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The Healing Qi

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.

May 5

Acupuncture and Insomnia

acupuncture and insomniaInsomnia and Sleep problems: Chinese and western medical approaches

By Tai Lahans DOM

Conventional medicine and Insomnia

From a conventional medical point of view, there are two types and varying depths of sleep. NREM ( non-rapid eye movement ) sleep accounts for about 75% of sleep time. It is the initial phase of sleep characterized by slow EEG waves ( brain waves ), lowered respiratory and heart rates and lowered muscle tone. REM ( rapid eye movement ) sleep occupies the remainder of sleep time. The EEG waves are low voltage but fast activity, and occur 5 – 6 times during a normal night’s sleep. Rate and depth of respiration are increased but muscle tone is depressed even lower than in NREM sleep. REM always follow NREM sleep and ends each sleep cycle.

Norepinephrine pathways in the brainstem are implicated in REM sleep. Serotonergic pathways are implicated in NREM sleep. Most dreaming occurs during REM. Most nightmares and sleep walking and talking occur in NREM stages 3 and 4. Interruption of REM sleep produces hyperactivity and emotionally labile behavior. This is why sleep deprivation is a torture technique in order to gain information.

Western medicine divides sleep disorders into several different categories:

  • initial insomnia – cannot fall asleep
  • early morning waking – wakes several hours before the usual time
  • inverted sleep pattern – sleep during the day and awake at night, common in the elderly
  • primary insomnia – longstanding insomnia with an apparent relationship to a somatic or psychic event
  • secondary insomnia – due to acquired pain, anxiety and depression

Delta sleep is a deeper level of REM during which growth hormone is secreted by the pituitary gland. This is the only time this occurs in adults, and most tissue repair happens during this time. Lack of delta sleep can lead to chronic illness due to to toxicity and lack of rehabilitation of normal tissue function.

Western treatment for insomnia is based on sedatives, hypnotics, minor tranquilizers, and anxiolytics depending on the diagnosis and presentation of the patient. Many have side effects like symptoms akin to a hang-over and some are addicting.

Chinese medicine and Insomnia

In Chinese medicine insomnia is usually divided into deficiency and excess type. Deficiency type relates to yin and blood deficiencies and places emphasis on the heart, spleen, liver and kidney. Excess relates to food stagnation and phlegm and phlegm heat. Therefore, emphasis is placed on the middle burner and especially the gallbladder.

The wei qi ( a form of protective qi or immunity ) circulates externally 12 times during the daytime and internally 12 times during the night. This allows for deeper organ level detoxification at night. It probably is akin to the fact that growth hormone is secreted at night to allow for tissue repair. When sleep is poor then certain hormonal levels are interrupted and disturbed. For example, adrenal function is disturbed when sleep is disturbed over a period of time. Also, blood sugar issues affect sleep…if a person drinks to much alcohol or too much sugar before bed, they often wake up between 1-4am. This is because their body has taken up all the blood sugar with insulin, and then their blood sugar drops while they are asleep causing their adrenal cortex to release adreanline and cortisol.

There are four main types of insomnia Chinese medicine considers:

  • too much thinking or cogitating
  • too much activity
  • too much food
  • too much anger

These are called “ the four toos “ in China.

Treatment involves accurate diagnosis and then the use of primarily herbal medicine:

  • In the too much thinking realm which is a deficiency type of insomnia the main treatment is called Gui Pi Tang which nourishes the heart and spleen and blood.
  • In the yin deficiency realm the treatment is Tian Wang Bu Xin Tang
  • In the phlegm realm treatment is Wen Dan Tang
  • In the food stasis realm treatment is with Bao He Wan
  • In the too much anger realm acupuncture treatment is the main intervention, along with modified Xiao Yao San and Suan Zao Ren Tang

Lifestyle changes are specific for each type. But some commonalities include:

  1. Have a nighttime routine that begins two hours before bed and helps you to begin to get quiet. Turn off many of the lights in the house. Start putting your house to bed.
  1. Cool down your home. At night your core temperature falls and your extremities may get slightly warmer. This is natural. Turn off the heat or at least turn it down to 50*.
  1. Take the television out of the bedroom. Your bedroom is for sleeping and quiet time.
  1. Do not eat late at night. Food that is in your stomach at bedtime will generally sit there until your get up. This is unhealthy and bad for your digestion and can impede sleep.
  1. Meditating daily helps sleep at night. It allows your mind to train itself to be quiet.
  1. Try not to sleep during the daytime. If you need to, nap for only one half hour in the early afternoon.
  1. Exercise will help sleep. The human body is an animal and it loves routines. Having an exercise routine, especially in the earlier part of the day, is part of a habit that will enable you to sleep better partially because it is a habit ( a good one ), and partially because it discharges stress and negative emotions that may keep you awake.

