When I wake up congested, I’ll irrigate my nose with a neti pot and instantly breath more freely. In winter, and during allergy season, I use it daily as natural remedy to prevent and treat nasal congestion, post-nasal drip, allergies, sore throat, and upper respiratory congestion or colds. At the bottom of this post you will find an instructional video which teaches how to use a neti pot. For many years, I’ve recommended the same to my patients. They all so appreciative that I’ve taught them how to use a neti pot because they experience reduction or elimination of sinus pain, sinus headaches, allergy symptoms, the common cold and such.
Nasal irrigation with a neti pot takes five minutes and it’s super easy to use. If you don’t believe me, check out the demonstration video below. You won’t have to spend $30.00 on an expensive ceramic neti pot at a fancy health food store, because most drug stores carry a simple and effective plastic version costing about half the price. NeilMed brand is the neti pot that my family uses at home, along with the pre-mixed saline packets.
Not only can you save money on the neti pot it’s self, you can save tons of dough in over-the-counter and prescription medications when you prevent and treat naturally with a neti pot. On the occasion that your symptoms progress, be sure to visit you health care provider. When my patients symptoms progress they usually call me for an acupuncture appointment and/or for some herbs.
I know that some of you are concerned about neti pot safety. Fill your neti pot with filtered, pre-boiled water that you’ve cooled to room temperature. Doing so will reduce the chance of bacteria entering your nose via the water. Some of my patients make this cleaner water in large batches and store it in a clean glass container so that they don’t have to clean the water daily.
Remember how your parents always bugged you about wearing a hat and sweater in cooler weather? They knew that the possibility of a Wind-Cold invasion could lead to the flu, runny or stuffy noses, body aches and fevers.
We often combat Wind invasions by wearing our hat and sweaters but what happens if that doesn’t work? What if you catch a cold and it progressively worsens?
Chinese Dietary Therapy
Food can help prevent and treat most wind invasions. Wind is considered a pathogenic source which enters at the level of the head and face and if not expelled quickly may move deeper into the throat and chest. There are two types of wind pathogens, Wind-Cold and Wind-Heat. Most colds start off as a Wind-Cold invasion and may progress into wind-heat. We want to protect and nourish the Wei Qi or Defensive qi of the body through diet, herbs and exercise. Our bodies are made of Yin and Yang energies. When these energies are balanced we are healthy. Exterior pathogens can create an imbalance of our qi. The nature of food is also yin or yang. Therefore we can use food medicinally to balance our qi. First let’s examine the signs & symptoms of two common exterior conditions and then we will explore dietary prevention and treatment options.
Compare the following two lists of symptoms. You should have most of the symptoms in one category before applying a dietary change. If you have conflicting symptoms, ask your acupuncturist for clarification. Don’t forget that acupuncture is effective to kick a cold or flu!
Wind-Cold Symptoms: Headache, runny nose with clear discharge, neck and shoulder aches, aversion to cold, a white tongue coating.
Special Dietary Consideration: If you are suffering from a Wind-Cold Invasion it is best to stick with foods whose qi qualities are warming, neutral and hot foods.
Sore throat, headache, cough, fever or elevated body temperature, body aches, little or no sweat, runny or stuffy nose with yellow discharge, a red tongue body w/ yellow coating. If the heat is very deep it may cause nausea or vomiting, depressed appetite, abdominal distention, chills and fever, heavy sweating, irritability, strong thirst.
Special Dietary Consideration: If you are suffering from a Wind-Heat Invasion it is best to stick with foods whose qi quality is neutral and cooling (try to avoid too many cold foods because they can damage your qi).
Basic Dietary Considerations for Wind-Cold and Wind-Heat Invasions:
While ill, it is best to eat light, easy to digest foods like soups, veggies, rice and rice noodles. Avoid eating lots of cold foods like salads, cold sandwiches, chilled drinks, ice pops, and soy ice cream. Also avoid foods that may cause Dampness in the body. Dampness is heavy in nature, obstructs Defensive qi and contributes to phlegm production. Therefore, stay away from foods that are damp in nature such as dairy products, fried foods, greasy foods, foods high in fat and alcohol. (Stir fry is usually OK as long you cook with a small amount of oil). Raw foods also contribute to cold and dampness. Salads, fruits and fruit juices should be taken in moderation or are to be completely avoided. Be aware that most chickens and meat contain antibiotics. It is best to eat organic chickens and meats because they are not fed antibiotics. The more antibiotics we consume the faster our body becomes immune to them. Antibiotics are also seen as a cause of dampness and cold in the body and when overused can cause qi imbalances which may manifest as fatigue, a susceptibility to more bacterial infections, yeast infections and more.
Prevention and Treatment of Wind-Cold Invasion:
Generally, I recommended foods to promote perspiration which forces out the wind toxin such as: ginger, scallion, chilies, coriander, cabbage. Avoid vinegar because it contracts the pores.
Teas – In prevention and treatment of a simple Wind-Cold headache try Green tea mixed with Peppermint tea. Fresh Ginger tea with a bit of brown sugar is good when you have the other symptoms as well.
