Natural herbs versus Laboratory synthesised medicinal copies? We Prefer Natural, Do You Too?
Most Australian University graduates of Chinese Medicine study dual modalities in both Acupuncture and Herbal medicine which is slightly different to China where they are more likely to study one or the other for a shorter period.
Our Acupuncturist and Herbalist Dr Mark (TCM) is a huge fan of both modalities; sometimes he finds that acupuncture alone is a suitable treatment for muscular-skeletal conditions, and at other times he prescribes only herbs to people who perhaps are not so keen on the albeit tiny needles.
However overall, Mark aims to combine the two modalities wherever possible as both complement the other. Distal acupuncture results are strong; however, it requires regular visits for the first few weeks. Mark finds that if he is able to prescribe herbs in conjunction with acupuncture, even if the appointment schedule is not as regular as would be perfect, the prescriptions of herbs taken between appointments continues to apply momentum to the healing process.
Dr Mark (TCM) has more than 250 herbs which he uses to tailor make a treatment strategy for individual presentations. For various reasons some people can’t take Chinese Herbs, Mark also does a lot of personal study on Integrative medicine and is able to prescribe various ‘Prescription Only’ brands of supplements from an external dispensary; unfortunately, herbal alternatives to PBS Western Medicine aren’t cheap, however Mark supplies the dispensary products as close as possible to wholesale prices.
Gift Vouchers now available for everything we do at Root & Branch – Shiatsu, Acupuncture, Chinese Medicine, Oriental Therapies etc… Give a healthy gift to your loved one!
We find that people are often time poor, shy, not ready to make the commitment or simply not sure of the effectiveness of alternative medicine.
A gift voucher is a great way to allow those people to take the next step at their own pace, and allow them to evaluate the effectiveness of treatment themselves. We find that most people respond well and many of them make the decision to continue care.
Contact us to purchase or for further detail.
Eastential Chinese Medicine, David Yao Chi Guan, Four Seasons Wellness Centre, Shinma Acupuncture, Acuuncture Abbotsford Convent, Abbotsford Medical & Acupuncture Centre
Shiatsu Massage is a style of massage which was developed in Japan based on traditional oriental medicine doctrine. It is still very popular in Japan today, particularly at traditional hot springs & ryokan. Each treatment typically takes between 60-90 minutes which includes a short interview to ascertain the specific needs and heath status of the client.
Treatment is undertaken with the recipient dressed, lying flat on a floor mat and includes finger, hand, and foot pressure in combination with a number of stretches and gentle rotations. Your practitioner will probably also recommend some dietary and lifestyle advice which will support your condition after the treatment.
Post treatment most people feel invigorated, occasionally there is a healing reaction as toxins are released, however this is usually only temporary and will pass with adequate water intake.
Shiatsu not only feels great, but but it also proactively restores health, remove blockages of energy flow to stimulate circulation, promote relaxation, alleviate pain and support the body back to it natural state of homeostasis. It is a total body therapy which may assist numerous conditions including digestive disorders, anxiety, sports injuries, insomnia, fatigue and stress.
Acupuncture taught at Western Universities is usually a type of Traditional Chinese Medicine style of acupuncture which can incorporate a distal point or two, but often more needles are located closer to the site of disharmony; there are however many different styles which practitioners study & practice post-graduate. In addition to the general study of TCM, Mark has trained in two popular styles of Distal Acupuncture – ‘Master Tung Style’ and ‘The Balance Method.’
Master Tung was a famous modern day acupuncturist from Mainland China who later settled in Taiwan; he was not formally trained, but honed his skills from a family lineage of acupuncturists from whom secrets were passed from father to the eldest son over many generations.
Balance Method Acupuncture is based on ancient I-Ching theory, modernized in recent times by the late revered Dr Richard Tan. Dr Tan was an engineer before immigrating to the USA and spent many decades analyzing and perfecting his own acupuncture techniques which have become famous worldwide in recent times.
Distal Acupuncture uses theories of embryology to explain its effect on different areas of the body through neural pathways to the brain, which have existed since the time that the body was still a foetus. We all start out the same way, as you see from the photo below – everything is connected, it is only later that the limbs separate, however the neurological connections still exist many decades later.
