AOMA Blog

Chinese Medicine: Why do we get colds when it gets cold?

Posted by Sarah Bentley on Mon, Feb 03, 2014 @ 12:59 PM

Upper respiratory infections such as colds or the influenza virus are prevalent during the cold months of the year, but can be caught all year round. Typical symptoms are headache, coughing, sore throat, stuffy and running nose and body aches.

Pores are the windows of your body

During hot climate seasons like summer, the pores of our skin are wide open. These pores on our skin are like the windows of our body. They can help with releasing the heat from our body and promoting sweating. When the weather gets cold, our body starts to close these ‘windows’ entirely, so it can prevent the external wind and cold from entering. The process of these windows closing, however, is slow and adjusted according to the weather changes. Therefore, if the temperature suddenly drops and the windows are still open, we’re easily vulnerable to a wind-cold pathogenic factor attacking us.

Releasing the Exterior

Acupuncture has been used for thousands of years to help enhance the immune system and ward off illness. Its immunostimulating functions treat all types of upper respiratory infections -- including colds -- effectively, achieving a quick recovery without side effects. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) views colds and flus as pathogenic invasions that can easily be expelled using certain treatment points and herbs. This is called “releasing the exterior” in TCM.

Why do some people easily catch colds, but others not so often? In biomedicine, we often say those people who have strong immune systems are less likely to catch cold. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, we say these people have strong defensive Qi (or wei qi). Their body has a quick adjustment to the environmental changes around them. In other words, they can close their windows faster, allowing their body surface to be sealed so wind-cold pathogens have no chance to get in.

When a wind-cold pathogen enters our body, it causes sneezing, itchy eyes, runny nose, body aches, and headaches. That’s when we say, “You caught a cold.” In this case, your acupuncturist would recommend some pungent herbs to help the body expel the wind-cold pathogen. For example: ginger, onion and peppermint are the most commonly used herbs in herbal teas for common cold. 

Take a Ginger Bathchinese herbs ginger

A ginger bath can be very soothing and therapeutic when you are coming down with or already have a cold. Again, this helps to “release the exterior” and expel the pathogen. Take a large ginger root and let it boil in a pot of water until the water turns golden in color. Pour this into your hot bath and soak. You can also drink a cup of the ginger tea while you take the bath.

If caught in the early stages, especially within the first few hours of the onset of symptoms, acupuncture, herbal medicine, and qigong can be very effective at eliminating pathogens. Once illness has progressed beyond the early stages, Chinese medicine can be used as symptomatic relief and adjuvant therapy.

Introduction to Acupuncture & Herbal Medicine

Chinese Herbal Remedies for Colds

In the process of treating immunity, Chinese medicine also transports nutrients, improves circulation, balances the body, supports vital energy, and assists your body in maintaining its natural healthy state on its own. Several clinical studies have demonstrated that Chinese medicine reduces the incidence of upper respiratory tract infections and shortens the course of illness.

The Traditional Chinese Medicine herbal remedy most often used for people with weak defensive qi is called Jade Windscreen Formula. It contains:

Radix Astragali Membranacei (Huang Qi)

Radix Saposhnikoviae Divaricatae (Fang Feng)

Rhizoma Atractylodis Macrocephalae (Bai Zhu)  

It is suggested to take the formula 1-3 months before the cold season comes to help prevent the onset of the common cold and strengthen the defensive qi. While most Chinese herbal remedies require a prescription, there are certain brands that make the Jade Windscreen Formula that you can get without one.

acupuncture appointments in Austin

 

 

 

Topics: Traditional Chinese Medicine, self-care, chinese herbalism, herbal medicine, colds

Chinese Medicine School: Zang-fu Organ System

Posted by Sarah Bentley on Mon, Oct 21, 2013 @ 03:14 PM

You’ve probably heard someone describe the sensation of nervousness as having “butterflies in the stomach.” Perhaps you’ve referred to a person displaying restraint in the face of hardship as having a “stiff upper lip,” or a sensitive person as “wearing their heart on their sleeve.”

What about complimenting someone’s gallbladder when they accomplish something brave? Probably not, right?

This saying, often heard in China (and AOMA’s classrooms), has its foundations in the Traditional Chinese Medicine concept of the gallbladder as the source of courage and judgment. Attributing emotions, bodily manifestations, and physiological functions to organs is an important aspect of our medicine and an incredibly informative lens through which to view the body.

This practice is referred to as the Zang-fu system; it is a foundational tenant of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). It builds upon Yin Yang theory as well as Five Element theory and is used as a launching pad for more complex TCM diagnosis. (If you need to brush up on Yin Yang theory and Five Element theory, read our Chinese Medicine School posts on the topics.)

The Zang-fu consist of eleven organs in total—five of which are considered Yin in nature and six of which are considered Yang in nature. The five Yin organs—Liver, Heart, Spleen, Lung, and Kidney—are referred to as the Zang. The Zang are solid organs and are responsible for the generation and storage of Qi, Blood, Body Fluid, and Essence.

Every organ has unique characteristics and functions. They are also said to “open into” certain body parts (thereby controlling that body part’s functioning) and manifest in others.

