Five myths about Chinese medicine most patients believe

by Angela Hicks

Hicks_Principles-of-C_978-1-84819-130-3_colourjpg-webWhen you hear the words ‘Chinese medicine’ what comes to your mind?  I bet you think of acupuncture!  Most people do.  But in fact there are five therapies included in Chinese medicine.

The five strands of Chinese medicine are:

  • Acupuncture
  • Chinese herbs
  • Tuina (massage)
  • Qigong (exercises)
  • Dietary therapy

In my book Principles of Chinese Medicine I explain how each of these treatments are used, and I give lots of examples – so if you are thinking of seeing a Chinese medicine practitioner you will know exactly what to expect. All of these therapies have been tried and tested over thousands of years – and the research base from China and the West is extensive too – proving to us how well they work.

The truth about acupuncture needles

Acupuncture is the most well-known Chinese medicine treatment (which is why you probably thought of it first!) and perhaps the most frequently practiced in the West. Acupuncture is enjoyed by millions of people throughout the world and the benefits are huge. Sadly some people miss out on its benefits because they are afraid that needles will be painful.  So what is the truth about needles?

The good news is that needles create a dull sensation rather than pain.   In my book some patients give descriptions such as a ‘tingling feeling’, a ‘dull ache’ or a ‘pulling sensation’. Unlike when you see a dentist, which many people dread, patients are likely to enjoy visiting their acupuncturist.  They find treatment improves their well-being as well as curing their illnesses.

On top of this, a practitioner will use only a few very fine needles (and by the way, those awful photos of people with hundreds of needles in them are sensational and not realistic).  And finally, of course, all practitioners use impeccable standards of hygiene and all needles are disposable and used only once.

So if you want treatment and were put off by the thought of needles – maybe think again!

The truth about Chinese herbal medicine

There are still rumours that Chinese herbalists use animal products in their prescriptions, and also products that come from endangered species. Not true! In the West the use of animal products is not only prohibited but practitioners don’t even want to use them. The Register for Chinese Herbal Medicine, one of the largest Chinese herbal medicine professional bodies, says on its website, ‘we strongly condemn the illegal trade in endangered species and have a strict policy prohibiting the use of any type of endangered species by any of our members’.

Chinese herbs effectively treat many conditions and are used extensively in most Chinese hospitals.  Why are they used so much? Because they have been keeping Chinese people healthy for thousands of years. So maybe they could help you too – and you won’t be harming any animals in the process, only helping yourself.

Some dietary therapy truthsherbs

The final therapy in Chinese medicine is dietary therapy.  This is an age-old system of dietary advice that has been handed down through generations.  Dietary therapy is consistent, logical and tried and tested. In China many people are conscious of what constitutes a healthy diet. In contrast, in the West advice is constantly changing – the latest food ‘fad’ tells us to eat more meat, or more carbohydrates, or that fat is bad for you – or maybe good for you.  We are inundated with conflicting information. We are confused and no wonder. There is a myth that Chinese dietary therapy is just another fad.  No it isn’t. Chinese dietary therapy gives us a way of eating that is simple, nourishing and can keep us healthy for life.

The truth about Chinese massage treatments

When we think of massage we often think of relaxation. Patients who have Chinese massage say it is very relaxing in fact they may leave treatment as if floating on cloud nine! There is, however, a myth that this is all it can do. But there is much more to it than this. Tuina massage (pronounced twee nar) is also a very effective system of treatment. It not only deals with joint problems which you might expect, it can also help many other conditions including digestive complaints, lung illnesses, gynecological problems and much more.

In my book you will read the story of a patient cured of a stomach problem she had had for over 20 years that no one else could help! So if you come to have some tuina don’t rule out a miracle from that as well!