The photo below shows a distal acupuncture point used for fertility, as you can see the points are located nowhere near the gonads, however they are highly effective points for fertility.
(photo courtesy of ‘Art of Acupuncture’)
For physical symptoms, practitioners will often needle points of similar body landmarks on the opposite side of the body, or even opposite and distally such as needling the shoulder to resolve pain in the hip.
There is an excellent book, which details these theories called ‘The Spark in the Machine’ it was written by a Western Medicine ER Doctor known as Daniel Keown, it explains these theory in everyday language.
Although needling locally (traditional acupuncture) is beneficial for some conditions by increasing blood flow to the area, for acute conditions you could think of it like – shaking an overtired crying baby, which is only likely to seriously exacerbate the problem!! A smarter approach (similar to distal acupuncture) is to use techniques which will lull them into a sound sleep from afar, music in the background, rocking the cradle, aromatherapy etc, etc.
The benefits of a distal style include the fact that most treatments are on the arms & legs, so there is no need to disrobe; secondly it relies on the ‘Homokulus Effect’ (see the diagram below):
Because our hands and our feet are so important to our everyday function, they use a proportionally large area of our brain’s motor cortex, needling in these places has a very strong effect. For this reason distal acupuncture typically uses fewer needles with a higher rate of success.
Using specific neural pathways the intervention sends a signal to the brain via the nervous system to release natural painkillers through the circulatory system, vasodilation occurs delivering extra nutrients and oxygen to heal the affected area. Treatments are quick, effective and I have found that they have better results in the longer term.
Most people who experience a Distal Acupuncture session are usually slightly confused initially, it isn’t always obvious why a practitioner might be needling an unrelated body part, however they are often later amazed with the results experienced.
Dr Tan would often explain the distal theory by saying that the switch that ‘turns on the light’ need not be at the actual site of pain, it can be located anywhere in the room, no matter how large – so long as there is an electrical connection…
Asian countries have a rich tradition of using herbs in traditional medicine; one of the simplest things we can do for good health is using healthy teas to improve our health when used appropriately.
From Green, Pu’er, Oolong, Loquat, Dokudami, Omija to Hawthorn tea and beyond, I have long enjoyed these tasty teas on a daily basis for many years; with their vibrant colours people often exclaim ‘what are you drinking?’
I enjoy them Hot in the morning and during the cooler months and slightly chilled during summer, even kids can adapt to the taste and in Asia they are often enjoyed in place of soft drinks, calorie free!
The results can be subtle for occasional use, or marked if you make a conscious effort to follow a particular tea as a health regime.
We’ve all heard about the life prolonging benefits of green tea (especially Sencha & Matcha) the health benefits include antioxidants & disease fighting catechins and rich vitamins profile with moderate caffeine levels for a ‘pick me up’ effect.
The leaves of Camellia Sinensis and its many sub species are unprocessed and plucked from buds at the apex of the plant. It contains high levels of free radials for cellular stress, it boosts metabolism, reduces cholesterol and stimulates the brain to improve memory. It is said to have anti-cancer properties -research is continuing particularly for prostate cancer.
Matcha powder is also a great addition to homemade puddings and desserts. Overall green tea has a cold nature and whether drunk hot or cold, it may not be suitable for people who yearn for a heat pack on their belly.
People often laugh when I tell them I’m serving them ‘poo er’ tea, unfortunately it doesn’t do what it sounds like it might; however it is great to harmonise digestion.
An oxidised, aged form of fermented tea leaves of the Camellia Sinensis plant are mostly produced in the Yunnan province of China. In China Pu’er tea is revered for its weight loss benefits, cholesterol reducing and cardiovascular protective benefits.
The microorganisms that ferment the tea have been shown to compliment a healthy gut flora with aids digestion for heavy meals and this is the tea you will often find served at Chinese restaurants in conjunction with Yum Cha.
It varies hugely in price, its not necessary to buy the crazy expensive ones, however the cheapest are likely to be a waste of money.
Partially oxidised leaves of the Camellia Senensis plant are popular in Japan as both a hot and cold beverage often enjoyed after meals, favoured for its effect of being able to metabolise fatty foods.
Additionally regular consumption of Oolong tea is said to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, lower the risk of cancer through its high antioxidant content, promote healthy blood sugar levels and decrease inflammation.