Liverchinese medicine organs

Element: Wood
Physiologic Functions:

  • Stores Blood
  • Controls the flow of Qi throughout the body
  • Controls tendons and ligaments
  • Houses the Ethereal Soul (“Hun”)

Opens Into: Eyes
Manifestation: Nails

Heart

Element: Fire
Physiologic Functions:

  • Governs blood and controls the blood vessels
  • Houses the mind (“Shen”)
  • Controls sweating

Opens Into: Tongue
Manifestation: Facial complexion

Spleen

Element: Earth
Physiologic Functions:

  • Governs transportation and absorption of food and water
  • Controls the generation of ingredients for Blood
  • Holds Blood inside the vessels
  • Controls the muscles and the limbs

Opens Into: Mouth
Manifestation: Lips

Lung

Element: Metal
Physiologic Functions:

  • Governs Qi and respiration
  • Controls channels and blood vessels; Governs the exterior of the body
  • Controls dispersing and descending of substances in the body
  • Regulates water passage
  • Houses the Corporeal Soul (“Po”)

Opens Into: Nose
Manifestation: Hair of the skin

Kidney

Element: Water
Physiologic Functions:

  • Stores Essence
  • Governs birth, growth, reproduction, and development
  • Generates Marrow
  • Controls Bones
  • Controls water
  • Control the reception of Qi (“root” the breath)

Opens Into: Ears
Manifestation: Hair of the head

Each Zang is paired with a Fu—one of the Yang organs. The Fu organs are hollow. They primarily receive and transport food and water throughout the body. These more active functions are the reason they’re considered to be more Yang than Yin. The organs and their pairings are listed below.

Zang: Liver
Fu: Gallbladder

Zang: Heart
Fu: Small Intestine

Zang: Spleen
Fu: Stomach

Zang: Lung
Fu: Large Intestine

Zang: Kidneys
Fu: Bladder

Zang: Pericardium (Though not always grouped with the five Zang organs, the Pericardium is considered the protector of the heart; it is also an acupuncture channel.)
Fu: San Jiao (also called the Triple Warmer and Triple Burner)

Itcm school zang-fut is important not to conflate the TCM organ with the Western anatomical organ. For instance, the Spleen in TCM isn’t necessarily the organ that filters the blood. Some features do overlap—for example, the Heart being involved with blood —but it’s best not to think of the Zang-fu as literal organs, but rather consider them figurative entities.

Just as the Five Elements follow a generating and controlling sequence, the Zang-fu system can also be examined in this context. (For an overview of the Five Elements and to view the generating and controlling sequences, check out our blog post on the subject.)  

These controlling and generating sequences are used to visualize the source(s) of pathological conditions and can be used to approach a treatment. For example, it is said in TCM that if an element (or organ) is in excess, an acupuncturist should “sedate the child.” So, if the Liver organ was hyperactive in a patient, the acupuncturist may choose to sedate the Heart.

The Zang-fu system is an incredibly important and consequential method of TCM diagnosis: It influences the diagnostic decisions, treatment plans, herbal prescriptions, and overall understanding of acupuncturists and herbalists the world over. The Zang-fu organs (including the Pericardium) also constitute the twelve primary acupuncture channels and are consequently used on a daily basis by most practicing acupuncturists. Take a moment to review the Zang-fu system and soon you will discover an entirely new way of viewing the human body.

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Topics: Traditional Chinese Medicine, chinese medicine philosophy, acupuncture school, chinese medicine school, zang-fu

6 Local Chinese Herbs That You Probably Walk By Every Day

Posted by Sarah Bentley on Fri, Oct 04, 2013 @ 01:56 PM

When I started studying Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) I was overwhelmed with what seemed like the exotic nature of the plants we used. I developed a reverence for these plants and imagined they were somehow different, that they must be grown on the misty sides of mountains and tended by enlightened monks. I kept this notion for an embarrassingly long time, which was confirmed by my inept attempts to grow some of the herbs I thought would be able to take the Texas heat.

(protip: turns out you have to water and care for plants and just because the nursery sells it doesn’t mean it is a good match for my special kind of neglect.)

Fast-forward a couple of years and I had a nice little coincidence convince me just how wrong I was. We have to use the Latin names for herbs on our labels, so I started to get used to going back and forth between pin yin and Latin. Then I did a little work with the City of Austin invasive plant monitoring team, which involved a lot of pouring over lists of, you guessed it, Latin plant names. I started to see Chinese herbs everywhere and quite a few of them are considered invasive. So let’s go through a quick list of some Chinese herbs that you probably walk past almost daily.

 

Number one on the list of Central Texas invasive list that is also a Chinese herb:

study herbalism dandelion1. Taraxicum officinale or T. mongolicum – Common Dandelion – Pu Gong Ying

This perennial aster long considered the scourge of the suburban lawn also has an extraordinarily long history of use as medicine and food. The common name dandelion is a corruption of the French “dent de lion” meaning “tooth of the lion” which refers to the toothed or lacerate leaf margins.  The younger tender leaves are tasty in salads, the flowers can be used to make wine and the whole plant is used in TCM where it is listed as a Clear Toxic Heat herb and is one of the five herbs that makes the formula Wu Wei Xiao Du Yin so effective.

