Herbal Tonics for Allergies

An allergy occurs when your immune system reacts to a foreign substance, called an allergen.  This could be anything from something you inhale to something you touch to something you eat.  An allergic reaction may cause sneezing, coughing, watery eyes, a running nose, a sore throat and rashes. In severe cases, allergic reactions can induce something known as anaphylactic shock, which can actually be deadly. continue reading »

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Five Reasons to Get Acupuncture for Allergies

Allergies, seasonal or otherwise, is one of the biggest health issues people deal with in the United States. And the numbers are rising every year. Part of this is because our agricultural practices have changed drastically in the past 40 years and our bodies are not accustomed to dealing with genetically modified foods or the excessive amounts of pesticides now being put in and on our food. We are also being over-medicated with antibiotics used in livestock we eat and that we are prescribed by our own doctors. This has created superbugs like MRSA that no longer responding to antibiotics. Our immune systems just can’t keep up. So every year, the number of people experiencing allergies is increasing. continue reading »

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Diabetic Nephropathy

Diabetes mellitus is a disorder of carbohydrate, protein and fat metabolism due to absolute insulin deficiency or resistance of body tissues to the circulating insulin. It’s characterized by chronic hyperglycemia with many complications which may be acute or chronic. One of the chronic complications of diabetic mellitus is damage to the kidneys, a condition known as diabetic nephropathy. Significant number of patients with diabetic nephropathy (20–40% of diabetic patients) progress to end-stage kidney failure with the need for dialysis or kidney transplantation.1

The presence of protein in the urine at a level known as microalbuminuria in a patient with diabetes mellitus signifies the presence of diabetic nephropathy. Diabetic nephropathy is the leading cause of end-stage kidney failure globally.2This is one of the causes of mortality among diabetic patients.

Persistent presence of protein in the urine results in damage to renal tubules. Some medications for blood pressure have been demonstrated to reduce albuminuria and delay the progression of diabetic nephropathy and are therefore the mainstay in the management of diabetic nephropathy.2Nevertheless, many diabetic patients still end up with end-stage kidney failure. This is a pointer to other possible mechanisms of kidney damage apart from those blocked by these medications.

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) has been widely used to treat and control diabetes and its complications such as diabetic nephropathy in many scientific researches.1 TCM has advantages over the conventional medical approaches in the prevention of diabetic complications because of less toxicity and/or side effects.1 These preparations are available in capsules, pills and decoction. While some contain single agent, others are combinations of two or more substances. Some of the TCM that have shown potential benefits are as follows:

  • Chaihuang Yishen granule (CHYS) is a combination of more than one substance and has shown potential therapeutic benefit in rats with diabetic nephropathy by preventing renal fibrosis.
  • Compound Rhizoma Coptidis Capsule (CRCC) composed of rhizoma coptidis, Kudzu root, dwarf lilyturf, and Loquat leaf. CRCC has demonstrated renal protective effects by slowing down the progression of DN in rat specimens.
  • Danggui buxue tang (DBT) slows the progression of diabetic nephropathy. In addition, it lowers the blood glucose and triglyceride.
  • Danggui Shaoyao San (DSS) contains six herbal substances. It prevents glomerular damage and affords a good blood sugar control in animal studies.
  • Hachimijiogan (HJG) is a popular herbal medicine in Japan with ability to reduce blood sugar and protein excretion in diabetic nephropathy. It may slow down the progression of kidney damage in diabetic patients by blocking the processes that are involved in diabetic nephropathy.

Other preparations that have shown benefits in diabetic nephropathy in animal studies include Fufang Xue Shuan Tong (FXST), Hachimijiogan (HJG), Hu-Lu-Ba-Wan (HLBW), Liuwei Dihuang Pill (LDP), Oryeongsan (Wulingsan), Oryeongsan (Wulingsan), Qizhi Jiangtang Capsule, Qiwei Granule (QWG), Shenkangwan (SKW), etc.

In a review of different studies on the effect of Chinese herbal medicine (CHM) on the level of protein in the urine in patients with diabetic nephropathy, Xiao et al. reviewed a total of 29 studies. As many as 84 different kinds of herbs were included in 29 herbal preparations.

