First up, this article isn’t a remedy or cure for Covid 19. It’s about the oriental method of viewing and strengthening the immune system as well as a way to continue training when it isn’t possible to attend classes. By Oriental Philosophy, I refer to Taoist and Buddhist philosophy. The oriental people, especially Chinese and Japanese, have a long history of dealing with disease, plague, pestilence, climate change, war, famine, floods, bandits etc. They have applied their philosophy and strategy sucessfully over the millennia to great success. In traditional cultures it was, and still is, important to be healthy. If you couldn’t work you didn’t eat, your health deteriorated and your situation disimproved in a downward spiral.
From a Five Element (Wu Xing) perspective, the immune system includes: Lungs (metal) – breathing, Stomach/Spleen (earth) – digestion, Heart (fire) – sleep, Liver (wood) – release of energy, Kidneys (water) – constitutional strength.
Things which are important to improve the immune system include healthy diet, good quality sleep, minimise stress, exercise etc.
Diet and sleep are the two biggest factors we need to consider when talking of boosting the immune system as well as improving energy generally. In oriental philosophy a healthy immune system is synonomous with good healthy Qi/Ki.
Eating a balanced diet with all the essential nutrients and vitamins we need to be in top condition is important. Consider the amount of activity you are doing, time of year etc. When engaged in more physical activity, eat a more protein based diet. When engaged in more internal work/sedentary activiy, eat more carbohydrates and vegetables. In winter eat more warming foods; in summer, eat more cooling foods. We also consider eating at regular times, not eating too fast, chewing our food well, and allowing time for digestion are all important. Of course, give up eating sugar.
Sleep is another factor which is an indicator of your health and the state of your immune system. By good sleep I don’t mean crashing out for 7-8 hours and waking up feeling like you were dragged backwards through a bush. To sleep well, you should, ideally, wake up feeling refreshed and ready to face the day. Waking up in the same position without remembering anything of your sleep probably indicates that you are exhausted and need to rest more. Dreaming good quality dreams (not the exhausting or consuming type) is usually an indicator of good health.
Exercise is important for developing the immune system, as well as mindfulness meditation and breathing exercises.
Exercises can be put in two types, aerobic exercises and internal exercises like Qigong.
Applying Taoist strategy, when exercising it is important not to deplete the body. If we are training for a marathon or preparing for a grading test, it is important to train to depletion. However, when training to boost the immune system, our goal is to increase the amount and availability of Qi/Ki in our bodies, so we would train at a moderate level. When finished our training we should feel “energised.”
Aerobic exercises are important for building up cardiovascular strength and improving the lung capacity. Examples are walking, jogging, cycling and swimming, especially in the sea. Cold showers are good if you can’t get to the sea. For Aikido practitioners, doing sword cuts at a moderate pace for 20-30 minutes is a good daily workout. It usually takes me 3-4 minutes to do 100 cuts, aim for 500-900. Include breathing practice in this, inhale as you cut up and exhale as you cut down. Inhale may be shorter than exhale. Each breath will be of different length, so let the body movement follow the breath rather than the other way round. Don’t forget mindfulness, the mind follows what you are doing.
Qigong breathing exercises work on building up the lung capacity. Lowering the diaphragm muscle when inhaling and exhaling, as well as working the shoulder joints and muscles on the upper back, facilitates the exchange of air in the lungs and allows for greater oxygen extraction from the air. This also releases endorphins which calm the mind and relieve stress. Qigong also works on calming the mind, so deals with stress, which will deplete the Qi/Ki in our bodies. Follow along with this example:
Stretching is another important tool for optimal health. I recommend the book Aikido Preparatory Exercises by Morito Suganuma.
Another book I refer to is Buddhist Yoga by Rev. Kanjitsu Iijima.
Frequency is also important, every day is best, forty minutes to two hours is good if you have the time. Remember, don’t rush, take your time and practice mindfully. If, like me, you have more stuff to practice than time allows, it’s important to make a list so you get everything covered over the course of a week or month. Varying your routine is important because it keeps you more focused; doing the same old stuff day in and day out in the same way leads to boredom and maybe giving up. From a mindfulness perspective you may be focusing on the destination (getting it over with) rather than letting the process unfold. As Lao Tzu said; “A good traveller has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.”
Another important aspect is rest. Balance activity with rest. As in music, the silence between notes is just as important as the melody. Listen to your body and take note of biorhythms. If it’s a good day and you feel great, do more. Whereas, if you feel a little tired, do less. Vary the intensity and speed of practice depending on how you feel. Don’t be too fixed on schedules or agendas, but beware of laziness as an excuse. Examples of restful activity include lying on the floor after stretching and completely letting go, watching clouds float by, watching the waves on the beach or watching ripples or reflections on water. Which brings us on to Wu Wei.
Wu Wei means something like “non-doing” or “non-action.” A better way to think of it, however, is as a paradoxical “Action of non-action.” This concept is key to the noblest kind of action according to the philosophy of Taoism, and is at the heart of what it means to follow Tao or The Way. According to the central text of Taoism, the Tao Te Ching: “The Way never acts yet nothing is left undone”. This is the paradox of Wu Wei. It doesn’t mean not acting, it means “effortless action” or “actionless action”. It means being at peace while engaged in the most frenetic tasks so that one can carry these out with maximum skill and efficiency. Something of the meaning of Wu Wei is captured when we talk of being “in the zone” – at one with what we are doing, in a state of profound concentration and flow.
Chinese herbal medicine has a long history of treating colds, flu and viruses. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) uses scientific principles when approaching this issue. That is, a hypothesis is proposed and the practitioner sets out to either prove the hypothesis or disprove it. This has been done for centuries and is effective. I began to apply this approach 18 years ago when I had a bad flu. I haven’t had a dose of flu since, despite being in situations where I was at risk; for example, being in the same room with infected patients for an hour or more and not catching it. I have other examples too, so I know it works for me.