Harvest this plant when it starts to flower but before it goes to seed and dig as much of the long root as you can get. Let it soak in tepid water to loosen dirt and then remove any additional dirt with running water. Dry the whole plant on drying screens in the sun. You can separate the leaves and flowers as they will dry faster than the root and don’t need as much cleaning.

chinese herbalism2. Cyperus rotundus – Purple nutsedge rhizome – Xiang Fu

Hated is probably not too strong a word to describe how people feel about purple nutsedge. In fact, it is listed as one of the world’s worst weeds because it propagates vegetatively, is a perennial, and resists almost all control measures. It produces about inch long rhizomes, which is the part we want to use. The rhizomes can be separated from the roots and aerial portions of the plant, pressure washed and then put on a screen in the sun to dry. Xiang Fu is used in TCM as a qi-regulating herb mainly focused on liver qi stagnation.

 

 

 

chinese herb honeysuckle3. Lonicera Japonica – Japanese Honeysuckle – Jin Yin Hua

Honeysuckle does very well in Texas. It can take the heat and is pretty drought tolerant. If you are out hiking around in a greenbelt in Austin and keep a sharp eye you are likely to come across some. The key way to identify the Japanese honeysuckle is contained in the Chinese name. Jin Yin Hua translates as “gold silver flower”. If it has coral colored flowers then it is L. sempervirens and not what you want although the nectar is just as sweet and there is something about sucking the nectar out of honeysuckle that just brings out the kid in you.

Harvest this flower right as it about to open. If it has already opened it is too late. Then, because this flower is delicate, you should dry it quickly. It would be hard to get any appreciable amount of product from a wild stand of L. japonica as you will work pretty hard just to get a couple of grams of dried flowers.

 

So let’s talk about some trees that are everywhere in central Texas.

herbal program ligustrum4. Ligustrum luciduim – Glossy Privet – Nu Zhen Zi

This is so invasive that in just about any disturbed area near water you will find them, in fact unless controlled they can easily take over large stretches of mid-canopy trees in established forests. In the spring they have a very nice cluster of flowers that develops in late summer to a cluster of dark purple fruits. Each fruit contains one or two seeds and that is the portion used in TCM. Pick them when they are ripe, but you will have to beat the birds to them. Dry on a drying screen. You do not have to remove the seeds from the fruit to use as an herb.

In TCM Nu Zhen Zi is used as a Yin tonic and is frequently used in formulations for menopause.

 

 

 

 

herbal school5. Mimosa Julibrissin – Persian silk tree – He Huan Hua and He Huan Pi

This invasive is as likely to be found in disturbed park areas as it is to be in someone’s yard planted as a specimen tree because of its unusual and beautiful flowers. Both the flower and the bark are harvested but harvesting the flowers can be fiddly work. They are delicate and sticky and don’t all flower at the same time. They need to be cooled after harvest and then dried. According to Wilson Lau, president of NuHerbs, it takes 3 man-hours to properly clean half a kilo of He Huan Hua so that it looks like you are used to seeing it in clinic. Peg Schafer, author of The Chinese Medicinal Herb Farm harvests the flowers but recommends leaving them whole with the calyx and a bit of stem if need be, but to warn potential buyers that there are stems. The bark can also be harvested but, by in large, requires cutting down the tree or at least large branches.

Both the flower and bark of M. julibrissin are listed in the Calm Shen category of TCM herbs for constraint due to liver qi stagnation.

white mulberry6. Morus alba – White Mulberry tree

            Sang Ye                  Leaves

            Sang Bai Pi               Root Bark

            Sang Zhi                  Twigs

            Sang Shen Zi            Fruit

You are probably more likely to find M. rubra (red mulberry) here in Central Texas, but if you look closely you will find the species, M. alba (white mulberry) that is indicated for so many uses in TCM. If you do find one, what you have found is a runaway. M. alba was imported from China in an attempt to start a silk industry that was floundering because M. rubra, a sort-of native, was not the silk worm’s preferred species. That industry floundered further when they could not compete with the low wages paid in China and Japan. (Sound familiar?)  However large stands of M. alba still can be found in the panhandle of Texas where they were also planted as windbreaks. Some of our runaways come from those too.

So what is the difference?  Well, you can’t really tell from the fruit or the bark but you can see the difference in the leaves. Both M. alba and M. rubra have leaves that are anywhere from simple ovate leaves to ones that are deeply lobed but there are two distinguishing characteristics.  M. alba has leaves that are really shiny on the topside and the leaf margins have teeth, but think molars (slightly rounded) and M. alba has duller topsides and its leaf margins have teeth but think incisors (much sharper) You are also much more likely to find M. alba in full sun and M. rubra is more shade tolerant.  

This tree’s uses in TCM are varied, from dispelling wind heat, helping with cough, directing herbs to the shoulders and yin tonic. The most likely plant part you will be harvesting will be the leaves, which are frequently used. Pick them then wash in warm water and leave out on screens to dry. It’s just that easy. The twigs should be harvested from the higher parts of the tree, which can be dangerous over a certain height and will require some cutting and drying. If you want to prepare them the way the are prepared for use in China you will need some heavy duty cutting gear.

This is not a simple preparation and will require specialized equipment. However, the fruit doesn’t require anything but beating the birds, raccoons, and possums to it. Everybody loves mulberry.

