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The Healing Qi

Jan 5

NBC calls James an expert in Chinese medicine


cupping therapy AshevilleI was thrilled to be quoted by NBC news and called an expert in Chinese medicine when they did a story on Olympic athletes, including Michael Phelps, who were using cupping therapy. As a result of the article (waaaay back in 2016!), many people have come in to the clinic to receive cupping and many have called asking “what is cupping” “How can cupping help my pain” etc. IF you are curious about cupping you can check out the article here…and enjoy all the cupping marks on Michael Phelps :)…

Here is a link to the article:

Jul 20

Acupuncture for Dementia

acupuncture for dementiaThe Los Angeles Times today reported on a new Lancet study that proves that 1 in 3 cases of dementia can be prevented. Nearly 8% of dementia cases can be prevented through early life education. In midlife, risk factors for dementia include hearing loss, hypertension and obesity. And in late life significant risk factors include smoking, depression, physical inactivity, social isolation and diabetes. Thirty five percent of dementia cases are potentially modifiable according to the study. Prevention requires education and a focus by health care professionals on encouraging lifestyle changes like proper nutrition and exercise. Holistic forms of medicine are well suited to provide patients with comprehensive approaches to disease rather than surgical or pharmaceutical fixes. Research on acupuncture for dementia demonstrated that acupuncture may stop memory loss that precedes it:

Acupuncture for dementia

In Chinese medicine, dementia often occurs in cases where there is a problem with what ancient physicians called the “kidney Qi.” These doctors were able to see functional disturbances within the organs and treat them with acupuncture. Since acupuncture is a form of healthcare that focuses on education and prevention, it makes sense for insurance companies to cover it. When a person sees an acupuncturist, they will not only be treated with a natural, safe, effective treatment, but they will also be educated about attaining a healthy weight, stopping smoking, and maintaining a healthy blood pressure. Acupuncture for dementia would include treating a person’s memory and might include ear acupuncture, or auriculotherapy and electro-acupuncture.

Additionally there is research that indicates a relationship between air quality and pollution and dementia. More studies should focus on toxins and their contribution to dementia and Alzheimer’s. To see the article about air pollution and dementia, check out this LA times article:

To see the LA Tomes article about preventing dementia click here:

To see the research in the medical journal, The Lancet, go here:

Jul 17

Acupuncture for Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)

Acupuncture for Gastroesophageal reflux diseaseGastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, is a very common, pervasive digestive issue, especially in countries eating a typical modern diet high in sugar, salt and fat. Acupuncture for Gastroesophageal reflux disease has been used in hospitals in Britain and has recently been proven effective. I do not think of Gastroesophageal reflux disease, as a disease, despite the name, because it is so easy to cure and heal with natural medicine. Perhaps we should rethink the way we apply the word disease. In the case of GERD, it can usually be stopped by simply not drinking liquids with meals. Also, GERD is commonly treated by stopping coffee, chocolate, alcohol and tomato based foods, like pasta sauce. If a disease simply disappears by stopping a few foods, maybe the foods are the problem, not your body. The body is an elegantly designed miracle and it needs the proper fuel. GERD is biofeedback that you are not treating the body well, not proof that your body has a disease and is malfunctioning.

Acupuncture for Gastroesophageal reflux disease

Acupuncture has been shown, in a major systematic review of the research, to be a safe and effective treatment for Gastroesophageal reflux disease. I like to use acupuncture, nutritional therapy and in some cases herbs to help a person stop acid reflux. In many cases a person with GERD will also have gastritis or inflammation of the stomach and esophageal lining, and this is why a comprehensive healing approach to the entire GI tract is necessary. It is important to stop the symptoms: burning and reflux, and treat the underlying inflammation. If you have have been diagnosed with GERD, and don’t want to simply take prilosec or other acid-inhibiting drugs, give us a call. And by the way, you need stomach acid to properly digest your foods….simply decreasing stomach acid, especially in the elderly, can decrease B12 production. Acupuncture will help heal the inflammation in the gut, reduce acid reflux, reduce stress and improve the functioning of your digestive system.

The research proving that acupuncture for Gastroesophageal reflux disease is effective was recently published in the British Journal of Medicine. What was the conclusion of the researchers?:

“This meta-analysis suggests that acupuncture is an effective and safe treatment for GERD.”

