Ginger has been used for centuries in China for both culinary and medicinal purposes. Used in many forms – fresh ginger, dried ginger, ginger tea, ginger juice, or ginger oil – ginger is an important herb in the Chinese diet.
Sheng Jiang, fresh ginger, is said to be warm, acrid and mildly diaphoretic. It enters the Lung, Spleen and Stomach meridians.
Ginger is very commonly used to treat the early stages of the common cold and may even prevent catching a cold during cold or rainy weather. For this purpose, several slices of fresh ginger are boiled in water for about 10 minutes with brown sugar added at the end. The tea is typically taken in the evening just before going to bed so that the patient can “sweat the cold out”. Fresh ginger warms the Lung and helps stop coughing. Xing Su San is a famous herbal cough formula which has ginger as an ingredient.
Ginger warms the stomach and is a very powerful herb to relieve nausea and vomiting. A simple ginger tea has been shown to be effective for cancer patients in reducing the severity of nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Placing a slice of ginger over the acupuncture point PC6 on the inside of the wrist significantly helps relieve nausea and vomiting, even when due to motion sickness or morning sickness. For this purpose, the ginger is placed on the right side for females and the left side for males.
Fresh ginger eliminates toxins and has been used to treat seafood poisoning. It is also commonly used to neutralize the toxicity of other herbs. Ban Xia and Tian Nan Xing are two herbs that must be preprocessed with ginger juice to reduce their toxicity.
Fresh ginger is often added when cooking stews and beans and is especially helpful for people who tend to have a cold constitution. Ginger aids in the digestion of meats by helping the body to flush uric acid. Ginger also reduces flatulence associated with beans.
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As an acupuncture student, you spend the better part of three to four years memorizing exact anatomical locations of hundreds of acupuncture points and a recipe list of common indications for their use. It is a necessary task to get a basic understanding of Chinese medicine. And it is required to have this knowledge under your belt to be able to pass the NCCAOM national board exam in order to get licensed in most states.
But I am eternally grateful to Dr. Richard Tan and Master Tung for showing me the true power of acupuncture meridian theory. Understanding that the human body is holographic in nature with each body area reflecting the whole body, opens the door to dozens of possibilities in the treatment of almost any condition. And, though I do tend to stick to some common point combinations that almost never seem to fail me for common ailments, for a certain percentage of people who don’t fall into the majority, they have taught me how to put on my thinking cap and try a fresh approach.
I was recently reminded of the beauty of this way of thinking when I picked up Miriam Lee’s book “Master Tong’s Acupuncture” to refresh my memory on the location of acupuncture points that I knew to be used for cold sores. The points are called Upper Lip (77.15) and Lower Lip (77.16). The first point is located at the lateral inferior edge of the patella and the attachment of the ligament patellae. The second point is one cun (about an inch) below that. These points are commonly bled by pricking them with a three edge needle to treat lip sores.
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In upstate NY, we are finally in the throes of heat and humidity or what we call the dog days of summer. This is the time when thousands of people in mainland China are lining up at special clinics in their local hospitals to start herbal plaster therapy, or fu tie, for chronic asthma and other respiratory diseases.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), it is common knowledge that the best time to treat a chronic winter disease is during the hottest time of the year.
In summer the yang (hot) energy of the universe is at its peak and the yin (cold) energy is at its lowest point. Chinese medicine believes that the human body is a microcosm of the universe, and therefore the same principal holds true. People who suffer from pulmonary disorders that are aggravated by cold weather typically are constitutionally deficient of yang energy and therefore susceptible to an invasion of pathogenic cold. Summer is the best time to strengthen the yang energy of the body.
The treatment for asthma involves applying an herbal paste to acupuncture points on the upper back. Chinese herbs that are warm in nature or have the function to eliminate phlegm are used in the preparations. One such formula grinds equal amounts of bai jie zi, yan hu suo, gan sui, and xi xin into a powder and moistens the mixture with ginger juice to form a paste. Cakes the size of a quarter are positioned over acupuncture points, covered with gauze and tape and left in place for three to four hours. Because the pores of the skin are open during this hot time of year, the medicinal properties of the herbs are more readily absorbed into the body.
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Millions of women suffer from painful periods. Often the pain occurs the day before the period starts. Some women experience menstrual cramps during the period. And some feel exhausted and achy when the period is over. Chinese Medicine explains menstrual period cramps in terms of the proper flow and quantity of Qi (energy) and Blood. By asking very detailed and specific questions about the menstrual cycle a practitioner can determine the underlying cause of menstrual cramping. Both acupuncture and Chinese herbal formulas are very effective to resolve the vast majority of painful period cramps.