The truth about qigong practiceqi_gong_outside_web607

Qigong (pronounced ‘chee gong’) is an umbrella term that covers a vast array of Chinese exercises including tai chi.  They are not the usual exercises you might do. These exercises are gentler and are performed more slowly than exercises performed in a gym.  And you’ll have different results from practicing them than from going to the gym. The most common myth is that qigong is so gentle that it is less effective than vigorous exercise.  Somehow we feel we must do something and maybe push a bit to know exercise benefits us.  When you do qigong you might not even feel you are doing much. These exercises have, however, been shown to have a profound effect on people’s health. For example, here are results from studies into the psychological and physiological effects of qigong and tai chi covering a total of 6410 participants from 13 countries: Effects included improved bone strength, better lung and heart fitness including lower blood pressure, improved overall physical functioning, prevention of falls and improved balance. They also create better immunity, an improved general quality of life and a positive change in psychological factors such as general well-being, anxiety and depression.

So who says you have to work hard to get results? There’s another saying – doing less is doing more – and in the case of qigong it’s very true.

 

Now that you know a little more about Chinese medicine you might have a dilemma.  Which one do I choose? I’m afraid you’ll have to make the choice yourself!  If you want more information, my book Principles of Chinese Medicine might help you decide.

 

 

 

 

Singing Dragon New and Bestselling titles Autumn-Winter 2014 and 2015

This fully interactive brochure has all of the new Singing Dragon titles for the Autumn and Winter of 2014 as well upcoming titles for 2015. In here you will find books on Chinese medicine, complementary therapies, martial arts, nutrition, yoga, ayurveda, qigong, Daoism, aromatherapy, and many more alternative therapies and ancient wisdom traditions.


Click on the covers or titles to be taken to the book’s page on the Singing Dragon website. If you would like to request hard copies please email hello@singingdragon.com with your details and the number of copies you would like.

Increasing IVF Success with Acupuncture – recipe for IVF patients

The below recipe is taken from Nick Dalton-Brewer’s Increasing IVF Success with Acupuncture in which he aims to teach acupuncturists the main tools needed for treating patients with fertility problems. The following extract can be given to patients alongside other useful tips in the book.

Increasing IVF Success with Acupuncture is available now from the Singing Dragon website

Blood-forming foods

Women need blood-forming foods (blood is the mother of energy), and this is particularly necessary when it comes to fertility treatment. From a TCM point of view, blood-forming foods include carrots, beetroot, meat such as beef and chicken, dark leafy greens and oily fish. For IVF patients a good chicken soup is a very useful supplement. All ingredients should be organic where possible. At the very least the chicken needs to be organic, since the soup will be drawing out essences from the bones.

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Ritmeyer Family Chicken Soup

1 whole chicken

12–16 cups of water

2 onions

3 carrots

Dalton-Brewer_Increasing-IVF_978-1-84819-218-8_colourjpg-print

1 parsnip

1 turnip/swede

3 celery sticks

1 bunch of parsley

Chicken stock

1 bunch of dill

1 large knob of ginger

A Return to Diet 163

2 garlic cloves

Salt and pepper

1. Wash the chicken and put it into a large saucepan. Add vegetables to the pan. Add water and stock cubes. Tie the herbs in a bunch together and add to pan. Season as required.

2. Cover the pan and bring to the boil. Immediately lower the heat and simmer. Skim the scum off the top and discard.

3. Simmer for two hours.

4. Remove the chicken and divide into pieces.

5. Strain the stock and return as much as needed to the pan. Keep it simmering.

6. Return chicken to pan and add ginger, and other ingredients if required. Simmer for another hour.

Increasing IVF Success with Acupuncture is available now from the Singing Dragon website

New books coming up from Singing Dragon…

2014 has been an exciting year for Singing Dragon with the publication of some truly groundbreaking books; from The Spark in the Machine and Heavenly Stems and Earthly Branches – TianGan DiZhi, to Rasa Shastra and The Compleat Acupuncturist. But we’re not finished yet! Here are some of the exciting titles coming to you in the rest of 2014:

Buck_Acupuncture-and_978-1-84819-159-4_colourjpg-webAcupuncture and Chinese Medicine
by Charles Buck

Charles Buck, the chairman of the British Acupuncture Council, draws on three decades of study, practice and teaching in this book to provide a relevant and engaging account of the origins of acupuncture and Chinese medicine. From its pre-Han dynasty roots to Chinese medicine as we know it today, Buck covers the key texts, the main scholars and the concepts they have contributed to the greater body of knowledge. With Buck’s lucid and engaging style, Roots of Modern Practice is going to be the new ‘must-read’ resource that will help practitioners and students deepen their understanding of this great medical tradition.

