Year: 2017

Pediatric foot being massaged in a non-needle acupressure session

The 5 E’s: What to Expect In Non-Needle Pediatric Treatments at Light & Dark Acupuncture

So, you want your child to experience the benefits of acupuncture but you think they won’t go for needles? That’s what non-needle options are for!

Believe it or not, most kids love acupuncture.  About 60% of the kids who attend pediatric appointments at Light & Dark Acupuncture choose to try it.  You can learn about how this works in my last article, Acupuncture, A Unique, Responsive and Lovable Treatment for Children.  

About 40% of kids stick to only the non-needle acupuncture techniques and virtually all of them choose to try this fun and unique healing system.  It’s helpful for parents and kids to know what to expect in these treatments.

What Does a Pediatric Non-Needle Treatment Involve?

There are many options for non-needle pediatric sessions.  I usually recommend Shonishin coupled with a bit of tuina or shiatsu (Chinese and Japanese styles of therapeutic bodywork). I provide a “home treatment,” an acupressure-based protocol, when it applies to or when families request it. In addition, kids may choose to receive:

 

What is Shonishin?

*Shonishin* is a Japanese acupressure system.  This painless, non-invasive, non-needle system involves tapping and brushing on acupuncture meridians and points to create a therapeutic effect.  When we use our Western minds to analyze this Eastern system, we believe that it activates the immune system, relaxes the nervous system and decreases inflammation, though there is a deficit of studies on shonishin, so we do not yet have sufficient evidence to prove this.  However, science often proves things we have known for many years through observation.

According to Eastern philosophy, a shonishin treatment helps a patient’s Qi (pronounced “chi”) flow smoothly through the body and it balances the body’s yin and yang.  By doing this, shonishin can be helpful for pediatric disorders and discomforts, such as insomnia, anxiety, enuresis, digestive disorders, ADD/ADHD, autism, anger and frustration, and so much more.  For a full list of conditions typically treated by shonishin, visit the “Shonishin” page at www.lightanddarkacu.com.

The 5 E’s

Non-needle treatments are not always what you imagine they will be. You and your child may have expectations or anxieties. To help you know what to expect and relieve those anxieties, here are the 5 E’s: What to Expect in Non-Needle Pediatric Treatments at Light & Dark Acupuncture.

1) Examination

I examine patients through questioning/listening, palpation/touch, looking and smelling.  Patients and parents provide crucial information about the patients’ symptoms at the beginning of the session.  This is followed by an examination of the patient’s tongue, pulse, face, abdomen, ears and skin.  When necessary, basic western exams may be added, such as listening to the heart or lungs, reading oxygen levels with a pulse oximeter, taking the temperature, etc.  I do not examine or treat locally any clients’ private areas, but I can still treat symptoms that involve those areas, such as wetting the bed, constipation, etc. using acupuncture meridians and points found elsewhere on the body.

2) Encouragement

Treatment remains focused on goals that the patient and the parent define. Families to define what feels “right” and “wrong” to them.  For instance, many families have children who wake at night time and come to their parents’ room to get in their beds.  Some families are exhausted by this and have difficulty sleeping when their children join them.  Others love every minute of it and dread the day that their children no longer want to snuggle up to them at night.  I value each family’s experience and use it to guide the treatment.

I listen to both patient and parent concerns and enthusiastically celebrate every step towards success on the journey, even very small ones.  In this way, children learn to be process-oriented so that they can understand and sustain their health goals.  

Identifying health goals is a great first step, but setting up sensible, easy and sustainable health habits is what makes these goals attainable.

3) Enlightenment

Patient and parent education shows up in every session.  Education can involve many subjects, including:

  • Connections between mind, body and spirit
  • East Asian traditions and lifestyle suggestions for improving sleep, boosting immunity, calming the mind, decreasing pain, etc.
  • Acupressure points for improving your child’s symptoms
  • Dietary recommendations from Eastern traditions, and how these dietary philosophies correlate to what we know about inflammation, food intolerances, allergies, etc.

I like to forewarn parents that we will be talking about food and beverages because I know that for many families, food choices can be a frustrating topic.  Each family is truly doing the best that they can.  But nutrition is so important and it is always worth discussing.  In traditional East Asian medicine, food and beverage choices are the most powerful way to positively impact any health condition.  Specific dietary choices that are used for sports injuries, weakened immunity, attention, focus, and other ailments.

