Thursday, August 10, 2017

Chinese Medicine and Poop

Let’s start with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), something suffered by 10-15% of humans.
Acupuncture is a treatment option to consider right alongside other evidence-based methods.

“Acupuncture exhibits clinically and statistically significant control of IBS symptoms,” concluded a meta-analysis published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology.  The study investigated all three types of IBS: diarrhea predominant, constipation predominant, and alternating.

Furthermore, the researchers found that acupuncture is both safe and effective.

What can acupuncture do?  It relaxes muscle spasm, improves bowel function, relieves chronic abdominal pain, and decreases the ratio of abnormal stools.  One finding indicated that acupuncture increased parasympathetic tone, thus regulating an important aspect of the nervous system.

Acupuncture combined with ginger and salt-partitioned moxibustion (a form of heat) can be remarkably effective for diarrhea-prominent IBS.

Current research also demonstrates that this combination is helpful for those who suffer from Crohn’s Disease, an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

How is this verified?  Western science has detailed the affected cellular responses and secretions that reduce intestinal inflammation related to Crohn’s Disease.  Acupuncture and moxibustion's positive impact on some of these measures now has been researched.

Chinese medicine can also alleviate constipation.

Acupuncture, herbal formulas, and diet are just a few Chinese medicine modalities that effectively address constipation.

Again, research supports this.  For example, in 2016 the Annals of Internal Medicine reported a study that included over 1,000 participants with chronic and severe constipation.   Electro-acupuncture resulted in significant symptom and quality-of-life improvements after eight weeks of treatment.  Effects persisted well afterwards.

Chinese medicine looks at patterns.  A licensed practitioner assesses all the information, diagnoses which type of constipation relates to an individual, and treats accordingly.

In summary, whether your elimination issues are one-time or chronic, know that Chinese medicine is a strategic intervention and path towards better health.

Janet Lee Cook
Licensed Acupuncture & Chinese Herbs

(512) 826-1164

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Yin Fire Rooster Arrives!

The start of the Chinese lunar year is a time of togetherness and reflection. May it be so for you!

In no particular order, here are some beliefs I garnered about those born under this sign:

  • Rooster people are very observant.

  • Loyalty is a virtue.

  • Yin Fire people are very gentle, soft-spoken and elegant.

  • Relationships are under the sign of great honesty.

  • Yin Fire people are very much fact oriented; they do not take things in if they are not well proven.

  • Braver than usual, they are not defeated by difficulties and adversities.

  • Make your impressions positive by being clear in your intentions.

These seem like admirable qualities for all.

Gun Hei Fat Choi!  May you have joy during this New Year’s celebration!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

A Tale of Ginger Ale

This summer, Homemade Ginger Ale has been an intriguing endeavor. Starting with some raw ginger, I prepare the low-sugar recipe and simmer it in my 17 year old solar oven. Results are delicious, thirst-quenching and beneficial. See below for the recipe.

What happens when we ingest some raw ginger, aka sheng jiang?

In Traditional Chinese Medicine herbology, raw ginger is classified in the Release the Exterior category. It has three primary functions:
  • Sheng jiang releases and disperses a cold. A warm tea of sliced ginger cooked in water with a bit of sweetener induces sweat and helps suppress the infection’s mild cough. It also alleviates a chronic, phlegmy cough.
  • It warms the digestive system and alleviates nausea and vomiting. Think motion sickness, a pregnant mother’s “morning sickness,” upset stomach due to emotions and many other stomach or gastrointestinal complaints. It’s very effective on its own and especially when combined in a formula with other herbs.
  • Sheng Jiang reduces the toxicity of certain herbs, e.g., pinellia, aka ban xia. Relatedly, it can prevent seafood and some mushroom poisoning.
Raw ginger also can significantly quell inflammation, as supported by numerous scientific studies. For example, it lessens joint pains from this source. 

Medicinal dosage and preparation of simple raw ginger tea

Use one to two teaspoons of the fresh herb per cup of water. Simmer 10-15 minutes, strain and consume as needed.

Ginger is NOT advisable for people who are overheated, have high fevers, or are coughing up blood.

