Tag: herbal medicine

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!

Book a Pediatric Session Online
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!

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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