Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Natural Remedy for Edema or Swollen Ankles

A patient recently passed along a great tip for swollen ankles and I thought I'd share it here. It's simple and easy to do (and I've heard it makes your house smell wonderful).

What you need:
1/2 gallon of water
2 bunches of parsley

Bring 1/2 gallon of water to a boil and add 2 bunches of parsley.
Let simmer for 2 hours.
Strain the parsley and drink water as needed.

**Drink 16oz to start and then a glass every two hours till the batch is gone. Be careful not to drink too close to bed time or you might be releasing that extra fluid into the wee hours. :)

Let us know how it works for you!

Sarah Zender LAc

Whole Health Acupuncture 50 Turner Ave Elk Grove Village IL 847.357.3929

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

How Does Acupuncture Work?

Chinese Medicine is a completely separate way of looking at the body from western medicine. While your acupuncturist might speak of organ systems this does not necessarily relate to your physical organ. In Chinese Medicine we look for patterns that relate to the balance of nature. This system began with observation and is the foundation. The Chinese saw the elements of nature existing not as separate but as dependent on one another. Each element supported the other to achieve harmony.

Fire created Earth
Earth created Metal
Metal created Water
Water created Wood
Wood created Fire

When one element went out of alignment it was not affected separately. Instead each element would also be impacted, the severity would depend on how long or how strong the imbalance was.

Fire melts Metal
Metal chops down Wood
Wood invades Earth
Earth invades Water
Water doses the Fire

From this simple understanding the outside world was seen as a Macrocosm and the body was seen as a microcosm. Organ systems were assigned an element and several other associations. This entire system is a community of support with checks and balances.

Organs: Heart/Small Intestine
Color: Red
Taste: Bitter
Pathogen: Heat
Season: Summer
Emotion: Joy
Sense/Tissue: Tongue and blood vessels

Organs: Spleen/Stomach
Color: Yellow
Taste: Sweet
Pathogen: Dampness
Season: Late Summer/Transitional periods between all seasons
Emotion: Worry/Over thinking
Sense/Tissue: Mouth, Muscles

Organs: Lung/Large Intestine
Color: White
Taste: Pungent
Pathogen: Dryness
Season: Fall
Emotion: Grief
Sense/Tissue: Nose, Skin and Hair

Organs: Kidney/Urinary Bladder
Color: Black
Taste: Salty
Pathogen: Cold
Season: Winter
Emotion: Fear
Sense/Tissue: Ears, Bone

Organs: Liver/Gall Bladder
Color: Green
Taste: Sour
Pathogen: Wind
Season: Spring
Emotion: Anger
Sense/Tissue: Eyes, Tendons

After looking at these associations you can see that from the Chinese Medical view point that dis-ease originates from essentially 2 places.
External factors: wind, heat, cold, dampness, dryness (caused from the outside environment or the nature of the foods consumed in excess)
Emotions: anger, joy, worry, fear, grief.

The associations of each organ system are important when observing a patient from an eastern perspective because they offer us clues. Many times the patterns of Chinese Medicine will not seem relevant. For example offered times patients with low back pain (a symptom) have Kidney Qi Deficiency where they feel low back pain and weakness that is worse in cold weather, wake up to urinate in the middle of the night, crave salty foods, and are easily frightened, they may also have hearing issues or fragile bones. So while we will address the main complaint of low back pain the patient might also notice they no longer wake up in the middle of the night to urinate, their back feels stronger, they no longer crave salty foods, are less fearful and cold weather does not bother them as much. It is also interesting to note that Kidney Qi Deficiency is not the only cause of low back pain and so each patient is treated to their individual health needs.

What is important to understand is that if the body is healthy and all organ systems are supporting one another these external factors will be able to be controlled without illness and if emotions are expressed in a healthy way in a healthy body they too will not cause dis-harmony. Basically everything you do either contributes to your health and harmony or lack there-of. The healthier you are the easier it is to bounce back when you over indulge, go through a stressful period of life etc.