To apply this method we need to know certain things. TCM theory is quite complex, so I will only use everyday language. We need to know what the immune system means in oriental philosophy and what to do to boost it. We also need to know how colds, flu and viruses enter the body and how they develop. Then we need to have a strategy to deal with it. Having a strategy is important, if we are aware of a possibility or outcome, we are more likely to achieve that goal. So, we need to know, for example, that it is possible to get through a year without getting a cold or flu episode.
At any time, we need to know the strength of our immune system versus the strength of the pathogen.
The immune system is the working together of all systems in the body at peak efficiency. Before we start to boost the immune system, we need to evaluate where we are currently. If we have a compromised immune system from a chronic illness, for example, we would have a longer way to go than someone with good health. We would also ask how many, if any, colds or flu episodes we get each year. The more compromised we are the longer it will take to get through a year without any episodes. Strategically speaking, we need to clear the body of any infections we have before we can boost the immune system. If we get an infection, all the resources of the immune system go towards fighting the infection. An analogy I use is that it’s like saving. First you need to clear debts before you can start saving; if a crisis develops you need to spend to get over the crisis before we can build up reserves again. Assuming you are in good health, you can ask yourself at any time “how do I feel now?” This is a good indicator of your immune system. Only you can answer that question honestly to yourself.
Everybody is affected by biorhythms. We feel differently depending on our work, sleep patterns, diet, stress, phases of the moon etc. If you feel less than 100%, your immune system will be temporarily lowered. Too much alcohol will temporarily lower the immune system, so drink less, especially if you feel low already, or are planning to meet people the next day. Working too hard or long hours etc., will deplete the body of reserves of energy. When we feel low, tired, etc., we are at risk of infection. This can be temporary, when we are in good health we bounce back. The other factor is the strength of the pathogen. When we feel 100% and are faced with a mild pathogen, our immune system may fight it off without it taking hold in the body. On the other hand, if we are facing a very strong virus, no matter how strong our immune system, we may become infected. Conversely, no matter how depleted you are, if you don’t encounter a virus you won’t be infected, hence the necessity of cocooning.
The next part of the equation is what are you going to do about it. To use the strategy of TCM, we need to know the theory of how colds, flu and viruses enter the body and how herbal medicine works. The best situation is not to be exposed in the first place. The second best time to treat is when we are exposed and have no symptoms yet. We can also take a herbal medicine formula as prevention. To do this effectively, we need to have a formula in our possession as you need to take it straight away.
The first signs are feeling off colour, muzzy feeling in the head, tickle in the throat, chills etc. Chinese Herbal Medicine will also work when we show first symptoms, but the virus hasn’t developed further. This is when Chinese Herbal Medicine works best; as a prevention, and in the early stages. When we have full symptoms, we still treat, but our aim then is to lessen the symptoms and shorten the duration of the illness. If in doubt act sooner, especially when strong viruses are around or you are unsure of the strength of your immune system.
Chinese Herbal Medicine has many formulae to treat colds, flu and viruses. I will talk about one which I use frequently for prevention and treatment of colds, flu and viruses.
Yin Qiao San/Honeysuckle and Forsythia Powder. This formula is good for prevention of infections like colds and flu and also for treating infections. Yin Qiao treats symptoms of colds and flu – aches and pains, sore throat, cough, runny nose and fever. Whenever I took this formula and took my temperature, it went down by 2 degrees and stayed down for 4 hours. This is significant in breaking a fever. So, taking a dose every 4 hours is important. Do this until the fever has broken. If you reduce the dose and symptoms return, go back to the full dose.
Yin Qiao San is available in a lot of places online. However, it would be best to get it from a TCM practitioner. TCM practitioners will use high quality herbs grown and produced using ethical guidelines and GMP standards. Herbal granules are used which are mixed with warm water, taken on an empty stomach to facilitate absorption.
As a prevention, take a half spoonful powder in warm water on an empty stomach. Take this twice a a day.
If you have a compromised immune system due to a chronic illness, or other risk factors: elderly, obese, high blood pressure, for example, take a full dose, 1 teaspoonful of powder, twice a day on an empty stomach.
When you are going to be in a crowded space, travelling, or any space with recirculated air, take a full dose twice a day as a precaution.
If symptoms develop, or you are sharing a space with an infected person, take a full dose every 4 hours.
All of the above works well with viruses like the cold and flu. How it would work with a new virus, like Covid 19, we don’t know. Interesting though, is that one of the ingredients of Yin Qiao is Rx. Glycyrrhizae, prepared licorice root. This was shown to be beneficial in the treatment of SARS. See link: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/228473512_Research_and_application_of_Radix_Glycyrrhizae
So, get Yin Qiao San asap if you want to try this strategy.
P.S. If you have an auto immune disorder seek medical advice before taking herbal medicine.
Other things which help the immune system: green tea. Take this with a sprig of mint. Make a flask of tea and sip it throughout the day. When I worked in Chinese hospitals, we did this all the time.
Medicinal Mushrooms can help the immune system and have been used in TCM for centuries, especially Ganoderma/Ling Zhi and Shitake. Fresh Shitake is available in some greengrocers and can be added to recipes.See links for medicinal mushrooms: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/reishi-mushroom-benefits#TOC_TITLE_HDR_3
https://fullscript.com/blog/mushrooms-for-immune-health They can be bought from a TCM herbalist or online. See Amazon link https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mushroom-Capsules-Cordyceps-Additives-Manufactured/dp/B01BMPK5C4
Vitamin D is important to take for the immune system. Take 400–800 IU, or 10–20 micrograms. See article:
Vitamin C is also important for the immune system. Here is a link to an article I wrote on making your own juice:
I draw this information from decades studying and practicing Aikido, Zen meditation, Qigong, Tai Chi, Shiatsu and TCM.
From a natural health perspective, it would be best to maintain optimal health and not have a need to detox in the first place. That is not always possible, so we need to detox our bodies to maintain optimal health. New year is a good time to do this. Detoxing means to remove poisons or toxins. Our bodies have natural waste management system, waste is eliminated via out breath, urine, sweat and faeces. We filter the air we breathe, and the food and drink we consume, and anything we absorb through our skin. Our blood circulation, digestive tract, liver, kidneys and lungs operate efficiently and effectively in the right conditions.
