28.5 million men, women and children have diabetes in the U.S. This dis-ease affects the function of the pancreas. Classic Chinese practitioners were writing about the symptoms of diabetes (excessive hunger and thirst, frequent urination, and rapid weight loss) over 2,500 years ago in the ancient medical text called the Nei Jing.
Food therapy can also be an effective way to control blood sugar. Acupuncturists can recommend combinations of foods that help the individual to regulate the blood sugar and the internal heat created by the dysfunction of the pancreas.
Acupuncture & TCM can help Diabetics
The Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine published a study recently that showed regular acupuncture treatments can help control the function of the pancreas and help regulate the blood sugar levels in diabetics. Other symptoms that acupuncture and herbs can address for diabetics are fatigue, lethargy, unexplained weight loss, excessive thirst, urination and hunger, poor wound healing, infections, irritability, blurry vision, and numbness in fingers and toes.
What is acupuncture?
The most well-known traditional Chinese medical procedure, acupuncture is the practice of inserting thin needles into the body at specific points to relieve pain or treat a disease. Acupuncture triggers spontaneous healing reactions in the body, and scientific studies have proven its efficacy for treating inflammation, pain, depression and a host of other disorders. The World Health Organization recognizes 28 diseases, symptoms, or conditions for which acupuncture has been proven to be an effective form of treatment. The WHO also recognizes acupuncture’s therapeutic effects for over 55 diseases, symptoms, or conditions, but noted additional controlled trials are needed.
On September 15th, during the annual commencement exercises of the AOMA Graduate School of Integrative Medicine, 33 scholars from the Master of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine program walked across the stage at the Hyatt Regency on Town Lake in Austin, Texas. After completing a four-year graduate program in Chinese medicine, these graduates are prepared with the knowledge to transform lives through compassionate, patient-centered care.
Master’s degree program director Lesley Hamilton led the procession of graduates. Proceedings included the presentation of the Michael Garcia Prendes Herbal Excellence Award, faculty recognition, awarding of degrees, and a healer's oath led by the doctoral program director Dr. John Finnell.
The keynote address, delivered by Rey Ximenes, MD, invited graduates to enjoy the journey and pursue life-long learning. Dr. Rey Ximenes is the owner and director of The Pain and Stress Management Center, an integrative, multi-disciplinary clinic. Dr. Ximenes began his career in medicine as an anesthesiologist working in such places as M.D. Anderson Hospital, Texas Heart Institute, St. Luke's Hospital, Hermann Hospital, St. Joseph's Hospital, and The Texas Children's Hospital in Houston. Dr. Ximenes is the current President of the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture and a Board Member of the Texas State Board of Acupuncture.
“My wish is that you can persist in the face of adversity, no matter what. Take what you have learned in your classes and expand on it, learn more, fail, and learn more. Most of all persist. We need you to succeed. For you are the future of medicine. You are practitioners who understand that the true meaning of holism is to include ALL we know in an integrative model.” He ended the speech by inviting guests to participate in a qigong blessing.
In honor of the late Cal Key Wilson, a student who would have been graduating this year a new award was announced: the Cal Key Wilson Community Leadership Award. Graduating student Joe Phiakhamta announced the award, “Cal was selfless, humble and lived to serve others. His gestures and actions were never about him. He moved with a purpose, to make our days just a little bit better.”
Twenty years after the founding of AOMA, the class of 2013 carries on the tradition of embodying the art and spirit of healing, poised to transform lives and communities through acupuncture and Chinese medicine. Congratulations to all the graduates and their families!
At the 2013 commencement ceremony on September 15th, AOMA student Leila Plummer was recipient of the Michael Garcia Prendes Herbal Excellence Award. Since 2006 this honor has been bestowed upon a student who excels in the study of herbal medicine. The recipient is chosen by the previous year’s beneficiary, as someone who strives for superior herbal knowledge and shares the love of learning herbs with fellow students.
In 2012, the award went to Vivian Linden, who chose Leila as this year’s recipient. Vivian shares, “I believe that our most rewarding relationship with herbal medicine will be achieved through fostering a mutually beneficial relationship with our herbal allies –making them friends instead of just servants. Leila exemplifies this and it is what makes her truly excellent!”