One of the studies reviewed by Xiao et al. tested Arctiin compared with placebo (a drug that doesn’t contain any active ingredient) in patients with diabetic nephropathy. Arctiin, after two months of treatment, showed significant improvement reduction in protein excretio.2

Fourteen (14) different CHM were compared with blood pressure medications. The rates of protein/albumin excretion were assessed. Ten (10) trials reported significant improvement in the amount of protein in the urine after treatment with CHM compared with those treated with blood pressure medications. CHM showed significant improvement in proteinuria compared with blood pressure medications in 8 studies.2

Some studies also review Chinese Herbal Medicine plus blood pressure medications versus Placebo plus blood pressure medications. Silymarin and standard treatment showed significant improvement in the change of urinary albumin-creatinine ratio from baseline compared with placebo plus drugs. Turmeric plus medications showed significant improvement in the change of protein-creatinine ratio and proteinuria from baseline compared with placebo combined with medications.2

Seven studies reported no adverse effects during treatment while eight trials reported non-serious adverse events. Some of these include abdominal pain, diarrhea, and loose stools after taking Arctiin granule. These symptoms could be tolerated by patients. Overall, no serious adverse event was reported by any of the studies.

With rising incidence of diabetes mellitus, the number of people with diabetic nephropathy will continue to rise. Some blood pressure medications have been known to reduce the rate of protein excretion in diabetic patients but the percentage of diabetic patients with end-stage kidney failure is still rising. Thus, there is need for CHM either in combination with the above medications or as singular agent for the management of diabetic nephropathy.


  1. Sun G, Li C, Cui W, et al. Review of Herbal Traditional Chinese Medicine for the Treatment of Diabetic Nephropathy. Journal of Diabetes Research, 2016, 1-18. doi:10.1155/2016/5749857
  2. Xiao Y, Liu Y, Yu K. et al. The Effect of Chinese Herbal Medicine on Albuminuria Levels in Patients with Diabetic Nephropathy: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2013, 1-11. doi:10.1155/2013/937549


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Five Acupuncture Points for Spring

Spring is the season of growth, regeneration, increased activity and new beginnings. During the season of spring, people experience many changes. Allergies, high blood pressure, headaches, sinus pain and congestion, anger, irritation and tendon problems are just some of the issues common to the spring months. Many of these problems can be attributed to increased wind in the environment. And while there is nothing that can be done about external wind, internal wind can be addressed and diminished using Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and the many modalities it incorporates. continue reading »

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Mental/Emotional Aspects of The Heart

The major responsibility of the heart in TCM is housing the mind and controlling the shen. “Shen” can be seen as the overall healthiness of the mind. When you look at a healthy person in good spirits, you know how you can see that in their eyes? There is a certain bright clarity and sense of health that shines from within. We acupuncturists would say that this person has good shen. continue reading »

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Physical Aspects of The Heart

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the heart is the organ most closely linked to emotion. Think about all the terms we use every day to describe our state of mind: “heartsick,” “heartbroken,” “heartache” The heart is not the director of subtlety; the emotions it encompasses seem to always be on the far end of the spectrum, either extreme sadness or extreme joy. continue reading »

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Auricular Acupuncture

Traditional Chinese Medicine is a medical system that dates back nearly 4,000 years. Auricular acupuncture was first mentioned around 500 B.C. in the Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine, which is the equivalent of the Bible for TCM practitioners. However, the method in which auricular acupuncture is practiced today is actually based upon discoveries that occurred in France in the 1950s. Modern auricular acupuncture is based upon the work done by Dr. Paul Nogier of France.

Auricular acupuncture is the stimulation of the external ear for the diagnosis and treatment of health conditions. These health conditions may be taking place anywhere throughout the body. The stimulation of these acupuncture points can be done manually, with an acupuncture needle, a laser, magnets or ear seeds. Regardless of the means of stimulation, auricular acupuncture can be a very powerful addition to regular acupuncture treatments.

The current form of auricular acupuncture came about after Dr. Nogier noticed a scar on the upper ear of some of his patients. When he inquired about the scar, he found out a local practitioner had been treating his patients for sciatica pain and she was cauterizing this specific area on the external ear to relieve their low back pain. Dr. Nogier conducted similar tests on his own patients and found their low back pain was also relieved. He tried using other means of stimulation as well, such as acupuncture needles and found it to be just as effective as cauterizing the area. So Dr. Nogier theorized if an area of the upper external ear is effective on treating low back pain, then perhaps other areas of the ear could treat other parts of the body. This led to the model now used when teaching auricular acupuncture. The ear is thought to represent the whole anatomical body. However, it is upside down in orientation, so the head is represented by the lower ear lobe, the feet are at the top of the ear and the rest of the body is in between. According to history, the Chinese actually adopted this model of auricular acupuncture in 1958.

Auricular acupuncture is considered a microsystem, in that the ear is like a microcosm of the whole body, meaning one part of the body, the ear in this instance, represents the whole body. Microsystems also appear on foot and hand reflexology, facial acupuncture and scalp acupuncture.

