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