In modern culture, the value of healthy digestion is severely underestimated. Digestive imbalances such as constipation, diarrhea, bloating and gas and often overlooked and considered to be collateral damage from “normal” eating habits. The truth, however, is that healthy digestion is one of the foundational principals to staying well. Many people attempt to make healthy lifestyle changes but can become confused of where to start: Diet? Exercise? Meditation? Supplements? It can become overwhelming but a good gauge of how well we are achieving health is through our digestion and bowel movements. (Kind of gross, but true) [Read more…]
Come join Julie Shindler-Cohen at Karma Yoga to learn about Women’s health and Chinese medicine. Julie will discuss general Chinese medical theory and will explore women’s health and prevention in more detail. Attendees will gain a greater understanding of how Chinese medicine treats the body’s natural energetic balance as a means of preventing and treating an array of symptoms that arise throughout a woman’s lifecycle.
DATE: Tuesday November 22
PLACE: Karma Yoga 3683 W. Maple Road (At Lahser Road)
COST: $20 at the door/$75 for the series
Julie will be offering one course in a series entitled “Soma & Agni”, which offers information about women’s self care and lunar cycles from an Ayurvedic perspective. The course will be each Tuesday in the month of November from 2-3:15 at Karma Yoga. Please look at the Karma’s website for more details about the seminar!
I recently had an interesting herbal encounter with a patient. She was telling me that she’s taking a Chinese herbal formula from her physician that was full of Chinese herbs that are “adaptogens”. I was absolutely intrigued. When I asked her exactly what was in it, she couldn’t remember any specific herbs but was sure that it contained a long list of Chinese herbs. My understanding of Chinese herbal adaptogens is new and still in progress. This understanding of herbs is a modern approach to Chinese herbalism and I often struggle to find a balance between classical and modern Chinese herbalism.
Classically, Chinese herbs are arranged into categories that describe the general function of herbs. For example, herbs that tonify qi, drain dampness, clear heat, etc. Within each category, each individual herb has its own taste, temperature and specific function. The properties of each herb are important in herbal formulas and modifications. Herbs are always prescribed as formulas, or combinations of herb that achieve a specific treatment principal. (In fact, the text book for formulas is called “Formulas and Strategies” because a formula is indeed a strategy for treatment.) The effectiveness of a formula comes from the synergistic qualities of all the herbs. This is important to keep in mind when new research comes out regarding specific pharmaceutical properties of individual herbs. Sometimes people hear in the news about a Chinese herb that has “estrogenic effects” or have questionable side effects. This sort of information completely discounts the nature of classic herbal formulations. Sure, one herb contains a variety of actions but when it is used in a formula with several other herbs, specific effects of single herbs become moderated. That’s the beauty of Chinese herbalism! Formulas were designed to offset any “negative side effects” and to balance the herbs to yield the best effect for the patient (and, ideally, with NO side effects).
Now back to adaptogens. Needless to say, the classic material medica (Chinese herbal compilation) did not identify those herbs that can be classified as adaptogens. It is very exciting to practice Chinese herablism in an age where scientific research is able to determine these more fine-tuned properties of herbs. However, it can become overwhelming when writing formulas for my patients. I welcome these discoveries and always include the modern strategies in my formulas. However, I stay focused on the classic Chinese medical approach in choosing the basis of formulas and incorporate the modern approach in making modifications. I hope that by balancing old and new strategies, my patients will find relief in their symptoms and make better progress towards healing!
Acupuncture is one of the best forms of preventative medicine available today. The goal of acupuncture is to maintain balance within the energy channels so that disease will not present itself. Maintaining balance ensures that there is not too much (an excess) of energy in one channel and a lack of (deficiency) of energy in another channel. Chinese herbs are also used for this purpose; to clear out any excess, support any deficiency or treat any resulting pathologies. From an emotional perspective, I have found that when people become stressed or emotionally vulnerable, any preexisting deficiency becomes a more serious problem. For example, the person who has a long history of digestive disorders gets severe digestive problems when they experience a loss in their life. Or a person who has a long history of allergies and frequent colds get a long standing cough that will not go away when life becomes stressful. [Read more…]
In the age of food allergies, Sandra Beasley’s Don’t Kill the Birthday Girl: Tales from An Allergic Life is a fascinating read for those of us who cannot imagine living with such food restrictions. Beasley tells her life story of dealing with severe food allergies and how she has learned to adapt her life around her extreme food sensitivities. Her food allergies are so severe that she rejected her mother’s breast milk as an infant. Over many years, doctors were able to determine that she is allergic to dairy (including goat’s milk), egg, soy, beef, shrimp, pine nuts, cucumbers, cantaloupe, honeydew, mango, macadamias, pistachios, cashews, swordfish and mustard; she is also allergic to mold, dust, grass, tree pollen, cigarette smoke, dogs, rabbits, horses, and wool. (Can you imagine?) However, the discovery of her allergies also involved countless anaphylactic shock episodes and trips to the emergency room before the correct offender could be identified. [Read more…]
The inability to fall asleep at night can be very frustrating. Although we may feel tired, we can lay in bed for hours without being able to fall asleep. Instead of relaxing into sleep, we become more agitated that we cannot fall asleep—it’s a vicious cycle, to say the least. Sometimes all that is necessary is a formal way to calm the mind. Try this meditation, a modification of the “microcosmic orbit”, which helps to relax both the body and the mind. [Read more…]
As many women know, menstrual cramps can be quite painful and disruptive to daily life. The constant aching and pain that may last up 7 days can really take a toll on a woman’s quality of life. Of course, there are plenty of medications on the market that can ease the pain but do not treat the root of the problem. From a traditional Chinese medical standpoint, menstrual cramps are the result of energy (qi) and blood not able to flow freely. (We call this qi and blood stagnation) There are many different ways to help promote movement during this time of the menstrual cycle that really help with painful periods. [Read more…]
Mainstream medical treatment is beginning to shift towards a more holistic approach. Major hospitals around the country are starting to offer “alternative health” services to their patients in addition to conventional care, including acupuncture, naturopathy, homeopathy, massage and nutritional therapies, to name a few. For many people, it may be confusing to determine which services to use and how one modality affects another. (For example, many of our patients ask if they can get massage the same day as acupuncture.) [Read more…]
Beans are an excellent source of vegetarian protein. The proteins from beans (legumes) can help regulate water and sugar metabolism and should be eaten as part of a healthy diet. Some people are afraid of eating beans due to flatulence or digestive upset, however these symptoms are usually due to improper preparation and cooking techniques. Make sure to soak your beans overnight in cold water before cooking. [Read more…]
The practice of traditional Chinese medicine (CM) is very complex. People often ask “how does acupuncture work?” or “what types of conditions can acupuncture treat?” The answers to such questions are much more involved than a simple list of ailments. Simply put, and CM is an ancient, energetic, holistic medicine that takes into account all aspects of a person’s lifestyle and symptoms in order to make a diagnosis and treatment strategy. Let’s break this down more clearly. [Read more…]