4) Easy-going Environment

While parents often expect that pediatric non-needle sessions will be quiet, spa-like sessions, this isn’t always the case.  Some kids come in, lie down and relax as I work on them.  Other kiddos don’t want to slow down.  

I use all the calming techniques I know and when they do not leave the child in a relaxed state, I move towards offering a playful and creative environment.  These fun and active treatments are as powerful as relaxing ones and children love them.

I follow the flow of the child to determine the each session’s activity level.  This way, children can feel comfortable to be themselves.

5) Empowerment

Kids have full control over what type of treatment they receive.  I make the environment one where asking questions is encouraged and where a child can feel safe refusing, slowing down, or waiting on any aspect of treatment.  This is so important in building trust with children!  There is no need to pressure them to try tools they’re uncomfortable with, because they always find a few of them that they love.

I explain to the kids I work with that I am going ask permission to use each tool on them, and that I am not going to use any tool that they don’t want me to use.  I explain that none of the tools hurt and that I will demonstrate each one on the table or on myself and ask if they would like to try it.

Kids use their newfound sense of control very wisely.  Once they have tried all of the shonishin and non-needle tools I have to offer, they start to pick their favorite ones and they tell me all about why they love them.  While most children love cupping, others state that their favorite tool is moxibustion, or shonishin brushing, etc.  Once I know a child’s preferences, I craft a non-needle treatment using those tools to stimulate the acupuncture/acupressure points specific to that child’s symptoms.

But the most important form of empowerment comes with time and repetition.  During each treatment, children learn about ways that their physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health are connected.  I ask them questions like, “what did you eat for dinner the night before you felt angry in the morning?” and “what does anxiety feel like in your body?”  

The more kids reflect on these patterns, the more they take away the most valuable lesson that East Asian medicine has to teach; if you really listen to your body, it is telling you all kinds of things about what makes you feel good and what makes you feel bad.  

East Asian medicine teaches the lesson that your health is in your own hands – that even when unexpected, uncomfortable things happen, you don’t have to feel stuck.  You can empower yourself with tools to make your body the healthiest and happiest that it can possibly be.

In non-needle pediatric sessions, I empower the kids to take their health into their own hands, by doing home treatments, making good dietary choices, remembering to breathe deeply, manage stress levels and be active.  Sometimes it takes a while to cover ground in each of these categories – some kids may be resistant – but I find that by offering several dietary and lifestyle suggestions, kids and their families find what resonates for them and implement a few of these at a time.  The families who do this see improved treatment results and quality of life.

So, that’s the 5 E’s of what to expect in a pediatric non-needle session.  If this seems like something your children may benefit from, you can read more about these treatments on my webpage about Preparing for Your Child’s First Pediatric Session.  If you have questions, please call for a free phone consultation or book online.

I hope to see you and your children in my office soon!

Coming Up Next: Learn more about cupping to help children with insomnia, anxiety, anger/frustration and more in my next article: Cupping for Kids!

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Healthy child running through a field with the type of healthy smile that children who receive acupuncture wear.

Acupuncture: A Unique, Responsive and Lovable Treatment for Children

When I tell parents that I specialize in pediatric acupuncture, it’s like I’ve pressed the “Eject” button on an old VCR.  The look on their faces says, “No way!  There’s no way my child would ever try that.” Even parents who know and love me say things like, “Oh, I’m sure there are children who can handle acupuncture but my child is afraid of needles.  They would never do it.”

Let me assure you of one thing: Kids actually love acupuncture. 

Yes, parents know their children better than I do.  They’ve witnessed their kids crying at the doctor’s office after a shot.  They have begged and pleaded with their child to go to their annual appointment stating things like “There’s only one shot this time!  Only one.  I’ll get you ice cream when you’re done.”

Parents underestimate three things: the sweeping curiosity of children; the powerful impact of building patient-practitioner rapport; and (for those who have not tried acupuncture) how different my tiny pediatric needles feel compared to an injection at the doctor’s office.

I have seen kids make unexpected, adventurous choices when they are in a safe, trusting environment, thoroughly enjoying their treatment.  What I do in the treatment room is essentially the most gentle, relaxed, playful, and rather magical therapy that many children have ever seen.

