Eating the human placenta has gone Hollywood. Oprah loves to discuss alternatives to non-conventional medicine. Tom Cruise was planning on eating Katie’s placenta. Chinese Herbal Medicine encourages the mother to ingest the placenta. Other mammals do it. Why shouldn’t we? If you know someone who’s pregnant the concept of having the baby’s placenta prepared and taken in capsule form can bring a huge boost to the new mother as she recuperates from nine months of gestation. Maybe it will just become the hottest new baby gift, for mom? Add some Chinese herbs to boost milk production and both mother and baby are on the way to good health. Check out our article: Eating the Afterbirth, a Chinese Medical Tradition.
An old Chinese Proverb says, He that takes medicine and neglects diet wastes the skill of the physician.
The Chinese have used food and Chinese herbs, basically the human diet, to treat seemingly incurable diseases as far back as records can show. We now have studies that prove that foods and Chinese herbs are effective in treating nearly every affliction known to man. It is a Western concept that the word “diet” refers almost exclusively to a weight loss system. A Chinese diet may or may not focus on weight loss, but it’s primary intention is to treat an ailment. A Westerners “diet” focuses on protein, calories, carbohydrates, vitamins and other nutrients, whereas a Chinese diet focuses on the: Five Flavors, Five Energies, Movements of Foods and Organic Actions of Foods. Maybe this sounds like a foreign language, but the basic concept is pretty easy, if I feel cold, I should eat something warm. If I feel hot, I should eat something cold. (don’t we all do this?)
This is of course a simplification and I know you want more details. It can get a little more technical, so stay with me.
I covered the Five Flavors and Five Energies is a part one of this article. Connect here to read that article.
Here I will delve into the “Movement of Foods” and “Organic Actions of Foods”.
The movements of foods has nothing to do with a musical score. Foods have a tendency to move inward, outward, up or down within us. To move inwards means to move from outside towards the inside. Foods that do this often alleviate constipation. Foods that provide movement from inside towards outside reduce fever and induce sweating. Downward moving foods can relieve vomiting and asthma. Upward moving foods help symptoms of diarrhea, and prolapsed of organs. This is only a general overview, but even a little knowledge can be of great benefit. The movement of foods also corresponds to the seasons.
Here is a brief overview of which foods are best in which seasons. Springtime is all about growth and upward movement so eat foods that also promote an upward movement such as celery, kidney beans and shiitake mushrooms. Foods that move outward are best in the summer these foods have a hot energy and are usually pungent like green pepper, red pepper, black peppers and soybean oil. In the autumn foods with a downward movement are preferred. The downward movement corresponds to the leaves falling. Food such as bananas, barley and bean curd are best in the autumn. Lastly, in the winter eat foods that move inward, just as we move indoors in the winter. Inward moving foods include bitter gourd, clams and seaweed.
Lastly, a brief introduction about the Organic Actions of Foods, it’s not a Greenpeace protest. It simply refers to the specific organ on which a particular food will act. In the West we may think all food goes to the stomach, the intestines and through the digestive organs. But there is more to the saying “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach”. Different foods really do effect different organ systems in Chinese medicine and diet theory. This can get complicated, many foods have more than one energy and act on more than one organ. Carrots act on the lungs, wheat on the heart, spleen and kidneys, almonds act on the lungs.
Organic actions of foods have been discovered throughout history through both inductive and deductive methods. Traditional Chinese medicine has always put great emphasis on the association of foods and our internal organs. A simple example is chicken liver, it’s helpful for blurry vision, and Chinese Medicine believes our livers are connected to our eyes.