This system has been practiced in Asia, albeit in a different form, for over 2,000 years. Auricular acupuncture has been used in Europe for the past 40 to 50 years. And it is finally starting to take root in the United States. The U.S. military, over the past 5 to 10 years, has started utilizing auricular acupuncture for its battlefield personnel. This form of battlefield acupuncture is used to help soldiers deal with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) brought on by being in combat.

Since auricular acupuncture allows for every part of the external ear to connect through the microsystem to every part of the body, many conditions can be treated using only a few very tiny needles. Not only can PTSD be treated using auricular acupuncture, but also things like chronic pain, drug addiction, high blood pressure and nausea. And for those who are a little needle-shy, auricular acupuncture is a great way to treat them because they will never see the needles and they will still get the help they need to achieving health and wellness.

Photo credit: Ear – Travis Isaacs | CC 2.0

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Why am I so cold?

Everyone feels cold sometimes, but some people are perpetually chilled to a point where it interferes with their lives.

From a Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective, there are two different kinds of cold in the body: full cold and empty cold. Full cold refers to a condition where there is an excess of cold-type energy in the body leading to a feeling of cold, and most likely other health problems, as well. The other kind of cold is empty cold. This means there is not an abundance of cold energy but rather a weakness of the warm fiery energy. When there isn’t enough warmth in the body, you will feel cold – not because the cold is so strong, but because you don’t have enough fire to balance it out.

Full cold

As mentioned, a full cold condition refers to an over-abundance of cold type energy in the body. This is often an acute case and may relate to being outside on cold weather, or exposing a certain area of your body to cold water, cold wind or cold weather. Symptoms really depend on the location of the cold in the body.

For instance, you might feel really cold when you are coming down with a cold virus. From a TCM perspective, this is cold being trapped under the skin or in certain channels on the back of the neck. Other associated symptoms may be a stiff neck, a runny nose or an occipital headache.

Full cold can also lodge itself in the digestive system – this may happen following a meal of cold food, drinking cold beverages in a cold environment or following exposure to very cold temperatures. Full cold in the digestive system can lead to a feeling of cold, as well as painful cramping, diarrhea or loose stools and pain in the abdomen.

Another common site of a full-cold condition is the uterus. This can be from exposure to cold temperatures such as swimming in cold water or sitting on a cold surface. Certain gynecological procedures can also introduce cold into the uterus. This type of cold manifests as a feeling of cold, particularly with the period and very painful cramping before and during the period. There will likely also be clots and possible problems with fertility.

All of these full-cold conditions can be avoided by limiting exposure to cold environments and cold foods. Also introducing heat internally through teas, soups and warming herbs can help.

Empty cold

In TCM, health is a state of balance between yin and yang. Yin refers to the cool, watery, passive parts of our physiology, whereas yang refers to the hot, fiery, active parts. When the yang energy is weakened, there isn’t enough fire to balance out the cool and watery yin. This leads to a pervasive feeling of cold that is hard to shake, even with lots of blankets and warm drinks. This is someone who always feels chilled, no matter what. There may be other symptoms, as well, such as loose stools, a lack of energy or motivation, wanting to sleep all the time or fluid accumulation. Yang deficiency cold often requires use of herbal medicine, acupuncture, and moxa to treat appropriately.

While these are the main reasons for feeling cold, there are two other energetic imbalances that can also lead to feeling cold – Qi stagnation and blood deficiency.  When Qi is stuck, circulation is impaired and heat can’t get to our extremities effectively. This kind of cold often manifests as very cold hands and feet. It can be helped by regular exercise, reducing stress and limiting heavy foods. A weakness in the blood energy of the body leads to a low-grade constant feeling of cold less severe than a yang deficiency cold, but still pervasive and consistent. It can be helped with getting enough sleep, reducing stressors and eating a well-balanced diet of blood-nourishing foods.

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Positive Side Effects of Acupuncture

During an initial session of acupuncture, most practitioners began with an extensive health intake that goes over all of the systems in the body. We use this to determine certain patterns of imbalance, allowing us to treat the root cause of issues. This is one way we differ from Western medicine. continue reading »

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Building Protective Qi with TCM

Everybody gets sick at some point in their life. For some, it’s just a quick weekend thing. For others, it can last for several days and even weeks. Why do some people always get sick whenever there is a bug going around and others don’t? It all comes down to immunity. People who have a stronger immune system, tend to be sick less often. Those with compromised or weak immune systems, seem to get sick at the drop of a hat. There are many things that can be done to strengthen the immune system though. And Traditional Chinese Medicine is probably one of the best and least invasive ways to boost the immune system, not just during the winter months, but all year long. continue reading »

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