For many people the onset of the cold damp weather also marks the worsening of arthritis symptoms. With many of the common conventional therapies used to treat this painful condition, risks and side effects can be abundant. Overuse of pain killers can lead to organ damage (namely stomach, liver, and kidneys), and tolerance leads to a problematic cycle of needing higher doses to relieve the pain. Cortisone shots can lead to degenerative changes in the joint, potentially worsening the situation in the long run.
Complementary therapies can offer safer and highly effective means to treat arthritis, and depending on the situation, can either reduce the amount and dependence on conventional drugs, or replace them altogether. Acupuncture is one of the safest available alternative therapies, and has been shown in numerous well-designed studies to be highly effective in providing long term management of arthritis symptoms. A thin needle correctly placed, will set off a chain of natural chemical events in the body, releasing chemicals that change the body’s perception of the pain, as well as agents that work to control the inflammation. Stimulation of the local circulation adds to the pain relief and can reduce stiffness. Often electric stimulation is added to the needles, a process that is quite comfortable and works to potentiate these effects.
Certain simple herbal remedies can greatly accentuate treatment, and many herbs not only offer little in the way of side effects, but may also offer added benefit to the body by the way of antioxidant and organ-protective actions. These 4 herbs have demonstrated significant benefit for arthritis symptoms:
1- Boswelia serrata – called Mo Yao in Chinese Medicine, the medicinal part of this tree is the aromatic resin you may recognize - frankincense. Boswellia has strong anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, has demonstrated the ability to slow cartilage loss, and may work against the autoimmune process.
2- Capsicum extract – the agent that makes the hot pepper, hot. Can open the circulation and reduce the perception of pain by inhibiting a pain transmitter. Versatile for use as a topical cream to provide relief at the source.
3- Turmeric – called Yu Jin in Chinese medicine, and gaining much popularity as a natural anti-inflammatory and analgesic. Works again to inhibit pain receptors and inflammatory chemicals. Best taken as an extract (called curcumin) for medicinal purposes.
4- Ginger – called Sheng Jiang in Chinese Medicine, very similar in use and effect as turmeric, as the 2 plants share close botanical relation.
Other supplements also have much to offer for arthritis relief, namely Omega 3 fatty acids.
As herbs and supplements have medicinal effect, it always of utmost importance to check to be sure they are suitable for your individual use, especially if you are taking prescription medications, have certain medical conditions, or are pregnant.
Rebecca Stephens D.TCM, R.Ac, B.Sc.
During Acupuncture treatments, I often have people asking me about the origins of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Acupuncture. Although I’m quite sure that today, with our modern research and tools, it is practiced in a starkly different manner than when it first appeared in the Stone Age. The fact that a medicine of such importance today can trace its roots back into prehistory is truly fascinating.
Although we attribute the origins to China (indeed, we call it “Chinese Medicine”), and call it roughly 3000-5000 years old, there is a bit of speculation to this. It is very likely that outside influences played important parts in its development, just as Chinese influences are found in the roots of many other cultures. Ancient exploration and trade routes would have undoubtedly served as vessels to mix ideas, medicinal substances, and tools. Being a close neighbour, Indian influence is very easy to spot in TCM herbal medicine, as many of the herbs originally grew in India and were documented for much the same purposes in Ayurvedic medicine. Excavation of ancient tombs finds “Chinese Herbs” in other parts, such as a bundle of Ma Huang (Ephedra plant) discovered in a Neolithic tomb in the Middle East, at a time thousands of years before the Chinese Materia Medica was being compiled. Many people will remember the discovery of Otzi, the famous “Iceman” mummy of a Bronze Age man in the Italian Alps, and how he had tattoos that seemed to correspond to acupuncture points.
Safe to say, the exact ancestral origins to our modern practice are lost to history. Many theories circulate, and it can be left to the imagination how exactly an idea bloomed in a time when all we had to look to was our natural environment for tools to help us stay alive and well. In terms of acupuncture, it would not be a stretch to think about how the instance must have arisen when someone discovered that points “here” could have effect on other points “there”. Perhaps it was the constipated early human, whose intestines were plugged up by gorging on the latest large game hunt, who discovered “When I rub this tender area on my hand or on my foot, I can actually feel my bowels start to move.”