The problems arise when we overload. For example, drinking coffee and alcohol every day, breathing polluted lead laden air, eating processed foods full of additives and sugars. Also, overeating and not getting enough sleep, feeling stressed and upset, partying hard or often add to the situation. These all exhaust our bodies and gradually their ability to eliminate wastes diminishes and toxins build up. We cease to thrive.
The answer may lay in a Detox. ‘Detox diets” can be severe, eating only raw foods or fasting, taking purgatives and colonics. This can be OK if you are strong but it can drain and exhaust softer constitutions. Detoxing to invigorate and tonify must be appropriate to the individual. It is much kinder and more natural to support our constitutions by working in harmony with what each person’s needs. A gradual detox will be as effective and a lot kinder then extreme changes in diet. Sudden withdrawal from toxins such as sugars, coffee and alcohol can cause great discomfort with headaches, mood swings and cravings.
Our body is automatically programmed to cleanse itself daily. However, with our fast-paced modern lifestyle and exposure to an increasing number of harmful and toxic substances, our body’s natural cleansing ability has become overworked and compromised.
Many signs and symptoms attributed to stress are now being linked to exposure from harmful substances such as PCBs, pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics, growth hormones, and mercury in food and liquids as well as dioxins in the air.
These substances most notably affect the healthy functioning of the liver and immune system. Common symptoms include:
Harmful and toxic substances from our chemically laden food and polluted environment have also become implicated as a leading cause of many serious illnesses.
To counter this growing situation, TCM doctors have developed a Cleansing and Detoxification Program that is unique and highly useful in ridding the body of many harmful and toxic substances.
Acupuncture stimulates neurological, immunological, and endocrine responses beneficial to tissue cleansing and cell rejuvenation. It also stimulates the release of endorphins that reduce the pain and discomfort sometimes experienced when detoxifying and withdrawing from addictive substances such as alcohol, caffeine, drugs, nicotine and sugar. Blog on acupuncture: https://www.acupuncturecork.com/what-to-expect-during-an-acupuncture-appointment/
The proprietary herbal formulations focus on drawing the toxins directly out of the body through increased sweating, urination, and bowel movements. Some of the herbs directly support the filtering function of the liver and assist it in cleansing and promoting cell repair and cell regeneration.
The heat and deep vibratory action of the far-infrared energy promotes the release of toxins through increased circulation and through sweating. The far-infrared heat lamp differs from the conventional sauna in its ability to penetrate deeply beneath the superficial layers of the skin. Studies show that the infrared light waves help to rid the body of toxins that are stored beyond the superficial layers of the skin. The excreted toxins include: cholesterol, fat soluble toxins, toxic heavy metals (such as mercury and aluminum), sulfuric acid, sodium, ammonia and uric acid. The unusually high concentration of heavy metals and other fat-soluble toxins is not found in the sweat from normal exercise or a regular sauna.
Toxins often accumulate in the connective tissues creating blockages and impeding blood and fluid circulation. Tuina massage consists of special massage techniques, lymphatic drainage, joint rotations, and cupping. The strong suction action of the cupping stimulates blood and lymphatic fluid to flow near the skin’s surface and to key areas of the body for easy and direct release of toxins.
Regular exercise is important for health. Exercises like walking, especially in nature and parks, is important for cardiovascular fitness as well as enjoying being in nature. Tai Chi is a very relaxing routine which exercises the body and calms the mind. So, it is very good for coping with stress as well as stopping stress from getting out of control. See these exercises as developing “me time”, rather than a chore which must be completed to get to a goal. https://www.facebook.com/TaiChiCorkDavidHankey/
When undergoing an internal cleanse it’s important to work with dealing with stress as well as the needs of the body. Chi Kung is a Chinese medical energy therapy in the holistic tradition. Chi Kung is a light touch healing technique that serves as the foundation of the practices of acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine. A Chi Kung practitioner will use their hands and body to sense areas of improper blood and energy flow. They will make subtle adjustments to encourage your physical organs to cleanse themselves and your emotions to release their excesses as well. Chi Kung is also a set of mind/body exercises which help with stress. Blog on Qigong: https://www.acupuncturecork.com/medical-qigong-to-improve-health-and-immune-system/
The liver regulates the body as well as the emotions. The liver regulates Chi, the vital energy that sustains life, and stores blood, which carries Chi around the body and supports the functioning of our organs, limbs and tissues. While you’re awake, the liver supplies blood to the muscles. During sleep, blood returns to the liver to be cleansed.
Sour foods: According to TCM, sour foods tend to nourish the liver. A refreshing glass of lemon water has a diuretic effect, which can help you flush toxins from your body. Blog on making your own juice: https://www.acupuncturecork.com/health-benefits-of-making-your-own-juice/
Ginger: This yang (warming food) nourishes blood, improves circulation, and has antibiotic and antibacterial effects that can help your body cleanse toxins and fight pathogens. You can easily add a few slivers of freshly sliced ginger to teas, porridge and soups.
Turmeric: This pungent spice decongests the liver, clears heat from the body, and improves the flow of Chi and blood. Add a dash of turmeric to a bowl of soup or a rice dish, or brew it directly to drink. Turmeric powder is also present in many Indian curry recipes.
Dandelion root: A cleansing, detoxifying herb that cools the blood and nourishes the liver. Springtime is the ideal time to drink dandelion tea. Not only are dandelions in flower during this season, but spring is associated with wood, the element of the liver.
Magnolia berry (wu wei zi): The magnolia berry has anti-inflammatory properties and is known to nourish and protect the liver. Brew it as a tea and drink a cup per day.
Goji Berries: As well as detoxing, it is important to add some tonic herbs and suppliments. Goji berries are high antioxidant potential fruits which alleviate oxidative stress to confer many health protective benefits, such as preventing free radicals from damaging DNA, lipids, and proteins.
Dark Chocolate: Dark chocolate is high in magnesium, which is needed by the liver. Magnesium deficiency symptoms include
Dark Chocolate is also in high in iron, copper and manganese and contains prebiotic fibre that feeds your healthy gut bacteria.
