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Acupuncture and Natural Therapies for Fatigue

It is estimated that over 50% of the American population experiences chronic fatigue. The most common causes are stress, overwork, insomnia, depression, and various malfunctions in the major systems of the body (endocrine, cardiovascular, digestive, etc.) Western medicine is decidedly lacking in safe and effective treatment options for fatigue. Quite commonly, the first step is to use a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), such as Prozac, Paxil, or Wellbutrin, as fatigue is commonly associated with depression. Although trends are changing among the newer generation of doctors, it is still quite rare that the patient is offered lifestyle counseling that focuses on nutrition, exercise, and sleep. There are many wonderful alternative treatment options that include acupuncture, herbs, nutrition, and exercise. Acupuncture tops the list because it tends to be so effective is supplementing the body’s energy.

ACUPUNCTURE
The majority of patients who complain of fatigue suffer from a deficiency of vital energy (Qi). Qi is the basic energy that creates optimal physiological and neurological function. Aside from fatigue, other signs of Qi deficiency are diarrhea, pallor, easy bruising, excessive sleep (more than 9 hrs. a night), scanty menses or amenorrhea, frequent urination, low libido, and shortness of breath. The strategy of Chinese medicine is to identify a pattern of disharmony that reflects the entirety of one’s symptoms, pulse qualities, and tongue appearance. Moxibustion, a topical warming therapy, is typically used as a nourishing adjunct to the needles. This entails burning mugwort on top of the needles or directly on the skin to induce a stronger supplementing effect. I recommend weekly acupuncture and moxa treatments for 4-6 weeks, then assessing for progress.

HERBS
Qi deficiency primarily affects 4 different organs: the spleen, kidney, heart, and lungs. Here are symptoms and herbal treatment options for each pattern:
Spleen: diarrhea, loose stools, bloating, bruising, fatigue, prolapse, laconic speech, internal cold
Herbal Formula: Bu zhong yi qi tang

Kidney: low back pain, low libido, fatigue, internal cold, frequent urination
Herbal Formula: Jin gui shen qi wan

Heart: restless sleep, worry, fatigue, heart palpitations, shortness of breath
Herbal Formula: Gui pi tang

Lung: chronic cough, weak immunity, allergies, fatigue, shortness of breath, asthma
Herbal formula: Bu fei tang

Adaptogenic herbs such as rhodiola rosea, ashwaganda, and ginseng may be helpful adjuncts .

SUPPLEMENTS
B Complex: B vitamins are warming and energizing. They build Qi and blood.

Tyrosine: precursor to norepinephrine (often deficient in chronic fatigue)

5HTP: precursor to serotonin, for deeper sleep, weight loss, anxiety

Adrenosen by Health Concerns and Adrenotone by Designs for Health are both effective adrenal tonics for fatigue due to adrenal burnout.

EXERCISE
I recommend getting 20-30 minutes of exercise 4-5 times a week. At first, this may feel forced and difficult because you won’t want to exercise when you feel tired. After a few days, however, your body will begin to love the endorphin release and serotonin boost that exercise provides. Exercise alone can be a wonderful cure for fatigue. Your program should be a combination of cardiovascular and restorative exercise. Cardiovascular exercise involves running, biking, swimming, hiking, etc. Restorative exercise involves yoga, tai chi, or qi gong.

IDENTIFYING WHERE YOU LEAK YOUR ENERGY
Many people with chronic fatigue can attribute this pattern to a central theme that is stealing their energy. Perhaps you are in a marriage that is not working or a job that feels stagnant. Maybe you have set your life up so that you never have time for yourself because you are too busy caring for others. Or maybe you have financial problems that make life feel burdensome. Low energy is often a sign that we are not in control of our life, whether it is in relationships, work, with our health or with our money. Set an intention to heal any area of your life that is spiraling out of control and that feels toxic to you.

IS THERE A PAYOFF FOR THE FATIGUE?
Strangely enough, many people are chronically tired because it allows them to get attention from others. Fatigue becomes a way to soak up the well wishes of others, all the while avoiding our personal responsibility to show up to life and offer something helpful. It can be a touch question to ask, but I encourage you to contemplate whether or not you are being a victim to the fatigue. What is your belief system around it? Do you have an internal dialogue that supports and sustains the fatigue? What would your life look like if the fatigue wasn’t an issue? I don’t bring this up to undermine the validity of this very common health concern. In my clinical experience, however, I have noticed a rather common theme of victimization and relinquishing personal power in cases of chronic fatigue.

