A Brief Intro to Acupuncture (VIDEO)

Here’s a video I did for New Year New You at Montpelier Family Chiropractic. I plan on doing more videos this year on topics ranging from foods to eat when you have a bad cold to how the seasons affect your emotional health. You can follow my channel on YouTube, or my Facebook page to always get my videos as soon as they’re up. Feel free to suggest topics!

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What Herb Do You Use For. . .?

Photo Credit: Teresa Y Green

“I want to get some herbs for my headaches. What do you suggest?” When I am in the health food store buying groceries, I hear customers aiming these kinds of questions at the staff. The staff usually does not answer them, because they are not legally allowed to diagnose or treat health conditions.

I don’t answer such questions, either, even though I have an acupuncture license and herbal treatment falls within my scope of practice. I am an herbalist who uses Chinese herbs, and we don’t prescribe herbs that way. Here’s a short primer on using Chinese herbs.

1. Chinese herbs are prescribed by syndrome, not symptom. We see the body as a complex grouping of activities, and see illness as a hiccup in the organization of those activities. We have names for the system breakdowns that cause problems. Sometimes a body runs too hot, or too cold, or doesn’t handle food or humidity or stress well. Sometimes energy gets stuck in one place, or because of overwork or poor sleep there is not enough energy. We use herbs, as well as acupuncture, meditation techniques, and other tools, to restore balance in the system. For headaches, some are caused by fatigue, some by frustration and stress. Still others are caused by becoming overheated, or because of old trauma or hormone shifts. Each of these causes might need completely different herbal treatment. To give someone the wrong herbs could aggravate the system breakdown and make the headaches worse instead of better.

Chinese herbs are primarily used in formulas. When patients ask me for herbs, they usually expect me to give them one name, like a TV talk show doctor might. Feverfew for headaches! St John’s wort for depression! Black cohash for hot flashes! But Chinese herbalism has developed over thousands of years. Herbalists have learned that using just one herb for a person is not the most effective way to treat the whole person. I have treated many people who have not had good results with the one herb treatment. The one herb they chose may not have addressed their syndrome properly, or it may have aggravated another condition, or it may simply have not been strong enough on its own. 

In a Chinese herbal formula, some herbs are for the underlying syndrome causing the symptoms that are uncomfortable. Some ingredients help with digesting the overall formula. Others are added to minimize the chance of any side effects. Still others are used to strengthen general health to prevent the problem from happening again once it is resolved.When I look at a bottle of herbs from a health food store or a multi-level company that sells herbs, even if they are in a formula, almost all the herbs are for the same symptom. There is rarely an attempt to make the formula address the whole body (except when the company uses a Chinese medicine formula–but even then, they market it as being used for a symptom, not the underlying cause). We consider putting every herb that treats a given symptom into one formula as overkill in most cases. 

Chinese herbs are ideally custom prescribed for the individual. Sometimes companies sell a “one size fits all” formula because the people creating the formulas are not trained herbalists; often it is because they are mass marketing a formula to the general public, and know the average person with a headache doesn’t know what causes it. Chinese medicine has fallen into this trap, too. Go into most Asian markets, and you’ll find formulas for fertility, for PMS, or for headache. These formulas may be frequently used formulas developed over hundreds or years or more, and may work for the majority of the people who try them.  But they are still not aimed at the the exact syndrome affecting the individual buying them. The ideal way to purchase Chinese herbs is from an herbalist trained in Chinese medicine. We will talk with you about all your health problems, and make you a formula that will begin the process of re-balancing all of your systems. 

If you only treat the one symptom that is bothering you the most, it is like taking someone spinning 5 plates and only keeping one balanced. While even a master herbalist cannot always treat every problem at once, we can usually trace a common cause for most of the problems and treat that first. As that system failure is fixed, more than one symptom will begin to improve. If you have headaches, you may find that not only do they get better, but your sleep improves too. Or your digestion is better. Or you catch fewer colds. Treating the underlying cause of health problems has the effect of improving how you feel overall. 

Holistic medicine in general takes the long view. We don’t treat you just so you feel better next week, but have side effects from treatment that will cause you problems in a few years. We look to your future, and correct as many of the system faults as possible, so that your health continues to improve over the long term. Not every problem can be cured, but with good health practices and herbs that balance your body rather than simply try to mask a symptom, we can help you to feel better overll.

Chinese Medicine and Your Emotions

Photo by Teresa Y Green
Emotional or mental problems affect many people.  Even mild symptoms can lower your enjoyment of life, and severe symptoms can be debilitating. 
Acupuncture together with other components of Chinese Medicine can help.
Diagnosis and Treatment: Different From “Western” Medicine

Many patients are surprised to find that Chinese medicine’s diagnostic process is very different from what they find at their doctor’s office.  Two people with the same “western” diagnosis, such as clinical depression, may have completely different Chinese medicine diagnoses.

To make the right diagnosis for you, your acupuncturist will ask questions during the interview that may seem to have nothing to do with your emotions.  Questions about digestion, your reaction to stress, and your sleep give information that will help her to give you the correct treatment.