Chinese Medicine is a complete system of health that was designed for the prevention of illness and includes:
Herbal Medicine
Fung Shui

Your first line of defense to maintain a healthy body is diet. While piles and piles of books have been written on proper nutrition I will say in this blog posting that it is most important to eat real food. Anything that can live longer on a shelf than you can should not be consumed. Fresh fruits, veggies that are grown locally and are in season are best to eat. Diet should reflect the season. Soups and beef stews in the fall and winter and lighter foods in the spring and summer.

Herbal Medicine is really an aspect of diet. You are familiar with adding herbs to your favorite dishes, this is a form of medicine. Chinese herbs can be added to recipes, brewed as teas or taken as tinctures or pills. Many pharmaceuticals that are used today are based off of plant materials.

Acupuncture addresses the body's energy system by inserting fine needles into acupuncture points to maintain smooth flow of blood and energy circulation helping to readjust the body when imbalances occur and most importantly keep the body healthy to fight off imbalances before they start.

Exercise from a Chinese Medical stand point is slightly different than extreme cardio and weight lifting in the west. Exercises like Tai Chi, yoga (chinese medicine's sister), and Qi Gong all help to improve circulation and flexibility of the body in a way that calms the nervous system whereas many forms of cardio exercise excite the body's fight or flight response that can tax the body long term.

Meditation helps to quiet the mind. There is a saying "clean house, clean mind." Your body can not work optimally if your thoughts are constantly swinging around like a monkey. The benefits of a clear mind are numerous like better quality of sleep, memory, concentration etc.

Fung Shui and Astrology are slightly esoteric. Both are related to your environment and how it impacts your health. Again that saying "clean house, clean mind." How can your body work best in a work or living space that is dirty or cluttered? Think back to the last time you cleaned out your closet and got rid of things you weren't using or no longer needed and could find everything again.

In the classic text Nei Jing it is written over 2000 years ago that Chinese Medicine offered a way for people to live a healthy life to the age of 100. Even back then, 2000 years ago, the concern was that people ate too much, worked too much, and the environment was too polluted. These were the tools offered to the people for a high quality life. Prevention is key in Chinese Medicine which is a very different idea than our current idea of health care today. Many people talk about being your own advocate for your health. Chinese Medicine is one way to start that is simple and inexpensive.

Sarah Zender LAc

Whole Health Acupuncture 50 Turner Ave Elk Grove Village IL 847.357.3929

Monday, August 9, 2010

Why Does My Acupuncturist Feel My Pulse?

Feeling pulses on both wrists is a simple diagnostic tool used by an acupuncturist to assess how the body is working. Like the tongue, the pulses offer a plethora of information and are seen as a road map.

Three pulses are felt on both wrists as seen in the picture above.

The left wrist represents Heart, Liver and Kidney (yin). The right wrist represents Lung, Spleen, and Kidney (yang).

A western medical practitioner will feel the pulse to count beats per minute. An acupuncturist will feel each wrist with the pads of her left index, middle, and ring finger.

These 3 fingers will assess a pulse: heart and lung pulses with the index finger, liver and spleen pulses with middle finger, and kidney pulses with ring fingers. The acupuncturist is looking for not only the rate of the pulse but also the depth and quality.

Many things can be determined by the pulse and can include: emotions, pain, a women's menstrual cycle, if a cold is coming on, or how old or new a condition is to name a few.

Sarah Zender LAc

Whole Health Acupuncture 50 Turner Ave Elk Grove Village IL 847.357.3929

What is Gua Sha?

Gua Sha is an accessory technique often used in addition to acupuncture and/or tui na (chinese massage) treatments. It is especially helpful in relieving pain as well as recovering from colds.

Gua Sha means to "sand scrape" in Chinese or "to scrape away disease". It is a relatively simple procedure that requires a little bit of oil or rubbing alcohol and a Chinese soup spoon or other smooth surface tool like the ones pictured above.

Its theory is close to that of cupping however this technique is more accessible in terms of equipment needed (a lubricant or rubbing alcohol and a soup spoon) and areas of the body able to benefit by it (just about anywhere there has been trauma or pain). A treatment of Gua Sha will last roughly 5 minutes and the results can offer immediate relief.