There are many wonderful treatment options for chronic fatigue. This article is not intended to cover this issue in its entirety, as there can certainly be other factors involved in fatigue (immune dysfunction, low level pathogenic influences, etc.) The key is to be proactive in treating this condition.

Acupuncture and Natural Treatment Options for Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is escalating to epidemic proportions, yet there is much about this condition that remains a mystery to allopathic physicians. After working with many patients who suffer from fibromyalgia, I have concluded that their causes and, thus, their treatments are multi-factorial. There simply isn’t one major reason why people are suffering with fibromyalgia. Instead, a variety of emotional, constitutional, and nutritional factors combine to influence the onset and duration of this condition.

Western medicine can offer little to patients with fibromyalgia. Even alternative practitioners often struggle in effectively treating this condition. I recommend a comprehensive treatment of fibromyalgia that includes acupuncture, herbs, nutritional supplementation, and therapeutic exercises such as yoga. Since the condition is caused by a variety of factors, its treatment must be multi-layered.

Emotional Considerations
My clinical experience has shown that many fibromyalgia patients are the victims of previous abuse of a sexual, emotional or verbal nature. The betrayal of intimacy and the severing of trust that occur in abusive situations can have a variety of physical and emotional repercussions. In Chinese medicine, this betrayal causes deep imbalances between the fire and earth elements. Fire corresponds to the heart and pericardium, earth to the spleen and stomach. Fire is related to intimacy, trust, and connection. Earth is related to the health of our musculature, worry, obsession, and nourishment. One way to look at the symptoms of fibromyalgia is that excessive heat is generated in the heart as a result of betrayal and abuse. This heat is sent into the spleen and stomach, which control our muscles. This causes inflammation, pain, and fatigue (earth) along with anxiety and sleep problems (fire). The end result is that the victim of such abuse is in a state of shock; all major system of the body shut down and fatigue, pain, and anxiety prevail. This state of shock can go on indefinitely until it is directly treated. There are powerful acupuncture and herbal protocols to clear shock, which is typically the first priority in healing fibromyalgia. One of the most challenging things about working with this population is that they tend to become overly identified with their symptoms. They easily attach to the label of fibromyalgia, which makes them feel justified in being victimized by their pain. Perhaps this is because the initial insult of being a victim of abuse has carried over into their relationship with the fibromyalgia. If this theme is occurring, then an essential aspect of healing involves helping the patient detach from the ‘victim mindset’. Each case is certainly unique and it is not my intent to over generalize, but this theme has been prevalent through the many patients of fibromyalgia that I have worked with.

Therapeutic Considerations
Common painkillers such as aspirin, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen are not usually effective at relieving the pain of fibromyalgia. Other approaches, including acupuncture, herbal medicine, dietary counseling, exercise, and nutritional supplementation, are more likely to be of benefit. Many different disorders can cause symptoms similar to those of fibromyalgia, including anemia, depression, hepatitis, and Lyme disease, among others. Anyone who experiences muscular pain and/ or fatigue that persists for longer than a week or two should consult a health care provider. There may be an underlying medical disorder that requires treatment.

Acupuncture
Acupuncture is an excellent treatment method for reducing pain and inflammation, improving energy, and harmonizing emotional imbalances. For fibromyalgia, I recommend committing to treatment once a week for 6-8 weeks, then assessing the progress. If practiced skillfully, acupuncture can be very helpful for fibromyalgia patients.

Herbs
Treating fibromyalgia with herbs tends to be so specific to the patient’s constitution that listing off a few formulas is not all that helpful. One Chinese herbal formula, however, is used extensively for fibromyalgia. It is called shen tong zhu yu tang. This formula promotes blood circulation and reduces inflammation. It is used for systemic pain.

