Acupuncture and Chinese Herbology in China

For thousands of years, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and acupuncture have played important roles in maintaining the health of the Chinese. Modern Western medicine came to China 300-400 years ago, but was not well known until about almost 100 years ago. Because of the effectiveness and good results for many diseases and conditions, TCM and acupuncture continue to grow in awareness in the world.

In the past, apprenticeship was the main way of receiving education of TCM and acupuncture in China. Formal education for TCM and acupuncture was started from about the beginning of last century and ever since, the education process has incrementally improved. In 1956, the Chinese government established four main universities of TCM and acupuncture, and made it as formal as other sciences’ educations. Students who want to become a TCM herbologist or acupuncturist must take a national standardized exam to get in, like the SAT’s in the US.  After two years of the experimental four schools training students, in 1958, all of the provinces and major cities in China established their own TCM and acupuncture universities.

Nowadays, the education of TCM and acupuncture is just as comprehensive as medical schools in the US. These kinds of medical school students do not only need to master modern medicine, but also need to master the fundamentals of TCM and acupuncture. After formal training, the students need to go through an internship, residency, and fellowship just like the system here in the US. While expanding the wealth of knowledge in TCM, TCM practitioners also split and focus on certain aspects of health problems just like modern medicine splits in to focus on neurology, orthopedics, etc. Comparing the United States, the research and practice of TCM and acupuncture are the same.

You must wonder what the hospitals are like in China. All hospitals in China basically have three parts: solely modern Western medicine, solely TCM and acupuncture, and a combination of both. They even have solely TCM and acupuncture hospitals or solely modern Western medicine hospitals. Each department consults with the others to figure out the best treatment for a complex problem that a patient has. This is for the maximum benefit of the patient. Education follows the same pattern of the three parts. In the northern part of China, most people generally prefer to receive modern medicine first. If it doesn’t give good results, they will seek help from TCM and acupuncture. However, in the South, the situation is different. Many people would rather go to an acupuncturist or TCM doctor first even for small things, like a cold or fever. The Southern Chinese combine herbs into their health to regulate their health or compensate for the small damages within daily life, environmental factors, bad habits, etc.

The Uniqueness of TCM

Historically, every nation has its own traditional medicine. For example, there was Indian medicine, traditional Western medicine, etc.  As soon as traditional Western medicine was combined with science and modern technology, the development has been growing exponentially faster and has affected the whole medical world. Traditional Western medicine came to China 300-400 years ago, but it was not well recognized until the last 100 years. In many other nations nowadays, you don’t see much of their traditional medicine practiced. It has almost disappeared. However, China does still use its traditional medicine in typical life. In China nowadays, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is used together with modern medicine when either of them alone does not help the patient. It has spread to other Asian countries and grew in popularity over the years. After industrialization and modernization, people eventually realized that maybe trying to stay “natural” is better than the other way around. That is why people started looking for a natural way of living including natural medicine worldwide.

TCM is one of the oldest natural medicines with good results for many diseases and conditions, and has been used in China for thousands of years. The natural medicine preference was mirrored in other parts of the world as well. In the past 50 years, more and more people in the world came to China to see and to learn the values and fundamentals of TCM. The spread of TCM is farther each year, and there’s always an increase of people who can reap the benefits of it. Because of this, many nations began to create legislation to standardize the practice of TCM and acupuncture in their respective countries. To understand why TCM survived and has increased in attention in recent times, it is a good idea to know how it all began.

About 3000 years ago in China, many new ideas and technologies had begun. According to ancient literature, the TCM system was not completely formed/finished until about 2000 years ago. At that time, there were many doctors who summarized the thousand years of medical theories. Those medical theories were a combination of medicine, ancient nature science and philosophy. For that time period, it was advanced knowledge. The key points were that they used the patterns of natural phenomena to describe what goes on in the human body, both physically and pathologically. Since everything in the universe affects everything else, they believed that human beings are part of the natural phenomena in the universe. Human beings are like small universes themselves. The ancient doctors drew parallels from what goes on in the natural world to what goes on within the human body – they essentially found humans to be like walking Earths with needs and processes akin to the real Earth.