Asian cuisine widely uses raw ginger in various ways: fresh, sautéed, pickled, candied, or as an ingredient in curries, soups, and stews. The trick with candied ginger is to find a low-sugar form.

Would you like to grow ginger?

In addition to Asia, people do so in far ranging places such as the Congo, Peru and the Caribbean. The plant does best in warm climates with evenly moist, well drained soils that are high in organic matter and mulch. About nine months beyond planting and after the leaves begin to wither, harvest the root.

What about Dried Ginger?

Since dried ginger, aka gan jiang, is energetically hotter than the fresh version, it’s sometimes better than raw ginger for internal cold conditions. Use it sparingly if pregnant or suffering hot flashes, night sweats, or an extreme heat condition in the body.

Finally, here’s the recipe for Ginger Ale, courtesy of my friend, Alison:

Ingredients to serve 8:

  • 4 cups water
  • 2 cups sliced fresh, unpeeled organic ginger root (you also can grate the ginger and produce a sharper flavor)
  • 2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed organic lemon or lime juice
  • 2 Tbsp. organic honey or some stevia (a mere 1/16 teaspoon of the white powdered extract)
  • Sparkling mineral water or club soda

In a medium saucepan, combine regular water and ginger over high heat. Once boiling, lower heat to medium low, cover and simmer for one hour. Remove lid and continue to simmer 30 more minutes. Take off heat and strain mixture to remove ginger. Cool until the mixture is still quite warm but not so hot that honey’s benefits are lost, if using it. Stir in lemon and sweetener. Completely cool the syrup.

To make ginger ale, fill a glass with sparkling water. Stir in ¼ cup of ginger syrup. Enjoy!

Janet Lee Cook
 Licensed Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Prescriptions

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Qigong for Health

It’s the Year of the Fire Monkey!  With no “monkey business," here’s a reminder that one of the most efficient and balancing forms of exercise is qigong.  It coordinates breath, mind, movement and stretches.   It leaves me feeling great and actually builds Qi (energy).
There are thousands of qigong forms with tai chi being an example.  I often recommend and use Lee Holden’s videos.  They are tailored for common issues and offer gentle, efficient means for alleviation of stress and/or pain. Examples include:

  • Qigong for Upper Back and Neck Pain
  • Qigong for Stress
  • Qigong for Low Back Pain
  • Qigong for Healthy Joints and Bones
  • Qigong for Deep Sleep and
  • Qigong for Weight Loss
You can get these DVDs at Holden’s website: or my office.

Be a Fire Monkey:  clever, energizing, effective and dynamic. 

Gun Hei Fat Choi!  Happy New Year to you!

Janet Lee Cook
 Licensed Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Prescriptions

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Chinese Herbs and Pulmonary Fibrosis: A Case Study

Check this out.  Acupuncture Today recently published my article about Chinese herbal formulae that have effectively treated one person’s life-threatening condition.

Today, the piece is featured on AT’s Facebook page. I am happy that more people, whether lay or practitioners, can learn about the power of Chinese herbs to address this serious disorder, let alone all of the other conditions that herbs can treat.

Janet Lee Cook
 Licensed Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Prescriptions

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Summer Heat

This week, a friend saw a UPS delivery person drop to the sidewalk. During a day’s peak heat, I saw a backyard power line worker shakily kneel, vomit, and sweat profusely. He also complained of dizziness and weakness. Our 100+ degree temperatures take their toll!

Here are some Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) techniques that go beyond more familiar First Aid measures to help someone deal with the disorder called Summer Heat:

  • With water or oil on the skin, use the tip of an upside‐down porcelain soup spoon (sold at Asian grocery stores) to lightly stroke down and away from the spine. This includes the neck, shoulders, armpit, the spinal column (very lightly here) and  between the back ribs. Continue until you see purplish red skin.
  • With two fingers repeatedly (100‐300 times) rub:
- The line in the center of the inside of the forearms, moving only from the wrist to the elbow.
- The inside line from the end of each little finger to the elbow.
- The circle on the palm of each hand. Its radius is 2/3 the distance from the center to the crease at the base of the middle finger.
For headache in the forehead, lightly rub 50‐100 times, thumb to thumb, from the center to the edge of the face. Start at the midpoint of the eyebrows and go up to the front hairline.

