Skip to content


What is Anxiety? Insights from East & West

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health condition in the US.
Despite very different medical terminology used by Eastern and Western practitioners, there are significant overlaps in the understanding of how anxiety disorders can arise and play out in the body.

For example, the heart plays a central role in Traditional Chinese Medicine’s (TCM) understanding of anxiety. Emotional problems are considered a disturbance of one’s Shen, the Heart energy. This is not so far off from the Western view when we consider that the shen is also defined as the mind, and therefore related to brain activity, including thinking, consciousness, and emotional regulation.

Western understanding describes an imbalance between the Pre- Frontal Cortex (PFC) and the emotional center of the brain. Individuals with an anxiety disorder show heightened activity in the brain’s emotional center. It’s the job of the PFC to inhibit these signals as needed. Our emotional centers are always on the lookout for threats so we can react quickly in a dangerous situation. In anxiety disorders, the emotional processing center becomes hypersensitive and the balance with the PFC weakens, causing a heightened and prolonged state of alert and alarm.

Giovanni Maccioca, one of the most highly respected practitioners of Chinese Medicine, views the Shen as vital in the executive function that needs to control the other aspects of spirit. In other words, the Shen, as the most conscious aspect of our spirit, correlates with the Pre-Frontal Cortex in its responsibility to manage our emotions, which Western medicine attributes to structures in the center of the brain and Chinese medicine recognizes as less localized energies of various organs.

It is interesting to note that while TCM sees the spirit of the heart as the main focus in understanding anxiety, the physical organ of the heart also has a direct relationship with our emotional experience. Emotional stress is often felt as a physical sensation in our chest and research has found a statistical correlation between anxiety and cardiovascular disease.

In TCM terms, Heart pathology can be congenital, result from direct injury to the heart energy or can stem from other organ imbalances which disrupt the Heart.

In discussing anxiety, many experienced acupuncturists would be quick to point out the relationship between the heart and the kidneys. Kidneys relate to our sense of feeling safe & secure in the world. The emotion of fear is held in the kidneys and needs to be regulated by the conscious mind of the heart in order to be used appropriately.

Western biomedicine is aware of the relationship between the health of the kidneys and our emotional well-being. Research estimates as many as 12-52% of people with end stage kidney disease have an anxiety disorder at some point. Likewise, stress-related high blood pressure and high blood sugar can place a tremendous strain on the kidneys over time.

Additional risk factors for anxiety disorders laid out by Western medical research point to other anxiety-related organ patterns described by TCM. For example, gastrointestinal disorders are associated with anxiety. As worry is the emotion of the spleen (considered a digestive organ in TCM), this is of course worth mentioning. In one study, 44% of people with IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) had an anxiety disorder compared to only 8% of people without IBS. Both Eastern and Western medicine will also consider lung function in relation to anxiety. Anxiety is often accompanied by depression, and TCM ascribes sadness to the lungs. Shortness of breath is a typical symptom of anxiety according to both Eastern and Western diagnosis. Western research also points out chronic disturbances in breathing patterns in patients with panic disorders. Finally, we can’t get away without giving proper respect to liver function. The liver in Chinese medicine plays a role in almost every disease process as it is the liver’s job to move the qi of the body. Alleviating stagnation is a main focus of the acupuncturist and therefore the liver gets a lot of attention. Physically, the health of the organ itself gets mentioned in Western medicine’s review of risk for anxiety as well. Anxiety was found to be significantly higher in patients with fatty liver disease.

Anxiety can be looked at as simply a brain imbalance but even Western perspectives recognize a much more holistic picture when looking at the various risk factors involving different organ systems, reminding us that health is a dynamic balance. Chinese Medicine can offer much needed support in that balancing act so call today to schedule your next treatment in Duluth MN!

Effects of Acupuncture on Quality of Life in Patient with Depression

A study published by the Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine and conducted by the West China Center of Medical Sciences in 2015, found acupuncture treatments can be effective in the treatment of patients suffering from depression. According to the study, 163 participants were divided into three groups. Each group received differing forms of treatment utilizing acupuncture or acupuncture and other accessory modalities, twice a week, for a total of 12 weeks. The scale of life was used to evaluate the results at four different times, which allowed for the patients quality of life to be objectively followed and determined. There were eight specific items that were evaluated after each acupuncture treatment, thus leading to the overall quality of life score. The items evaluated were physical function, bodily pain, physical role, general physical condition, social function, energy, mental health and emotional function. The study showed the overall quality of life score was improved significantly in all three groups.

