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Make alternative healing become mainstream, discussion part 3

In part 1. I posted an article written by a few wise medical authorities called "Alternative Healing is mainstream". In part 2, I showed my support to the integration of alternative healing and making these healing methods more popular. I'm not even a doctor myself, but I know a few TCM doctors who can give thousands of examples on how Healthy Check works with "the power of simple, low-tech and low-cost" as said in the article. One of the examples I heard was from an acupuncturist. There's a middle aged guy whose three coronary arteries are already congested. He was arranged to have a coronary artery bypass surgery. However, in a physical check right before the operation, they found that one of his kidneys totally malfunctioned, so the operation got canceled to avoid the risk of dying in the operation room. However, after he went home, his friend knew about his situation and then recommended him an acupuncturist. The day when he came to the acupuncture office he was so painful on the chest, and couldn't stop the shallow and difficult breaths and of course, very nervous. The acupuncturist just had him lay down, just right after a few needles pinched into the acupoints, the chest pain is gone. After a deep breath, he told the acupuncturist that he never felt that well with his heart. 20 minutes later after pulling off the needles, he's so happy that he just knew he's already much better. He told the acupuncturist that usually he had to stop and take a breath every 10 steps. Just right after this treatment he could already walk without stopping at all. He was so surprised that acupuncture can be so efficient. When he found out the bill was just $50. He was even more amazed. If he take the surgery just for a reduction of pain, it's going to cost him $50,000. And even after the surgery, the congestions still occur, and he knows few years later he'll have to do it again. 10 days later, he faxed and told the acupuncturist after the last session and take some herb medicines, his chest pain is totally gone, and he can walk like usual and can even do some exercise. He went to the hospital and had check up. Suddenly there were no more congestion in the coronary arteries.  He immediately questioned why American medical system never use acupuncture to treat heart problems. Because it's efficient and much more affordable. There's no side effects and no need to cut a hole on your chest. This is just one of the stories the acupuncturist talked about. The point of this example here is not about how great this acupuncturist is, it's about how this example tells the new hope of the future. The economy can recover much quicker if our burden of medical expense is relieved by alternative healing methods, and President Obama probably already knew that. Alternative healing may be used as an option for bargain against the American medicines.


Make alternative healing become mainstream, discussion part 2

In the last post I posted an article written by a few wise medical authorities called "Alternative Healing is mainstream". To save our country in long term, or even in the short-term, I do hope President Obama will put some efforts on promoting alternative healing methods, while he's still fighting for healthcare of all public against the medical companies. Again, the huge medical expense can be reduced by just switching healing methods, especially the huge expense paying the medical professionals who take care of the chronic disease patients. A lot of studies already prove that traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture, acupressure and Qi Gong can relieve those chronic pain. As Healthy Check being much more cost effective compared to the expensive medical care in America, President Obama should really find out a way to intergrate both Chinese and American medical system so that we can make medical insurance more affordable. Honestly, if more resources can be put on alternative healing research including Healthy Check and natural ways of healing from other countries, it's going to change the health of western world from the basis and save the medical budgets for at least 80%. We already the average life span of Asians are longer than Americans and Europeans. The longevity is not based on the cutting edge medical technology and equipments, it's based on the natural healing and health protection. Of course, we know Western medicine has their incomparable value, especially in the surgery areas. However, there's an old saying that said, "Prevention is always better than cure." And alternative healing is definitely great in terms of preventive medicine. Traditional Chinese medicine especially recommends, "Cure before the disease." It means not just to have a regular physical check, but cure yourself regularly with decoctions, diet, exercise, acupressure, Qi Gong etc. It's just a matter of whether Americans can believe these or not.

Health insurance policy for retired seniors now is ridiculous. It's like you either a very poor senior with no properties, no income and nothing to get healthcare, or you retire rich that you don't ever have to worry about your healthcare. For most people in the middle class, who own something but getting old, the health insurance is so ridiculously hard to afford. If this direction keeps going wrong like that and the medical companies keep making profits for investors without thinking what medicines are really for, someday, or even now, America will be so screwed.


How to find out if you pick the right medicine or a right doctor

I recently read a Chinese article written by a traditional Chinese medicine doctor and found it interesting. It's about how we know if we find the right doctor, right treatment or right medicine. Of course, this doctor didn't say he's the best. Rather, he respect whatever treatment or whoever we believe in. The point he's trying to make is to tell us how to indicate by ourselves that we're really getting proper treatment and are going on the right direction. I'll try to translate what he said here.