Breakfast Food Example – Hot oats with local, raw honey (or pure maple syrup) and powdered cinnamon. Oats are warm and easy to digest, honey is sweet, nourishes body fluids and cinnamon is warm, pungent and unblocks channels for the upper body aches.
Soups – Miso Soup with Scallions – The fermented miso (soy paste) is sweet, salty and neutral. It strengthens the Stomach qi and detoxifies which will help dispel wind-cold and the scallions are warming and pungent which promotes sweating to relieve the exterior wind-cold invasion.Simply bring 2-3 cups of filtered or spring water to a boil. Add 2 tablespoons of miso paste, let dissolve. Cook for 10 minutes on low flame. Taste. If the flavor is too strong, add some water, vegetable or chicken broth. Chop the scallions and sprinkle about a teaspoon on top of your miso soup in the bowl. Avoid adding seaweed to this recipe, it is cold in nature.
3 Leeks thinly slice
2-3 Tablespoons Olive oil
6-8 cups filtered or spring water
1 whole organic, antibiotic free chicken or chicken parts
2 cups rice or rice noodles
Veggies for Wind-Cold or Heat as listed below
½-1 teaspoon per serving of freshly grated ginger
3-5 cloves of garlic, minced
Take 3 thin leeks, wash. Thinly slice the whites. Add 2-3 tablespoons of Olive oil to the bottom of a stock pot and turn flame on medium. When oil is warm, stir in leeks until they are lightly covered with oil. Lower flame and cover the pot to let leeks “sweat” for 10 minutes, occasionally stirring. Add in the garlic and saute for 2 minutes. Add 6-8 cups of water to the leeks. Add one washed organic chicken or 1 pound of organic chicken parts with bones. Place in stock pot. Cover with water. Boil for one hour. Cook 2 cups of unpolished white rice (20 minutes) or jasmine rice (10 minutes). Prepare freshly grated ginger, about 1 tablespoon. Turn down heat to let the water and fat settle. Scoop out or strain fat. Remove chicken from stock. You may prepare and add any of these warming veggies: squash, green bean, sweet potato, kale. Add veggies to a simmering stock for 10-15 minutes (or longer if using sweet potatoes). While the veggies are cooking, chop the chicken into spoon size pieces and add to the stock. After all the chicken is back in the stockpot, turn off the flame. Place rice and a ½ -1 teaspoon of grated ginger and desired amount of rice into a bowl and ladle soup over it. You can add a cinnamon stick or a touch of grated cinnamon to each bowl as well. To induce more sweating or clear the sinuses you can add some hot chili sauce to your soup. This soup does take time to make. You may want to make those soup and freeze a few containers of it so that when you are ill and fatigued you can simply warm it up and eat it.
Garlic, cinnamon, ginger and raw, local honey all have antibiotic and anti-viral effects.
Prevention and Treatment of Wind-Heat: Generally avoid pungent tasting foods and foods that have a very warm or hot nature such as scallions, chilies, wine and keep your intake light. Ginger can also be used in this case but avoid dried ginger because it is too hot and may aggravate this condition. It is great to help stop cough and nausea but do not overuse because it is warming. If you have a Wind-Heat Invasion you should also see your practitioner of Oriental Medicine for herbs and other treatments.
Teas – Peppermint and/or Chrysanthemum tea with local, raw honey. These herbs dispel heat and the honey nourishes Yin body fluids that may become damaged by heat. Peppermint is also used for sinus congestion.
Breakfast Food Example – Warm tea and Amaranth flakes cereal with unsweetened almond milk. You may add almonds, walnuts and or honey to help stop coughing.
Soup – We are going to use the same basic chicken soup recipe as above except you will not use cinnamon or chiles, or those vegetables. Instead you can use cooling veggies: bok choy, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, corn, mushroom, spinach, swiss chard, turnip, zucchini, bamboo shoots, button mushroom, carrot, dandelion greens, potato.
Acupuncture and Chinese herbs are effective to prevent spring allergies before they start.
Let’s face it, spring allergies can be a drag. Instead of celebrating the blossoms and warmer weather many people suffer for weeks or even months with runny noses, watery, red eyes, and sneezing post nasal drip.
Many seasonal allergies sufferers turn to medications to prevent the symptoms of spring allergies throughout the season despite the common side effects of drowsiness, dryness, dizziness, fatigue, insomnia, nervousness, and digestive disturbance. There’s also immune system suppression and the risk of becoming medication-dependent to worry about. Worse still, the Western treatment of allergies treats only the symptoms and not the root cause. Those seeking a natural and effective alternative need search no further than Chinese medicine.
In Chinese medicine the strategy behind treatment is alleviating the acute symptoms as well as correcting the root energetic imbalance causing those symptoms. The symptoms of seasonal allergies are most often related to underlying disharmonies involving wei qi, or defensive energy, phlegm or dampness, and the lung, spleen, and kidney energy systems, all of which are explained in detail in the article, “Stop Your Sniffling: Treat Seasonal Allergies with Acupuncture & Chinese Herbs“!
