TCM Tips for a Strong Immune System + Summer Vegetable Curry Recipe!

Do you ever wonder why some people get sick so easily?
 
From an acupuncture perspective, your body is made up of lots of different kinds of Qi, or energy. These different types of Qi have specific physiological functions in the body. One essential type of Qi is the Wei Qi. Roughly translated as “immunity,” the Wei Qi is your body’s natural strength and ability to fight off pathogens like viruses and bacteria.
 
The Wei Qi, also called “protective Qi” flows in the space between the skin and muscles, and is the first line of defense against sickness (after your skin). The Wei Qi also controls the opening and closing of the pores, so spontaneous sweating is a sign of a weakness in your protective Qi.
 
When the Wei Qi is not strong enough, we are not able to fight off outside pathogens, and we get sick.
 
A number of other energetic imbalances can weaken our Wei Qi:

When there is Qi Stagnation in the body from stress or mental tension, this interferes with the flow of Qi throughout the body, so the area where the Wei Qi flows is not supported properly and the Wei Qi suffers.

When the digestive energy is weakened through poor diet, overwork or stress, it fails to transport the nutrients from food around the body, leading to a deficiency of the Wei Qi.

When the lung Qi is weakened through too much talking, grief, pollution, illness or allergies, it cannot effectively turn our breath into the Qi we need to protect ourselves. The lungs are also said to control the Wei Qi, so when they are weakened, the Wei Qi automatically suffers.

When our jing, or essence, isn’t strong due to constitutional and genetic factors, all of our body’s systems suffer, including the Wei Qi.

So, how do you make sure your Wei Qi is healthy and strong?

Eat right. The food we eat is transformed into useful Qi by our digestive energy. This Qi - “Gu Qi” is further refined and part of it is turned into Wei Qi by our body’s natural resources. If you are not eating properly, your digestive energy won’t be able to pull the necessary components out of your food to make efficient and strong Wei Qi. This means it is essential to limit processed foods, eat warm and hearty meals, eat at regular times, and to eat a balanced diet. Foods that strengthen qi deficiency are whole, unprocessed foods, as close to local as you can get them. 
Get outside. The air we breathe is also turned into Qi within our bodies by the lungs. Try to spend at least 10 minutes of every day outside, regardless of the weather. This could mean taking a walk in the sun, or standing on your porch and watching the rain.
Get enough sleep. Your body replenishes many deeper levels of energy during sleep. If you are not getting enough sleep and some of the more internal energies of your body are weak, the Wei Qi has to work overtime to keep you healthy – and it won’t be able to do that for long. Also, the Wei Qi actually moves internally in the body during sleep, to nourish and protect your internal organs, and not getting enough sleep will not allow it sufficient time to migrate inwards and then get back to the exterior of your body where it is needed during the day.
Get acupuncture! There are specific points on the body that nourish the Wei Qi to help prevent sickness. Acupuncture can also strengthen your other energy systems if they are not supporting the Wei Qi sufficiently.

Qi-Wei Boosting Summer Vegetable Curry

Homey and comforting, this curry is a delicious way to add Wei Qi-boosting foods to your diet and enjoy summer vegetables! It only takes a few minutes to throw together, and you can have an easy, whole-foods, nourishing meal on the table in less than 30 minutes.

Ingredients:

1 small eggplant (about 3/4 pound)

1 small zucchini

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 onion, chopped (about 1/2 cup)

1 piece fresh ginger, about 1 inch, grated

1 tablespoon curry powder

1/4 pound small fresh mushrooms

1 cup diced tomatoes (peeled and seeded)

1 15-ounce can no-salt-added chickpeas (also called garbanzo beans). You may also add another protein, such as chicken or tofu, if desired.

1 14-ounce can light coconut milk

1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped, for garnish

2 cups cooked brown rice

Directions:

Wash and trim eggplant. Do not peel. Quarter and remove seeds. Cut into 1-inch cubes. Eggplant should yield about 3 cups. Wash and trim zucchini. Cut into 1-inch cubes. You should have about 1 cup. Heat olive oil in a large pot. Add garlic, onion, and eggplant. Saute until eggplant begins to soften, about 5 minutes. Add zucchini, ginger, curry powder, mushrooms, and diced tomato. Cook for 2 minutes. Add chickpeas and coconut milk. Cook on medium heat until all ingredients are heated through. Serve with hot brown rice and garnish with fresh chopped cilantro.

Bon appetit!

