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Is there a cure for the common cold?

January 24 in Ailments by rmarmor Comments Off on Is there a cure for the common cold?

Treatment of Colds and Flu Using Traditional Chinese Medicine

A phrase often heard this time of year is There is no cure for the common cold. And for most people whose primary, if not only, form of medical care is by an MD practicing modern Western medicine, is one that is true. The common cold and influenza are viral infections of the upper respiratory tract that do not respond to antibiotics or other pharmaceutical drugs. Medicine can be taken to help relieve some of the symptoms or to address secondary bacterial infections, but the cause of the illness is not being addressed or resolved.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) approaches colds and flu from an entirely different perspective and since as early as 220AD has been successfully treating these types of illnesses. Because Chinese doctors and scholars began theorizing so long ago and before the advent of microscopes, they did not consider what we now know as viruses to be the cause of colds and flu. Instead, these illnesses were considered to be an invasion of the patient by what is known as an External Pathogenic Factor (EPF). More simply said a disease producing element that exists on the outside of the body invades through the skin, nose or mouth causing the person to fall ill.

This explanation, as far as it goes, does not differ significantly from the Western point of view. Both traditions consider that the illness has been caused by a foreign element entering the body. Where the difference lies, however, is in what is believed to occur once the pathogen enters the body and how it can then be treated in ways that resolve the patient’s illness quickly and thoroughly.

Think of the body as a territory that can be invaded by outside forces. That body is believed to have several types of energy (known as Qi) existing within it. The energy that is responsible for defending the body from external invasions is known as Wei Qi which translates as “Defensive” Qi. It circulates on the surface of the body in the skin and muscles. Another type of energy, called Ying Qi or “Nutritive” Qi, is responsible for nourishing the body. It flows within the blood vessels and through the large network of channels that carry energy throughout the body. To summarize, Ying Qi is in the Interior and nourishes, Wei Qi is on the Surface and protects. These two types of energy work together to form a barrier of protection from outside forces. We can think of them as a fence, with the Ying Qi serving as the posts and the Wei Qi acting as the wire mesh. Should a Pathogenic Factor try to enter the body, the strength of the body’s resistance to it will be determined by the strength of that ‘fence’ versus the strength of the invading pathogen. If the body’s defensive ‘fence’ is strong and the pathogen relatively weak, the person will probably not get sick. If the fence is weak or the pathogen is just that much stronger, he or she may catch that cold or flu.

Let’s say that someone has fallen ill with the latest cold going around the office. Perhaps he had been working long hours, not getting enough rest and eating poorly. His Defensive Qi may have weakened and when faced with the onslaught of coughing and sneezing around him, was unable to muster enough strength to keep it out. He then came down with some of the symptoms common to colds and flu: fever, body aches, sore throat and headache. Later this may progress to alternating fever and chills, cough, nasal congestion and fatigue.

Traditional Chinese Medical theory has delineated these and other symptoms into very specific stages and by determining which stage of illness a person has reached and then using acupuncture and Chinese herbs we can very effectively treat and resolve the ailment. This theoretical model is known as the Six Stages and some of the general symptoms of each stage are as follows:

Stage 1: Tai Yang

This stage is divided into two categories:

a. Wind Cold Aversion to cold, shivering, no fever or very low fever, no sweating, headache, stiff neck, body aches, runny nose, sneezing

b. Wind Heat Aversion to cold, shivering, fever, slight sweating, runny nose, headache, body aches,cough, sore throat, swollen tonsils, slight thirst

Stage 2: Yang Ming

High fever, profuse sweating, aversion to heat, thirst with a desire to drink cold water, red face, restlessness

Stage 3: Shao Yang

Alternating chills and fever, feeling of fullness at the sides of and just below the ribs, lack of appetite, irritability, dry throat, nausea, bitter taste in the mouth, blurred vision

Stage 4: Tai Yin

Abdominal fullness, vomiting, no appetite, diarrhea, absence of thirst

Stage 5: Shao Yin

This stage is divided into two categories:

a. Shao Yin Cold: Chills, aversion to cold, listlessness, lethargy, cold limbs, diarrhea, no thirst or a desire to drink warm fluids, abundant-pale urine

b. Shao Yin Heat: Fever, irritability, dry mouth and throat, scanty-dark urine

Stage 6: Jue Yin:

Thirst, feeling of energy rising to the chest, pain and feeling of heat in the chest, feeling of hunger with no desire to eat, cold limbs, diarrhea, vomiting

These are some of the more important symptoms that a TCM practitioner will look for to determine at what stage of illness the patient presents. Common cold and influenza manifest primarily with Stage 1 symptoms of Wind Cold or Wind Heat and thus is the stage that will require treatment. Very specific acupuncture points are chosen as well as a one of several appropriate herbal formulas. If the practitioner is able to treat the patient in the early days of the cold or flu he or she can often successfully expel the pathogen from the body by ‘releasing’ the surface.

