, TCM and Heart Health

 

Every February men all over the world flock to the local flower shops and jewelry stores in search of the perfect bouquet or piece of jewelry to express their undying love to their significant other. Why?  Nobody knows for certain, but there are at least a couple of theories.

 

One theory is a Catholic priest, Valentine, was imprisoned for helping Christians escape Roman prisons.  While he imprisoned himself, Valentine fell in love with a young girl who visited him. Allegedly, before his death, Valentine wrote a letter and signed it, “From your Valentine.”  Thus, the first Valentine’s Day card was created, or so it is reported.

 

However, like many contemporary holidays, Valentine’s Day probably has pagan roots. The pagan celebration of Lupercalia, celebrated at the ides of February, was a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus.  Faunus was the Roman god of agriculture. So it can be derived that from the pagan fertility festival, this was later watered down by the Church and turned into a festival of love. By the 1800s it had become common for friends and lovers to exchange gifts as tokens of affection. Shortly after that, the holiday became commercialized.

 

Where does Traditional Chinese Medicine fit in?  Well, it really doesn’t. However, in TCM, the heart houses the Shen. The Shen is sometimes described as the spirit, but it also includes the mind. During the winter months, when the hours of sunlight are short, the weather is typically colder and very little is growing; many people develop something known as seasonal affective disorder or SAD. So perhaps, celebrating Valentine’s Day in the middle of winter is a way to keep our hearts healthy and our Shen lively. The feeling of love can permeate every cell of the body and mind. This can bring healing to those who are experiencing SAD, while helping to keep the heart healthy.

 

Heart health is extremely important. Without a healthy heart, the body does not function properly.  Just as equally important is the state of the mind. This is where TCM can be extremely beneficial.  Acupuncture, the main modality of TCM has been shown to help lower blood pressure, decrease heart rate and calm the mind. There are specific acupuncture points and point prescriptions that can help the mind and the heart, which can strengthen the mind-body connection.

 

The emotion associated with the heart in TCM is joy. The heart is also the center of perception.  Valentine’s Day is a wonderful time to experience joy, and it doesn’t have to be from a significant other.  Sharing special moments with those who are closest to us, friends, family, etc., helps to keep the heart full of joy. Even acts of “selfishness” can have profound effects on the mind, body and soul. Spending time alone can also keep the heart healthy, as it gives us time to reflect, relax and take in the beauty all around us.

 

So this year, when Valentine’s Day rolls around, don’t fret over trying to find the perfect card or gift.  Instead, try focusing attention on the people, places and things that bring joy to your life. Your heart will beat a little slower and your mind will be a little calmer.

 

 

Fighting Flu Season with Acupuncture

Fighting Flu Season with Acupuncture

While the flu is actually not a season, we have become programmed to think of it as the months of November through March. On average, the flu hospitalizes thousands every year, especially the young and elderly. There are also a number of deaths related to the flu, mostly due to people already having compromised immune systems.

 

The flu, also known as influenza, is a highly contagious respiratory infection that is caused by a number of viruses. To date, there are approximately 26 to 30 different known strains of the flu virus. This is one of the reasons the flu vaccine has only mild efficacy. The flu vaccine itself, typically only covers five to seven strains of the flu.  Symptoms of the flu include fever, coughing, a sore throat, fatigue, muscle aches, pains, runny nose and watery eyes.

 

The good news is we can avoid the flu by implementing healthy habits and taking care of ourselves throughout the year. The best way to treat a disease is to avoid it.  Traditional Chinese Medicine is a great tool to have in the toolbox for preventing the flu.  Utilizing botanical Chinese formulas and acupuncture treatments can be very beneficial in keeping the flu at bay.

 

Regular acupuncture treatments help boost immunity, while balancing and regulating the body’s energy or Qi (pronounced “chee”). Several studies have shown acupuncture can reduce the incidence of upper respiratory tract infections and shorten the length of time that somebody is ill.

 

TCM botanicals or herbs are also a great way to ward off the flu bug. Two herbs in particular are specified for strengthening Qi and boosting the immune system. The first is huang qi or astragalus and the other is dang shen or codonopsis. There are a couple of other herbs commonly used as antivirals too. These are ban lan gen (isatis root) and da qing ye (isatis leaf).

 

 

Along with TCM, there are other things we can utilize to avoid catching the flu. Regular exercise, ample sleep and a proper healthy diet are two of the best things anybody can use to stay disease-free. Exercising enough to break a sweat without overdoing it has been shown to reduce the incidence of the flu. So incorporating practices like tai chi, qi gong and yoga can actually reduce physical and emotional stress, while strengthening the immune system and preventing disease.

 

Eating a healthy diet is essential for preventing any disease, not just the flu. This includes eating a very balanced diet rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Foods that contain beta-carotene are especially helpful at boosting the immune system.  Carrots, broccoli, sweet potatoes and garlic are good examples of beta-carotene rich foods. Also drinking at least 64 ounces of water on a daily basis is highly recommended.  Ample fluid intake helps the body flush out invaders and toxins, while keeping the mucus membranes and upper respiratory tract healthy enough to fight off the virus.

 

Taking advantage of what TCM can offer, while incorporating healthy daily habits will insure this upcoming flu season passes by without wreaking havoc on any of us.

 

 

December 2016

Meridian Point for Winter: Large Intestine 4

 

Large Intestine 4 is one of the most important and influential points in the entire body. The Chinese name for Large Intestine 4 is “He Gu” meaning union valley or converging valley. The point is located on the hand in the web between the thumb and index finger, also described as the depression where the index finger and thumb bones part. This area of the hand is often described as “valley like” hence the name converging valley.