Another one of my favorite ways to prevent and treat seasonal allergies is with quercitin ascorbate. Quercitin is like nature’s Benadryl but with out the sleepy side effects. It is best to taken 2-3 times per day with food.
Visit my Online Shop to find home care products and that are my favorites for preventing spring allergies.
Learn About the Benefits of Needle-free Acupuncture for Babies & Children, Tui Na Massage & Shoni Shin Treatment–An Interview withMelanie Katin, L.Ac., Professor and Clinician of Pediatric Chinese Medicinewith Juliette Aiyana, L.Ac., Creator of HealthyStuff U.com
JA: A slew of positive media reports about the efficacy of acupuncture and tui na massage for kids is popularising parental interest in this natural treatment. Yet, many parents remain hesitant to bring kids in for acupuncture because babies, toddlers, kids and even the parents themselves may be frightened of needles. With that, how does your pediatric practice stay so busy?
MK: When people learn that I am a pediatric acupuncturist, they open their eyes wide when inquiring if I really use needles on children. The answer is yes, depending on a combination of the health issue, the parents’ consent, and the child’s willingness. However, in the pediatric clinic, there are several other methods of treatment beyond needling that are comfortable for the child, and easy to teach parents so that they can continue treatments at home, when necessary.
JA: Chinese medicine uses medical massage as a stand-alone, or as an adjunctive therapy to acupuncture. How well do children take to needle-free therapies?
MK: In Chinese medicine, massage is called Tui Na (twee-naa). For infants and small children under 6, this is always the first line of treatment in my office. One of the best things about the health of children is their ability to heal quickly. They generally have rapid shifting of symptoms, however intense they may seem at the moment.
In Chinese medicine, we say that infants, babies and toddlers are yang in nature, meaning that they grow and learn fast, get sick quickly, with fast resolution of their illness, and tend to have more hot, feverish illnesses. When children are sick, there is disorder in their Qi (chee), and it is part of the goal of my treatments to restore order to the qi using gentle and tolerable treatments. The Qi is superficial, and is easily accessed on the skin, which is why massage is one of the best tools to use for children.
JA: How does pediatric tui-na massage differ from therapeutic massage for grown-ups?
MK: Pediatric tuina massage is different from standard adult massage in many ways. First, is the fact that warm water is used as the substrate, instead of oil or creams. Adult massage employs oils because they help sedate and calm during the massage. But because children have yang tendencies, sedating or calming them with oils and creams is usually contraindicated. We want their discomfort to move out of their bodies rapidly, therefore water allows for fast hand motions during the massage without creating any friction on the skin, which may be uncomfortable.
Also different from adult massage are the techniques. The hand movements are specific to the goal of treatment: for instance, for a child experiencing a cough, we would administer tui na massage the sternum or breastplate in a downward direction only, to encourage the body to stop having the upward movement of the cough. If a child is experiencing constipation, the abdominal massage is done in a clockwise direction, because the large intestine moves in this direction, and the massage helps direct the peristalsis. Conversely, for a child with diarrhea, we would massage in a counter-clockwise direction.
JA: Can parents learn tui-na massage techniques to continue therapy at home with their children?
MK: Yes. Since the techniques are very easy to learn, I ensure that the parents have a good grasp on how to do 2-3 techniques so that they can continue the treatments at home. With most illnesses it is important that the treatment be performed sometimes several times a day, so caregiver involvement is essential.
JA: It always amazes me how effective tui-na massage is when I use it with my son at home. And, yes, we’ve noticed that if we don’t use the techniques several times per day the treatments are not successful. We commit the time to his health, which isn’t hard, because the tui-na only takes a few minutes each time. My son and I love the bonding time that massage creates for us. Which other needle-free methods do you use?
MT: A second modality we use is called Shoni Shin. This is a technique of gently tapping and scraping the skin with small instruments. There are specific shoni shin tools that are usually made from copper or stainless steel. This technique is used both as a preventative measure by maintaining the flow of qi to stay consistent when the child is healthy, but also as a way to inform the neurological system of the proper flow when the child is ill.
JA: When I was searching for stock photos to accompany this interview, my son peeked at my computer screen as I found the photo below, of a boy receiving shoni-shin. He recognized the shoni-shin tools and exclaimed, “That boy is getting massage, mommy”!
MT: Children love shoni shin tools! Especially the roller, which is always the first one to be picked up and played with. It is important that the children become comfortable with the tools, and we create a game with them during the treatment. Often, slightly older children will make up stories about each tool. However, I have found that children who have had many experiences with surgeries or hospital visits are wary of shiny, strange looking objects coming near their skin. For these wee ones, I have used more recognizable household items, such as buttons, spoons, sea glass or seashells: in other words, friendly and familiar.
JA: That is brilliant. And these are items which kids are likely familiar with. I have also used a coin as a tool. Shoni-shin has a neat history. Please tell us about that.
MK: Shoni shin was a technique developed in Japan in the 17th century, and more recently popularized in modern clinics. In Japan, the Chinese medical clinics will raise a flag of a different animal each month, around the full moon. This signals parents in the neighborhood that it is time to bring in the children for their monthly wellness visits for shoni shin. I strongly encourage parents to consider bringing their kids in to see me when they are not currently sick to receive shoni shin. This way, they can meet me, learn about shoni shin and massage, and develop a level of comfort at my office, so that when they are actually sick and fussy, they will not have the added fear of something and someone new, but will be familiar with the procedure.