Nutritional therapy plays a distinct and essential role in the detox program. The aim includes selected foods that cleanse the liver and intestinal tract and provide key nutrients such as all the vitamins and minerals necessary for optimal health.
From the Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective each person is different with different needs, there are some basic steps that will help everybody:
If you follow these steps, your toxic load and stress levels will drop quickly. This allows the organs to function effectively eliminating waste products and conveying nourishment to every cell. Sadly after years of neglect, it can be hard to return to normal function levels, and imbalances persist. This is when acupuncture and herbs are very helpful. Acupuncture regulates the internal homeostasis which means it gets everything working properly, it is like tuning and servicing a complex machine. Herbs support this function.
A course of treatment and dietary advice from a TCM practitioner will ensure that your detox is effective. Regular visits will help you to stay on course and keep organs functioning well. When we feel well and happy cravings for toxic foods and lifestyle diminish. It is misguided to harshly detox and then return to old habits. Far better to live well most of the time with the occasional indiscretion. Your body will cope perfectly with that when it is all tuned up.
Contact David Hankey for more details or to make an appointment for any of the above treatments, or for details of my Tai Chi and Chi Kung classes.
Phone: 087 2744735
Thai Pumpkin Soup is a healthy and nutritious dish which is easily prepared. It freezes well, so once made it can easily be thawed and ready to eat.
Eating pumpkin is good for the heart. The fiber, potassium, and vitamin C content in pumpkin all support heart health. Studies suggest that consuming enough potassium may be almost as important as decreasing sodium intake for the treatment of hypertension, or high blood pressure.
The bright orange color of pumpkin comes from its rich supply of beta-carotene, which the body converts to vitamin A. This essential vitamin promotes eye health, and just a single cup of pumpkin provides over 200% of the recommended daily value of vitamin A. In addition, pumpkin is a great source of antioxidants, which have been suggested to help prevent cataracts and slow the development of macular degeneration.
Pumpkins are ready to harvest and eat in Autumn. The beginning of autumn is often also the start of cold and flu season. Help guard against sickness with a regular serving of pumpkin soup. Its high vitamin A content may help the body resist infections and viruses. If you do catch a cold, pumpkin can help you recover faster, thanks to its high vitamin C content.
Magnesium is a vital component to more than 600 chemical reactions in the body, including controlling blood pressure, regulating blood sugar levels, reducing the risk of heart disease and much more. Magnesium is also necessary for healthy menstruation. Yet, the vast majority of adults are deficient in this essential mineral. Pumpkin seeds are a great natural source of magnesium, and are easy to prepare. Save the seeds when preparing the soup. Simply spread them on a sheet, sprinkle with salt, and bake at 180 degrees C. Roast until toasted, about 25 minutes. Pumpkin seeds are also a good source of other nutrients, including manganese, copper, protein, and many anti-oxidants.
Pumpkin contains lots of fiber, which is known to help slow digestion and promote satiety, keeping you feeling fuller longer. In addition, it is also a great low-calorie food, with just about 50 calories per serving.
When consumed, the high beta-carotene content in pumpkin helps protect the skin from the sun’s wrinkle-causing UV rays.
So, take advantage of this awesome fruit. Yes, technically it is a fruit, any time of the year!
Pressure cook some chicken bones with 8 cups of water, a Bay Leaf, salt and pepper to taste. Takes about 30 minutes. Alternatively, used a chicken stock cube or vegetable stock cube.
Dice the onion and ginger and sauté in a large pot with some Toasted Sesame Oil along with the spices. Deseed the pumpkin and remove the skin. Cut into cubes and add to the pot along with the stock. Brin to the boil and simmer for about 20 minutes. Blend the soup into a fine puree and add the coconut milk. Cook for another 5 minutes and add salt and pepper to taste.
Garnish with fresh coriander and black pepper and some Lime Zest.
It freezes well, and can be put in tubs and frozen.
Tuesdays 6 – 7.30 pm.
Tuesdays in The Quaker Meeting Hall, Summerhill South, Cork. Thursday morning outdoor class in Parkowen, off Quaker Road from 11-12.30.
Tel or Text: 087 2744 735 to book a place.
Classes will consist of:
Classes will be limited to 9 people, so please book early.
DAVID HANKEY has been practicing Qi Gong, Aikido and Zen meditation for more than 30 years. He has been practicing Tai Chi for more than 25 years and has been teaching for more than 25 years. David has taught in Ireland as well as China. He also received private instruction in Qi Gong from his teacher Prof. Wu Tian Cheng. David is a student of Wudang Europa with Taoist Master Tian Liyang. In addition, David is a practitioner of Acupuncture, Chinese Herbal Medicine, Shiatsu and Tuina
Tel : 087 2744 735 for details of classes
The Wudang Mountains in Hubei, China, are the location of many Taoist monasteries and temples. Taoism focuses on the spiritual aspect of being. The objective of people on the Taoist path is living a long and meaningful life by living in harmony with nature. This can be symbolised as a circle which has no beginning and no end. The aim of the practitioner is to find the still spot within the circle.
Taoist Tai Chi
Tai Chi Chuan is an ancient system of physical exercise that promotes total health: emotional, mental and spiritual. Unlike exercises that use exertion and force to build muscular strength, a strength that inevitably deteriorates with age, the gentle and flowing, yet rigorous, movements of Tai Chi focus on relaxing and straightening the body.
Wudang Tai Chi is a 64 posture form developed by the monks in the Wudang Mountains and is based on the original form of Zhang Sanfeng.
Taoist Qi Gong/Chi Kung
Qi Gong is a traditional system of health exercises where the practitioner focuses on three things – posture, breathing and calming the mind. So, we could say that Qi Gong explores the mind-body relationship. Qi means “life-force energy” and Gong means “skill”, so Qi Gong is the skilled practice of gathering, circulating, and applying life-force energy. “Wild Goose” Qi Gong is a set of 64 movements which blend together.
What are its benefits?
After some practice, students will find their Qi or internal energy flowing and will begin to feel more relaxed.
The practice takes time, so you need to give it time. It takes about a year to learn the full Tai Chi form, on the basis of one class a week and practicing every day for about 15 minutes. As Tai Chi embraces many aspects of movement and stillness, it can be practiced by any age group. Consistent daily practice promotes relaxation, concentration and increased vitality due to improved circulatory and respiratory functions.