A Gentle Introduction to Acupuncture

I never do anything that a child does not agree to.  They have to be the one that says, “Yes, I want to try that.”  So, if they’re really scared by the thought of needles, or as I call them “taps,” then we don’t use them at all.  No pressure, no pleading – I trust that children will try taps if /when they’re ready, because I’ve seen them do it.

When I work with children, I demonstrate for them how the taps work, using the acupuncture table, my own arm or a willing parent as my “tap model.”  I answer their questions and let them look at the taps.  They can see how tiny they are.  I explain why I call them “taps” – they feel like a gentle tap on the skin when I use them.

Parents who are convinced that their child will not try acupuncture “taps” often find that by the second visit, the child’s curiosity has gotten the best of them and they want to try it.  Curiosity is a powerful motivator.

A Safe and Inquisitive Environment for Learning

I encourage kids to ask questions – they ask the most thorough and curious questions!  We discuss the difference between a “tap” and a needle at the doctor’s office.  When kids, typically over 4 years old, want to discuss taps, I break down the myth that all needles are painful.  I demonstrate why and how some needles are easy and trouble-free.

I create a safe and comfortable environment for kids. I emphasize that not being ready to try new things is totally okay and I never push.  This helps them relax and enjoy the treatment.

Don’t worry about explaining acupuncture to your kids.  I discuss it with them in a way that builds patient-practitioner trust and helps them feel safe and comfortable.  If you would like to tell your children something about what to expect when you’re headed to your first pediatric acupuncture appointment, read my article on “Preparing for Your First Pediatric Session.”

A Quick and Painless Insertion and Extraction

Do you know how I know beyond an inkling of a doubt that “all needles are painful” is a myth?  Three-year old children.

Three-year olds think “tap taps” are just the most hilarious, interesting, and weird thing they’ve ever witnessed.  They really love them. The thrill that these kids display while trying taps is a testament to the fact that they don’t hurt.  They are so tiny that they usually cannot be felt on insertion.  Kids learn to distrust a sharp, pointy metal objects later in life. They do not have to fear acupuncture taps.  And typically, they don’t panic about them unless they have learned that fear from another experience or person.

Now, don’t worry.  With 3 year olds, and other youngsters, I put in the tap and take it right back out.  Like most of the parents I meet, I’m not betting my life on young children sitting still for two seconds!

Parents express concern that the treatment will be less potent when they involve a quick in/out movement instead of longstanding needle retention.  The beautiful thing about treating children is that they don’t need to be quiet and still to benefit from treatments.  As we say in East Asian medicine, their yang is already on the exterior of their body. This means that tapping into the systems that respond to acupuncture in a child is an instant process.  Kids’ nervous systems and immune systems are incredibly responsive and reactive.  Their bodies are poised and ready to respond to even the gentlest nudge.

When children give acupuncture a try they realize that it is surprisingly painless and they are willing to have a few taps at each treatment. But what about kids who really do not want to try taps?  Probably somewhere around 40% of the kids who visit my practice do not want to try acupuncture right away.  For these children, we simply move on to Shonishin, a painless, non-needle, non-invasive acupressure system, as well as other non-needle methods including cupping, herbal medicine, ear jewels or ear seeds and other techniques.

Coming Up Next: You can learn more about Shonishin and other non-needle options in my next article, The 5 E’s: What to Expect in Non-Needle Pediatric Treatments at Light & Dark Acupuncture.


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12 acupuncture needles sticking out of one hypodermic needle, showing that there's nothing to be scared of. Acupuncture needles are tiny.

Scared of Needles but Curious About Acupuncture? No problem!!

Are you scared of needles?  Well, that makes sense.

Bare with me and we’ll make the discussion of sharp, pointy objects brief.

Whatcha Scared Of?

Western hypodermic needles are built to shoot substances into the body or extract substances from the body.  To do this, they must be hollow.  Hollow needles take up a lot of surface area on your body, and when they pierce the skin, they tend to hurt.  I have been needling myself and my patients for years, and I am still nervous when I see a big, honkin hypodermic needle coming towards my arm!

Acupuncture needles, on the other hand, are filiform, which means that they are not hollow.  They also have a much smaller circumference and take up a lot less surface area.  In fact, you can stick between 12-16 acupuncture needles inside one Western medicine needle, as seen in the picture above.  Acupuncture needles, often referred to as “pins,” feel nothing like a hypodermic needle.  I often needle a person for the first time and then hear them say, “That was it??”  Yep! That’s it.  It’s really not too bad.