JA: And monthly visits can help strengthen kid’s immune systems and refresh the parents memory about techniques to use, along with learning new ones.
So, what about acupuncture for kids? When do you use needles?
MK: It is not always necessary to needle small children, because they can benefit greatly from the two modalities described here. However, for some instances, neither tui na nor shoni shin can be employed well, either due to intolerance of touch, or for those little ones who have just learned how to walk, and just cannot sit still. For these cases, sometimes a couple needles are faster and easier to use.
Once you find a competent pediatric specialist, you should discover that your child may not even notice that they have been needled. One way I have discovered to avert the fear aspect of needles is to call them something else! One little 3-year old I know calls them “piques,” which sounds a lot like “peek,” so this is usually my word of choice, to remind the child of a game of peek-a-boo.
JA:I love it! My son is still nervous to receive acupuncture, but each time after I treat him, he always looks me right in the eyes and sincerely thanks me. I bet your patients and their parents are grateful too. We are certainly grateful when we come to see you! How can parents outside of the New York City area find a practitioner of Chinese medicine who specializes in pediatrics?
MK: My advice on how to find a practitioner in your area is to search a couple of online resources, both www.nccaom.org, which is the national certification agency for all licensed practitioners of Chinese medicine, and also www.acufinder.com. Both of these will yield practitioners in your area. Another suggestion is to see if there is a local Chinese medical school in your area. They might have a low-cost clinic where your child can be treated, or have alumni information available. Once you’ve found a few practitioners, start calling and ask if they have experience treating children. They might be able to point you in the right direction if they are not able to help you directly.
JA: I also send people to www.tcmdirectory.com. Thank you so much for all of this valuable information about Chinese medicine for kids. I hope it is useful for parents!
Melanie Katin, L.Ac. is a licensed acupuncturist and herbalist in NYC. She has been specializing in the care of children for 8 years in her private practice, and leads the pediatric clinic at Pacific College of Oriental Medicine’s NYC campus. For further information, or to make an appointment with Melanie, visit her website: www.melaniekatin.com
Finally, the sun is out and the warm weather upon us. But for roughly 45 million Americans, seasonal allergies (also known as hay fever or allergic rhinitis) make this time of year a miserable one. How can allergy sufferers enjoy themselves with all the sneezing, runny nose, fatigue, sinus pressure, congestion, red itchy eyes, scratchy throat and headache?
Many seasonal allergies sufferers turn to medications throughout the season despite the common side effects of drowsiness, dryness, dizziness, fatigue, insomnia, nervousness, and digestive disturbance. There’s also immune system suppression and the risk of becoming medication-dependent to worry about. Worse still, the Western treatment of allergies treats only the symptoms and not the root cause. Those seeking a natural and effective alternative need search no further than Chinese medicine.
In Chinese medicine the strategy behind treatment is alleviating the acute symptoms as well as correcting the root energetic imbalance causing those symptoms. The symptoms of seasonal allergies are most often related to underlying disharmonies involving wei qi, or defensive energy, phlegm or dampness, and the lung, spleen, and kidney energy systems, all of which I explain below.
Wei Qi and Lung Qi: In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), illness prevention begins with a protective layer around the exterior of the body called wei qi, or defensive energy. A strong and healthy wei qi is the body’s initial protection against all external pathogens. If the defensive energy is weak, “wind pathogens” transmitted through the air will enter the body, so a combination of a wind-born pathogen and a deficiency of the protective wei qi is a recipe for illness. People with wei qi deficiency catch colds easily, and seasonal allergies symptoms may be particularly bad in the spring or fall seasons which are generally windy. Patients with seasonal allergies, chronic cough and/or recurrent colds and flu are also likely to have Lung deficiency, since wei qi and immune function are part of the lung energy. Lung qi controls the domain of skin, lungs, nose, sinuses, and respiratory passages.
Spleen Qi: Behind every weak immune system is a deficiency of the spleen qi, part of the digestive system. It is the job of the spleen to make healthy qi from food. If the spleen qi is weak, it is not able to efficiently digest food and make a healthy quality of energy to distribute to all systems of the body. The immune system suffers. Spleen qi deficiency is usually accompanied by dampness; fluids fail to metabolize and often end up turning to excess phlegm and mucus. Spleen Qi vacuity with Dampness is a common underlying condition with allergy symptoms.
Kidney Qi: Since kidney energy is the root of constitutional and all other energy systems in the body, it is usually related to imbalances involving deficiency. Especially when seasonal allergies, asthma, or frequent or chronic respiratory illness are problems since childhood, the kidney energy must be addressed. It is also important to note that kidney energy is damaged by long-term medication use.
Chinese herbs are very important both for quick relief of the acute symptoms as well as support for the underlying imbalance in energy responsible for allergic problems. Though every patient has a unique combination of symptoms and is treated according to their individual pattern, the most common treatment principles are boosting the lung qi, wei qi, and supporting the spleen qi while expelling wind and phlegm dampness from the body.
