Improvements at the Office

Just wanted to share some photos of our new and improved herb storage system at the office. For years we have suffered with a clumsy, sloppy and inefficient herb shelf (it was nobody’s fault but ours!) that made the process of putting together herb formulas really frustrating. We finally got fed up enough with that system and now we have an awesome new shelf system that is super clean and well organized. Have a look…

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Old Shelf in the Corner- Crowded, Sloppy, Frustrating!

 

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Fresh Coat of Paint

 

We brought in a crack team of shelf-installers to help with the project…

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The Master and the Protege

 

 

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It’s starting to come together…

Working Hard, Keeping it all Straight and Level

Working Hard, Keeping it all Straight and Level

 

We’re really getting there now…

Yeah - I did that!

Yeah – I did that!

 

Time to load ’em up…

Teamwork!

Teamwork!

 

And voila, the finished product…

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Looking Good!

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Ahhh! Now that’s better!

 

Thanks for looking, see you soon!

Fall Retreat with Acupuncture, Yoga and Qigong – Sept 26-28, 2014

We are excited to announce that Adam will be participating in a weekend rejuvenation retreat with Gabrielle de Burke of Dragon Spirit Arts. The weekend will consist of several yoga classes, acupuncture treatments and meditation practice. It will take place in Barnegat Light, NJ at a bed and breakfast on the ocean. All of the food will be home-cooked and delicious! Hope to see you there!

For more detailed information and to learn how to register, click one of the links below:

Retreat by the Sea Fall 2014

Retreat Webpage

UPDATE: There is only one spot left so register now!

Research on Acupuncture for Joint Pain in Breast Cancer

Some of you may know that for the past several years Adam has been performing the acupuncture for two acupuncture clinical trials for breast cancer patients at the University of Pennsylvania. Both of the studies are now complete and one of them was recently published. You can read a write-up about the published study on the Huffington Post website.

This study investigated the use of acupuncture to help control the joint pain that is a common side effect of a class of medications called aromatase-inhibitors (or AIs). Postmenopausal breast cancer patients with hormone-sensitive cancers are often put on AIs in order to help keep estrogen levels low and prevent an exacerbation or recurrence of the cancer. Patients are typically on AIs for 5 years. Unfortunately, joint pain is a serious and common side effect of AIs, so much so that many patients stop taking the medications before the recommended 5 year period is complete. The results of the study were positive and significant, showing that acupuncture was able to lower pain scores.

The patients in our study were randomized to one of three treatment groups: real acupuncture, sham acupuncture or waitlist control. Most of you are probably wondering what sham acupuncture is and why we would use it, so I’ll fill you in. The sham acupuncture is theoretically used as a placebo control. To perform sham acupuncture, we use a blunt-tipped needle for which the body of the needle retracts into the handle of the needle (like a stage dagger) when it is pressed into the skin. We also apply the sham needles at “sham” acupuncture points that do not lie on the regular meridians.

The use of sham acupuncture in research is a very controversial topic, with many people feeling that, for several reasons, it is not an inert intervention and therefore not a reliable placebo. Two of the main reasons that some people feel sham acupuncture is unreliable have to do with the type of needle used and the points selected. There are, in fact, styles of acupuncture treatment that are “non-insertive”. To perform a non-insertive acupuncture treatment, practitioners hold the needles on top of the patient’s skin at the acupuncture point and the needle never penetrates through the skin (much like the sham needles). Toyohari is one of these non-insertive styles of acupuncture. We were exposed to Toyohari during our education at NESA, where several professors use the style in their practices.

The other issue is the use of sham acupuncture points. There are many in the field that state that there is no such thing as a sham point and that all points on the body can and do have some effect on the patient. The “real” points we used in our study, and the points that are used in most acupuncture research, are based on TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) theory. Once again, there are other styles of acupuncture besides TCM that utilize completely different points, most notably Master Tung’s acupuncture. There are also many different Korean, Japanese, Tibetan and Vietnamese (to name a few) styles of acupuncture, which utilize different points than TCM acupuncture. So what one person calls a “sham” acupuncture point, others may utilize for “real” treatments.