 

So get out to the parks around central Texas and see if you can find all six of these Chinese herbs and if you do, think about processing them for personal use. Some things to think about when you are wild crafting is pollution, both air and water. If you are harvesting along Shoal Creek, say in Pease Park, think about where the water came from. It is largely rain runoff and it washes down oil, herbicides, and fertilizers just to name a few. Lamar Blvd. is a pretty well traveled street and every car that goes up and down it, is leaving behind combustion residue. The good news is that most of this stuff will make it into the soil where it often gets mechanically filtered and then bacteria and fungi in the soil go to work on many of the toxic substances. Of course, some of these chemicals are filtered out by the plants and not taken up in the roots and rarely make it to the leaves and fruits. As far as airborne pollutants go, washing the part of the plant you are going to use is a pretty good way to remove most of them.

About the author:

David Jones L.Ac., a graduate of AOMA, is one of the founders of The Third Coast Herb Co. where he is chairman of the board and the vice president of new product development, which is quite a mouthful so he prefers Chief Herb Nerd. 

Illustration notes and credits

T. Official – Medicinal Plants – An illustrative and descriptive guide Charles F Millspaugh M.D. 1892

C. Rotundus – Flora of China

L. Japonica – Fleur de Jardiner 1836

L. Lucidium – Curtis’s Botanical Magazine vol. 52 1825

A. Julbrissin – Missouri Botanical Society

M. Alba – Saint Hilaire Arb. Pl. 44 1824

Introduction to Acupuncture & Herbal Medicine

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Topics: Traditional Chinese Medicine, chinese herbalism, herbal medicine, chinese herbs

Chinese Medicine Nutrition: Benefits of Watermelon

Posted by Sarah Bentley on Mon, Aug 05, 2013 @ 11:45 AM

watermelonI was groomed from a young age to love watermelon. Growing up in Florida, almost every week in the summer my father would stop at a roadside stand and carefully select one of the heavy, green melons. There would be thumping, weighing and sniffing and finally he would select his prize. When we got home, he’d cut off the watermelon in large rounds, place it on a plate and eat it with a spoon--leaving behind just an empty, cylindrical rind and seeds floating in sweet juice. He would always cut me off a piece too and I’d enjoy this summertime ritual with my dad.

It wasn’t until I became a practitioner of Chinese medicine that I learned watermelon was way more than a sweet summer treat. It is actually a useful medicinal food in the summer, especially for those of us that live in very hot climates.

In Chinese medicine, foods and herbs have energetic properties that have specific healing capacities. Watermelon is described in Chinese medicine as affecting the heart, bladder and stomach. It clears heat and is cold in nature. As we all know, it is full of delicious juice, which nourishes the fluids of the body while helping to promote urination. This is a very effective strategy to help clear that summer heat from the body! In Chinese medicine it is said that heat can cause constipation, and watermelon is a wonderful antidote for this common ailment as well. Perhaps best yet, watermelon has a calming effect on the spirit and helps to ease frustration, restlessness and worry. So if rising mercury is making you irritable—make sure to cut yourself off a juicy slice!

watermelon2Waste not, want not: the seeds of the watermelon can also be used as medicine as well. Dried seeds can be boiled in water and consumed as a tea. The seeds are said to help the kidneys in Chinese medicine—helping to promote urination and also acting a vasodilator to lower high blood pressure.

Those who have a weak digestive system should enjoy watermelon sparingly. In Chinese medicine it is understood that cold foods and raw fruits and vegetables are hard on the digestive tract. Because of this, if you have gas and bloating, eat watermelon in moderation. You could also visit an acupuncturist in your area to help you improve your digestion-either using acupuncture, herbal medicine, or both.

From a western nutritional perspective, watermelon is high in carotenoids such as lycopene and antioxidants such as vitamin A and C. It is also high in electrolytes, which is why it is so good for helping us stay hydrated.

East or West—any way you look at it, watermelon is a healthy and delicious summer food. Watermelon is tasty enough on it’s own, but also check out the recipe below for another “cool” way to enjoy this yummy fruit.

Recipe—Cooling Watermelon, Tomato & Basil Salad

Ingredients:

2 cups ripe tomato, cubed

2 cups watermelon, cubed

¼ cups pine nuts

1 Tbl. fresh mint, minced

1 Tbl. fresh basil, minced

Pinch of sea salt

Instructions:

1. Place all ingredients, except for salt, in a bowl and toss together until combined.

2. Sprinkle the salt over the top and stir again. Chill, then enjoy!

 

References:Kendra Lay Acupuncture Physician

Healing with Whole Foods by Paul Pitchford

The Tao of Healthy Eating by Bob Flaws

The World’s Healthiest Foods by George Mateljan

About the author:

Kendra Lay, AP, LAc, ACN is a graduate of AOMA practicing in Florida. She specializes in combining Chinese medicine with modern nutrition. Visit her website at www.KendraLay.com

Introduction to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Nutrition

Introduction to Acupuncture & Herbal Medicine

Topics: Traditional Chinese Medicine, nutrition

Chinese Medicine Nutrition: 5 Foods for Summer Heat

Posted by Sarah Bentley on Tue, Jul 23, 2013 @ 04:04 AM

MungBeans-957096-edited

The practice of Chinese dietary therapy comprises of choosing specific foods to cause a desired change in health. Summer is the season of active growth and heat. Energy is strong and rises easily. Here are some TCM nutrition tips on how to “eat for the heat.”

