No, I said Si Shen Cong. Next
question: You want to stick the needles where? Or,
patients will stop me in my tracks with a firm "I don't want
needles in my head." What's happening here? No big deal, I'm just
trying to utilize the Four Spirit Alarm extra point set on the top
of your head.
Does it sound alarming? Painful? I can understand that. Needles
in the head doesn't soundfunto most people, but rest assured it
usually doesn't hurt. The scalp is a shallow place, not too full of
fleshy, innervated muscles.
Right up there on the top, slightly to the back, you'll find a
special set of four points calledSi Shen Cong. Chinese
pronunciation sounds something like "Shee Shen Chong." English
pronunciation sounds more like "Cheech and Chong." It's ok, just
keep working on it.
One translation calls this extra point "God's Cleverness." We
use it for improving concentration, memory, focus, or other related
indications. In TCM treatment strategies, it helps to "calm the
Shen," or "relax the mind and settle the spirit." In adults, this
4-point combination could be indicated in cases of wind stroke,
headaches, epilepsy, and dizziness. In children, traditionally this
point combination was used for slow development, mental
retardation, and recently for ADHD.
In clinic today I polled my fellow
interns to see how often they add the point "Governing Vessel (GV)
20" into the mix when using Si Shen Cong. Why would someone do
this? Well, as I argued, it just seems like the right thing to do.
GV20 is a masterful point, located smack in the center of the four
needles used in Si Shen Cong. Its indications are similar, not
shocking, considering they are all within a couple of inches of one
GV20, also called the "Hundred Convergences" in English and "Bai
Hui" in Chinese, you can find this point on the midline of the
head, five cun back from the anterior hairline. GV20 is generally
used for two indications--pulling things up or pulling things down.
How can it do both, you ask? Well, Chinese medicine is magical,
don't you know.
GV20 is indicated for prolapse, thus it can pull things up.
Whether it's your uterus, rectum, bladder, or vagina that's
prolapsed, GV20 can help put it back up where it belongs. Same goes
for hemorrhoids--other items that should not be hanging down.
GV20 is indicated for yang rising in
the top of the body. Think headaches, hypertension, dizziness, red
eyes, irritability, tinnitus, seizures, and more! Interestingly, in
these cases, GV20 at the top of the head is paired with anchoring
points found at the extreme lower end of the body. For the horrible
conditions mentioned here, Liver 2 would be an effective paired
Whether you're rectum has prolapsed, you've been dealt a massive
vertex headache, or you just want to improve your concentration and
focus for the upcoming test, you might want to give needles in the
head a chance. When your acupuncturist suggests "Si Shen Cong," now
you'll know it's not Cheech and Chong she's referring to. But
they're fun, too.
It's board exam season
for me. Right now. For the Master of Science in Acupuncture
program, we need to pass three board exams to apply for Illinois
state licensure -- Foundations of Oriental Medicine, Acupuncture
with Point Location, and Biomedicine. Does that sound hard? Yep, it
does to me, too.
"We've been doing this for three years!" This was
classmate Irene Walters' response to my line of questioning about
how difficult the exams were. Yes, she already took -- and passed
-- all three of them. Did her comment make me feel better? It did.
She's right. We've been studying oriental medicine for almost three
full years, at the graduate level, full-time, year round. We've
been in the clinic for two years, first observing other interns and
then needling patients ourselves.
Despite her slightly
exasperated but somehow very reassuring comment, I studied a lot
for the Foundations of Oriental Medicine board exam. I used the
NCCAOM official board exam website study guide. I bought the
practice exam book, hurriedly took all of the practice tests,
graded them, debated back and forth about whether a 78% is a good
or bad score, and largely just panicked on and off for
approximately three weeks. I kept my head down, read repetitive
passages out of Maciocia, and improved my practice scores up to and
including a full 88%, thank you very much.
The day of the exam I made the always long but much longer in
the summertime/construction season drive to Schaumburg and searched
amongst the 9,000 office complexes to find mine. I changed my
shirt, because by then I had sweated out the armpits in a nervous
panic not once but twice on the way. Finally, I headed up to the
PearsonVue testing office, which I found at the end of the top
floor in the back, dark corner.