Of course like many other important discoveries, it is likely that similar findings were made by many other people in many other areas. It is thought that the use of stone knives and lances used for primitive surgery may have fostered the realization that the puncture of one area brought about sensation in another. Warriors hit in battle with arrows could have discovered pain traveling along certain routes that would become somewhat predictable. Observations of the skin would discover that discolourations or changes would occur in certain areas in relation to disease or trauma in other areas.
Since the human race owes its development to curiosity and experimentation, these ideas would have been fostered through centuries of trial and error. Ground-breaking discoveries would have been made alongside marked failures as the makings of a line of therapy would have started to form. When people ask me about the safety of TCM and acupuncture, I like to point out with a smile that few other medicines in use today can boast as long of a period of human testing (besides the strict modern rules and regulations that all registered practitioners must adhere to, I might add!). Over time, and as civilization developed, this knowledge was written down. And it is here that China began to shine as the civilization that organized, studied, and developed these methods into a structured form of Medicine.
With these roots in ancient “trial and error/borrow and trade”, Chinese Medicine would grow as an integral part of Chinese culture, having its theories shaped and cultivated by religious beliefs, pragmatic philosophy, and even politics as different Dynasties rose and fell.
Today we have “picked and chosen” what has suited us from this vast compendium, to give us something we can standardize and integrate into a modern model of therapy. Our modern style of acupuncture is incredibly versatile and able to apply to a wide range of concerns and situations. But we do not forget its roots, and we are indeed doing what has always been done in history - pulling out what we think of as relevant parts of something that has served us in the past and grow it to relate to our current situation. Of course you never know when something that has been passed-over will become important in the future, so it is important to preserve the history as best we can. I am so happy that remembering these roots is a core part of the TCM/Acupuncture education, as we read from the Ancient Texts and learn about the Founding Doctors in this fascinating field. But that is a whole other story altogether!
Fall equinox occurs this year on Wednesday September 23, and marks the official start of the new Season! After a long and sun-drenched summer, now is the perfect time to show your skin a little TLC and focus on rejuvenation and repair. We all know that, as much fun as it might have been to collect it, sun damage accelerates the aging of the skin!
Facial Rejuvenation Acupuncture (AKA Cosmetic Acupuncture) is a wonderful drug-free and non-surgical way to reverse some of this damage, reduce the signs of aging, and set your face and body aglow. This simple procedure places ultra-fine needles into specific points on the face and body to:
1) Directly minimize or eliminate fine lines by encouraging local collagen production
2) Increase circulation to the face, brightening and smoothing the complexion, tightening the pores and reducing dark circles around the eyes.
3) Tighten and tone the muscles of the face and jaw, reducing sagging.
4) Restore the proper functioning of the skin, addressing specific concerns such as Acne or Rosacea.
The individualized approach of Acupuncture addresses the whole body, as your face is indeed a reflection of your entire health! During your first visit, your specific concerns are noted and a whole health picture is documented. Then a customized treatment is designed to address your specific needs.
Facial Rejuvenation Acupuncture is performed by Rebecca Stephens DTCM, R.Ac. at Healing Cedar Wellness. She offers a Free 15 Minute Consultation to meet with you and determine what this treatment may have to offer you.
Please note that all or part of this treatment may be covered by your Health Plan if you have insurance coverage for Acupuncture. Call us now to book your appointment at (604) 469-1616.
What is irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)?
It is estimated that 5 million Canadians suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, with approximately120,000 Canadians being diagnosed each year. IBS is a chronic gastrointestinal disorder that affects the large intestine (colon). It commonly presents as abdominal cramping and pain, bloating and gas, mucus in the stool, and diarrhea and/or constipation. Unlike ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, which are both inflammatory bowel diseases, IBS does not cause permanent damage to the bowel tissue, and does not increase your risk for colorectal disease.
How is IBS diagnosed?