There are many Chinese herbs that build wei qi and enhance the immune system. For best results (and safety!), herbal formulas should be prescribed only by professionally trained herbalists. The formula prescribed will address each patient’s unique presentation of symptoms, and hence will vary greatly from case to case. However, an example of one of the simplest and most famous formulas is called Jade Windscreen and is comprised of just three immunity-enhancing herbs: Huang qi (Astragalus), Fang feng (Saposhnikovia) and Bai zhu (Atractylodes).
Huang qi (Astragalus) is traditionally used to strengthen wei qi. Modern research has identified several notable pharmacological effects confirming its historical use. Huang qi is an immunostimulant, increasing both specific and non-specific immunity. It also increases the number of white blood cells and has antibiotic actions against streptococcus and staphylococcus. Clinical studies have shown it effective in the prevention of colds and respiratory infections. It is also considered a hepatoprotective (liver-protecting) herb.
Fang feng’s (Saposhnikovia) TCM name is translated to mean “guard against wind,” and it has antibiotic and antiviral properties.
Bai zhu (Atractylodes) is traditionally used as a tonic to build both spleen qi and wei qi. Recent studies have shown that Bai zhu increases the activity of macrophages and increases the number of white blood cells and lymphocytes.
The above herbs are also included in many variations of the original Jade Windscreen formula, such as Allerease by Blue Poppy, which is often relevant and prescribed.
Allergies and Lifestyle: Survival Tips
The following suggestions may help minimize suffering:
Minimize exposure to your allergens. Check your local TV, newspaper or the Internet for pollen forecasts and current pollen levels, and stay indoors when the pollen count or humidity is high. The morning is prime pollen time – especially if it is dry and windy. Plan outdoors activities for later in the day, or after a good rain, when pollen counts are lower.
Keep windows shut when the pollen count is high, including those in your house and car. Use air conditioning if possible, or keep indoor air dry with a dehumidifier. A HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filter or an electrostatic precipitator may also help clean pollen and mold from the indoor air.
Don’t hang laundry outside, since pollen may cling to towels and sheets. Wash all bedding every 7 to 14 days. Also, remove clothes you’ve worn outside and shower to rinse pollen from your skin and hair.
Avoid mowing the grass, pulling weeds or raking leaves. If you must do these, wear a mask to filter pollen and molds from the air.
Plan vacations where pollen isn’t prevalent. A good choice is the beach.
Swim for exercise. In fact, you’ll find one of the purest concentrations of air in the ten to 15 inch layer right above the water, and the gentle humidity keeps your airways from drying out. If you exercise outdoors, use a neti pot before and after exercising to get rid of dust, pollen, and mucus from your nose.
Diet and Supplements for Allergy Season
In general, eating a well-balanced healthy diet will keep the immune system strong. Specifically, minimize or avoid cows milk and other dairy products as they contribute to the production of phlegm and mucus. Overindulgence in simple carbohydrates and sweets can also contribute to allergies, since they harm the spleen qi.
Include both omega-3 and omega-6s fatty acids included in salmon, tuna, mackerel, and other cold-water fish. Eat mercury containing fish, such as tuna, in moderation especially pregnant women. Check the USDA Website for more information on mercury and fish. Flax seeds, hemp seeds, walnuts, and canola oil are high in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which the body converts to eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), the form found in fish.
Another article about Natural Allergy Control gives more suggestions about diet and supplements that may be helpful. It also explains how allergies are related to imbalances in the nervous system, and which allergies respond well to chiropractic care.
Prevention is the Best Medicine
The best time to get treated for seasonal allergies is before they show up. Starting a treatment program including acupuncture and Chinese herbs 6-8 weeks before they typically start for you, helps boost the immune system and hence prevent symptoms from appearing since the underlying energy will be strong and resilient. However, if allergy symptoms are already bothering you, start treatment as soon as possible for best results.
Contact Aiyana Acupuncture & Chinese Herbs for more information or to make an appointment today!
Steam inhalation therapy with essential oils is a simple and effective home remedy for headaches, sinus congestion, sinus pain and infections, respiratory ailments due to allergies, asthma, the common cold, influenza and bronchitis. Depending on the essential oils you use, steam inhalation can also calm the mind, nervous system and spirit.
What You Need:
Tea kettle or pot
Glass or Ceramic bowl- medium to large
Essential oils (see chart below to help you chose)
A bath towel
Boil filtered or spring water in a tea kettle until it steams.
Turn off the heat and remove the kettle using a potholder.
Take care to slowly pour the steaming water into a large glass or ceramic bowl. Add a few drops of essential oil to the water.
Place the towel over the top of your head so that it drapes over the sides of your head.
Close your eyes, lean over the bowl allowing the sides of the towel to create a tent over the sides of the bowl.
Inhale and exhale through your nose.
You will notice the scent fades in about 3-5 minutes. You can perform this treatment over again if you like.