I have simplified how a balanced diet in Chinese theory focuses on the Five Flavors, Five Energies, Movements and Organic Actions of foods. Yet, I hope you understand that from a Chinese viewpoint the word “diet” has almost nothing to do with weight loss and everything to do with how foods effect our body. An organic balanced diet is one that is not necessarily rich in organic foods, but one that balances the internal organs. An individual’s balanced diet is always a mixture of foods with different flavors and energies suited to the needs of that individuals constitution. I hope this is not such a foreign concept now even though it may be a completely new view of diet and nutrition for you. Sun Shu Mao wrote about it approximately 1400 years ago and seeing that history always repeats itself, it’s time to reiterate it today. If you want to learn more check out: Healing with Whole Foods by Paul Pitchford and my other blogs on Chinese Medicine and foods.
I’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).
The 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.
1. Herbal Formulas are designed to treat the whole body, not just the symptoms.
Most Western medications works because they give you quick relief from symptoms but often do nothing for the underlying root problem. You can treat the root of the problem with herbal medicine rather than just treating symptoms. You’ll start feeling better from the inside out when you treat the whole body. The definition of disease (DIS-ease) is: an abnormal condition of the body causing discomfort or dysfunction. Disease usually happens slowly over an extended period of time and a complete recovery can take just as long if not longer, quick fixes often don’t work because that is not how our bodies works.
2. Herbal Formulas are effective.
Imagine how much more enjoyable life would be if you simply had more energy, a clearer head and a relaxed body. Look at the thousands of studies on pubmed.com that have been done on plant based medicine to prove time tested results are more than coincidence for diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, menstrual irregularities, migraines, the list is endless.
3. Herbs have a proven track record.
Herbal Medicine is the main medicine for over 80% of the world’s population and has a long established record of effectiveness. Chinese herbal medicine has written documentation going back to 200 AD. Asian cultures have used this plant-based medicine or medicinal herbs for thousands of years and have an inherent understanding of their healing qualities. In fact, many Chinese dishes are made with herbs for medicinal value, for example to enhance digestion, warm the body during cold weather or cool the body during hot weather.
4. Herbs are 100% Natural.
Our biochemistry has evolved over millions of years with plants as our main source of food, so we are naturally compatible with medicinal herbs. Herbal medicines inherently have the same chemical structures that built your body in the first place. Allkaloids, glycosides, flavonoids, saponins and more are all found in natural plants. These are the chemical structures your body needs to repair itself.
5. Herbs are cost effective.
Herbal supplements are the best investment you can make in yourself. They are far less expensive than prescription medication and their greatest savings comes from the prevention of long term illness. The western standard for disease- if you’re not sick, you’re healthy – should not be the measurement of one’s health.
6. Herbs are synergistic; they work with the body’s natural immune system.
Many herbs, like ginseng, for example, are all in one, immune-stimulant, anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic and anti-oxidant. Herbal formulas often work on multiple organ systems to improve overall health. No prescription drug can do that.
Friends just returned from their traditional summer camping trip. This years’ trip was more exhausting for one particular husband, he was tired all day long. He wasn’t getting a restful nights sleep even though he loves to camp, was out in the fresh air and ON vacation. The problem stems from his addiction to his sleeping pills, which he needs even on a camping trip. Although the nightly pill provided him some sleep it made him extremely drowsy during the day, especially since he's increased the dosage to get the desired effect. He often wanted to just sit at the camp site and take a nap. If this you or someone you know, it’s time to kick the sleeping pill habit.
Sleeping pills are an expensive habit both monetarily and physically because of the lingering side effects. Use of sleeping pills is becoming a growing problem. If your taking them for any length of time, you will notice the need to increase your dosage as your body's tolerance grows. At a certain point they become completely ineffective. The most popular "A" sleep pills and other sleep medications were designed to be taken for only a week or two at most. If you continue on this medication longer than two weeks the greatest concern is the side effects, which according to the label “cannot be anticipated”.
Side effects may include: allergies, daytime drowsiness, dizziness, drugged feeling, headache, indigestion and nausea. If you experience any of these side effects, the price you pay for a good nights sleep just went up ten fold. For some, using "A", along with taking a SSRI or serotonin boosting antidepressant, will produce unusual changes in their thinking and/or behavior, according to the insert information. Most definitely alert your doctor if this happens to you.