Classes, which typically last 60-90 minutes, begin with a series of breathing exercises and move on to slow and precise body movements or “forms” that may take up to twenty minutes to perform.
The first principle of Tai Chi is relaxation, without which there is no Tai Chi; the whole body must be relaxed, loose and open, so that the Chi/Energy can pass through without blockage. Later on in our study, as we begin to relax we realise that relaxation is not simply becoming limp, there should be a quality of vitality about it. Building on that foundation, the practitioner will feel the difference between going limp, which is lifeless, and the relaxation of a cat, which is completely vital and alert. Tai Chi master Cheng Man-Ch’ing described it as like a bale of cotton: soft, but the more compressed it is, the firmer and more substantial it becomes.
Acupuncture and the treatment of PMS
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is the cyclic recurrence of a group of symptoms that peak 7 to 10 days before menstruation and disappear a few hours after the onset of the menstrual flow. This condition is characterized by multiple and diverse symptoms including, but not limited to: breast tenderness, transient weight gain, bloating, constipation, insomnia, acne, headache, pelvic pain, irritability, depression, mood swings, poor concentration, confusion, social withdrawal, impulsiveness and appetite changes. While many women experience mild symptoms of short duration, other women have more severe symptoms that last for many days and temporarily disturb their normal functioning.
There can also be painful menstrual issues that can mean that in some cases the woman may only feel well for one week at a time, each cycle. Estimations state that up to 80% of women suffer with some issues and only 5% suffering severe life disrupting symptoms.
PMS is due to unbalanced hormonal fluctuations. A mixture of correct diet, adequate exercise, and emotional clarity, along with acupuncture and Chinese medicinal herbs can correct imbalances and bring long-term relief.
What is clear here is that PMT symptoms only occur when there is ovarian function. Therefore any woman who is pregnant or has gone through the menopause or had her ovaries removed does not suffer with any symptoms. So it is quite clearly a disharmony of the hormones and the second half of the cycle, i.e. an imbalance of estrogen and progesterone levels that can be also exacerbated today by poor nutrition, stress and poor sleeping patterns.
From a TCM point of view a balanced woman should not suffer any abnormal issues coming up to her period. Her periods will be regular (24-35 day cycles) and she should feel comfortable. When the body is in balance, a woman will have periods on a regular basis, they also don’t complain about issues such as pain, water retention, emotional upheaval or PMS-related fatigue. So, many of the symptoms associated with PMS (breast tenderness, irritability, cramps, headaches), from a Chinese medical perspective, are simply symptoms of blocked energy. Acupuncture helps to open those blockages thus allowing the energy to flow without restriction. This brings the body back to balance by eliminating PMS altogether by working on the liver qi in particular, and the blood in the spleen. These are all energetics that are central to a healthy reproductive system.
Lots of women attend me for lots of reasons. What is interesting is that whatever the case in front me is, I always ask about the health of the woman’s menstrual cycle. A few women have often looked surprised when I ask them about about their menstrual health and PMS. They say that they thought PMS was normal.
What is always interesting is the woman who comes for help, for say skin issues for example, and they mention while having acupuncture treatments that this was the first month that they didn’t have PMS coming up to their period. This is because TCM looks at the overall woman and treats the root which can be causing layer after layer of very different symptoms.
Acupuncture and Chinese herbs are wonderful for helping and should be something to consider if looking for natural solutions. A herbal formula to help smooth out the energy of the liver is Xiao Yao Wan/Free and Easy Wanderer. The name suggests the ideal state. However, I would also recommend various lifestyle suggestions including adequate rest, nutrition and exercise.
Balanced nutrition is crucial for overcoming PMS. Certain foods such as alcohol, caffeine, cold temperature foods, sugar, salt, and animal fats exacerbate symptoms of PMS and should be avoided. In addition, commercial red meats and poultry, which have a residue of steroids composed of female animal sex hormones, should be eliminated from the diet. Food necessary for a harmonious menstrual cycle include: plenty of organic vegetables, small amounts of fruit, whole grains, legumes (especially soy), seaweed, small amounts of lean hormone-free meats, and fish (especially salmon, tuna, trout, and mackerel).
Exercise plays an important role in the treatment of PMS. Thirty to forty-five minutes of cardiovascular exercise at least three times per week improves blood circulation and significantly helps reduce symptoms. Exercises like Tai Chi not only give a good workout to all the muscles but it is also good for reducing stress.
In addition to diet and exercise, some form of meditation can be very helpful. Our emotions and hormones influence each other, since they are registered in the same part of our brain. Stress can cause hormonal imbalances and therefore worsen the symptoms of PMS. Some quiet time everyday helps bring emotional and physical equilibrium.
Chinese medicine offers even more tools to address premenstrual syndrome. Acupuncture removes energy blockages and in turn stabilizes hormonal fluctuations. It also provides deep relaxation that helps to calm the mind. Chinese herbs work together with acupuncture to regulate the flow of energy and substances in the body. Together they stimulate the body’s natural functions and encourage it to establish optimum balance.
Women do not have to accept and live with premenstrual syndrome. When the symptoms of PMS are reduced or eliminated, women feel more energetic — physically, mentally and emotionally.
The use contraceptives such as pills and patches (all of which inhibit ovulation) may be of value as regards contraceptives. But, they reduce the hormonal variability of the natural menstrual cycle and may cxontribute to PMS and Fertility problems. . For those women wishing to conceive, relief from PMS symptoms and regulating their monthly clcle can ultimately lead to improved fertility.
Acupuncture and the treatment of PMS.
Chinese medicine has developed treatment for the many complaints of PMS over the past two thousand years, and recently, the National Institute of Health in America endorsed acupuncture for the relief of premenstrual pain and discomfort. Treatment and prevention involve the use of acupuncture and Chinese herbs, along with nutritional guidance and lifestyle counseling. For the highest success rate and to bring long-term relief, Chinese medical treatment should ideally be received consistently for a sufficient period of time, traditionally considered to be at least weekly, over the duration of three menstrual cycles, in order to bring the body back in to a state of balance.