Hamwee_Zero-Balancing_978-1-84819-234-8_colourjpg-webZero Balancing
by John Hamwee

The definitive guide to Zero Balancing brings this increasingly popular therapy to life. It contains a clear description of the anatomy and physiology of energy which leads on to a compelling explanation of how and why this form of bodywork can have such powerful effects. Throughout, there are illustrations which convey the unique energy of a Zero Balancing session and John Hamwee provides fascinating examples of clients, their experiences and the outcomes of the work.

 

 

Tisserand_Aromatherapy-vs_978-1-84819-237-9_colourjpg-webAromatherapy vs MRSA
by Maggie Tisserand

Breaking new ground in the field of essential oils, this scientifically based but accessible book addresses the challenge of serious infection, especially MRSA, in hospitals, in the community, and in animals. Maggie Tisserand focuses on the scientifically proven effects of antibacterial essential oils, and their usefulness in managing infection, including the ‘superbug’.

 

 

 

Hellas_Yogic-Cooking-N_978-1-84819-249-2_colourjpg-webYogic Cooking
by Garuda Hellas

Yogic cooking is nutritious, easy to digest and free of toxins, allowing you to improve your health, keep your body strong and facilitate spiritual revolution. The aim of yoga is to cultivate a physical, mental and psychic balance so that higher states of being can be experienced. This can be achieved through a balanced vegetarian diet that includes all the essential vitamins and minerals. This books contains 56 delicious and easy-to-follow recipes, with something for every occasion it is the perfect introduction to the ayurvedic approach to life.

 

Quayle_Mouses-House-Ch_978-1-84819-247-8_colourjpg-webThe Mouse’s House
by Susan Quayle

A beautiful children’s book that combines reflexology with delightfully engaging rhymes and illustrations. Written by a specialist maternity reflexologist, it features easy-to-follow diagrams and instructions for giving basic reflexology to a child during a bedtime (or anytime) story.

 

All of these books are available for pre-order now. To receive notifications for new books in your areas of interest, sign up for the Singing Dragon mailing list.

Is there a secret to healthy ageing?

old-people-webAgeing seems to be the only available way to live a long life (Daniel Auber). In fact, some would say that the business of ‘getting older’ brings so many benefits that we should positively embrace it.

Ageing is certainly high on the current news and political agendas. As a nation, we’re heading for an unprecedented population shift towards older people. (The King’s Fund predicts that within 18 years, the number of 65-84 year-olds and those aged 85+ years will rise by 39% and a staggering 106%, respectively, whereas the number of people in the 15-64 year-old age group is set to increase by a paltry 7%).

The problem is, we don’t appear to be ageing very well. And this hampers our ability to see the benefits and enjoy the ‘golden years’. For too many people, mid- and later-life is dominated by the pain and disability of degenerative diseases like CVD, cancer and dementia. Recently, for example, Diabetes UK told us that 700+ people are diagnosed with diabetes every day.

So what, if anything, can be done? Is there a secret to healthy ageing?

Well, yes, there may be: it’s called anti-inflammation. As you age, you gradually become more predisposed to the type of low-grade yet chronic, insidious inflammation that promotes degeneration and disease. As the lifestyle medicine authority Dr Gary Egger describes in his paper ‘In search of a germ theory equivalent for chronic disease’, our environment has become increasingly more inflammatory since pre-Neolithic times. Pre-Neolithic individuals lived within a predominantly anti-inflammatory mileu of low calorie intake (compared to the level of energy expenditure), a low omega-6-to-omega-3 ratio and good levels of monounsaturated fats, fish, fibre, vegetables and nuts. In today’s environment, these are typically replaced with inflammatory triggers (‘anthropogens’) like pollution, endocrine disrupting chemicals, being sedentary, a high omega 6-to-omega 3 ratio, saturated and trans-fats, sleep deprivation, chronic stress, junk foods and obesity. Indeed, the medical journals are stuffed to the gills with scientific papers demonstrating that most, if not all, age-related chronic diseases are driven in part by inflammation. And this applies not only to classic inflammatory conditions like autoimmune arthritis, but also to Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, osteoporosis, depression and others.

