Understanding Traditional Chinese Medicine

Understanding Traditional Chinese Medicine

You might have heard of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), but you may not be sure of what it involves and if it is right for you. Although TCM may not be right for every condition, it can be a good option for people in many circumstances. The first step is learning more about what TCM is and how it is used.

The Basics; What is Involved in Traditional Chinese Medicine?

The practice of Chinese medicine has been in existence for thousands of years, and originated in ancient China. It is one of the oldest healing systems on the planet. Although many facets of TCM have evolved over the years, the primary philosophies remain the same.

TCM involves a system of therapies that encompasses a variety of methods to treat illness and disease. Although the illness being treated may vary, the goal of treatment is to restore balance in the body. By restoring balance, it allows the body and mind to heal itself.

One of the unique aspects of TCM is that it takes a more holistic approach to treatment than conventional western medicine. Chinese medicine is intended to create wholeness within a person. Western medicine often treats specific symptoms or conditions, but may not focus on the entire body.

Practices used in TCM may vary and can include Chinese therapeutic massage (Tuina), acupuncture and Tai Chi. Herbal remedies may also be used to treat various conditions. Herbal medicine may include combinations of formulas derived from flowers, seeds, leaves and roots. The herbs are given in capsules, extracts, liquids, powders and teas.

Nutrition (TCM food therapy) and exercise are also used in TCM. Although some practices, such as massage and acupuncture, are mainstream and well known a few other therapies may not be. For instance, the practice of moxibustion may be unfamiliar to most people. It involves burning an herb near the skin to treat various conditions.

Benefits of Traditional Chinese Medicine

TCM can be beneficial for several reasons. One of the most obvious benefits is it can help you feel healthier and treat your ailments. But there are also additional benefits. For instance, TCM does not just focus on the physical body. Instead, it pays attention to the mind-body connection associated with disease and healing. For example, various practices of Chinese medicine can help you manage emotions that may affect physical health.

Another benefit is that TCM takes a natural approach to treating many conditions. It focuses on improving well-being through living a healthy lifestyle, such as with exercise, relaxation and eating nutritious foods. The result may not only improve a specific medical condition or disease, but it can mean an overall healthier life and further disease prevention.

TCM also teaches you how to understand what your body is telling you. It is common not to recognize or to ignore the symptoms and signs of illness until something more severe/complicated develops. But TCM also incorporates the importance of being in tune with your body.

It is also helpful to understand that some aspects of TCM can be used in conjunction with conventional Western medicine. For example, acupuncture and tai chi can be used along with common modalities such as chiropractic and massage therapy.

There are a wide variety of conditions that TCM may treat. These include diseases and illness such as:

  • Asthma
  • Low back pain
  • Headache
  • Arthritis
  • Bronchitis
  • Gastritis
  • GERD
  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Fertility problems
  • Symptoms of menopause
  • Ulcers

Safety and Considerations

Whether you are seeking treatment from a conventional doctor or a TCM practitioner, it is important to keep several safety tips and suggestions in mind including:

Don’t delay lifesaving emergency treatment.

TCM may not be appropriate in every situation. For instance, if you are having symptoms of a heart attack, such as chest pain or shortness of breath, emergency medical care is needed. Although TCM had been used for a wide variety of emergency care for many decades, it may not be the best option to treat emergencies or life-threatening conditions in this day and age.

Not everything that is considered “natural” is safe.

Although many aspects and practices associated with TCM are safe, there is not a lot of research yet on certain herbal remedies. Herbal remedies do not go through the same review or regulation process as pharmaceuticals. Don’t assume that something is safe just because it is made from a root or a plant.

Find a qualified Chinese medicine practitioner.

Just as you would with any doctor or dentist, it is essential to make sure a TCM practitioner is well qualified. In the United States, you can visit the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine website to locate a certified practitioner in your area. In Canadian provinces such as Ontario, visit the College of Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners and Acupuncturists of Ontario.

Make sure your healthcare providers are on the same page.

Always talk with your doctor about any herbal medicines that you are taking, and also be sure to talk with your TCM practitioner if you plan to start taking a new medication. In some cases, herbal remedies and supplements can interact with medication and cause unwanted side effects.

Debunking Myths About Naturopathic Medicine

Naturopathic Homeopathic Medicine

When it comes to naturopathic medicine, many people may not fully understand what is involved.

Naturopathic medicine involves treating the whole person instead of just the illness. Treatments often include a variety of approaches including nutritional counseling, homeopathy and manipulative therapies.

