Archive for tag: herbs

Herbal Teas - A Healthier Alternative

I made the switch from coffee to tea almost 2 years ago, but I always preferred tea to coffee. I believe that herbal teas do have powerful healing factors to help us stay healthy.  

Herbal teas are specially blended teas that have medicinal properties to maintain health and help prevent illness. In addition, herbal teas are caffeine free. I read several journal articles and studies that support research that the flavonoids are the key health-promoting ingredient in tea. These polyphenol antioxidants are present in many foods and plants, including tealeaves, and have been found to help prevent cell damage. Recent research suggests that teas may protect against heart disease and many types of cancer.

I have three favorite herbal teas that I want to share with you today.

Green Tea

2013-08-05_greentea _100Green tea's antioxidants, called catechins, scavenge for free radicals that can damage DNA and contribute to cancer, blood clots, and atherosclerosis. There is a lot of research about green tea, mostly more lab studies and epidemiological studies. The tea is "green" because of its minimal processing--its leaves are withered and steamed, not fermented like black and oolong teas--and its unique catechins, especially epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), are more concentrated. I personally drink green tea at least 3-4x a week.

Black Tea

2013-08-05_blackteaBlack tea is a product made from the Camellia Sinensis plant. The aged leaves and stems are used to make medicine. Green tea, which is made from fresh leaves of the same plant, has some different properties. According to my research, black tea is used for improving mental alertness as well as learning, memory and information processing skills. I came across some interesting studies that say black tea has been used to help treat symptoms of Parkinson's disease, and it also contains antioxidants and other substances that might help protect the heart and blood vessels. I usually drink black tea 1-2x a week.

White Tea

2013-08-05_whiteteaLike black and green tea, white tea is also derived from Camellia Sinensis. Thus, white tea shares many of the same chemical properties and health effects of tea. However, white tea contains the most antioxidants. The catechins, a group of polyphenol antioxidants found in white tea, have been found to reduce cholesterol, decrease blood pressure, and improve the function of blood vessels, thereby decreasing the risk of cardiovascular disease. I also read a study that mentioned that white tea has been shown to help antibacterial and antiviral action, but also help with anti-inflammatory properties to help potentially reduce the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. I drink white tea 2x a week as well.

Overall, I enjoy all the three teas. I also drink chamomile and ginger teas. Instead of Starbucks, there are some great alternative teashops like Bello Teas in Downers Grove and Adagio Teas in Naperville. I highly recommend them both.

Brewing Tips: Tap water affects the taste of tea. It is best to use fresh filtered water. To extract the most beneficial compounds from the tealeaves or bags, let them steep for three to five minutes. It is best to drink tea unsweetened and without milk, which can minimize some of the health benefits. Forgo the sugar and try instead honey, stevia products, or a stick of cinnamon.

Thank you for your continued support for AOM blog! Happy Studying! Happy Break! I'll see you again in September!

AOM and Autism

"Autism rates in the U.S. risen dramatically 1 in 88 children has some form the autistic disorder." -- CDC World Report, March 2012

Autism derailed the life I once had and seemed to smash my hopes and dreams for Mykael (pronounce Michael). I am a proud Catholic mom. I believe that when God gives you a blessing we must always be thankful. Mykael was born on April 30, 2005. The labor and delivery lasted 20 hours. His long awaited arrival made it the most memorable blessing out of my 5 children.

I began to notice a change in Mykael around 12 months old, shortly after his vaccination shots. He was different from my other two children. He was very reserved and quiet. He did not say much; in fact, I had a hard time getting him engaged in anything. I sort of brushed it off, that maybe Mykael was developing at his own rate.

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I became more concerned around a year and half. Mykael started rocking back and forth and continued to have no interest in anything. At 16 months, I knew something was very wrong with my son. My pediatrician completely dismissed my concerns. My gut was telling me something different. Mykael was in his own world and began isolating himself from the rest of the family. He no longer made eye contact with me. His beautiful brown eyes seemed lifeless like a doll's. I called the pediatrician again and made another appointment. She thought I was crazy, I could hear it in her voice. She saw nothing wrong with Mykael. I knew that I was not crazy. Words of Wisdom: Remember to always follow your gut because it is usually 99.9% right. I changed pediatricians but I was told the same thing.

After relocating  back to the Midwest, a good friend of mine referred me to a progressive pediatrician in Naperville, IL, who confirmed what I had already known deep down inside--that my son was autistic at 3 years old. Mykael was diagnosed with severe autism with ADHD. He was a "classic" case which displayed speech delay, repetitive movements, and increase sensitivity to noise or any environmental changes, flapping of the ears, hyperactivity and increased vocalization sounds when agitated or in a distressed state.