These two reasons may partly explain why in our study, and in most studies that use this type of sham acupuncture, the sham treatments do show a positive effect. In our study, the effects of sham acupuncture were not as strong or as long-lasting as the beneficial effects of real acupuncture, but there is still an effect. Skeptics of acupuncture use these kinds of findings to say things like: “it doesn’t matter where you stick the needles”, “there’s only an effect because of the attention you are paying to the patient” and “the theories of Chinese medicine are bogus”.

Obviously we don’t agree with the skeptics and while we feel that acupuncture research is important and it has its place, for us the proof is in the pudding of daily practice.

Chinese Herbal Liniments

Walk into an herb store in any city’s Chinatown and you will see shelves full of herbal products that are for external use only. Pain-relieving ointments, oils and patches, creams and lotions for your skin and on and on. Within the rich history of Chinese herbal medicine, there is a well-developed “specialty” of using herbal medicines externally. Being the tinkerer that I am, I have played around with making some herbal preparations over the years, mainly salves, balms and liniments. In today’s post I wanted to talk about how I make liniments for external application.

I generally make two liniments, one for traumatic injuries with visible swelling, inflammation and bruising (this type of liniment is traditionally called Die Da Jiu, literally “hit fall wine”), and one for chronic tendon injuries or other lingering soft-tissue injuries. Both of these types of liniments have their roots in martial arts tradition and they are used to treat injuries that may happen in the course of training. The intersection of martial arts and Chinese medicine is a strong one, with many martial arts masters being proficient in the use of Chinese herbs and acupuncture (or acupressure) techniques. Many martial arts schools have specific recipes for liniments that are passed down through generations and kept secret from outsiders.

While there may be secret recipes and closely guarded techniques for preparing these medicines, the basic method of making them is quite simple: soak herbs in alcohol for months to years, strain off liquid and use it. Of course there is a little more finesse required in determining the herbs to use, the dosages and the type of alcohol to soak in. Most say that the longer the herbs steep in the alcohol, the stronger the liniment gets. The scientist in me (he’s in there somewhere) feels that there must be a time when all of the active constituents have been extracted from the herbs and the liniment won’t really get any stronger by steeping longer. The acupuncturist in me agrees that longer is better!

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Trauma Liniment Steeping in Glass Carboy

I have read a lot about making liniments and I’ve experimented with different recipes to come up with a couple that I like. I generally try to use 100 proof vodka, which is 50% alcohol and 50% water. Traditionally, rice wine was used to make the liniments and other herbal preparations (the ancients in China probably didn’t have very easy access to Nikolai 100 proof vodka!) Some of the chemical constituents in herbs are soluble in water and some in alcohol, so I like the balance that the 100 proof vodka gives you. I recommend steeping the herbs in glass containers, not plastic. I use 3 gallon carboys. I like to steep my herbs for at least 6 months and usually for a full year. I give the bottles a good shake every now and then to mix them up. If you’ve been in the office, you might have noticed a few of these bottles sitting around.

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Tendon Lotion

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Close up of herbs soaking

 

After soaking, shaking and waiting… and waiting… and waiting some more, it’s time to strain off the liquid and bottle it up.

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Straining solid herbs out of the liquid

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Bottling the liniment

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Voila, the finished product

So just to review quickly, the Trauma Liniment would be used in the case of a recent, acute injury. A badly sprained and swollen ankle or “throwing your back out” are both good examples of when to use this. You would gently massage the liniment into the swollen area 3-5x/day.  The Tendon Lotion would be used for any nagging, lingering tendon or other soft-tissue injuries such as tennis or golfer’s elbow. The Tendon Lotion could also be used for that ankle sprain that happened months ago, isn’t really swollen or bruised anymore and just isn’t healing. The Tendon Lotion is applied the same way the Trauma Liniment is, although if you can warm the area up before applying the Tendon Lotion, that’s even better. Both of these liniments are great to have on hand at home, they are a valuable part of your home medicine kit.

If you’d like to purchase either of these liniments, just email us at the office. If you are an acupuncturist or other healthcare provider who would like to sell these products out of your office, you can also let us know via the email link.

Keeping Cool in the Summer Heat

As I sit here in the middle of another heat wave in the Northeast, my mind wanders to thinking about ways to keep cool in this hot summer weather. Besides sitting in the air conditioning or jumping in the ocean, Chinese medicine offers us some ways to cool off from the inside out.