It makes sense.  Of course you are scared of needles.  From a young age, we have become familiar with our doctors and nurses sticking us with very painful needles for shots and blood draws.  But acupuncture needles don’t feel like hypodermic (Western) needles at all.  They’re much less painful, so maybe you could give it a try!

Or maybe not.

Don’t worry.  I am not here to convert you.  Whatever the reason, needle phobia is real.  If you’re one of the 10% of people who suffer from trypanophobia, i.e. a fear of needles and injections, and you’re not going to be convinced to try acupuncture, fear not – there are other options for you!

Non-Needle Treatments

At Light & Dark Acupuncture, we offer Non-Needle treatments to any adult who requests a gentle, non-invasive treatment.  Non-Needle treatments still use the time-tested East Asian techniques taught in acupuncture school.  They simply use the ones that do not involve needles.  These techniques are built to help blood flow smoothly, to help boost the immune system’s response and relax the nervous system.  They help improve muscles, tissues and organ function, and they ease turbulent flow through the mind and spirit.

Here are a few of the techniques called upon in a Non-Needle Treatment:

  1. Herbal Formulas: Acupuncturists use herbal medicine to craft a formula that will treat both your current symptoms and the underlying cause of those symptoms.  Patients can drink these formulas in the form of a tea.  From old folk remedies to modern, researched synergistic herbal constituents, herbal formulas have been used for decades for healing a myriad of disorders, illnesses and injuries.  Patients are frequently astounded by the power of an herbal formula.
  2. Cupping: Chinese Medicine practitioners use cupping to release muscle stiffness, improve blood flow through areas of tension, and open the pores.  This can be useful for tight, sore muscles, the beginning stages of a cold and deep congestion in the lungs.  Are you wondering if this is the technique that left round marks all over the 2016 Olympians?  It sure is! Does it hurt? Nope – cupping feels more like a strong massage and is not meant to be painful.  Most people who try it fall immediately in love with it.  If you want to know a little more about it, you can read my blog on cupping and watch the video mentioned at the end of the blog.
  3. Shonishin: While Shonishin is typically used on children, I have found it to be effective on teenagers and adults as well.  This is a non-invasive, no-needle technique that uses tapping and brushing movements to stimulate acupuncture points.  Your body creates an immune response to the technique which sets off a cascade of events that lead to healing.  Shonishin is incredibly relaxing. It’s wonderful for adults who have been doing a little too much adulting, and it can be beneficial in several disorders such as common cold, migraines, joint aches, etc.  I’ve written some information about Shonishin on my Pediatrics webpage, if you’d like to learn more about it.
  4. “Acupressure” or Tuina & Shiatsu: These are two versions of therapeutic massage.  Tuina is a Chinese therapeutic massage that is often referred to as “acupressure”.  Specific points are chosen per TCM theory and pressure is applied to these points using various massage techniques.  Shiatsu is of Japanese origin and it uses a similar but slightly different approach to create a therapeutic response.  Both techniques can be used for muscle, tendon and bone aches, pains and tensions, as well as for internal issues such as gastrointestinal disorders, anxiety and fatigue.  Do you wonder if tuina and shiatsu may be effective for your health concerns? Here is the link to a video demonstrating tuina – at about 1 minute into it, you can begin to see several tuina techniques. You can also call me anytime and ask.    I’m happy to answer your questions!
  5. Moxabustion: Also known as “Moxa.” Moxa is an herb that we burn over the top of an acupuncture point.  This herb is a biological wonder.  It warms the acupuncture points to increase blood flow and nourishes the qi and blood to improve energy levels.  It has the perfect consistency to be rolled into a ball, and as it burns it consolidates into a little pile of ash that sticks to itself, so that it does not fall apart.  I often use moxa on individuals who experience significant fatigue because the treatments yield better results with the help of this medicinal friend.
  6. Gua Sha: Gua Sha is an Eastern technique that involves scraping a specific area.  While “scraping” does not sound like it would be a gentle therapy, it feels surprisingly comforting when you are using a “gua sha tool.”  This technique breaks up adhesions and helps the surface capillaries breathe so that fresh blood can move uninhibited through areas of stagnation. I use gua sha when a patient has an old injury that has never quite healed and it is causing secondary and tertiary issues in the body.  Like cupping, the technique leaves marks, which are not the same as bruises.  Gua Sha marks do no go through the same stages of coloration as a normal bruise.  They simply fade away sometime between 3 – 10 days after treatment.