Oolong is great to be enjoyed all day long, take it in your drink bottle as a water replacement.
Loquat Leaf Tea:
Loquat trees are native to the southern parts of China, Korea and Japan, the leaves form the basis of a famous Chinese Medicine Cough formula called ‘Pei Pa Koa,’ it is a traditional cure for itchy skin, dermatitis and as a treatment for coughs and bronchitis
Loquat leaf tea, or ‘biwacha’ is also high in antioxidants so helpful to support immunity, while also being highly beneficial in maintaining healthy blood sugar levels and even said to be beneficial to pancreatic cells.
It is also highly favoured for its ability to aid in removing toxin accumulation in the body to aid the skin and liver health, it contains a substance called Amygdalin (B-17)(also found in peach kernels) B17 is a currently experiencing a research spike in western laboratories for cancer trials.
Houttuynia Cordata is a flowering invasive ground cover native to Asia. It grows in dark moist areas, sometimes called “fish-smell herb” and its common name ‘Dokudami’ means “poison-blocker” in Japanese.
Dokudami has natural anti-histamine effects, which may be beneficial for allergies and for asthma. It is again a good source of antioxidants, and has he ability to neutralise free radicals while also supporting the lymphatic system to maintain the body’s natural health defences.
Dokudami is a popular home remedy in Japan for allergies, detoxifying and even for skin rashes; its purported benefits include an anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal function while also having a mild laxative and diuretic effect.
Dokudami is one of the main constituents often found in detox foot patches.
Is a popular iced summer tea from Korea. Omija is also known as Schizandra or ‘five flavour berry,’ and it is often used in Chinese Medicine herbal prescriptions. Used as an infusion is has some benefits such as improving liver and kidney function, boosting circulation, good for the skin and makes us resilient to stress. Some herbal traditions ay that this wonderful berry has anti-ageing benefits!
This tea may not be suitable to everyone it should be used with care for people who suffer from heartburn or those who suffer from phlegm on the chest, or sinus infections.
Hawthorn Berry is often called ‘the heart herb’ for good reason, even when you look at a Chinese Hawthorn Berry slice it resembles the side profile of an artery itself (there is a lot of symbolism in Chinese Medicine). It is said that the cardio protective effects include angina, high blood pressure, hardening of the arteries and even irregular heart beat. Even the Native Americans used hawthorn for heart and gastrointestinal complaints.
Similarly in Chinese Medicine the hawthorn fruit called ‘shan zha’ is used for an overloaded digestive system after overindulgence of meat products in particular (in addition to the heart and blood moving benefits).
Sciatic pain (sciatica) typically affects the body unilaterally, with pain extending from the hip / lower back down one leg. People often describe the uncomfortable sensation as a ‘pain in the butt cheek’, often worse when sitting, as numbness, burning or tingling which runs down the leg or even as sharp and shooting sensations from the hip the calf.
Sciatica is a symptom of an underlying lower back condition such as a structural impingement or compression of the sciatic nerve, which exits the spinal column around the upper sacrum. Trauma, chronic disk degeneration or even pregnancy can be the cause of the condition. Sciatica and Piriformis syndrome are two conditions which are often confused, they are quite different structurally however the pain and symptoms are very similar, pain management of both conditions resolves over time, and the symptoms of sciatica can be expected to improve in the absence of significant structural damage.
Sciatica is a condition, which can come and go over time; western medicine typically treats it with surgery, painkillers, anti-inflammatory medicine and even cortisone injections.
Research into acupuncture treatments has shown effective pain relief and the resolution of symptoms are manageable naturally with acupuncture. Fine needles are inserted into specific sites, which trigger a nerve system response including a cascade of natural endorphins and enkephalins for pain relief. Blood circulation to the area is increased which nourishes the surrounding tissue and over the course of several treatments it is likely to resolve the symptoms and prevent further deterioration of the condition (McDonald & Janz 2017.)
At Root & Branch Oriental therapies, Mark Davis [Dr of Chinese Medicine] treats sciatic pain using a combination of trigger points, electric stimulation, cupping and distal acupuncture using the ankles and wrists. Increasing blood flow and relaxing the muscles around the lumbar vertebrae is the first step followed by targeting the nerve itself to increase circulation and muscle relaxation along its pathway down the back of the leg.
