In modern day society, people have come to accept various health problems as “normal” occurrences of life. However many of these disorders, or imbalances, are not “normal” from a traditional Chinese medical standpoint. Specifically, we commonly see hot flashes and night sweats to be accepted as a rite of passage into menopause. There is, however, another way! [Read more…]
The value of sleep is severely underestimated in today’s culture. Many people come to accept the fact that getting less than 8 hours of sleep per night is adequate for proper functioning. Long term sleep deprivation, however, may be the beginning of a long and slow decline in health. Sleep allows the body to restore and heal itself. When people are not getting enough time to “recharge their batteries”, this is when bodily functions may start going haywire. For many people, finding time to sleep is not the problem, but rather the ability to fall and stay asleep is what is keeping people awake. [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…]
Most of us eat foods because they are pleasurable and we enjoy their smell, taste and textures.
Eating is a very personal experience as it is both a source of nutrition as well as a tool for social gathering. Most of us are also well aware of the
nutritional value of food. Eating whole grains (vs. enriched white flours), fresh (vs. canned) vegetables and healthy fats (vs. trans fats) are
cornerstones of many diets. It is also valuable to look at our bodies, the importance of the temperatures and flavors of foods, and the best season to eat them
in. [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…]
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…]
As most of our patients taking herbs know, herbs do not taste good. There is a reason for this. The Chinese materia media (all Chinese herbs) are classified by their tastes–different tastes have different functions. For example, sweet tonifies deficiencies and sour astringes fluids. Therefore, taste has a purpose.
At the same time, we must find ways to “get them down the hatch”. Over the years, I have come up with a few tricks that have been useful in drinking herbs on a daily basis:
1. Suck on a mint right before drinking the herbs. Especially if its a strong mint, you’ll find that the cooling sensation “numbs” the mouth and you can not taste the herbs as strongly.
2. I used to think that making the herbs as concentrated as possible was the best way. Now, however, I’ve found that diluting them and making a larger amount to drink is best. I drink a few big gulps at one time, then come back a few minutes later to finish the dose. The taste is not as strong and is easier to drink.
3. Have a “treat” after taking the herbs. One of the most difficult aspect about taking herbs is making the time to do so, especially if you think the experience is not enjoyable. If I know that I’ll get a little chocolate or a cookie after I chug the herbs, I’m more likely to take them.
4. Keep reminding yourself of why you’re taking herbs. Is your condition more tolerable than herbs? (I imagine they are not!) Herbs are prescribed for a specific purpose and are EFFECTIVE, but only if you take them. I have always found it empowering to know that there is something I can do to take care of myself and I remind myself of that every time I stand over my kitchen sink and chug a mug of herbs.