Hence, the trick to a long, healthy life is to stay out of the ‘inflammazone’.

But, hang on, this isn’t necessarily as simple as it sounds. It’s not just about taking anti-inflammatories, whether pharmaceutical (like ibuprofen) or nutritional (like curcumin from turmeric), as these offer merely allopathic, ‘sticking plaster’ remedies. The only effective long-term approach is a systems-based one, in which the focus is on identifying the pattern of inflammatory antecedents, triggers and mediators that is unique to the individual in question.

old-people-eating-webBy all means, remove Egger’s anthropogens from the environment, and reinstate the anti-inflammatory inputs of pre-Neolithic times. This is an excellent start. But look also at the functioning of the key body systems. For all body processes, when they are in a state of dysfunction, become drivers of inflammation. Microbial imbalances in the gut, for example, can cause gastrointestinal hyperpermeability and immune dysfunction, leading to systemic inflammation. Poor detoxification processes can lead to an accumulation of toxic, inflammatory metabolites. Failing mitochondria (the batteries of your cells) can leak electrons that cause free radical damage and inflammation. Problems with glucose and insulin control mechanisms can result in sugars attaching to proteins in the body (a process called glycation), damaging these proteins and triggering inflammation. Exhausted adrenal glands can fail to produce sufficient cortisol to moderate any over-reactive inflammatory responses. And so the list goes on…

And, let’s face it, all chronic diseases are foreshadowed by years of decline in one or more body systems. Alzheimer’s, for example, is preceded by years of elevated homocysteine levels (which may be inflammatory), indicating a problem with a biochemical process called methylation.  Methylation is crucial to healthy ageing in the brain. In fact, elevated homocysteine is such a strong predictor of future cognitive decline that every ‘healthy ageing’ strategy should include a homocysteine check. If you find your blood level is elevated, you should work on your nutrition and lifestyle to get it down to 7-8.

Now, you might ask, where is the evidence that it’s possible to exert some control on this sinister type of inflammation, that is, that you really can take action to change the way you age?

The evidence lies in the fast-developing area of science known as epigenetics. In recent years, epigenetics has taught us that the rate at which you age (and your propensity to specific diseases) is not limited to how your parents and grandparents aged, what diseases they got and how long they lived. Rather, it is more to do with how your lifelong environment, essentially your diet and your lifestyle, is influencing the ways in which your genes behave, including which genes are switched on and off. (Only a small proportion of your genes are active (expressed) at any one time; and this is determined by the way you live your life.)

Of particular interest to healthy ageing is the discovery that environmental inputs (such as those proposed by Egger above) promote inflammation at an epigenetic level, that is, by directly increasing the expression of inflammatory genes. Environmental inputs can also down-regulate genes that produce energy; they can silence genes that supress tumour growth; and they can speed up the rate at which telomeres get shorter. (Telomeres are the physical ends of chromosomes on DNA; and they get shorter, the faster you are ageing.)

What’s really exciting is that scientists think that such changes to gene expression are likely reversible – meaning that we may have more control over our destiny than was previously thought.

Unsurprisingly, the search is now on for interventions that can reverse such harmful changes in gene expression – and thus slow down the ageing process. To date, the intervention with the most evidence is the practice of eating less than normal, either by restricting calories daily, or by fasting intermittently.

Certain special nutrients (‘epigenetic nutrients’) have also recently been discovered to mimic the healthy ageing effects of eating less. These nutrients are found in grape skins, green tea, turmeric and cruciferous vegetables, to name but a few. Some of them, however, are notoriously hard to absorb, so for a truly therapeutic effect, their dietary intake may need to be supplemented.