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Before I get into the specifics, I’d like to review a quick lesson on Chinese herbal medicine and the classification of medicinal herbs. First, Traditional Chinese Medicine has a very systematic method for classifying and categorizing medicinal substances based on their effects on the body. This system is based on literally thousands of years of research and clinical experience. As a general point, we can think of food and medicinal herbs as lying on the same continuum of medicinal substances and Traditional Chinese Medicine uses the same methods of categorization and classification for medicinal herbs as it does for foods. So our food is medicine in a sense, medicine that is generally mild-acting but medicine that we consume daily over the course of our entire lives. Here is a nice post on the classification of foods in Chinese medicine.

One of the main categories of the medicinal classification system is what Chinese Medicine would call the thermal nature of medicinals. Basically this relates to the medicinal’s effect on the “temperature” of the body. This may or may not translate to the actual body temperature read on a thermometer. The thermal effects of a medicinal may also relate to a person’s subjective experience of how hot or cold they feel.

So, in order to counteract the extreme heat of summer in the Northeast, it is helpful for us to increase the overall proportion of cooling foods in our diet. This recommendation of course does not take into account any individual differences between people who may need other, specific dietary advice based on their health status (talk to your acupuncturist!). Unfortunately, this recommendation also doesn’t mean that we should eat pints of ice cream daily in order to cool off!

One way to get more cooling foods in our diets is through making refreshing herbal teas. Two of the tastiest and healthiest cooling herbs that we can use to make teas are chrysanthemum (known in Chinese as ju hua) and mint (known as bo he).

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One variety of Chrysanthemum

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Another variety of Chrysanthemum

Dried chrysanthemum flowers for tea can be a little hard to find but if you have access to an Oriental food market, you will definitely find some there (I’d be happy to sell you some too, just email the office). Chrysanthemum tea is commonly served at Chinese Dim Sum restaurants to aid digestion of the heavy foods. It also has a special affinity for the eyes and it can help soothe red, irritated eyes. You can brew chrysanthemum using a sun tea method or you can use boiling water to make the tea. For one cup I typically use a decent-sized pinch of flower buds. Experiment with different amounts based on your taste preferences. If you steep chrysanthemum in boiling water for more than 3-4 minutes, it can start to get bitter (this will be less of an issue with sun tea).

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Mint Plant

Mint is readily available in most super markets and it is also super easy to grow if you are so inclined. Take a cutting from a friend or take a stalk from some mint that you buy, strip the leaves off of the lower few inches and stick it in water for a few weeks. After you see some roots growing you can plant it in soil, either in the ground or in a pot. Mint is a perennial plant that does well in containers and grows like a weed (it can actually take over your garden if you plant it in the ground).

When it is hot and sunny out, I like to make sun tea with mint. Take a handful of  fresh leaves, rough chop them and stick them in a clear pitcher with water. Place the container in a sunny spot for 2-6 hours (more time equals stronger tea). After it has brewed, place in the fridge to cool it off then enjoy. Add a little honey if you want some sweetness.  I like to combine the mint and chrysanthemum and brew it in the sun. It is a super tasty treat! If you don’t have the patience or forethought for sun tea, you can brew the tea using boiling water. You can also use dried mint leaves instead of fresh (decrease the amount of mint substantially if using dried leaves).

Many fruits are cooling to the body as well. Watermelon is one of the coolest (and most refreshing!) options. As we get into late summer and fresh pears are available, they are another great option for cooling down and staying well hydrated.

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Dee-lish!

Of course you should always remember to drink lots of extra water when it’s super hot outside. And don’t forget to protect your skin too. Stay Cool!!


Beach, mint and watermelon photos from FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Pick Your Own

It’s that time of year again, the time when we can head out into the fields to pick our own produce. Last week, our family went out to Longview Farm to pick organic strawberries and pick we did – 21 pounds in all! Some of those strawberries have already been turned into strawberry jam and others have been frozen for later use throughout the season. Freezing strawberries is very easy – wash them first, pat them dry, cut off the stems, lay them flat on a cookie sheet and place in freezer. After a few hours, take them off of the cookie sheet and place in freezer bags. They will keep for at least 6 months if not longer.