To accomplish this, the practitioner summons the patient’s Defensive Qi (Wei Qi) and Nutritive Qi (Ying Qi) to fight the pathogen on the surface before it can invade into deeper levels of the body. The acupuncture points and herbs that are chosen also help to open the pores so that the pathogen can be successfully expelled. These, as well as other important functions of specific herbs and acupuncture points, work together to resolve the cold or flu quickly and thoroughly. The earlier the symptoms are addressed, the more likely the practitioner will be successful.

There are several factors that can affect this success. The first is the timeliness of treatment. If too much time has passed, or the pathogen moves into the body very quickly, the patient may progress into a later stage which then will require treatment specific to that stage.

Another factor is the relative strength of the patient versus that of the pathogen. If the patient’s Qi is quite weak or the pathogen very strong, it can be more difficult to successfully expel the pathogen while it is still on the surface and this too may require treatment of a later stage. If this does occur and the pathogen moves deeper into the interior of the body, the TCM practitioner can still effectively treat the patient by being well versed in the symptomology of each stage and the acupuncture and herbal treatments appropriate to that stage.

For several millennium this combination of acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine has proven very effective in treating what we now refer to as the common cold and flu. These time honored medical traditions are still being called upon by one quarter of the world’s population. So next time you feel the first signs of that cold or flu that everyone seems to be passing around this time of year, consider turning to a practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine to address it. You just might find that there is a cure for the common cold.

By Rachelle Marmor, Licensed Acupuncturist

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What is acupuncture?

December 22 in General by rmarmor Comments Off on What is acupuncture?

Most Westerners have very little understanding of the medical practice known as Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture.

For some it is fascinating, yet vague and somewhat mysterious. To others, whose primary exposure has been to traditional Western allopathic medicine, it may be readily dismissed as not being ‘real medicine’; an inferior modality with little basis in scientific thought. There are even those who think of it as some type of ‘voodoo’ and to them it can feel like an alien and disquieting practice. None of these responses is unexpected. When we don’t understand something, it is possible to react in any of these ways – with genuine interest, casual dismissal or even fear. It is through education, experience and familiarization that Traditional Chinese Medicine can be seen and understood more clearly for what it is – a comprehensive and credible medical modality that is extensive, complex and, above all, effective in treating a wide range of diseases and conditions.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is comprised of the practices of Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine. It is the oldest professional, continually practiced medicine in the world, with enormous amounts of written literature stretching back almost 2500 years. In the United States, however, it is in its mere infancy having been formally introduced here just over thirty years ago. Recently its availability and acceptance has been growing by leaps and bounds and is expected to continue to do so. So what is this ‘new’ medicine known as Acupuncture and how does it work?

Practitioners of TCM view the human body and the course of disease very differently than their MD counterparts. This view is based on a very complex system of channels and organs through which energy, blood and body fluids flow. Good health can be maintained when there is balance and harmony within this system. Disease arises from disruptions and imbalances in the system.

To treat the many conditions that can develop from these imbalances, a practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine must determine which elements are out of balance – the first step in establishing an accurate diagnosis. For example, a TCM practitioner will check to see if the patient is exhibiting symptoms of heat or of cold or perhaps they are too damp or too dry. The patient may be deficient and weak or the opposite, have an unhealthy excess. In addition we must determine which organs are implicated in these imbalances, which channel systems have been affected and to what stage the problem has progressed. All of these elements combine to form the patient’s diagnosis according to Traditional Chinese Medicine. This diagnosis determines which patterns of disharmony are present and will require rebalancing. These imbalances are then addressed using acupuncture and, if appropriate, Chinese herbal medicinals. Often, questions of diet, lifestyle and stress levels are also considered and discussed. This unique system of diagnosis enables us to treat the root causes of pain and disease which very often results in genuine long term recovery and not just temporary relief of symptoms.

The practice of Acupuncture uses a complex system of channels that flow throughout the body – similar to how our circulatory system works – and is used to transport blood, fluids and the body’s vital energy (known as Qi). There are approximately 400 specific acupuncture points that allow access to this system via the insertion of fine needles. If these channels were a network of underground streams, acupuncture points would be the above ground openings through which we could drop in a fishing line. Each of these acupuncture points has its own energetic functions which alone or in combination can be used to treat the patient’s specific patterns of disharmony. The insertion of acupuncture needles is usually painless – in fact most people don’t even know the needle has been inserted until the practitioner applies a slight stimulus in order to connect with the body’s Qi. Then they may feel some sort of sensation, but rarely pain. On the whole, most patients experience an overall sense of deep relaxation and well-being which comes from affecting the body on a deep energetic level.

Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can be used to treat a wide range of diseases and conditions. Some of these include acute and chronic pain, migraines, sports injuries, colds and flu, gynecologic disorders, allergies, asthma, gastrointestinal disorders, arthritis, autoimmune diseases, high blood pressure, sciatica and infertility. Many chronic and difficult to treat conditions respond well to this form of medicine, often succeeding where others have failed.

Bear in mind that the study and practice of Traditional Chinese Medicine is extremely complex and extensive and not just a collection of techniques that can be easily added to other health care professions’ treatment practices. For these reasons, when choosing a practitioner it is best to seek out one that is State Licensed and Nationally Board Certified in Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine. Medical training in Chinese medicine usually requires a minimum of three to four years in an accredited Graduate Degree program so be sure to check credentials when seeking treatment and choose a professionally trained and qualified practitioner. Your best indicator of the benefits of this medicine will be the results of your own treatments, so go ahead and give it a try if you haven’t yet done so. See for yourself, Acupuncture works!

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Overview: The Situation in Burma

November 10 in Seva Healing by alpha1 No Comments

For over fifty years, the dictators of Burma (now known as Myanmar) have waged war against their own civilian population. It is a war backed by a military of over 400,000 soldiers and is supported by 50% of the nation’s budget. The dictatorship of Burma is in an ongoing and brutal program – one of domination, assimilation and exploitation of their country’s ethnic minority population. Burma’s military leaders view these villagers’ unwillingness to abandon their homelands as a form of dissent which they seek to crush. Absolute intolerance of the ethnic population’s desire for peace and self-determination is the primary motivation behind the continued attacks.

Under attack is a people’s way of life and their ability to stay in their homes and farms. These are peaceful people who want nothing more than to tend their farms and raise their families. Yet troops regularly attack these civilians – loot, beat, rape and torture indiscriminately and burn homes or entire villages, laying land-mines to keep villagers from returning home.

It is common for the Burma Army to use captured civilians as human shields and human minesweepers or to require them to work for the army as forced labor. The army extends their control over the ethnic minority population, which make up 32% of the population of Burma, by building roads and camps in their ethnic homelands. When their villages are burned and villagers attacked, raped or murdered, these people have no other choice than to relocate or flee into the jungles. Many have to continue on in hiding, living at the very edge of survival or dying from exposure or untreated illness.

The disruption of their food production, burning of their homes and the shoot-on-sight orders of the Burma Army have made staying in their homeland untenable for hundreds of thousands of people. It is estimated that there are over one million internally displaced people and over one million refugees who have fled the country. Many of those who have made it into neighboring countries such as Thailand continue to have IDP status (Internally Displaced People) which entitles them to little, if any, aid. People in these camps and villages are living and farming at a bare subsistence level with little opportunity of receiving adequate health care or an education except for what they provide for themselves or what the few humanitarian groups serving this population can offer.

The internally displaced people’s unwillingness to give up their homelands is considered to be an ultimate act of civil disobedience by the ruling junta in Burma. The pro-democracy movement is still active in Burma and in the war zones the ethnic resistance attempts to protect their people. They help villagers escape pending attacks, clear land-mines and help people cross army-controlled roads while trying to lead them to safety. There are also several non-governmental organizations and community-based organizations that work together to help provide basic services such temporary shelter, food and medical care.

In spite of this oppression, the people of Burma have not given up. In one Karenni village where the Burma Army had burned 25 of the villagers’ homes to the ground but left the church standing, the people still gather to sing and pray every Sunday. As villagers walk back from each of the five services, they continue singing hymns in groups of three and four. They will insist on sharing even the last of their food saying, “Are you not our guest? We always take care of our guest. It is our way, and it makes us happy.” The cheerfulness and generosity of these villagers is typical and is a testimony to their culture and faith. They try to take care of each other and the many children orphaned by the ongoing war. When forced to flee a village under attack, they will always make sure no one is left behind, often carrying the children, the elderly and the sick on their backs.

These civilians under attack need immediate protection, humanitarian assistance and support for their pro-democracy organizations by the international community. To survive, these people rely on each other, their ability to organize and help themselves and, for many, their faith. These are not helpless victims. They have not given up. They run and hide when they have to, and if and when they can, continue to return to rebuild their homes, restart their schools and tend to their families, their farms and one another. They continue to hope that the outside world, the international community will no longer turn a blind eye.

“We have a right to stay in our own homes and farms, as we always have. We don’t need the dictators’ army to control us. We want to be free.” – A Karenni grandmother whose village has been attacked four times in the last six years but who refuses to leave her land.

“While the scale of displacement and destruction is large, people die individually, each death an irreplaceable loss.” –Free Burma Rangers Report and Analysis of Burma Army Offensive 2006- 2007

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