It is clear to her fellow classmates that Leila holds a great respect for the study of herbal medicine as an academic, clinical, and extracurricular pursuit. But what is most notable about Leila is her reverence for the plants themselves.
Leila’s extracurricular herbal studies have included:
Serving and training in Nicaragua in 2012 with master herbalists providing free natural medicine to the underserved
Certified Community Herbalist and Herbal Apprentice from the Wildflower School of Botanical Medicine (Western herbalism)
Member of the American Herbalist Guild (student member) and United Plant Savers
Working as a wellness consultant, helping people with herbs and nutrition at herb stores and health food stores
“I am humbled and grateful to the AOMA community for thinking of me for this award. AOMA has a strong herbal program, which is why I chose this school; it is an honor to get to learn from such knowledgeable and caring faculty. The kindness of the student body has also always impressed me -- here, learners look after each other and help each other out,” said Leila.
Michael Garcia Prendes (1964-2007)
The award is named in honor of Michael Garcia Prendes (1964-2007). Michael graduated from the University of Kentucky Phi Beta Kappa with distinction from the Honor's Program with degrees in Political Science and Sociology.
In 1990, Michael moved to Austin, Texas where he eventually continued his education at AOMA. He was a loved and cherished classmate, tutor, mentor and friend. While at AOMA, Michael was instrumental in the development of the Herbal Outreach Program. Because of Michael's generosity, many patients have been able to receive necessary herbs.
One of Michael's greatest passions and loves was tennis. Michael founded the Austin Tennis Club, a local tennis organization that has grown to over 100 members and has raised thousands of dollars for local charities. Michael loved being on the tennis court as a player, teacher and coach, and he used his talents and eye for the game to teach many tennis camps.
Michael Garcia Prendes contracted a terminal illness and died before he could graduate. AOMA framed a beautiful print that Michael painted of a tennis player (with acupuncture meridians) about to serve a ball. Michael painted the piece for Pam Ferguson’s shiatsu class. The print hangs in the student lounge with the sentiment that suits Michael’s character: “Be present and focus, Lift up and Serve.”
Michael's generosity, compassion, sincerity, selflessness, and kind heart will always be an inspiration to his family and friends. Michael lived his life with integrity, honesty, and courage. Michael was a true gift to all who were lucky to know him and who were blessed by his humor, love and kindness.
How Michael helped students learn Chinese herbs
One of many students who benefited from Michael’s herbal tutoring was Consuelo Gonzalez, class of 2009.
“Michael had very special teaching qualities. He would explain with patience and humor the terminology of the herbs. Michael made it easy for us to identify the herbs. He would use pneumonic words to relate the herbs with funny stories or events to get them connected all at one category. We always had a blast each time we get together with him. It is hard to find someone like him, but before he left he gave us the guidelines to imitate him.”
Classmates remember Michael
Michael has touched me deeply and will always be a part of who I am no matter if I'm playing tennis or treating a patient. I feel so lucky to have been on the receiving end of so much love and generosity which he shared with everyone, and for which he will always be remembered. - Adrienne Kam, class of 2009
I have never met a more selfless, loving, giving man than Michael Garcia Prendes. His concern for his fellow students overrode everything else, and up to his last days, he put others welfare before his own. - Kathy Kerr, class of 2008
Michael helped so many people, including myself, to see the true potential in themselves and build confidence in their learning capabilities. - Sarah Wilson, class of 2008
I knew Michael to be a compassionate and wise soul. He was always kind and offered me valuable comfort when I was going through a sad time. His donations and support of Herbal Outreach were unsolicited and showed him to be thoughtful and generous with his time and efforts. I am grateful to have known him. - Jessica Fritz, class of 2005
Previous Recipients of the Herbal Excellence Award
Erin Taliaferro, 2006
Rebecca Benson, 2007
Marc Smith, 2008
Alison Beard, 2009
Cat Calhoun, 2010
Joshua Shain, 2011
Vivian Linden, 2012
Acupuncture and Chinese medicine are effective in treating a wide range of conditions of the eye. For some conditions, such as macular degeneration, retinitis pigmentosa, Stargardt's disease and other retinal diseases which have no treatment in Western medicine, acupuncture is the treatment of choice. For other diseases, such as cataracts (in the early stage) and chronic (open-angle) glaucoma, acupuncture can be beneficial as an adjunct therapy to Western treatment.