They also integrated the philosophies like yin yang and five elements theory to examine and explain processes of the human body. Originally, the yin yang theory was developed by ancient philosophers to describe what goes on in the world.  In turn, ancient Chinese doctors borrowed this yin yang theory to describe what goes on in the human body as well. For example, according to ancient Chinese philosophers, the world is always changing. The concept of being “still,” as in unmoving, is relative. The theory to explain this foundational statement is yin yang theory. For example, the sky belongs to yang and Earth belongs to yin. The sun belongs to yang and the moon belongs to yin. The fire belongs to yang and the water belongs to yin. You can imagine the list is endless. To summarize, anything up, bright, moving, hot, outside, etc. belongs to the yang side. Anything down, dark, still, cold, inside, etc. belongs to the yin side. Yin and yang must be in cooperation with each other as a balance of powers like a governmental system. With this in mind, when one is too high in strength, the other is added to decrease the imbalanced ratio.

No part of the world is exempt from this philosophy but ancient Chinese doctors integrated it with their medicinal protocols and treated people with medicine that would correspond with the yin yang theory. The yin yang principle was especially crucial to prescribing herbal medicine and administering acupuncture to those lacking in yang or lacking in yin. Because humans are a part of the world’s natural phenomena, the treatment of the disease/condition of the patient must consider everything to do with environmental factors (climate, season, even the time of the day), not just the patient himself and not just the symptom itself. TCM treats the whole body because the symptom(s) is/are the whole body’s symptom(s) because everything affects everything. The ancient doctors also realized that nothing is exactly the same. From individual to individual, the reaction to natural phenomena is more or less different. When diseases or negative conditions occur in groups of people, they should be treated slightly differently according to individual complaints. For example, it’s common for people to enjoy the transition from winter to spring with flowers growing and having the sun out more often. However, there’s always the group of people who don’t like it because of the impending allergies they will have to deal with. Even if you give all of the people who have allergies the same allergy medicine, there’s a range of reactions. Some people may receive no benefit from that allergy medicine at all. That is why in Chinese medicine, the protocol for assigning a treatment is to make it in accordance with the patient’s individual complaint.

The point of the matter can be seen in the following distinction: there is a spectrum of symptoms that may be associated with the seasonal allergy. Diagnosis and treatment can’t be given only towards the complaint of an allergy, but it also must address its connection with the accompanying other symptom(s). The foundation of the patient’s body can be distinguished by their accompanying symptoms or complaints. Instead of giving herbal or acupuncture points for allergies only, TCM doctors also give herbal or acupuncture points to the patients’ other symptoms accordingly depending on the foundation of their body.

Symptoms With “No” Cause | CSD’s Are Cured By Acupuncture

Imagine these three situations:

1. You’re sitting in front of your computer working on something, and suddenly one of your arms feels very tired, or your hand is tingling. When you sleep, you may wake up from pain in your hands or your neck.

2. You often experience dizziness, headaches, and even ringing in the ear sometimes. You go to many health specialists, and they find nothing wrong.

3. Sometimes, you feel so nervous or anxious that you have palpitations, nausea, insomnia or sleeplessness. You even have difficult breathing. Your health specialists found nothing wrong with you either.

These are only three examples of which there are many more. They look unrelated but the reality is they are from the same root.  These symptoms are actually caused from a tension of soft tissue around the neck and vertebrae. An umbrella term for them is called cervical spine disorder (CSD), and another way to refer to them are neck-vertebrae syndromes.

If you go to a general practitioner or even a specialist, they will probably find nothing wrong with you unless they are experienced or they check with you more carefully. Sometimes, they feel it’s not a serious medical problem either or sometimes it is just because the CSD is too mild to notice even by a machine.

