Of late we’ve had lots of reasons to turn to alternative healing. I’ve always been a huge fan of acupuncture–it helped significantly reduce my chronic migraines more than 10 years ago–so it felt almost like a homecoming to be turning to it now for my latest ailment. And by latest I mean something I’ve been dealing with for about a year and a half now.

What I didn’t remember about those acupuncture visits a decade ago was the fact that the practitioner also had me on Chinese herbs. They were capsules, so pretty easy to take. This time around, I’m on an herbal tea concoction. Now…I use the term “tea” VERY loosely here. Because it’s more like an herbal MUD. Which, consequently, is roughly what it tastes like. This mama is having trouble getting these babies down! One pouch a day. Here’s what my delicious cocktail looks like:

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Aren’t you salivating just looking at this?! I know you want to try some…

But the whole idea of turning to Chinese herbs is very comforting to me. There is something about the deep-rooted tradition of this approach that is appealing. Around the same time I started the acupuncture, I also started taking my son (the 30-weeker preemie) to a craniosacral therapist who also suggested Chinese herbs for the littles. Coincidence? I think not. So now we turn to these when the kiddos come down with a fever or a sniffle.

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Now a few things should be said here…do not EVER buy herbs from anyone who is not board certified. That is first and foremost. Also, there is an “art” to taking these things. So listen to your practitioner and follow her/his instructions very closely.

I will say this…my four-year-old is the worst patient EVER in the history of sick people (well…maybe besides my husband 😉 ). He just whines and is clingy and can’t get comfortable and has a poor attitude if even a sniffle comes along. The first time we turned to the herbs for a virus he had (fever and cold-like symptoms), he was like a different child! He was totally happy and calm and low-key (like his normal behavior) even when the fever hovered around 103. I was a believer from that point on! His virus was short-lived, thanks to the herbs and our essential oils, and we avoided a trip to the pediatrician.

Don’t get me wrong…we do lots of other things in this house to build immunity, ward off germs, and shorten the lives of illnesses (i.e. our essential oils, incessant hand washing, and changing our clothes when we get home from school just to name a few of the biggies). I’ve enjoyed bringing these Chinese herbs into my home as an extra line of defense. I will always choose plants over chemicals whenever possible. But there will be many more posts on that!

Now for some fun facts about Chinese Medicine 🙂

I’m currently reading “The Web that Has No Weaver” (Kaptchuk) and it is a phenomenal read so far. It was recommended to me by my practitioner, as it was actually a text they used in her master’s program. Some of the below information comes from this text.

Perhaps two of the preliminary concepts for you to consider before trying to understand Chinese medicine are Yin and Yang and Qi (“chee”). We’ve all heard of Yin and Yang (and if you are a child of the early 90’s, you wore those extremely trendy Yin/Yang necklaces that hung low over your bodysuit and you layered that with your flannel shirt), but there’s much more spirituality to the concept than good vs. evil. The basic concept in TCM is that instead of viewing these things as opposing forces, they are viewed as complimentary and interdependent forces where the whole is greater than the parts. So TCM strives to balance the Yin and Yang of the body. Qi translates as “gas” or “air” and is known as the “life force” of the body. TCM believes that Qi runs along meridians in the body. It is the same concept as “prana” in the Hindu culture or “mana” in the Hawaiian culture.

In Chinese medicine, a “diagnosis” is reached through examining what’s happening in the body as a whole and what is causing the issue–not by looking at what a bunch of symptoms tells you. For instance, 6 people diagnosed with fibromyalgia by Western means may have 6 different diagnoses in Chinese medicine. Kaptchuk says that a practitioner will look for “disharmony in the body”. Two ways your TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) practitioner will evaluate your whole body health at each visit is by feeling your pulse with three fingers and checking your tongue with a quick visual. Why is this done?

TCM uses the tongue as a “map” of what’s happening in the rest of the body. I found a fairly  detailed online resource that matches much of what Kaptchuk says so you can peruse while you wait for your copy of his book to arrive 😉 As for the pulse, I turn to Unschuld because I feel his description is concise and easy to understand:

“One method was based on the notion that at the high point of the styloid process below (medial to) the wrist there was an imaginary line, called the “pass,” as a narrow passage through mountains. When a finger feels the pulse with light pressure above the “pass,” i.e., toward the wrist, the pulse offers evidence about the state of the lung and heart. The connection lies in the fact that the imaginary line, the “pass,” corresponds to the diaphragm in the human body. The lung and heart are located above this separation, in the yang area of the body. The lung and heart therefore manifest in pulse above the “pass” in the yang region. Below the pass, in the yin region, the pulse reflects the condition of the liver and kidney, organs which lie below the diaphragm in the yin region of the body. Right on the pass, the middle of the three fingers feels the state of the spleen, the organ that lies closest to the diaphragm.”

Pretty interesting stuff! Before this turns into a full-fledged research paper, I will close 🙂 If you’ve been suffering with an ailment long-term and Western medicine has failed you, I highly recommend opening your heart and your mind to TCM. And soon I will post about my beloved essential oils and good ‘ol nutrition, which I also highly recommend as alternatives to Western medicine. You have many, many choices to take control of your own health!

For anyone local to Westchester County, NY looking for an acupuncturist, I highly, highly recommend Andrea at Scarsdale Acupuncture. If you call to book with her, please mention that I sent you over (I don’t get any perks for this, I just want her to feel the love.) ❤

Written by Alicia Mott