I remember crying for two or three weeks after receiving the news. I became angry. I began blaming myself and my husband.  It was a difficult time for me. I felt a sense of overwhelming hopelessness. I remember I woke up one morning and had decided that I would not let autism control my son's future. It may have derailed it, but it certainly had not destroyed his future.

I began researching Autism. I started contacting various local organizations. I was going to fight this death sentence placed unjustly on my son with prayer and inner strength. I came across an article on acupuncture and herbal medicine. We saw an acupuncturist and herbalist and my doubt, my fears, my despair were lifted that day forward.

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Mykael Case Study:

Mykael therapy started with pediatric tunia focusing on all the meridians for 10-15 minutes. Then acupressure on these points EX-HN1, yintang, PC6, ST36 and LR3. The Sishencong, HT7, KD3 and SP6 for additional 5-10 minutes. The last five minutes light color therapy focusing on the hands and feet meridians.  It is so hard describe in words my son's transformation. He had left his world and re-entered into the here and now sharing with me the same time and space. After third session, Mykael was uttering actual words one-two sentences. His lifeless vacant stares turned into smiling bright eyes filled with life.

Mykael continues his treatments with me at home, and is currently being treated at National's Whole Health Clinic in Lombard for maintenance and herbal treatments. He is taking an herbal dietary supplement, called Chai Hu Long Gu Mu Li Pian. This herbal supplement calms his shen (mind), helps with his anxiousness, focus and sleep disturbances. Mykael is now in the first grade for children who are developmentally delayed and disabled. We still have a long journey ahead still but with acupuncture, herbs, pediatric tui na, speech and occupational therapies in place. I feel we are headed in the right direction. Mykael has made awesome progress developmentally, emotionally and socially at home and also at school. 

Thank you for your continued support of the AOM Blog! A special thanks to my special little guy Mykael!

Spice It Up

We have all heard the saying, "Variety is the spice of life." It's true. I am currently taking a very interesting class called Oriental Medicine Nutrition and Food Therapy taught by instructor Eric Baker. This class is so wonderful because it discusses Western diet, basic theory of flavors and energetics/temperatures, but also herbs and food and classical theory of diet. The required reading for the class is the Tao of Healthy Eating: Dietary According to Traditional Chinese Medicine  by Bob Flaws. 

I became more aware of the life and death importance of healthy diets after the sudden passing of my father in February 2, 2011 of an acute myocardial infarction, coronary artery disease, and hypotension. My dad loved food but he had a rich fatty diet that he refused to change. I took a good look at my diet and decided this was the year my family would commit to lifestyle change focusing on healthy eating. Many of my patients in the clinic have inquired about Chinese food therapy for weight loss, diabetes, high blood pressure, and overall improving their health.

So let's break out the spices and herbs and look at the health benefits, including higher energy, increased immunity and overall enhancement of our life and longevity.  It is so surprising how easy it is to incorporate herbs and foods in our diet. I wanted to share the spices I have incorporated in my family's diet and an herb I recently learned in Chinese nutritional class last week.                                

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Garlic

Garlic is a plant with pungent flavor. Garlic has been shown to improve cholesterol and lower blood pressure. According to the National Health and Medical Research Council, consuming half to one clove of garlic daily may reduce cholesterol by nearly 10%. In vitrostudies show garlic to have antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal activity. Your breath might suffer, but your heart will thank you. As an antibacterial, garlic is often used to treat minor infections. 

Curry, a staple spice combo in Southeast Asian cuisine, contains turmeric, the yellow spice that gives curry its distinctive color. The active component in turmeric is called cur cumin. If you are a fan of curry, you will be happy to know that this substance is associated with anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-tumor, and anti-amyloid properties. Amyloids are plaque-like proteins that build up in brain tissue, and are responsible for diseases like Alzheimer's and rheumatoid arthritis. In one randomized control study, 107 patients with knee osteoarthritis received either 800 mg per day ibuprofen or 2 grams per day Curcuma extract. Both groups showed improvement in pain on level walking and climbing stairs. Basically, curry is linked with joint health.

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Cinnamon

Cinnamon is one of my family's favorite spices. Many clinical studies have linked it to lowering blood sugar. Both in vitro and human studies show improvement in insulin sensitivity with cinnamon polyphenols, as well as improvement in total and LDL cholesterol. Cinnamon is also thought to detoxify the system and stimulate brain function. Its antiseptic properties give it the ability to fight bladder infection, and if taken in the first 48 hours, a cup of strong cinnamon tea might just nip a bladder infection in the bud. Keep in mind that mixed study results make it difficult to prove these benefits on paper - but it doesn't hurt to sprinkle a teaspoon into your next bowl of oatmeal or make a patch of yummy cinnamon pancakes (my kids love them). 