So, if you’re interested in an alternative therapy from a rich tradition of Eastern healing techniques, but you’re scared of being poked (even if you’re told that it doesn’t hurt!), seek out a non-needle treatment!  If you’re not sure if this treatment can help your current condition, call me for a free phone consultation.  I am happy to answer your questions and discuss your health concerns.  If you are not located in Denver, I can help you find a practitioner who will provide a non-needle treatment in your area.

Book an appointment online today!

A group of things to hint about what 10 ways you can make watching tv a healthier habit - a candle, a ball, a water bottle, a cup of tea, a mortar and pestal and a box of recipes

10 Ways to Make Watching TV a Healthier Habit

Six Feet Under, This is Us, Parenthood, Mad Men, TransParent, Orange is the New Black, Breaking Bad… Is it just me or has TV just gotten skillfully entertaining lately?

If you’re like me, you love TV or movies, but you worry that you could be using that time in a more productive manner.  Your concern makes watching TV a guilty pleasure and not an enjoyable, relaxing event.  Look, I get you – there are MUCH MORE important things to be doing with your time.  It’s true.  But remember, the more rested, relaxed and rejuvenated you are, the more energy you have to advocate for your favorite cause and the more excitement you can devote to self-improvement.

TV isn’t only bad news.  Really good TV shows and movies can:

  • Educate us
  • Inspire us
  • Unite us for a specific cause
  • Improve us (My massive celebrity crush on Jillian Michaels does, on occasion, succeed in getting me to the gym when I’m feeling unmotivated.)
  • Challenge our current perspective
  • Console us
  • Relax us
  • And so much more…

In smaller doses, it can be a therapeutic activity.  Great.  So, why is it so bad to watch TV?

Well, it is a sedentary hobby.  There are also those times when you get sucked in and do not move from the couch for 3 days until the end of your Harry Potter binge…

Okay, look – if you’re watching TV all day and never socializing or moving, nothing will make this a healthy habit.  Sorry to disappoint.  If you’re not sleeping well, not eating well, never exercising and never visiting with friends or family, there is only so much that any professional can do to help.  At some point, you must take responsibility for your health.  No one can do that for you.  Even the health-oriented routines in my 10 suggestions below won’t make up for living a healthy lifestyle, but they may start you down that path.

In the meantime, if you’ve created a routine around relaxing to the news or a well-scripted TV show in the evening, let that time be your reminder of the healthy routines you would like to create.  It’s a simple hack – use your less healthy routines to develop structure around a new beneficial groove.

Rather than consider my sedentary evening routine an unhealthy endeavor, I’ve decided to make watching TV a part of my health regime.  This is how you can do it with me!  Choose 1 or 2 of these suggestions to adopt during the first 10 – 30 minutes of watching TV or create some of your own.

So, let’s dig into this together! Here are 10 Ways to Make Watching TV a Healthier Habit!

