Yin-Yang Balancing for Optimal Health

The Chinese symbol for yin and yang has been around for many centuries and is widely recognized throughout the world. The meaning behind “yin” and “yang” however and what the symbol depicts are not as clearly understood. Since our medicine is in large part based on the principles of yin and yang, here’s a bit more information for you:

The white portion of the symbol represents Yang energy. Yang is traditionally associated with light, sun, male energy, activity/productivity, heat, and moving forward and out in the world. Yin is traditionally associated with dark, moon, female energy, rest and hibernating, cool/cold and receptivity/inward focus and passive energy.

Since we’re focusing on motherhood this month, think of the “yin” as being the 9 months of pregnancy — carrying the baby and having it grow inside of the womb, in darkness; and the “yang” is the act of labor and delivery — the dramatic and energetic pushing of the baby out into the world, into the light. You need both the yin and yang phases to give birth to a healthy baby. The same principle can be applied to any life process and any healing journey.

No matter your gender, you have yin and yang energies in your body.  When we talk about “balance” in Chinese medicine, these are the energies we are working with.  If you have too much heat or yang rising up to your head, that may be the cause of a migraine, for instance. We need to cool the heat (calm the excess yang) and bring it back down. At the same time, we don’t want to put out the fire all together — we need that yang energy; it just needs to be in check and not flaring up and out of control.  An over-abundance of yin energy on the other hand would present as cool or cold in the body — we need to warm the channel and organ associated with the root issue.

The needles can serve to nourish the deficiency and calm the excess energy. This is a very simplified version of how we are able to help your body to come back into balance — and this is what drives up the cellular function and heals at the root level.

In the visual symbol of the Yin and Yang, you notice that the white and black are separate but connected in a circle; the white part always has a black dot in it and likewise, the black portion always has a white dot. This illustrates how the opposites need each other to be fully functioning and whole — and how even the yang has a little bit of yin and the yin has a little bit of yang. The two energies are interdependent.

Chinese Herbal Remedies for Allergy Season

Acupuncture is always your best “first line of defense” when it comes to allergies, but luckily, we also have herbal remedies that can boost and prolong your relief.

There are 2 “go to” remedies for seasonal allergies and many of you may already have a bottle of these tablets in your “home herbal pharmacy”: Jade Screen & Xanthium or Jade Windscreen.

Jade Screen & Xanthium is traditionally used when you have a runny nose, post-nasal drip, sneezing, itchy eyes etc. The herbs in this formula tend to dry dampness and phlegm, but if you don’t have any nasal discharge and are just experiencing congestion/sinus pressure, Jade Windscreen may be a better solution for you. Both remedies serve to boost your body’s immune system which lessens your level of reactivity to these natural allergens.

At Best Acupuncture, we carry Golden Flower herbal formulas in tablet and liquid form. This company uses the highest quality raw materials, without the impurities, adulterants, or questionable ingredients found in some other prepared formulas. Their products exceed current international GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) standards.

Please remember to schedule an Herbal Consult with your acupuncturist before purchasing any herbs as they can steer you towards the most effective formula for your situation. And if you are feeling those allergy symptoms coming on, make sure you call the office to get on the schedule sooner rather than later!

Injury prevention and treatment with Chinese Medicine

As we “leap” into Spring, let’s focus on exercise related injuries and pain. We tend to think that pain is a direct result of something, such as a wrong turn, distributing weight the wrong way, etc. In the case of an exercise related injury, our own joints are in danger if the conditions are wrong. Can you imagine how much more susceptible we would be to exercise related injury if that fluid was dried up? Or how about if our muscles, tendons and ligaments were less pliable and supple. You stretch and you stretch and you stretch, and you still have areas that are too tight.

Do you think these malfunctions (bad functions) might lead to dysfunction (wrong function) making you MORE susceptible to injury?

Simply put, yes! So, acupuncture, by driving up function of the organs and circulation can better protect your body and promote healthy movement.

For the same reasons, acupuncture can also work preventatively, boosting function to help you avoid injury. Ideally, if you are active or involved in sports, it should be part of any exercise or training regimen.

Should you end up with an injury, acupuncture can promote healing in the body after an injury. And for those wishing to become active, acupuncture can be a fantastic way to build you up to safely tolerate the new challenges ahead!

Think of yourself as an elite athlete. Ok, so very few people fall into this category. But pretend, okay? What do athletes do to perform better? They eat differently to counter the demands of their activity. They probably have a support staff of trainers and medical professionals in order to advance themselves. So can you! We are here to help with whatever athletic challenges you are beginning or continuing.