There are often misconceptions out there about what naturopathic medicine is and how it can help. Separating the myths from reality can help you decide if naturopathic medicine is right for you. Consider some of the common myths below:

Myth: Naturopathic doctors do not have special training.

Reality: Although naturopathic medicine is not regulated in all fifty states, qualified naturopathic doctors go through an extensive educational program that includes classroom work and clinical practice. Programs for naturopathic doctors must go through a review process to make sure they meet certain standards. To become licensed, naturopaths must complete a program accredited by the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education. Although the curriculum is different, in some ways, their requirements are like medical doctors. An undergrad degree is required before being admitted to a doctorate program. Programs for naturopaths are usually four years. The first two years are spent taking science classes. The next two years of training involve hands-on experience in a clinical setting. Post-graduate residences are also completed in which naturopaths can choose a specialty.

Myth: When it comes to medical care, you must choose between either convention or naturopathic medicine.

Reality: Naturopathic treatment is not always an all or nothing option. In many cases, aspects of naturopathic medicine can be incorporated into a conventional treatment plan. It is critical to get all practitioners on the same page, so everyone knows what treatments are prescribed. In some instances, certain naturopathic treatments may be contraindicated depending on the conventional treatment used. But medical and naturopathic doctors can work together to develop a comprehensive treatment plan that utilizes treatments from both philosophies.

Myth: Naturopathic doctors are anti-medication and surgery.

Reality: One of the philosophies of naturopathic medicine is the body’s ability to heal itself. But that does not mean that naturopaths are anti-surgery or medication. Many naturopaths are not opposed to certain types of surgery or other conventional treatments. In fact, naturopaths may make referrals to the appropriate practitioner as needed.

Myth: Naturopathic medicine is pseudo-science

Reality: Naturopathic medicine sometimes gets a bad rap. Some people who hear the terms alternative or naturopathic medicine, automatically think it is a pseudo-science. But the reality is many of the treatments and philosophies associated with naturopathic medicine are supported by science.  In fact, some natural products, such as herbal remedies, have given rise to traditional medications commonly used. The effectiveness of natural medicine is being studied more frequently, and clinical studies continue to examine the therapies and treatments.

Myth: If it is natural, it must be safe.

Reality: Just as in conventional medicine, there may be risks associated with some naturopathic treatments. Also, not all homeopathy medicines are approved by the FDA. Typically, homeopathic medicines don’t have to go through the same approval process as conventional pharmaceuticals. Keep in mind, naturopathic and conventional treatments can both have side effects. But that does not mean that all naturopathic treatments are risky or unsafe. Whether you are having conventional treatment or naturopathic treatment, it is essential to be well informed about the risks versus the benefits of treatment.

Myth: You can’t ask your physician about naturopathic medicine.

Reality: Because of some of the myths associated with naturopathic medicine, patients may be hesitant to bring the subject up to their medical doctors. If you’re interested in natural medicine or just have questions, it is critical to speak up. Your medical doctor can discuss various options and let you know if something is unsafe or contraindicated due to your current treatment. For example, certain herbal remedies may interact with your current medications and can be harmful. Increasingly, medical doctors are understanding more about naturopathic medicine and may be able to offer advice on what natural therapy or treatment may be beneficial for your condition.

Myth: Naturopaths only treat minor illness and conditions.  

Reality: Naturopaths can treat a wide variety of illness and conditions from minor to serious. They can treat acute problems, as well as chronic conditions. Naturopaths consider the underlying cause of the disease and treat the whole person, which is beneficial to a person’s overall wellbeing. In some instances, one medical condition causes another health issue. For example, people with lung disease often develop heart problems at some point. Conditions that naturopaths treat include diseases of all body systems, including the respiratory, digestive, reproductive and circulatory. Diseases may include COPD, asthma, lupus and high blood pressure.

Myth: Naturopathic doctors mostly prescribe herbal remedies and massage.

Reality: Naturopaths may prescribe herbal remedies, but that is only a fraction of what they do. They also order diagnostic tests including blood tests and imaging studies to determine the patient’s problem. A treatment plan will vary based on the condition but can include hemopathy, injection therapy and dietary counseling. Treatment may also involve prescription medication, acupuncture and minor surgery. Part of the role of a naturopath is also to focus on preventive medicine. Additional therapies and treatments may be recommended to prevent future illnesses.

10 Good Reasons To Keep Garlic Handy

Whole and peeled garlic
Throughout history, garlic’s strong aroma and flavors have made it an essential part of the cuisine of many countries, and an integral part of maintaining good health. Put the exceptional benefits of this powerful herb to work for you.