The dominant organ in the summer according to TCM is the Heart[1]. A common excess pattern in summer is known as “Heart Fire.” Some of the symptoms of heart fire are: irritability, mental restlessness, dream-disturbed sleep, thirst, mouth ulcers, red face, and palpitations. When this pattern occurs the “fire” dries out fluids (yin substances). Due to the intimate relationship between the Heart and Small Intestine, the heat tries to eliminate through increased urination. It is best to eat foods that are cooling in nature and to avoid excessive alcohol as well as spicy, rich, and greasy foods.

5 Foods for Summer Heat

Mung Beans

Sweet & cool
Nourish Heart & Stomach
Clear toxic heat, summer-heat, and promote urination
Help lower blood fat and renew arteries
Low fat, high fiber, high protein, high iron
Cautions: Not suitable for Spleen deficiency type diarrhea (chronic loose or watery stools, poor appetite, fatigue, abdominal distention after meals)

 Eggplanttcm nutrition eggplant

Sweet & cool
Strengthens Spleen, regulates Stomach, nourishes Liver
Clears heat, promotes urination, and reduces edema

Coconut Milk

Slightly Sweet, ranges from warm to neutral
Nourishes Spleen, Stomach, & Kidney
Generates fluid, relieves thirst

Cucumber

Sweet & cold
Nourishes Stomach & Small tcm nutrition cucumberIntestine
Clears heat, relieves thirst, promotes urination, clears toxins

Watermelon

Sweet & cold
Nourishes Heart, Stomach, Bladder
Clears summer-heat, eliminates restlessness, relieves thirst, & promotes urination
Cautions: Not good for diarrhea due to Spleen deficient cold or for diabetics

Recipes

Chilled Cucumber Soup

4 cups cucumber, chopped
2 cups water or broth
1 cup yogurt
1 clove garlic (optional)
Several fresh mint leaves

Puree everything in the blender. Serve chilled. Serves 4-6.

Jade Green Soup

1/2 cup tofu, diced
2 cups leafy greens, chopped
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon oil (optional)
3 cups broth

Sauté or steam tofu 5 minutes. Add salt.
Add greens. Sauté 2 minutes.
Add broth and simmer until greens are bright-colored.

Enjoy!

References:

Lu, Henry. Chinese Herbs with Common Foods: Recipes for Health and Healing. Kodansha International 1997.

Pitchford, Paul. Healing with Whole Foods Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition. 2002. North Atlantic Books.



[1]  Within Chinese medicine, each “organ” is not just the actual, individual organ, but rather a whole system unto itself that regulates many aspects and functions of the body. There is a close relationship between these organ systems, the five flavors of food, and the elements.

Introduction to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Nutrition

Introduction to Acupuncture & Herbal Medicine

Topics: Traditional Chinese Medicine, nutrition

How to Become an Herbalist

Posted by Sarah Bentley on Thu, Jun 20, 2013 @ 10:26 AM

Dollarphotoclub_37986602-233321-edited-334777-edited

Herbalists are trained in the healing properties of medicinal plants and consult with their clients about how to improve their health with these natural preparations. The two most recognized ways to become a professional herbalist is by either becoming a Naturopathic physician or Chinese medicine practitioner.

herbal programHerbal Medicine Careers

Herbal medicine can be practiced and integrated into other professions in a variety of ways:

  • As a licensed acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist (in most states)
  • As a naturopathic physician (in some states)
  • As herbal educators in institutions/schools, industry/retail or community settings
  • Medicinal plant research (may include phytochemistry, pharmacognosy, agriculture/horticulture, botanical authentication, etc.)
  • Herbal medicine can create a niche market or clientele for landscapers, medicinal herb growers or plant nurseries
  • Massage therapists with herbal training, often include/utilize topical herbal preparations
  • Small scale herbal manufacturing with emphasis on tonic teas, medicated honeys and topical preparations (food-like preparations or topical preparations are the least invasive and least problematic legally)

Herbal Medicine Programs

Herbal medicine programThe American Herbalist Guild (AHG), a non-profit, educational organization that works to promote a high level of professionalism and education in the study and practice of therapeutic herbalism, recommends that a program of herbal education includes courses in botany, therapeutic herbalism and pharmacognosy (the study of drugs derived from plants and other natural sources). Classes in basic human sciences, including anatomy, pathology, physiology and nutrition are also a fundamentally important part of the curriculum. In addition, the AHG recommends students get training in counseling, physical assessments, dosing strategies and other clinical skills.

The study of Chinese herbalism usually occurs within an accredited acupuncture and Oriental medicine program. The herbal curriculum within most Chinese medicine programs will include an in-depth study of the Chinese Materia Medica, theoretical principles and practical application of traditional Chinese dietetics, individual herbs and their functions, hands-on herbal labs, preparation of herbal formulations, and modification of classical formulas.

Apprenticeships

Apprenticeships are incredibly helpful in integrating the “knowing and the doing”.  Apprenticeships are not a typical component of most western herbalism programs but are often sought after by herb students looking for a supervised introduction to working with clients and gaining valuable clinical experience.

The American Herbalist Guild has a mentoring program that supports student practitioners (or mentees), to develop their clinical skills by linking student practitioners with those who have significant clinical herbal experience.

Students who study herbal medicine within an accredited Chinese medicine degree program students practice herbal formulation with modifications as well as prescribe Chinese patent herbs under supervision. A minimum of 72 hours of herbal clinic internship hours are required in AOMA’s herbal program.