Gua Sha is preformed over an area of pain by first applying some oil to lubricate the area. Then the spoon is scraped along that area until it turns red, brownish, or purplish. The scraping continues until no more redness or purple appears. It is believed this scraping helps bring the stagnant blood or trauma up to the surface allowing for fresh blood to come in and repair the area as well as improve circulation of qi and blood. The redness or bruising can last up to a week and then dissipate. However, it will not feel like a bruise.

Gua Sha is preformed using rubbing alcohol and light scraping over the back "shu" acupuncture points that stimulate the lungs, dispel wind, and relieve wheezing for the treatment of initial wind-cold attacks. For more information on acupuncture and the treatment of colds refer back to How Can Acupuncture Help My Cold?

Gua Sha's modern counterpart is known in chiropractic offices as Graston Technique where various stainless steel instruments are used to achieve the same effect with a western medical explanation of its use and benefit.

Sarah Zender LAc

Whole Health Acupuncture 50 Turner Ave Elk Grove Village IL 847.357.3929

Stroke Recovery and Acupuncture

Many people associate using acupuncture only when it comes to managing pain. There are many facets of health where Chinese Medicine shines and are hidden secrets in western society. Today's blog will focus on how acupuncture can help with stroke recovery.

The brain is something that continues to fascinate me especially after reading such books like My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor and The Brain that Changes Itself by Norman Doidge.

There is one passage in The Brain that Changes Itself that really caught my attention. One scientist recounts a story of his father having a stroke and losing function on one side of his body. At this time the standard course of stroke recovery treatment was 1 month. It was believed due to the research at that time that whatever function that could be recovered after a stroke happened in the first month and after that no further improvements could be expected and so treatment was discontinued. This scientist assisted his father in re-learning everything by starting him out just like a child. First he practiced crawling, and then walking. He would wash dishes in circular motions to strengthen his weak arm until he fully recovered. What they discovered was that after a month's time the body goes into a period of integration. It takes time for the body and the brain to assimilate to all of these new changes. Once this integration period is over the body and brain are capable of learning more.

This was an "a-ha moment" for me because it so clearly shows the subtle processes of the body's abilities to heal. Which is exactly what acupuncture is: a process of healing that can be very subtle.

Several years after this man recovered from his stroke he was rock climbing and died from a heart attack. When they autopsied his brain they discovered that the brain did not heal from the stroke in the way they thought. Instead of the brain healing the damaged area of the brain from the stroke it simply rewired itself and used other areas of the brain to relearn activities of daily living.

Acupuncture works in much the same ways. The acupuncture needles work as a conduit for electrical impulses in the body stimulating healing. Acupuncture points are areas that run along different channels (meridians) of the body. The insertion of needles is said to facilitate improved circulation of qi (energy) and blood through the body. The root of any disharmony, dysfunction, or disease can be traced back to stagnation somewhere in the body. Acupuncture looks to correct the disharmony on the deepest level not just to relieve a symptom. In this way acupuncture becomes an aid for the body to facilitate its healing process rather than a dependency where the body relies on the acupuncture to complete the work (much like pharmaceutical drugs). In terms of stroke recovery it can assist the brain in making new pathways to relearn how to talk, walk etc by improving circulation to all organ systems making the body stronger and able to recover faster between periods of integration.

Again, as stated in previous postings acupuncture is part of a holistic system of health. In addition to acupuncture, herbal medicine should also be utilized as well as proper nutrition to allow for optimal health. When I was in China the stroke unit consisted of a community approach to the recovery of the patient. Patients would stay in the hospital for a minimum of 6 months where they would receive daily (sometimes 3x daily) acupuncture treatments, Chinese Massage (tui na), and herbal medicine in addition to physical therapy and other western medical interventions. The family of the patient was also active in the care plan to support this process.

