Chinese Medicine considers preventative care as important as treating the disease itself. If we cultivate our health we can prevent illness and injury from occurring and minimize their consequences when 'disease evils' do attack us. Join Kath Bartlett, MS, LAc as she shares thoughts, news articles, recipes & tips derived from a wide variety of source material, as it relates to Chinese medicine and cultivating optimal health for the body, mind and spirit.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Acupuncture for Management of Work-Related Stress and Anxiety

Guest Blogger: Kristen Danish, LAP

It seems that stress has become an all too familiar work companion for most people.  Whether caused by work relationships, getting to and from work, or the work itself, stress shows up and the effects of it come in many forms.

What is stress?   It’s a normal physiological response to the demands of life, the physical adaptation to deal with the impending dangers of the natural world.  It can help improve your chances of survival by increasing hormone levels, heart rate, breathing and mental awareness. Stress can even assist you to work and perform more effectively when needed for your job when the pressures on.

Our bodies are designed to help us react to stressful events.  At the first sign of a threat, whether real or perceived, our sympathetic nervous system activates and facilitates our “fight or flight” response.  Our heart rate increases, our pupils dilate, and our digestion temporarily shuts down, directing more blood to our extremities, so that if need be, we can either fight what is threatening us or turn and run if it is too formidable. 

When we are healthy and the stress is short-lived, we are usually able to recover without too much wear and tear on our overall health.  However if stress is on-going for a long period of time or becomes extreme, our emotional health and ultimately, our physical health begins to suffer.

The flight or fight response is great if we’re avoiding a car accident or responding to a bear sighting on a hike.  However, it the “threat” is a demanding boss, nasty co-worker or even a worrisome situation that is not being resolved, this response does not serve us as intended.  Quite often, the stress in our lives is long-term and as a result we find ourselves in a constant state of “flight or fight.”  Over time, this condition takes its toll.  Cortisol, the body’s stress hormone elevates, blood pressure increases, and our immune function is suppressed. If not relieved, these symptoms will become worse and can develop into anxiety, depression, fatigue, digestive problems, tight shoulders, and tension headaches.  This continual stressed state is detrimental to your reserves of vitality and energy which begins to interfere with your ability to fight off disease. 

It has been difficult to develop a controlled, blinded study measuring the effects of acupuncture on stress relief.   However, a recent study conducted by researchers from Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, D.C., it was shown that when treated with electro-acupuncture properly, neuropeptides, the protein that are increased to handle stressful situations, were measurably reduced.  Published in the journal Experimental Biology and Medicine on January 1, 2012.  In another study conducted by 2 researchers at Yale University School of Medicine, a group of patients was assembled for a blind, randomized,  controlled trial.  The patients were undergoing surgery which created an acute anxiety condition.  The study found that while acupuncture treatment did not produce physiological changes, subjects who received acupuncture experienced a profound change in their behavioral anxiety levels.  In addition, they stated that “The results of the study suggest that acupuncture may be an effective treatment for individuals experiencing intense levels of daily stress and anxiety.”

In Chinese medicine, stress, anxiety, depression or any strong emotion interrupts the smooth flow of energy throughout the body.  We look at all of the different “channels” of energy to find where it is moving either too fast, too slow, or has become stagnant.  The channels are related to and named after different organs, for example, with stress we are generally interested in the TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) liver organ system.  When the body is overworked or overwhelmed by stress, it tights up. This tightening affects the TCM Liver organ and related channel. The Liver is responsible for moving qi (energy) throughout the body. When the body tights up due to stress, the Liver qi becomes inhibited,  slows down and become blocked.  These blockages lead to all of the symptoms resulting from too much stress. 

Through acupuncture, these energy blockages can be addressed.  Acupuncture points energize and get the channels flowing smoothly again.  Treatments not only alleviate the symptoms of stress and anxiety, but the stress itself, helping to prevent further symptomatic episodes caused by it.  By balancing the mind and body, our reactions to the same situations can be calmer, more relaxed and less upsetting.  This is referred to as a sense of well-being and is long lasting, especially with some effort by the patient.

From a Western medical viewpoint, acupuncture works to alleviate stress by releasing neurotransmitters and natural pain-killing endorphins from the brain.  In addition, acupuncture improves circulation of blood, which oxygenates the tissues and cycles out cortisol and other waste chemicals.  The calming nature of acupuncture also lowers blood pressure, decreases heart rate if needed, and relaxes the muscles and mind. 

By using acupuncture for stress, the entire body and mind become balanced and stronger and better able to handle the next situation that shows up in life.  There is no down side, it’s relatively painless and the only side effects are increased relaxation, more energy and a better nights sleep.

This post was written for Bartlett Acupunctureand Herbal Medicine by Karen Danish, LAP. Karen is a licensed physician and a valued staff member at AnneHermann MD, PA.


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Happy Chinese New Year - Year of the Water Snake

The Chinese lunar Year of the Water Snake began February 10th. 
The Chinese New Year's Days are also called the Spring Festival. The Spring Festival lasts 10 days, the Snake Year lasts one lunar year (12 months) until Jan. 30, 2014.