You can see the original study on the British Journal of Medicine website:


Jun 21

Acupuncture Relieves Pain In Emergency Room Patients

This is HUGE: World’s largest randomized controlled trial of acupuncture in emergency departments finds it is a safe and effective alternative to pain-relieving drugs……/2017/…/170618103517.htm

Apr 14

The Acupuncturist and the Skeptic

The following conversation is redacted from a debate on an online forum from the Atlantic Magazine:

There are numerous studies pointing to the effectiveness of Acupuncture for a wide variety of conditions. The Mayo Clinic reported one such study done for Fibromylagia. The researchers concluded:

“This study paradigm allows for controlled and blinded clinical trials of acupuncture. We found that acupuncture significantly improved symptoms of fibromyalgia. Symptomatic improvement was not restricted to pain relief and was most significant for fatigue and anxiety.”

I personally have seen patients with terrible pain respond to Acupuncture when all other options have failed them.

Further, there are numerous studies done in China, Europe, Korea and Japan that have not been translated into English. Many of these studies are rigorous enough to meet western standards of research. Unfortunately, people are not made aware of these studies until they are translated.

We already KNOW Acupuncture works, we just have not been able to come up with an integrated theory of how it works, because we have not developed an energetic, physics based paradigm of the body yet.

Anyone who looks at the studies and contends Acupuncture does not work better than the placebo has not done their homework and is just ignorant, biased or worse. Yes, let me amend that statement: I know Acupuncture works. Millions of South East Asians know Acupuncture works as do thousands of Americans. Hundreds of thousands of physicians worldwide know Acupuncture works. But obviously there are many people who do not know Acupuncture works.

But actually even medical science does know Acupuncture works. For instance in the Ernt et al., Pain 2011, study you mentioned, there was a conclusion you left out:

“Unanimously positive conclusions from more than one high-quality systematic review existed only for neck pain”

So even from this study alone we can say, from a perspective of medical science, that Acupuncture works for neck pain. And if it works for neck pain, how can you say it does not work? Obviously it is beating the placebo (and the placebo itself, as we know, works).

Or how can you argue with a University of Maryland study for osteoarthritis of the knee published on Annals of Internal Medicine in 2004…their conclusion:

“Acupuncture seems to provide improvement in function and pain relief as an adjunctive therapy for osteoarthritis of the knee when compared with credible sham acupuncture and education control groups.”

There are many researchers working on the difficulties of devising methodologies for studying Acupuncture.

I don’t think an energetic paradigm needs to supplant a biological/biochemical paradigm, I would think of a better paradigm as integral. An integral paradigm would include the energetic realities of the body while also honoring the physiological. They both exist.

Are implying that rationality is the exclusive domain of “medical science.” I am sure there are plenty of rational conclusions you come to everyday that are warranted but have not been verified with the double blinded placebo controlled study.

The main problem in this whole debate is the tool of measurement: basic science. Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine will never truly be able to be measured via gold standard randomized controlled trials because we treat people individually based on their constitution. For example, two women with infertility will generally be treated completely differently. So clinically effective treatment (circular peg) cannot be shoved into a RCT (square hole). Whole systems research methods are developing but it will take many many years for this method of evaluation to be accepted by the medical/scientific field.

Believe me, it’s beyond frustrating to not be able to simply measure the effect of acupuncture as effectively as giving a pill. And as I said, there is a movement to create study design that takes into account individualized treatment while decreasing confounding variables. I am as skeptical as they come and appreciate and respect scientific evaluation hence my involvement in acupuncture research. There is a lot of bad research out there (so I’m not going to argue about specific studies)….often because the study design does not fit the therapy. I hope we are soon able to use methodology that produces sound results that can be trusted because after 10 years of practicing Chinese Med,  I cannot deny the clinical effectiveness of acupuncture and want to prove it.

“There is as much evidence for the existence of Qi as there is for the existence of a soul or the validity of the concept of the 4 humours.”

And yet, some things are not yet measurable by what you call science. Different epistemologies existed in different times, this doesn’t make
different ways of knowing obsolete.

Just because something has not been deduced by the scientific method doesn’t mean it is not warranted knowledge. I believe you can presume certain things exist without the help of the scientific method, from direct experience, but I still understand people who consider the “science” as only way of ascertaining the “truth.”

I am not trying to convince you of anything, just helping you to understand what the Chinese mean when they use the word Qi. It is a qualitative phenomena.