When it comes to diet some traditions say that we should eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper. In other words, dinner should be our smallest and lightest meal. Of course, we do it the opposite. Try and switch your eating routine to one that puts you in bed with only a light supper of easy to digest foods in your digestive tract.

There are many nutritional supplements that are often used to help with sleep, and it is best to consult an expert to find out which is best suited to your constitution:

  • Valerian
  • Kava kava
  • Chamomile
  • Passion flower
  • Melatonin
  • Vitamin B6
  • Tryptophan

Almost all patients with restless leg disorder have nocturnal myoclonus. These conditions can impede sleep and should be diagnosed by a medical practitioner. Acupuncture can help myoclonus or restless leg syndrome.

Acupuncture and Insomnia

Acupuncture has been shown to improve sleep and to help with insomnia. Acupuncture has been used for insomnia and sleep disorders in China for thousands of years. From a biochemical perspective acupuncture stimulates the brain to release opioid like chemicals that relax a person without side effects. Acupuncture can also help a person reduce stress, balance blood sugar and return to balance.

To learn more about acupuncture for insomnia or sleep issues call (828) 254-4405

Mar 4

Acupuncture as Systems Theory

acupuncture as systems theoryYou cannot design anything without understanding the forces that flow through the design. Imagine designing a house without understanding how water flows through it, or electricity, or the force of gravity via mass across structure.

Still in homes, and in home design and repair we have plumbers, electricians, contractors etc., each trained in their respective jobs, each a specialist….while in many cases, little thought is given to what we might call whole systems architecture. Also, rarely do architects think about a human as a flow system of perceptions and senses and design according to flows and movements of light, smell of lavender at the south facing window, touch of reclaimed barn wood and stone.

The same is typically true of automotive design. As an example, here is what the Armory Lovins and the Rocky Mountain Institute had to say about whole systems thought as applied to automobiles:

“Not only does systems thinking point the way to solutions to particular resource problems, but it also reveals interconnections between problems, which often permits one solution to be leveraged to create many more. Take cars, for example. Cars are extremely complicated, so automotive engineers and designers specialize. Their job is to make a given component or subsystem the best it can be. This is how the modern automobile has evolved, through an incremental process of small improvements to individual components, without much change to the overall concept. The trouble is, optimizing isolated parts often “pessimizes” the whole: integration and synergy are lost; complexity, oversizing, and inefficiency abound. What’s lacking is a sense of the big picture, the whole system. Whole-system design means optimizing not just parts but the entire system (in this case the car). Naturally, this is more difficult at first. It takes ingenuity, intuition, and teamwork. Everything must be considered simultaneously and teased apart to reveal mutually helpful interactions.”

And yet, we still are a world of specialists that rarely collaborate to get a systems perspective. Why? Perhaps because a systems perspective often leads to a style of thought that considers the benefits to all life everywhere when creating any new invention or design. If a win-win solution for all of life cannot be had, a systems scientist might reconsider the design of the solution.

Acupuncture as Systems Theory

A person is not a gadget, not a machine, not a bag of biochemicals, and yet the reductionist stance of western medicine prevails. A most obvious case of specialization over systems thought occurs in medicine. Because the body is biochemically complex, patients are often referred from specialist to specialist, each an expert in his or her domain: cardiology, nephrology, gastroenterology etc. And most of those doctors do not think in terms of systems. Because a person is embedded in a network of relationships: community, town, nation, world, galaxy etc., and because their bodymind is composed of relationships among cells, organs, meridians etc., highly specialized medicine often fails people.

Acupuncture evolved in a culture of thought that emphasized systems — a human is embedded in a culture, which is embedded in nature, embedded in a world, embedded in a cosmos.

