Friday, April 20, 2012

Why Every Busy Woman Should Try Acupuncture

Friday, 4/20/2012 at 12:33:41 PM
Why All Busy Women Should Try Acupuncture Treatment

When I found out my new health insurance covered twenty-five sessions of acupuncture treatments in a calendar year, I thought to myself, why not try it? I've always been curious about the benefits from this "alternative" form of healthcare. When posting on Facebook months ago that I was going to give acupuncture a go, it received multiple comments containing success stories in treating injuries that were otherwise considered unfixable and relief from all sorts of ailments including kidney stones, allergies, migraines, and chronic lower back pain.

I didn't have a targeted purpose for trying acupuncture, although I'd be lying if I didn't admit I was curious about the possibility of "curing" my never ending tummy troubles. Outside of that, I was looking at it from a more holistic and preventative perspective. I wanted to see if going to acupuncture on a regular basis would help with my stress levels, bouts of unwelcome anxiety, and keep me from getting the common cold.

I'd like to report that although acupuncture has been experimental for me, I have found success in small things such as my TMJ (from the stress I carry in my jaw), random aches and pains (usually related to pushing it too hard in the gym) and, I'm being 100 percent honest when I tell you, that I have not been sick one day this over the entire winter.

I've developed a beautiful and nurturing relationship with my acupuncturist, Mona Chopra and believe that she always has my best interest at heart when treating me. Over the course of the past four months, and seven sessions, she's provided me various resources like alternatives to coffee drinking and research on meditation including possible locations I might want to consider in New York. She's made recommendations for teas, books, supplements, and a myriad of health related products, some of which I've adopted into my daily routine.

For me, my hour-long acupuncture sessions are a time to relax, to shut off my mind, and to be in the presence of someone I truly trust with my mind and body. When I consulted with Mona over the course of our relationship about why every busy woman should try acupuncture here are some interesting reasons that resonated most with me.

First and foremost, prevention. This was my number one reason for trying acupuncture and although it's not the most common reason to try it, "most people try acupuncture for the first time because they have some kind of ailment be it a pain, digestive distress, emotional imbalance, or in some way feeling ‘off’ or ‘not okay.’ Acupuncture can and should be looked at like ‘preventative medicine,’ instead of waiting to get a diagnosis that you have X or Y condition," says Chopra. If you see an acupuncturist, she or he will be able to detect much more subtle imbalances in your system and work to correct them. I wholeheartedly believe that prevention is the best medicine and we, as a society, could enhance our immune systems by taking this approach, therefore being less likely to need medications and reducing the possibilities of getting sick. Preventative health is key, however you seek it—eating healthy, taking supplements, staying active, and/or acupuncture.

Acupuncture can be used to offset stress and the effects of aging. Research proves that neglected stress can wreak havoc on our bodies and minds, leading to all kinds of ailments ranging from digestive distress, painful periods, chronic pain, hormonal imbalances, allergies, blood pressure and sugar imbalances, anxiety, depression, insomnia, and fatigue. Must I go on? Cosmetically speaking, wrinkled skin, grey hairs, thin hair, and dark circles under the eyes are no strangers to the extremely stressed body. Acupuncture has been proven to help offset these adverse effects and can help promote a more youthful energetic you—on the inside and out. Are you building a career but one day hope to have children? Join the club. Acupuncture can be a powerful modality for promoting fertility too, when the time comes!

Acupuncture can help you understand your body and mind better. "It can help you see yourself in a whole new light," Chopra says. Acupuncture is so much more than just being stuck with tiny needles. Imagine having someone sit with you with for one full hour (or more) and listen to you express your concerns about your health and your life as a whole. Imagine that person asking key questions that no medical doctor or psychotherapist may have asked you (because it's not in their training and/or paradigm to ask). Questions that will help you better understand why you are the way you are, why your body may be acting the way it's been acting. And, in addition to being treated with acupuncture to help regulate your system, also offering suggestions for your diet and lifestyle that may help you make the changes you want to see in your life.

The next time you have trouble sleeping, difficulty concentrating, have paid the doctor a visit only to receive a 'clean bill of health' but know that something else is lurking underneath the surface, consider acupuncture. Your acupuncturist may be able to detect more subtle imbalances that could be leading to those distressing symptoms.

Furthermore, acupuncturists are trained to treat not only the “symptoms” but the “root causes,” which means making changes on deep fundamental levels of your being. If you have ever had the thought, "I've always been like this" or "I'm just an anxious kind of person," an acupuncturist can not only help you understand how these constitutional tendencies or learned habits are thought of in Chinese medicine, she or he can also help you to see how unblocking certain channels or nourishing others may help to free you from those ways of being.

