Category Archives: Chinese Herbal Medicine

Posts discussing the use of Chinese Herbs

The Treatment of Infertility with Chinese Medicine

The inability to conceive can be one of the most distressing times in a woman’s life. The longer she tries, the more disheartened she becomes. The stress of undergoing various diagnostic procedures and treatments can itself inhibit her ability to become pregnant and/or carry to term. For this reason, Chinese Medicine offers a wonderful alternative or complement to standard medical treatments. Chinese Medicine approaches infertility the way it approaches all medical complaints, which is through the lens of a person’s overall health.

According to the principles of Chinese Medicine, the reproductive system (or bao gong) requires three things to function smoothly:

1) There must be sufficient substance available to create an embryo. Substance here refers to the Kidney yin and blood. Think of a potter. In order to create a bowl, she first needs enough clay with which to form the bowl and the water she uses to keep the clay moist. Symptoms of deficient yin and blood are symptoms of not enough substance, not enough moisture: dry skin and hair, tight muscles, anxiety, restlessness, heart palpitations, insomnia, dizziness, visual disturbances, vaginal dryness, low back pain, night sweats and thirst. Often women with this pattern will have scanty periods or anovulatory disorders. Men with yin deficiency may have decreased sperm production. Stress can deplete the Kidney yin, and this is why often the first goal of treatments is to alleviate stress and provide relaxation.

2) There must be enough activating force to transform the yin substance into life. This activating force can be called Kidney yang and qi. For our potter, this is the movement of her hands as she shapes the clay and the motion created by the spinning wheel. Symptoms of yang deficiency are symptoms of low function or decreased metabolism and may include: fatigue, coldness, depression, inability to lose weight, loose stools, listlessness, low back pain, frequent urination, weakness of the limbs and poor appetite. Women with this pattern may have prolonged periods and they may have a low basal body temperature. They may ovulate but may not be able to create the heat (think progesterone) to be able to support fertilization and implantation. Men with yang deficiency may have poor sperm motility or even impotence. In this case, the first goal of treatment is to warm the Kidney in order to activate the function of reproduction, which is similar to stimulating hormonal response.

3) There must be open channels. In Chinese Medicine, qi, blood, yin and yang all flow through pathways (think rivers and streams) in the body. In order for the reproductive system to function well, these pathways must be open and free from obstruction. The potter’s wheel must turn smoothly and consistently. If the wheel becomes unbalanced, the bowl will become too misshapen and eventually collapse. Usually, the first pathological change that can lead to blockage in the channels is the stagnation of qi. Qi is the life-force that circulates through the channels and allows our body to function. It’s circulation can become impeded by emotional trauma or prolonged frustration, lack of exercise, or physical trauma. When the qi is stagnant, we may see functional obstructions like irregular periods, breast distention and pelvic pain. At this stage Western medical tests typically show no cause for infertility. However, because smooth qi circulation is needed for proper blood circulation, long-term stagnation of qi can lead to stagnation of blood. Once this happens, physical changes can be seen, ranging from blood clots in the menstrual flow to closed fallopian tubes and uterine fibroids. Men with these conditions may be more prone to headaches, digestive problems and may show abnormal sperm morphology (or shape). Acupuncture and herbal medicine combined can often help to facilitate the return of smooth circulation to the qi and blood.

Most women and men who come for treatment of infertility have a combination of the above patterns, making treatment quite complex. However, using these basic principles to treat infertility with acupuncture and herbs has been shown to be very effective, both with and without the kinds of powerful drug protocols required by more standard approaches. Of course, every person will respond in her own way, depending on their constitution, age, health status and willingness to follow the prescribed course of treatment. The length of treatment will vary depending on the diagnosis, but your practitioner should be able to tell you what to expect at the outset. For some people, radical lifestyle changes are required. Chinese medicine may not be able to overcome the effects of competing in marathons, or working 80 hours per week. These activities simply expend too much qi and yin to create the quiet and nourishing atmosphere a healthy embryo requires.
While no method of treatment is suitable for everyone, Chinese medicine offers most patients a logical place to begin the treatment of infertility. It is relatively noninvasive, often effective and very safe. In contrast to patients who use standard care alone and are often left feeling frazzled and exhausted, those using Chinese Medicine report a sense of improved overall well-being and improvement in physical symptoms whether or not they eventually conceive.

Encouraging Creativity with Acupuncture

Each of us is creative. Each of us has something of beauty to share with the world. That something may or may not be  traditionally artistic–we may paint or sing, or we may instead bring a new dimension to mothering or cooking or project management. Each of us longs to contribute something inspirational to others. So what stops us? Fear, self-doubt, lack of recognition of our talents, or maybe we’re just too busy. We’re so caught up in the petty details of what needs to be done next, that we become oblivious to the calls of the external world, asking for our greatness.

How did the rose ever open its heart and give to this world all of its beauty?
It felt the encouragement of light against its being,
otherwise we all remain too frightened.
–Hafiz (14th century poet)

This  “encouragement of light” is the connection we feel when we are quiet. A connection with God, with source, with each other, with the universe. It’s the reminder that we are at once a tiny speck amongst millions of others and a powerful force capable of changing the world. It’s this sense of connection that allows us to give up egotistical concerns about the perfection of our petals or the depth of our color and simply open our hearts.

As an acupuncturist, I feel that one of my most important tasks is to try to provide the space in which people can quiet their minds enough to feel their own essential wholeness. People often say,  “I’m not reacting to little things the way I used to,” or “I just feel at peace after I leave here.”  From such peace, whole worlds can be created. From such peace, the obstacles to self-expression can be lifted.

In Chinese Medicine, we speak about restoring the natural “flow of qi.” When “qi” or energy becomes blocked, things hurt, we get frustrated and we often can’t see past the physical or emotional place we are in now. Getting the qi moving allows us to glimpse into that other world in which anything is possible. The realization that just a few stainless steel needles can provide some relief from suffering illustrates the miraculous capability we have to heal ourselves in an instant.

It’s not that acupuncture, per se, helps you lose the weight, become pregnant or paint a more satisfying picture. But receiving acupuncture can be one way to find that still point from which the solution can emerge. The more you can experience that profound peace, that sense that all is right with the world (or even better, that all is right with you), the less tolerant you become of the things in your life that leave you feeling not right. Whether it’s an unhealthy relationship, an addiction or job stress, the more you connect with the healthy part of yourself, the less willing you are to put up with these drains on your energy. As people progress with acupuncture treatment, they find themselves making small changes (or sometimes big ones) in their lifestyle that allow them to pursue interests they forgotten about. They begin to imagine themselves in situations they had always considered out of reach. They begin to blossom.