  1. Self-massage – Give yourself a foot massage or a neck massage. Regular self-massage relaxes the muscles and tissues.  Frequent foot massages can help your feet age gracefully and may prevent knee, hip and lower back issues, and they feel great!  Use a foam roller, tennis ball, thera-cane or tens unit if you like or if you have been encouraged to do so by a healthcare practitioner.  Oh, and try this – put two tennis balls in a sock and tie it shut.  Now place each tennis ball on either side of the spine.  Roll this device up and down your spine.  Use it in your hips and glutes, or any other place that aches.
  2. Herbal Tea – Herbal teas relax the nervous system after a long day. Depending on your choice of herbs, they boost the immune system, support the respiratory system, improve blood flow in the body, and so much more.  Choosing one herbal tea to drink each evening can be a fun and rewarding process.  If you’d like to drink a medicinal herbal tea, set up an herbal consultation with Light & Dark Acupuncture.
  3. Exercise – Many people feel that their exercise routine goes by more quickly and less painfully if they’re watching a movie on the treadmill. Some individuals avoid this, citing the need to be present with their workout so they can push harder and reap larger benefits.  If gym TV watching isn’t your style, perhaps you could knock out a few crunches during the first 15 minutes of your favorite TV show.  Or push ups.  Or burpees.  Never mind – scratch that – burpees are torture.
  4. Breathing Exercises – Any individual with asthma should consider this an important routine to develop. Breathing exercises assist a host of respiratory disorders, but whose got time to sit and breathe for 20 or 30 minutes?!  If you’re struggling to find the time to practice breathing exercises, commit to doing it for the first 10 minutes of your T.V. time each night.  Set a reminder in your phone if you need help remembering.  You can breathe and count while the scenes from the last episode play.  The drama won’t get good enough to cause gasping for several minutes, so you’re set.
  5. Stretch – My grandpa used to lay on the floor every night after dinner with his hand on his stomach. I remember joining him a couple times.  If you keep your floor clean, laying on it can feel quite relaxing.  You can twist into yoga poses or focus on extending through specific muscles that feel tight.  This is also that time to do the “10 stretches that will cure your psoas and piriformis pain!” or any other specific therapeutic stretches you’ve found.  If you suffer from any kind of pain, look up specific stretches for that type of pain, or get some suggestions from your acupuncturist, chiropractor, doctor, physical therapist or other professional.  Countless clients struggle to remember to do their therapeutic stretches daily.  Use TV time as a reminder to do them!  After a couple weeks, you’ll stop thinking, “I can’t wait to zone out and watch TV,” and starting thinking, “I can’t wait to lay down and stretch out while I watch my show!”
  6. Healthy Snack – Snacking is not the right suggestion for everyone. However, if you’re someone who lacks healthy vegetables and fruits in their diet, or doesn’t get enough protein or healthy fats, committing to a healthy snack as you enjoy your routine movie time is a great idea.  Healthy snacks can indeed be delicious– veggies and hummus, steamed purple cabbage with cinnamon and oregano (you won’t regret it), avocado with lime, salt and curry powder.  They take a little prep time, but if you need to create a habit of eating healthy, you can use this already-created “TV time” routine to remind you that it is “healthy snack time.”
  7. Drink Water – Yep. I said it. So did your mom.  And your friend.  And some random person who overheard you saying something at the grocery store.  It’s true, drinking water is good for you.  I don’t think we need to argue this.  But getting into a pattern of doing it regularly can be challenging.  Let’s make it easier! Get a large water bottle and fill it up before your show.  Put a rubber band around the outside of the water bottle.  Each time you drink, move the rubber band down to the level that the water is at.  This way you can see from the outside of your bottle exactly how much is left.  Finish the bottle.  Fill up another one if you have the bladder for it.  During each commercial break look at your bottle to see where your water line is and gauge if you’re meeting your goal!
  8. Laugh – Well, this one’s a no brainer. Laughter really is the best medicine for almost anything.  It masks physical pain, frustration, anxiety, heartache – whatever your ailment.  The benefit may be temporary, but it is potent medicine nonetheless.  “Laughter stretches and relaxes the linings of your arteries, allowing blood to flow freely.” (Harrar, Sari, Pearson & Victoria, 2013).  So, watch a funny show or movie.  Find one that specifically fits your sense of humor and stick with it til the end.
  9. Cuddle – Physical connection fosters empathy and bonding and it is also great for the heart.  Oxytocin is known as “the cuddle hormone” because it is released during skin-to-skin contact.  It reduces blood pressure and relaxes the nervous system’s response to stress (“Oxytocin Hormone Benefits and Side Effects,” n.d.).  Hold someone you love because it’s heart healthy! You know what might be even better than cuddling with a chosen human?  Cuddling with a furry, warm pet.  If you’ve got one of the cuddly pet types, now is your moment.
  10. Relax – You can do one or all the self-improvement-oriented suggestions above, but don’t forget to take some time to relax. Life is moving at a fast pace and we are doing our best to keep up with it.  Sometimes we need a break, and it’s okay to take one.  So, after you’ve worked out and stretched and given yourself a neck massage, just relax and get lost in the explorative world of arts and entertainment.

So, a quick disclaimer – be sure to use your brain and a little discretion if you’re going to take this advice.  There’s a diverse group of people reading this blog and not every one of these suggestions will work for each of them.  If you can’t reach your feet, don’t try to give yourself a foot massage.  If you can’t get up off the floor, you probably shouldn’t lay on it to stretch.  If you wake 13 times per night to urinate, don’t drink a jug of water before bed.  If you tend to have issues with overeating or emotional eating, maybe snacking is not your jam – I like puns.  Don’t hate on my puns.  If you’re six feet under, you can’t do breathing exercises, so that’s out.