Nutritional Considerations
Because malabsorption problems are common in fibromyalgia, all nutrients are needed in greater than normal amounts, and a proper diet is essential. Colon cleansing is recommended to rid the gastrointestinal tract of mucus and debris, and so improve nutrient absorption. Food allergies can exacerbate the discomfort of many disorders. Determine hidden food or chemical hypersensitivities by appropriate tests. Many fibromyalgia sufferers also have irritable bowel syndrome. It is recommended that a comprehensive digestive and stool analysis be done for parasites.

The daily diet should include milled flax seed, 3 or more tbsp., or cold-pressed, unrefined flax seed oil. Flax seed and its oil contain the essential fatty acid omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid, which the body converts into hormone-like substances called prostaglandins. Prostaglandins help relieve the inflammation of fibromyalgia. The oils of fatty fish such as trout, cod, halibut, mackerel and salmon also contain omega-3 fatty acids and therefore work as anti-inflammatory agents.

Alfalfa can be used for pain control. It contains saponins, sterols, flavonoids, coumarins, alkaloids, vitamins, amino acids, minerals and trace elements.

Eat a high-fiber diet that includes plentiful servings of raw and steamed vegetables. Maximize your intake of greens. Eat four to five small meals daily rather than three larger ones. This will ensure that you have a steady supply of nutrients available for proper muscle function.

Avoid processed foods and foods that are high in saturated or hydrogenated fats, such as dairy products, meat, and margarine. Saturated fats interfere with circulation, increasing inflammation and pain.

Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and sugar. These substances enhance fatigue, increase muscle pain, and can interfere with normal sleep patterns. Drink eight glasses of pure water daily. Fresh juices and herbal teas are also good choices. A plentiful intake of liquids is important for flushing out toxins.

Investigate the possibility that food allergies and/ or sensitivities may be contributing to the problem.

Nutritional Supplements

Treating fibromyalgia with nutritional supplements is best done on a one-on-one basis with a professional health care provider. With that said, here are a few recommendations to consider if you would like to start working with natural methods.

Magnesuim and Calcium
Chronic pain sufferers, especially those with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome, tend to be deficient in magnesium. Magnesium supplementation has produced very good results in treating fibromyalgia. The combination of magnesium and malic acid helps to increase energy. These nutrients are precursors to the Krebs cycle, a series of enzyme reactions that are a key part of the production of energy on the cellular level. Take 100 to 200 milligrams of magnesium and 400 to 800 milligrams of malic acid three times a day, twenty minutes before each meal. (Some professionals recommend up to 500 milligrams of magnesium and 2,000 milligrams of malic acid.) With the extra malic acid and magnesium, fibromyalgia sufferers can handle exercise and still get out and about the next day. The combination magnesium and malic acid may also be helping the bodies handle physiologic stress better. (Caution: People with heart or kidney problems should check with their doctors before taking supplemental magnesium.)

5HTP
Many professionals believe that the central cause of the pain of fibromyalgia is a low level of serotonin. Thus, it is beneficial to raise serotonin levels and improve sleep quality along with providing adequate nutrition. 5-HTP has shown considerable benefit in treating fibromyalgia in double blind studies. Although 5-HTP can be effective on its own, a combination therapy involving a combination of 5-HTP (100 mg), St. John’s wort extract (300 mg, 0.3-percent hypericin content), and magnesium (150 to 250 mg) three times per day may be even more effective.

Antioxidants help reduce free-radical damage and fight inflammation. Take a good antioxidant formula that provides daily:

5,000 to 10,000 International Units of vitamin A Up to 10,000 milligrams of buffered vitamin C 400 to 800 international units of vitamin E 200 micrograms of selenium.

This is called ACES therapy and is a very good combination of vitamins and nutrients. Vitamins A, C and E are called antioxidants. They are useful to combat free- radical damage at the cellular level. Vitamin E, in particular, improves circulation and reduces muscle pain.

Note: If you are pregnant, or intend to get pregnant, or if you have liver disease, consult your doctor before taking supplemental vitamin A. If you have high blood pressure, limit your intake of supplemental vitamin E to a total of 400 International Units daily, and if you are taking an anticoagulant (blood thinner), consult your physician before taking supplemental vitamin E.

S-adenosylmethionine (SAM or SAM-e) is an amino acid derivative that has been shown in clinical trials to reduce the number of trigger points and areas of pain, lessen pain and fatigue, and improve mood. Take 400 milligrams two or three times daily. Be patient. It can take up to six weeks to see results.