Garlic is known for its many uses in food preparation and for its many health benefits.

It is rich in vitamin C, vitamin B6, manganese and a sulfur compound called Allicin, believed responsible for most of its health effects.

Trace amounts of other vital nutrients can also be found in garlic, and the reputed bad breath effect of garlic can be avoided with garlic supplements which are just as effective as raw garlic.

Health Benefits Of Garlic

  1. Garlic treats acne scars, skin diseases, and allergies and is a natural topical treatment to remove blemishes.
  2. Garlic boosts the body’s metabolism of iron. Its sulfur compounds help increase the production of ferroportin, a protein that allows stored iron to leave the cells becoming available where needed.
  3. Garlic’s high sulfur content also contains the hair-making protein keratin. It stimulates strengthening and growth of hair, making it an effective treatment for hair loss.
  4. Studies have shown that a daily garlic supplement can help fight the onset and effects of the common cold by as much as 63 percent.
  5. A long-standing practice is the topical use of garlic to treat fungal infections. There is scientific evidence to support this use for fungal infections including ringworm, jock itch, and athlete’s foot.
  6. Garlic helps relaxation of smooth muscles and widening of blood vessels, lowering the risk of high blood pressure. Its active compounds are comparable to the effects of prescribed drugs.
  7. Garlic supplementation can improve athletic performance. Not only was it used by ancient cultures to alleviate fatigue and enhance endurance of laborers, but it was also given to Olympic athletes in ancient Greece.
  8. Garlic is a heart healthy supplement, lowering the risk of heart disease by reducing levels of total LDL cholesterol. Additionally, it improves the body’s ability to dissolve blood clots that could potentially block arteries and lead to heart attacks.
  9. Garlic’s nutrients help to ensure bone health. For example, the manganese contains enzymes and antioxidants that assist the formation of bones and connective tissues. It also facilitates bone metabolism, and calcium absorption.
  10. Garlic is known to boost the function of the immune system, adding to general good health. Here are a few suggestions to help you incorporate this dynamic herb into your food preparation.

Getting More Garlic In Your Diet

  • Quick and easy hummus dip – purée fresh garlic, canned garbanzo beans, tahini, olive oil and lemon juice.
  • Steamed spinach – sauté with garlic, adding fresh lemon juice for a zesty delight.
  • Tasty garlic mashed potatoes – purée roasted garlic, cooked potatoes and olive oil.
  • Add garlic to any and all of your sauces and soups.

Throughout history, garlic’s strong aroma and flavors have made it an essential part of the cuisine of many countries, and an integral part of maintaining good health. Put the exceptional benefits of this powerful herb to work for you. 

6 Great Health Benefits Of Ginger

6 Great Health Benefits of Ginger
Here is a look at 6 ways in which ginger can help to improve health, and some simple ways in which you can incorporate ginger into your diet.

Ginger, an underground stem or rhizome has been used for many centuries as food and medicine. It contains natural oils, the most active being gingerol, known for its superior anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Well known as an effective natural remedy for nausea, ginger is also a remedy for several other conditions. Here is a look at 6 ways in which ginger can help to improve health, and some simple ways in which you can incorporate ginger into your diet.

Health Benefits

  1. Ginger reduces nausea and vomiting due to morning sickness, chemotherapy treatments, sea sickness and postoperative upset. Ginger’s chemicals work primarily in the stomach and intestines, as well as in the brain and nervous system creating their anti-nausea effect.
  2. Ginger alleviates pain and inflammation, it is proven helpful in managing osteoarthritis, headaches and menstrual cramps. Ginger also eases pain in the stomach, chest and lower back. Pain caused by muscle soreness and upper respiratory tract infections may similarly be improved with the use of ginger.
  3. Fresh ginger eaten just before a meal opens the appetite then activates digestive juices for the breakdown of food and release of essential nutrients. The absorption and assimilation of these nutrients is likewise improved with ginger.
  4. Ginger has a warming effect that stimulates microcirculation – the flow of blood in the smallest vessels of the body. This accounts for its use to clear nose and throat congestion and in the treatment of conditions such as sinusitis.
  5. Abdominal cramps, bloating and flatulence may all be relieved with ginger. Some antacid, laxative and anti-gas medications contain one of the chemicals found in ginger as an active ingredient.
  6. Ginger inhibits the growth of several types of bacteria, thus helping in the fight against infections. It has been shown effective against bacteria that cause gingivitis and periodontitis. It also inhibits the salmonella virus which causes diarrhea and the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) with mild, cold-like symptoms.