I have been treating women for the symptoms of PMS for twenty years. If you would like any more information, or would like to contact me for an appointment, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Traditional Chinese Medicine For Weight Loss Part 2
Here are some thoughts on how Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture can help with weight loss and improving the digestion. Acupuncture for weight loss involves the insertion of tiny needles to help improve the digestion. Traditional Chinese Medicine for weight loss would be the use of herbal medicine to improve the digestion.
One pill makes you thinner
Diet drugs have made a comeback, but even the medical profession acknowledges their limits. Most produce modest result for the majority of patients and are for short -term use only. And some studies show that once you stop taking the medication, any lost weight is gained back. Then there are the possible side effects, such as elevated blood pressure, dizziness, insomnia, gastrointestinal disturbances and impotence to be taken into account.
Some diet programs use nutritional supplements or prescription medications to suppress your appetite. This makes no sense from a TCM perspective. TCM views hunger as a vital signal from your body. Appetite suppressants send a wrong message, telling your organs to reduce or stop their natural functions. If there is damage caused by the appetite suppressant, then your body will have to supply extra Qi to the organ to fix it, which is contrary to the healing process needed for healthy weight loss. Also, any damage to the organs’ function will make it harder to maintain weight loss later, once you stop taking the pills.
Going to extremes
Gastric banding, or stomach stapling, has received a great deal of media attention recently. From the TCM perspective, reducing the stomach’s size must surely interrupt its function. Also, operating on any organ can damage the corresponding meridians, the invisible energy pathways that rum throughout your body. Aside from the obvious loss of appetite and serious side effects from this surgery, TCM recognises other side effects that might not seem connected. The Spleen/Stomach organ system in TCM theory is related to muscle and fat. So, if the organ that controls these tissues is being reduced, one possible side effect could be muscle pain all over, particularly on the side of the legs where the Stomach meridians run. The Heart, as the mother organ of the Stomach, would possibly carry an added energy burden after this surgery, too, in an attempt to make up for the reduction in the size of the Stomach and its customary functions.
Pain? No gain?
In many diet plans, exercise is a major component. “No pain, no gain” is the credo. Again, TCM takes a different stance. Instead of improving cardiovascular health, very vigorous, sweat-producing exercise regimens can actually impair it, according to TCM. Sweat is the body fluid related to the Heart in TCM theory, and excessive perspiration can throw this vital organ out of balance and impair its function. Aside from expending large amounts of Qi, strenuous high-impact exercise frequently causes tendon problems. Because the tendons are considered the “tissue” of the Liver, TCM believes that exercise that impacts the state of the tendons can also have a negative impact on the Liver.
Because the human body is approximately seventy percent water, from the TCM perspective it responds best to soft, fluid movements and exercise such as dancing, Tai Chi, Yoga, jogging, cycling, gentle swimming and best of all, walking in nature. Qigong (Chi Kung) is a system of energy exercise that is used extensively in China to treat a wide range of conditions including obesity. TCM regards Qigong as a self-healing energy practise, especially helpful to people trying to lose weight because it can help increase your body’s Qi. Tai Chi and Aikido are very good forms of exercise for those with more energy. To heal your body and lose weight, TCM recognises that Qi needs to be increased, not decreased, so exercise must bring energy into your body, not expend it.
The weight of your emotions
How much does anger weigh? What about sadness? Perhaps the most interesting aspect of TCM’s view of excess weight is the role played by your emotions. TCM treats the body, mind, emotions and spirit as an integrated and interrelated whole. This means to have true physical health there must be emotional health.
When TCM looks at digestion, it takes the broadest view: digestion is the ingestion, absorption and letting go of food and drink- and emotion. According to TCM theory, each of the five organ pairs has a corresponding emotion. For instance, anger and stress are related to the Liver and Gallbladder. TCM understands that chronically held emotions act like internal pathogens, setting up an imbalance in the way your organs function. Often, TCM practitioners urge their patients to emotionally “let things go” or to slow down and take more rest. If you hold on to an emotion, it will stay “undigested” or stagnant in your system and create disharmony and disease.
From the TCM viewpoint, stress plays a large part in overweight conditions. Unrelenting stress creates a negative vibration that impairs Liver function. Because the Liver controls the digestive process that takes place in the Spleen/Stomach organ pair, its dysfunction can disturb healthy digestion. TCM encourages you to tune in to your own body and spirit, recognising that each of us is entirely unique.
It’s up to you. Do you want quick weight loss results at the expense of your long- term health? Or do you want lasting weight loss that brings the benefits of harmony and balance? There are many health benefits of acupuncture. Traditional Chinese Medicine, with its age-old specialities of prevention and lifestyle modification, is a safe and truly healing weight loss resource just waiting to be discovered.
If you would like to speak to me about weight loss or improving your digestion, contact me at:
Acupuncture Cork David Hankey, phone 087 2744735
or email email@example.com
Traditional Chinese Medicine For Weight Loss;
What Have You Got To Lose? Part 1
Recent statistics show that more people in Ireland are overweight, with some meeting the criteria for obesity. And the numbers are steadily rising. Most alarming are the statistics for children.
From all the magazine articles and commercials on TV that barrage you with ways to lose weight, you’d think it would be a piece of cake to stop this “epidemic” in its tracks. Consumers have countless choices. There are low-carbohydrate diets and raw food regimens; nutritional supplements and exhaustive exercise workouts; diuretics and diet pills; and perhaps most dramatic of all, stomach stapling. So why are people constantly struggling with their weight? And why aren’t their dieting efforts more successful? Perhaps we’ve been looking for weight loss in the wrong places. Take a chance on traditional Chinese medicine’s unique point of view. Here are some thoughts on how Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture can help. What have you got to lose? Acupuncture for weight loss involves the insertion of tiny needles to help improve the digestion. Traditional Chinese Medicine for weight loss would be the use of herbal medicine to improve the digestion.
Losing weight…OR…Gaining health?