Thinking of humans as whole systems, within larger whole systems, allows more ecological understanding and solution oriented thought in healthcare. As practitioners of Chinese medicine, we are concerned with the health of people in every area of their lives, and we also realize that the health of the planet is the health of a person because we are literally the earth expressed in the unique form we call human. As the ecological and systems thought of East Asian Medicine gains traction in the west, we can look forward to a time when the systems thought of Chinese medicine does not compete with western medicine, but rather completes it.

Feb 20

The Science of Chinese Medicine

science of chinese medicineBy James Whittle M.S., L.Ac.


In the February 2014 issue of Journal of Chinese medicine (number 204), Peter Eckman M.D., physician and acupuncturist, presented a short article titled “Traditional Chinese Medicine – Science or Pseudoscience? A Response to Paul Unschuld” in which he questions Paul Unschuld’s supposed belief that Chinese medicine and acupuncture are pseudoscientific pursuits that need validation by biomedical science. Other Chinese medicine scholars have argued that Unschuld is equally skeptical of both biomedicine and Chinese medicine. Whatever Unschuld believes personally is not as concerning as the general tendency in the west to see biomedicine as the only legitimate medical science and thus the only legitimate path to medical knowlwedge.

Eckman raises good questions, and calls for acupuncturists to determine what methods of research are most appropriate to Chinese medicine. He touches upon the distinction between Western science and Eastern science by stating, “Many authors before me have pointed out that Western science is analytical, quantitative and deductive, whereas Eastern science is synthetic, qualitative and inductive.” In my experience, many acupuncturists do not consider Chinese medicine a science because they have not read or been introduced to the authors who have paved the way of apprehending why it should be considered as such. Additionally, many leaders in the field of Chinese medicine feel pressured to reduce Chinese medical thoughts and concepts to western ideas to make them acceptable. An example is reducing the idea of qi to the oxygen molecule. By comprehensively understanding why a modern rational person would consider Chinese medicine a science and not a pseudoscience or an example of pre-scientific thought, we are more able to guide the future of our medicine and propose intelligent ways to make it grow through considered research. Eckman cites Manfred Porkert as a source for understanding the differences between Western and Eastern science, as no other author has done more to clarify the differences in the two modes of thought than Porkert. In this short piece I wish to redact and explain one of Porkert’s central arguments, a deep understanding of which, could lend to a clear understanding of why Chinese medicine is indeed a science. Hopefully the argument will be useful to practitioners and students in their continued debate over the validity and practice of acupuncture and Chinese medicine, and its place within the dominant paradigm of biomedicine. As Dr. Nguyen Van Nghi used to say, “Chinese medicine does not compete with western medicine, it completes it.”

Introduction to the argument

In 1977, Dr. Manfred Porkert, the eminent sinologist and scholar-practitioner of Chinese medicine, wrote an article published in the journal Eastern Horizon titled: “Chinese medicine: A Science in its own Right.” The core argument of this piece, when fully understood gives practitioners an incredibly solid footing from which to understand their profession in terms of a mature science. In light of the fact that science is considered the hallmark of knowledge in many cultures, it makes sense to understand if Chinese medicine is truly a science in its own right, or if the biomedical trials of western medicine are needed to validate its practice. After reflecting on Porkert’s work for many years, I am convinced that with a deep understanding of the issues presented, practitioners can make a strong case to any intelligent and rational person anywhere, that Chinese medicine deserves deep respect and is more than empirically interesting or a grab bag of archaic techniques. Chinese medicine is a mature science and demonstrates all the criteria necessary to qualify it as such.

How Do We Define Science?

Disagreements about how we define science and distinguish it from other pursuits, such as philosophy, gets us right to the crux of the issue at hand.

The Oxford etymological dictionary gives this origin of the word science:

“mid-14c., “what is known, knowledge (of something) acquired by study; information;” also “assurance of knowledge, certitude, certainty,” from Old French science “knowledge, learning, application; corpus of human knowledge” (12c.), from Latin scientia “knowledge, a knowing; expertness,” from sciens (genitive scientis) “intelligent, skilled,” present participle of scire “to know,” probably originally “to separate one thing from another, to distinguish,” related to scindere “to cut, divide,” from PIE root *skei- “to cut, to split” (cf. Greek skhizein “to split, rend, cleave,” Gothic skaidan, Old English sceadan “to divide, separate”