Adding Ginger To Your Diet

  • The flavors in ginger work well with seafood, oranges, pork and apples but you will find its unique flavor enhancing a wide selection of other dishes.
  • Add fresh ginger to smoothies or juice.
  • Spice up a salad or stir fry and add zesty flavor to your next fish recipe with fresh or dried ginger.
  • Grate ginger to make some soothing ginger tea, or simply steep fresh ginger in boiling water.
  • Add chopped crystallized ginger to a batch of muffins infusing them with its peppery flavor and hint of lemon.

Ginger has been a constant factor in both food preparation and many medicinal treatments for centuries. It can be easily included in any diet to take a full advantage of its many wonderful properties.

Health Benefits Of The Echinacea Plant

Health Benefits of Echineacea Plant

All species of the Echinacea plant (also called American Coneflower, Black Sampson and Black Susan) are native to North America. All parts of the plant are seen to have medicinal value and are available in extracts, juices, teas, tinctures, tablets, capsules and ointments.

Description

A perennial herb of the daisy family, its nine species grow to 1 to 2 feet (20 to 30 centimeters). Commonly called purple coneflowers, the Echinacea blooms large showy heads of composite pink to purple flowers. The name derives from the prickly scales in the conical dark brown to red seed heads that resemble the spines on a hedgehog or sea urchin.

History

The Native Americans used Echinacea as a traditional herbal remedy more than 400 years ago to treat infections and wounds, and as a universal ‘cure-all’. Settlers adopted the use of the Echinacea and it became widely accepted and utilized. The introduction of antibiotics and lack of scientific evidence to back its value led to a steep decline in its use.

Recently, the Echinacea has regained popularity, in part because some antibiotics are shown as losing their effectiveness against particular types of bacteria. Additionally, there is a new up-trend in using traditional remedies to maintain wellness.

Uses And Benefits

The three commonly used Echinacea species are the Narrow-leaf Coneflower, the Pale Purple Coneflower and the Purple Coneflower or Eastern Purple Coneflower. Medicines are made from the flowers, leaves and roots of one, two or a combination of the three species.

The Echinacea is thought to help decrease inflammation; relieve pain; stimulate the immune system; exhibit hormonal and antioxidant effects; and directly act against yeast and other types of fungi. These properties account for the long list of uses to which the plant is applied.

Uses include fighting infections – usually the common cold, the flu and other upper respiratory infections, where it is thought to reduce symptoms, such as sore throat, cough and fever. Gum disease, tonsillitis, streptococcus infections and ear infections are also treated by Echinacea. Other infections treated with this herb are urinary tract infections, and vaginal yeast infections.

It alleviates chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), rheumatism, migraines, acid indigestion, dizziness, rattlesnake bites, and attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Skin applications treat boils, abscesses, skin wounds, burns, eczema, psoriasis, skin damage due to UV radiation, bee stings, and hemorrhoids.

Preliminary studies suggest Echinacea may help inhibit colon tumors when combined with cichoric acid.

Side Effects

Many intensive reviews have shown that Echinacea by-products do not usually present side effects. In the rare cases when side effects were observed, they were both mild and reversible.

Conclusion

Traditional use and scientific studies have shown the versatility and usefulness of the Echinacea plant. Professional herbalists, however, feel that we have yet to tap into the full potential of this amazing plant.

Echinacea plant (American Coneflower, Black Sampson or Black Susan)
ECHINACEA ANGUSTIFOLIA DC. Botanischer Garten der Universität Innsbruck, Austria

 

External Chinese Medical Therapies

Applications of Chinese medicines are very wide.  They have been used not only internally, but also externally since the Stone Age. Ancients attempted to stop bleeding by applying mud or plant ashes to the affected body parts to relieve pain, swelling or itchiness.  Medicinal herb bath was used to induce perspiration and increase the blood circulation.

China is a large country, so the traditional application methods of external Chinese medicines vary from region to region.  Some of these traditional therapeutic methods are still used today in modern medical facilities in China.

Bathing in Warm Herbal Decoction

Medicinal Hot Bath
From “A Collection of Essential Materia Medica”, Ming Dynasty. Hu Qing Yu Tang Museum of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Hangzhou, China

An illustration describing external therapies such as hot compress, wet compress, medicinal bathing, ointment, and medicinal puncture used by Tibetan surgeons.  

External Medicinal Therapies
Hu Qing Yu Tang Museum of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Hangzhou, China