Being “healthy” is not about being the best at every health goal.  It’s about doing the best you can with what you’ve got.  It’s about doing just one new thing each day to ensure your longevity.  It’s about figuring out what works for you, what motivates you, and using that to reach your goals. So, find the health and fitness goals that resonate with you. Use the routine that you have already created around television to build a routine around your goals for wellness.  Before you even close this article, set cell phone reminders or alarm clocks to hold yourself accountable, in case you forget everything you just read the second you close it.

Cheers to your process and best wishes in your health journey!

References

Harrar, Sarí, Pearson & Victoria (2013). “30 Days to a Healthier Heart.” Prevention. 00328006, Vol. 65, Issue 2. Retrieved from http://web.b.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail/detail?sid=1730cd10-abd8-4775-b3da-f01f71287ae1%40sessionmgr102&vid=20&hid=115&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#AN=87376499&db=awh

Sahelian, Ray. (n.d.). “Oxytocin Hormone Benefits and Side Effects.” Retrieved from: http://www.birthingandbreastfeeding.com/uploads/5/5/3/2/5532100/oxytocin_and_bonding.pdf

Blue light forming text on a black background that says, "Conscious Body Movement."

Herbal Medicine & the Common Cold, Hot Flashes, Vitamins & Supplements, and of course… Tap Dance!

In this interview, fitness trainer Greg Dyer (no relation – but he has a great last name!) interviews Light & Dark Acupuncturist & Herbalist, Molly Dyer about treatment of the common cold.  Dyer explains the reason why Chinese herbal formulas can powerfully kick out colds and flu at any stage.

The two discuss another topic as well – the over-consumption of vitamins and supplements.  We’re not talking about taking a few supplements on a daily basis, here.  We’re referring to those who take handfuls of vitamins and supplements and even herbs.  Healthy or hurtful? What do you think?

And let’s just be honest – any discussion would be incomplete without turning towards tap dance and its healthy effect on mental, physical and social well-being. What does this have to do with acupuncture and herbology?  Find out in the following episode of Conscious Body Movement, the podcast!

Ginger tea with lemon and honey on slate plate

Herbal Teas & Pregnancy

Here it is – that huge step. You have learned that you are pregnant. You’re hungry. You look into your fridge for something to snack on and think, “wait, can I eat that?  Spicy foods might be bad for the baby.  French fries might be bad for the baby. Ice cream is definitely bad for the baby, right? What can I eat? What should I avoid eating?” And then you do it. You google things.

Google has lots of info on do’s and don’ts in pregnancy – as do the many authors, thinkers, doctors, healers, parents, teachers and concerned individuals that fill its pages. You can find pretty much anything there, including completely conflicting information.

It is the conflicting information, the uncertainty, that sends parents-to-be to me asking questions about what kinds of Chinese herbs they can consume while they are pregnant.  It is generally understood that some herbal teas do wonders for pregnant people, while others are on the stay-as-far-away-as-possible, do-not-touch-my-baby list. It is wonderful to see parents delve passionately into educating themselves on what is healthy and what is unsafe for their babies.

Is it Beneficial to Use Chinese Herbal Medicine in Pregnancy?

Herbs have been studied and observed synergistically and bio-chemically for years.  We know a lot about the effects of many herbs.  There are hundreds of herbal compendiums that are thousands of pages deep.  So, when pregnant people come to me concerned about the possibility of herbs causing problems in their pregnancy, overwhelmed by the confusing mumbo jumbo (both good and bad) they’ve encountered on the internet, it is my absolute privilege to tell them the following guidelines to the use of herbal medicine in pregnancy:

  1. Herbal medicine is wonderful for pregnancy when properly prescribed. We have witnessed successful herbal treatment during pregnancy for thousands of years.
  2. It can help with all kinds of things; headaches, aches and pains, insomnia, morning sickness, and many other challenges experienced while growing a living being inside you for 9 months!
  3. There are even a few Chinese herbs that are particularly beneficial to the baby. We say that these herbs “calm the baby,” a somewhat poetic description of their ability to keep in check certain out-of-balance systems in a pregnant individual so that the baby can comfortably thrive in its temporary home.  Most of the formulas I create during pregnancy involve one or two of these herbs.
  4. If you see a qualified herbalist (or in my case, Chinese Herbalist) who you trust, you can drink yummy herbal teas throughout your pregnancy.  You will not have to root through all the information about what herbs to seek out and which ones to avoid. That’s why you have a professional – to keep you and the baby safe and healthy.