For most people, the common understanding of science is something that is universally true, and the word truth often gets confused with the word science. Science should be understood as a human activity and attempt to arrive at warranted knowledge, or approximations of truth. What was considered true to one generation, changes as human beings discover more about the universe, or as anomalous facts collect and require new theories. (The Structure of Scientific Revolutions: Kuhn)

As the history of science and the philosophy of science shows, science is often riddled with cultural assumptions, agreements and methods, so much so that Goldstein and Goldstein point out in their book, How We Know, that “facts are theory laden.” The Goldsteins give the example of mass. In order for us to weigh a rock, we must agree on certain definitions and measurements, and our facts proceed from these. Without the agreement about the definition of mass, without agreeing to a shared set of terms, we would have no science.

In his book, The Mismeasure of Man, Stephen Jay Gould, the eminent paleontologist, evolutionary biologist and historian of science remarked:

“Science, since people must do it, is a socially embedded activity. It progresses by hunch, vision, and intuition. Much of its change through time does not record a closer approach to absolute truth, but the alteration of cultural contexts that influence it so strongly. Facts are not pure and unsullied bits of information; culture also influences what we see and how we see it. Theories, moreover, are not inexorable inductions from facts. The most creative theories are often imaginative visions imposed upon facts; the source of imagination is also strongly cultural.”

Though the very word science can conjure many things to many people, in general we use it to imply a way of obtaining approximate truth, universally warranted knowledge that extends across cultures, ideologies and belief systems. But we are also aware that certain agreements and beliefs are embedded in any science.

So in a general way science means an activity and mode of thought that leads to knowing with certainty, but it often gets confused with a method of analysis, called by Porkert “causal analysis”, and a specific mode of cognizance that is reductive in method. When we use the word science we mean to separate it from a specific mode of cognizance, and use it in the more general sense of universal approximate knowledge, or more precisely “warranted knowledge.” (J. Linn Mackey)

If you look in any high school science textbook in America, it will tell you that science in practice is distinguished by the scientific method. Unfortunately, science often gets confused with “the scientific method.” The Oxford English Dictionary defines the scientific method as, “a method or procedure that has characterized natural science since the 17th century, consisting in systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses.”

But in real life some of the greatest discoveries in science have come from dreams or other unorthodox methods of reflection or intuition. For instance, Friedrich August Kekule discovered the Benzene ring structure after a dream of a snake swallowing its tail. Meaning that the scientific method as it applies to warranted knowledge is only another approximation and not the only way of apprehending knowledge. Dreams and revelations from meditations on them, have served as ways of receiving crucial insights that later are revealed as warranted.

Additionally, there is nothing in the scientific method that identifies the mode of thought of science as causally analytic, reductive or quantitative. The Eastern science of Chinese medicine follows the scientific method as defined by the Oxford dictionary, in that it applies systematic observation, measurement and experiment…thereby arriving at the classical hypotheses of Chinese medicine: yin-yang and five phase theories.

So Western science and Eastern science are completely different modes of cognizance, but they are equally valid as sciences because they meet the core criteria that establishes them as universal ways of knowing as we will see below.

Eastern V Western Science: Two Modes of Cognizance

Many people and most scientists, will tell you that science is universal, that it provides knowledge available to all, and that therefore we should not speak in terms of Western versus Eastern science. What they don’t understand is that when we use these terms, Western and Eastern, we are describing different ways of seeing, different methods of thought and modes of cognizance only.

When we assume that Western science is the only true science, we make a fundamental mistake in confusing the methods, procedures and thought processes of that science with the criteria which establishes what a true science consists of. A science is not merely the methods it uses to acquire knowledge, it is based on specific criteria that distinguish it from other ways of knowing.

One of my mentors, Dr. Nguyen Van Nghi used to say “Chinese medicine does not compete with Western medicine, it completes it.”

Porkert makes clear in his writings that Eastern science is qualitative and he characterizes the mode of thought of Chinese medicine as inductively synthetic. While Western science is by and large quantitative and causally analytic. Whereas Chinese medicine looks to the present moment to see qualities and patterns as they present in the now, Western medicine looks for causes in the past. And the causes that western medicine seeks to find are material causes of increasingly microscopic origin. For instance, the search for causes goes to the cell, or molecule, all the way to do the DNA, as in the search for the genetic origins of disease.