Side effects of sleeping pills can also develop or change in intensity, so keep this in mind if you suddenly develop indigestion it may be caused by the sleeping pill, not necessarily related to an otherwise digestive/gut problem. Other warning from the manufacturers of this medicine can cause a special type of memory loss. It should not be taken on an overnight airplane flight of less than 7 to 8 hours, since "traveler's amnesia" may occur. Yikes, what’s travelers amnesia? Do you completely forget where you are and where your going. (Apparently this has happened or it would not be a written warning).
The most common risk with prescription sleep aids used long term, is the risk of increasing the dosage in an attempt to keep the effectiveness as your bodies tolerance level increases. The same problem my friends husband was experiencing. The overdose warning alone scares me from going near this drug. “People who take too much may become excessively sleepy or even go into a light coma. The symptoms of overdose are more severe if the person is also taking other drugs that depress the central nervous system. Some cases of multiple overdose have been fatal.”
All we want is a good nights sleep, this is just getting to complicated. I don’t want to die. I’m baffled that a drug with this many warnings can sell as much as it does. There’s more on the label, lets not miss this part of the warning: “Until you know whether the medication will have any "carry over" effect the next day, use extreme care while driving, and you should be aware that they may be more apt to fall.” Hope your taking mass transit if your using a lot of this drug. Older adults, in particular need to be careful. All I can figure is most people don’t read this stuff, they do print it in extra small writing. More from the label, “use "A" cautiously if you have liver problems. It will take longer for its effects to wear off.” “If you take this sleep aid for more than 1 or 2 weeks, consult your doctor before stopping."
Sudden discontinuation of a sleep medicine can bring on withdrawal symptoms ranging from unpleasant feelings to vomiting and cramps.” "When taking "A", do not drink alcohol. It can increase the drug's side effects. If you have breathing problems, they may become worse. "If "A" is used with certain other drugs, the effects of either drug could be increased, decreased, or altered. It is especially important to check with your doctor ."
These are direct quotes from the Ambien official website. Maybe it's time for a natural sleep aid for that restful night of sleep you so desire.
Plant medicine is still the primary medicine for more than half the worlds population. The other half of the globe is realizing it’s time to return to our roots and re-visit herbal medicine. Plant medicine’s safety record is untouched by modern pharmaceuticals.
Traditional Chinese herbal medicine has a rich history of cooking raw herbs and drinking the decoction as a tea. Today with our modern processing plants we have more options to take herbs in pills form, tablets and now packets. Watch this short video if your new to Chinese herbs . It’s a good introduction to the basics of Chinese herbal formulas.
I like the CNN news piece called around the world in 60 seconds. It gives you a quick blurb of whats happening around the world. Here’s my take on that theme. The spread of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM ) around the world in 60 seconds.
Hope you like numbers, in regards to TCM here’s some interesting ones. In the past 10 years, TCM has spread to over 160 countries and regions around the world with total exports of TCM products exceeding $1 billion. The treatment, education and scientific and technological communities of TCM have continuously expanded. 70 countries have signed 94 governmental agreements on TCM content. There are currently 47 TCM institutions of higher learning in China and over 600,000 qualified TCM medical practitioners over 370,000 of which are certified TCM physicians.
In America alone, 30 million people have tried acupuncture. The FDA estimates that Americans are spending approximately $500 million per year on acupuncture services. There are about 18,000 acupuncturists in the U.S. and that number increases about 10% each year. Presently there are approximately 50 accredited schools in the U.S. to study acupuncture and TCM. Britain, Israel and Australia all top the list with the highest number of acupuncturists per country outside of the US. Canada and Asian countries.
In the U.S., besides pain management, one of the most studied benefits of acupuncture is IVF procedures. Acupuncture concurrent with IVF treatments increases the chance of becoming pregnant by as much as 65% and provides as much as 91% increased chance in a live birth. Those are some impressive statistics. This is of course only one example of how acupuncture and TCM can improve people’s lives.