The Chinese lunar calendar began in 2697 BC when the Yellow Emperor (Huang Di) became king. The Yellow Emperor is important for Chinese medicine as he is credited for coalescing the Chinese medical knowledge at that time into one volume, The Yellow's Emperor's Classic (Huang Di Nei Jing) which lays out the basic theory of Chinese medicine. This volume is credited with being the world's oldest medical text. Chinese medical practitioners continue to study the this text today to gain a deeper understanding of the medicine.

Wikipedia tells the story of the order of the Chinese zodiac signs:

According to one mythical legend, there is a reason for the order of the 12 animals in the 12 year cycle. The story goes that a race was held to cross a great river, and the order of the animals in the cycle was based upon their order in finishing the race. In this story, the snake compensated for not being the best swimmer by hitching a hidden ride on the horses hoof, and when the horse was just about to cross the finish line, jumping out, scaring the horse, and thus edging it out for sixth place.

The snake symbolizes transformation: shedding of the skin, so expect some changes this year. Stephanie Dempsie notes on Huffington that it is important to do your research prior to making any big decisions during Snake years, as things are not always what they seem to be on the surface.

The water refers to the five element system, which we also use for diagnosis in Chinese medicine. The five elements are earth, air, water, fire and wood. The Chinese zodiac moves through these five elements. So one year is the water snake, another is the fire rabbit, and so on. You might think of water as a modifier to the zodiac sign.

The Taoists respect water for its ability to adapt and transform. It can be hard, as ice and break objects, such as rock. Or mutable and flowing, like a river and move around obstructions, like boulders. Water teaches us to be flexible in approaching the challenges that life presents.

Gung Hay Fat Choy

Photo: newtown grafitti, flickr Creative Commons 2.0

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Cancer Study Says Avoid Red Meat

This post comes from my colleague, Dr. Marty Eisen. A new study by the American Association for Cancer Research supports recommendations by the World Cancer Research Fund to limit red meat intake and avoid processes meats to reduce risk of digestive organ cancer.

Dietary protein is made up of amino acids, which can be turned into "biogenicamines." Previous research has shown that the processing and storage of red meat, like liver and salami, increases amine concentrations. When these amines are in the presence of nitrites, they create "nitrosamines,"which have been linked to cancer. Moreover, the heme iron (found in red meat) may increase the formation of nitrosamines.

A new study investigated whether people's DNA-repairing enzymes could limit the damage. A wide array of genetic variables were tested by using collected data from 355 bladder cancer cases and 409 controls. They found that the link between red meat and bladder cancer was significantly higher in people with a certain genetic makeup.

These results support recommendations by the World Cancer Research Fund to limit red meat intake, and to avoid processed meats to reduce risk for stomach and bowel cancer. It also suggests that exposure to red meat can affect secondary organs, like the bladder as well as the stomach and intestines. 

See -
Red Meat Linked to Another Type of Cancer
"Two components of red meat combined with alteration in DNA repair increase risk for bladder cancer," American Association for Cancer Research, October 17,2012.

In Chinese medicine, we see tumors as physical stagnations in the body. Qi (energy) must flow smoothly to preserve health. Emotions, such as depression or stress causes the body processes to slow down and tighten up. When this happens, qi does not move. Qi moves the body fluids and body. Qi stagnation causes blood and fluid stagnation. When blood and fluids coagulate, tumors form. 

Toxins, such as nitrosamines create heat and inflammation in the body. This interferes with the smooth flow of qi, blood and fluids, and hence tumors will form. 

In addition to avoiding know carcigens, TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) recommends regular maintenance acupuncture treatments to keep the qi, body and fluids moving, as part of a preventative care routine. A monthly interval for these maintenance treatments is optimal, especially during periods of stress.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Talk & Demonstration: Acupuncture for Pain Relief

7p Malaprops Tuesday Aug 14th.

  • Learn about acupuncture's effectiveness in treating various pain conditions including muscles & joints, back, neck, headache, gyn cramping, adhesions & stomach pain.    Yes, All Types of Pain.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Anti Cancer Effects of Maitake Mushroom

From my colleague Marty Eisen, LAc:

Research by Hiroaki Nanba, Ph.D., a professor of microbial chemistry at Kobe Pharmaceutical University in Japan, shows that one powerful mushroom can be used to treat cancer. Dr. Nanba administered Maitake mushroom to cancer patients. The patients took no anticancer drugs. Yet the mushroom helped to halt the cancer’s progression. Memorial Sloan-Kettering is one of the world’s premier cancer centers. Their experts are also recognizing the anticancer effects of this mushroom. They’ve completed trials that show it helps breast cancer patients.
Researchers found that this mushroom had anti-tumor effects also enhances immune function. Maitake also contains a highly-concentrated cancer-fighting compound known as D-Fraction. According to a 2009 study published the Journal of Cancer Research and Clinical Oncology, Maitake D-Fraction activates cells that help fight cancer and other health dangers. This includes T-helper cells, which direct your immune system to focus exactly where it’s needed most, macrophages, which engulf and consume cellular debris while keeping cells healthy, and natural killer (NK) cells that target tumor cells and destroy them.

Among the cancer patients Dr. Nanba treated, 86.4 percent saw an increase in NK cells. Maitake D-Fraction also suppresses production of other immune cells and so brings your immune system into perfect balance. Dr. Nanba says this potent substance is most effective against breast, liver and lung cancer.

