American are spending more on CAM – Complementary & Alternative Medicine

CAMAs patient awareness of health and disease prevention has grown, so too has their interest in alternatives to traditional therapeutic disease-based options. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) defines Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) as "a group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are not currently part of conventional medicine."   This may soon change with new health care legislation on the horizon.

Over the past 10 years, the therapeutic options afforded by CAM  have blossomed into a $45 billion industry. Of this, $12 billion has been spent on CAM health practitioners including chiropractors, acupuncturists and massage therapists. The remaining $33 billion is spent on stress reduction techniques including yoga and massage as well as on dietary supplements, primarily fish oil, glucosamine and echinacea.

In general, approximately 11 percent of out-of-pocket spending on health care in the United States is spent on CAM modalities, a number that has opened the eyes of many non-believers.

Patients are often reluctant to discuss the use of CAM with their physicians for fear of being rebuked or dismissed. Many physicians view alternative-based therapies as "quackery" and adopt an attitude of "semi-indulgent contempt," as described by one physician. Further complicating matters is the relative lack of practitioner knowledge and training on CAM modalities. Nudged forward by patient demand, this view is clearly changing and now more than 70 medical schools and 45 medical centers, including The Mayo Clinic and The Cleveland Clinic, have adopted integrative and alternative medical centers.

Herbs treat Acetaminophen Side-Effects

thumbnailThis is a very interesting story out of Stanford School of Medicine. They literally stumbled upon a “substance” to help avoid liver toxicity from acetaminophen related liver damage.

Gary Peltz, MD, PhD, professor of anesthesiology at Stanford said “My postdoctoral fellow, whose parents and other family members in Asia were taking this compound in their supplements, started laughing. He recognized it immediately.”

The supplement has been marketed as an herbal medicine known as Vitamin U and used for the treatment of digestive problems for years. (I love this part) “It’s highly abundant in many plants”.

Another victory for phyto-medicinals,  vindicated by Western doctors at one of the most prestigious universities in the U.S.  “By administering SMM, which is found in every flowering plant and vegetable, we were able to prevent a lot of the drug’s toxic effect,” said Peltz

It’s difficult to phanthom that  liver damage is a side effect of one of the most popular drugs (Tylenol) OTC for pain, and is also the number one cause of liver transplantation surgeries. What’s quite disturbing is this quote; “Unfortunately, the prevalence of acetaminophen makes it easy to accidentally exceed the recommended levels, which can occur by dosing more frequently than indicated or by combining two or more acetaminophen-containing products. However, severe liver damage can occur at even two to three times the recommended dose (the maximum adult dose is 4 grams per day; toxic daily levels range from 7 to 10 grams).

“It’s a huge public health problem,” said Peltz. “It’s particularly difficult for parents, who may not realize that acetaminophen is in so many pediatric medicines.”