A fun fact: cruise ships now regularly have acupuncturists aboard. Public demand is obviously driving that business. On a more academic note, The National Institute for Health (NIH) operates the Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine with a 121 million dollar budget, much of which support acupuncture research studies. Currently our congressmen are discussing a bill which for the first time would include Acupuncture into medicare reimbursement. That’s impressive by itself. The American government is actually considering a form of health care which relies on prevention and wellness.
Things are changing rapidly in the TCM world, stay tuned, we are growing exponentially everyday and that’s my 60 second update.
The Star Anise, Illicium verum or Ba Jiao Hui Xiang has been used as a spice and medicine since antiquity. Star Anise is used dried and the seeds have a licorice-like flavor. It’s commonly sold in supermarkets and often used in Chinese cuisine to flavor duck dishes. ( I used it once in my Thanksgiving turkey, it was a hit) It’s also contains the active chemical component in the drug Tamiflu, which is now being stockpiled as a defense against the Swine flu.
Star anise was originally in the spotlight because it’s core ingredient was discovered effective as a flu fighter for the Avian flu. Now it’s being touted for the swine flu. In an announcement in Feb 2006 from the University of Tokyo’s Graduate school of Pharmaceutical sciences, they “ found a way to make Tamiflu without using shikimic acid, which is produced from a spice called star anise” The acid is extracted from the pods which wraps the seeds by using a petrochemical ingredient instead of the plant based ingredient. The group, headed by Prof. Masakatsu Shibasaki said the new method would ensure the stable supply of the antiviral drug in the face of surging demand worldwide prompted by fears of a bird flu (AVAIN) outbreak. Although many believe the best way to produce shikimic acid is extracting it directly from the fruit.
“It (Tamiflu) doesn’t prevent the infection, but may decrease its’ severity,” (although there is no scientific data it will prevent H1N1) according to the Tamiflu website. Tamiflu has been on the market since Oct. 1999 and Roche probably never dreamed that this years orders would top 220 million. In the first three years Tamiflu was on the market only 5.5 million doses sold.
Other information from the Tamiflu website said this: “Influenza viruses change over time. Emergence of resistance mutations could decrease drug effectiveness. Other factors (for example changes in viral virulence) might also diminish clinical benefit of antiviral drugs. Prescribers should consider available information on influenza drug susceptibility patterns and treatment effects when deciding whether to use Tamiflu.” (line 155), It continues elsewhere on the site with this, “Efficacy of Tamiflu in patients who begin treatment after 40 hours of symptoms has not been established” and “ Safety & efficacy of Tamiflu in pediatric patients younger than 1 year has not been studied.”
Star anise sells for aprox. $5.00 or less for a few ounces. The best source I found said a dose of Tamiflu contains the equivalent of approximately 13 grams of star anise. That’s a few cents per dose. Studies on guinea pigs yielded evidence that star anise essential oil had a relaxant effect, antispasmodic and bronchodilatory effect on muscarinic receptors. People have traditionally used star anise to reduces gas, relieve minor digestive problems, for headaches and even to promote vitality.
If your interested in drinking star anise as a tea, a typical dose is .5-1 gram of coarsely ground seeds. Cooked at a slow boil (covered) in 2 ½ cups water for a aprox. 30 minutes and then strained. Ground star anise has been traditionally taken in a dose of 3 grams daily. The essential oil of star anise in a dose of 300 milligrams daily has also been reported. The Food and Drug Administration lists star anise as “generally safe for otherwise healthy adults who are not pregnant, nursing or have a preexisting allergy to the herb.” I hope the swine flu fades quietly into oblivion like the Avain flu. Who knows what will happen once weather changes in the fall and winter when flu season is upon us. In any case, if your considering a dose of Tamiflu your armed with some knowledge. Most importantly keep your immune system as strong as possible to avoid any future viruses that abound and remember grocery store shelves can be very beneficial when you know how to shop.
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.