Diagnosis of IBS is often a process of ruling out other conditions. A colonoscopy or barium x-ray may be ordered to rule out inflammatory bowel disease, a stool test might be taken to rule out parasitic infections, and finally breath tests may be ordered to rule out H. pylori and lactose intolerance. To help this process researchers have developed a set of criteria for diagnosing IBS based on symptoms, after other conditions have been ruled out. This diagnostic criteria is called the ‘Rome Criteria.’ Based on this criteria, diagnosis can be made if the person has abdominal pain and discomfort lasting at least 3 days a month in the last 3 months, associated with two or more of the following symptoms: improvement with defecation, altered frequency of stool or altered consistency of stool.
How can I get my irritable bowel under control?
The naturopathic approach for managing irritable bowel syndrome includes a process of removing aggravating factors, regenerating the health of the GI mucosa, reinoculating the intestines with good microflora, and replacing crucial digestive factors. This process is called the 4 R GI Restoration Program, which is outlined below.
The first step to healing the gut involves removing aggravating foods from the diet. After lactose intolerance has been ruled out, I order a series of tests including food sensitivity and allergy testing, as well as celiac disease testing. If celiac disease is positive, a lifetime avoidance of gluten is recommended. Food sensitivities, and allergies, on the other hand can change over a period of a person’s life. Food sensitivities can be challenged after 3-6 months of avoiding the foods, while food allergies may need to be avoided longer. If there are anaphylactic symptoms associated with the food allergy, these foods are often re-tested periodically, and are strictly avoided long-term, unless subsequent tests come back negative.
Chronic exposure to aggravating foods can cause damage to the epithelial lining of the intestines. Supplementing with an amino acid called L-glutamine, and omega 3 fatty acids can help repair the intestinal lining and restore healthy digestive function.
Re-inoculating the gut with health promoting ‘friendly’ bacteria (ie. ‘probiotics’) helps to promote a healthy balance of GI microflora. This balance is important for GI tissue health, immune function, and intestinal barrier function, and digestion.
Supplementing with digestive enzymes, and stomach acids can be beneficial in certain circumstances. Stomach acidity, and digestive enzymes facilitate the breakdown of food. A deficiency of these compounds is common, especially as we age, which compromises digestion, absorption of nutrients, and elimination of waste.
Along with the 4 R program, it is important to recognize that chronic stress can also contribute to digestive imbalance and IBS symptoms. Thus, stress reduction through cortisol (ie. stress hormone) balancing, and the incorporation of relaxation-promoting activities is also strongly emphasized in a comprehensive naturopathic treatment plan.
Dr. Meghan van Drimmelen, ND
Healing Cedar Wellness
Gui Zhi or Cinnamon carries the additional benefits of having both antiviral and antibiotic effects, and can also increase circulation and provide analgesic action. Great for the aches that can come with a flu! Gui Zhi is revered for its ability to assist the yang of the body, which gives it versatile use in a many of our formulas. It is the chief herb in the common cold (and more) formula Gui Zhi Tang (“Cinnamon decoction”)
Sheng Jiang or Ginger has long been consumed as a preventative for seasonal illness, and is one of the most well known remedy herbs in the world. It has antibiotic action, and is probably the most famous herb for its ability to calm the stomach, reduce nausea or vomiting, and assist digestion. Ginger is found in too many Chinese herbal formulas to mention!
Peppermint and Chrysanthemum (Bo He and Jue Hua) differ from Ginger and Cinnamon in that they have a cooling action, which gives them excellent ability to sooth redness, irritation, and itchiness that can come as symptoms. Peppermint is very dispersing and has great ability to clear the head, nose, eyes, and relieve headache. Chrysanthemum is most famous for its ability to sooth issues concerning the eyes, and also has antibiotic properties. Both of these herbs are readily available as loose or packaged teas, and they taste great!
It is extremely important to note that you must consult with a qualified professional before taking any herbal remedy, even before increasing a culinary herb to a medicinal dose. This is especially important in certain medical conditions and in pregnancy. Just like conventional drugs, all herbs have the potential to be incompatible with certain medical conditions or prescription medications.
Dr.TCM, R.Ac., B.Sc.
With summer comes more fun in the outdoors! Here are a few natural, effective and safe summer remedies:
Natural Bug Spray for the whole family.
Parsley Ice Cubes for Bumps & Bruises (super safe for kids as well).
Dandelion vinegar for Liver Detox.
Shannon Halpin, RMT
Healing Cedar Wellness
Healing Cedar Wellness'