 

The large intestine has many important functions in the body. Connected to the Western medicine function of the large Intestine, it is vital in digestion and bowel regulation, but it also has many functions above and beyond that in Chinese medicine. The large intestine is associated with the emotions of sadness and grief, it can help build immunity as it works as a paired channel to the lung meridian and has a big effect of the flow of Qi and blood in the body.

 

Large Intestine 4 is a strong point for building the immune system and can be used for when someone has a cold or the flu. It can be used to treat febrile illnesses, rashes from wind or heat, allergic reactions causing rhinitis, as well as sore throat and difficulty swallowing. It is the command point of the face, nose, jaw and mouth and can be used to treat many problems associated with those. Toothaches and TMJ can be painful, but Large Intestine 4 can reduce the pain without even going near the affected areas. It is one of the main points for headaches and many people instinctively press it on their hand when they have a headache, without even realizing it is an acupuncture point. If someone has suffered a stroke, this point can help with paralysis and aid in recovery.

 

The large Intestine has a great effect on the flow of qi and blood in the body and Large Intestine 4 is a very strong point to get everything moving. Pain, in Chinese medicine, is often when the Qi and blood are stuck and Large Intestine 4 is critical to move this stagnation, especially when coupled with another point called Liver 3. Together, this pair of points is called The Four Gates and together they are a powerhouse in getting the Qi and blood circulated. They can effectively treat pain, depression, constipation, promote labor, expel retained placenta and help alleviate menstrual disorders caused by stagnation such as endometriosis.

 

Large Intestine 4 is contraindicated in pregnancy because it is so powerful and moving, but it can be effectively used to induce labor. Used in conjunction with another powerhouse acupuncture point Spleen 6, these two points are commonly used together to start labor, often with electroacupuncture to stimulate the points even more than needles alone.

 

Once labor has started, Large Intestine 4 can be used if labor is stalled or prolonged as well as used after childbirth to expel the placenta, decrease postpartum bleeding and decrease the time between childbirth and the discharge of the placenta.

 

Large Intestine 4 is an exceedingly influential point and one of the most commonly used points in acupuncture treatments. It can also be effective in treating a range of emotional issues such as depression, insomnia, stress, irritability and severe PMS. This point should not be underestimated and its alternative name of Tiger’s Mouth is barely descriptive of its strength in acupuncture treatments.

 

 

November 2016

Five Ways to Alleviate Insomnia

 

 

Insomnia is a phenomenon almost everybody experiences at some point in their life. And most of us don’t know how or why it happens.  Insomnia is defined as difficulty falling asleep, despite being tired. Combatting insomnia may be easier than you think. Here are five simple ways to fall asleep faster and stay asleep all night.

 

  1. Turn off your phone

In today’s society, we are almost surgically attached to our phones, iPads, laptops, etc. And while the devices keep us informed and connected, they are also harm us when it comes to our sleep.  Smartphones and other gadgets emit blue wavelengths. These wavelengths suppress the production of melatonin in our bodies. Melatonin is a natural hormone that makes you feel sleepy. Also, the light given off by your devices can actually stimulate the mind, thus causing poor sleep. So as hard as it may be, buy a regular alarm clock and turn off the phone.

 

  1. Keep a sleep schedule

Sleep is just as important to proper health as eating healthy-wholesome foods. In other words, make sleep a priority. You don’t have to give up dinner with friends or that periodic concert, but staying out late every single night will eventually take its toll. Make a sleep schedule and do your best to stick to it.  Lack of sleep has been proven to increase blood pressure, depression, weight gain and stress. Why do this to yourself when you don’t have to? Once you set your sleep schedule, your body will react favorably.

 

  1. Meditation

How many of us groan when we hear the word “meditation”? Meditation really isn’t difficult but people constantly tell themselves it can’t be done because they can’t shut off their minds. But what most people don’t realize is the goal of meditation is not turning off your mind or your thoughts. Meditation helps you cope better while telling your sympathetic nervous system to relax. When the thoughts come in, you should acknowledge them but do not dwell on them. That’s what meditation helps you do. And there are many different types of meditation. For beginners, guided meditation tends to work best because you are listening to somebody guide you through the journey. Why not give it a try?

 

  1.  Bedtime Yoga

Yoga is an ancient Indian practice that combines physical exercise, mental clarity and spiritual beliefs all rolled into one discipline. Bedtime yoga poses are very low-key and quite simple. Utilizing yoga just before going to bed can signal to your brain that slumber time is approaching. Poses such as forward bends, happy baby pose, cross-legged bends and corpse pose all have been shown to help the body prepare for restful sleep. Also for those who are a little more skilled, inversion poses like shoulder stands can help alleviate stress and calm the mind.

 

 

  1. Acupuncture

Really? Getting poked with needles will help me sleep better? The simple answer is YES!  Acupuncture works with your own body to help bring it back into balance. If you have stress, you have an imbalance.  Acupuncture needles are strategically placed on points that will calm the mind, balance hormones and settle the nervous system. Most people will notice some change after just one treatment, but to get the full effect and truly eliminate insomnia, you should commit to several treatments. And always seek out a properly trained and fully licensed acupuncturist to get the best results.

 

There are many other ways to fight insomnia too, but these are some of the best. Give these five methods a try and then focus on the ones that resonate with you. Over time, your body and mind will thank you and there won’t be any harsh side effects…just good sound sleep. Sweet dreams!