So when we say western science, we mean a mode of thought that is focused on matter, is causally analytic and thereby reductive. In western science as applied to human beings, people are reduced to an effect, with a cause in the past, as in genetics.

Just because Chinese medicine uses a different mode of cognizance does not mean it is not a science in its’ own right. As established, modes of cognizance, are methods of thought, and Eastern science uses a different way of thought than Western science. In fact, Eastern thought does not disclude Western science, it includes it but also transcends it, while Western science necessarily discludes Eastern science, because it’s mode of cognizance is based on reduction and it must disclude any extraneous phenomenon not associated with the immediate concerned area of focus. As an example, to microscopically observe a part of the body, all other parts and functions of the body must be temporarily excluded from the observer’s focus, even though those other phenomena exist simultaneously. Chinese medicine takes the macro view, and synthesizes simultaneous phenomena to arrive at a gestalt or pattern. And these images, or patterns are universal.

The core of Porkert’s argument

Porkert makes clear that we must distinguish first between scientific criteria and scientific methods. Methods will differ depending on the branch of science. For instance, astronomers do not use the double-blinded placebo controlled study as a method, but astronomy is a science because it is based on the criteria that qualify it as a science. The criteria necessary to claim a way of knowing a science are:

1. Positive experience.

This would be the empirical part of the story. One of the most obvious facts about Chinese medicine is that it begins with very astute and precise observations of the human being. One could call this observation, but you have to be careful with that word. Porkert does not say objective here. When you do not separate mind and body, how can you separate subjective and objective? Still we experience things that are universal and understandable in terms of universality.

2. Univocality of statements.

For instance we all agree on what red means and signifies. When we say yin, yang or fire in Chinese medicine, we understand what each term means…and that heat is distinct from cold etc. Each word specifically points to specific phenomena and not other phenomena. Porkert says: “Univocality of statements denotes that in a given context every single statement must only be employed and accepted with one single, precisely defined meaning, to the exclusion of all others, with even slightly similar meanings. This criterion distinguishes ‘scientific’ from ‘common’ and even from ‘philosophical’ statements which, as a rule, can be understood or interpreted in more than one way.”

3. Stringent rational integration (systematization) of empirical data.

For hundreds if not thousands of years, this is exactly what Chinese physicians have done by observing patterns in human beings and delineating how those patterns change through time. Using the positive experience or their empirical observations, they used univocal statements, like “spleen qi deficiency” to recognize patterns and differentiate them. And thus an understanding of pattern differentiation is the rational systematization of empirical data at the core of Eastern science.

Porkert states: “It should also be noted that different from these essential criteria are a number of other criteria such as notably the causality nexus, controlled experiment and quantification of data. These constitute accidental criteria whose application is limited to some specific disciplines or fields of research only.”

In other words, depending on the branch of science there might be other criteria associated with it, but what establishes a science as legitimate are the core and principle criteria stated above, which Chinese medicine conforms to.

Putting reduction in its place

Porkert also makes clear that one of the methods of Western science, measurement and the metric system, implies a reductive mode of cognizance, because you cannot measure a human being without reducing that human being to the system of measurements. It is a mistake however to reduce humans to numbers solely, as it is clear that the human phenomenon is more than the sum of the parts that make humans up. The metric system is useful but only part of the mode of cognizance used by Western science to gain information about biological life.

To summarize: there are three pertinent criteria to meet if we are to consider Chinese medicine an exact science, which are stated and explained above. And when we look closely at Chinese medicine, we see that it indeed does meet all three criteria. The methods of Chinese science: yin yang and the five phases have been incorrectly assessed by western quantifiable methods, when they are qualitative empirical observations. For instance, you cannot apply quantification and measurement to the movements of emotions, but you can use words in a stringent fashion to observe their changes accurately. In the same way that the metric system is an agreed upon language to convey ideas, and that the metric system is not utilizable or of significance to someone who is not well versed in the language of the metric system, so too are the five phases and yin yang only of practical value when understood fully and used in a stringent fashion. Just as you cannot use the five phases and yin yang to assess Western science, you cannot use the invented methods of Western science and the metric system to evaluate Chinese medicine.

