Hypertension is a series of clinical symptoms marked by increase of blood pressure in the arteries of blood circulation, according to the criteria suggested by the World Health Organization. Adults with systolic pressure greater than 140 mmHg and/or diastolic pressure greater than 90 mmHg can be diagnosed with hypertension (the result of three tests taken intermittently in one day).
How does Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) diagnose hypertension?
Hypertension is similar to dizziness and vertigo in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). It is usually thought to be caused by emotional factors, constitutional deficiencies, diet and stress that lead to an imbalance of yin and yang in the liver, spleen and kidney*. Eventually this can result in hyperactivity of liver fire, or phlegm disturbing the upper, or frequent weakness of kidney yin and the failure of yin to control yang.
How does TCM usually treat hypertension?
It is essential to differentiate hypertension which is caused by excess from that which is caused by deficiency. TCM usually treats hypertension with body acupuncture, ear acupuncture, and herbs, but depending on the cause, the acupuncture points selected, techniques, and herbs will be different. The treatment for the excess type is to calm the liver to stop wind, eliminate fire and resolve phlegm. For hypertension caused by deficiency the approach is to replenish qi and blood, while nourishing the liver and kidney.
Case Study – Mr. High
Mr. High, 65 years old, has been diagnosed with hypertension for 10 years. He told Dr. Tan that he was experiencing dizziness, headaches, red eyes, a bitter taste in his mouth, restlessness, irritability, and poor sleep. He came for acupuncture twice a week for a month and was prescribed Chinese herbs.
Dr. Tan used the following acupuncture points: GB 20, LI 11, LI 4, SP10, ST 40, LR 3, and HT7. His herbal prescription was a modified Longdan Xiegan Tang formula. One month after the treatment, all his symptoms were relieved and his blood pressure was stabilized.
Dr. Tan’s Tips
Dr. Tan also recommends qigong exercises to help his body to regain the balance of yin and yang, calm the liver, eliminate fire, and replenish qi and blood. From a TCM perspective, it would also be better for hypertensive patients to eat more fruits and vegetables and less greasy and spicy food. Also it is advisable to avoid seafood which from the TCM perspective is stimulating and cold in nature. Food that is cold in nature promotes dampness and phlegm, which can make dizziness and vertigo worse. Fish is relatively better than shrimp and crab.
Herbal Foot Soak
This herbal foot soak can help to relieve vertigo, tinnitus, headache, limb numbness, and insomnia. To prepare the foot soak, cut the herb Gouteng (Gambir vine stems) into small pieces and wrap in a cloth with a littleBingpian (Borneol) and steep them in warm water. Soak the feet twice a day after getting up and before going to bed, 30-45 minutes each time and 10 days as a treatment course. These herbs require an herbal prescription.
Unique Herbal Prescriptions
Patients who suffer from high blood pressure should make an appointment with a licensed acupuncturist and herbalist as every person is unique. The practitioner will take a full medical history and do pulse and tongue diagnosis to determine the best acupuncture plan and herbal prescription.
*organs in italics refer to meridians in Chinese medicine, not actual organs.
Dr. Shengyan ‘Grace’ Tan is a faculty member at AOMA and sees patients in the professional clinic.
The military seems to be leading the pack with the use of acupuncture in the treatment of psychosocial pain. To be more specific, the US Army has implemented several programs incorporating complementary and alternative medicine to treat symptoms of PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). One of these programs happens to be right here in Texas at Ft. Hood. The program is titled Warrior Combat Stress Reset Program (WCSRP).
The WCSRP is an eleven week program combining the use of traditional Western therapies with traditional Eastern approaches to treat soldiers with PTSD symptoms. Various methods of complementary medicine are offered, such as acupuncture, massage, reflexology, sound therapy, meditation, reiki/bio-energy therapies, as well as mind-body practices such as yoga and tai chi. The WCSRP is a time-intensive program, requiring soldiers to show up every day for the first three weeks, participate in group-counseling, as well as individual counseling, and determine an individualized treatment plan incorporating complementary treatment methods which then continues over the following eight weeks.
Due to the success of programs like the WCSRP, there is growing support to make complementary medicine a standard in psychosocial treatment programs.
The views expressed in article titled "Acupuncture Used in Military Warrior Combat Stress Reset Program" (January 2013 AOMA Blog) are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, the Department of the Navy, the Department of the Marines, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government. Opinions, interpretations, conclusions, and recommendations herein are those of the author and are not necessarily endorsed by the U.S. Army, the U.S. Marines, and the U.S. Navy.