While many people think of acupuncture for treatment, a complete treatment usually uses acupuncture, herbal, and dietary treatments.   Using all of the resources of Chinese medicine brings quicker and longer lasting results.
Some Possible Diagnoses

There are many different diagnoses related to emotions.  Here are a few different diagnoses, with the primary symptoms associated with each:
  • Qi Stagnation:  Crying or depression, especially with restlessness,  becoming easily frustrated, irritability, wandering pain, alternating diarrhea and constipation, irregular menses, and any symptom that is worse with stress.
  • Blood stagnation:  Severe emotional distress, usually rage, accompanied by severe, stabbing pain in a fixed location.  Also menstrual problems, purple color on the nails or tongue, and symptoms that improve with exercise.
  • Phlegm misting the mind:  Irrational thoughts, extreme paranoia, hallucination, can be accompanied by either mania and rage or terror, or apathy and withdrawal.
  • Liver Yang Rising/Liver Fire: Anger or rage accompanied with red face, irritability, dizziness, and headache, worse with stress.
  • Dampness / Phlegm Stagnation: Depression marked by apathy; difficulty concentrating; foggy, unclear, or irrational thinking; dizziness; feeling achy and sore, often with tender points; a heavy feeling in the limbs; fatigue; chest congestion or diarrhea.
  • Heart Fire: Rage, red face, red tongue, insomnia, restlessness, mania.
  • Qi deficiency: Depression or anxiety worse when tired, lack of interest in life, soft voice, gas and bloating, low energy.
  • Blood Deficiency: Apathy, anxiety, paranoia, insomnia, dream-disturbed sleep, difficulty thinking or concentrating, poor vision, low energy, dizziness,  dull pain, worse when fatigued, muscle spasms, numbness and tingling, pale skin, dry skin, nails, or hair;, scanty menses or missing periods.
  • Heart or Gallbladder deficiency:  Difficulty making decisions, apathy, anxiety, insomnia, shortness of breath.
  • Yin Deficiency:  Irritability or anxiety, worse in the afternoon and evening, accompanied by night sweats, hot flashes, any symptom worse in the afternoon or evening.
  • Yang Deficiency: Extremely low energy, listlessness, apathy; difficulty staying warm; edema, frequent urination and diarrhea; dull pain improved by warmth, especially in the back, knee, or foot, worse when tired; urinary or sexual dysfunction.

Quick Tips to Balance Emotions

Here are some ideas to improve your emotional equilibrium today: 
  • Make a moderate exercise program and stick with it.  Consider tai chi, qi gong, yoga, or other gentle qi exercises with fluid movements or gentle stretching.
  • Work on experiencing your emotions as they occur.  Set aside time each day to review your feelings and write about them, share them with a friend, or take action to make your life better.
  • Keep a food diary, and note if you experience emotional episodes after eating certain foods.  Some people find specific foods that trigger depression, anxiety, or apathy.
  • Take steps to lower your stress level.  Any health problem worsens with high stress levels.

Of course, if you are experiencing symptoms that severely interfere with your day-to-day life, please seek professional psychiatric help.  Once your condition is stabilized, you can discuss adding Chinese medicine to your treatment strategy with your doctor or therapist.

What to Do Instead of Taking Antibiotics



Antibiotics are amazing drugs. They destroy bacteria that can kill humans and animals. The introduction of antibiotics into medicine turned once life-threatening problems like infected wounds and bacteria-based diseases into minor issues for most otherwise healthy people. But today, overuse threatens to diminish their effectiveness. Bacteria develop resistance to the currently available antibiotics, and like all medications, antibiotics have side effects. 

Antibiotics’ effectiveness depends on destroying bacteria. But all bacteria are not harmful; many are crucial to our ability to digest food and carry out basic life functions. They are especially important in the workings of our immune system. In the article The Fat Drug, Pagan Kennedy describes our bodies as 

the condo that your bugs [bacteria] helped to build and design. The bugs redecorate you every day. They turn the thermostat up and down, and bang on your pipes.” 

Our unique balance of bacteria help us in all our bodily functions, and antibiotics can change how well our healthy bacteria work.

So the question becomes, how can we avoid unnecessary use of antibiotics? Fortunately, Chinese medicine has lots of advice to offer.

  • Prevention. The best way to avoid antibiotics is to not need them in the first place. Use basic health strategies like getting adequate sleep, eating a healthy diet, and making time for moderate exercise to strengthen your immune system, which will improve your ability to fight off bacterial illness. Managing stress with time management, and meditation, and an optimistic outlook will also help. A less obvious tip is wearing a scarf in cold weather, since the area around the neck and shoulders is considered especially vulnerable to invasion. Also, taking probiotics, which give your body the “good” bacteria it needs to have a health immune system, give your body a way to fight infection from the inside.
  • Avoiding exposure. Doing your best to avoid exposure to dangerous bacteria will also minimize your chances of needing antibiotics. Wear gloves if you will be working somewhere where you could cut yourself, or come in contact with bacteria. Skip the trip to the drug store during cold and flu season, when all the contagious sick people are there. Wash your hands frequently–with soap and water, not anti-bacterial soap, which is another overuse of antibiotics and may have its own health risks.
  • Infection 911–food edition. If you actually get a cold (which would not be helped by antibiotics anyway) or infection, there are some things you can do. Rest as much as you can. If you feel more hot than cold, have plenty of cooling foods (cooked and room temperature or warmer) such as mint tea, lightly steamed cucumbers, parsley, dill, or dandelion greens. If you feel more cold than hot, eat plenty of cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg to warm your system. 
  • Infection 911–herbal edition. Echinacea can help if used at the first sign of a cold. Formulas such as Yin Qiao Wan, Bai Hu Tang, and Ren Shen Bai Du Wan can all help with infections and other illnesses, but each have their own specific uses. Be sure to check in with a trained herbalist for information to be sure you get the best thing for your illness. Acupuncture can improve your immune system function, both as a quick boost and over time.

Antibiotics are a wonderful part of the medical arsenal. Saving them for true emergencies will leave you healthier, and keep them available for everyone.

I have extensive training in acupuncture and the use of herbs. However, the statements made on this website have not been evaluated by the FDA (U.S. Food & Drug Administration). They are not intended to diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. The information provided by this website or this company is not a substitute for a face-to-face consultation with a health care provider, and should not be construed as individual medical advice. Any testimonials on this website are from individuals and do not guarantee or imply the same results.