Seek treatment by a TCM practitioner, if possible. Acupuncture and the right herbal formula are powerful interventions for someone in the midst of Summer Heat. Because the affliction has long-term effects, use of these modalities after a crisis helps one return to full health.

Of course call 911 if the victim is unresponsive or has other signs of severe distress.


I have to work outside. What can I do to prevent heat exhaustion?

Patchouli got a bad rap from hippie days but it is the main herb in a regular summer beverage that is a preventive measure. It works especially well for someone who has nausea and/or vomiting with the Summer Heat. Pour four cups of boiling water over these leaves, steep for about five minutes and drink one or two cups a day:

Huo Xiang / Agastache / Patchouli       6 grams
Pei Lan / Eupatorium       6 grams
Bo He / Mint       3 grams
No self‐respecting TCM practitioner advocates iced drinks. They deplete energy/Qi from the digestive system. It’s better to drink room temperature beverages.

That delicious hibiscus‐mint tea, which you can prepare (sold at Wheatsville Co‐op and other “health food” stores) or request at many Austin restaurants, cools and  astringes. The latter function helps us retain needed fluids.

Keep a wet bandana or kerchief over the base of your back neck. It cools key energetic points that help regulate body temperature and release heat.

Food as Medicine

n TCM, every food has an energetic quality or temperature. Overheating bodies improve with moderate use of cooling foods. These include apple, asparagus, bamboo shoot,  roasted barley tea, clam, coconut milk, cucumber, egg white, grapefruit, lemon, lettuce, millet, mung bean (try a soup with Tamari soy sauce), mung bean sprout, pineapple, potato, salt, summer squash (yellow or zucchini), rice, tofu, and watermelon.

In acute cases, combine cooling food with a pungent flavor that is cool or neutral. These include peppermint, marjoram, elder flowers, white pepper, radish, turnip and kohlrabi.

Summer Heat commonly has a Damp (TCM term) component. Some foods worsen this condition. They include dairy products, pork and rich meat, roasted peanuts, concentrated juices (especially orange and tomato), wheat, bread, yeast, beer, bananas, sugar, other sweeteners and saturated fats. Alcohol is a sugar.

Effective foods to counter Damp include aduki bean, alfalfa, anchovy, barley, celery, corn, daikon radish, garlic, green tea, horseradish, Jasmine tea, Job’s Tears, kidney bean, kohlrabi, lemon, mackerel, marjoram, button mushroom, mustard leaf, onion, parsley, pumpkin, radish, rye, scallion, turnip and umeboshi plum.

In summary, TCM strategies empower us to cope with summer’s extreme heat.  May you be happy and healthy for the rest of the summer!

Janet Lee Cook
 Licensed Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Prescriptions

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

On Behalf of Sleep -

Nighttime & Naps

“Sleep is the golden chain that ties health and our bodies together."
-Thomas Dekker
Maybe it’s because lately there’s been quite a bit of rain and its muffling, soothing effects induce more sleep.  Maybe it’s because I associate summer with time to kick back a bit and take more naps.  In any case, here’s a pitch for more sleep.

Nearly a third of adults in our country do not get enough sleep, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  They aren’t getting the needed seven to eight hours of snooze time per night.  Even more sobering is that one hundred thirty years ago, the average night’s sleep in the U.S. was nine hours.  Light bulbs, radio, TV, computers, Facebook, etc. have contributed to that decreased time in bed.

Here are six great reasons to get more sleep:

⦁    Your immune system will work better. 
⦁    Your emotions will feel better. 
⦁    You'll help repair and grow new tissue. 
⦁    You'll help stabilize your blood sugar level. 
⦁    You’ll have less systemic inflammation. 
⦁    Cancer loves it when you don’t get enough sleep.

Maybe you do all the right things for sleep hygiene.  For examples, you exercise and limit the amount of stimulants.  If you still can’t get needed sleep, consider Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).  A licensed practitioner can help define and treat the underlying causes of poor sleep, such as stress from the workday and physiological changes due to menopause.  Acupuncture is an evidence-based natural treatment for sleeplessness.