Nicolle-Bailey_Eat-to-Get-Youn_978-1-84819-179-2_colourjpg-webThe best approach to healthy ageing, then, is one that promotes anti-inflammation, by preventing or even reversing harmful (epigenetic) changes to gene expression; and by optimizing the function of the key body systems. These ideas form the central theme of my recently published book Eat To Get Younger, (co-authored with colleague Christine Bailey).  In it, we bring together the current thinking on the best changes to make for healthy ageing.  Chapter topics include staying lean and preventing diabetes, supporting connective tissue health (skin, bones, gums, etc), keeping energised, making the most of your mind, memory and mood, staying as pain-free as possible, experiencing a trouble-free menopause transition, and keeping your digestive and immune systems in good working order.

The opening chapters explain exactly why fasting is better than eating little and often; and how you can set about eating less without feeling deprived.  You can then pick which of the remaining chapters to focus on, depending on the areas of ageing that are of most concern you. Each of these chapters contains advice on why things can start to go awry as you age, and what you can do about it, with advice on diet, lifestyle and nutritional supplements. The advice is supported by references to relevant scientific studies. And, to make it truly practical, we’ve also included meal plans and over 100 recipes.  Ultimately, the recommendations are designed to support your key biological systems, reducing your overall inflammatory load and preventing your genes from misbehaving.

Looking at the balance of the evidence, there is more reason now than ever before, to positively embrace the ageing process, for there is so much that can be done to support vigour and wellbeing into your later years.  And, for anyone who’s concerned that living a clean life is boring, that it can all too easily cramp one’s style, I’ll venture the view that pain, disability, fatigue and low mood, not to mention the endless hospital appointments and repeat prescriptions – they sound pretty boring to me!

 

Lorraine Nicolle MSc is a nutrition practitioner with a regular clinic in London. She has developed and taught on undergraduate nutrition and health degree programmes at British universities, and currently teaches on two university-validated courses. She also works with a dietary supplement company, delivering nutrition education sessions for healthcare practitioners; and she runs workplace nutrition programmes for businesses. She is a recipient of the CAM Award. www.lorrainenicollenutrition.co.uk

This article was originally featured on Bite the Sun.

Vegan quinoa nut burgers – recipe from Eat to Get Younger

These delicious vegan patties contain protein and healthy fats thanks to the combination of quinoa and almonds. The  nutritional yeast flakes provide B vitamins and they impart a wonderful nutty, cheesy flavour to the burgers.

Makes 8, Serves 4

quinoa burgers web

Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Suitable for Vegans, No added sugar

100g/3.5oz dry quinoa
1tsp bouillon powder
250g/9oz almonds
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp tamari
1 tbsp tomato paste
2tbsp nutritional yeast flakes
Pinch of sea salt
1 onion, finely chopped
60g/2.5oz sun dried tomatoes, drained and chopped

1. Place the quinoa in a pan with the bouillon power and 250ml/1 cup water. Bring to the boil. Put the lid on and turn the heat to a gentle simmer. Cook for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow the quinoa to cool.

2. In a food processor, process the almonds, garlic, vinegar, tamari, tomato paste, nutritional yeast flakes and salt. Puree until the nuts are very finely ground, and becoming a little sticky. Add the onion and sun-dried tomatoes and pulse together until the mixture starts to stick together. Add quinoa and pulse again until incorporated.

3. Shape the mixture into patties and chill for 30 minutes.

4. Heat a little coconut oil in a frying pan and cook the patties in batches about 5-6 minutes before turning over and cooking for a further 2-3 minutes until golden brown.

Calories per burger 284kcal, Protein 10.2g, Carbohydrates 10.9g, sugars 3g, total fat 22.1g, saturates 1.9g

This recipe is taken from Eat to Get Younger by Lorraine Nicolle and Christine Bailey, the book has over 100 more delicious anti-ageing recipes to combat inflammation and other ageing processes for a longer, healthier life.