Feb 11

Acupuncture for Neuropathy

There are many different types of neuropathy. The Neuropathy Association identifies more than 100 possible types of neuropathy. Your medical doctor can help you get an accurate diagnosis from a western medical perspective. Some common types of neuropathy are:acupuncture for neuropathy

  •       Autonomic Neuropathy
  •       Injury related neuropathy
  •       Cancer-Related Neuropathies
  •       Compressive Neuropathies
  •       Diabetic Neuropathy
  •       Drug-Induced and Toxic Neuropathy
  •       G.I. and Nutrition-Related Neuropathies
  •       Hereditary Neuropathies
  •       Immune-Mediated and CIDP
  •       Infectious Diseases and Neuropathy
  •       Neuropathic Pain
  •       Chemotherapy Induced Neuropathy

The common symptoms of neuropathy include:

  1. Tingling in the lower legs and feet
  2. Numbness in the lower legs and feet
  3. Burning in the lower legs and feet
  4. Occasionally itching in the lower legs and feet

As far as evidence based medicine goes, there are various levels of evidence…at the bottom is expert opinion, second from the top are randomized controlled trials…and at the very top of the pyramid…the gold standard of evidence in medicine…are systematic reviews.

In my expert opinion, I have seen multiple cases of neuropathy improve with acupuncture treatment. I have treated both diabetic neuropathy and injury related neuropathies with acupuncture. As a general rule, the quicker a person begins acupuncture treatment when they first notice the very first symptoms of the neuropathy, the better and faster is the result.

Let’s take a look at the research and see what evidence is out there for using acupuncture for neuropathy.

A study published in 2014, demonstrated that acupuncture was very helpful in treating diabetic painful neuropathy. The authors of the research study concluded:

 “We have demonstrated the practicality and feasibility of acupuncture as an additional treatment for people with DPN. The treatment was well tolerated with no appreciable side effects.”

Interestingly electro-acupuncture has also shown promise as a treatment for diabetic neuropathies.

Acupuncture has also shown results for chemotherapy induced peripheral neuropathy, and you cans ee the research at this link from pubmed:

Feb 3

Acupuncture for Nasal Allergies

acupuncture for nasal allergiesNPR reported a story this past week explaining that acupuncture is a viable treatment option for nasal allergies, also called allergic rhinitis.

The Academy of Otolaryngology, has published new guidelines that can help allergy sufferers sort through the various treatment options and make a choice based on the best available evidence.

Nasal allergies, or allergic rhinitis, affects almost 40 million Americans according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

Acupuncture can provide a side-effect free treatment option to those who are sensitive to medications, or do not like using antihistamines and decongestants.

Acupuncture for Nasal Allergies

NPR interviewed Dr. Sandra Lin, associate professor of otolaryngology at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. She is on the panel that published the guidelines:

Here is what Dr. Lin recommended about acupuncture for nasal allergies:

“Acupuncture may help relieve symptoms and improve quality of life for people with perennial allergic rhinitis, and may help with seasonal allergies too, according to several studies. Thus it could be an option for people looking for non-pharmaceutical treatments.”

To learn how to differentiate between rhinitis, seasonal allergies, and pet allergies…click here.

To see the original article on NPR, go here.

To schedule an evaluattion or free consult to find out how acupuncture can help with nasal allergies, simply call us at 828-254-4405, or click the “schedule now” button on this website.




Jan 14

How To Do A Coffee Enema

Coffee EnemaIntroduction:

Scroll down to see the steps below…

I learned about coffee enemas from gastroenterologist Dr. Hiromi Shinya M.D. Dr. Shinya invented the colonoscope and noninvasive surgery for the large intestine. He has looked into the colons and stomachs of more than a half a million patients, and so he knows a thing or two about large intestine health. Dr. Shinya says that a coffee enema will help your large intestine repopulate itself with beneficial bacteria, or probiotics. The good gut bacteria love the acid in the coffee and feed on it, helping them to multiply rapidly. Dr. Shinya always recommends organic coffee.

You can use the coffee enema for general health purposes and total wellness, during a detox or cleanse protocol, or if you have bowel movement issues like constipation or diarrhea. Like any new experience, it takes a few tries to feel comfortable with doing an enema, so there is a learning curve and it is helpful not to get discouraged if it takes a while to perfect.