Inside the office was less
creepy than the hallway indicated it would be, and a stern woman
was ready to take my two forms of ID, photograph, and both palm
scans. I didn't even know people did palm scans. What
happened to finger printing? After she was sure it was really me,
she gave me the locker key and told me to empty my pockets and
leave all belongings in my locker. Go pee now, it's your last
Just when I thought I had been looked over fairly thoroughly, I
was led into another checkpoint. Here, another woman formally
instructed me on how to use the computer, how I should wear
earplugs, and how I would need to raise my hand if I needed an
emergency bathroom break. Alrighty, let's do this thing. Before
turning me loose into the computer testing cubicle, she had me
shake out my skirt, pull up my sleeves, and rotate my necklace in
front of a camera -- just in case I had written all of the answers
to the Foundations of Oriental Medicine board exam on the back of
the one inch wide necklace pendant. OK.
At long last, I arrived at my testing console. The next 2.5
hours were a blur. I had heart palpitations, blurry vision, great
thirst, and generalized anxiety. That's fair to say. Staring into
the computer screen and clicking the mouse repeatedly for 150
minutes will do that. Terrified that I had failed, I timidly and
exhaustedly clicked that final button to see my results.
"PASS." Wow. Praises. Now I only need to do this ordeal
I think not. Yet, there are around
50,000 homeless veterans in the U.S. on any given night -- despite
a 33% drop since 2010! "The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
(VA) states that the nation's homeless veterans are predominantly
male, with roughly 8% being female. The majority are single; live
in urban areas; and suffer from mental illness, alcohol and/or
substance abuse, or co-occurring disorders."
This is where acupuncture comes in,
friends. The National Acupuncture Detoxification Association
(NADA) protocol, specifically, is helping veterans with PTSD manage
stress, addictions, difficulty sleeping, and other behavioral and
mental health conditions. NADA uses a standard set of ear points --
Sympathetic, Shen Men, Kidney, Liver, and Lung -- stimulated either
with needles or with ear seeds.
Since it was established in the Bronx in 1974, the NADA protocol
has brought relief not only to veterans, but also others in need of
assistance with addictions, from food to illegal drugs. How does it
work? The acupuncturist -- or one of over 10,000 health care
professionals trained specifically in NADA protocol -- inserts the
five sterile, stainless steel, one-time use needles into the ear
and lets them remain for up to 45 minutes. Then, we take them out.
It's simple. It's fast. It's cheap. It's effective.
What are patients saying about the NADA
protocol? "...improved program retention, a more optimistic and
cooperative attitude toward the process of recovery, as well as
reductions in cravings, anxiety, sleep disturbance and need for
On Friday, June 26, NUHS Chief AOM Clinician Dr. Hyundo
Kim and a group of acupuncture and oriental medicine interns
headed downtown to the Chicago National Guard Armory to offer free PTSD ear
seed treatments to homeless veterans. That's right -- NADA can
get even easier! When needles aren't appropriate or convenient, we
can still stimulate the ear points of the NADA protocol with
stick-on ear seeds. The added bonus is that the patient can
essentially take the treatment "to go," and can squeeze the seeds,
reactivating the points, for the next few days.
At that Chicago Stand-Down event, held in June, homeless
veterans are brought together in a single location to access
community resources and supplies needed to begin addressing their
individual problems and rebuilding their lives. Our group of
volunteers provided ear seed treatments while other groups provided
everything from a hot meal to a bag of clothing to an eye exam. I
saw booths for flu shots, HIV tests, dental services, and Reiki.
That day -- that one day -- those homeless veterans had a
Representatives were on-site to match them with shelters, jobs,
and the benefits they earned for their service to the United States
of America. They were welcomed, they were appreciated, and they
Too bad. Did you know it's
actually supposed to be clean when you wipe? Yes, a healthy poo is
so nicely formed that even your first swipe should be a
leave-no-trace expedition. Maybe that's how indigenous societies
have all seemed to get along fine without rolls of toilet paper in
Unfortunately, many people upon wiping discover a messy poo
situation. Perhaps you have to wipe a second time, or a third, or
-- gasp -- a fourth time. Maybe you never even feel clean, despite
seemingly endless wiping. Commercial products have actually adapted
in response to the commonality of the messy poo -- flushable wet
wipes for adults have hit the marketplace. Don't flush them,
though. Free tip.
