Healthy Sleep

Acupuncture & Traditional Chinese Medicine for Healthy Sleep

If you are suffering from insomnia or unable to get a good night’s rest, you are not alone. Around 60 million Americans experience insomnia and sleep related problems on a daily basis. Prescription sleeping pills are one of the most highly overused medications and can lead to side effects and addiction. Acupuncture is a centuries-old practice that has been proven to help sleep disorders without the risk of addiction or putting chemicals in the body.

How acupuncture works
Acupuncture works by addressing the root of the problem to return the body back to health. One clinical study found that patients with anxiety had increased sleep time, quality of sleep and felt less stressed with acupuncture treatment. Traditional Chinese Medicine uses the meridian system, the body’s channel in which energy flows through, to stimulate Qi to return the organs to balance. When there is an imbalance in the body, illness such as insomnia arises. Acupuncture uses specific points on the body related to sleep problems to treat underlying issues.

There are many problems that contribute to insomnia such as chronic pain, depression and stress. Acupuncture is known to be a great alternative treatment for these related issues. In TCM, insomnia is looked at as a heart and liver imbalance. Acupuncture especially addresses these organs to help calm the nervous system and improve the muscle and nerve channels by increasing blood flow.

Chinese herbs for sleep
There are many Chinese herbs that have been known to help insomnia and to get a better quality sleep. These herbs are easy to find at the store and are widely safe to use.

Chrysanthemum tea: Chrysanthemum is known to help the clean the liver. When the liver is not working properly, it can cause insomnia, irritability and dizziness.

  • Place 2 tsp. dried chrysanthemum in a cup, pour boiling water over blossoms, infuse for 5 minutes.  Add sweetener to taste.

Ginseng tea: Ginseng is used for a number of health benefits. It is commonly used to help fatigue, dry mouth and shortness of breath. Although ginseng is typically known as being a stimulant, the root works by normalizing your body’s stress levels. Because of this, when taken during the day, studies have shown that it can help increase quality of sleep at night.

  • Simmer 2 tsp of ginseng in 1 1/2 C. water for 15 minutes.  Add sweetener to taste.  It should be noted that there are a variety of Ginseng for various individuals and situations and Ginseng may not be appropriate for use when you have a cold or flu.

Schisandra tea: Schisandra berry tea can be found at health stores and is known to promote lung and kidney function. Because of this, it is a great tea to help insomnia and fatigue.

  • Roast and crush your desired amount of Schisandra berries and store in container.  For each serving take 1 tsp. and infuse with hot water, wait for 3 minutes.  Add sweetener to taste.

There are many options when it comes to treating insomnia. Traditional Chinese Medicine offers an effective treatment that leaves out the dependency of sleep-aid medications.

Meditation is good too!

Sources:
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Spring Forward with Acupuncture

The seasons are changing from Winter to Spring and with that comes the changing of the clocks.  Ok,  so we changed the clocks. We have gone around our homes, cars, jewelry and changed as many of them as we can.  And we will probably miss a few and feel totally out of sync.  Are you feeling it?  That sleepy, groggy, I can’t get it together feeling? So, what’s going on here??

Since December, when we awake it’s been dark outside.  Well, now sunrise will greet us each and every morning when we rise from our slumber. Don’t get me wrong, we get that extra hour added on at the end of the day, (which is great for all those outdoor activities) but for your inner clock, that’s no help. It is early morning light that we rely on to keep in sync with our natural world. The easiest explanation is that the time shift confuses the circadian clock in our brain. Your inner clock relies on timed exposure to light, especially natural light, to keep itself in synchronization with the daily cycle of 24 hours.

So when you’ve lost an hour of sleep and your daily rhythm is thrown off, it can also throw off your inner clock and sleeping patterns. Most of us need a week or more to adjust, and some researchers suggest that our clocks never fully adjust to Daylight Savings Time.  Due to these changes, many people also suffer from headaches, drowsiness, and additional stress. In fact, sometimes the stress can overwhelm the body.