  • Evening primrose oil is an excellent source of essential fatty acids, which act as natural anti-inflammatories in the body. By dealing with the inflammation, pain is reduced.
  • If emotional or physical stress is a source of problems, taking extra B vitamins will help the nerves and improve energy.
  • If fatigue is a problem, bee pollen or royal jelly supplements are safe and effective sources of energy that will not deplete the adrenal glands, but are building and supporting. Also consider Chinese herbal formulas such as liu jun zi tang that strengthen digestion, build energy, and drain phlegm.
  • Whey protein and creatine monohydrate support the musculoskeletal system in its repair process.
  • Bromelain helps reduce inflammation. Take 400 milligrams three times daily, between meals.
  • Coenzyme Q10 is also an antioxidant and helps deliver oxygen to cells. Take 60 milligrams twice daily, between meals.
  • Lipoic acid is very useful for enhancing the body’s utilization of carbohydrates and enhancing energy. Take 100 milligrams three times daily.
  • Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide hydrogen (NADH) is an antioxidant enzyme that occurs in all living cells. It facilitates the production of neurotransmitters such as dopamine and noradrenaline. Low levels of neurotransmitters are often associated with fibromyalgia. Taking 15 milligrams one-half hour before breakfast and dinner often improves concentration, stamina, and energy.
  • Phosphatidyl serine, a type of lipid, can be helpful if memory problems accompany fibromyalgia. It often yields rapid and impressive improvement in memory and mental alertness. Unfortunately, it is relatively expensive. Take 75 to 100 milligrams three times daily. (Gingko Biloba is a cheaper alternative.)

Summary of Nutrient Recommendations

Essential Nutrients
Coenzyme Q10 Acidophilus Lecithin Malic acid and magnesium Manganese Proteolytic enzymes Vitamin A and vitamin E Vitamin C with bioflavonoids Vitamin B complex injections plus extra vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) and vitamin B12 or vitamin B complex Dimethylglycine (DMG) Free-form amino acid complex Grape seed extract Garlic (Kyolic).

Important Nutrients
Calcium and magnesium plus potassium and selenium and zinc DL-phenylalanine (DLPA) Essential fatty acids (black currant seed oil, flaxseed oil, and primrose oil are good sources) Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) L-Leucine plus L-isoleucine and L -valine L- Tyrosine Melatonin Multivitamin and mineral complex plus natural carotenoids.

Balancing Sleep Cycles
Treating sleep deprivation is a top priority for patients with fibromyalgia. Neurotransmitters are regulated in delta sleep. Fibromyalgia patients don’t get enough of this, as they are jolted awake by intrusive alpha waves many times a night. They often wake feeling like they have been hit by truck because cellular repair and neurotransmitter balancing hasn’t happened. Chamomile, valerian, and 5 http can be helpful for getting more delta sleep. The Chinese herbal formula suan zao ren tang is also a safe, effective choice for improving sleep.

Conclusion
As you can see, there are many natural treatment options for healing fibromyalgia. The treatment process can take a few weeks or months, but it is certainly worth pursuing. Do the best you can to commit to an organic whole foods diet, regular exercise, yoga, nutritional supplementation, and acupuncture. This should provide you with a vast framework of resources for healing yourself.

Acupuncture and Natural Therapies for Headaches

Headaches are one of the most common medical complaints in America. This is due to a variety of causes, but the primary factor involved in chronic headaches is stress. Stress headaches (also called tension headaches) are reaching epidemic proportions in the modern world. Migraine and cluster headaches are also becoming more prevalent. Most people will either suck it up and live with the pain or will turn to conventional medicine to find some pain relief. While medications do seem to help with the pain of certain patterns, many people would prefer to avoid this route because of the cost and possibility of side effects.

Fortunately there are a great number of natural treatment options for headaches that can effectively eradicate the cause of the headaches or, at the very least, reduce the pain to a more tolerable level. Identifying the cause of headaches is one of the central challenges that all practitioners face. In particular, migraine patterns can be mysterious and spontaneous. They can be due to food allergies, stress, hormonal imbalances, emotional issues, dehydration, trauma, genetic factors, heavy metal poisoning, or intestinal toxicity.