More information on Acetaminophen

GENERIC NAME: acetaminophen BRAND NAME: Tylenol and others DRUG CLASS AND MECHANISM: Acetaminophen belongs to a class of drugs called analgesics (pain relievers) and antipyretics (fever reducers). The exact mechanism of action of acetaminophen is not known. Acetaminophen relieves pain by elevating the pain threshold, that is, by requiring a greater amount of pain to develop before a person feels it. It reduces fever through its action on the heat-regulating center of the brain. Specifically, it tells the center to lower the body’s temperature when the temperature is elevated. The FDA approved acetaminophen in 1951. PRESCRIPTION: No. GENERIC AVAILABLE: Yes. PREPARATIONS: Liquid suspension, chewable tablets, coated caplets, gelcaps, geltabs, and suppositories. Common dosages are 325, 500 and 650 mg. STORAGE: Store tablets and solutions at room temperature 15°-30°C (59°-86°F). Suppositories should be refrigerated below 27°C (80°F). PRESCRIBED FOR: Acetaminophen is used for the relief of fever as well as aches and pains associated with many conditions. Acetaminophen relieves pain in mild arthritis but has no effect on the underlying inflammation, redness, and swelling of the joint. If the pain is not due to inflammation, acetaminophen is as effective as aspirin. It is as effective as the non-steroidal antiinflammatory drug ibuprofen (Motrin) in relieving the pain of osteoarthritis of the knee. Unless directed by physician, acetaminophen should not be used for longer than 10 days. DOSING: The oral dose for adults is 325 to 650 mg every 4 to 6 hours. The maximum daily dose is 4 grams. The oral dose for a child is based on the child’s age, and the range is 40-650 mg every 4 hours. When administered as a suppository, the adult dose is 650 mg every 4 to 6 hours. For children, the dose is 80-325 mg every 4 to 6 hours depending on age. DRUG INTERACTIONS: Acetaminophen is metabolized (eliminated by conversion to other chemicals) by the liver. Therefore drugs that increase the action of liver enzymes that metabolize acetaminophen [for example, carbamazepine (Tegretol), isoniazid (INH, Nydrazid, Laniazid), rifampin (Rifamate, Rifadin, Rimactane)] reduce the levels of acetaminophen and may decrease the action of acetaminophen. Doses of acetaminophen greater than the recommended doses are toxic to the liver and may result in severe liver damage. The potential for acetaminophen to harm the liver is increased when it is combined with alcohol or drugs that also harm the liver. Cholestyramine (Questran) reduces the effect of acetaminophen by decreasing its absorption into the body from the intestine. Therefore, acetaminophen should be administered 3 to 4 hours after cholestyramine or one hour before cholestyramine . Acetaminophen doses greater than 2275 mg per day may increase the blood thinning effect of warfarin (Coumadin) by an unknown mechanism. Therefore, prolonged administration or large doses of acetaminophen should be avoided during warfarin therapy. PREGNANCY: Acetaminophen is used in all stages of pregnancy and is the drug of choice for short-term treatment of fever and minor pain during pregnancy. NURSING MOTHERS: Acetaminophen is excreted in breast milk in small quantities. However, acetaminophen use by the nursing mother appears to be safe. SIDE EFFECTS: When used appropriately, side effects with acetaminophen are rare. The most serious side effect is liver damage due to large doses, chronic use or concomitant use with alcohol or other drugs that also damage the liver. Chronic alcohol use may also increase the risk of stomach bleeding. Reference: FDA Prescribing Information

Sinusitis, Complementary and Alternative Medicine Could Be For You?

sinus-heatlh A study released  Oct. 5, at the American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery Foundation (AAO-HNSF) annual meeting  reported Complementary and Alternative Medicine is being used by a growing segment of patients. 

Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) is being used to treat the symptoms of chronic rhinosinusitis (CRS),  yet patients are hesitant to tell their doctors they are using CAM therapies such as Acupuncture and Homeopathy. 

Sixty-five percent of patients had used CAM. Thirty percent of patients used it for the chronic rhinosinusitis. Women were significantly more likely to use CAM than men, according to the statistics. Patients who were employed, married, and had university degrees were also more likely to use CAM. Only 43 percent of CAM users had informed their doctor about its use. CRS is defined as a group of disorders characterized by inflammation of the mucosa of the nose and paranasal sinuses of at least 12 weeks duration.

The group of chronic rinitius disorders annually accounts for as many as 22 million office visits and more than 500,000 emergency department visits in the U.S., according to some estimates. Questionnaires were provided to 75 patients over a two-month period. The questionnaire consisted of demographic information and whether they had ever used CAM from a list of 49 herbal and non-herbal alternative therapies (such as acupuncture, massage, aloe vera, and cod liver oil). Subjects were also asked why they used CAM, where they learned of complimentary therapies, whether they found it efficacious, and whether their general practitioner was aware they were using it.

Chinese herbs have been used for centuries for sinus problems.  If you would like more information regarding which herbs are best for you, contact us and set up an herbal consultation. Or, see your local Acupuncturist who is also trained in Chinese herbal medicine. If you need a recommendation we are happy to provide you with skilled, licensed practitioners in your area.