A stroke, or cerebrovascular accident (CVA), is the rapid loss of brain function due to disturbance in the blood supply to the brain. This can be due to lack of blood flow or a hemorrhage. Depending on the area of the brain that is affected patients may suffer from an inability to move one or more limbs on one side of the body, an inability to understand or formulate speech, or an inability to see one side of the visual field.
Risk factors for stroke include high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol,smoking, old age, previous stroke, and atrial fibrillation. High blood pressure is the most important risk factor of stroke. It is the third leading cause of death in the US, behind heart disease and cancer. Stroke affects more than 700,000 individuals annually in the United States. About 500,000 of these are first attacks, and 200,000 are recurrent attacks.
Acupuncture and Chinese herbs can be used to prevent and treat the stroke patients.
Chinese medicine can be very helpful for preventing stroke and its associated risk factors. Acupuncture and herbs can help offset the systemic imbalances that contribute to stroke. These are issues such as long-term emotional and physical stress, being overworked, poor diet and dietary habits such as eating too fast, at odd hours, etc. and an overall lack of relaxation. Of course, the patient has to be willing to adapt their lifestyle, too.
On the rehabilitative side, acupuncture and Chinese herbs can improve muscular strength, muscle tone, speech disorder, and swallowing function. I usually choose points on Liver and Kidney channels since there are most commonly involved channels in stroke. However, different patients have their own characteristics. I will make a differential diagnosis for each stroke patient based on the stroke history and manifestation from tongue and pulse. In addition, I typically use scalp needles and attach mild electrical stimulation to the needles to speed-up the recovery.
As an acupuncturist and physician, I worked at the neurological center in China Sichuan State Hospital & Sichuan Provincial Academy of Medical Science for 13 years, where I treated 30-40 stroke patients daily in ICU and the regular wards.
A stroke patient came to see me in the AOMA clinic with his wife two weeks after the onset of the stroke. I could feel how stressed the couple was. The patient once was very happy with a positive attitude to his life. When he came into my office he was so depressed. He couldn’t walk, speak, or dress himself. After collecting all the medical history from him and his wife, I observed his tongue and felt his pulse. Then I gave a therapeutic plan for him. One month later, he already started walking and his fingers could grasp tightly. His life attitude completely changed. He is happy again after realizing that he can live normally under my care.
Sometimes, during the acupuncture treatment, I will give some Chinese herbs based on individual needs. For certain people the herbs can be very helpful in stroke recovery. I also give dietary recommendations to each patient to make sure the risk factors of stroke are under strict control and patient’s diet is balanced and healthy.
Dr. Nelson Song Luo is a faculty member at AOMA and sees patients in the professional clinic.
Fu Fang Ban Lan Gen Chong Ji (granule of Isatis root formula) contains Nan ban lan gen (Southern Isatis Root), Pu gong ying (Dandelion), Zi hua di ding (Herba Violae), and cane sugar. It’s primary function is to clear toxic heat, or in lay terms flu symptoms like fever, sore throat, yellow phlegm, etc.
We often have patients come in with fever and sore throat who see quick improvement after taking this formula. It can also be used preventatively. This formula was used in China when they experienced the SARS outbreak and has become a staple in many household medicine cabinets.
For acute symptoms you should take the formula 3-4 times daily for 1-2 weeks. For prevention, it is best if you can start 1-2 weeks ahead, but definitely as soon as you notice those around you displaying symptoms. Herbal treatment for children can start as young as 3 months old, but they would need to see a licensed practitioner and get a prescription based on age and body weight.
Some brands of Fu Fang Ban Lan Gen Chong Ji are packaged in easy-open, one dosage packets. All you need to do is dissolve the granules in hot water and drink up. Some patients may experience loose stools or poor appetite after taking it.
Dr. Violet Song offers acupuncture and herbal treatments for female disorders, stress, insomnia, digestive disorders, the common cold, cough, as well as pediatric herbal consultations.
1. Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.
When you are tired, your body is susceptible to illness. Stay home and rest when you are sick. If possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick. Rest is some of the best medicine around!
3. Cover your mouth and nose.
Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. Remind others to cover their mouth and nose, too.
4. Clean your hands.
Washing your hands for 10 seconds will often help protect you from germs. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
5. Drink a lot of water.
When colds and the flu are going around, one of your best defenses is to keep your body fully hydrated so that your respiratory tissues aren’t easily irritated.
6. Stay warm and cozy.
Oriental medicine believes that wind invasions can weaken your body and make catching a cold more likely. Cover your neck and chest, and keep your feet warm and dry.
7. Try Chinese medicine.
Treatments can help strengthen your body’s immune system. Oriental medicine includes things such as acupuncture and Chinese herbs.
Tips compiled by Song Luo LAc, PhD, MD (China)
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