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Differences between Western and Eastern Medicine in creating a diagnosis is diagnostics and pattern differentiation. Recently, I have noticed Western Medicine (WM) becoming more interested in patterns in a person’s life which create their present. Asian Medicine (AM) has always known this as an integral aspect of diagnosis. It is one of the reasons an intake form from an AM practitioner seems to ask more odd questions. AM includes practitioners of Traditional Chinese, Classical Chinese, 5 Element Theory, Ayurvedic and Japanese Medicines.

Diagnostic tools of Western Medicine includes checking temperature, heart rate, blood pressure, weight, blood analysis, perhaps x-rays, ultrasounds, etc. These technological tools are all objective and don’t necessarily need a human to interpret the results, the machines and computers accomplish this.

Diagnostic tools of Asian Medicine includes listening, observing and palpating. We listen not only to what a person says, but the tenor and strength of their voice. Observation includes color of skin, particular smells (challenging with face masks and shields), soul/spirit presence and more. Feeling the pulses of the 12 major meridians at the wrists and listening to what they can tell us not only in present time but distant pasts. Abdominal palpation is also a major aspect of diagnosis in Japanese Medicine in particular. You may think these tools are all subjective, and compared to WM they are. However, if 2 or more AM practitioners examine the same person, they will often result in similar pattern diagnostics. This is not a coincidence.

Signs and symptoms of a particular pattern will vary depending on the patient’s constitution, gender, amount and time of “evil” exposure and other factors. Patterns in Asian Medicine may include Stomach Qi Deficiency, Blood Stagnation, Organ or Structural imbalances, Water or Qi Stagnation, Kidney Essence Deficiency and more. Yes, they sound vastly different than the diagnosis your primary physician with training in Western Medicine!

In the past pandemic year, I have been studying with a Japanese – American scholar of Chinese classic texts who integrates this wisdom with hands-on treatments from Japanese Masters. She asks herself and those who study with her: what is the pattern? Treat the pattern, not the symptom. Treating the pattern will resolve many of the symptoms. Palpation of reflex points on the abdomen, meridian fire points and other areas are needed to know what patterns are involved. Patterns are created over years and are not “fixed” with 1 treatment. A particular reflex is cleared in a session but may present at the following appointment so it needs to be cleared again. This is why some treatments are often repeated.

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FASCIA & Acupuncture

Fascia is connective tissue which encases every organ, bone and muscle in our bodies and is part of its own web The ‘casing’ is similar to sausage casing or imagine every organ, muscle and tendon wearing a stocking. It supports our structure with its strong connective plasticity and generates its own electricity! Yes, there are studies which prove this.

Because fascia is the conduit for electrical energy which has specific pathways, it is now theorized this is also Qi in acupuncture. Western anatomy books describe and show fascia planes (large and small fascia patterns). Diagrams in acupuncture books show meridan pathways. These planes and pathways are very similar in overlay or side by side observation.

Fascia can become tight, develop imbalances, twists and other irregularities. It can pull on muscles and bones preventing full range of movement and be painful. Myofascia Release is the hands on bodywork which addresses this. Techniques taught by Ida Rolf, James Barnes and Thomas Myers are the best known and most often used in the the United States.

Acupuncture combined with myofacia release techniques is a fantastic combination to relieve and and correct chronic muscular imbalances and tightness.

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Disaster Fatigue

Many of us seem to be experiencing disaster fatigue. It is psychological overwhelm due to an overload of disaster related news. In 2020 we are experiencing natural disasters, political and racist events as well as the pandemic related tragedies. Exposure to stressful events may activate our fight or flight response. Our adrenal glands secrete more cortisol and adrenaline than actually necessary and these hormones increase blood pressure and heart rate. When this happens repeatedly, our adrenal glands can fatigue.

Symptoms include anxiety, fatigue, brain fog, depression, irritability, nightmares, heart palpitations, difficulty problem solving and memory issues. Another interesting phenomenon is the inability to listen to others. In conversation, we/they may often interrupt, not allowing others to speak. It’s difficult to be a listener when your own thoughts are too loud.

To combat, or manage disaster fatigue:

Set time limits on news time

Avoid sugar and alcohol

Practice gratitude


Use relaxation techniques with qi gong, yoga and meditation.

Exercise and take walks in nature whenever possible

Spend time doing something which gives you joy: cooking, gardening, time with friends, music, etc.

Practice mindfulness with; check out as a refresher or to learn!


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Sinus Headache Relief

Sometimes sinus headaches are so severe, you wish your head could be removed from your neck to stop the pain. Though many are less severe, they can last days or weeks and make life a struggle. In Winter, heated rooms dry our mucous membranes and, if prone to nasal congestion, can create these headaches. Allergies are generally the culprit in Spring and Autumn. Change in barometric pressure throughout the year can also be a trigger. Pain is usually around eye orbits and forehead, with tension in the neck and shoulders. Chills, fatigue and loss of appetite are also common symptoms.

From a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) perspective there are 3 basic causes of sinus headaches, which are sometimes combined.

  • wind-cold invasion
  • wind-heat invasion
  • dampness

To treat sinus headaches, one acupuncture session can open the nasal and sinus passages and bring instant relief! To prevent recurrence, herbal formulas taken daily are most beneficial. I am not listing individual herbs because, the synergy of them combined in a formula increases their effectiveness. Consult with your TCM practitioner for best individualized results.

If you are prone to sinus headaches, foods which create dampness are to be avoided:

  • alcohol
  • dairy
  • sugar
  • fried foods
  • very hot and spicy foods

If you are unable to get to an acupuncturist, do it yourself tips:

  • one drop of spearmint essential oil behind earlobes (not for children or nursing moms)
  • long hot shower
  • soup with onion and garlic
  • humidifiers in bedrooms
  • air purifiers in home and office

If you have other tips, please share!

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More than Hand Washing

Realistically no vaccine for COVID-19 will be available for 12-18 months. Other than frequent and thorough hand washing, cleaning or not touching surfaces where virus or bacteria may be, sleeping and eating well to maintain your immune system – what can you do?

Know that all coronoviruses effect the lungs. Prior respiratory compromise has been an aspect in many people who have been hospitalized and died from COVID-19. Two great Western herbs to strengthen lungs and combat viruses are:

  • Grindellia (aka gumweed) – supports and soothes the respiratory system and assists in the normal production and elimination of mucous. One of the COVID-19 symptoms is a dry cough. If the cough is dry – the lungs have more trouble expelling it. This herb is considered bitter and acrid
  • Lomatium (aka indian or desert parsley) – antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal and non-toxic! This anti-viral is particularly useful for lungs. Dose you see on bottle is for acute condition. To use as preventative, a 1/4 dose is enough once daily. A website page with more detail on its use in 1917 pandemic flu and studies of it.
  • Osha Root *- normally this herb would be included, but it is on the endangered herb list, so it is a no to use.
Petri dish

Chinese herbs are rarely used individually. Formulas are customized for the individual and condition. Formulas change with symptoms and stages of diseases. According to herbal principles, it is necessary to weaken the disease but not the patient so if a patient is depleted, synergy of the herbs is extremely important. Hospitals in China have been treating COVID-19 patients with both Western pharmaceuticals and TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine). Currently 22 ancient formulas are being used. Some modifications may be employed for specificity.

Acupuncturists who have herbal pharmacies in their clinics, including myself, have the necessary herbs and skills to strengthen immunity and combat viruses. If you are concerned, please speak to your local acupuncturist/herbalist.

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