Erin Kumpf Acupuncture & Herbs

Physical Aspects of The Heart

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the heart is the organ most closely linked to emotion. Think about all the terms we use every day to describe our state of mind: “heartsick,” “heartbroken,” “heartache” The heart is not the director of subtlety; the emotions it encompasses seem to always be on the far end of the spectrum, either extreme sadness or extreme joy. continue reading »

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Acupuncture for Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia affects approximately two percent of the U.S. population or around five million people. Fibromyalgia is a syndrome with many different symptoms that can vary from patient to patient: the primary symptom all fibromyalgia patients share is widespread, diffuse pain that persists as well as sleep disturbances. The cause of fibromyalgia is unknown although many people with the condition have a history of either physical or emotional trauma.  Check out our downloadable HELP SHEET on Acupuncture and Fibromyalgia.

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February AcuNews Vol2

ACUPUNCTURE & THE ADRENAL GLANDS

      The adrenal glands tiny glands that sit on top of the kidneys.   They are part of the endocrine system in the body and they produce a variety of hormones including adrenaline and steroids like cortisol and aldosterone. These small little glands are vital to the well-being of all humans. These hormones help the body control blood sugar, burn fat, react to stressors and regulate the blood pressure.    The adrenal glands produce the hormones all day, every day. But they kick into overdrive when the body is stressed.  This makes the adrenals extremely important.  Studies show chronic stress can severely impact the adrenal glands ability to continually produce the hormones needed to sustain life. This is where the term “adrenal fatigue” comes into play.

     Adrenal fatigue is more commonly known as HPA Axis Dysregulation. HPA stands for hypothalamus pituitary adrenal, which are all part of the endocrine system. When a person experiences HPA Axis Dysregulation, the adrenal glands have a difficult time producing the required levels of stress hormones and sex hormones and various neurotransmitters. This is why people with adrenal fatigue feel tired all the time. This is also the time the body should be offered some extra support.

     Traditional Chinese Medicine views things differently than Western medicine, but the adrenal glands are still an important part of the body. TCM treats the adrenal glands as part of the kidneys and the kidney energetic pathway. This means the adrenal glands are part of the water element. The kidney area is seen as a key role player that determines the quality of life in TCM. This is because the kidneys control the internal Qi (pronounced “chee”), which is considered the body’s life force.

     The body is a complicated machine that has a very efficient self-regulating system. When the body is depleted of quality food or sleep, then it will not be able to function and carry out all the important functions. This is why many people experience eating binges or extreme fatigue accompanied by excessive sleep when they are under severe stress.

     Everyday stress can drain the body of energy, nutritional reserves and Qi over time. When this occurs, the body may experience a breakdown, a drop in immunity or great fatigue. If this continues, adrenal fatigue may develop. Adrenal fatigue is a condition where the adrenal glands become weak and then produce insufficient amounts of the hormones needed for everyday life.  Symptoms of adrenal fatigue include low libido, food cravings, general malaise, emotional problems, weight gain, low immunity, difficulty concentrating and thyroid issues.

     TCM offers a couple of possible solutions to treating weakened adrenal glands. Acupuncture treatments and moxibustion can greatly help the adrenals. Regular acupuncture treatments can strengthen the kidneys. Over time, the adrenals/kidneys will regain some of their Qi, thus helping the body to fuel and heal itself. Acupuncture is so effective because it helps reduce stress and it turns on the relaxation part of the nervous system. When the relaxation side of the nervous system is turned on, the heart rate will return to normal, digestion will improve and sleep will become deeper and more restful.

     In fact, in a series of studies performed and published by Georgetown University Medical Center, researchers demonstrated how acupuncture can decrease stress hormones using rats as the models. The studies were performed by Ladan Eshkevari, PhD, CRNA, L.Ac. She used electroacupuncture on a specific acupuncture point, Stomach 36, which is known to reduce stress levels. What she found was electroacupuncture actually blocks chronic, stress-induced elevations of hypothalamus pituitary adrenal hormones. This series of studies provides evidence acupuncture can be very beneficial to nearly everybody through the use of just one acupressure point.

    Moxibustion is another tool in the TCM toolbox that can help heal the adrenal glands.  Moxibustion is the burning of a dried herb, specifically mugwort. The mugwort is placed on specific acupuncture points that are known to tonify or improve the Qi associated with the kidneys/adrenal glands. Both moxibustion and acupuncture can be performed frequently to help bring the body back into balance.

     Incorporating healthy eating habits, regular exercise and restful sleep can also keep the adrenal glands performing well. But when we are stressed, many of the things we know are good for us, tend to get moved to the back burner. This is where getting regular acupuncture treatments can be very beneficial. So if excessive stress is a factor in your life, consider adding acupuncture treatments that can help you relax mentally and keep you healthy physically.

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February AcuNews Vol1

Traditional Chinese Medicine and Cold Prevention

           The common cold is something everybody deals with and there are a thousand different suggestions on how to avoid catching a cold. Everything from megadoses of vitamin C to increasing your sleep time.  And while some of these are not bad ideas, there is not a lot of proof they can prevent a cold. Some people have stronger immune systems than others and this plays into how often they get sick. Also, there are many environmental factors to account for. And while nothing is going to work every time for every person, there are still ways a person can prepare for cold season. 