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Strawberry Picking Crew

2 One Gallon Bags of Frozen Strawberries

2 One Gallon Bags of Frozen Strawberries

Picking produce in bulk, in season and “putting it up” (preserving it in some way) is an amazing way to enjoy fresh produce year-round. Picking your own often ends up being less expensive in the long-run and it is a great way to support local farms. It is always a fun family activity too, as many of the farms have kid-friendly activities or maybe some animals to see. It can be hot out there in the fields so be sure to pack water and some sunscreen! I always try to find organic “pick your own” farms, although sometimes that can be tough. This website is a great resource for finding “pick your own” farms (the link is for Eastern Pennsylvania but you can search anywhere in the country on this site). The site also gives pretty good instructions on how to make jams, how to freeze foods and other ways to process, pickle and preserve your bounty.

I had a hard time finding an organic blueberry farm until I discovered Emery’s Berry Patch in New Egypt, NJ. The blueberries should be ready for picking very soon, possibly even this week, and they have varieties that produce fruit throughout much of the summer. We’ll definitely get to Emery’s at some point this summer and we usually do apples and pears later in the fall too.

If you’d rather not pay for your food, you can pick it for free! Falling Fruit is an urban foraging mapping project that tells you the precise locations of edibles that are growing on public land. Users can add to the map if they know the location of any food sources. I added some mulberry trees in our neighborhood that are prolific producers of fruit. If you visit the site you will see that they also map the varieties of street trees (many not edible).

Happy picking (and eating!)

Protecting Your Skin in Summer

Summer has arrived and beach weather is finally here in the Northeast USA.  There was an article about sunscreen last week in the New York Times that inspired me to write a post about sunscreen and skin care. I also just spent a weekend studying with Marnae Ergil about treating dermatological conditions with Chinese herbal medicine. So I guess I have skin on my mind.

The gist of the Times article was that we should be careful to select sunscreens that offer “broad spectrum protection”, that is they screen out UVA and UVB rays. Although there are some other helpful hints in the article, this news isn’t too earth-shattering. I think many of us have been using broad spectrum, sunscreens for years. A resource that I have found more helpful is the Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Sunscreen. The EWG is an amazing non-profit who, in their own words (which I agree with!):

 

“… is the nation’s leading environmental health research

and advocacy organization.  Our mission is to serve as a watchdog

to see that Americans get straight facts, unfiltered and unspun,

so they can make healthier choices and enjoy a cleaner environment.”

 

The EWG also publishes an incredible online guide called Skin Deep which rates and reviews the safety of all kinds of cosmetics, including: skin care products, hair care products, make ups, perfumes and oral care products. Their ratings are based on scientific research and they let you know if the research is high quality (or not) and if there are multiple studies that support the particular findings. If you are concerned at all about the products that you are putting on your body, I would bookmark this website and spend some time searching for the products that you already use. You might be surprised at what you find!

Wolfberry (AKA Goji Berry) Leaves – Yum!

When the temperatures swing from 50 to 80 in a matter of 24 hours, when one day is cold, windy and rainy and the next is absolutely perfectly gorgeous, well it must be spring. And besides baseball, spring means it’s time for delicious, fresh, and local fruits and veggies. One of the best places to find such produce is at your local farmer’s market. We are fortunate in Philadelphia to be very close to some amazing farmland and this ensures that we have access to a wide variety of fresh and locally raised food. There are two prominent organizations in our area that do a ton of work and advocacy around local food and they also sponsor many farmers markets in and around the city – The Food Trust and Farm to City  (click links for lists of markets).

Our local Food Trust sponsored market, the Fairmount Farmers Market (Thursdays from 3:00-7:00 at 22nd & Fairmount Ave), opened a few weeks ago and I was super excited to see a new vendor at our market.  Queens Farm is based in West Chester, PA and they specialize in raising Oriental greens and other veggies. Bok choy, gai lan, yu choy, pea leaves, tat soi – I could live on these and we eat lots of them in our house. When I first saw the Queens Farm table, something caught my eye – they were selling stalks of Wolfberry leaves. Many of you might know Wolfberry by another name, Goji berry.  I had never eaten the leaves of this plant, though we often use the berries in cooking and in Chinese herbal medicine formulas. It’s a pretty innocuous looking plant.