Ultimately, acupuncture is sort of like having money in savings. If you get an extra-large power bill and you have money in your savings to cover it, it’s no big deal. Acupuncture builds function and reserves. It’s like money in the bank for preventing injury and illness.

Chinese Medicine in Motion

What if I told you that the healthy functioning of your muscle cells requires oxygen and nutrients in and waste products out; Do you think that’s the Western or the Chinese Medicine approach?

What if I told you the answer is “both?” Cells are the cells. They all require the same things. But Chinese Medicine, because it aims to drive up function, approaches the requirements of the cells a little differently.

Chinese medicine believes that function can be improved by enhancing and balancing organ function as well as the circulation of blood and fluids. If everything is running as it should, you only need to start the car periodically to keep the battery charged, the oil circulating, and the tire pressure even. But if your automobile is already in disrepair, simple maintenance won’t do the trick.

In Chinese medicine, one of the “treasures” of health is Acupuncture. Movement is another key component of the medicine. Exactly as in nature, movement equals life.

Take Tai Chi, for example. This is not simply a dance, moving meditation, or a martial art. Tai Chi is “moving medicine.” Conceptually, it’s a similar situation with yoga. Tai Chi loosely translates as “supreme ultimate.” Sounds pretty good, right? In martial arts, it’s called Tai Chi Chuan, which means “supreme ultimate boxing.” As a form of medicine, it draws your attention to breathing methods and aligned movements clinically shown to better oxygenate the blood, improve circulation, balance and digestion.

Imagine that aligning the body, and focusing on breath and visualizing it moving the energy could improve the circulation. We can physically unblock the “kink in the hose.” While there are many other health benefits (bone density, balance, etc.) this form of medicine can be practiced by young and old, men and women of any size, age or fitness level.

At Best Acupuncture, we recognize the “8 treasures” of Chinese Medicine. Acupuncture is but one treasure. With the coming of Spring, consider making sure both your yin and your yang, your internal and external, your movement and your breath are aligned in ways to drive up function, promote health, and get you ready for the growth to come!

The Role of the Heart in Chinese Medicine

In honor of Valentine’s Day this month, we will be focusing on the Heart as viewed from a Chinese Medical perspective.

The Heart is not just the anatomical organ that we usually think of, but rather it’s seen as a “channel” of energy, running from the axilla (armpit) of each arm, down the inside of the arm and wrist, running through the palm and ending at the inside of the pinky fingernail.

In the Chinese Medicine view, the heart is so much more than just a muscular pump for our blood. In fact, when heart and mind are troubled and not functioning properly, we believe this to be a possible root cause of mental/emotional upsets such as anxiety or depression.  You may also experience palpitations, have trouble sleeping and possibly uncontrolled sweating, as in the case of menopausal hot flashes and nightsweats.  Your facial color and the color of your tongue can also give your Acupuncturist more clues as to how well your heart is functioning and how well energy and blood are moving through the heart channel.

A calm mind and heart are essential for a healthy, happy life, and will benefit not only you, but the ones you love.  Consider giving someone you love the gift of Acupuncture for Valentine’s Day!

Diabetes and Weight Loss in Chinese Medicine

In Chinese Medicine, Diabetes is called Xiao Ke, or “thirsting and wasting” disorder.  If you or a loved one has diabetes, you’ll recognize the excessive thirst and weight loss that may accompany the onset.  Diabetes describes both a functional and a structural disorder, from a Chinese Medical perspective.  In type I (auto-immune) diabetes, the body’s immune system attacks the pancreatic Beta cells that make insulin.  In type II, the body doesn’t know how to effectively utilize the insulin it does make.

Insulin is a hormone that mobilizes fat and, allows the sugars (carbs) we eat to bind to spots on the muscle cell walls that provide energy (fuel).  Acupuncture is functional medicine.  If we drive up function to the Spleen (which includes pancreatic function), we can help your body work more effectively.  This is key for both types of diabetes.  Further, since insulin causes inflammation in the body (tied with most of the long term effects of the disease), Acupuncture can help the body manage this process.

Do you have a new goal for a new YOU in the new year?  Acupuncture can work with you to help your body take full advantage of your changes, efforts and exercise.  Call one of the trained and Licensed Acupuncturists at Best Acupuncture to find out how we can help.