Children’s Tylenol Recall

McNeil Consumer Healthcare (the makers of TYLENOL®)  are recalling  many of their children’s Tylenol common cold and allergy medications.  Two dozen varieties of their products are voluntarily being pulled off the shelf because of a possible bacterial contamination.

By Rene Rodriquez, L.Ac.

Johnson & Johnson McNeil is taking precautionary steps to urgently and voluntarily recall some of the Tylenol product line after an internal lab test found bacteria in the raw material that went unused in the making of their product. According to the Associated Press, the company reported that although the bacteria B. cepacia was found in a portion of the raw material that went unused, none of the bacteria was found in the finished product. “It was decided, as a precaution, to recall all product that utilized any of the raw material manufactured at the same time as the raw material that tested positive for the bacteria,” the company.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that B. cepacia is a human pathogen found in soil and water and is often spread from contaminated medicine and devices. The effects of the bacteria can range from person to person and the symptoms can range from none at all to serious respiratory infections, especially in those with weakened immune systems or chronic lung diseases.

Although the CDC says that the bacteria is relatively harmless to healthy individuals, it reports that in 2005 several states reported clusters of pneumonia and other infections being caused by B. cepacia found in contaminated mouthwash. B. cepacia can also spread from person to person contact, contact with contaminated surfaces, and exposure to it in the environment. As a result of the bacteria being found by Johnson and Johnson McNeil, nearly two dozen varieties of Tylenol are being recalled as a precautionary move, including Children’s Tylenol Suspension 4 oz. Grape, Infants’ Tylenol Grape Suspension Drops 1/4 oz. and Children’s Tylenol Plus Cold/Allergy 4 oz. Bubble Gum. To find out if you possibly own a contaminated Tylenol product, the lot numbers for any of these can be found on the bottom of the product’s box and on the sticker that surrounds the product’s bottle. For a full list of the recalled products and lot numbers, please visit Tylenol’s web site by clicking here. Concerned parent’s and consumers alike are urged to call Johnson and Johnson McNeil’s consumer call center at 1-800-962-5357. When things like these happen, I usually get many patients who want to try a natural alternative route when dealing with a cold or flu.

I always urge my patients, especially those with children, to always use their best judgment in trying to decide whether to first try natural remedies before resulting to using synthetic medication and always in conjunction with their natural health care provider. As a parent and a natural health care provider, I understand this can be very difficult at times, especially when your child wakes up coughing and with a fever in the middle of the night and the only place open is the 24-hour pharmacy down the street where all you find are aisles of synthetic medication containing dyes and chemicals that you rather not use if given a choice. My best advise to people who are interested in trying natural remedies is always plan ahead. This will give you plenty of time to do your own research and decide what’s best for you and your family, so you don’t feel so helpless at two in the morning when you don’t want to use a synthetic drug, or can’t because, like has happened with the Tylenol product, there’s a possible contamination with bacteria.

Start by investing in a natural remedy book, or ask your family and friends of any natural remedies they know of, then present these to your natural health care provider so that he/she can assist you in helping decide what might be best for you. Planning ahead also means taking your health in your own hands. During cold and flu season, begin limiting the amount of sugar intake, especially the products that contain high fructose corn syrup or white refined sugar. This means avoiding junk food and alcohol as much as possible. Also, stay hydrated with good clean artesian well water.

Another thing I recommend is to stock your medicine cabinet with natural herbal formulas, nutritional supplements, and homeopathic remedies targeted at fighting infections and keeping your immune system healthy. These can include natural remedies, such as Grapefruit Seed Extract, Belladonna, Yin Qiao San, and nutritional supplements, such as Vitamin C, Zinc, and Vitamin D. These are just some examples of the variety of natural products available that are very effective in reducing fevers and curbing the side effects of the common cold or flu, and also supporting your immune system.

Most importantly, make an appointment with your natural health care provider to learn more about which of these natural remedies or nutritional supplements will best work for you and help you develop an approach for understanding when to safely use these with synthetic drugs, or alone.