Maitake can be found in health food stores. Look for formulas that combine Maitake powder and D-fraction.  Maitake D-fraction is available in both liquid and tablet form. A recommended formula yields at least 15 mg of D-fraction and 500 mg of Maitake powder.  You can also try the dried mushroom itself. Experts suggest a daily dose of 3-7 grams.

Photo: frakenstoen, Flickr Creative Commons 2.0

Friday, June 8, 2012

Studies Show Acupuncture Improves Athletic Performance

Studies are beginning to confirm acupuncture's ability to improve athletic performance. One example is a study of basketball players published in 2009 in the American Journal of Chinese Medicine. The study of 30 male elite university basketball players were randomly assigned to 3 groups: acupuncture group, sham group, and a control group. The acupuncture group got real acupuncture on 2 commonly used acupuncture points (P6 and ST36). The sham group had needles placed 1 cm away from the actual point location. The control group had no acupuncture. The subjects rode an exercise bike until exhaustion, and were tested at various intervals before, during and after exercise for heart rate (HT), oxygen consumption (VO2max) and blood lactic acid.

The acupuncture group had significantly lower heart rate, VO2max and blood lactic acid 30 minutes post exercise than the sham and control group. 60min post exercise the acupuncture group still had lower lactic acid.

The study's authors note:

In the athletic world, many nations have long strived for developing competitive advantages in sports by employing various scientific methods to improve the athletes’ peak performance in hope of winning competitions. Developing effective methods to help the athletes quickly recover from muscle fatigue after exercise training or fierce competitions and to help them achieve the best physiological situations is deemed essential, especially prior to international competitions. Acupuncture, one of the traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) techniques, has long been used in clinic to treat illnesses or release pains for thousands of years; it was also known to help in recovering from muscle fatigue after exercise. . .

From the scientific perspective, athletic ability can be a combination of various elements, including muscular strength, speed, power, muscular and cardiopulmonary endurance, flexibility, agility, and balance and coordination, among others. Cardiopulmonary endurance is perhaps the most essential element for all types of sports. VO2max is a fundamental indicator for measuring the cardiovascular endurance. The level of VO2max is one of the critical elements for succeeding in endurance sports because an upper limit of oxygen consumption does exist for each person. . .

During the normal exercise training, it is important to properly adjust the quantity of exercise, according to the regularity of dynamic changes in athletes, to prevent them from excessive exercise training or unbearable load. Prior to competitions, however, designing effective methods to help the athletes achieve the best situation so as to outperform others is immediately necessary. Since muscle fatigue was reported to closely relate to human performance (Bigland-Ritchie and Woods, 1984; So et al., 2007) and acupuncture has been regarded as an effective method to improve the rate of muscle recovery after exercise (Ehrlich and Haber, 1992; Qu et al.,1993; Lin et al., 1995;Wang et al., 1999), this study aimed to conduct scientific experiments on selected athletes to investigate in-depth the effects of acupuncture stimulation on recovery abilities.

These results indicated that acupuncture at Neiguan (PC6) and Zusanli (ST36) could significantly stimulate the post-exercise recovery of heart rate, oxygen consumption, and blood lactic acid for the elite basketball athletes. Our findings indicate that it is beneficial to carry out acupuncture at PC6 and ST36 acupoints, particularly on the eves of competitions, as to enhance the recovery ability for elite basketball athletes. This study has made an inspiring attempt to understand in-depth of the recovery system and physiological profile of basketball athletes by acupuncture. It would facilitate the coaches to provide more appropriate training schemes and recovery plans for the elite basketball athletes.

Photo: hitthatswitch, Flickr Creative Commons 2.0

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Chinese Medicine for Summer: Acupuncture for Sports Injuires & Herbal First Aid

Please join me for an interesting evening learning practical information about herbal first aid and acupuncture for sports injuries.

7p Malaprops - Tuesday June 12th 


  • Receive practical information about herbal first aid and the use of acupuncture for sports injuries.
  • Learn remedies you can do yourself to heal cuts, wounds, scars, burns, hives & rashes, including poison ivy.
  • See an acupuncture demonstration for pain relief, including sprained ankles.
  • Hear why acupuncturists recommend against using ice on injuries, after the first 24 hours.
  • Ask your questions during an informal Q & A and discussion after the presentation.
  •  Take home practical knowledge and handouts with directions

Enjoy this dynamic, informative & interesting evening.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Inspiration for Career Success: It's Not About the Money

I have a couple of inspirational clippings which live on my desk that i thought i might share. 

The first comes from Daniel Myrick, director of the Blair Witch Project, amongst others. the quotation comes from a 4/24/08 interview in the NY Times:

'Blair Witch' gave me some financial security at a time which I was having trouble coming up the money to pay the phone bill . . . being able to say no, to only make the work that you really love and have a good time doing it, is another way to be successful.

The second comes from Sherry Lansing's Success Rules for Graduates in the UCLA Alumni Magazine, fall/winter 2004 issue. At the time, Ms. Lansing was the chairperson of the Motion Picture Group of Paramount Pictures, a member of the UCLA Theater, Film & Television Dean's Advisory Board and a University of California Regent. 