To understand what is a cervical spine disorder, we must know about the anatomy of the spine and vertebrae. In the human body, we have 24 vertebrae. The cervical spine region is between the top and bottom of the neck area (between shoulders), part of the central nervous system (CNS) passing through the channels which are formed by the vertebrae. This area is the only connection between the brain and all other parts of the body (except the head). That means it is possible that a problem in any part of our body specifically related to the nervous system could be related to this area. It even includes some problems from the head area.

The question now is: why do these problems occur? Our body’s normal activity is regulated by two major systems. One is the nervous system and the other is the endocrine system. Between these two systems, the nervous system has a dominant role. Since it is a bridge between the brain (where messages are sent to the rest of the body including the message to experience pain) and the body (where pain is felt), that is why any problem in the body can be affected by or associated with the nervous system. This is basic information about the nervous system.

Fourteen years ago, we started to see patients in the United States who had ringing in the ear or some migraine headaches caused by “no reason,” because the patients told us they went to many specialists who said nothing was wrong. Some specialists even told their patients they were having hallucinations. When we checked the patients, we found their neck and upper back soft tissue were very tense. We specifically treated those patients because we suspected it’s associated with the cervical spine region. Not only does this area connect every nerve below the neck, but also some above the neck, reaching towards the ears and other parts of the head.  We must know the patient’s overall situation in their entire body, but if we suspect the cervical spine is involved, we treat that area as well as the area the symptoms occur. In our office, we’ve successfully treated patients with those problems with this method.

Recently, we read a report in the newspaper that in Taiwan, scientists found many ringing in the ear problems or migraine headache problems are associated with CSD. When we read it, we were ecstatic to see that these scientists confirmed what we thought was going on with some of our patients.

Good News for Infertility Patients with low AMH Levels

With our acupuncture and Chinese herbal treatment, we’ve been able to help many patients ranging from ages 40 -45 to conceive naturally as well as countless younger couples aged from 25 to 39. However, our biggest achievement in infertility treatment was in aiding a fifty-one year old patient in conceiving and delivering two now healthy four year old identical twins at age 52. 

This was not accomplished in brevity however. 

The patient approached our office six years prior. In consulting both with the patient and spouse, the methods chosen to help induce fertility were acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine. As directed, she faithfully followed suit and saw progress multiple times naturally but without result, as she unfortunately miscarried at ages 45, 46, and 49. The consistent incident of loss was soon discovered to be attributed to fibroids, which we did not realize until then. Regardless, she still pursued a child. With that, an IVF specialist was consulted and discovered her eggs were of poor quality and  recommended she use a donor’s egg, which led her to have twins.

But if the above story happened today, the patient may not have needed to use the donor’s egg but her supposedly failed eggs instead. Dr. Renwang Xue, a professor at Stanford University, published an article in the Journal of American National Science Institute on September 30th, 2013 that explores a new method–In Vitro Activation (IVA) in treating patients with infertility issues between the ages of 40-45 as well as ovarian failure.

Generally speaking, each woman has 800,000 primary follicles in their ovaries from birth. However, only about 400 are fully developed within ones lifetime. Typically once a women has hit her 50’s, or as soon as menopause occurs, the development of these follicles will almost cease completely. The same odds are also a reality for those dealing with ovarian failure, as reproduction is highly unattainable, which is why most women cannot or don’t attempt to bear children post menopause. What they found was if they treat the ovary with a special procedure and then the primary follicles can continue to develop until it is fully capable of fertilization.

As previously stated, there are a vast amount of follicles located within the ovaries, however only a specific number are selected during the reproductive cycle. This limitation is caused by an enzyme known as the Phosphatase and Tensini Homolog (PTEN) gene, which acts as an inhibitor, causing the remainder of primary follicles to lay dormant. Liu etc. realized in order to increase the number of follicles selected, the PTEN gene must be genetically removed. Once the gene is terminated, discrimination among the selection of primary follicles is gone and the rate of fertility drastically increases.

Dr. Xue, building upon this discovery, figured instead of applying a genetic method of removing the PTEN gene, the same enzyme’s inhibitor can be manipulated to increase the amount of the primary follicle selected and still receive the same results. In this way, more matured follicles can be developed.