One of the biggest differences between Western weight loss programs and the traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) approach is that Western methods focus on external issues. It’s all about the food and the amount of it. Instead, TCM addresses the root cause of being overweight. From the TCM perspective, it’s necessary to find and treat the root cause of any condition. TCM aims to make the digestive organs work more efficiently. If the digestive organs are not working to transform the food we eat in to usable energy, we can get overweight. Excess weight is considered just one symptom of an underlying health problem. The end result of a series of internal events in your body that usually begin with a Qi (pronounced CHEE) or energy deficiency or imbalance. Unless the root cause is addressed, the weight loss won’t be permanent. As if to prove the point, some medical statistics show that nearly 95% of dieters who use conventional weight-loss methods regain some or all of the weight they lose.
When your digestive organs fall out of balance, your organs can’t perform their tasks, for example, promoting healthy metabolism and ridding your body of excess water and fat.
Have you ever experienced problems like headaches, emotional difficulties, depression and allergies before a weight gain? These are all signals that your body is having functional difficulties. Frequently, the problem is an imbalance in the relationship between the digestive organs – crucial to proper digestion. TCM believes that when your body is in balance, you don’t have weight problems. When your Qi is strong and balanced, weight will be lost naturally and normal weight will be maintained.
An apple a day
The majority of diet plans require you to eat – or stop eating – specific foods. TCM’s view is that a healthy body will simply “ask for” what it needs. When your Qi is strong and balanced, you won’t experience extraordinary food cravings or have an uncontrollable appetite. Cravings indicate that your body requires a certain type of Qi or energy. For example, craving sweets or a sweet taste, that’s your Spleen telling you it’s out of balance. Crave salt or salty foods like crisps? That’s your Kidney looking for help. These are not necessarily bad things, we always seek to keep in balance. Women craving chocolate at certain times of the month may need magnesium, which chocolate contains. Each food, according to TCM, carries a specific essence that resonates energetically with one or more of your organs. Cravings are viewed as signals that an organ may be imbalanced and requires treatment.
It’s common for a TCM practitioner to “prescribe” certain foods to a patient – food is just one of a variety of healing resources used in TCM treatment. Food recommendations are selected with an eye to healing the root cause of your specific health problem and without side effects. Used in this way, food is a means of healing one or more organs to restore your health as a whole.
When you make intelligent choices and keep an eye on high quality, food becomes a resource that can be used every day for healing. TCM has a unique understanding of the effects of different foods and methods of cooking on your body because it recognises the impact they have on your body’s energy system. For overall well-being and to maintain a healthy weight, TCM advises a varied diet of vegetables, fruits, some grains, legumes and nuts. Seafood, especially shellfish, has many healing benefits. Meat, if it is included in your diet, should be eaten in small quantities because it puts a burden on your digestive system and requires extra Qi/energy to process. Approximately, 30% meat, 30% vegetables and 40 % carbohydrates is beneficial. Fried and barbecued foods should also be eaten in moderation because they tend to create too much internal heat, particularly in the stomach. Raw or uncooked foods are not recommended. They have a cold essence that impairs Stomach function. Raw food may have a little more nutrition, but it requires more Qi in the digestive process, offsetting any benefits.
Some weight loss diets ask you to eat very small portions or skip meals altogether. TCM believes that this practice actually undermines dieting efforts. According to TCM, there are two main sources of energy in the body. One, called “Inborn Qi,” is inherited at birth and stored in your Kidney. The other, called “Acquired Qi” or the energy derived from food, is continuously made each day from what you eat and drink. It is processed by the Spleen/Stomach organ pair, and stored there, on hand to support the function of all the organs, supply their energy needs, and help maintain your body’s capacity to regulate and heal itself.
Not eating enough food or skipping meals can lead to a Stomach function disorder. Eventually your Stomach won’t be able to extract the nourishment you need from the food you eat. This can result in bloating, allergies and even weight gain! When there is not enough Acquired Qi available, your body is forced to draw the energy it needs from the constitutional strength stores of energy.
About that bottle of water
Frequent urination, irregular heartbeat, an increase in cholesterol levels, weakness, and impotence are a high price to pay if you want to lose a few pounds. But that’s what you can expect if you use diuretic pills as a routine to lose weight.
Eliminating water from your body will result in lower numbers on the scale, but at what cost? Excess water is a sign that one or more organs has an imbalance.
TCM sees diuretics, which stimulate the kidneys to remove sodium and water, as an attempt to force the kidneys and bladder to work overtime. Diuretics will rid the body of water, at first, yet will create different health problems later on when the organs exhaust themselves.
Some weight loss regimens encourage you to drink more water to create a “full” feeling and to rid your body of toxins. From the TCM point of view, drinking large amounts of water is not a healthy practice. It forces your body to drain its Qi by keeping the Kidney/ Bladder organ system in a constant state of production – even during the night when these organs should be resting and conserving energy. And this expends precious energy that that your body needs to heal the internal conditions that caused your weight problem in the first place.
Do you want quick weight loss results at the expense of your long- term health? Or do you want lasting weight loss that brings the benefits of harmony and balance? Traditional Chinese Medicine, with its age-old specialities of prevention and lifestyle modification, is a safe and truly healing weight loss resource just waiting to be discovered.
If you would like to speak to me about weight loss or improving your digestion, contact me at:
Acupuncture Cork David Hankey, phone 087 2744735
or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Acupuncture and Hepatitis C
Whether or not you are taking antiviral medications, make sure you know how acupuncture can help in the fight against Hepatitis C.
There are many new drug therapy treatments currently on offer to patients who suffer from Hepatitis C. This progress is encouraging; however, there are many individuals with Hepatitis C who still need help. Acupuncture is one such therapy which is of benefit to many. This eastern-based therapy can be extremely valuable to people fighting Hepatitis C – whether they take conventional drugs or not.
Drug Treatment Side Effects
The goal of Hepatitis C drug treatment is to suppress the virus so much that it becomes undetectable in the blood.
While the effectiveness of modern drugs is good, the side effects are often severe. The side effects frequently incurred from a Hepatitis C drugs can involve:
Experiencing any of the side effects above can make Hepatitis C treatment a grueling process. Side effects may be the cause of reducing drug dosage. In more severe cases, several of the side effects can spell the end of Hepatitis C treatment all together – and a consequential surrender of hope.