7 Ways Acupuncture Can Help Men's Health

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a complete medical system that has been around for nearly 3,000 years. It combines nutrition, herbs, acupuncture and other modalities to help keep the body functioning properly, while also treating any ailments that might occur. TCM has been used to treat both men and women, regardless of their age, and TCM is frequently becoming the medical choice for those who prefer to use holistic forms of medicine to heal themselves.

There are certain health issues more prevalent in men than women, and many of these conditions can be easily controlled or treated using Traditional Chinese Medicine. Afflictions such as high blood pressure, depression, urinary issues, stress and prostate problems are just a few of the issues that are more frequently seen in men than women. And these issues, along with many others, respond very favorably to acupuncture and TCM.

Prostate issues are a prominent concern for men. From enlarged prostates to prostate cancer, this area of the body gets a lot of attention. One of the most common problems facing men is benign prostatic hyperplasia or what is commonly called the enlarged prostate. An enlarged prostate often leads to bladder, kidney and urinary problems, especially urinary retention. This is very easily controlled with acupuncture and herbs because the combination of the two help alleviate the inflammation of the prostate allowing the urine to flow freely.

Cardiovascular disease is another big concern for men and it is the leading health threat to men. Acupuncture has been found to be particularly beneficial in lowering blood pressure, which often helps prevent cardiovascular disease. Acupuncture stimulates the release of natural opioids in the body, which then decreases the heart’s activity and lowers the need for excess oxygen. All of this lowers blood pressure.

Another area where men need more help is dealing with mental health issues and depression. Men are much less likely to discuss their feelings and emotions, which can frequently lead to depression and even thoughts of suicide. In fact, men are four times more likely to commit suicide than women. Acupuncture helps balance the chemicals released by the brain and the hormones released by the endocrine system. All of these imbalanced chemicals can lead to mental health issues that manifest over time.

Insomnia and sleep-related disorders are another major concern for men. Acupuncture has been shown to be beneficial at restoring balance and allowing the body to relax and rejuvenate. In fact, acupuncture often times outperforms many prescription and over-the-counter sleep aids.

Men tend to suffer from pain more than women, just because their jobs can be more physical. It is statistically shown that men are less likely to seek out help when they experience pain, as they don’t want to appear weak. This is where something like acupuncture can be a great asset for men. Regular acupuncture treatments as preventive medicine can help keep them in top shape, thus avoiding aches, pains, strains and pulls.

Fertility is not something that usually comes to mind when it comes to men’s health issues. However, stats show that 35-40 percent of all fertility issues are male conditions. Studies have shown acupuncture and Chinese herbs are very effective at improving sperm quality and the instructional integrity of the sperm. This is why many acupuncturists who focus on fertility issues treat both the male and the female as a team.

Lastly, acupuncture is a great way to combat digestive issues and this occurs more in men than it does in women. The most common digestive disorder is heartburn or acid reflux, which is usually caused by stress and poor diet. When stress levels are decreased, then stomach acid can decrease also, thus alleviating heartburn.

These are just a few of the issues acupuncture can help with when it comes to men’s health, but it is easy to see why choosing acupuncture to help keep the body in alignment is a great option!

Using Acupuncture to Treat PTSD

Post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD is usually associated with past and present military personnel; however, PTSD can affect anybody who has had some sort of traumatic or life changing event, such as a car crash, physical abuse, natural disasters or even the death of a loved one. Any situation causing emotional, physical or mental trauma can result in PTSD. In the U.S. alone, it is estimated around 24 million people are affected by PTSD. That means there are a whole lot of people who need help coping with the disorder. Luckily, Traditional Chinese Medicine offers hope for those people.

Some symptoms of PTSD include insomnia, anxiety, irritability, flashbacks, as well as feelings of shame, despair and hopelessness. All of these can lead to problems at work and home. It can also lead to serious health problems like clinical depression and even alcohol and drug abuse. The effects of PTSD are far-reaching and can be a lifelong battle for those afflicted with it.

Acupuncture treatments for PTSD focus on specific auricular points on the ears. These points are responsible for controlling areas of the brain that help control nervous functioning while decreasing stress levels. The military is even starting to offer battlefield acupuncture for soldiers in the field before they are discharged from active duty. The Pentagon has been investigating the benefits of acupuncture for PTSD and so far, it has been found that combat veterans were relieved of most of their symptoms and their levels of depression and pain were greatly reduced.

Many PTSD sufferers are leery of opening up about their trauma and thus are reluctant to seek psychological counseling. This is where acupuncture can play a key role in helping these individuals. While acupuncturists will take an in-depth medical history, the questioning does not need to become as personal as that required when seeking psychiatric help. This makes it easier for PTSD sufferers to feel safe and relaxed. Also, acupuncture has been shown to provide rapid benefits to patients through faster healing, whereas psychological counseling can take years.