I would hesitate before using words like “quakery” which often belie someone too quick to use a loaded catch-phrase,  and unwilling to use sustained disciplined thought to criticize the history, methods and philosophy of science in the necessary mental attitude of skepticism, that most healthy, rational scientists espouse.

Have you used sustained disciplined thought to analyze the results of the research they have done over the years?

Do you think science has one method? I don’t think that is true. Maybe the better word is warranted knowledge. And Acupuncture is warranted. The criteria for evidence in “evidence based medicine” is often too narrow as we have said.

“There is as much evidence for the existance of Qi as there is for the existance of a soul or the validity of the concept of the 4 humours.”

And yet, some things are not yet measurable by what you call science. Different epistemologies existed in different times, this doesn’t make different ways of knowing obsolete.

Just because something has not been deduced by the scientific method doesn’t mean it is not warranted knowledge. I believe you can presume certain things exist without the help of the scientific method, from direct experience, but I still understand people who consider the “science” as only way of ascertaining the “truth.”

I am not trying to convince you of anything, just helping you to understand what the Chinese mean when they use the word Qi. It is a qualitative phenomena.

“Your talk of EM fields and energetics is just a clever way of masking meridians and qi in western sounding terms to make it more palatable for your western audience– there’s no basis in science for any of it.”

I am not sure why you think EM fields are not applicable to the concept of qi and Acupuncture.

Maybe it would helpful to think of Chinese medicine as qualitative and phenomenological rather than as “scientific”, a word you seem to use to mean quantifiable, just because qi is not measurable within your narrow frame of reference, doesn’t mean what the Chinese call Qi does not exist. The Chinese concept of Qi is a qualitative idea that is very obvious. It is an integral concept. It is a very practical idea.

In an acupuncture study, doing acupuncture once a week is often not enough, you cannot apply the methodology of a pharmacological study to an acupuncture study.  I have been to China 8 times and worked with Chinese physicians in hospitals there and the doctors there know you need to do acupuncture typically 3 times a week over a sustained period of time to get lasting results. We know, through MRI research that there are specific biological correlates after only one Acupuncture treatment that are not explainable with sham Acupuncture or even superficial needling, but still, we are seeking lasting results.

In the same way that you wouldn’t set up pharmacological study and give the medicine once a week, Acupuncture trials often have a frequency issue.  Further, most clinical trials on drugs just want to establish the physiological effect of the drug. For instance, researchers want to know that it controls blood pressure or reduces pain more than the placebo, they are not looking at whether the drug has a curative or lasting effect after the drug has been stopped. They don’t judge the efficacy of the drug only if the patient is cured.

Maybe pain studies for acupuncture need to increase the frequency to mimic drug use, give acupuncture every other day for 3 months. So frequency is an issue.

You didn’t address the research I mentioned because that study, clinically proving acupuncture was effective for osteoarthritic pain of the knee, did not reveal rational knowledge? If you can honestly look at that study, the largest ever of its kind, a phase 3 trial, and find some way to denounce it, then I would be curious to assess your reasoning.

You mentioned the Mayo Clinic’s study in fibromyalgia however, those doctors did only 6 treatments, with electro-stimulation and they found evidence of pain reduction beyond the placebo. The physiological changes associated with acupuncture have been established.

Just because electro-stimluation was added doesn’t mean it wasn’t acupuncture. Plus, they only did 6 treatments, which would be like giving a drug 6 times and expecting a chronic condition to be cured, it’s not going to happen.

So the systemic reviews you mention may be indications that the studies are not being designed correctly, often the doctors doing the treatment are not experts, and researchers are applying methods that are more useful for pharmacological studies…the results of acupuncture do largely depend on a host of factors.

As for your comment that I don’t understand the placebo, I have spent 15 years thinking about the implications of the placebo effect. Why would believing something is going to lower your blood pressure actually help lower it? It is because the mind can actually exert physiological changes in the body? Yes.

As for not knowing where to start about my comment on needing an integral approach to the human body that includes energetic models and biological models. The energetic model would  include the effects of electromagnetic fields on the human organism. We know the hearts EM field is 1000x stronger than the brains and as emotions change, the EM field of the heart changes, and exerts a measurable effect on the brain….described by a physics term: entrainment. There are plenty of ways that the energetic model can interface with the biological model. You might find the work of the HeartMath Institute enlightening.