Acupuncture Helps Minimize Side Effects
Acupuncture is not intended to be a substitute for Hepatitis C treatment. Rather, acupuncture maximizes the body’s potential for health by creating an energetic balance. For someone on a Hepatitis C drug cocktail, that balance is likely to reduce the incidence or severity of side effects. Those who have had acupuncture can attest to its ability to make a significant impact on the following symptoms:
Another side effect is Anemia. Anemia, not having enough red blood cells, poses a major obstacle to successfully completing Hepatitis C treatment. Because red blood cells provide other cells with the oxygen they need to function normally, anemia can cause devastating fatigue.
One of acupuncture’s strengths is that its stimulation of the body’s energy to create balance can influence blood cell creation. In the treatment of anemia, points are typically selected that increase this effect.
Acupuncture for Liver Health
Many patients with chronic Hepatitis C don’t receive the antiviral drug treatment. There may be many reasons for this, such as:
Individuals who fall into this category are encouraged by their physicians to do all they can to prevent their Hepatitis C from progressing to advanced liver disease. This usually involves healthy lifestyle choices that focus on nutrition and exercise, avoiding fat, sugar and processed foods, minimizing exposure to toxins, abstaining from drinking alcohol, supplementing with milk thistle or another liver protective herb, and loading up on antioxidants to prevent cellular damage. Gentle exercises like Tai Chi and Qigong can help too.
Adding acupuncture to this liver health plan increases its effectiveness even further. That is because regular acupuncture treatments can invigorate energy flow through the liver, a process that prevents congestion and inflammation. This is a major benefit, because congestion and inflammation in the liver are the physiological events that precede liver cell damage.
With the unified goal of staying as healthy as possible, it seems logical to utilize acupuncture alongside western medicine for a thorough Hepatitis C treatment plan. If taking a powerful drug cocktail to suppress Hepatitis C, acupuncture helps reduce the drugs’ side effects. This benefit increases the odds of successfully beating Hepatitis C by enabling people to complete the drug regimen. If waiting for a safer, more effective way to defeat the Hepatitis C virus, acupuncture can help protect liver health by deterring against congestion and inflammation. Either way, it’s hard to deny the inherent value this ancient alternative medical practice has for those with Hepatitis C
If you have any questions about how acupuncture could help you, or someone you know, let me know and I will try to help.
Chinese Medicine and the Treatment of Colds and Flu
With the autumn and winter seasons on the way what can an individual do when using Chinese medicine to help improve the immune system? What can be done to treat symptoms of Colds and Flu?
Chinese medicine is very effective in the treatment of Colds and Flu as well as playing a role in their prevention. Prevention is centered around strengthening the immune system. Acupuncture, exercise diet and getting proper amounts of sleep and rest can help do this. Strengthening the immune system can take a few years, give it time.
A healthy immune system is half the battle, you need to have a strategy to deal with a Cold when you come across one. According to the principles of Chinese Medicine, it’s best not to get the Cold in the first place as the immune system would be strong enough to deal with it. Second best would be to get rid of it before it takes hold. To do this, it’s best to eliminate the Cold when you encounter a person with a Cold or have the first sniffle or shivers. Colds and Flu are best dealt with using herbal medicine as these can be used by yourself anywhere and anytime. Two very common and effective herbal formulae are Yin Qiao San/Honeysuckle and Forsythia Powder, and Qing Qi Hua Tan Wan/Clear the Qi and Resolve Phlegm Pill.
Honeysuckle and Forsythia Powder/Yin Qiao San is very effective in the prevention of Colds/upper respiratory tract infections as well as in treating them in the early stages; that is, the first few days. Depending on the severity of the Cold and the state of the immune system at the time, taking this formula may completely deal with the Cold/upper respiratory tract infection at that stage. Because this formula is so effective and needs to be taken when you are first aware of a symptom of a Cold/upper respiratory tract infection, or if you are in contact with someone with a Cold/upper respiratory tract infection, it makes sense to have a supply in advance of the situation, as time is of the essence in treating this condition. Symptoms of a Cold/upper respiratory tract infection may include fever or chills, headache, thirst, cough, etc.
Qing Qi Hua Tan Wan/Clear the Qi and Resolve Phlegm Pill is used when the upper respiratory tract infection develops to a deeper level such as Flu or Bronchitis. Tests have shown that this formula will lower the temperature of the patient, which is significant when treating conditions like the Flu.
Both of these formulae are available from David Hankey Acupuncture and should be included in the medicine cupboards of anyone interested in using herbal medicine to help maintain health, and as a first step in treating symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections. These are only two examples, there are others depending on the circumstances. Of course, anyone with more complicated or serious symptoms would need to see a herbalist to have a specific formula recommended for them. If symptoms persist or secondary symptoms develop a doctor’s advice may be recommended.
Another product is the Cough Bottles/Fritillary Bulb and Loquat Leaf Liquid, which is effective for symptoms of coughs, and Watermelon Frost, which is effective for symptoms of sore throats.
Acupuncture is also good for treatment. Cupping is very good if done when the first symptoms appear.
Of course prevention is always best, so it’s good to conserve energy which will help boost the immune system. In other words get enough sleep, eat healthily and get enough exercise without overdoing it. Stay warm as chills will also temporarily lower the immune system.
Be healthy, stay healthy. Treat the Cold or Flu in the early stages to prevent it’s getting worse. Treatment of Colds and Flu with TCM is possible and effective.
David Hankey Acupuncture
Practised in China for more than three thousand years, acupuncture is a part of a complete system of medicine known as Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Acupuncture is increasingly accepted throughout the Western World as an adjunct to or in place of western medicine. Other aspects of TCM include Herbal Medicine, manipulative therapy (Tuina/massage), diet, relaxation and special exercises (Qi Gong).
Acupuncture involves the insertion of very fine, sterile disposable needles at specific points on the body. In all treatments sterile, disposable needles are used.
Get in touch today to book your treatment.
David Hankey – Acupuncture Cork