There are so many diet supplements, Qi Gong classes, and certain doctors are exaggerating how good their treatments are. All these various methods, classes, medicines and supplements are making people wondering which one is working for them. It really doesn't matter which method people believe and insist on trying, as long as it benefits the patient, any kinds of treatment should be respected. However, if those treatments are not working and makes the patients waste a lot of money and most importantly, miss the best timing for the cure, that's going to be the worst.

Actually, there's a simple indication in general to differentiate what works and what doesn't. And the plan is to continue the treatment if the indicator shows that it works, stop the treatment if it's the opposite. Here is the indicator: a healthy person always feel warm with the limbs, and relatively cooler on the face and the head. If limbs are getting cold, that means sickness is already there in the body. So when we don't feel well for whatever reason, the limbs will be colder than usual. Then after you start the treatment with medicines / vitamins / diet supplements / exercises / herbs / Qi Gong / surgery / chemical therapy / acupuncture etc, if your limbs are feeling even colder, that means those treatments fail. If your limbs are starting to feel warmer, that means those treatment works, and you're on the right track of recovery.

So sometimes whenever a person tells you that "I'm taking XXX supplement", ask this person if his/her limbs feel colder or warmer after taking it. If the answer is colder, that means this supplement is not just fail on this individual, it even "feeds" the potential disease like cancer and virus. Same theory, if the Qi Gong master or the TCM doctor or the acupuncturist makes the limbs feel from cold to warm, that means they're good for the patient and fit the needs. If it's the opposite, the patient better switch to some other treatments.


Introduction to Ginseng, part 1

Other than Lingzhi, Ginseng rank the second or almost the first among Chinese herbs. In Chinese history, ginseng has been a legendary herbal medicine that can almost turn death back alive. Of course, those were all myths but you can tell how ginseng became one of the group of medical herbs that are highly respected. It's properties are great for regulating body function, like a big tune up of your body. After western medicine did a lot of research on ginseng, it was told that these properties are due to chemical constituents that are similar to hormones.  Now there are mostly three ginsengs on the market, two of which belong to the genus Panax. "Panax" comes from the Greek "pan" and "akos", meaning a cure-all medicinal herb. There are many species of this genus, the following three are commonly cultivated and marketed.

Chinese or Korean ginseng (Panax Ginseng)

高麗參,人參  (Mandarin: Gao Li Shen, Ren Shen; Cantonese:  Go Lai Sum, Yun Sum)

This is the most commonly used and marketed of the Panax species. It's now cultivated in northern China and Korea. The myths and stories of ginseng mostly referred to this species. It's best for senior people. There was a post I talked about Korean Ginseng Chicken soup.

American ginseng (Panax quinquefolium)

花旗參 (Mandarin: Hua Qi Shen; Cantonese:  Fa Kay Sum)

This grows wild on the forested mountain slopes in eastern North America, mostly in Wisconsin. It keeps you awake and reduce your "heat". The function is quite different from Korean ginseng.

Russian or Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus)

俄羅斯/西伯利亞參 (抽參)(Mandarin: Chou Shen; Cantonese:  Chau Sum)

Although it's in the same family as true ginseng,  this herb belongs to another genus. It's chemistry and therapeutic properties are similar to true ginseng.

(sources:  Streetwise Guide: Chinese Herbal Medicine by Wong Kang Ying and Martha Dahle)


Single-herb formula to treat Arteriosclerosis

Arteriosclerosis, commonly known as hardening of the arteries, is a condition in which the arteries lose elasticity because of calcium deposits within their lining or because of muscle and elastic fibers being replaced by fibrous tissue. Both types can be characterized by a thickening of the arteries walls and a narrowing of their channels, hence causes hypertension. The inefficient blood circulation through arteries can cause bigger concern when it affects the coronary artery that delivers blood to the heart.

Arteriosclerosis happens to mostly older people, but it can affect any age who doesn't care much about their health, with regard to diet and exercise. To improve circulation and keep the arteries elastic, traditional Chinese medicine suggests herbal therapy, walking, massage and certain gentle exercises like Tai Chi (a gentle martial art). And low cholesterol diet can help reducing its deposits narrowing the channels of the arteries. Red meat, dairy products, salt, refined sugar and alcohol should be avoided. Obesity and smoking also make arteriosclerosis worse.