The UCLA Alumni Magazine describes Lansing's rise:

Although Lansing's parents wanted her to marry and become an office assistant to her doctor boyfriend, she dreamed of being part of the movies."But at the at time, telling somebody that you wanted to be in the movie business was like telling somebody that your wanted to go to the moon, " she said.
 Undaunted, on the day of her graduation from Northwestern University, Lansing loaded up her car and headed to California. . . In 1980, at Twentieth Century Fox, she made history by becoming the first woman in the motion picture industry to hold the position of president of production.

These comments were part of a her keynote address to the UCLA Class of 2004, delivered 6/18/04. I have found these thoughtfully composed words a creed to live by:

  1. Follow your dreams.
  2. Be persistent.
  3. Enjoy the process, and the results will come. 
  4. Do the work. There really are no short cuts.
  5. Accept responsibility, especially for failures.
  6. Be yourself. Develop your own style.
  7. Change is good. New risks and new challenges keep you alive.
  8. Don't be afraid to fail. Fear of failure leads to mediocrity. If you play it safe you will make boring movies, boring plays and boring songs -- and, worse yet, you will live a boring life.
  9. Don't forget to have a personal life. Relationships with family and friends are simply the most important things in life.
  10. Don't forget the F word -- Fun. Try to have fun every day! Without fun, nothing else makes any sense. It's an important component of life, and humor and fun can get you through almost anything.

Both of these quotes are from a by-gone era, before the Great Recession, or the Lesser Depression, as Nobel prize winning economist Paul Krugman describes our current economy. So in some ways they seems naive and Pollyanna-ish in relationship to the present economic realities. Yet, an idealist at heart, I still yearn to live by these goals and trust that in doing so life's treasures will unfold before me.

 I want to add about Lansing's rule #10: my previous occupation was in the theater. I worked in LA and NYC on Broadway, film and television. My heart was always in the theatre: theatre is life. Something i noticed there that really left an impression, was the ability to find laughter in the gravest of circumstances. Theatre people work long hours: nights, weekends and holidays, in order to put on the show to entertain the masses. It gets stressful and fatiguing. Yet theatre people know how to diffuse all situations, tension, grief and anger, through laughter. They know how to laugh anything off. I found that a valuable lesson, learned in my early adulthood: the ability  to find the humor in any situation.                                       KB

Photo 1: tony_the_bald_eagle, flickr creative commons 2.0

Photo 2: Matthew Grapengieser, flickr creative commons 2.0

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Chinese Medicine for Women's Health: A Talk at Malaprop's

7p Tuesday May 8th

Please join me for an interesting discussion of women's physiology and health, from a TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) perspective. Women’s bodies and reproductive systems are more complicated than men’s and so more health problems occur for us.

In my 10+ years practicing I have seen so many different gyn conditions respond beautifully to acupuncture and Chinese herbal therapy, including ovarian cysts, PSOS, menstrual irregularities, cramping, hot flashes, emotional problems, headaches and amenorrhea. Complicated conditions, such as endometriosis also responds to Chinese medicine, given time.

Did you know that it is the stressful western lifestyle - go, go, go, drink more coffee, keep going & multitask - that causes many gyn conditions, especially PMS and peri-menopause? In Asian countries and the developing world peri-menopausal syndrome doesn't exist.

Learn lifestyle recommendations to prevent PMS and menopausal symptoms.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Case Study: Trigeminal Neuralagia & Sinusitis

Chief Complaint: Female age 63 presented with trigeminal neuralgia facial pain, worse with chronic sinusitis. Onset 7y ago. Worse in winter due to sinusitis: inflammation presses on trigeminal nerve, triggering pain. Swelling of right eye, center of lower eyelid. Frequent associated headaches.

Other symptoms: Celiac disease, food allergies which seem to trigger facial pain. Pain begins 20 minutes after eating offending foods: wheat products or anything with mold. Perennial allergies: onset birth – breast milk: red eyes, sneezing, nasal and sinus congestion. Shortness of breath. Fatigue, bruises easily, heavy limbs, weak muscles. Hypothyroid, diagnosed 47y earlier. RLS: .5mg Clonozepem nightly.

Pain: Described as electric, stabbing, shocking sensation. Over a 5y period, progressed from mild pain to severe pain. Aggravated with pressure applied to the affected area. Headache dull ache, level 8-9 [1-10 scale]. Red/purple coloration on scalp associated with increased pain.

Location: Foot Yang Ming Stomach (ST) meridian of face, in a line from the center of the lower eyelid to the lateral corner of the mouth. Foot Tai Yang, Bladder meridian & Du meridian, Governor’s vessel from vertex of the head to front hairline. Headache: Foot Shao Yang Gallbladder (GB) meridian, along hairline at forehead, left.

Tongue/Pulse: P: Right – hidden, Left – Weak. Tongue: Dusky, puffy with teeth marks. Constraint petechiae and red sides with red tip.

Treatment: Dr. Tan’s Balance Methodacupuncture + custom granule herbal formula. Tx #1: 8 magic points for digestive and lung disorders + ahshi points along the Large Intestine, Pericardium and Heart (HT) meridians between the elbow and wrist crease to treat the GB & ST meridian pain.