NIH says Chinese Herb passes the test for Rheumatoid Arthritis

rheumatoid arthritisRheumatoid Arthritis is an extremely debilitating disease.  A dear friend suffers with it and has for years.   But at 80 years old now, she won’t consider doing much to change her ways.  I wish I could convince her that Chinese herbs have been used successfully for this crippling disease.  I’m always trying to disseminate reliable and scientific   information about Chinese herbs.  Hope this helps someone who also suffers from RA.

An article published in the Aug 2009, Annals of Internal Medicine  compares the use of a Chinese herb for the treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis, (RA).   121 patients were included in the study which took place at the National Institute of Health in Bethesda Maryland and at the University of Texas, Dallas, along with 8 other rheumatology clinics around the U.S.   The Chinese herb medicinal  used in this study is called Tripterygium wilfordii,  or Thunder god vine and is used for a variety of  inflammatory diseases in Chinese Medicine.  In fact, because vines have a climbing nature and are able to meander and crawl into crevices and into tight places,  it is theorized in Chinese Medicine that medicinal vines have the same type of effects in the body.  Reaching into tight spaces and meandering and opening blockages throughout the body.  This may not scientifically explain why the vine helps RA, but it does makes sense energetically.

Understandably,  Western audiences have not been exposed to Chinese Medicine theory, therefore,  I”ll include the  scientific explanation presented in this study.   The  “interleukin-6 levels rapidly and significantly decreased in the group taking the Chinese herb root extract.” (interleukin-6 plays a significant role in RA because it acts as both a pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory.  It is secreted by T cells and macrophages to stimulate immune response to trauma and other tissue damage leading to inflammation)  This just may be the explanation as to why participants in the  RA study showed  “significant improvement “  while taking this Chinese herb compared to those who did not complete the study.

The bottom line, the roots of  Thunder god vine seems effective in treating patients with active RA and may offer an alternative treatment approach to treating rheumatoid arthritis.  To find someone who can help you with your RA and use herbs like this vine to help your condition, find a qualified Acupuncturist who has a strong background in herbal medicine. Let us know if you need a referral.

Read the whole study here.

Minnesota Now Has Equal Access Law for Acupuncture

Minnesota and acupuncuture lawsI’ve always enjoyed my vacation time in Minnesota. I happened to be in Minneapolis for it’s Bi- centennial celebration a few years back.  They had more than an hour of the most amazing fireworks I’ve ever seen.    If you’ve never been there it’s truly the heart-land of America. Real people, real friendly.  I had  to blog on this news that Minnesota, not on a coast and not really considered the health crazed capital of the country is leading the way with equal access laws regarding alternative medicine practitioners. This  new law  takes affect and applies to insurance coverage issued, renewed or continued on or after Aug.1, 2009  Very exciting, the next step is on the national level with Medicare.

Here’s a report from the American Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, ( AAAOM)  by Kris Berggren.

A new law, effective August 1, provides equal access to a licensed acupuncture practitioner for services covered under a regulated health plan. If acupuncture services provided by a physician are covered, the same services provided by a licensed acupuncture practitioner must also be covered. It does not require health plans that don’t cover any acupuncture services to begin doing so.

The law is also a memorial to Edith R. Davis, considered Minnesota’s pioneer acupuncturist, who brought “the whole area of acupuncture into the light of day and (made) sure that we have good standards,” said Rep. Karen Clark, (DFL-Mpls), who sponsors the law with Sen. Linda Berglin.

Advocates said that a growing body of scientific evidence supports the benefits of acupuncture for a variety of conditions and that the treatment is rarely associated with complications. They also said only about a dozen Minnesota physicians or chiropractors are board-certified in medical acupuncture.“Acupuncturists licensed under Board of Medical Practice’s very high standards ironically are not allowed to get reimbursed, and often their prices are lower and they are far more qualified to practice acupuncture than are physicians, even those with acupuncture licenses,” said Rep. Jim Abeler (R-Anoka).