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gouqi leaves

 

 

 

 

 

In Chinese herbal medicine, the leaves are said to “clear heat” from the body, and like the berries, they have a strengthening effect on the Liver, Kidneys and Lungs.  In Chinese culture, the leaves are typically used in cooking, especially for making soups. They can be used like one would use spinach, including stir-fried and even raw. They have a slightly bitter, pleasant taste. Remove the leaves from the stalk to cook them. The leaves cook very quickly, especially if you are stir-frying them.

When I got them home Teresa immediately recognized them as something that she grew up eating, as her mom used them frequently in soups. Teresa proceeded to whip up a simple soup using chicken stock, tofu (just cube and drop in to cook for a little), the goji leaves, a small bit of sliced, lean pork and salt and pepper to taste. It was a quick, delicious, light and healthy meal.  Below I have listed a few links to other Goji leaf recipes. If you don’t see them at your farmers market, most Oriental groceries will also carry them. Enjoy!

Recipes and More Info:

The “Chinese Soup Lady” has some great, basic info on Wolfberry Leaves.

This post has a stir-fry recipe (I would ignore the advice to remove the veins from the leaves, it’s not that bitter and that is way too much work!) and also a video about how to easily grow the Goji plants if you are so inclined.

A very typical Goji leaf soup recipe with chicken or pork, egg and some dried scallops.

Another soup recipe, this time with fish filet.

Welcome to Our Blog!

Welcome to WellPoint Oriental Medicine’s new blog. Our goal is to share our knowledge and experience about healthy living with you. The principles of Oriental Medicine, grounded in literally thousands of years of experience, provide an amazing blueprint for living a healthy life that is still relevant and appropriate even in today’s modern, high-tech world.

With our first post, we wanted to take the opportunity to tell you a little bit about ourselves. WellPoint was formed by wife and husband team Teresa Tat and Adam Schreiber in 2004 after they completed their acupuncture training at The New England School of Acupuncture (NESA).  Shortly after graduating from school with Masters degrees in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, Teresa and Adam moved to Philadelphia to start their own clinic. For Adam this was a homecoming, as he was born and raised in Philly. For Teresa, this was a new chapter as she had spent most of her life in the Boston area, after living in Vietnam for the first 8 years of her life.

One of the great things about our acupuncture school, NESA, was that it provided us with the opportunity to study a wide range of Oriental Medicine modalities, all of which form the solid foundation of our Oriental Medicine knowledge. Over the course of our 3 year program, both of us chose to pursue not only the standard Chinese acupuncture training, but we also studied Japanese Acupuncture Styles. The Japanese acupuncture program at NESA is one of kind in this country and it provided us with a unique set of skills that are completely separate and distinct from the typical Chinese acupuncture skills. We also both studied Chinese herbal medicine, which along with acupuncture, is one of the two main branches of Oriental Medicine {there are 5 branches in total: acupuncture, herbal medicine, therapeutic massage, therapeutic exercises such as taiji and qigong, and dietary/lifestyle counseling}.

The massive depth of information that has accumulated throughout the continuing evolution of Oriental Medicine provides practitioners the opportunity for a lifetime of learning and growing. Since graduating from acupuncture school, both Teresa and Adam have continued their study of Oriental Medicine. Teresa has studied with master acupuncturist Kiiko Matsumoto, who is world-renowned for her clinically effective treatments. Teresa is currently enrolled in a two year Graduate Herbal Mentorship Program at the White Pine Institute with Sharon Weizenbaum, whose knowledge of Chinese language and fantastic teaching skills make her one of our profession’s shining stars. Teresa is also a clinical supervisor for the Won Institute Chinese Herbal Medicine program.

For the past 4 years, Adam has been studying extensively with Matt Callison of Sports Medicine Acupuncture. The Sports Medicine Acupuncture Certification is a one-of-a-kind program that provides the most comprehensive training in sports medicine and orthopedic acupuncture available anywhere. Adam has also been editing Matt’s Sports Medicine Acupuncture textbook, which should be available by the end of this year. Additionally, Adam has been working on two acupuncture clinical trials at the University of Pennsylvania. Both of these trials focus on using acupuncture to help manage the symptoms of breast cancer.

And last but definitely not least, Alexa is our receptionist extraordinaire. She will greet you with a smile and make sure everything is handled quickly and efficiently. She is the glue that holds it all together – we couldn’t do it without her!

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Alexa, Adam & Teresa