As mucus loosens from steaming, clear your sinuses by gently blowing your nose into the tissues and discard them. As the water begins to cool down from hot to warm, place your washcloth in the water, ring it out and place it on your chest or the back of your neck. The warm compress will help release chest tightness and congestion, relaxes and loosens your neck muscles. Ahhhhhh.
How To Choose The Oils
For upper respiratory and sinus congestion try one of each or combine the following:
Peppermint 3-5 drops
Eucalyptus 3-5 drops
Camphor 3 drops
For Headaches unrelated to sinus problems:
Headache which are sharp or throbbing and may be combined with neck and shoulder tension try:
The common cold and flu arrive hand in hand with cold weather. It is well known that antibiotics do nothing to cure rotavirus infections, and that the overuse of antibiotics triggers a resistance to their effectiveness on occasions when we desperately need them to work.
Chinese medicine has successfully treated the cold and flu for thousands of years with Chinese herbs and acupuncture treatment. Our treatment either stops the cold and flu within one to two days or significantly reduces symptoms and duration. Chinese medicine also helps resolve sinus congestion, infections and coughs.
In this article, l discuss how Chinese medicine diagnoses and treats colds, flus and their related symptoms, as well as home remedies, self-care techniques, healing recipes and more. Remember the best cure is prevention so eat well, get enough sleep and get acupuncture and herbs for prevention.
Chinese Diagnosis & Treatment of Colds & Flus
In Chinese medicine (CM) we recognize several categories of the cold and flu. The symptoms of each category are different ; therefore, CM uses different treatments for each.
Wind cold invasions are often characterized by fever but no sweating, possible fever and chills, body aches, an aversion to cold, nasal congestion with clear, runny mucus, headache and possibly fatigue and/or cough.
Wind damp invasion symptoms are fever, chills, headache and a feeling of head heaviness, body aches, fullness and heaviness of the chest, stomach and or lower abdominal pain or fullness, nausea and or vomiting and diarrhea. Sometimes patients with a wind damp invasion only have fever & chills without sweating, a stiff neck and upper back ache.
Wind heat invasions are often characterized by fever, slight chills if any, sore throat, stuck, thick nasal congestion that tends to be yellow or green color and possible sinus infection, cough, irritability and fatigue. The nature of the cough may vary. For example there may be a very productive cough with stringy white sputum, or productive or hard to expectorate thick yellow or green sputum. Occasionally, the cough is very dry, hacking and may produce blood streaked sputum. Coughs can be accompanied with wheezing. Each cough type is treated very differently. The treatment strategy will dry a wet productive cough or moisten a dry hacking cough to achieve relief.
Your practitioner will combine several treatment strategies such as acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine and herbal cough syrup, cupping, Chinese massage gua-sha (a gentle scraping techniques applied to the skin to release wind from the muscle layer. It is usually done with the smooth edge of a spoon and feels wonderful). Additionally, your acupuncturist will teach you home remedies such as steam inhalation for nasal & chest congestion and coughs as well as medicinal food recipes.
True secrets regarding Immunity Boosting are a step away…
Oh, winter. Yes, it’s that time of year again. Coworkers in the office are out of (or in) the office with a cold or the flu. It seems like everyone on the subway and on the street is sneezing, coughing, sniffling, and blowing their nose. You see it every year, or you might be one of those people I am talking about. Do you tend to get sick multiple times during a season? Do seasonal bugs hit you hard and put you down for the count for weeks at a time? Do you have a hard time getting over a cold resulting in you having the sniffles all season? These patterns can tax your quality of life to a great extent. You may miss a lot of work because you are at home in bed. The holiday cheer that you were dead set on spreading has been put on the back burner along with that lengthy shopping and baking list for family and friends. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a winter where you are not continually catching the latest strain of the common cold or flu? Maybe you would catch a cold only once during the winter like the others. Well, have no fear – Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is here.
What is the Immune System and Immune Response?
The immune system provides an individual’s body with the ability to fight disease. It is a complex of organs – including highly specialized cells and even a circulatory system (the lymphatic system) separate from blood vessels – all of which work together to clear infection from the body. The organs of the immune system, positioned throughout the body, are called lymphoid organs1. You may have felt your lymph nodes around your throat swell when you are sick because they are working overtime to battle the acute infection that is in your body. This is part of the immune response, how your body recognizes and defends itself against bacteria, viruses, and substances that appear foreign and harmful to the body2.
The immune system produces cells that travel throughout the body looking for foreign invaders & pathogens that are aiming to make you sick. There are cells that can destroy the pathogens and other cells that create anti-bodies so that you don’t get sick from that pathogen again. This is your body’s line of defense against illness, but the immune system can often be compromised due to other illnesses or other stressors creating immunodeficiency. Among many other reasons, immunodeficiency can come from wide-ranging reasons such as a disease, like HIV and some forms of cancer, or it can come from history of malnutrition. There are some biomedical drugs that can improve immunity, but they are pretty serious drugs that are only given when the person’s immune system is severely compromised. TCM is a way for a person who has lingering acute illness or chronic recurrent illness of a head cold or the flu to be able to kick it quicker or be sick less frequently.