Remember Coke’s “The Real Thing” – Coca Cola drinks made with Chinese herbs may just be “The Real Thing”

coke real-thing-1The worlds largest beverage company  Coca-Cola has been researching and developing drinks made with Chinese herbs for the past several years.  In the US, both Coke and Pepsi have both lost market share with their soft drink products.  To offset this marketplace change both have expanded into  energy drinks and  water  products.  Will Chinese herbal teas be next?  Are Americans becoming health conscious enough to purchase an herbal alternative? I think the tide is changing here. 

I can report first hand that  a gas station/ mini-mart off I-5 near  Bakersfield California,  is now selling ging seng drinks from Korea right at the register.  Presumably, for drivers who  need an energy boost Coca-Cola with several new Chinese bottling plants in place Coke is set to expand,  as they say, “their beverages that contribute to well being”.   Coke is adding teas, water and energy drinks for Asian consumers who are avoiding sugary sodas and  who  now perceive those drinks as fattening.  In fact,  they have spent over 100 million dollars in the last couple years developing these drinks.  

Business in China has more than doubled in the past five years and the  herbal teas are even eclipsing Coca Cola soft drinks.  With the Asian market growing  Coca Cola is working on worldwide expansion of these drinks. But Coco-Cola is not the only one exploring this new market share.  Pepsi  is not far behind and has also been building factories in China. Pepsi has a product called “Herb Joy” on the Chinese market, a  beverage made with several  common Chinese herbs including  the red date,  jujube.   Most recently,  Coke and Pepsi have been experiencing a boom from bottling  a cooling  herb tea, originally known as  Wanglaoji Cool Tea. This tea originated in the southern regions of China, where  spring and  summer temperatures are very hot. This herbal tea has been a popular Chinese drink in the summer, it’s a healthy choice to cool the body heat and quench the thirst. 

Wanglaoji is based on  the Traditional Chinese Herbal Medicine theory of cooling the body. This tea is made by boiling herbs that are capable of reducing the bodies heat and improving digestion, in much the same method all traditional Chinese herbal medicines have been made for centuries. Varieties of this tea have traditionally been sold by street vendors. The big companies are now promoting these herbal teas with slick packaging and expanding to a global market.  More importantly for Coke & Pepsi, by adopting a traditional Chinese herb formula as a packaged drink,  they are culturally endearing themselves to the Chinese market , translation, higher sales. What about the American market?  I think the answer is yes Americans will be seeing more herbal products including herbal beverages on store shelves.  American will  buy them as long as the taste is “not to herbal”   and maybe it will help Americans pay a little closer attention to their health.

The difference of government responses to H1N1, the Swine flu

H1N1 has been declared a pandemic by WHO  (World Health Organization) and many of us seem to know someone who’s already had the swine flu. WHO

I just heard from a friend  that a cabin full of  12 year old campers were quarantined to their cabin as a result of the swine flu.  Now that were getting more comfortable with the first pandemic in our life time, I want to explore the differences  in responses from the two most powerful governments in the world, the Chinese and the American.

The U.S. official government response  at time of publishing is this:  a state of emergency has been declared and well known pharmaceuticals  such as Sanofi-Aventis,  Novartis, Baxter, GlaxoSmithKline and Solvay  are all  in the process of creating test batches of  vaccines.  Government websites are to report updates within 24 hours once new information is released, unfortunately this rarely happens.   Not very reassuring considering our elected representatives are currently debating health care reform.

The United States Food & Drug Association, FDA, on one hand has given authorization  for use of “unapproved or uncleared” medical products (Relenza & Tamiflu Anti-virals) following this declaration of emergency.  On the other hand, FDA has sent out warning letters to websites to cease the selling  of any product or making any claims about how to prevent and treat the Swine Flu.  I would define this as an aggressive approach   I’m in favor of cracking down on websites that scam the public but since neither Tamiflu or Relenza have proven effectiveness or  have a scientific basis for this new viral strain, how is that any different from selling a homeopathic product, supplement, air purifier, surgical mask etc etc. that also has no scientific data behind it?   This virus strain has never been seen before. How do we know what is the best cure.  Will we really need any medicinal at all?  For most people a few days  of  bed rest is the  cure.  The camp kids are just fine by the way.  The official statement from U.S. Centers for Disease Control says “the majority of people infected with the virus make a full recovery without requiring medical attention or antiviral drugs.”