Apr 12

Acupuncture Improves Heart Function

Acupuncture improves heart functionNovember 14, 2002. ANAHEIM, Calif.

American Heart Association:

Acupuncture Improves Heart Function And Inhibits Sympathetic Activation During Mental Stress in Advanced Heart Failure Patients…

Acupuncture improved the health prospects of individuals with severe heart failure, according to a unique study reported today at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2001 conference. Acupuncture is the practice of piercing the skin with needles at specific points to treat illness or relieve pain. In this study Acupuncture dramatically reduced sympathetic nerve activity among heart failure patients. The sympathetic nervous system regulates involuntary movements such as heartbeat and blood pressure. Over-activation of sympathetic nerves is common in heart failure patients and associated with a poor prognosis because it forces the weakened heart to work harder and predisposes the heart to potentially lethal heart rhythms.

“There is an ever-increasing interest in alternative medicine. But until now, no one had looked at acupuncture’s effect on the very sickest heart failure patients. Our research represents a promising first step”, says lead author Holly R. Middlekauff, M.D., associate professor of medicine at the University of California Los Angeles School of Medicine. Advanced heart failure patients often have two or three times more sympathetic nerve activity than normal individuals,” she says.

“It has been shown that the greater this activity is, the worse the outlook for the patient, so reducing it could be crucial. Sympathetic nerve activation was significantly reduced in the acupuncture group,” she says. “in our clinical experience, acupuncture has been used successfully and with long-range results in improving hypertension, and it also is useful in lowering sympathetic nerve activity.”

Animal studies completed in recent years demonstrate that acupuncture works very well in the extreme cases of sympathetic nerve increases, also known as stress, but the factors that increase stress and nerve elevation are complex and are being researched, Middlekauff notes.

Other doctors and researches who demonstrated that Acupuncture Improves Heart Function:

Jun Liang Yu; Kakit Hui, M.D.; Michele Hamilton, M.D.; Gregg Fonarow, M.D.; Jaime Moriguchi, M.D.; and Antoine Hage, M.D.

To see the article on pubmed click here:

And to obtain a PDF of the article as originally published in the Journal of Cardiac Failure Vol. 8 No. 6 2002, click here:

Jan 12

Sweeping the mountain of nerves

sweeping the mountain of nervesFor many of us, it is time, simply time, to end the petty stresses of our lives. Can we truly commit to the awareness that happiness is eternally free from our circumstances? Are many or most of our problems “first world” problems? How many of us have visited a “third world” nation and noticed that people seem much happier there, less attached to fame, wealth and the future? Of course suffering can exist in anyone’s mind, in any location on earth…and our compassion to our own suffering and the suffering of others gives rise to wisdom.

How can we sweep the mountain of nerves daily and find inner peace…to realize right here and now that this present moment is the greatest gift and that things don’t always work out in time…but in the awareness in which time arises?

I like to breathe and see how soft and relaxed my breath can become…try ten deep, soft breaths right now…your mind will relax.

One friend loves to grab the binoculars and set out to find unique birds right there in his own neighborhood…tiny miracles rarely seen or noticed.

What simple thing or act can you do to bring you simple and present peace today?

Perhaps this year we could all take more time to nourish ourselves. We offer massage and acupuncture sessions at our clinic, not only to help people get rid of pain or other symptoms, but to find that through nourishing the body, they are nourishing the mind. And that when the body and mind are deeply relaxed, our innate peace and joy can arise like a clear mountain stream.

Aug 11

Acupuncture for Acute Pain

acupuncture for acute pain in ashevilleMany studies have focused on using acupuncture to treat chronic pain, but a recent study sheds light on the effectiveness of acupuncture for acute pain. In fact, patients responded faster and better to acupuncture than to intravenous morphine! Over 300 people were recruited for the study, and it is in press to be published in the prestigious American Journal of Emergency Medicine, August edition.

We treat acute pain very successfully and efficiently here at our Asheville Clinic. If you know anyone in acute pain, let them know that acupuncture could help. You can also show this medical study to your doctor and helpd educate people about the effectiveness of acupuncture in the treatment of acute pain.

To see the abstract of the study, click here:

Dec 2

Acupuncture Actually Works for Neck Pain, Study Says | TIME

People who practiced acupuncture or the Alexander Technique had greater pain reductions than those who got standard treatment

Source: Acupuncture Actually Works for Neck Pain, Study Says | TIME

Aug 21

Acupuncture Research

acupuncture researchWestern medicine prides itself on being scientific and evidence based, though some research suggests that more than half of all western medical procedures are not based on research. Scientific American delves into the issue in a recent article illustrating that there is not a high degree of scientific certainty in modern medicine.