One of the most intriguing aspects of Chinese medicine is that it looks for a unifying theme through the patient’s entire presentation, not just their distinct symptoms. We can’t simply say, ‘OK, here is the herbal magic bullet for headaches.’ What we can do is identify a pattern of disharmony that is based on all of the patient’s symptoms, along with their pulse and tongue diagnosis. This helps us to get a deeper picture of what is occurring. In Chinese medicine, we want to see everything improve, not just the presenting complaint. For instance, if a patient comes in with temporal headaches (pain in the side of the head), constipation and irritability, and they have tense pulses and swollen sides to the tongue, the Chinese medical diagnosis would be liver qi stagnation. This means that the liver isn’t functioning optimally and that the circulatory function of this vital organ is impaired. By regulating the liver qi, all of these symptoms are expected to improve.

In Chinese medicine, it isn’t necessarily important what kinds of headaches are occurring. As long as the correct pattern is identified, the headaches should be treatable. Below are a few common headache patterns along with their herbal treatments.

  1. Liver Qi stagnation:
    Temporal headaches, worse with the menses, PMS, irritability, menstrual cramps, gas, muscle tension and stiffness, red eyes, ear ringing.
    Herbal formula:
    Xiao yao wan
  2. Liver Heat:
    Temporal headaches, red eyes, ear ringing, rage, high blood pressure, jaw tension, subcostal pain, consistent agitation, dream disturbed sleep, more severe symptoms.
    Herbal formula:
    Long dan xie gan tang
  3. Liver Wind:
    Migrating headache, high blood pressure, dizziness, tremors, memory impairment, slurred speech.
    Herbal formula:
    Tian ma gou teng yin
  4. Wind cold pathogen:
    Pain at the nape of the neck, occipital headache, ongoing cold/flu, dizziness
    Herbal formula:
    Ge gen tang
  5. Headache due to digestive weakness:
    diarrhea, constipation, headache behind the eyes, bloating, fatigue, sluggish after eating, food allergies
    Herbal formulas:
    with diarrhea—Liu jun zi tang
    With constipation—Ma zi ren wan
  6. Blood deficiency:
    scanty menses, fatigue, empty feeling in head with dull achiness, pale, coldness, listlessness
    Herbal formula:
    Ba zhen tang

A strategy that I commonly employ is combining a formula for specific patterns with a more general headache formula that works for headaches of all etiologies. Formulas such as Head Q by Health Concerns and Head Relief by Golden Flower are examples of excellent empirical headache formulas.

Butterbur and feverfew are among the most researched Western herbs that have proven to be effective in the treatment of headaches.

The acupuncture point Large Intestine 4 is an excellent area to apply pressure to when you have a headache. The point is located just off the second metacarpal bone between the thumb and ring finger. This area is usually tender with most headache patterns. In general, I consider acupuncture to be an incredibly effective and safe option for people with chronic headaches of all kinds. I recommend committing to treatment once a week for 4-6 weeks for chronic headaches, then assessing for progress.

The following supplements are also worth considering:
5HTP: Some headaches are due to a serotonin deficiency. This is a natural precursor to serotonin that is also useful for insomnia, depression, and anxiety. Start with 50 mg per day, then add 50 mg per week up to 300 mg.

B vitamin complex: B vitamins are essential for maintaining a healthy mental and emotional balance and for warding off excessive stress. Take the recommended dosage of a comprehensive B complex.

Calcium and Magnesium: these are natural relaxing agents for the central nervous system. Many headache sufferers are deficient in these essential minerals. Supplement with 500mg daily of each.

Fish Oil: Essential fatty acids have been clinically proven to reduce all kinds of pain and inflammation in the body. Take 3-4,000mg daily with food.

Dietary Strategies

  • Avoid foods that cause inflammation in the body, such as sugar, refined carbohydrates, caffeine, and alcohol.
  • Avoid synthetic sweeteners such as aspartame.
  • Drink 6-9 glasses of filtered water daily Other therapies to consider:
    Chiropractic care: Some headaches are due to cervical subluxations and mechanical joint irritation that can be treated with adjustments

Massage
Excellent for tension headaches with stiff shoulders

Meditation
Induces the relaxation response to promote deep tranquility and balance and engages the rest and restore parasympathetic nervous system.