Stress no more! Acupuncture is a wonderful ally for the body to help it adjust to Daylight Savings Time. One way to make this transition is to use the energy of the meridians that we all have, they are rivers of energy that flow through our bodies. The meridians have many points on them. Acupuncture stimulates the body to adjust and heal itself. When we gently contact these meridians it balances our daily time clock. When the energy flows free of obstructions we experience a sense of ease.

Each season is linked with an organ system in the body. Spring is the Liver and Gall bladder organ and meridian. Spring is when the liver should thrive. According to TCM, the liver is responsible for smooth flowing Qi (chi) or energy through the body. The liver and gall bladder meridians govern the muscles, tendons, and nerves in the body. The liver also controls the eyes. However, during times of transition like early spring, the liver can become out of harmony and vulnerable. Acupuncture improves the function of the liver meridian and can restore balance to the organs.

The five elements of TCM suggest seasons and change of season correspond to the flow of energy and the balance of Yin and Yang. Spring and the liver/gall bladder meridian go hand in hand. This is an ideal time for cleaning, harmony and rejuvenation.

Here are some signs that your liver/gall bladder meridian may be out of balance this time of year.

  1. You feel extra tense. The liver meridian controls the flow of energy. If the energy is not moving, things like emotional stress and the posture of your body can get disturbed.
  2. Muscle stiffness, aches and pains, headaches. The liver/gall bladder nourishes the tendons, ligaments and connective tissue. You may notice increased stiffness and tension now or in the coming weeks. Menstrual cramps may be worse than usual. This is known as stagnation in TCM.
  3. You feel Irritable and frustrated. Each organ has an emotion attached to it, and the liver emotion is anger.
  4. Dry or fatigued eyes are a sign of liver imbalance.
  5. Digestive problems. Digestion is dependent on smooth flow of qi or energy.

Things to do for Liver/Gall bladder Qi Stagnation

  1. Move your Qi. Get outside and move. Exercise, walk, run, bike, etc.
  2. Eat greens. Green is the color associated with the liver meridian. Eat fresh, leafy green vegetables.
  3. Taste associated with the liver is sour. Sour strengthens the liver qi. Add lemon to your water, use olive oils in your cooking and salad dressings.
  4. Stretch. Try some yoga, tai chi, or chi gong or any movement patterns.
  5. Eye exercise. Take breaks from the T.V. and computer.
  6. Detox the liver. Many herbs can help, including milk thistle tea.
  7. GET ACUPUNCTURE TREATMENT.

I recommend 1-2 acupuncture treatments to balance your meridians at the change of seasons.Each season change has specific points as well as your own specific constitutional points to use for balance. Acupuncture treatment in spring can help your muscles, tendons, fascia and connective tissue. Acupuncture and spring specific treatment can also help your emotional wellbeing by balancing your stress, anger, frustrations and insomnia. Seasonal acupuncture treatments can help tonify your meridians and organs and balance minor issues before they become serious problems.

One of our focuses this month is sleep, and getting a good and healthy amount of it.  Acupuncture will calm and balance the body as well as help it to sleep. Acupuncture works extremely well for re-adjusting our bodies internal rhythms during these seasonal transitions.

Healthy Brain

The second week of March is Brain Awareness Week. This is a perfect time to explore ways to keep your noggin working and healthy. Below are easy, simple ways to keep your brain in good shape.

A healthy diet is a healthy mind
There are many reasons to keep a healthy lifestyle and feed your body with foods that make you feel and perform your best. Diets that are low in saturated fats and cholesterol and higher in omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to promote brain health and protect brain cells. Taking a fish oil supplement with DHA or eating fish such as salmon can help improve brain development at any age. DHA, a type of omega-3, may also help prevent certain neurological disorders. Vitamin E and lutein can also help brain health. Incorporate leafy greens such as spinach and kale into your lunch or dinners.