To determine the pattern of imbalance in the body that is causing the painful period symptoms, questions must be answered as to the timing of the pain, the location of the pain, the character of the pain and whether or not it is aggravated or relieved by cold, heat or pressure. The regularity and length of the cycle, the quality of the pulse and the color of the tongue may also be significant in coming to a correct diagnosis.
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Last year I was asked to speak at a monthly meeting of the local Dental Society. I decided to talk about TMJ because it is a condition that our two professions can co-treat very effectively. I had been told that very few of the members knew much about acupuncture, so I wanted to give some background on Chinese Medicine that would hopefully give some credibility to my explanation of using acupuncture points on the foot to treat jaw pain. I wanted to talk about the many micro-systems of acupuncture that are based on the knowledge that the body can be viewed as a hologram. That is, one part of the body represents the whole body.
First I showed them the model of the ear and talked about auricular acupuncture. I explained that the body is mapped on the ear by superimposing the image of the fetus. Newcomers to Chinese Medicine theory are almost always amazed when I ask them to picture the baby inverted in the womb on the ear. Once you see it (head on the ear lobe, back curled along the outer edge of the ear) it is hard to believe that you hadn’t noticed it before! Then I briefly touched on Korean Hand Acupuncture where all of the meridian acupuncture points are mapped on the hand. I talked about foot reflexology, iridology, and Dr. Tan’s Balance Method acupuncture. I did all of this because I wanted to lay the groundwork to tell them that the whole body is also mapped on the teeth.
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Whether you have occasional trouble falling asleep, trouble staying asleep or severe insomnia, acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine may have help for you. Recently, I have had a few patients with severe insomnia come to me hoping for relief. Often anxiety and depression accompany sleeplessness. It becomes a vicious cycle – the more you can’t sleep, the more anxious and depressed you become. And the more anxious and depressed you are, the more difficult it is to sleep peacefully. Insomnia starts to affect every aspect of your life – job, health and relationships.
One of my patients has had a history of going days without sleep, and has recently been given the Western medicine diagnosis of being bipolar. After her first traditional acupuncture treatment, she felt very relaxed and was able to get one good night’s sleep. She was thrilled and jokingly said she wished she could just wear the needles home.
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Skya Gardner-Abbate devotes a whole chapter to the treatment of scars in her book, “The Art of Palpatory Diagnosis in Oriental Medicine”. In Oriental Medicine it is a well known fact that scars may disrupt the normal flow of energy (Qi) and Blood in the meridians, or energy pathways. Not all scars are problematic, but they are viewed as potential organ-meridian disturbances. Practitioners should always inquire about scars during the initial interview. Scars should be examined and evaluated during the physical exam. Scars that are the result of surgery, large scars or scars that are symptomatic – causing pain, burning or numbness should be investigated.
There is a three step process to assessing a scar. First, inspect the scar and note its relationship to the acupuncture meridians. Look at the size, shape, texture and color of the scar. If the scar is hard, raised, and dark in color it is more likely to be tender and problematic. Secondly, note the location of the scar. Scars on the neck, lower abdomen, face, head and spine can have profound implications due to the energetics of these areas. Last, palpate around the scar (never directly on top of the scar) to see if there is tenderness or a perception of weakness or emptiness that would indicate a deficiency in that area.
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I love the following article by Dr. Amaro because it illustrates the relationship of the acupuncture meridians and shows how a blockage in one part of the body can cause pain in another seemingly unrelated part of the body. Scars can cause the blockage of energy in the acupuncture meridians. This article also shows how treating that blockage without ever touching the painful part of the body can give immediate and lasting relief. I see this everyday in my acupuncture practice. I almost never use an acupuncture needle in the part of the body that has pain. By using the logic of correspondent needling technique that I learned from Master Tung’s work, there are many choices of acupuncture points that can be used to relieve pain without ever doing local acupuncture needles.
Master Tung almost always used contralateral insertion of needles to relieve pain. Acupuncture would be applied to the healthy side of the body. If the problem was in the head, he would needle the foot. If the problem was in the lower part of the body, he would needle the upper. If the problem was on the left, he would needle the right. If you image the arm on the leg, the shoulder corresponds to the hip, the elbow corresponds to the knee, the wrist corresponds to the ankle, and the hand corresponds to the foot. There are six meridians that pass thru the arm and six different meridians that pass thru the leg. They are related to each other in a number of different ways. Knowing the meridian relationships will help to find the correct therapeutic acupuncture point to treat the problem.
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