Professor of public policy Erik M. Patashnik recently published a story on Vox that states:

“The recent news that stents inserted in patients with heart disease to keep arteries open work no better than a placebo ought to be shocking. Each year, hundreds of thousands of American patients receive stents for the relief of chest pain, and the cost of the procedure ranges from $11,000 to $41,000 in US hospitals. But in fact, American doctors routinely prescribe medical treatments that are not based on sound science.”

The gold standard for proof in western medicine is the systematic review or meta-analysis, which analyzes all the current research throwing out badly designed studies to come up with a more accurate picture of a therapy’s effectiveness.

Listed below are some of the more important studies done on acupuncture, including the largest meta analysis to date on the effectiveness of acupuncture for chronic pain. The verdict? Acupuncture beats the placebo for chronic pain.

Random Controlled Trials (RCTs) and Systematic Reviews (meta-analyses)

Research demonstrating acupuncture’s effectiveness for specific conditions:

1. Vickers AJ, Cronin AM, Maschino AC, et al. Acupuncture for chronic pain: Individual patient data meta-analysis. ARCHIVES OF INTERNAL MEDICINE. 2012;172(19):1444.

2. MacPherson H, Vertosick E, Lewith G, et al. Influence of Control Group on Effect Size in Trials of Acupuncture for Chronic Pain: A Secondary Analysis of an Individual Patient Data Meta-Analysis. Tu Y-K, ed. PLoS ONE. 2014;9(4):e93739. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0093739.

3. Witt CMB. Efficacy, effectiveness, safety and costs of acupuncture for chronic pain – results of a large research initiative. Acupuncture in Medicine. Dec2006 Supplement;24:33-39.
Research demonstrating problems with “sham” acupuncture

4. Haake M, Müller H-H, Schade-Brittinger C, et al. GERAC German Acupuncture Trials for chronic low back pain: randomized, multicenter, blinded, parallel-group trial with 3 groups. Archives Of Internal Medicine. 2007;167(17):1892-1898.

5. Jena S, Witt CM, Brinkhaus B, Wegscheider K, Willich SN. ARC Acupuncture in patients with headache. Cephalalgia: An International Journal Of Headache. 2008;28(9):969-979. doi:10.1111/j.1468-2982.2008.01640.x.

6. Witt C, Brinkhaus B, Jena S, et al. ART Acupuncture in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee: a randomised trial. LANCET. 2005;366(9480):136.

Acupuncture Research on Mechanism of Action

1. Edwards E, Louis Belard J, Glowa J, Khalsa P, Weber W, Huntley K. DoD–NCCAM/NIH Workshop on Acupuncture for Treatment of Acute Pain. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 2013;19(3):266-279. doi:10.1089/acm.2012.9229.dod.

2. Huang W, Pach D, Napadow V, et al. Characterizing acupuncture stimuli using brain imaging with FMRI–a systematic review and meta-analysis of the literature. Plos One. 2012;7(4):e32960-e32960. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0032960.

3. Langevin HM, Wayne PM, Macpherson H, et al. Paradoxes in acupuncture research: strategies for moving forward. Evidence-Based Complementary And Alternative Medicine: Ecam. 2011;2011. doi:10.1155/2011/180805.

4. Napadow V, Ahn A, Longhurst J, et al. The Status and Future of Acupuncture Mechanism Research. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 2008;14(7):861-869. doi:10.1089/acm.2008.SAR-3.

5. Dhond RP, Kettner N, Napadow V. Neuroimaging acupuncture effects in the human brain. J Altern Complement Med. 2007;13(6):603-616. doi:10.1089/acm.2007.7040.

6. Hui KKS, Liu J, Marina O, et al. The integrated response of the human cerebro-cerebellar and limbic systems to acupuncture stimulation at ST 36 as evidenced by fMRI. Neuroimage. 2005;27(3):479-496.

7. Langevin HM, Churchill DL, Cipolla MJ. Mechanical signaling through connective tissue: a mechanism for the therapeutic effect of acupuncture. FASEB Journal: Official Publication Of The Federation Of American Societies For Experimental Biology. 2001;15(12):2275-2282.

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