Tao Hong Si Wu Tang (Peach Seed & Safflower + Four Substance Decoction) + Sudden Smile Powder (Shi Xiao San) to treat pain due to blood stagnation: stabbing pain and dusky tongue indications poor blood circulation in the affected meridians (Foot Yang meridians + Du channel).
Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang (Augment the Center to Lift the Qi Decoction) to treat chronic sinusitis and weak Spleen: food allergies, weak, heavy limbs, bruise easily, fatigue, hypothyroid.
Dan Zhi Xiao Yao Wan (Augmented Rambling Powder): T: red edges and petechiae, Shao Yang headaches.
Jade Windscreen: Improve immune function: allergies.

Results: Marked decrease in pain after 1st acupuncture treatment. Facial pain: 1x/5days, stabbing pain, level 2 [1-10 scale]. Several mild headaches. No ear pain. Decreased facial swelling.

Treatment: repeated acupuncture and herbal formula. Slight modification to herbal formula to address allergies.

Result: After 1 week - Occasional pain: pressure to face causes mild, stabbing pain, level 2. No headache. 1 mild occipital headache, possibly due to caffeine. RLS: 2 nights. No nasal/sinus congestion or shortness of breath, occasional sneezing.

Treatment: Repeated tx #1. Modified herbal formula to increased heat clearing (red tongue).

Result:  One week later: Decreased facial pain: 2 twinges of stabbing pain, level 1. Facial swelling, sensitivity to touch. No RLS. Occasional sneezing, + post nasal drip, no congestion.

Treatment: Repeated tx #1, no HT channel points (no GB pain). Refilled herbal rx with modifications to address post nasal drip due to chronic sinusitis, including andrographitis (chuan xin lian), and facial swelling. Continued weekly acupuncture treatments and herbal therapy, with modifications, based on presenting symptoms for 2 weeks. Then decreased to monthly treatments and continued herbal therapy.

Result: 3 months after initial treatment: In past 2 weeks, no pain, no headache, no sinusitis, pressure or rhinitis. Occasional RLS associated with strenuous activity. Energy normal.       KB

Friday, March 2, 2012

Allergy & Sinusitis Talk 7p March 13th Malaprops

  • Are you perpetually tormented by itchy, watery eyes and runny nose during the spring & fall? 
  • Do you suffer from headaches and sinus pain? 
  • Is your breathing impaired from chronic sinus congestion
  • Are you tired of pills, shots and inhalers which may temporarily suppress symptoms but do not solve the problem? 
  • Would you like a different approach?

Consider Chinese medicine.

Kath Bartlett, Licensed Acupuncturist and Traditional Chinese Herbalist will discuss how acupuncture and Chinese herbs bring lasting sinus & allergy relief Tuesday, March 13th, 7p at Malaprops.

  • Discover how Chinese medicine relieves symptoms in the short-term while building immune function for a long-term solution.
  • Learn how anti-bacterial herbs treat sinus infections causing post nasal drip and chronic congestion.
  • See real patients receive instant pain relief during an acupuncture demonstration.

During this 45min talk, Bartlett will focus on environmental allergies – pollen, molds, pet dander – and chronic sinusitis. She will answer your questions about other types of allergens: foods and chemicals that cause G/I symptoms, hives and rashes during the Q&A and post-talk discussion about Chinese medicine.

Join Kath for an interesting, informative journey.

photo: Mcfarlandmo, flikr, creative commons 2.0

Friday, February 24, 2012

Remedies for Burns, Sunburns & Radiation

Here's a few ideas for burns, including those from radiation:

In my recent post on scar treatment, i discussed
Ching Wan Hung burn ointment . It's wonderful for burns of any kind, including radiation. It contains many blood moving herbs with heat clearing properties, to keep the blood circulating in the area, and menthol to clear the heat. It also treats insect bites and hot, red rashes and hives. My patients love it for all of these uses. 

In A Handbook of Traditional Chinese Dermatology,Liang Jian-Hui recommends decoction 60g of licorice root and applying it topically to the area with cold compresses. In Dermatology in Traditional Chinese Medicine Xu Yihou suggests making licorice oil by soaking 10g of licorice root in 100ml of vegetable oil for 24h. then cook on a low heat until the herb turns dark yellow. remove the licorice and use the oil. TCM herbalists often use sesame oil for topical balms, pastes and salves. In my Flying Dragon Liniment for muscle and joint pain, i use a combination of organic sesame, olive, castor and peach seed oils.

For radiation burns some practitioners suggest calendula gel or ointment, or honey. Manuka honey is highly regarded for its anti-bacterial properties. Tai Lahan's, author of Integrating Conventional and Chinese Medicine in Cancer Care: A Clinical Guide uses Spring Wind Burn Creme, citing successful case studies of it's use in her book. Spring Wind Burn Creme is being clinically studied by hospitals to document it's effectiveness in treating radiation burns.

Xu Yihou suggests making aloe cream by first pounding 45g of aloe to extract the juice. Gradually add 10g of gum arabic until the solution becomes milky. Lastly stir in 4.5g of eucalyptus oil. The creme can be applied 2-3x/day.

