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Traditional Chinese Medicine

College Stress and Acupuncture

Arizona State University conducted a study on the effects of stress on college students and staff in a “large urban college population.” The study was a two-group, randomized controlled trial where the participants underwent either sham acupuncture or verum acupuncture. The participants included college students, faculty and staff at a large public university and the study was approved by the university’s institutional review board with the consent of each participant.

Prior to the study beginning, each participant answered questions in the Cohen’s Global Measure of Perceived Stress questionnaire at 5 different parts of the study. The intention behind this step was to measure how stress changed or did not change for each participant throughout the course of the treatment.

The acupuncture points that were used within the study were as follows: GV 20 / PC 6 / HT 7 / Yingtang / Four Gates / CV 17 / CV 6 / ST 36.

These points were given to the treatment group which were set to undergo verum acupuncture. Each group reported to the acupuncture clinic once a week for a 30 minute session.

The second group (considered the control group) received sham acupuncture in 3 points that are not known to have any effect on stress. These points on the body that are located between meridians and were inserted unilaterally and without stimulation or manipulation to ensure that de qi would not occur.

After the study was completed, each participant was questioned on the levels of stress that they each endured after 6, 12, 18 and 24 weeks post-treatment. Between the first treatment and the 24th week post-treatment, the verum acupuncture group reported a 45.8% improvement in the perception of stress. The sham acupuncture group reportedly showed a 40.3% difference in stress levels between the start of the study and post-treatment. However, at 3 months post-treatment, the sham acupuncture group had shown a decrease in their stress-scores.

To reduce the amount of error in the study, they “treated every participant with the same point combination, no matter what their underlying energetics may have suggested.” This was to keep the acupuncture points as consistent as possible in order to obtain the most accurate results possible.

The study did determined that stress was reduced through the use of acupuncture on the participants within the study but that a larger sample size would aid in obtaining more statistically consistent results.

This study appears promising for determining the effects of reducing stress on university-goers through the treatment of acupuncture. However, further study and testing would be necessary for more conclusive results.

Are You an Alchemist? Time to Make Gold!

Alchemists attempt to purify and perfect, historically to transmute base metals into gold, or allegorically, to purify the basic elements of our consciousness into the gold of pure spirit through the process of inner transformation.

True alchemy appreciates that the purity of the process is what determines the purity of the result. Making gold requires precision like baking. It is not simply a creative experiment (like some of us might call our cooking). Recipes, order, structure, measurements, and procedure all take precedence over carefree approaches. Alchemists must honor the details of the ritual, the science of the process.

Alchemists, therefore, embody the metal element in Chinese Medicine. Metal is associated with refinement for the sake of purity. This relates to the season of Autumn in that it is a time of drawing inward to the purity of the core and letting go of the excess. In Autumn, trees draw their sap inward towards the roots, while simultaneously sending impurities upwards towards the leaves that they will shed. It’s also harvest time, when we take the edible essence provided by the earth and discard the husks and stalks that are no longer needed. This is a time to be careful in separating out what is essential from what can be relinquished. This careful precision is the key to the alchemist’s process of extracting order from chaos.


Are you an Alchemist?

Do you keep your living space tidy and organized?
Are you detail oriented?
Have you ever been called a ‘perfectionist’?
Do you follow recipes when you cook?
Is purity a value for you in any area of your life?
Do you pride yourself on your integrity?


Most of us have at least some of the metal element energies within us, in some areas of our lives. They may even be in excess when it comes to certain aspects of our personality. For instance, if we are overly rigid in regards to our own expectations of our education or career, this can lead to stress and lack of joy in the process. Or on the flip side, if we completely drop expectations and make half-hearted efforts in our work or projects, we lack that sense of refinement attributed to the metal element, and allow for sloppy results.

Exaggerated expressions of the metal element are seen in dogmatic, authoritarian strict personalities that prefer control and are bound to routine. Associated health concerns include issues of rigidity and dryness such as stiff joints and muscles, dry skin, poor circulation, restricted breathing, constipation and a reserved, flat affect unable to confer much emotion. While a collapsed version of the metal energy leads to a decay of personal values and a reliance upon external constraints (such as in a fearful adherence to a strict religion or structure) or someone who has given up on structure completely and tends towards disarray and chaos. In the extreme collapse of metal, someone may simply become numb. Health issues due to deficient metal energy manifest as weaknesses like shortness of breath, anemia, loss of body hair, easy perspiration, and stress incontinence.