The Chinese Government has taken a different approach to the H1N1 virus. China is also in the midst of searching for a vaccine and is currently  in the testing phase. China is expanding  it’s capacity for  vaccine manufacturing and  government sources say  “by the end of this year we may produce the amount necessary for 5 percent of the worlds population”.  But the Chinese government has gone beyond the vaccine route. The government has also allocated  nearly 1.5 million dollars (equivalent)  to research  Traditional Chinese Medicine in regards to H1N1.   Four million will be spent on clinical test and the rest on laboratory research for a combination of Chinese herbs that  will best prevent and treat H1N1.  Presently,  China is reporting 1537 confirmed cases of H1N1 and no fatalities.  This is the same government that dealt with a SAR epidemic not to long ago, for which a Chinese herb formula was found successful in treating.

Interestingly, along with this theme, the European Union has  just granted 1 million euros for ground breaking research  for a project entitled “Good Practice in Traditional Chinese Medicine Research in the Post-Genomic Era.”  “Researchers at Kings College in London will review the current status of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) research, identify problems and propose solutions by applying modern methods of investigation as well as providing a forum for the exchange of opinions, experience and expertise among scientists in the EU and China.”

The road map to prevention and cure for this emerging pandemic is being written as we speak. I would like to see the integration of Western and Chinese approaches to medicinal therapies for H1N1,  how about you?   Which direction should our government lead us or should the medical community take the lead rather than the pharmaceutical companies.  I look forward to your comments.

Michael Jackson and Prescription Meds: Too many? Too often?

Are American doctors overdosing their patients on prescription mood enhancers, (Prozac) and sleeping pills (Ambien), pain pills, (Vicodin) or is it just the super stars like Michael Jackson? Living in Los Angeles, one becomes accustom to the constant buzz of movie stars and the rich and famous going off to drug rehab centers, but with the sudden death of Michael Jackson everyone’s talking about the same subject like never before.

The drugs MJ was taking and the probable overdose. We’ve seen and heard about it before (Anna Nicole Smith) yet this time the amount of drugs prescribed and the amount needed for so many years seems un-imaginable. Everyday people die from prescription overdose but it’s not news because it’s not a celebrity.Mj872

Truth is, for the general public, doctors freely provide prescription medication to anyone who simply shows up at the doctors door with a nominal complaint, “I can’t sleep”, “I’m depressed”, “I just need something to relax me”. The medical establishment willingly prescribes medications with minimal face to face patient interaction. To make matters worse, the doctors don’t have time to ask you if your taking med’s from another doctor. The real danger is both the interactions among cocktails of prescriptions and the amount taken as resistance to drugs grows higher as the body becomes increasing tolerant to each drug.

Now this is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Antibiotics keep getting stronger as viruses become resistant. Uncertainties remain in the risks of prescribing antibiotics freely for conditions such as childhood ear infections which have been proven have no benefit for bacterial infections, Now some say our drinking water and irrigation water is polluted with antibiotics that are not filtered out in water sanitation plants. How do we avoid this tainted water. The long term hazards of antibiotic resistant viruses, could have widespread irreversible impacts on our world, a subject, clearly for another blog.

Today the ease of getting prescription medication is just simply to easy. Every home seems to have a fairly well stocked medicine cabinet of prescriptions. We even see TV commercials warning us to keep prescriptions away from our teens, who are looking to take them or sell them at school.

I am sad that MJ had to die and I believe his death could have been prevented. There are safer alternatives for depression, pain and insomnia. In China and most of Asia, herbal medicines have been the standard. People do not become addicted and over dosing is virtually unheard of. Yet, herbs are effective and provide relief for many of the same conditions for which people choose prescriptions in the West. We simply have not been introduced to these alternatives. I hope with the lose of Michael Jackson the AMA or FDA cracks down on Doctors who abuse prescription writing privileges. I hope MJ’s death opens people eyes to the very real dangers not just of addiction to prescriptions but also dangers of death by drugs.