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TCM Immunity Theory
TCM has long been used as a preventative medicine and has been used to improve immunity in people. The wei qi is known as the defense qi that circulates on the surface of the body near the skin. When the wei qi is strong, one is properly protected from invasions of evil qi. One can think of the wei qi as the immune system and the evil qi as the common cold/the flu. When one’s wei qi is vacuous or depleted, one becomes sick because the external evil has invaded the body causing illness. If one’s overall qi strong in general, one will overcome illness quickly and return to health, but if the qi is vacuous, one will have recurring or lingering illness. This is where TCM comes into play. TCM treatments of herbs, acupuncture, and dietary therapy can be utilized to strengthen the qi.
Acupuncture Research Studies & Immunity
A very recent study regarding acupuncture’s effect on boosting immunity took place from July through November of 2007. The study looked at the effects of acupuncture on the body’s natural killer cell response to strenuous exercise in endurance athletes. The results found that the basal activity in these cells, which are key to overall immune health, increased significantly in response to acupuncture treatments.3 Another study looked at the effect of acupuncture on the regulation of cell-mediated immunity in the patients with malignant tumors. This is a slightly different way to look at immunity-boosting than we have been talking about, but the basic principle is still the same. This study found that acupuncture can heighten the cellular immune function of patients, providing a beneficial effect in anti-cancer treatment.4 Moxibustion is a technique used often in Immunity Boosting along with acupuncture. In a study looking at the effect of moxibustion, 42 between 55-70 years of age were selected and given moxibustion and acupuncture. The results showed that immune hormone content increased significantly after the warm needling.5
Chinese medicine has successfully treated the cold and flu for thousands of years with Chinese herbs and acupuncture treatment. Our treatment either stops the cold and flu within one to two days or significantly reduces symptoms and duration.6 Chinese medicine also helps resolve sinus congestion, infections and coughs. For more detailed information on treatments read our article Treatment of the Cold & Flu.
For prevention the ideal time is to come for TCMImmunity Boostingtreatment is the height of the summer, the total opposite of winter. Summer is the time when the yang qi of nature is at its peak and the yang qi of the body should also be at its peak level. If it is not, this could mean a vacuity of qi and in turn, of the wei (protective) or immunity meaning more illness for you in the winter. The hottest point of the summer (August for New Yorkers) allows for the strongest tonification of the yang qi. TCM can help to tonify the qi of the body and the wei (protective) qi to help the body be protected in the winter.
Chinese medicine has successfully treated the cold and flu for thousands of years with Chinese herbs and acupuncture treatment. Our treatment for Immunity Boosting either stops the cold and flu within one to two days or significantly reduces symptoms and duration. Chinese medicine also helps resolve sinus congestion, infections and coughs.
Don’t get stuck being sick all of the time; improve your quality of life by improving your Immunity Boosting through TCM.
Using Acupuncture for asthma and allergies is safe and effective.
In the 10th grade, I played baseball with a kid who had a swing that begged you to take notice. He was a natural, and everyone from the kids to the adults knew it. Though his swing was as sweet as honey, he had an Achilles heel. He had asthma. When a ball is hit into the gap in the outfield, that usually means a double in baseball, but he could not make the effort to run to second because he might end up with an attack. His doubles were usually singles. He would have attacks at the beginning of the season when a chill was still in the air that ended up keeping him out of the entire game. Talent does nothing for a team when it is riding the pine. He did not play baseball beyond the 11th grade. His natural talent was hindered by asthma and more importantly, the quality of his life was diminished. He loved playing, but it was too much for his body to handle. He was not the only kid I knew whom suffered from asthma. Growing up, I was surrounded by kids who had a variety of ailments, and I could see how it affected their lives in so many ways. They got called down to the school nurse every day for medication; they had certain things that they couldn’t eat, etc. I took note of these things as a kid, and maybe it had influence on my choice of profession as an acupuncturist and herbalist.
What is Asthma?
Asthma is a chronic disease that affects the tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs. During an acute asthma attack, the inside walls of these tubular airways become inflamed, the muscles spasm, and excess mucus accumulates. The attacks can be triggered by a variety of things such as:
Foods or food additives – sulfites are a big culprit and are found in dried fruits and wine, among a whole host of other foods.
Click here to read about sulfite sensitivity and a list of foods that could contain sulfites.
When the airways react and are having an attack, they become narrower, and less air flows through to your lung tissue. This causes symptoms like wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, and trouble breathing.1
Do you have questions about how Chinese medicine
can help your or your child’s asthma?
Call Juliette Aiyana, L.Ac, Herbalist for a Free 10 minute Phone Consultation.
The Traditional Chinese Medical (TCM) Treatment of Asthma
The severity and frequency of asthma varies from patient to patient.
For example, here are two possible manifestations:
is asymptomatic between attacks.
asthma attacks are mild and only come once each year and are manageable with rest.
has a cough, phlegm, and wheezing between asthma attacks.
asthma attacks occur once a week and can be so severe that the patient is hospitalized once a month.