Yoga
A virtual panacea for many stress-related health problems. Many people have found permanent relief of their headaches through regular yoga practice.

Exercise
People who suffer from headaches are generally more sedentary. I recommend exercising 20-30 minutes a day, 4-5 days per week.

It is my hope that this article has given you some newfound hope in treating headaches both safely and effectively.

Acupuncture and Herbs for Menopausal Hot Flashes

Many people are not aware that acupuncture and Oriental medicine have enjoyed a rich and extensive history in treating the gamut of female health concerns, from PMS to dysmenorrhea to postpartum issues. Menopause is another dimension of female health that can be extremely difficult for women, as hot flashes and night sweats can cause unbearable discomfort. Fortunately, acupuncture and herbs are an excellent options for menopausal women, as they offer safe, noninvasive, and effective treatment for these often debilitating symptoms. Menopause is a time where many women become yin deficient, meaning that the cooling, moistening, and calming aspects of their physiology are weakening. As a result, they often get hot, irritated, anxious, and can’t sleep as well. The main treatment principle for menopausal women involves nourishing yin with acupuncture and herbs.

Acupuncture is considered to be a cooling therapy. The stainless steel needles that are used during treatment are said to disperse Qi. This means that they are unblocking energy that has become blocked or stuck. When energy gets blocked for too long, it generates heat which will burn yin and lead to yin deficiency. I have heard many women say that they felt cooler right after the needles were put in. The needles are actually deflating certain areas that have become overheated and compressed. Certain points are also used that have a direct effect on nourishing yin, thereby rejuvenating the cooling aspects of one’s physiology.

Chinese herbs work synergistically with acupuncture to create a state of continuity in clearing heat and nourishing yin between treatments. I would highly recommend committing to this approach before using hormone therapy, as these natural options are free of side effects. Hormone therapy is quite controversial in terms of its long-term effects. While it has worked wonders for many women in the short-term, when I hear references to increased incidence of ovarian cancer, fibrocystic breasts, and emotional fluctuations, I cannot give it a raving endorsement. Below is a list of several Chinese herbal formulas that are used to treat hot flashes and night sweats:

Zhi bai di huang wan/temper fire: This is probably the most popular Chinese herbal formula for hot flashes. It is considered a kidney yin tonic that clears fire from the kidneys. Other symptoms would be low back pain, scanty dark urine, and low energy. It is safe, gentle, and can work miracles if it matches well with the patient’s constitution.

Jia wei xiao yao wan/free and easy wanderer plus: This formula addresses hot flashes that are due to a liver depressive heat pattern which would include symptoms such as irritability, high stress, red eyes, headaches, and indigestion.

Da bu yin wan: This formula is for a pattern called ‘steaming bone syndrome’ in which the hot flashes feel as if they are penetrating into the depths of one’s bones. It is a kidney yin tonic that utilizes herbs that penetrate deep into the body to clear heat.

Tian wan bu xin dan/celestial emperor’s teapill: This formula is for a combination of heart and kidney yin deficiency, which will manifest with symptoms such as insomnia, anxiety, irritability, thirst, and malar flush.

Er xian tang: This formula is for a mixed pattern of kidney yin and yang deficiency. Symptoms include a history of feeling cold with recent onset of hot flashes, low libido, fatigue, and low back pain.

Hot flashes and night sweats tend to respond very well to treatment with acupuncture and herbs. It is important to keep in mind that these symptoms often have an underlying emotional component that needs to be addressed before they will disappear. It is natural to feel heightened emotions as you go about healing this condition with acupuncture and herbs. I highly recommend seeking out the help of a qualified healthcare professional if you are interested in using herbs for hot flashes and night sweats. Many patients have said things like, ‘I heard that black cohosh is good for hot flashes, but it never worked for me.’ It is important to keep in mind that herbs will only work if they address your specific constitutional needs. These needs are assessed by examining the tongue, palpating the pulse, and matching these findings with one’s symptoms. In this way, a much more specific and accurate diagnosis and treatment is formulated that will more likely optimize the benefits for the patient.