Keep your brain stimulated
At any age, brain exercises are a great thing to get into the habit of. Keeping your brain stimulated can help retain your memory as you get older as well as your capability to learn new skills. The brain is never done learning. Exercises like reading, crosswords, number problems and games like sudoku can help keep your brain stay active and working. If you find yourself experiencing chronic stress, practice daily meditation for as little as five minutes a day to help reduce inflammation and support immune health, which are both controlled by the same area of the brain.

Socialize
Keeping in touch with friends and family and continuously working on building relationships helps your emotional state as well as your physical health. Surround yourself with people who challenge you, understand you and keep a positive tone. Join organizations or clubs you are interested in and make new connections. Feeling connected to others is always important for your mental well-being.

Quit the bad habits
If you smoke, now is never a better time to quit. Consuming an excess in substances such as alcohol, cigarettes and other drugs can lower cognitive processes and decrease overall functioning and health.

Acupuncture
In Traditional Chinese Medicine it is believed that the spleen, kidney and heart organs all impact mental capacity and brain activity. These organs influence memory, concentration and recall. When one of these organs is experiencing deficiency or an imbalance, our brain can not function to its fullest. Acupuncture addresses the organs with specific points on the body to return the body back to balance and health.

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Our Multi-dimentional Kidneys

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Acupuncturists understand the body as a complex system of energy systems, meridians and organs. However, when an acupuncturist talks about an organ, like the spleen, heart or kidneys, they are not referring to the physical organ that sits inside your body, but rather the energetic side of these organs. The energetic system is much bigger than just the physical organ, and governs certain functions in the body on many levels.

The kidney system is one of the most important of these energetic organ systems.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the kidneys represent the deepest, most fundamental levels of energy in the human body. They are said to be the root of yin and yang in the body – two fundamental forces at play in our physiology. The kidneys also store a substance called “essence” that is our genetic code, our life force and our reproductive ability.

The kidneys in Chinese Medicine are related to the water element, which is the elemental energy of winter. Whereas many energy systems are all about movement, the kidneys are about rest, relaxation, rejuvenation – they are the energy of holding, of turning inward, of protecting that which is most important. Think of still reflecting pools, or a quiet winter night. These are kidney energy. The kidneys are often referred to in Chinese Medicine as our “root” – they are tasked with caring for the most precious parts of us that make us who we are.

five-element-theory

On a physical level, the kidneys govern the water passageways within the body (appropriate being the water element!) as well as controlling growth and reproduction. In a five element understanding of Chinese Medicine, the kidneys are at the end of the life cycle, before rebirth occurs again (such as winter making way for spring.) This means the kidneys in particular have a vital role to play in end of life transitions.

The spirit aspect of the kidneys is called Zhi, or willpower:

Again, the kidneys are our root, our fundamental and core energy. When that system is weakened, a person may not feel drive, motivation or have the ability to push themselves. Their understanding of who they are and what they can do has been diminished.

The emotion associated with the kidneys is fear. When the kidneys are weak, a person may be startled or frightened easily, or may experience fear in disproportionate ways. Likewise, shock, trauma and fearful situations weaken the kidney energy, which is why many of the common symptoms of PTSD have a kidney imbalance at their root. The person’s core has been shaken.

The kidney energy, being the deepest level of energy in the body, takes time to replenish and strengthen, which means patience is key. Also, the kidney energy naturally declines over the life cycle, which is the normal aging process. So as we age, protecting the kidneys becomes all the more important!

Nourish the Kidneys through Food:

Being associated with the water element, the kidneys are nourished by foods that come from the water – fish, seaweeds and shellfish are nourishing to this system. The kidneys are associated with the salty taste, so naturally salty foods such as miso or millet also are good choices. Avoid foods that are damaging to your root energy, such as sugar, caffeine, alcohol, greasy foods and highly-processed foods.

kidney3

Nourish the Kidneys through your habits

The kidneys are damaged by overwork, too much responsibility, lack of sleep and a frenetic schedule. In other words, most of us living in modern society are taxing our kidneys! This means it is all the more important to carve out time and space to take part in kidney-nourishing habits.