Are There Herbs that are Unsafe to Consume in Pregnancy?

Quite honestly – yes, there are absolutely herbs that are dangerous in pregnancy when given at a medicinal dose.  Some of these herbs are uterine stimulants, which means they are the type of herb that may promote labor.  Some of them are what we call “blood movers” in Chinese medicine.  A blood mover is an herb that helps blood flow uninhibited through the vessels.  These herbs tend to be acrid, bitter and warm.  Those that are bitter have a downward flow, and during pregnancy, we want to avoid that downward flow, particularly in individuals with a history of miscarriage.  A qualified herbalist will know which herbs to avoid in pregnancy, including blood movers, uterine stimulants and others.

You may hear herbalists say to avoid most herbal teas in the first trimester of pregnancy.  It is true that there are some herbs worth avoiding, but there is one area that herbal tea is a tried and true advantage for first trimester parents-to-be.

…Enter Morning Sickness.

Morning sickness is a common effect of pregnancy in the first trimester, which can be quite unpleasant.  One formula historically used to treat morning sickness is called Ju Pi Zhu Ru Tang (Tangerine Peel and Bamboo Shavings Decoction).  It came from a text called Jin Gui Yao Lue, which is translated as Essentials from the Golden Cabinet, nearly 1,800 years ago!  Its effect is so beneficial in treating morning sickness that it is still used today, over 1,000 years after its creation.

This formula is not right for every individual who experiences morning sickness.  A Chinese herbalist is trained to observe each person’s signs, symptoms and unique constitution in order to craft an informed diagnosis.  If your diagnosis matches that which Ju Pi Zhu Ru Tang treats, then this formula will be chosen for you.  If your diagnosis does not match, then Ju Pi Zhu Ru Tang will likely not be very much help for your morning sickness, so your herbalist may pick another well-known formula that better fits your needs.

Is It Safe to Use Chinese Herbs in Pregnancy?

In short, YES.  You can safely enjoy the benefits of herbal medicine before, during and after pregnancy.  However, since you can find anything, literally anything, on the internet about herbs, so please do not let this become solely a google- or mommy-blog-informed project.  Gain what insight you can from the internet and then, you must speak with a qualified professional – one that you know that you can trust.

Who is a Qualified Herbalist?

So how do you know who is qualified?  My recommendation is to search for an NCCAOM Board Certified Chinese Herbalist.  This information is commonly found in the biography on a Chinese Herbalist’s website.

There are literally no regulations for prescribing herbs or supplements, so any ole schwindler, or even an avid researcher with great intentions can consider themselves to be an herbalist.  It is not illegal for someone who has read a lot about herbs to set up shop and charge for herbal consultations.

NCCAOM Board certified herbalists have completed both a Master’s degree and a harrowing board examination, thus proving themselves capable of rigorous self-study and experienced from hours of clinical internship practice.  These individuals have been around herbs and have been supervised by skilled herbalists.  They have real-world experience and training in herbalism.

I have nothing against those who have not completed a program like this; I simply cannot vouch for their education.  So, if you’re considering hiring one, please ask them –

  • What is your herbal training?
  • How many hours did you spend learning this?
  • Did you go through an institution? An apprenticeship? A library?
  • How many years have you practiced?
  • How many patients have you seen?
  • Have you treated pregnant women with herbs before?

It may feel off-putting to ask such detailed questions, but since there is no regulation telling you about a person’s experience, you’re going to have to advocate for yourself.  And you can do it, even if it’s challenging, because it is so worth it!

On a side note, I apologize for not knowing the equivalent credentials for a Western herbalist – please do feel free to comment on this in the comment section if you know about Western herbalism, as that is not my training, nor my specialty.

Yes! Please Enjoy Some Herbal Tea!

Beyond assisting comfort in pregnancy, herbs are filled healthy, nourishing vitamins and minerals that are great for the parent and child.  Drinking an herbal tea each evening can be a warm and relaxing habit to begin while facing the steep rewards and challenges of pregnancy.  Teas are delicious, nutritious, and soothing to the spirit. So, seek out a qualified herbalist to assist you – but go ahead and do it! Drink some herbal tea for you and the baby!


To learn more about Light & Dark Acupuncture herbal consultations, visit this page, or book online today at www.lightanddarkacu.com.

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