Traditional Chinese Medicine Diagnosis
The Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classic or Nei jing, the most important ancient text in Chinese medicine, teaches “the Liver opens into the eyes”. The Liver is the primary organ relating to the eyes in Chinese medicine, although in practice, all of the internal organs have some relation to the eyes. That is why diagnosis of eye disease is not just based on symptoms and signs but also on a more extensive pattern of the entire body. The causes of eye and bodily diseases are the same: the dysfunction of the internal organs leads to eye and other disorders. You cannot separate the eyes from the rest of the body.
In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), it is said that the spirit “shows in the eyes” and “is housed in the heart.” These sayings indicate a direct relationship between thinking and eye function. The attitude of a person has a direct and immediate effect on the Qi in the eyes. TCM eye reading or eye diagnosis combined with pulse and tongue diagnosis are the most effective ways to determine the best treatment for each patient, and can aid in early detection for preventive management. It is also helpful if patients bring their medical records from recent eye exams.
Someone who is educated in TCM ophthalmology can provide thorough treatment of eye diseases through acupuncture and Chinese herbs. As a practitioner, my main objective is to bring Qi to the eyes while treating the overall organ imbalances and the person’s unique constitution. I also usually coach my patients to assess their attitude towards life, as well.
Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Age-related Macular Degeneration (ARMD) is the most common of a number of degenerative conditions that can affect the retina. It is also the leading cause of blindness in older adults. According to epidemiologists, there are almost 5,000 new cases diagnosed each day and by the year 2010 there will be 30 million cases of ARMD in the United States alone.[i] There are some studies that suggest that almost 25% of adults over the age of 65 show some evidence of deterioration in the macular region.[ii] Right now, there is no cure and no treatment for ARMD in conventional medicine.
Macular Degeneration Case Study
Linda came to me with the "wet" form of age-related macular degeneration (ARMD), the leading cause of vision loss and blindness in people over the age of 65. She had had laser procedures 3 months prior to coming into the clinic. After reviewing the medical records from Linda's recent eye exams, I treated her with acupuncture (body points, scalp points, ear points) and prescribed herbal medicine. Two months later she showed improvement as measured in visual acuity testing and also showed marked improvement in her scoring on color testing and overall visual fields.
I also teach my patients how to do self-massage around the eyes. Eye massage is popular in China to prevent children from becoming near-sighted. For mild eye problems, these simple massage techniques can be of great benefit. In severe cases, eye massage is a useful supplement. Through the guidance of an acupuncturist who has been trained in this therapy, a patient can easily learn eye massage and do it at home for mild eye disease like dry eyes and eye strain.
Eat Right for your Eyes
There has been extensive research done on the importance of specific foods and dietary supplements for people with degenerative eye diseases. Diet, supplements and vitamins can slow the progression of macular degeneration and retinal disease[iii], and when combined with acupuncture and herbal treatment provide a course of treatment that is more effective. For example, blueberries improve night vision, affecting the production of visual purple and assisting the optic nerve.
Goji berries have been used for 6,000 years by herbalists in China to protect the liver, help eyesight, boost immune function, improve circulation, and promote longevity. Goji berries, also known as Lycium barbarum, wolfberry, gou qi zi, and Fructus lycii are usually found dried. They are shriveled red berries that look like red raisins.
Goji berries are rich in antioxidants, particularly carotenoids such as beta-carotene and zeaxanthin. One of zeaxanthin's key roles is to protect the retina of the eye by absorbing blue light and acting as an antioxidant. In fact, increased intake of foods containing zeathanthin may decrease the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (ARMD).[iv]
About the author
Shengyan ‘Grace’ Tan, PhD, MD (China), OMD (China) served as an acupuncturist, herbalist, and clinical supervisor in the ENT and Ophthalmology Department of the teaching hospital of Chengdu University of TCM for four years. She has also served as a clinic interpreter, instructor, and lecturer and has published several peer reviewed papers. She is the first PhD-trained TCM practitioner specializing in ophthalmology to teach in the United States. Dr. Tan brings energy, knowledge, and clinical experience to the AOMA faculty. At AOMA Tan teaches TCM Diagnostic Skills I and II, Herbal Safety, Herbal Patents, and Clinic Theater 1, and supervises clinic rotations. She has been a faculty member, clinical supervisor, and acupuncturist at AOMA since 2011.