There's a single-herb formula recommended by TCM to treat arteriosclerosis, and the herb is called "Shan Zha" in Mandarin (山楂), which is known as Hawthorne Berry or Hawthorn fruit.  It tastes sweet and sour and you can even find some very nice snacks made of Shan Zha in Chinese grocery stores. One of the famous snack is called Haw Flakes. There are also Shan Zha patent medicine as well.

Shan Zha tea (Hawthorn Berry Tea)

Ingredient: 15 grams of Shan Zha (Hawthorn fruit)

Description: Take Shan Zha tea several times a day is an effective way to reduce fatty lipids in the blood, lower cholesterol and softens the arteries. This formula should be used for a long period of time like 2 to 3 years. Shan Zha also improves digestion and circulation of blood, help hypertension and coronary heart disease.

Preparation: Use a tea cup, add 8 oz of boiling water to about 2 teaspoons of Shan Zha; cover the coup and wait for 10-15 minutes. Strain off the Shan Zha herb and drink the tea.

(sources: Chinese Herbal Medicine made easy by Thomas Richard Joiner, Streetwise Guide: Chinese Herbal Medicine by Wong Kang Ying and Martha Dahle)


Chinese herbal decoction for Conjunctivitis (sore eyes)

An inflammation of the conjunctiva (the mucus membrane lining between the inner eyelid and the front of eyeball), conjunctivitis causes discomfort, redness and a discharge. Most likely the causes are either infection or allergies. Infection usually caused by the bacteria spread the contact of hand to eye, or from a virus associated with a cold, sore throat, measles or flu. Allergic reactions are usually cuzed by cosmetics, contact lens cleaning solutions, or pollen. Regular hand washing is definitely good to prevent infection, while keep ourselves away from the allergens will help on allergies.

Traditional Chinese medicine treats conjunctivitis and sore eyes with a decoction of a single-herb tea made from Xia Ku Cao (Prunella Spike-Self-Heal, Prunella vulgaris or Self-Heal, 夏枯草in Chinese).

Action: Clears heat from the liver, thereby reducing heat and toxins in the blood.

Use: Prescriptions, or single-herb tea, or soups

Remarks: This is considered to be a fabulous general tonic during the summer when heat stress of the liver generates a range of symptoms, such as headache, dizziness and sore eyes. It's antibacterial and specific for treating for red, painful and swollen eyes.

In a lot of Chinese supermarket, you can find sweetened Xia Ku Cao herb tea in bottles, or packet powder for instant tea as well. It's very popular and common especially during the summer.

(sources: Chinese Herbal Medicine made easy by Thomas Richard Joiner, Streetwise Guide: Chinese Herbal Medicine by Wong Kang Ying and Martha Dahle)


Chinese herbal tea: Chrysanthemum tea

Chrysanthemum is a milder, sweeter relative of chamomile. Both are members of the sunflower plant  family. Chrysanthemum flowers have the ability to cleanse and cool the liver without interfering the function of the stomach. It's an herb for all people in all ages. And there are few popular styles of making the tea popular.

  • Simple preparation - infuse the flowers alone as you would tea, using about one tablespoon of flowers per cup of boiling water.  Drink either hot or cold, plain or sweetened.
  • Flowers can also be added to regular Chinese tea. A very common Cantonese called "Gook Po" is referred to Chrysanthemum flowers added to the tea "Po Lei". It's perfect balanced with Yin and Yang, which makes it a very healthy Chinese tea drinking style.
  • Chrysanthemum flowers can be boiled. If they're combined with equal amounts of honeysuckle flowers; add water with a tablespoon of flowers per cup; bring to the boil and then simmer until the tea is well flavored. Add some crystal rock sugar for even better taste.
  • If you are too lazy to make your own tea, there are actually a lot of different pre-made Chrysanthemum tea in cans or bottle or powder mix in packets in almost all Chinese supermarket or grocery store. Probably one of the easiest drinks you can find there.

(sources: Streetwise Guide: Chinese Herbal Medicine by Wong Kang Ying and Martha Dahle, photos from, and


Preparation of Chinese herbal medicines – decoction

Although herbs can be prepared in many ways including oils, liniments, pills, capsules, tablets, ointments etc.  - decoction (tea) and medicinal wine are the most popular and most functional methods for Chinese herbs consumption.