For ulcerating legions, Xu suggests making egg yolk oil, by heating 10-15 hard boiled egg yolks in a pan over low heat with 1t vegetable oil until a black oil separates. Apply the oil 2-3x/day. 

A colleague, Carrie Denaro, LAc of Blue Lotus Center for Health in San Diego, created this essential oil blend for a patient with favorable results. She says "It greatly relieved the pain and healed the skin":

Blend of 50% emu oil and 50% coconut oil in a 2-ounce jar (+)
10 drops of Blue Tansy essential oil
10 drops German Chamomile essential oil
10 drops Helichrysum essential oil
10 drops Niaouli essential oil
15 drops Lavender essential oil

It will stay solid if the room temperature is fairly cool.  If not keep it in the fridge to keep it solid and it becomes a nice cool soothing balm.

I would add that tamanu oil could be substituted for the emu oil, to avoid using an animal substance.

Xu says mild cases of radiation burns have a favorable prognosis with treatment, but severe cases are difficult to cure.

For sunburns, in Dermatology in Traditional Chinese Medicine Xu Yihou suggests decocting up dandelion (pu gong ye), purslane (ma chi xian), licorice, and a Chinese chrysanthemum (ju hua, flos chrysanthmi indici) applying as a compress 3-5x daily for 15-30 minutes. Manual of Dermatology in Chinese Medicine suggests a similar formula: ju hua, purslane, wormwood (qing hao, herba artemisiae annuae) and a Chinese herb long kui (herba solani).                    

TCM herbalists use a combination of topicals and internal formulas to treat burns. for first degree (redness) and superficial second degree burns (blistering), external treatments may suffice, depending on the intensity of pain. for more severe burns, internal formulas will also be required.     KB

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Case Study: Acute Back Pain Resolved in 2 Acupuncture Treatments

A gentleman (43y) came in to my office a couple of weeks ago complaining of acute lower back (lumbar) pain which radiated down the lateral side (outside) of the left leg (I/T band). He described stabbing pain, level 8 (1-10 scale). This had happened a year ago. After an acupuncture treatment from a colleague the pain resolved until this recent episode. 

Discussion of Back Pain Acupuncture Treatment

I used balance method acupuncture points in his right hand. The pain reduced immediately upon insertion of the needles. While he rested with the needles in place, I made up a custom herbal formula to circulate blood. In TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) theory, stabbing pain is due to blood stagnation, or poor blood circulation in the area. In western medicine, the radiating pain indicates possible nerve impingement, likely caused by a disc protruding and pressing on the nerve root. He had not had any imaging of the area.

Results of Acute Back Pain Acupuncture Treatment

He returned 3 days later for follow up treatment. The pain had much improved. It was no longer a stabbing nature. Now he experienced mild stiffness in the morning with no radiating pain. I repeated the acupuncture treatment in the hand and changed the herbal formula. As the stabbing pain had resolved, i gave him a formula improve qi circulation in the area. The stiffness indicated the qi was not moving in the acupuncture channels of the lumbar region.

He presented the following week for acupuncture treatment with no pain. I gave him one more acupuncture treatment to consolidate the effects. I advised him to call me if the pain returned. He left my office a happy camper.

Update: Long-term Results of Back Pain Treatment

A year or more later I received a referral from this satisfied patient. When I thanked him for the referral I asked about the back pain. He told me he's been fine ever since. 

This is what I hear from my pain patients. "Believe me, if I had pain, I would have called you". So like the Maytag repairman in the old ad, once patients finish treatment, I rarely hear from them.


Saturday, February 4, 2012

Cat Scratch Fever: Clinical Pearls for Wound & Scar Therapy

so I got into an altercation with my cat this week and wound up with some serious scratches on the eye area of my face. I was concerned about scarring, so i did some research and polled colleagues on their favorite remedies. The following is a compilation of the collective wisdom generously shared:

When the cat scratched my face (he landed on my head after falling) i had blood running down my face. my first imperative was to stop the bleeding. I keep a Chinese patent remedy, called Yun Nan Bai Yao in my medicine cabinet. It's an invaluable first aid to stop bleeding, and it works. Application method: apply the powder with gauze or cotton to the wound, and apply pressure. The herbs cause the blood to quickly coagulate. Add more as necessary until the bleeding stops. It won't take too long, unless it is a deep cut. The Vietcong famously carried Yun Nan Bai Yao with them in Vietnam to treat gunshot wounds because it does the job well. Once the bleeding has stopped you can bandage it up.

After i stopped the bleeding i thought i would leave it and let it rest. I had to go into the clinic, so i flew off a quick plea for help from colleagues and went on my way.

Later that evening i read through the wonderful advice offered. the first thing i learned is that conventional wisdom on wound healing has changed. You may remember the old school advice that says to leave the wounds open to the air to breath once the scab has formed, especially at night. Western medicine has changed is opinion on this, and have found that wounds heal faster if they are kept covered so that they remain moist and juicy. The scabs will produce scars.

Chris Macie writes:
From recent science, as well as tradition, keep open wounds covered, and juicy (as if internal, swimming in nourishment that repairs). Let the dressing plus the medium (be it Res-K or other TCM or traditional herbal, or modern bio-synthetic compounds) take the place of the scab!