Acupuncture and Natural Therapies for Immunity

Perhaps one of the greatest strengths of natural therapies is their ability to optimize immune function and prevent illness and disease. In particular, Chinese and naturopathic medicine have a tremendous arsenal of natural remedies that can effectively heighten immunity and greatly reduce the chance of serious pathology from occurring. Immune weakness is certainly a ubiquitous concern in the modern world, as cancer, AIDS, autoimmune disease (multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, etc.), and pandemics such as the Avian bird flu constitute major health hazards for the global population. Although Western medicine can be miraculous in its ability to save lives, it is notably vacuous in its repertoire of natural agents to bolster immunity and balance one’s physiology. Therefore, it is imperative that the health benefits of natural therapies such as acupuncture, herbs, nutritional supplements, and dietary strategies be made available to as many people as possible. Let’s examine the main approaches of each of these therapies.

ACUPUNCTURE
Practiced for over 2,500 years in various Asian cultures, acupuncture has finally made its way to the Western world. In my clinical practice, many patients have sought treatment for weak immunity. A typical pattern includes frequent colds and flus, recurring sinus infections, fatigue, stress, and insomnia. For this constellation of symptoms, acupuncture can be an effective way to break the cycle of chronic vulnerability to the elements. Acupuncture works by regulating the flow of Qi (life force) through 14 major meridians on the body. Immune weakness is typically due to deficient Qi of the lungs and spleen. When these organs are weak, symptoms such as allergies, diarrhea, fatigue, cough, and recurring infections are commonplace. For these issues, acupuncture points are chosen on the lung and spleen meridians to supplement the Qi, thereby strengthening immune function.

Moxibustion is also a powerful tool in the acupuncture repertoire. Moxibustion is a heat therapy that involves the use of mugwort, an herb that is applied topically on acupuncture points. Moxibustion has been shown in studies to increase white blood cell count in chemotherapy patients and other cases of immune weakness. For patiens with recurring infections and colds, moxibustion is an excellent technique for naturally bolstering immunity.

HERBS
There is one Chinese herbal formula that has gained international recognition for its ability to immediately strengthen immunity. The formula is called Jade Windscreen or Yu Ping Feng San. It has been used in China for many centuries as a natural preventative against environmental pathogens. Jade Windscreen is a simple formula that consists of three herbs: huang qi/astragalus, fang feng/siler, and bai zhu/atractylodes. Astragalus is considered one of the most renowned immune strengthening herbs on the planet. It is very helpful for chronic cycles of infection and illness.

Another class of herbs that is used for a variety of immunity issues is medicinal mushrooms. This class of herbs is frequently used for immune regulation in serious patterns of cancer and AIDS. Mushrooms such as shitake, reishi, ganoderma, maitake, and poria have numerous health benefits that are beyond the scope of this article. If you have serious immune dysfunction, I recommend learning more about these amazing medicinals.

Echinacea is probably the most commonly applied herb for prevention of colds and flus. Recent research suggests that this herb is not as effective as many have been led to believe. A recent major study concluded that Echinacea is no more effective than placebo in warding off and treating colds and flus.

NUTRITION
The food we eat is one of the most important determinants in not only our immune function, but our overall health. Many people have weak immune systems because they are eating processed, refined, and rich diets that are devoid of the essential nutrients that the body needs for optimal health. Here are a few simple steps you can take right now to greatly strengthen immunity:

  • Start eating organic foods
  • Drink 6-9 glasses filtered water daily
  • Drink green tea instead of coffee
  • Reduce intake of refined sugar and carbohydrates
  • Eat 5 servings a day of fruits and vegetables
  • Minimize pasteurized dairy
  • Eat a diet rich in essential fats and low in transfats and saturated fats

Supplements such as zinc, vitamin C and green tea extract can be helpful adjuncts to ward off illness.

HEALING THE STRESS RESPONSE
Stress can be a major cause of immune weakness. Many studies from the field of psychoneuroimmunology have clearly demonstrated the link between stress and immunity. Along with acupuncture and herbs, two of the most powerful practices you can undertake for overcoming chronic stress are yoga and meditation. I recommend practicing each about 1/2 hour per day. This can profoundly heighten your quality of life and health.