Autumn, the season of metal, is the perfect time to tap into our inner alchemist, organize our space, bring order where it is needed, clean up the chaos, and use ritual to empower our intentions. As always, we must be aware of the equilibrium of energies and compensate for rationality and self-control with passion and spontaneity. A little dose of “go with the flow” helps to balance things out. A true alchemist will recognize that with any ritual, following a set structure is important, as long as you leave room for the magic.

Let us help you tap into your magic and nurture your inner alchemist in time for the fall season! Call today at (218) 724-3400 to schedule your next acupuncture session in Duluth MN!

Nourishing Transition: Eating Right for Late Summer

Late Summer is a time of transition, when we move from the most Yang time of the year to the beginning of Yin time. The earth is preparing for its next season. The 2-3 weeks between each season is the time associated with the Earth element, and a time to ‘return to center’ to prepare for the shift. In Chinese Medicine, the Earth element correlates with the Spleen and Stomach, which are considered primarily digestive organs. Digestion, as a functional concept, represents the central axis around which everything else revolves.

We should strive for optimal digestion all year round, but these transitional times between seasons are fantastic oppurtunities to strengthen this ‘central axis’ by slowing down and simplifying our diet while making sure it’s as nutritious as possible. The spleen has some requests regarding what we eat. First, keep things simple. It is important to shed complexity and avoid extremes. Find your goldilox zone when it comes to taste and temperature and quantity of food. Not too hot, not too cold, not too sweet, not too spicy etc. and not too much food at once. Stop eating before you’re full.

In that goldilox zone we find that warm foods are preferable. This helps to maintain that simple balance of temperature but also assists the spleen qi in maintaining the digestive fire. Excessively cold food (like ice cold drinks or ice cream) can extinguish that essential fire and must be avoided especially during the season change. Start to transition to cooked foods if you’ve been doing more raw fruits and veggies in the summer. Warm ginger tea, bone broth and mild spices like cinnamon and nutmeg can help gently fan the flames of dying embers.

The other threat to our digestive fire are foods that are considered ‘damp’ in nature. Greasy/fried foods, refined sugars, and excess dairy and gluten can slow down metabolism, weigh down the body energetically and eventually physically. We can see the down-river result of too much damp foods manifest in the body as weight gain, sore joints, a foggy-head, loose stools, and issues like candida and edema. Keep the spleen happy and the digestive fire burning with warm, ‘dry’ foods.

The spleen also likes sweet flavors, but again, we keep balance in mind. Think slightly sweet and naturally sweet. Foods that fit the bill are fruits like figs, plums, and apples, vegetables like beets, carrots, parsnips and squash. Rice, potatoes and mushrooms are considered slightly sweet as well (along with whole grains which are okay for those without gluten sensitivities). Lentils and legumes can be added in for their protein and fiber which help to regulate the blood sugar. Avoid fruit juices, as they lack the fiber to balance the sugar.

To round out your meals, feel free to add some (free-range organic when possible) meat, nuts and seeds and leafy greens for balance. Soups and stews are a great way to bring together a few simple ingredients in a spleen-friendly way. Just don’t forget: slow, simple, balanced, warm, dry, and slightly sweet.

How we eat is often just as important as what we eat. In our fast-paced society, everything feels rushed. Yet it is so important to take the time to generate better awareness around mealtime. In simple terms: CHEW your food. Take a moment before eating to look at your food, appreciate it, and then ..enjoy the taste…slowly. Ask your body to receive it with love, while minimizing potentially stressful distractions. Make it a meditation. Or at least a moment of gratitude.

Follow these basic principles of nourishment during times of seasonal change and you’ll find yourself transitioning with ease.

Come in for a late summer tune-up with acupuncture to better harmonize with the transitional season, strengthen digestion and support your body through seasonal changes. We’re here for you on 205 W. 2nd Street, Suite 502, in Duluth MN.

Transitioning to Autumn

With autumn approaching and the beginning of the yin cycle, the energy of plants is moving down into their roots, helping the body become aware of the energy of the season. This season is a time for the body to begin gathering energy for the colder months to come.

The lungs and large intestine are the organs associated with fall. The lungs are responsible for the circulation of Qi (the body’s natural flow and circulation), and are also very susceptible to cold and illness. For this reason, it is important to stay healthy and warm during the season. If the Qi circulation is weakened, muscles will not be able to warm the body properly.