Signing Off Glad I Tried Acupuncture,

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Chinese Medicine Goes Under the Microscope

April 2, 2012, 6:56 p.m. ET

Chinese Medicine Goes Under the Microscope


There's growing acceptance that herbal medicines could be effective for medical conditions, but the scientific evidence to vault such a treatment into an approved drug is often lacking. As Shirley Wang explains on Lunch Break, researchers are making progress on a cancer treatment based on a common herbal combination in Chinese medicine.

Scientists studying a four-herb combination discovered some 1,800 years ago by Chinese herbalists have found that the substance enhances the effectiveness of chemotherapy in patients with colon cancer.

[LAB] Photo Researchers Inc.

Early studies show a traditional four-herb combination has cancer-treatment benefits. The herbs are Chinese peony (pictured), Chinese jujube, Chinese licorice and baikal skullcap.

The mixture, known in China as huang qin tang, has been shown in early trials to be effective at reducing some side effects of chemotherapy, including diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. The herbs also seem to bolster colon-cancer treatment: Tests on animals with tumors have shown that administering the herbs along with chemotherapy drugs restored intestinal cells faster than when chemo was used alone.

The herb combination, dubbed PHY906 by scientists, is a rare example of a plant-based product used in traditional folk medicine that could potentially jump the hurdle into mainstream American therapy. A scientific team led by Yung-Chi Cheng, an oncology researcher at Yale University, and funded in part by the National Cancer Institute, is planning to begin Phase II clinical trials to study PHY906's effectiveness in people with colon cancer.


Chinese jujube

Many conventional medications are derived from individual chemical agents originally found in plants. In the case of huang qin tang, however, scientists so far have identified 62 active chemicals in the four-herb combination that apparently need to work together to be effective.

"What Dr. Cheng is doing is keeping [the herbal combination] as a complex entity and using that as an agent," says Josephine Briggs, head of the federal National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, which is helping fund some of the PHY906 research. "It's polypharmacy," or the equivalent of several drugs being administered at once.

Dr. Cheng began his research on huang qin tang about a dozen years ago when he sought a better way of dealing with the chemotherapy's side effects. A variety of medications are currently used to treat these symptoms, but with varying success. A more effective technique could improve patients' quality of life and possibly allow them to tolerate a larger dose of chemo, which might speed up their course of treatment, he says.

Dr. Cheng, who grew up in Taiwan, turned to Chinese traditional medicine, which often touts holistic treatments and multiple health claims for a single herb. In herbal literature he found mention of huang qin tang, a herbal combination traditionally used in China for gastrointestinal problems, and decided to test whether it could help cancer patients without compromising the effectiveness of the chemotherapy.


Chinese licorice

The research team began by giving mice with colon cancer high doses of irinotecan, a chemotherapy drug. Some of the mice also received varying doses of PHY906, the herbal combination. After four days, the animals that got the herbs seemed to experience fewer side effects. The herbs also appeared to improve the efficacy of the chemo, restoring damaged intestinal cells faster than with chemo alone and allowing the mice to tolerate doses of the drug that otherwise might have been lethal.

They followed with another experiment treating animals in four groups. One group received just the chemotherapy drug, another received just PHY906, a third group got both and the last group got nothing. The herb and drug combination worked the best at reducing side effects. As the researchers expected, PHY906 had no impact on the cancer when used by itself.

Further testing showed that PHY906's effectiveness was diminished if any of the four herbs was eliminated, indicating that there is an apparent synergistic effect between them. This finding "got me serious about [PHY906]," says Dr. Cheng. The work was published in the journal Science and Translational Medicine in 2010. By submitting PHY906 to the scientific rigor of clinical trials, Dr. Cheng aims to win regulatory approval for the compound's use in cancer treatment.

One challenge with using herbal medicines is that the ratio of the chemicals they contain isn't consistent when plants are grown under different conditions. After testing various suppliers, Dr. Cheng ended up creating a biotechnology company sponsored by Yale called PhytoCeutica to carefully monitor growing conditions to ensure plants from different batches were pharmacologically consistent and to continue clinical development of the compound.

University of British Columbia Botanical Garden

Baikal skullcap

Why PHY906 works isn't entirely clear, Dr. Cheng says. The herbal combination appears to have an anti-inflammatory effect on the gastrointestinal tract, according to work the group published in the journal BMC Medical Genomics last year. Dr. Cheng says he believes PHY906 works in at least three different ways in the body to control the side effects of chemotherapy, whereas conventional treatments work in just a single way.

So far, research data seem to support Dr. Cheng's hunch about traditional medicine. "If it's still in use after a thousand years there must be something right," he says.