As we mentioned, the kidneys are nourished through rest and rejuvenation. Pay attention to your sleep, and be sure you are getting the hours that you need! Take a nap in the day if you need it. Engage in gentle, relaxing forms of exercise, like yoga or tai chi. Try meditation or guided visualizations to calm and center yourself. Find a schedule that works – one that really works – for you.

Bring the water element into your life and your home by getting a small decorative fountain, using essential oils, taking baths or spending time near rivers or oceans or other bodies of water.  The kidneys, being the source of our reproductive strength, are also weakened by excessive sexual activity. So go for quality over quantity.

The kidneys represent what makes you, you. So take the time to give them the support they need!

steve-sig

Heart A’fire: The Fire Element

heart header2

The organs in Chinese medicine are more than just a physical representation. The organs include not only their physiological function, but also their mental, emotional, spiritual and elemental qualities that align with nature and the seasons. Let’s explore the heart.

The heart season is summer, and heart is considered the most yang: hot, bountiful and abundant. Yang is what is bright, moving, outward, hot and loud. Yin is what is more inward, still, dark and cooler. The color of the heart is associated with red, the climate is heat, the flavor is bitter and it’s paired organ is the small intestine (many urinary issues are due to “heart fire” heat descending). The sense aligned with heart is the tongue, and the vessels associated with heart are the tissues. The heart sound is laughing, and the emotion is joy. The heart houses what is known as the shen, which is the mind and spirit. You can see a person’s shen in a healthy complexion and radiant eyes that are clear and bright. The heart is in charge of circulation and keeps the tissues well nourished. It is also associated with mental clarity, memory and strength. The motion of this fire element is upward, like a flame. Many who have this element dominant in their personality have red hair that is curly or spikes upward. The heart is also connected to speech. An imbalance in heart energy can result in stuttering, speaking excitedly or talking excessively.

5-elements

A healthy heart energy exudes a sense of joy, fun, enthusiasm, action, warmth, and charisma. These people are the “life of the party,” and love to have a good time with friends and to be the center of attention. When the heart is balanced, sleep is sound and one is well rested.

On the other hand, when there is an overabundance of fire this can result in restlessness, anxiety, sweating, excitability and symptoms such as palpitations, irregular heartbeat, insomnia, disturbing dreams, mouth sores, thirst, red face, constipation and dryness. This person might shrink if not in the limelight and would constantly seek attention and need activities that produce a lot of excitement. He or she might have trouble being introspective and could not be alone. “Overjoy” is an imbalance of heart energy and is likened to manic behavior. A dominant fire may also be extremely sensitive to heat. A lack of the fire element, on the other hand, can result in a lusterless complexion, low energy, inertia, depression, feeling cold, low libido and the personality may lack warmth. This type may seem cold, frigid, lack drive and may be prone to addictions.

tips to care for shen2

How to help your heart stay in balance? Red foods have been shown to help the heart biochemically; foods such as hawthorn berries, strawberries, cherries, raspberries, tomatoes, watermelon, peppers and goji berries keep your heart happy with lycopene and anthocyanin, antioxidants and beneficial vitamins. Other helpful foods include garlic, cayenne, cilantro, basil, magnesium (found in leafy greens, nuts and soy) and green tea. Also try ginseng, jujube dates, reishi mushrooms, dong quai, seaweed and schizandra berries. Calming activities such as walking, tai qi, or qi gong help calm the shen.

heart red foods

It is best not to self-diagnose, so see your healthcare provider to see if those foods are right for you. You don’t want to assume you have too much of one element and end up eating the wrong foods. A Chinese medical specialist can give you a proper diagnosis as far as the Five Element theory goes to see which element is dominant in you, and they can treat your condition with acupuncture, herbs and offer advice for beneficial changes in diet and lifestyle.

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