            Traditional Chinese Medicine has been around for nearly 3,000 years and it utilizes many different tools to help people stay healthy. According to TCM theories, there are six causes of disease: wind, cold, summer heat, dryness, dampness and fire. The human body has to adapt to changes in these elements in order to remain healthy. The main cause of the common cold is wind and it is often associated with sudden or abnormal changes in the weather. Wind frequently combines with other forces to cause different types of illnesses. The most common are wind cold and wind heat. 

            Wind cold invasions cause the types of colds that are usually experienced during the snowy winter months. Wind heat invasions cause the types of colds that are commonly seen during the warmer months, when the seasons change from spring into summer and summer into fall. 

            Traditional Chinese Medicine has been very successful in treating people who suffer from frequent colds.  Every person has an immune system that usually fights off invasions of bacteria and viruses. But sometimes, when a person is under a lot of stress or doesn’t sleep well or doesn’t eat right, then that immune system can become compromised and a cold may develop. TCM emphasizes prevention through the use of acupuncture, herbal formulas and diet. 

            Regular acupuncture treatments can increase a person’s immunity, making it easier to fight off any foreign invaders. Herbs such as Angelica root is also frequently prescribed to rid the body of viruses.  Andrographis or Chuan Xin Lian in Chinese is another herb that is frequently used because it reduces the severity of cold symptoms while strengthening the immune system. Forsythia fruit or Lian Qiao, is another herb that is used frequently to treat the common cold. 

            There are other things that can be done to prevent the common cold and they are not specific to TCM, but they are recommended. For instance, covering the back of the neck is very beneficial. The nape of the neck is thought to be the entry point for many viruses. Therefore, keeping this area covered up especially when it is windy, may help keep a person from getting sick. Also, it is recommended to eat according to the season. So as the weather gets colder, one should eat more warm and cooked foods. 

            One last thing that may be very beneficial in the prevention of colds is exercise. To keep energy flowing throughout the body, it is necessary to move. This is where incorporating a daily practice of tai chi or qi gong might be helpful. Both tai chi and qi gong are very easy to learn and the practices are low impact.  Tai chi is even being used around the globe in senior homes to help the residents regain balance and keep them healthy, both mentally and physically.

            Consider adding Traditional Chinese Medicine to the toolbox when a cold comes on.  A licensed acupuncturist and herbalist may be very beneficial to your health and well-being.

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Auricular Acupuncture

Traditional Chinese Medicine is a medical system that dates back nearly 4,000 years. Auricular acupuncture was first mentioned around 500 B.C. in the Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine, which is the equivalent of the Bible for TCM practitioners. However, the method in which auricular acupuncture is practiced today is actually based upon discoveries that occurred in France in the 1950s. Modern auricular acupuncture is based upon the work done by Dr. Paul Nogier of France.

Auricular acupuncture is the stimulation of the external ear for the diagnosis and treatment of health conditions. These health conditions may be taking place anywhere throughout the body. The stimulation of these acupuncture points can be done manually, with an acupuncture needle, a laser, magnets or ear seeds. Regardless of the means of stimulation, auricular acupuncture can be a very powerful addition to regular acupuncture treatments.

The current form of auricular acupuncture came about after Dr. Nogier noticed a scar on the upper ear of some of his patients. When he inquired about the scar, he found out a local practitioner had been treating his patients for sciatica pain and she was cauterizing this specific area on the external ear to relieve their low back pain. Dr. Nogier conducted similar tests on his own patients and found their low back pain was also relieved. He tried using other means of stimulation as well, such as acupuncture needles and found it to be just as effective as cauterizing the area. So Dr. Nogier theorized if an area of the upper external ear is effective on treating low back pain, then perhaps other areas of the ear could treat other parts of the body. This led to the model now used when teaching auricular acupuncture. The ear is thought to represent the whole anatomical body. However, it is upside down in orientation, so the head is represented by the lower ear lobe, the feet are at the top of the ear and the rest of the body is in between. According to history, the Chinese actually adopted this model of auricular acupuncture in 1958.

Auricular acupuncture is considered a microsystem, in that the ear is like a microcosm of the whole body, meaning one part of the body, the ear in this instance, represents the whole body. Microsystems also appear on foot and hand reflexology, facial acupuncture and scalp acupuncture.

This system has been practiced in Asia, albeit in a different form, for over 2,000 years. Auricular acupuncture has been used in Europe for the past 40 to 50 years. And it is finally starting to take root in the United States. The U.S. military, over the past 5 to 10 years, has started utilizing auricular acupuncture for its battlefield personnel. This form of battlefield acupuncture is used to help soldiers deal with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) brought on by being in combat.

Since auricular acupuncture allows for every part of the external ear to connect through the microsystem to every part of the body, many conditions can be treated using only a few very tiny needles. Not only can PTSD be treated using auricular acupuncture, but also things like chronic pain, drug addiction, high blood pressure and nausea. And for those who are a little needle-shy, auricular acupuncture is a great way to treat them because they will never see the needles and they will still get the help they need to achieving health and wellness.

Photo credit: Ear - Travis Isaacs | CC 2.0

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