Last Chance

This is it -- my last chance to say things in the National University of Health Sciences Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine blog. I've said a lot of stuff each week over the past couple of years... some mildly interesting, maybe helpful, and probably a lot of things that only I cared about. Sorry, not sorry.

So, here's everything else I thought about saying and never put into an actual blog. Let's call these the bloglets.

1. Everything is the same as it used to be.

2015-08-13_cdNothing's really new--from medicine to pop culture. People freak out about texting while driving. Really? Sure, it's dangerous and awful, but is it really that different than 15 years ago when we used to drive around with a binder of CDs on the passenger seat and flip through looking for the next one to pop in and listen to? Remember that time in 7th grade when you and your friends thought you made up "LYLAS" to write it yearbooks, only to hear your mom say that they used to write, it, too? Now it's vibration--everyone's talking about raising your vibration or changing your vibration for optimal health and wellness. Think it's a new concept? Think again. Last night I was reading about 19th-century psychic Edgar Cayce and the idea that each thought, feeling, or experience you have changes your vibration. Everything is energy, science says, so who can argue with that?

2. What are people doing with laptops in the classroom?

2015-08-13_pplWhen I started this program, I wondered why some students would pop open a laptop and stare at it through an entire class. What were they doing? My guesses were: 50% on Facebook, 20% Netflix, 20% frantically finishing up homework for another class, and likely just 10% doing anything related to the class we were in (this was Dave--you take great notes on your tablet and you've bought shoes online as far as I know). I started sitting behind people just to see how accurate I was. What did I find? Lots of online shopping. Are our classes that stressful that an online shoe purchase is in order? I vowed I wouldn't bring my laptop and tune out during a class… then my final trimester happened. Somehow I was transformed into that person--I hit the seat and I flipped open my laptop within seconds. In my defense I'm generally doing productive things--googling the ingredients of the liniment Dr. Stretch just mentioned, writing this blog, grading student papers, scheduling my kids' dentist appointments, etc.--but still, I'm staring at that screen. Ooops.

3. Favorite professor moments.

I didn't do this one, because I thought it would be rude to simply copy my commencement speech and paste it into a blog post. Looks like you'll have to attend graduation to hear these.

4. I always wanted to interview a student who was dual-enrolled in the Naturopathic doctorate program and the AOM program, and also the Doctor of Chiropractic program and the AOM program.

2015-08-13_aI had Nolan right at my fingertips for so long--we could have had the perspective of a yogi doctor learning acupuncture. Wow. I know people are always wondering what the differences are between the various medical programs, and I thought I'd be the person to try to hash some of that out publicly. Nope. Never got around to that.

Nolan Lee, DC, and current MSAc student:
"Acupuncture is a fantastic complement to what I do as a chiropractic physician. It makes my practice valuable to a whole different population of patients who do not necessarily seek chiropractic care, but are open to acupuncture. An MSAc degree helps to better understand this age-old art that is so rich and complex in its applications and theories."

5. ...And I'd like to introduce Maile Horita, who will be taking over the AOM blog next trimester!

2015-08-13_newMaile has experience with writing an oriental medicine blog already, and I've already given a great idea for content to get started with (see #4). Just kidding--write about your passions! I'm looking forward to reading her blogs in the future.

Thanks for all of the support over the past three years, community. I'll probably accidentally drive here a few times by mistake out of habit, but other than that, I'm OUT! 

It's Spleen O'Clock Somewhere

Ever wonder why your bowels want to evacuate at the same time each morning? Do you wake up between 1 and 3 a.m. every night? What does it all mean? As per usual in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), there's a reason for everything.

Check out the clock and see what there is to see.

Keep in mind that the "organs" in TCM are not exact equivalents to the organs we know and love in the West. For example, if I say you have Heart Fire, it doesn't necessarily mean that there is actual heat stuck in the tissue of your pumper. In TCM the Heart organ has more to do with the spirit -- shen­ -- than with the structure itself.

So why should you use this chart if it doesn't mean what you think it means? Well, it still has value in piecing together what western medicine might deem "unrelated" signs and symptoms. In TCM, we use them all, disparate as some may seem. Here's some help in understanding the TCM organ clock in largely western terminology.