So why, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine, might an
individual produce a messy poo? Naturally, there are several
different potential trails of pathogenesis leading to a sticky,
unformed deposit. Let's just cover one of the most common diagnoses
- Spleen Qi Deficiency with Dampness. It's so common, yet so
What is Spleen Qi Deficiency?
Well, let's start with what Spleen Qi is and what it's supposed
to be doing when not deficient. The functional system
called "Spleen" in TCM is responsible for these things and
If your Spleen qi is strong, you are good to go. I likely will
not find you passed out in an alley, hemorrhaging and passing
uncomfortable gas. Luckily, life is not always so extreme, and
neither are pathologies. More often, modern American people are
simply suffering from a mild case of Spleen Qi Deficiency. What's
that look like?
Why is this happening to you? What did you ever do to deserve
messy poo and this horrid array of sad signs and symptoms? How did
your Spleen Qi become deficient? Like many things in TCM, there
could be many right answers, depending on the person. Likewise,
there are multiple ways to try to rectify the situation. There's
more than one way to skin a messy-poo cat.
Causes of Spleen Qi Deficiency
First, the causes. Think back. Which ones apply to you?
What can you do about it? Is there any hope for a one-wipe life?
Happily, the answer is yes. You can change your poo. Here are your
treatment strategies, of course individualized to each person's
exact manifestations of Spleen Qi Deficiency (and its partner, the
While the treatment strategies and principles seem few in
numbers, they are not necessarily simple to accomplish --
particularly once the dampness has accumulated. While acupuncture,
herbs, and anything else your acupuncturist does to you at the
visit will almost certainly help your condition improve, you also
need to make some changes at home for lasting results.
If all of this sounds too difficult, then just incorporate one
suggestion at a time. As always, please consult your favorite
acupuncture intern for more information on your individualized
pattern diagnosis and treatment plan. You don't want messy poo for
the rest of your life, do you?
Or maybe I should say, "qi-qi-qi-chia!" Lately, my life has been
full of chia seeds. I'm reading about them, I'm seeing recipes
posted like hot cakes on Facebook, Pinterest, etc. I'm taken back
to little ceramic sheep with scantily placed green sprouts growing
on my dresser. I never could get a full coat on one of those
Recently though, I've looked at the chia seed in a new light.
I've upgraded from the packet at the toy store to the organic bag
from my friendly neighborhood grocer. Why? I have ulterior,
Traditional Chinese Medicine, motives.
What are the properties of these delicious, plump little seeds?
What can they do for me? Why do I bother messing with these
slippery little things that will 100% certainly get stuck in my
teeth for hours? We know from the western world that chia seeds are
anti-inflammatory and are recommended for adrenal fatigue. They
contain zinc and magnesium, antioxidants, and omega 3s. Its name
even means "strength," so it's no wonder the people "are loving it"
Chia? Qi? Strength? Energy? Am I seeing a connection to
Traditional Chinese Medicine here? I think yes. I'd love to give
you the name of Salvia hispanica in Chinese, but I
can't. It's not in the TCM materia medica, because this
seed is native to the Americas, not to Asia. What I can do is piece
together the bits of insight on the TCM properties, actions, and
indications of chia seeds based on the years of usage in patients
and the similarities to related plants.
Chia seeds come from a sage plant in the mint family. Thus, we
infer that they are cooling in temperature. They are seeds, so we
see them with lubricating properties, particularly in the Large
Intestine. As a qi (energy) tonic, we know they enter the Kidney
and tonify Kidney qi. The cooling nature also lends itself to a
nourishing of Kidney yin as well.
In other words, it's all coming together. The western world's
adrenal fatigue is akin to TCM's Kidney deficiency. When TCM
lubricates the intestine, it's like an American doctor recommending
more fiber. The chia seed is doing it all, no matter how we phrase
Here's how I'm taking my chia seeds:
Substitute anything you have a personal problem with. Add all
ingredients into blender and mix well. Pour into small glasses and
Enjoy the gelatinous texture in your mouth. Pick gooey chia
seeds out of teeth for several hours. Top with fruit if you're so
inclined. You're welcome.
• So What Is Chinese Medicine?
• Jabbing Nerves with Needles
• Mission in Nicaragua
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