Anti-ageing super greens mint chocolate chip ice cream

An easy way to cram in some extra greens into your diet. Use chocolate chips or grated chocolate to provide some texture to the ice cream.

mint-chocolate-chip-ice-cream---edit

Grain Free, Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Suitable for Vegetarians

125g/4½oz cashew nuts soaked in water for a couple of hours
2 tsp. super green food powder
1tsp probiotics
60g/2½oz unsweetened coconut flakes
1tbsp vanilla extract
1tsp colostrum powder or glutamine powder
60g/2½oz maple syrup or honey
250ml/8fl oz coconut water
Dash peppermint extract
Pinch of sea salt
60g coconut butter
30g/1oz dark chocolate chips, dairy free if needed

1.         Place the nuts and coconut water in the blender and process until smooth. Then add all the other ingredients except the chocolate chips and blend.

2.         Pour the mixture into an ice cream maker and churn adding in the nibs.  Then freeze to harden. Allow to stand at room temperature for 10-15 minutes before serving.

Calories 337kcal, Protein 5.8g, Carbohydrates 15.9g, Sugars 11.8g, Total fat 27.8g, Saturates 16.8g

This recipe is taken from Eat to Get Younger by Lorraine Nicolle and Christine Bailey, the book has over 100 more delicious anti-ageing recipes and tips for looking and feeling good into your 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s and beyond!

 

What the Chinese approach to drinking tea can teach Westerners about health and peace of mind

By Solala Towler, author of Cha Dao: The Way of Tea, Tea as a Way of Life.Solala Towler

 

No matter what cultural differences exist between people, most can agree that tea is an essential part of daily life. But for Chinese people, drinking tea is approached very differently, and has a different connotation than we are used to in the West.

First of all, most of the tea drunk in China is green tea, a much less processed tea than the standard black tea used in the West (which is often loaded with sugar and milk). Green tea has a lower amount of caffeine as well, not to mention a myriad of health benefits — preventing tooth decay, aiding in digestion as well as mental alertness. And the low amount of caffeine makes it easy on our nervous system.

Whereas Westerners tend to have a cup of tea once or twice a day, using a different tea bag each time, the Chinese drink tea all day long. Many people use cups or glass jars in which they put some tea leaves, add hot water and then keep adding more hot water throughout the day. Or they might take some time off during the day to sit and drink a cup or two of tea and converse with a neighbor or friend.

Solala Towler

Solala in Hangzhou, China at the renowned Dragon Well Tea plantation. The statue is of Lu Yu, the famous tea master from the Tang Dynasty and subject of Chapter 3: Lu Meets a Real Tea Master, in Cha Dao.

In China there are also true tea connoisseurs who collect rare and expensive teas from around the country and have tea gatherings where they drink tea and converse on lofty subjects with a select group of fellow tea lovers. Different parts of China grow different teas and certain areas are even famous for their teas, such as Hangzhou, where the famous Dragon Well (Lung Jing) tea is grown. The western province of Schezuan is also a famous tea growing area.

And then there are the Daoist practitioners who follow a Way of Tea (Cha Dao) as a spiritual practice. To Daoists, drinking tea is not merely imbibing a cup of hot water with some tea leaves floating in it. It is a way to use tea as a doorway into how to live each moment of our lives, of how we approach the very substance of our souls, as well as the ongoing evolution of our spirit. It is part of how we find our place within the every-changing, ever-shifting universe, what the ancient Chinese called Dao.

Almost all Daoist practices, from tai chi or qigong movement to sexual practices, involve slowing down and being with the present eternal moment. Going slowly is the key to being a healthy person. By rushing around, guzzling high caffeine drinks all day, Westerners leave little time to enjoy and connect with the moment.

In the Way of Tea we begin each day in as slow and harmonious a fashion as possible. Tea Mind means brewing and drinking tea in a slow and unhurried manner. If you are someone who has to be up and out the door in as short a time as possible, this can be very challenging. But really, it takes only a few minutes to make tea. Even if you give yourself only 15-20 minutes to make and drink your tea you can still achieve a period of calmness and serenity as you do so.

Is that not a great way to start your day?

Solala Towler is an instructor of Daoist meditation and of several styles of Qigong. He has studied the Daoist arts for over 20 years, and has led many tours to China to visit the sacred mountains and temples of Daoism. He is a former president of the National Qigong Association in the USA, and is the editor of The Empty Vessel: The Journal of Daoist Philosophy and Practice.

Visit www.abodetao.com for more info.