Based on the tested animal results, Dr. Xue then applied this idea to the human body. This new found method included activating the primary follicle and then placing them back into the ovaries, allowing them to grow for six months. After this, the fully matured follicle is taken out, and the method of IVF is applied. So far there has been a successful story.

Of course, the procedure is still very much so at the beginning stages. Nonetheless, it’s a promising start and a great hope for those formerly limited by their conditions and age.

Foods or Herbs for the Common Cold

Almost everybody will experience a mild cold at some point in their life with the following complaints: sneezing, headaches, itchy nose, itchy throat, sore throat, poor appetite, fatigue, body ache, voice change, nausea, slight fever, sweating, etc. Some people just buy Advil or Tylenol to easen up their complaints. For some others, they just deal with it. However, without any help, the cold may last for a longer time. Some people may have learned something from their grandparents to deal with this kind of thing by having chicken soup, ginger ale, etc. There may be some other folk formulas we don’t know of. There is something that will work if you follow the rules, like in the following.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and acupuncture, we categorize all conditions and diseases into different types. The reason for this is similar to how different cars need different oils or gasolines because the cars were made to be fueled with those substances. Like the cars, some herbs or foods are better as fuel for some people more than others. For the common cold, we have five basic types with different combinations or proportions of the foods/herbs.

  1. “Cold” cold – people will experience headaches, body aches, no sweating, feeling cold easily with chills, tiredness, poor appetite, voice change
  2. “Warm” cold – people will experience feeling warm easily, less or no chills, sore throat, fever, sweating, tired, poor appetite, voice change
  3. “Deficient” cold – these type of people are the ones who always have some cold-like symptoms, never really have enough energy to be very productive, and they frequently have something wrong with their health.
  4. Based on “deficiency” cold types, this category is for those who specifically feel cold year-round and can wear more clothing even in the summer than most people around them without overheating.
  5. Opposite from “deficiency” cold types, this category is for those who feel hot year-round and can wear less clothing in the winter than most people around them without feeling cold.

In TCM and acupuncture, many foods are also medicines (the line between food and medicine is blurry). It depends on what we need at the time.

For “cold” cold, the following food combinations will help either cure, easen up complaints, or make the recovery shorter. They are cilantro, scallion, fresh ginger root with brown sugar. Then the question is how much of each and how should it be prepared? First of all, you prepare these foods by slicing the cilantro (1-2 mm), scallions (1-2 mm), and fresh ginger root (1-2 mm). You’ll need a handful of sliced scallion handful, one-half of a handful of sliced cilantro, and a quarter handful of sliced ginger. Prepare to boil a pot with 2 cups of water inside. In it, you should put in 2 heaping tablespoons of brown sugar (if you have diabetes, skip this step). As soon as the water is boiling, put the ingredients into it, and turn off the heat. Cover the pot until the temperature is okay for you to drink. Drinking this twice a day or more will take care of the “cold” cold type. If it’s an emergency and you don’t have some of the ingredients, you can use more of the other ones to compensate.

For “warm” cold, you’re going to need a similar concoction but in different amounts and plus something else. Use white sugar instead of brown sugar, and add mint. Gather half a handful of sliced scallion, half a handful of sliced cilantro, and a quarter handful of sliced ginger, two handfuls of mint, two heaping tablespoons of white sugar. Prepare them the same way as above.

For “deficient” cold, use everything from “cold” cold, and either 1 gram of American ginseng or half of a gram of ginseng. For type 4, everything from “deficiency,” and add cinnamon and a spice. For the last one, everything from “warm” cold, and add watermelon juice (if it’s the summertime), banana (fall or spring) and papaya or pear juice (wintertime).

A few more words for “deficient” people: it would be a good idea to take some American ginseng. For “cold” type people, have more hot/spicy food, lamb and cinnamon. For “warm” type people, don’t eat hot/spicy food. In TCM and acupuncture, we do sometimes require patients to change their diet in certain ways according to their pattern differentiation. These were just examples, but if you have these combinations, you will definitely get a benefit from it.