The "science" -- couple of years ago, NY-Times Science section, Q&A dept: Question: better to leave wounds open to heal? (Or my Polish grandmother's advice: let wounds breath (open) at night). Answer: NO. Keep covered and in a healing, moist environment. Periodically cleaning and redressing, of course.
This makes sense from a TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) perspective. In TCM, we want to prevent stagnation. the scars are a result of Qi and Blood stagnation in the tissues. Keeping the wound moist allows for blood circulation, including the white blood cells and phagocytes to stop infections, and the various biochemicals and proteins needed to stimulate collagen and tissue regeneration. Scabs are dead blood due to blood stagnation. so it makes sense that although they provide a natural band aid to protect an open wound from infection, the stagnation would slow healing and promote the formation of scar tissue.

As the cat's claws were likely dirty, i cleaned the wounds with a mild soap and water solution, removing the scabs. Contrary to popular belief, and according to Medscape, studies do not demonstrate that hydrogen peroxide inhibits bacterial growth. So being as it stings like a #!?#@!, there is no longer a compelling reason to use it to disinfect wounds, though the bubbling action is helpful to loosen dirt and gravel.

An alumnae i interned with at PCOM (Pacific College of Oriental Medicine) Andrea Beth Damsky recalled receiving these directions from a hospital:
Keep the wound moist with Aquaphor or Vaseline. Do NOT use antibiotic ointments or creams such as neosporin because these increase the possibility of an allergic skin reaction. The purpose of the Aquaphor or Vaseline is to keep the wound moist and prevent scabbing, because moisture speeds healing of the skin and scabbing (contrary to popular wisdom) increases the likelihood of tearing the skin and creating scars. Keep the wound(s) covered. Remove the bandages daily, wash gently to remove any crusting or scabbing, reapply Aquaphor or Vaseline; repeat every day until the skin has healed.

I would add, avoid much exposure to sun or wind until your skin has healed, and any exercises that would stretch the skin of your face.

I imagine you are resistant to bandage your face... perhaps it would work just as well to apply the Aquaphor/Vaseline several times daily in lieu of using a bandage?

You could use vitamin E or other oils once the skin has healed over.

Regarding nursing care, Denise Moran of Center for Rejuvenation Acupuncture, with 20 years experience working for plastic surgeons and dealing with wound healing, advises:

If you live in a sunny area and are out in the sun more than 5-10 minutes, you want to be sure the wounds are covered as the sun exposure could permanently pigment the scars. The bad news is that all wounds heal with a scar, the GOOD news is that the face is very vascular and the thinnest skin on our body and heals better than anywhere else.

I don't like to use vasoline because its a petroleum product. Several practitioners suggested Ching Wan Hung burn ointment to prevent scarring. I keep this item in the medicine cabinet, beside the Yun Nan Bai Yao and my Flying Dragon Liniment. Its wonderful for kitchen burns. It contains many blood moving herbs with heat clearing properties, which in Chinese herbal medicine prevent and treat infections, and menthol to clear the heat. It treats insect bites and hot, red rashes and hives. My patients love it for these uses. The blood moving herbs explains it's ability to prevent scarring.

I also keep calendula ointment in my herbal first aid kit. i settled on using the burn ointment as the scratches were red (indicating heat, and possible infection) and to prevent scarring, my main concern on my face. In absence of Ching Wan Hung or infection, i would suggest using calendula ointment, rather than Vaseline. It should not cause any skin irritation, rather it treats that. it is readily available in the natural food stores. Check the ingredients to be sure its a clean ointment. I would avoid Boirion as it uses petroleum ointment.

The following morning i began researching the next step, scar prevention. Several colleagues suggested Resinall-K, a Health Concerns herbal tincture to improve wound healing and prevent scarring. Chris Macie gave a convincing testimonial:

It's an incarnation of a somewhat common hit-medicine for martial injuries; though some forms may be considered proprietary / esoteric. Contains Dragon's Blood, RuXiang (frankincense) & MoYao (Myrrh), YanHuSuo, etc., in suspension with alcohol and glycerin.

[It also contains san qi, the chief blood mover in yu nan bai yao, er cha, safflower and bing pian (borneol) resin.]

When used to continuously coat, even in a sense of immerse, a surface wound, it appears to promote near-seamless epithelial healing. (similar principle as touted in new Western bandage technology recently)

I keep a lot of it in stock; routinely prescribe to patients who have cats.

Couple of years ago I closed a car door completely on distal phalanx of my index finger -- cut to the bone (palmar side). Kept it packed in Res-K for a month or so. Took a total of about 6-months, but now 100% restored flesh & function; very faint scar.

Health Concerns lists the therapeutic actions of Resinall-K as preventing infections, promoting tissue regeneration, stopping bleeding and activating blood circulation. Therapeutic applications include pain and swelling of traumatic injury. When you look at the number of heavy-hitting blood moving herbs in the formula, it makes sense that it will prevent scarring by keeping the area moist, and keeping the blood moving. the alcohol base of the tincture enhances blood circulation. This is why hit liniments for martial arts are alcohol based.

I found a bottle of propolis in my first aid kit which treats infections. The scratches were
a bright red at this point, indicating heat and toxins. so i applied the burn ointment and the propolis and bandaged up the scratches.