Furthermore, a TCM diagnosis determines which of many insomnia patterns is unique to you.  The right herbal formula for your specific constitution can make a huge difference.  To illustrate, one person’s chronic insomnia might involve night sweats, dry skin, restlessness, irritability, and poor memory.  Someone else could have acute disorientation after a severe emotional shock, dream-disturbed sleep and panic attacks.  Each person needs a different formula.

TCM also has some wonderful qigong exercises for sleep and stress.  These include strategic, classical movements that engage body and mind.  In addition, a trained practitioner can review eating habits and share TCM information that assists with sleep goals.

Why not go the pharmaceutical route for sleep?

  • Drugs don’t get at the root causes of the disorder, e.g., deficiencies, imbalances and/or stress.  Instead, they focus on symptoms.  
  • There is a strong association between the use of modern hypnotic drugs (sleeping pills) and increased risk of death, according to a widely publicized 2012 study.  This includes the common hypnotics of Ambien and Sonata as well as the benzodiazepines Restoril and Lunesta, other benzodiazepines, barbituates and sedative antihistamines. 
  • The common morning-after drowsiness can cause serious problems such as automobile accidents.

Importantly, it matters when you sleep at night.  Nighttime generally means from around 10 or 11 PM to 6 or 7 AM.  The night owl who typically stays awake into the wee hours is likely to diminish the body’s Yin and thereby contribute to a Yin-Yang imbalance.  This could show up as dry skin, a dry cough, nighttime heat sensations or a host of other symptoms. 

Nap Time

Siestas do so much more than give us a quick energy boost!  Naps are good for our heart, blood pressure, stress levels, and weight management, as The Idealist Revolution reported this March. Greek research found that adult males who took an afternoon nap at least three times per week were 37% less likely to die from a heart-related disease compared to men who never took a short afternoon nap.   NASA knows the value of naps and has researched them for years.  And yes, that’s right:  eat a healthy diet, exercise and take a nap to lose weight. 

Mental boosts come from naps:
  • Improved cognitive performance, including creative problem-solving
  • Increased alertness
  • Increased memory
  • Improved relaxation
  • Stress reduction

Will an extra cup of coffee in the afternoon work as well as a nap?  A 2008 study found that siestas are better than caffeine for improved verbal memory, motor skills and perceptual learning.

Does the Length of a Nap Affect the Benefits?

According to the WebMD, naps can be divided into categories of time that have different results:

A short 20 minute nap enhances memory but has a more dramatic effect on mental alertness and motor learning skills.

A 20 to 30 minute nap typically enhances creativity and boosts memory.

A 30 to 60 minute nap has an incredibly beneficial impact on one's decision-making skills. It also improves memorization of things like the alphabet, directions and so forth.

The 60 to 90 minute nap usually means that you get Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, the most beneficial of all.   It's almost as if the brain resets itself.  NASA and other studies have shown that this nap dramatically affects problem solving. 

Sometimes Naps are not a Good Idea. 

  • If you work in places like the U.S. or the U.K., even a short siesta in the afternoon could cost you a job or negatively affect a career.  Sadly, neither of these societies advocate afternoon naps yet heart attacks are the leading cause of death.
    • When some people take a daytime nap, they then have difficulty falling asleep at night.  Eventually, this can result in sleep deprivation.
    • Others feel dazed and often have difficulty trying to concentrate after a nap, even though they feel great upon awakening in the morning after a long sleep.

    The stigma against naps is finally starting to wane.    

    Companies are starting to catch on, according to George Dvorsky’s 2013 report.  “Modern firms are increasingly creating sleep spaces while providing an encouraging, supportive environment. They’re also setting up the right equipment for sleeping on the job; Christopher Lindholst of MetroNaps has installed specially designed sleeping pods for Google, Huffington Post, the Arizona Diamondbacks baseball teams, and other firms.”

    Whether you get your full sleep at night or with an additional nap, you gain health when you can choose these means of self-care.

    Janet Lee Cook

    Licensed Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Prescriptions