Interestingly, I have also found in my clinical experience that performing a coffee enema can help dramatically with sinus congestion and sinus problems. In Chinese medicine, ancient physicians recognized the connection between the lung and the large intestine. The classics of Chinese medicine state “the lung opens into the nose.” And since the lung and the large intestine are paired energetically, when bowel movements are smooth and easy, the sinuses will remain unclogged and flow easily as well. Deep breathing can also help relieve constipation by helping to create a peristaltic wave that allows the bowels to move.

Here are the step-by-step instructions for doing a coffee enema:

Step 1: If you have not done an enema before and do not have an enema bag, then you need to purchase the equipment necessary to do a coffee enema. You can call your local drugstore to see what they have in stock, or try Wal-Mart if you are willing to shop there. The one I use is by a company called Cara. It was very inexpensive, the bottle is made from dry natural rubber, and it can be purchased online at Amazon. The Cara enema bottle can also be used as a hot water bottle, or a douche system for women.

Here is the link if you want to purchase this online. As of this writing, the Cara enema kit was less than $5:

Step 2: If you do not have organic decaffeinated coffee, you need to buy some from the grocery store. Make sure it is certified USDA organic so you are sure it is free of pollutants including heavy metals, pesticides, herbicides and other toxic contaminants.

Warning: If you use regular coffee, the caffeine content will be absorbed by the large bowel and can give you quite a caffeine rush that may include palpitations and anxiety in some cases.

Step 3: Brew 3 cups, about 0.75 quarts, of the organic decaf coffee, and let the coffee sit until it becomes room temperature.

Step 4: If the enema bottle is new or used: rinse your enema bag thoroughly with warm, filtered water: fill 2/3 full of filtered water, insert stopper and shake well and empty to remove any debris from manufacturing or previous use. Add 3 cups of decaf organic coffee to the rubber enema bag. Insert the adapter into the top of the enema bag: the adapter is what connects to the tube that will be inserted into the anus.

Step 5: Make sure that the shut-off-clamp is closed and locked onto the tubing. Insert the enema pipe into the tip of the tubing. Note: If you are using the Cara enema kit, there is also a vaginal pipe that can be used for the douche.

Step 6: You are going to lie down on the floor and most people choose the bathroom. You can also lie down in the bathtub, and I recommend the bathtub in case there is any leakage from the bottle, and for other possible leakages! Hang the enema bag up using the hook on the rubber bottle so that the bottle is several feet higher than your position in the tub or on the floor. I use the shower pipe behind the showerhead as a place to hang the enema bag.

Step 6: Once you are in a comfortable reclined position in the tub or on the floor and the enema bag is hung several feet above you, insert the enema pipe into the anus. It is helpful to use a small amount of coconut oil, or olive oil on the tip of the enema pipe to allow it to insert into the anus easily. Note: If you use Vaseline or another thicker lubricant, the lubricant might block the tubing and prevent the coffee from flowing out freely. Once you are comfortable and the enema pipe is inserted into the anus, simply release the shut-off-clamp and allow the decaf coffee to flow into the large bowel.

Step 7: Once all three cups have entered the large bowel (large colon or intestine), simply relax and retain the coffee from 3-5 minutes. After 3-5 minutes has passed, tighten the anal sphincter, arise and sit up on the toilet. Release the coffee from the large bowel by relaxing the anus and allow the liquid to flow into the toilet.

You have now learned to self-administer a coffee enema!

For a free consultation about how Acupuncture and Chinese medicine can help your digestive issues, call us at (828) 254-4405. Or click the “Schedule Now” button to the right of this page to schedule your free consult 24/7!

Jan 12

Acupuncture Resources

acupuncture resourcesThe following is a comprehensive list of acupuncture resources in the United States. If you scroll down you will see a list of international acupuncture resources. If you would like your acupuncture or Chinese medicine resource listed here, please email at

Acupuncture Organizations

Chinese Herb Growers

Jan 10

Health Department Uses Acupuncture For Smoking Cessation

acupuncture for smokingAustralian media began reporting this past week that the federal health department was giving cash reimbursements to employees who used hypnotherapy or acupuncture for smoking cessation. For many conservative medical practitioners, and for those who have not seen the science behind acupuncture’s benefits for addiction, this was seen as  controversial.