Auricular acupuncture is especially beneficial for those suffering from PTSD.  There are a multitude of auricular acupuncture points that specifically focus on different areas of the brain. For instance, there is a point located at the base of the ear, where the ear lobe attaches to the side of the head that is labeled the Master Cerebral, and the Limbic Point is located in this zone. This point specifically addresses emotional life, the formation of memories, amnesia and alcohol or drug dependency. By needling this point, the patient can get relief from one or all of the these symptoms. This is quite remarkable and this treatment requires fewer needles.

Those suffering from PTSD should consult a doctor about the proper treatment and also discuss alternative medical options like acupuncture. If you or somebody you know suffers from PTSD, please consider acupuncture as part or all of the treatment protocol.

Dandelion: Detox With This Yellow Charmer

Next time you’re in a wide open field, pasture or meadow dotted with beautiful yellow dandelions, know that these prolific little delights are not only beautiful, but packed with nutrition and offer a host of healthy benefits. Let’s explore this amazing flower.

Dandelions are known as Pu Gong Ying in pinyin and are used frequently in Traditional Chinese Medicine. The name comes from the French “dent-de-lioun,” which translates into “tooth of the lion” due to its sharp leaves. They are known to aid the liver, kidneys and gallbladder in particular. In Chinese medicine herbs are used to heal, this includes flowers, bark, roots and seeds. For example, if an herb is considered “warming,” it is given for cold conditions. An herb that is bitter would clear heat and detoxify. If an herb is sour it benefits the liver. If an herb is red it benefits the heart and blood. TCM creates herbal formulas that use a combination of different herbs to balance the formula and keep it safe.

Dandelion is considered a cold, bitter and slightly sweet herb. Its milky juice clears heat, detoxifies blood, reduces swelling and helps the early stages of a cold. Dandelion helps the liver and gallbladder by increasing bile production, and helping in cases of jaundice. Often dandelion is combined with licorice, milk thistle and fennel.

Here are some other key benefits of this flower:

Dandelion can be eaten, taken in a tea or as a supplement. Be careful of picking dandelion on your own and ingesting it, the area it grows in may be sprayed with harmful chemicals.

It is not recommended to start taking dandelion without consulting a healthcare professional. Dandelion is considered safe, but may cause digestive upset if taken in large quantities. It is also not recommended to combine dandelion with other herbs without consulting an herbal specialist. In TCM, the practitioner will record a patient history and make a careful diagnosis before prescribing an herbal formula designed specifically for your constitution.

Smile next time you walk by a field of dandelions; these little beauties are lovely to our bodies.

Herbal Tonics for Digestion

Digestive disorders can be simple like flatulence or gas, or they can be much more serious, such as Crohn’s disease. But regardless of the severity of the disease, there is no doubt digestive disorders affect far more people than they should, especially in the United States. A recent survey reports nearly 74 percent of all Americans are living with digestive issues. Most people don’t report it to their doctors either, because they assume it is normal to have gas, bloating or abdominal pain. But these symptoms can be indicators of much more serious underlying problems. (more…)

It's All In Your Head: Headaches and TCM

There are four main types of headache: tension, cluster, sinus and migraine. And, there are varying triggers for these headaches, such as food, stress, hormones, dehydration and weather. Fortunately, eliminating the triggers and finding natural ways to prevent and help an ongoing headache are possible. (more…)

Acupuncture for Harnessing Willpower

Harness your willpower with acupuncture

Ever had one of those days or weeks where you just can’t pull yourself out of bed in the morning? Or perhaps you just can’t say “No!” to the dessert tray. Regardless of the activity, willpower is what keeps some people disciplined. But it doesn’t make you a bad person if you have dessert with every meal, buy more shoes than you really need or take longer to get going in the morning. It just means your willpower isn’t strong. And just like any other habit, that can be changed. (more…)

TCM and Seasonal Affective Disorder

Traditional Chinese Medicine and Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as SAD, is a form of depression that affects people all throughout the world. Most commonly experienced during fall and winter months, the symptoms of SAD include depression, hypersomnia, lethargy, difficulty concentrating, negative thoughts and decreased social interaction. Higher levels of anxiety are experienced at the end of the summer season as those who suffer from this ailment start to anticipate the coming months of less sunshine and increased symptomatology.  (more…)

Walnuts and Your Brain

Many people like to add walnuts to food to add some zest and a little crunchy kick, but walnuts are much more than a flavor additive, as they are chock full of healthy properties and have been used in Asia as an overall health tonic and brain booster for years. Let’s take a nutty look at walnuts.     (more…)