Recognition

Currently, the US healthcare system does not recognize western herbal practitioners as healthcare providers in and of themselves. There are currently no federal or state agencies that regulate western herbal practice. Naturopathic doctors are licensed to use this therapeutic modality in the 17 states that recognize ND’s as primary care providers.

While some countries have minimum education standards to be an herbalist, standards are not the same between or even within countries. Medical herbalists are licensed by The National Institute of Medical Herbalists (NIMH), the UK’s leading professional body representing herbal practitioners. Members are required to have professional indemnity, public liability and medical malpractice insurance.

To practice Chinese herbal medicine in most states, one must also hold an acupuncture license, although states vary in their requirement of other TCM components like herbal medicine. Almost all licensing states require completion of the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine’s(NCCAOM) national written exam which offers distinct certification programs in acupuncture, Chinese herbs, and Asian bodywork.

Download Guide to Career in Traditional Chinese Medicine

 

About the author:

Jbecome an herbalistenny Perez has been working to re-connect plants and people for more than 15 years by sharing her passion and practices of urban horticulture, kitchen medicine and therapeutic nutrition. She managed the Bastyr University medicinal herb garden for 7 years, was adjunct faculty for their Botanical Medicine Department for 5 years and created and directed the Holistic Landscape Design certificate program.  Currently, she works as the Education Coordinator for the American Botanical Council. Founded in 1988, the American Botanical Council is a leading international nonprofit organization using science-based and traditional information to promote responsible use of herbs, teas, medicinal plants, essential oils, and other beneficial plant-derived materials.

 

Topics: Traditional Chinese Medicine, chinese herbalism, herbal medicine

Chinese Medicine School: Basic Yin Yang Theory

Posted by Sarah Bentley on Mon, May 20, 2013 @ 12:42 PM

The introductory tenets of Yin and Yang are among the first subjects AOMA students learn in Chinese medicine school. The theory is one of the foundational principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine and its elegant wisdom guides students throughout their years at AOMA and acupuncture school.

When we hear the phrase “Yin and Yang” many of us may first think of the Yin Yang symbol so ubiquitous on key chains, college posters, childhood doodles, and t-shirts throughout the country. The theory of Yin and Yang is much more profound than an image on an old t-shirt may lead you to first believe, however.  This ever-present symbol is called the Taijitu. It’s the universal symbol for the theory of Yin and Yang and of Taoism.

Yin and Yang can initially be understood as darkness and light. Yin (the black part of the Taijitu) is the “shady side of the mountain,” while Yang (the white portion of the Taijitu) is classically referred to as the “sunny side.” From here, we can attribute many characteristics to either a Yin category or a Yang category. Some of the more common examples of Yin and Yang include:  

Yin:

  • Nighttime
  • Fall and Winteryin yang_chinese medicine school
  • Female
  • Right
  • Cold
  • North and West
  • Darkness
  • Substance
  • Slow
  • Wet
  • Lower part of the body
  • Front of the body
  Yang:
  • Daytime
  • Spring and Summer
  • Male
  • Left
  • Warm
  • South and East
  • Light
  • Energy
  • Fast
  • Dry
  • Upper part of the body
  • Back of the body

Yin and Yang

Though Yin and Yang can be understood individually, they cannot exist separately. They might seem like opposites—and do typically represent two different sides of one coin—but their properties are actually complementary and dependent on one another.

This indivisibility is a central aspect of Yin and Yang. Without Yin, Yang cannot exist. Without Yang, Yin is not present. Yin and Yang are inseparable; just as we cannot have only sunny days throughout the year, we will not only have cloudy either.

Another important element in Yin Yang theory is the concept that Yin and Yang can change into one another. Clouds can give way to sun in the same way that Yin can be transformed into Yang. Within Yin, the seed of Yang exists; within Yang, Yin is always present. This dynamic balance between Yin and Yang is represented in the Taijitu symbol by the small circle of opposite color within each half.

As a consequence of this nature, Yin and Yang can be divided infinitely. For instance, we might say that a cloudy day is Yin while a sunny day is Yang. However, we can divide the cloudy day into Yin parts (the nighttime of the cloudy day, as an example) and Yang parts (the morning of the cloudy day). We can then further divide the Yang (morning) part of the cloudy day into Yin and Yang, and so on.

Yin and Yang is a theoretical way to understand the natural dualities present in our world, our relationships, and within ourselves. The simple wisdom gained through an understanding of Yin and Yang enriches our lives and constantly reveals itself in our medicine and personal experiences.

Applying the theory of Yin and Yang to our everyday living is simple and rewarding. Recognizing the natural ebb and flow of our world will allow you a comfort in your current circumstances and in your future, while providing an illuminating viewpoint from which to see our Yin and Yang world.

About the author:

Carly Willsie enjoys putting Yin Yang theory into practice as an acupuncture school student and tutor. Carly grew up on a dairy farm in upstate New York and has a background in journalism and publishing.

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Topics: Traditional Chinese Medicine, chinese medicine philosophy, yin/yang theory, chinese medicine school

TCM & Ear, Nose, Throat Health

Posted by Sarah Bentley on Tue, Apr 16, 2013 @ 08:37 AM

TCM__Ear_Nose_Throat_Health.jpg

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Otorhinolaryngology is a clinical science that studies the disease of the ear, nose and throat under the guidance of TCM theories in combination with the clinical syndrome differentiation of modern TCM.