At the end of the day i picked up the Resinall-K. the propolis seem to clear any infectious process, as red coloration to the scratches had markedly diminished and there was no yellow exodus. I cleaned and reapplied the burn ointment and the Rensinall-K and re-bandaged. Every few hours i opened the dressing and reapplied the burn ointment and Resinall-K.

By the next morning, the redness had cleared, and the scratches were healing nicely. They look rather shallow, so i am less concerned, but still do not wish to have scars around my eye and on my cheek. once the scratches close up and it no longer seems necessary to bandage to keep them moist, i will move on to phase two: scar prevention.

Several colleagues suggested essential oils to prevent scarring. i looked at a couple of formulas, and came up with my own combination, partly based on cost, as purchasing a number of essential oils can add up.

Tamanu oil treats scars and infections, due to its antibiotic, anti-inflammatory properties, so its a keen choice to use as a carrier oil. other options suggested included castor oil, sesame, sweet almond oil, olive and grapeseed (for phytoestrogens) oils. I will probably used a castor/sesame oil combination, as i have these on hand. In my Flying Dragon Liniment for muscle and joint pain, i use organic castor, sesame, peach seed and olive oils.

Mary Elizabeth Wakefield, who has been teaching facial rejuvenation acupuncture for over a decade suggests this essential oil blend to treat keloid scars:

In a 4 oz blue bottle, put 3-4 drops each of: lavender oil, helichrysm oil and rose oil. Fill the rest of the way with a carrier oil (choose from apricot seed oil, grape seed oil or emu oil- which is known for treating scars on its own) Apply twice daily.

as a vegan i cannot recommend emu oil, as it is harvested from these Australian birds, but i did google it and it does have many healing properties.

Helichrysm was suggested by many of my colleagues, so i knew i wanted to use it.
One practitioner suggested a blend of bay laurel, clary sage and helichrysum. When i began ordering i noticed the clary sage is about 25% higher in cost than the other oils, so i ordered lavender for its reputation to treat scars and infections, rose for its attributes for the skin, helichrysum as many practitioners suggested it for scarring and bay laurel. as the Snow Lotus helichrysum and rose i ordered are a 10% solution, they must be dosed 10x the # of drops one would normally use.

After 72 hours, the cuts were looking less red and were beginning to close. At this point i felt comfortable going out in public with out the bandage, just applying the burn ointment to keep the area moist, keep the blood circulating and prevent scabbing, which could cause scarring. while at home and overnight i kept the area bandaged up with the burn ointment and Resinall-K which was quickening the healing process. At 96 hours the superficial scratches were beginning to fade, and a couple of small scratches had already disappeared.

By 120 hours the wounds had closed and the scratches were beginning to fade. Therefore (and thankfully, i would add) the bandage was now unnecessary. It is still important to keep the blood circulating to prevent the blood stagnation which causes scarring. The Resinall-K is a dark red and rather messy. in addition to the menthol, the burn ointment has many blood moving herbs. so for practical considerations, i used the Resinall-K at home and the burn ointment in public.

By day 7 the scratches were now a pink coloration. One of the more prominent scratches had markedly faded, 50%. The Resinall-K seemed no longer necessary, so i began the essential oils. I began with the helichrysum neat, as it is in a 10% solution. It has a lite, pleasant citrus-y aroma. After 2 days with the helichrysum, two of the 3 prominent scratches had reduced to 15% visibility. There is now one long and prominent scratch which has faded to a pale pink coloration. I am now considering mixing up the remaining essential oils i ordered - rose, lavender and bay laurel - to help move along the healing of the more visible scratch.

As the sores begin to heal, acupuncturists needle the healing cuts to prevent scarring. Scar therapy also treats older scars. The general technique is to do something we call 'surround the dragon' where we needle the perimeter of the wound or scar. some practitioners needle perpendicular and under the scar tissue to break up the collagen formation, others needle parallel to the scar. Moxa is used to speed the healing. Many practitioners i talked to recommended laser therapy.

Bill Morse describes his experience:
. . .also use non-scarring moxa to excite the tissues and promote regeneration. With the local needles

The scar will often change character as the first sign of therapy.
This may be variable. Hard scars become soft and sometimes hard for a bit then soften. Small scars will enlarge, soften and then reduce. There are many patterns. I like to think that there is "retracing" going on - that is, a reversal of the scars history. Many times patients will begin to recall the incident sequence which verifies this theory. Often there is no apparent connection.

Expect results or changes quickly, however thinning to a line may
take several months, especially at thin skin areas like the face. Keloid scars are the most difficult to work with and require extensive internally applied herbs and may contra- indicate the use of moxa. Any scar wider that 1/8 inch will require special care and additional time.

I have seen 4 inch bed sores reabsorb completely with needle
application only in a matter of days to weeks, but most deep scars require more time.

Denise Moran adds:
scars tend to start to get a little thicker at 3 months so don't be alarmed if that happens. By a year they have come close to healing, but you could still see some improvement. Keep using your oils and needling and any thickening should be at a minimum or non-existent. I treated my dad for 5 days after he had his kidney removed and at 5 months, it was hard to find the scar. So I'd probably start doing face points within about 72-96 (to avoid stirring up bleeding) hours of the injury, but not in the wound.