It's not all about you, either. The TCM organ clock is also intimately related to the treatment your acupuncturist could administer. Each time slot represents the time of day when its corresponding organ is functioning -- or should be functioning -- at max capacity. You have the most Liver action happening between 1 and 3 a.m. If you've accumulated tons of drugs and alcohol for it to cleanse, or if you've simply stagnated its qi with too much stress in your life, then 1 and 3 a.m. is when your Liver is trying to get you all straightened out. Talk to insomniacs who wake frequently at this time -- they're usually quite stressed out.

Conversely, the timeslot opposite the organ of choice shows the time of day when it is at its weakest. So, if you're supposed to get a massage and conceive a child during the Pericardium's timeslot of 7 and 9 p.m., then it could be inferred that 7 and 9 a.m., is the least effective time in which to engage in those activities. Want to learn more about the functional organ systems and their responsibilities by hour? Check them out at Naturopathic By Nature.

Head Hurt?

2015-07-31_1What part? Back of the head, near the neck? Top of the head? Forehead? Feeling a tight band wrapped around the whole darn thing? Is it pulsing and throbbing, sharp and stabbing? Maybe you just have a dull empty feeling going on deep inside your melon.

Each of these headaches is recognized in and treated by Traditional Chinese Medicine. If you present in a TCM clinic with the chief complaint--or even an associated complaint--of "headache," the questions will roll forth to more fully understand the condition.

What does it all mean? Isn't there just an acupuncture point equivalent to Excedrin? Yes and no. There are some acupoints that are indicated for basically any type of headache, and it will probably be effective to some extent. But, if we can diagnose thetypeof headache then we can select more specific points that address both the current pain in the head and also the root of the problem.

Here's a breakdown of some of the common types of headaches in TCM, what's causing them, and how your acupuncturist might treat them:

The Full Frontal Headache

2015-07-31_2It hurts across your forehead. Sometimes feels warm, too.

  • Root is likely in the Stomach, which is called "yang ming" in TCM. Accumulated heat will create a sharp frontal headache. Conversely, deficiency of the Stomach can create a dull frontal headache.
  • Treatment principles include relieving frontal headache pain using points like Yin Tang and DU23pluseither clearing heat from the Stomach using points such as LI4, ST8, ST44, and LI11, or tonifying the Stomach using points such as ST36, SP6, UB20, and CV12. Regulate your diet and stress to help harmonize the Stomach.

The Vertex Headache

2015-07-31_3_smallIt hurts on the top of your head. Sometimes it's throbbing, too.

  • Root is Liver-related, which is called "jue yin" in TCM. Because the Liver channel runs to the top of the head, it's easy for excess yang or heat to fly up there when you're flying off the handle. A Liver blood deficiency can cause a (dull) vertex headache, but more often it's the throbbing type up there and it's caused by Liver Yang Rising. Sometimes the Gall Bladder also gets involved, and the headache is also temporal.
  • Treatment principles include relieving vertex pain, pacifying the Liver, and subduing Yang, using points like GB20, LV2, LV3, GB9, and Tai Yang. Stop stressing out--get your blood pressure under control. Or, in the rarer case that your vertex headache is actually from Liver blood deficiency, then your points would include LV8, SP6, and KD3.

The Occipital Headache

2015-07-31_4 It hurts low down in the back of your head into the neck. You're probably coming down with a cold, too.

  • Root is an external invasion by a pathogenic factor. While TCM would probably say you have a Wind-Cold invasion, they also show understanding of the microbes carried on such a "wind" by the way a small insect is under the breeze in the character used to write it. When you've been exposed to a Wind, it attacks the back of your neck and fights to take you down right there.
  • Treatment principles include expelling the Wind and perhaps also warming the Cold. Points would include UB12, UB13, DU14, GB20, LI4, and LU7. While GB20 is a local point in the area that actually hurts, the strategy here is simply expel the wind, and the headache should follow it out.

There are more, but that's enough for today. If you have an empty feeling headache, a Kidney deficiency is likely involved. If your whole head feels like it's being wrapped up and squeezed, we call that "tai yin."


For information, make your appointment at the Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine clinic now. :) The Whole Health Center is on our NUHS campus at 200 E. Roosevelt Rd in Lombard; you can schedule an appointment at (630) 639-9664.

Cheech and Chong?

2015-07-24_a1No, 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.

2015-07-24_cIn 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 another.

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.

2015-07-24_e2015-07-24_fGV20 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 point.

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.

Board Exams! Wow!

2015-07-17_juli1It'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.  


2015-07-17_juli3Despite 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.

2015-07-17_juli4Inside 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 chance, Juli.

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 again...twice.