Holistic approach

Viscera are the material basis of the physiological functions of the human body, and meridians and collaterals are the channels where qi and blood of the human body circulate, and through which the general organs communicate with limbs. Normal function of the ear, nose and throat depends on the coordinative activities of viscera, meridians and collaterals, while the pathological changes of the ear, nose and throat result from the dysfunctions of one or more regions of viscera, meridians and collaterals as well. Therefore, the analysis of the clinical manifestations of disease of the ENT should be connected with viscera, meridians and collaterals, and should not individually consider the local pathological changes of the ENT. This also embodies the concept of TCM holism.

How TCM treats ENT

Acupuncture and herbs treat disorders of the internal organs, channels, and collaterals rather than focus on symptoms and signs. Generally speaking, from Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) theory, the ear is connected to the "kidney", which physiologically stores "essence". When the kidney essence reaches the ears, the patient has normal hearing. Sufficient essence ensures the generation of brain marrow which is closely related to the human balance function. If brain marrow is deficient, vertigo and tinnitus occur. Besides the kidney, other internal organs like liver and gallbladder, lung, heart, spleen are also related to ear disorders. TCM treatment often leads to fewer side effects compared to conventional medicine.

Case Study: Mr. Cedar

Mr. Cedar came to our clinic with an itchy nose, persistent sneezing, nasal obstruction, and clear nasal discharge. He had been experiencing allergic rhinitis symptoms for more than a year, and noted they get worse when he’s tired. We treat this patient once every week with body acupuncture (LI 20, LI 4, LU 9, Yingtang) and ear acupuncture (internal nose, lung, endocrine and kidney) and prescribed him Chinese herbal medicine (Jade-screen powder in combination with Decoction for reinforcing middle energizer and replenishing Qi). One month later Mr. Cedar is getting much better after this treatment.

Chinese Herbs for ENT

Chinese herbal medicine is very individualized for each patient and scenario. So, depending on the syndrome differentiation and current symptoms, the herbs prescribed will be unique. In general, most aromatic flavor and light texture herbs will be useful.

The herbal patent medicine “Jade Screen” (yu ping feng san), is known to strengthen the immune system when taken regularly. Cang Er Zi (xanthium) is often added to this formula when nasal passage obstruction with thick nasal discharge is present.

Diet and Exercise

Every patient is different, so it is important to consult a licensed acupuncturist. In general, cut down on dairy products and sweets, since traditional Chinese medical theory believes these suppress the spleen to retain more damp, which will worsen the allergy symptoms.

Exercises like taiji, qigong, and meditation can help the ENT diseases by increasing the immune system and supporting the defensive qi in our body. TCM believes “if the body’s healthy, qi is sufficient, no evils will make disturbance”.

 

Author:

Shengyan ‘Grace’ Tan, PhD, MD (China), OMD (China) is an Oriental medical doctor of Otorhinolaryngology. After completing her PhD, Dr. Tan worked for four years as an acupuncturist, herbalist, and clinical supervisor in the ENT and Ophthalmology Department of the teaching hospital of Chengdu University. She is the first PhD-trained TCM practitioner specializing in ophthalmology to teach in the United States.

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Topics: Traditional Chinese Medicine, Dr. Grace Tan, ENT, allergic rhinitis, AOMA clinic

Traditional Chinese Medicine Approach to Nutrition: Eat What You Need

Posted by Sarah Bentley on Fri, Mar 01, 2013 @ 01:20 PM

Our society is bombarded with the latest designer diet every day. There are so many ways to approach the topic of healthy eating: multi-vitamins, probiotics, fiber, etc. But are all these supplements and foods appropriate for your body? What does your body really need?

A holistic philosophy, like the traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) approach to nutrition, would be to listen to what your body is asking for and not to subscribe to advertisements or trendy diets. Eat what YOU need. But how do you know the difference in what you need and what you crave

Body types

There are many unique body types according to traditional Chinese medicine. This isn’t the same as eating right for your blood type (possibly another trend). Simply put, what may be healthy for your friend may not really be the best nutrition for your body or your digestion. Take fiber as an example: people suffering from constipation need to eat lots of green leafy vegetables. But too much fiber would not be good for someone who has loose stools or even worse, suffers from something like ulcerative colitis, or bloody stools. See recommendations for colitis below.

So, how can you find out what your body type is? Do you run cold or hot? Do you have a tendency towards constipation or loose stools? Are you overweight or underweight? These are a few of the factors in defining your unique body type or constitution. It is recommended to contact a licensed acupuncturist for a consultation.

tcm nutritionWhat foods do I need?

How can you find out what types of foods are best for you? Through a comprehensive medical history questionnaire, and tongue and pulse diagnosis, TCM practitioners strive to determine the differentiation pattern of each person to make a unique treatment plan and dietary recommendations. Depending on the diagnosis, a TCM practitioner can suggest foods based on the treatment for these TCM patterns.

For instance, many hypertension cases can have the differentiation pattern of hyperactive Liver yang. Suggested foods would be those that help to clear heat and reduce hyperactive yang. Someone with high blood pressure (caused by hyperactive Liver yang) would do well to drink a cup of juice made from fresh celery and tomato every morning. Of course, there are many other food recommendations for hypertension. For more about TCM treatment of hypertension, read our previous blog post. 