The Connection Between Digestion and Emotions

You may have heard the expression “your gut is your 2nd brain.” This definitely applies in Chinese Medicine as Spleen and Stomach are not only the primary organs of digestion, but are also closely related to the emotions — worry, anxiety and over-thinking are especially connected to Spleen.

And so it follows that if you are experiencing any of these or other emotional upsets, you probably will also present with an upset stomach, diarrhea or constipation, or gas or bloating. Think of the Stomach as being responsible not only for digesting food and beverages, but also for digesting your emotions and thoughts.  It will keep what feeds your soul/spirit and let go of what does not.

When you have experienced any major, life-changing event, such as the loss of a loved one or animal companion or the break-up of a long-term relationship or marriage, grief naturally ensues. And we’ve all experienced this on some level, but what also tends to happen?  Our appetite will most likely decrease or increase significantly, resulting in weight loss or weight gain. If we feel afraid or stuck and unable to move forward — or if we feel alone and unsupported, this can also manifest in the digestive system.

Stuck/unable to let go = constipation, gas or bloating

Fear = craving salty foods

Anger = alternating diarrhea/constipation/IBS

Grief = lack of appetite/no hunger; lack of taste

Worry/Over-thinking = indigestion; gas and bloating; craving sweets

Besides it’s connection to digestion, the Spleen is in charge of the movement of blood in the vessels and it rules the muscles by transporting blood and qi to the tissues and limbs.

With a Spleen imbalance, the mind can become unable to focus, concentrate, remember, or study, as thoughts cannot be held in their proper place. The mind may simply race uncontrollable from one thought to another. Contrarily, it can become stuck and immobile, rigid and stubborn. Obsessive thinking, incessant worry, frustration, anxiety and depression are expressions of stagnancy in the physical body.  The expression “venting the spleen” means giving expression (movement) to pent up anger. There are few causes of anxiety and frustration greater than being unable to remember, feeling lost and confused. It is as if the storehouse of memory is unavailable.  Like the food and drink we consume, experience is virtually useless if we cannot digest it, glean its wisdom and put it to use.[1]

There have been a number of excellent books written in the Western world about the connection between the foods we eat and choose to eat, based on our emotions. But how amazing it is to have a system of medicine that formally connects and addresses our head brain and thoughts with our gut brain and digestion.

Chinese Medicine can help us to be more aware of what we’re choosing to eat and why we’re eating it — and to also notice how our emotions and food choices impact our processing and absorption of nutrients.  And how we also need to “process” and digest our emotions — and that may be a huge part of our healing.

There are specific acupuncture points that can be used along the Spleen, Stomach, Liver and Heart meridians to treat mental/emotional conditions and digestive conditions simultaneously.  Likewise, a Chinese nutrition consult can help you identify the foods that will help to heal your emotions via your digestion. To learn more about these foods and acupuncture points and how they can help you, please contact us to schedule a 45-minute evaluation.

[1] https://www.acupuncturepathways.com/news/2017/7/27/the-earth-element-spleen-and-stomach

Digestion as Viewed from a Chinese Medicine Perspective

The spleen and the stomach are the primary organs of digestion in Chinese Medicine. The Spleen is responsible for taking in the food, breaking it down and processing it, as well as distributing the nutrients. The Stomach is considered the “Sea of Grain and Water” and it is responsible for turning digested food into nutrients and absorbing them.

When digestion is working properly, the Spleen Qi (energy or life force) is flowing freely.  It facilitates the overall digestive process. Spleen function is ascending in nature — the pushing action of the Spleen Qi is necessary to move the nutrients up into heart and lungs and is also responsible for holding all organs in place, while the descending action of the Stomach Qi serves to absorb nutrients and move the leftover waste down to the intestines where it is separated out and further absorbed or excreted from the body as liquid or solid waste.  Stomach Qi can be thought of as “feeding” the other organs the nutrients they need to perform their special tasks.

When the Spleen Qi in your body is deficient, your digestion will most likely be sluggish with incomplete bowel movements, gas, bloating, and possible secondary symptoms of fatigue, foggy brain, heaviness in the limbs, and worry and over-thinking. If the Spleen Qi is not strong enough to push things forward, accumulation and stagnation will result in the Stomach, and also possibly in the Liver.

When  your Stomach Qi is “rebelling”, the energy is moving up when it should be going down and through your digestive system.  It is considered an excess condition and associated with fire, hence the burning sensation which comes with acid reflux, or the total upheaval of your system, i.e., vomiting.