Autumn Foods:

Vegetables of autumn like carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach and kale can help purify and protect your body against free radicals. These color-rich vegetables are packed with beta-carotene, which then turns into vitamin A. Vitamin A is essential for our immune system, especially as the cold and flu season rolls in. These vegetables can also strengthen your lungs and large intestine to fight illness.

Vegetables to cook with:

  • carrots
  • winter squash
  • pumpkin
  • broccoli
  • parsley
  • kale
  • turnip greens

Autumn weather becomes more yin, calling for warming dishes. Foods to cook that are in harmony with the season include more sour foods, as well as foods rich in protein and fats.

Sour/pungent foods to cook with:

  • sourdough bread
  • sauerkraut
  • adzuki beans
  • yogurt
  • rosehip tea
  • ginger
  • garlic
  • horseradish

Some find it hard to let go of summer, with the longer days and warm air transitioning into the crisp and shorter days of fall. Acupuncture not only helps the body physically, but mentally as well. Fall is a great time to see an acupuncturist as your body and mind adapt to the changing of the season.

Give us a visit in Duluth to prepare for the new season ahead and to stay in good health! Call us at (218) 724-3400 to schedule your appointment.


Sources:
Enjoy the Energy of Fall: Autumn and Traditional Chinese Medicine

“Practical Chinese Medicine” Penelope Ody

Natural Ways to Alleviate Headaches from an Eastern Medicine Perspective

When you get a headache what does it feel like? Is it dull, nagging, aching and lasts all day? Is it sharp, stabbing, throbbing and short-lived?

Where is your pain located? Does it feel like a tight headband going from your forehead to the back of your head? Maybe into your neck? Is it on one side? Behind your eyes? Do you feel it at your temples or near your jawline?

Do you feel better when you lie down in a dark room and recuperate? Does eating a snack or a meal help? Conversely, do you feel better when you get out and take a walk or does eating a greasy meal make your headache worse or even bring it on?

In Eastern Medicine, the answers to these questions help to define and diagnose the type of headache you experience based on pain, location and whether your headache is a manifestation of a deficient or excess state.

Excess vs Deficiency

Excess conditions tend to be more intense and acute while deficient conditions tend to be more dull, nagging and chronic. If your symptoms are better with rest, your headache is likely due to deficiency because you are easily depleted. If your symptoms are better with exercise or movement, your headaches are likely due to an excess state and you need to burn off energy.

In Eastern Medicine, when we diagnose a deficient state we tonify or nourish the imbalance, in an excess state we quell or calm the overactivity. We have several tools we use to bring the body back to balance. The main tools are acupuncture, nutrition and botanicals.
Acupuncture

One of the best ways to get immediate relief from a headache is to find a qualified, licensed acupuncturist in your area and get acupuncture treatments. Acupuncture is when tiny needles are inserted at specific locations that correspond to your pain. Many acupuncturists specialize in headaches and love treating them because acupuncture often provides on-the-spot relief and people leave the acupuncturist’s office headache-free. Regular acupuncture can also prevent headaches from occurring in the first place and many people end up getting regular treatments once or twice a month to keep their headaches completely away.

Nutrition

Eastern medicine has been treating headaches with nutritional recommendations for thousands of years. First, it is good to identify if you are more prone to a stress or tension headache if you have missed meals or are feeling hungry. This type of headache means there is a deficiency occurring and the body needs energy in order to nourish itself and prevent a headache.

Many people are busy at work or on their computer focusing for hours and they are not paying attention to their hunger. This is a sign of a deficient-type headache.

It is also possible to experience a headache after eating foods that do not agree with your constitution. For example, if your headache pain comes with brain fog or muzzy feeling in the head, it is best to avoid sugary or fried foods and aim for healthy options.

Acupuncturists are also trained in what foods are best for what type of headache you are experiencing and can counsel you on how to change your meals to prevent headaches.

Chinese Medicinals (Botanicals)

There are many formulas in the vast Chinese Medicinal Pharmacy that are used for headaches. A licensed acupuncturist has undergone many years of training in this pharmacopoeia and can prescribe a formula that will bring homeostasis to an excess or deficient constitution. These formulas are often individualized to each person’s constitution with great precision or there are common formulas used that are also very effective.

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