I have personally seen recoveries from strokes using acupuncture but one of the most striking stories of acupuncture and stroke was a patient I treated while in clinicals at the Midwest College of Oriental Medicine. This particular patient was paralyzed completely on the left side of his body and was unable to speak. He was confined to a wheel chair and required the assistance of a personal nurse. When he first started treatment he was there primarily because of the tenacity of his son-in-law who refused to give up on him. He came in for treatment every week and drank herbal remedies daily. He was an older gentleman and was angry and withdrawn in the beginning but 6 months later he regained use of his left arm, was able to talk, and most importantly regained his smile.

Sarah Zender LAc

Whole Health Acupuncture 50 Turner Ave Elk Grove Village IL 847.357.3929

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

What is Raindrop Technique?

Raindrop Technique was developed by Gary Young in the late 1980s. It is a treatment that combines light massage techniques, therapeutic grade essential oils, heat application and stretching with the intention of affecting the body on a cellular level.

This technique is based on growing research that spinal deformities, inflammation, and back pain are linked with bacteria and virus lodged around the spine.

"Studies at Western General Hospital in Edinburgh, Scotland, linked virus-like particles to idiopathic scoliosis. Researchers at University of Bonn have also found the varicella zoster virus can lodge in the spinal ganglia throughout life. Research in 2001 further corroborated the existence of infectious microorganisms as a cause of spine pain and inflammation. Alistair Stirling and his colleagues at the Royal Orthopedic Hospital in Birmingham, England, found that 53% of patients with severe sciatica tested positive for chronic, low grade infection by gram-negative bacteria which triggered inflammation near the spine. Stirling suggested that the reason these bacteria had not been identified earlier was because of the extended time required to incubate disc material. (7days). " Essential Oils Desk Reference 2004 Essential Science Publishing 3rd Edition

Essential oils are some of the most powerful inhibitors of microbes known because they come from a natural source. The essential oil is basically what the plant uses to defend itself against bacteria, virus, and other attackers. This is why most essential oils are antibacterial and antiviral. When using therapeutic grade essential oils like Young Living it is important to note that the oils can be taken internally, applied topically without dilution, or inhaled. Raindrop uses the French essential oil neat application (without dilution).

Essential Oils used and benefit:

>> Basil: powerful antispasmodic, antiviral, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, muscle relaxant

>> Thyme: anti-aging, highly antimicrobial, antifungal, antiviral, antiparastic

>> Oregano: anti-aging, powerful antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, antiparasitic, anti-inflammatory, immune stimulant

>> Cypress: improves circulation and strengthens blood capillaries, anti-infectious, antispasmodic

>> Marjoram: antibacterial, antifungal, vasodilator, lowers blood pressure, promotes intestinal peristalsis, expectorant, mucolytic

>> Peppermint: anti-inflammatory, antitumoral, antiparasitic (worms), antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, gallbladder/digestive stimulant, pain relieving, curbs appetite

>> Wintergreen: anticoagulant, antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, vasodilator, analgesic/anesthetic, reduces blood pressure

>> Aromaseiz: An advanced complex of anti-inflammatory, muscle relaxing essential oils that promote circulation and treat spasmed, tight, inflamed, aching muscles. (Contains basil, cypress, marjoram, lavender, peppermint)

>> Valor: balances energies to instill courage, confidence, and self-esteem. It helps the body to self-correct its balance and alignment (contains rosewood, blue tansy, frankincense, spruce)

The above essentials oils are dropped along the spine like raindrops 6-8 inches above the body in a specific order and then lightly massaged into the muscles along the spine. Vitaflex (similar to the concept of reflexology) can also be preformed to massage the essential oils into the reflex point of the spine on both feet. A warm, moist compress is applied to the back to allow the benefits to magnify. Light stretching is also utilized during the session to increase mobility and allow the oils to penetrate deeper.

It is said the oils continue to work in the body for up to seven days after a treatment. As you can see from the benefits of the oils used this is a great preventative treatment not only for pain but to keep the immune system strong against bacteria and virus during the cold and flu seasons.

Sarah Zender LAc

Whole Health Acupuncture 50 Turner Ave Elk Grove Village IL 847.357.3929