Manual therapies such as Shiatsu can also contribute significantly to rehabilitation through stretching and by working on the tight muscle tissues of the Glutes, piriformis and hamstrings.
Table 1 & 2 of the Acupuncture Evidence Project (McDonald J, and Janz S, 2017) retrieved from: www.acupuncture.org.au
I have been making Kvass this week, it is basically lacto-fermented raw beetroot cubes with added water, the resulting deep red liquid is taken in small doses internally for its health benefits.
Beetroot is a powerhouse of nutrition packed full of vitamins and minerals, however it is higher in natural sugars than any other root vegetable, when fermented, enzymes and beneficial bacteria consume the sugars to make the nutrients more bioavailable. Beetroot is particularly good for heart health, blood production and it is even said to lower blood pressure; anecdotal evidence suggests that is especially beneficial for the Liver.
Taste-wise, the Kvass is a little sour, sweet and salty all at the same time. In Chinese Medicine, the sour taste directs foods to the Liver, the sweet taste to the Spleen and salty to the Kidneys. So you can see already that it is quite a well balanced tonic for all three organs.
Although it’s origins are not Chinese, as an integrated health practitioner, I prefer to mix the best from all traditional health concepts regardless of where they originate.
We have all heard the saying “you are what you eat,” and the famous quote by Hippocrates: “Let food be thy medicine.”
Asian countries have a long history of using fermented foods including miso, tempeh, kimchi, natto etc. In the West also, particularly Eastern European countries have traditions such as Sourdough, Kefir, Sauerkraut and Kvass.
Before refrigeration was available these processes were used to preserve staple foods so that they were available during the colder seasons when there was less produce, however as they have been shown to be a valuable resource nutritionally, the tradition continues today and the consumption seems to be gaining popularity.
Regular intake of fermented vegetables will improve digestion, resolve bloating and compliment intestinal health. Important research is currently exploring the associations between gut health and cognitive function.
In Chinese Medicine dietary guidelines, over-indulgence of fermented foods can result in ‘dampness,’ typically noticed as excess mucous, a heavy feeling, diarrhoea and sluggishness.
So these foods should be enjoyed in small doses, as an accompaniment to meals, on a daily basis.
Acupuncture for Plantar Fasciitis, by Mark Davis, BHSc (TCM).
Plantar fasciitis is sometimes referred to as “Runners Heel,” it is an inflammation of the muscles on the underlying surface of the foot – the long, flat ligament that runs along the sole of the toes. It is one of the most common & painful foot problems which some people typically experience when getting out of bed in the mornings, or after being seated for prolonged periods.
Plantar fasciitis is usually caused from repetitive strain to the heel area, it is a common, and very persistent injury afflicting runners, walkers and hikers, and people who stand on hard surfaces like concrete & tiled surfaces for extended periods.
Although pain is typically felt between the arch and heel of the foot, plantar fasciitis pain often originates in the muscles of the lower legs and calf. When these muscles are tight and overstretched, it puts strain on the plantar fascia on the bottom of the foot. Being quite a stubborn condition, people can often see many health practitioners and typically invest quite large amounts of money in ongoing treatment for cortisone injections and orthotics.
At Root & Branch Oriental therapies, we have found quite a good success rate using manipulation of the calf muscle with heat therapy, combined with distal acupuncture which avoids upsetting the already inflamed facia of the plantar surface; typically most cases resolve within 3-4 consultations. Several products such as liniment patches and foot soaks are available to compliment the physical intervention between treatment.
Medical Science shows similar results; Xu Xuemeng et al., Guangzhou Dongcheng Hospital randomly divided 66 plantar fasciitis patients into an acupuncture group and a conventional therapy control group. The acupuncture group received standard acupuncture and the control group received triamcinolone acetonide acetate injections and local blocking therapy. The results were assessed 6 months after the completion of all treatments. The acupuncture group achieved a total effective rate of 97% and the drug therapy group had a 76% effective rate.
The aforementioned research is not an isolated finding; Guangzhou Social Welfare House researchers (Tang et al.) performed a meta-analysis of 19 independent plantar fasciitis clinical trials. A total of 16 of the 19 studies made extensive use of Ahshi acupuncture points. Based on the data, the researchers determined that acupuncture is effective for the treatment of plantar fasciitis. The following are some of the studies included in the meta-analysis.