Depression is defined as a mental disorder characterized by feelings of dejection and severe despondency. Worldwide, nearly 350 million people suffer from depression and nearly 16 million of those are in the United States alone. Statistics show women tend to be more likely to experience depression and young adults between the ages of 18-22 are also at a higher risk. Symptoms of depression include extreme irritability over minor issues, anxiety, restlessness, irrational anger, lack of interest in everyday activities, thoughts of death, insomnia, severe fatigue, weight gain/loss, difficulty concentrating and unexplained aches and pains. When these symptoms occur for more than a few weeks, depression may be the reason behind them.

As shown in the aforementioned study, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is very effective in treating depression, not only short-term, but also long-term. Modern medicine usually treats depression with antidepressants and psychotherapy regardless of the presenting symptoms. In contrast, TCM diagnoses each patient on an individual basis and treats the specific symptoms, while also addressing the root of the illness. TCM incorporates multiple modalities such as acupuncture, Chinese herbs, tuina massage, cupping and exercises like qigong to help restore balance to the body. Traditional Chinese medicine also treats the person holistically instead of treating mind and body separately.

The theory behind treating depression using TCM, all revolves around the concept of Qi (pronounced “chee”). Qi is considered the vital energy that flows through the body and animates everything. When Qi is blocked or stagnant, illness can take root, either physically or mentally. Qi flows throughout the body on energetic pathways or meridians. Each energetic meridian is associated with an organ and each organ has its own emotion. For example, the emotion of the liver meridian is anger. When Qi is blocked and liver Qi stagnation occurs, anger can then manifest. From the same standpoint, if a person is excessively angry, the flow of Qi can be blocked creating stagnation.

Acupuncture releases endorphins and activates natural pain killers. By doing so, it improves the flow of Qi throughout the body while eliminating blockages and bringing balance to the mind and body. Endorphins counter the symptoms of depression and allow the person to resume a normal life.

If you are suffering from depression and are looking for a natural way of dealing with it, contacting Heidi might be exactly what you need. She can help you navigate the waters of depression without the harmful side effects of pharmaceuticals, while helping you get back to a happier life. Call us at (218) 724-3400 to get started.

Acupuncture for Kids

Most kids, as well as a lot of adults, are afraid of needles. So the pairing of acupuncture and kids might not be an obvious one. However, more and more parents are seeking alternative methods of treatment for their children, because our conventional medical system is faltering a bit. Pharmaceuticals are proving to be more harmful than beneficial for many people, especially kids, whose brains and bodies aren’t yet fully developed.

Acupuncture is gaining popularity among pediatrics. There are licensed acupuncturists who specialize in treating children and they are in high demand. These pediatric acupuncturists are helping children where others can’t and for many, it is lifesaving.

Pediatric acupuncture is commonly known as shonishin and it rarely uses needles. Instead, this form of acupuncture utilizes the practitioners’ hands and rounded tools to stimulate the acupoints of the child. The practitioner will gently and rhythmically rub, tap and press the skin to produce gentle stimulation sensations. Because children process things more quickly and with fewer blockages, the sessions can be shorter and may be needed less frequently.

Parents are turning to acupuncture because it provides a safe resolution of illness, while also preventing future illnesses. Acupuncture and acupressure stimulate the body’s ability to restore and heal itself. Our bodies are fully capable of fighting off disease and healing injuries when the right tools are provided. Acupuncture is that right tool that not only stimulates the immune system, but also relaxes the nervous system and regulates the digestive and hormonal systems. All of these things need to be in balance for the body to heal.

Many times parents are told by doctors that what their child is experiencing is just “a phase” and he / she “will grow out of it.” In many ways, this is a way of ignoring the real issues at hand. Conventional medicine doesn’t work holistically, addressing the whole body, and parents are usually sent to a dozen different specialists who never really coordinate to find the best treatment for the child. This becomes frustrating and financially taxing for the parent, not to mention how the child feels. This is where acupuncture excels. A single acupuncture treatment can address pain, anxiety, insomnia and digestive issues all at the same time.

Not only is acupuncture more cost effective when it comes to treating children, but it also is a more logical approach. Why add in the stress of seeing multiple doctors when you can have everything addressed by just one? If your child is suffering from pain, asthma, ADHD or any other type of ailment, acupuncture might hold the answer. Ask me today for more information.

How should I prepare?

  • Write down and bring any questions you have. We are here to help you.
  • Wear loose, comfortable clothing for easy access to acupuncture points.
  • Do not eat large meals just before or after
    your visit.
  • Refrain from overexertion, working out, drugs or alcohol for up to six hours after the visit.
  • Avoid stressful situations. Make time to relax, and be sure to get plenty of rest.
  • Between visits, take notes of any changes that may have occurred, such as the alleviation of pain, pain moving to other areas, or changes in the frequency and type of problems.
2187243400 Directions Contact/Schedule