Healing with Whole Foods

Many practitioners of Chinese medicine would agree that Paul Pitchford’s Healing with Whole Foods is considered the bible of TCM nutrition and use it as a resource. You can look up the properties of specific foods along with recipes for the foods. The book also addresses seasonal and environmental connections according the TCM philosophy, organ systems, disease syndromes, and recommendations for chronic imbalances.

Here’s an excerpt from the book about colitis and enteritis:

These inflammations of the colon and small intestine can be generated by emotional repression and the related energy stagnation of the liver…Typical symptoms of intestinal inflammation include abdominal pain and cramping, diarrhea, and rectal bleeding in severe cases. Because food is not being properly absorbed, there is often weight loss and weakness.

In intestinal inflammations of all types, chewing food well breaks it down better so that it is less irritating, stimulates proper pancreatic secretion, and provides well-insalivated complex carbohydrates which as like a healing salve on the intestinal coating. Raw food is not tolerated because it easily irritates delicate surfaces of inflamed intestines. Many of the symptoms of enteritis and colitis can be caused by dairy intolerances, which are sometimes merely intolerances to the poor quality of the dairy products used.

At this point Pitchford refers to a section of the book on dairy recommendations which include:

  • Full fat milk (avoid low-fat dairy)

  • Goat’s milk is preferred

  • Raw milk (if available)

  • Soured and fermented products: yogurt, kefir, buttermilk, etc

  • Avoid homogenized milk

Simple idea: Listen to your body

With so many mixed messages in the media about the “miracle” diet, it’s not a wonder that we are confused about what to eat. By following some simple ideas based on a holistic approach to nutrition and listening to your body, you can discover what your body really needs to thrive as YOU.

Author: Dr. Violet Song’s medical practice focuses on female disorders, stress, insomnia, hormonal disorders, respiratory diseases, facial acupuncture, as well as pediatric herbal consultations. She also has a passion for dietary and Chinese herbal consultations. She is a faculty member and practitioner at AOMA.

Introduction to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Nutrition

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Topics: Traditional Chinese Medicine, nutrition, Dr. Violet Song

5 Tips to Get Your Insurance Company to Pay for Acupuncture

Posted by Sarah Bentley on Tue, Feb 26, 2013 @ 04:05 PM

1. Write to your insurance company and your employer

acupuncture insurance

If you have an insurance plan that doesn’t cover acupuncture one of the best things you can do is to write a letter to your insurance company, and to your Human Resources representative if you receive insurance benefits through your employer. Your insurance company can make changes at the next renewal of your policy or risk losing your business, and often your employer is involved in choosing which benefits will be included in a corporate-sponsored insurance policy.

Over the past several months AOMA has been spearheading a letter-writing campaign to national insurance companies and local employers, petitioning them to open their networks more fully to acupuncture coverage. To participate in AOMA’s letter-writing campaign please contact sowenby@aoma.edu and we can provide you with a form letter to send, or call 512-492-3076. You can also speak to a clinic receptionist at your next appointment and they will provide you with a form letter and a stamped envelope. If you would like to give your feedback to your insurance company over the phone or electronically, detailed contact information can usually be found on the back of your insurance card.

NOTE: Some insurance companies like Cigna and Aetna have closed networks, meaning they place restrictions on allowing new providers to join based usually on geographical location. If you are insured with one of these companies you can write a letter petitioning them to open their networks up to AOMA’s providers and allowing you to use your insurance benefits at the AOMA Professional Clinics.

Thank you in advance for helping AOMA to transform new lives and communities!

 

2. Encourage friends and co-workers to write letters.

If you receive insurance benefits through your employer this is especially important because you need to let your company know that there is a high demand for acupuncture coverage among its employees! With large numbers of employees touting the benefits of acupuncture and asking for it to be a covered service, an employer is more likely to research acupuncture and consider adding it to the company insurance plan.

 

3. Get involved with acupuncture activism.

Getting involved with acupuncture activism can range from things as simple as signing your name to a petition to joining acupuncturists and acupuncture supporters for demonstration rallies. The Texas Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (TAAOM) website has information about upcoming events and governmental affairs relating to the practice of acupuncture, or you can contact them for more information on how you can help.


4. Talk to your acupuncturist.

If your insurance company places restrictions on the acupuncture coverage on your policy (ex. Acupuncture for treatment of pain only, a small number of covered visits per year, etc.) please talk to your acupuncturist. They may be able to help you navigate the confusing world of insurance and acupuncture, and can possibly help you get coverage for additional treatments. If you are a patient of the AOMA Clinics please feel free to contact sowenby@aoma.edu for any help communicating with your insurance company or understanding your benefits.

 

5. Change your insurance policy or company.

If you purchase your own insurance it may be relatively simple for you to change your individual policy, add coverage for acupuncture by purchasing alternative medicine “riders,” or even switch your insurance company. If you receive insurance through your employer, talk to your Human Resources representative to find out if there are different plan types for you to choose from. However, most insurance policies are purchased annually and can only be changed during annual renewal or open enrollment periods.

Introduction to Acupuncture & Herbal Medicine


Topics: Traditional Chinese Medicine, Complementary Medicine, insurance coverage

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