Acupuncture has a proven and lengthy track record for producing significant positive outcomes rates for patients with plantar fasciitis. The data indicates that access to acupuncture, moxibustion, and TCM herbal foot baths is an adequate solution for the vast majority of patients.
Additionally it is worth considering that adverse reactions to acupuncture and trigger point therapy under controlled conditions by a properly accredited practitioner are rare.
Tang, Cuanqi, et al. “Progress of Clinical Research on Acupuncture and Moxibustion for Heel Pain.” World Chinese Medicine 9.1 (2014): 120-123.
Gao F, Zhao B, Fan XH. Thrust acupuncture and injection therapy in treating plantar fasciitis 150 cases [J]. Yunnan TCM Herbs Journal, 2015, 36(6): 80-81.
Our feet are the connection between heaven and earth. It is easy to forget just how important they are to us, in modern day life we wear shoes and forget to re-connect with the earth. Our feet bear the weight of our entire body, 700 times each for every kilometre we walk. Each foot contains more than 7000 nerve endings, 107 ligaments, 19 muscles & 26 bones (1/4 of all the bones in the body). For many people, feet are a low priority when it comes to ongoing care…. And yet, all it takes is the slightest irritation on the smallest toe to give discomfort to our whole being!
Herbal foot soaks are beneficial to most conditions related to pain and overuse of the muscles and tendons of the feet, from diabetic foot neuropathy, plantar fasciitis, heel pain, bone spurs and achilles tendonitis. Prolonged use of herbal foot baths (> 2 weeks) may also be beneficial to general wellbeing including reduced stress levels, insomnia, migraines, fatigue, IBS and hormonal imbalances.
Western science is slowly catching up to the knowledge of traditional Chinese Medicine. In a recent study done by Harvard, a simple warm bath before you go to bed at night can significantly increase your sleep. Click here to read the study.
HOW TO: Initially 3-4 tea bags should be simmered for around 10 minutes. Next the temperature needs to be equalised when the hot tea is transferred to the bucket, ensuring that the solution is below 45 DEC C to prevent scolding. Best results are expected after >40 minutes use, a kettle of hot water kept handy can ensure the water is topped up regularly to keep the solution close to the desired 40 DEC C mark.
EVEN BETTER: Take this time to relax, read a book, meditate or listen to some guided self hypnosis.
Here is a link to a breathing technique I particularly like:
Manufacturer: Guangzhou Medicines & Health Products.
701 Dieda Zhengtong Yaogao medicated plasters provide temporary pain relief from minor aches and pains of muscles and joints, simple backache, arthritis, traumatic injury, strains, bruises and sprains. Also used to temporarily ease pain from bone spurs in areas not covered by thick muscles such as heels and shoulders.
Now available in a convenient pack of 6 plaster sheets, each measuring 10 x 12cm, affordable and super effective to reinforce acupuncture or shiatsu therapy treatments between appointments.
Eupolyphaga sinensis 8.0%
Mentha haplocalyx 5.0%
Methyl Salicylate 10.0%
Phellodendron chinense 8.0%
Polygonum cuspidatum 2.0%
Rheum palmatum 8.0%
Scutellaria Baicalensis 8.0%
Zanthoxylum nitidum 8.0%
Non-medicinal ingredients include:
Paraffinum Liquidum leve
The plasters are based on a traditional Chinese Medicine herbal remedy which shows anecdotal pain relief of muscular tension by stimulating blood circulation.
How to use: peel off the plastic backing sheet and place the plaster over the sore area. A warming effect may be noticed initially, pain relieving effect will normally last for about 24 hours at which point it should be discarded. It is best to wait a few hours before applying a new patch, many people report a cooling sensation between applying plasters. When using on the torso it is often better to use bi-laterally even for one sided pain.
This product should never be applied over broken skin and use during pregnancy is contraindicated.
Eastential Chinese Medicine, David Yao Chi Guan, Four Seasons Wellness Centre, Shinma Acupuncture, Acuuncture Abbotsford Convent, Abbotsford Medical & Acupuncture Centre, Yuki Murata