Acupuncture has a very long history of use for addictions in China, and Americans might be surprised to find that acupuncture has been used in hospitals in New York State since the nineteen seventies.

The well respected Cleveland Clinic is now promoting acupuncture for smoking cessation on their website, due to the good research and clinical results behind it’s use. To see the Cleveland Clinic’s article on using acupuncture for smoking cessation, you can go here.

What Acupuncture For Smoking Cessation Is Like

Acupuncturists often use auricular acupuncture, or ear acupuncture to treat addictions, including smoking. In some cases small seed like needles will be taped onto specific acupuncture points on the ear, and the patient will be told to press these acupuncture points a few times a day to stimulate the brain. Stimulating these points has been shown to release certain neurochemicals that have an effect on modulating cravings.

The Dr. Oz show also had a good segment on using acupuncture for smoking cessation, which you can see here.

There are obviously many good reasons to quit smoking, as the Dr. Oz website reports:

• With each inhalation of a cigarette, you breath in over 4,000 chemicals, including but certainly not limited to arsenic, ammonia, acetone, ammonium bromide, benzene, carbon monoxide, cadmium, cyanide, DDT, formaldehyde, lead, mercury, nickel, hydrogen cyanide, and hydrogen sulfide, in addition to at least 50 cancer-causing agents.
• According to the Centers for Disease Control, cigarette smoking causes death: nearly 443,000 deaths per year (1 in 5 deaths) to be exact. This is more than HIV, illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor vehicle injuries, suicides and murders combined.
• Smoking increases the risk of coronary artery disease, stroke, lung cancer, chronic obstructive lung disease, abdominal aortic aneurysm, infertility, premature delivery, stillbirth, low birth weight, and sudden infant death syndrome.
• Cigarettes cause cancer: acute myeloid leukemia, bladder, cervical, esophageal, kidney, larynx, lung, oral (mouth), and stomach cancers.
• Cigarette smoking is associated with lower bone density in postmenopausal women, and increases the risk of hip fractures in women.

Acupuncture For Smoking

Why not try acupuncture for stopping smoking? Seek out a licensed and well qualified acupuncturist, who has specific training in helping you stop smoking. If you have any questions you can call The Blue Ridge Acupuncture Clinic at (828) 254-4405.


Dec 28

Allergies and Acupuncture

asheville allergiesThere are different types of allergies, but all allergic reactions are a hypersensitivity of the immune system.

Some of the most common allergies are:

Pet allergies: These include dog allergies and cat allergies, and are often caused by an allergic reaction to the dander of animals.

Seasonal Allergies: Can happen in any season but most commonly in fall and spring, when pollen or mold counts rise in the air.

Food allergies: The most common are wheat and dairy. There are immediate food reactions which can be severe…common anaphylactic food allergies include peanuts and shellfish. Some food allergies are mediated through a different class of antibodies, and are called slow food allergies. You might eat wheat on Saturday and not get a headache until Wednesday. To learn more about food allergies, click the link at the bottom of this page for the longer article.

The common symptoms of seasonal or pet allergies are: runny nose, cough from drainage, red eyes, sinus pressure, headaches, hives, eczema, and in some cases asthma.

How do I know if it is a cold or allergies?

Often a person who has allergies will get a cold, or rhinovirus, and not know that they have a virus and are not suffering from an allergy attack. A cold is contagious, and allergies are not…typically a cold will come on slowly and aches, fever and a cough are common. With allergies, a fever and aches are rare, and a cough is usually from sinus congestion draining, rather than a reaction to a nasal virus. Allergy symptoms can appear immediately after exposure to an allergen, while symptoms of a cold can take a few days to appear after exposure to the virus. Itchy and watery eyes are common with allergies, but not so common with the common cold. A sore throat is more typical with a cold than with allergies.

Allergies and Acupuncture

Acupuncture is incredibly effective for allergies of all types: dog allergies, cat allergies, seasonal allergies and food allergies. Acupuncture reduces swelling and inflammation, stops a runny reduces, reduces watery and itchy eyes, and acupuncture also an stop a headache.

Chinese herbal medicine is also highly effective for reducing the symptoms of allergies, herbs can also help balance the immune system.

To learn more about allergies you can read this article.

© James Whittle, All rights reserved.

For your free consultation or to learn about treating allergies in Asheville, North Carolina, call (828) 254-4405

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