In many countries, tea is considered as one of the beverage choices. However in China, tea is a major beverage that is not only considered as refreshment but therapeutic and life-sustaining.

Shen Nong, is an ancient legend figure who first introduced tea-drinking. He's also the one who wrote the earliest text available about Chinese herbal medicine. So in China culture use of herbs for healing is always related to the technique of decoction, which is like brewing tea. Decoction is particularly effective for acute disorders, because herbal tea is quickly absorbed into bloodstream and become effective in healing.

Although preparation is simple, there are still something to remember:

  • Never cook a decoction in metal pot. Use porcelain, Pyrex, enamel or glass. Because metal can adversely affect some herbal constituents. You can find those special porcelain pot for decoction in most Chinese herbal shops.
  • When preparing a decoction, bring the water to a rolling boil first and then add the herbs; This is to extract the therapeutic properties of the herbs.
  • Always simmer the decoction over a low flame.
  • Never store the decoction using plastic containers.

Instruction for preparing a decoction in general:

  • Immerse the herbs into a required amount of room-temperature water for half to one hour.
  • Bring that required amount of room-temperature water in a large pot to rolling boil. Add the herbs again, stir, and return to a boil;
  • Lower the heat to simmer and cover the pot until rolling boil;
  • Simmer over a low flame with partial lid on and wait until certain amount of water reduced to certain amount of water - depending on the directions. For example, "3 bowls of water reduced to one" is a common directive.
  • Remove the pot from heat with the lid on, and allow the cooked tea to cool.
  • Strain off the herbs and discard them, or boil twice in order to extract all its goodness - as directed by the doctor.
  • Place the herbal tea into a glass container if necessary. It could be stored in the refrigerator for about 10-14 days. Avoid using microwave to heat it back up, though.

For those who're too busy to boil the herbs, they can tell the herb shop to boil for them for a small charge, and keep it warm until the customer comes back.

(sources: Chinese Herbal Medicine made easy by Thomas Richard Joiner, Streetwise Guide: Chinese Herbal Medicine by Wong Kang Ying and Martha Dahle)


Forms of Chinese herbal medicines

I sort of talked about herbs, foods, over the counter, tonic tinctures few days ago. Today I'll continue to talk more about these different forms as an introduction of the coming few detail posts about these forms of Chinese herbal medicines. Each form has its own advantages. Take the form that match our particular needs and use the form most appropriate to the urgency of the situation. Also consider the time of preparation required for cooking and curing the herbs.

1. Raw form - decoction - herbs made into tea

Usually because decocted raw herbal formulas are normally taken as it is. Most of the time it's going to challenge your tolerance of unpleasant taste. Mostly are bitter in taste, while there are also some exceptions. However, this form is more potent and that usually gives quicker cure than patent formulas.

2. Raw form - tonic tinctures - herbs made into medicinal wine

Like decoction, making herbs into alcohol solution (medicinal wine) produces a potion that is more potent and provides quicker cure. Although the preparation is quite easy and you can make a big bottle at one time for longer consumption. Most these wines takes 60-90 days to make. On the other hand, medicinal wine tastes better than decoction because normally it's sweetened by honey or crystallized rock sugar.

3. Patent form - over the counter -  in pill form, salves, syrup, herbal oils, tablets and ointments

Patent formulas are usually over the counter medicines or premixed packets, or in pill, syrup, tablets form. Taste doesn't seem to matter in this case. And it's the most convenient way to take herbal medicine. However, as I mentioned in that last article, the function of these medicines are quiet broad and not tailor-made for individuals.

One thing worth mentioning about the ingredients of herbal formulas is that we mentioned in the last article that there are some animal parts involved like tiger bone or deer antler in certain exotic prescriptions. However, since it raised both ethical and legal issues, now they've already found herb replacements for those animal ingredients. There are less animal getting killed or injured for that reason now - in fact there aren't many animals left for herbal medicinal use after all the widespread killings these years. Now a lot of these animals are protected from further killings. Of course, the "under the counter" trade in Chinese herb shop still happens.

Another thing I want to clarify is that just because a patent formula or a name of a prescription has the word "tiger" doesn't mean it contains tiger parts. Most of the time these names are not literal. For example, "tiger" just signifies power and strength to Chinese people, kind of like the meaning of dragon, which doesn't even exist.

(sources: Chinese Herbal Medicine made easy by Thomas Richard Joiner.)