Treatment for asthma is broken down into two categories: managing the acute attacks by easing the intensity of the attack and maximizing the time between the attacks. The long-term goal of treatment is to provide the patient with a better quality of life or increased feeling of well being. If a patient is having attacks every week, and with treatment they are able to have them every other week, treatment should theoretically bring them a better quality of life because they are suffering half of the attacks over 1 year than they would have without treatment. This reduction is a very important aspect to treating recurrent, chronic diseases such as asthma.
TCM Theory about Breathing and Asthma
According to TCM theory, the lung and the kidney both take part in breathing. The lung opens at the nose, is responsible for breathing, and the production of true qi. The lung is the way that the da qi (“great qi” aka air) enters the body. The da qi is important to the person because this is mixed with the qi of food to create usable qi that a person can use day to day. The kidney plays an important role in breathing, too. The kidney is the root of a person’s qi. If the kidney qi is insufficient, other organs may dysfunction. The lung’s ability to absorb da qi is partly dependent on the kidney. If kidney essential qi is insufficient, it is incapable of ensuring the absorption of da qi through the lung. This results in respiratory insufficiency which can result in the signs and symptoms of asthma.2
Through the use of acupuncture, herbs, and dietary analysis, asthma can be managed through TCM. Asthma presents as a repletion or excess pattern during the acute attack. The periods in between attacks are characterized as a vacuity or depletion pattern. Let’s explore the acute attack and the period between the attacks to see how TCM categorizes each.3
Repletion – the asthma attack
The acute asthma attack is something that the body reacts to that is in excess, meaning it is not supposed to be there in the body; it is too much (in excess). The trigger that causes the attack is something that is not supposed to be in the body, and the asthma sufferer’s body responds with an asthma attack. These triggers are called external evils in TCM. The more frequently the external evils attack the body, the weaker the body becomes. The body is like an army that is attacked over and over again by the asthma trigger, sometimes without fully replenishing its resources. This can cause a vacuity or a weakness in the patient’s body leaving it even more vulnerable to future attacks sometimes making them more frequent and intense.
Vacuity – the state of the patient’s body and health
The period between the attacks show the state of patient’s true body strength and ability to fend off the trigger. This tends to be a state of
weakness or vacuity in asthma patients. This is the time for the patient to replenish the resources that were depleted due to the asthma attack. There are occasional instances where phlegm can become lodged in the lungs. This is called a mixed pattern of vacuity (state of the patient’s body) and repletion (an abundance of phlegm making a home in the lungs). The overall treatment goal at this stage is to strengthen the body (fill the vacuity) so that the attacks are less frequent and less intense because the body is stronger. Phlegm can be dislodged from the lungs while simultaneously strengthening them. This will make the patient’s life easier and much more enjoyable because he/she does not have to take so much time off from work or time out of recreational activities.
Is your asthma getting in the way your life?
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Acupuncture and Chinese Herbs for Asthma
Giving acupuncture and cupping during an asthma attack can help to calm the patient down and to aid in opening up the chest muscles to provide easier breathing. Acupuncture can help to shorten the length and severity of the asthma attack.
It is more common to treat people when they are in the remittent state. The goal of the treatment during this stage is to supplement the body with acupuncture, Chinese herbs and dietary changes in order to strengthen the body’s qi. If there is some phlegm lodged in the lungs and some cough and wheezing during this time, relieving those symptoms are also part of the treatment. The diet is analyzed to see if what the patient is eating is exacerbating the asthma attacks. In general, it is best to stick to a diet that consists of whole foods that are not prepackaged or fast food. Whole, organic, real foods have less/no additives and have better qi. The more healthy the qi of the food you put into your body, the stronger your body’s defenses and the better able your lungs will be to resist your asthma trigger. Try to keep dairy intake to a minimum as TCM dietary theory states that dairy products can exacerbate phlegm production. A qualified, well-trained TCM practitioner will be able to diagnose your vacuity pattern correctly and get you on the path to a better quality of life!
NYC Air Quality & Differences in Seasonal Air One of the hot topics in NYC since 9/11 has been air quality. There was a severely diminished quality of air in the city for that acute time, but there is now more attention paid to this topic. The Air Quality Index (AQI) is an index for reporting daily air quality. It tells you how clean or polluted your outdoor air is and what associated health effects might be a concern for you. The AQI focuses on health effects you may experience within a few hours or days after breathing polluted air. EPA calculates the AQI for five major air pollutants regulated by the Clean Air Act: ground-level ozone, particle pollution (also known as particulate matter), carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide. For each of these pollutants, EPA has established national air quality standards to protect public health.4 The worse the air quality, the worse your asthma could become due to the fact that more particle matter in the air can cause more irritation and inflammation.
Here is a link to a fact sheet talking about asthma and air pollution put out by the EPA. They have some good tips about how to protect your lungs during differing levels of pollutants in the air. Here is a link to a daily update on the air quality in NYC.
Another thing to consider is if you are affected by the air of the different seasons. Does cold, dry winter trigger your asthma? Maybe the humid heat of the NYC summer? How about spring air that is full of pollen? Take the seasons into account to see when you should be taking more of a break from the outdoors as opposed to being more active. Speak with your practitioner about what your triggers are so that your attacks can be minimized.