Professor J.R. Worsley described the Stomach organ as being similar to a bakery. It receives all of the various ingredients and, if mixed and baked properly, will create a delicious cake. The Spleen on the other hand is like a fleet of trucks/drivers, working 24/7, that transport the cakes to the buyers/stores. Within our body, the Spleen organ transports and distributes the proper amount of nourishment to every cell and every level — physical and non-physical. We can easily imagine what would happen if the truck driver failed to show up for work or got lost making deliveries. Regardless of the quality and quantity of the food itself, if the transporter failed to deliver, some people would still starve while others might feel stuffed with far more than they need. [1]

So, if you have any issues with digestion, then it is most likely an issue with the function of the spleen and/or stomach.

[1] https://www.acupuncturepathways.com/news/2017/7/27/the-earth-element-spleen-and-stomach

Your Winter Herbal Pharmacy

Ah, winter-time . . .

Here in Cornelius, Winter can be downright “un-wintery.”  We go from a nice, toasty warm indoor heat out into 30-40◦ weather.  Sometimes the winds blow, sometimes it’s rainy.  Sometimes, just when we get used to using indoor heat, the Cornelius area Winter decides to let the sun shine and the temperatures to turn into Spring.

How is a body to keep up?  So many of us end up with colds, flu, sinus infections and the like.  This is one area where Chinese Medicine excels.  Herbal medicine and acupuncture can help the body adapt to the frequent weather changes, maintain healthy immunity, and even speed up the recovery process once you are sick.

Here are a few Herbal formulas, and a general description of what they do.  But remember to consult with your Licensed Acupuncturist to decide which are best for you!

Gan Mao Ling – This can be taken, preventatively for the common cold and the flu.

Jade Windscreen – If you’re susceptible to catching cold, this is a “go to” formula.  It is beneficial for immunity, but can also be used for an acute or sudden onset.

Jade Screen & Xanthium – This formula adds certain herbs to help combat sinus symptoms such as allergic rhinitis and sinusitis.  It’s a great allergy formula for people with hypertension that can’t tolerate some of the “over the counter” pharmaceutical decongestants.

Viola clear fire – This formula contains herbs found to be especially effective against respiratory infections.  Many of these herbs inhibit viruses, bacteria, and even fungi.

Winter Wonderland & Chinese Medicine

Winter is a time when things stay inside, hibernate, regroup, and get ready for the start of a new year and a new period of growth.  Chinese medicine describes the Winter in much the same way.  However, there are some fascinating things we can learn from this perspective.

We all know someone who catches the cold or flu during this season.  We’re used to hearing about viruses and bacteria.  Chinese medicine describes “catching” illness in a little different way.  During the winter, wear that scarf and turn up that collar.  There is a set of acupuncture points called “wind pool” or “wind gate” at the back of the neck and base of the skull that is particularly susceptible to what we call a “wind invasion.” In other words, the wind carries the cold and/or damp from the weather.  And if our defenses are down, we might “catch” the cold at these points.

The Winter is associated with the “Water” systems of Chinese medicine.  These include the functional aspects of both the Kidneys and the Bladder.  Makes sense, right?  Would you want water that needs to keep moving getting cold or frozen?  Of course not!  So, when it’s too cold outside, we need to avoid foods like ice-cream, cold or iced drinks and cold foods.  What’s better on a cold day than tea, a warm bowl of soup, or foods that warm our middle?  Eating seasonally is less mysterious than you would think.  We don’t eat watermelon and cooling fruits in the winter.  Those are Summer foods, eaten when we need to cool down.  Likewise, there are plenty of hearty, warming foods for the winter.  Onions and string beans are warming.  Spices, such as garlic and ginger are also warming.  Most animal proteins are warming.  While tofu is neutral, you can actually alter the temperature of certain foods by the cooking method you choose.  For example, Deep frying creates dampness, while flash-frying or cooking in a wok actually creates warmth without the dampness we’d be better off without.  What’s so bad about dampness?  Nothing in and of itself.  However, if your internal body environment is too damp, and if the outside environment is too damp, you’ll probably start getting some symptoms.  For example, sore knees and sore backs are common during the winter, especially if we’re not mindful of keeping a balance with our internal environment.   Remember, we said that the Chinese Medical view of Winter included the “Water” organs of the Kidney and the Bladder.  Well, it just so happens that the Kidney system governs the knees and the lower back.

So, get yourself in to your Acupuncturist for more information on how to stay well, in balance with the season, and with a strong immunity to ward off any bugs out there!  And Happy Holidays to you and your loved ones!