Dang Gui (Bu Due Tang)  is a Chinese herb that tonifies the blood. Dang gui roots contain phytoestrogens, which are chemicals found in plants that mimic the effects of estrogen in the body. Dang gui is said to help balance women hormones level and is good for women's overall health. It is used to treat menstrual and menopausal symptoms, including migraine, cramps, mood fluctuations, and hot flashes. It is also said to help speed a woman's recovery from childbirth and symptoms of low energy/chronic fatigue. Dang gui has been used to treat angina, high blood pressure, and irregular heart. Some studies have shown that the antispasmodic, dilating effects of dang gui may help treat chronic pulmonary hypertension in people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), especially when taken in combination with the drug nifedipine. Currently, there is a study to determine if dang gui has the ability to treat cancer, liver and kidney disease. Pregnant women should not take this herb.

Cardamom is found in curries, rice dishes, herbal teas, and breads, and is the spice that gives chai tea its main flavor. In Asia, cardamom has long been valued medicinally for its ability to increase circulation and improve energy. Cardamom may also improve digestion, asthma, bronchitis, halitosis, and even help improve a bad mood. Overall, cardamom helps with energy. 

In last week's blog, I mentioned cumin. Cumin  is an excellent spice addition to meat curries, stews, vegetables, seafood, and sauces. Cumin is thought to boost the immune system and also to improve liver function, reduce flatulence, and aid in digestion. It's good to take to keep colds and flus away!       

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Ginger Root

I saved the best for last. Ginger is a root that helps relieve nausea, arthritis, headaches, menstrual cramps, and muscle soreness. I love ginger because it can treat so many symptoms. I often enjoy a cup of ginger tea. Preliminary research indicates that nine compounds found in ginger may bind to human serotonin receptors, which may influence gastrointestinal function. Research conducted in vitro tests show that ginger extract might control the quantity of free radicals and the peroxidation of lipids. In a 2010 study, daily consumption of ginger was shown to help ease muscle pain associated with exercise by 25%. Ginger root supplement has been identified in one study to help reduce colon inflammation markers such as PGE2, thus indicating a measure that might affect colon cancer.

Word to the Wise: Always discuss with your patients before treating conditions with spices and herbs to avoid any adverse interactions. For example, because garlic and ginger possess natural blood-thinning properties, individuals about to undergo surgery and those taking blood thinners should take extra precaution. An added personal side note, remember to keep herbs and spices in cool and dry places. Especially for spices, the peak life is six months in order to preserve their oils and prevent loss of pungent flavors.

Noted statistical data and research studies cited from Huonker et al. Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemist, May 2010, www.sciencedaily.com, www.uofmhealth.org, www.tcmhealthinfo.org.

Remember to "spice it up" - and "herbs can be superb"! Thanks for continuing to support the AOM blog.

Happy New Year

Snake

Before we get started on the blog, I want to wish everyone at NUHS a Happy New Year and a Happy Chinese Year of the Snake!. I have some great tips for everyone this week to keep us healthy in the winter season especially if you cannot make it into National's Whole Health Clinic. 

"During the winter months, all things in nature wither, hide, return home, and enter a resting period. This is a time when yin dominates yang."
-- The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Chinese Medicine 

Thinking of Midwest winters, the first thing that pops into our heads is snow, and more snow, more and more snow, and lots more snow (just kidding, but typically true), winter break, family gatherings, overeating, holiday parties, desserts, hot cocoa, puffy coats, and of course, colds and flu. How do we take care of ourselves mentally and physically? I have four lifestyle changes that we can integrate in our daily lives to keep us healthy in the winter season. I also added Chinese nutritional food therapy, which includes a classic herb and cooking spice that we can add to our diets.

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Keys to Healthy Winter Lifestyle

  1. Exercise
    Even though we naturally slow down during this time, we should still exercise to keep our circulation flowing, immune system strong, muscles stretched, and joints lubricated. Tai Chi and Medical Qi Gong are excellent exercises.
  2. Sleep
    Wintertime is a good time to conserve your energy. This is the time you want to go to bed a little earlier and sleep a little longer. Let your body recharge. Snuggle up with a good book, a pet, or a warm soft blanket, and snooze! 
  3. Meditation
    Give your mind some quiet time. With less stress comes better sleep, which leads to a stronger immune system. Take five minutes minimum daily to sit in complete stillness and quiet--and breathe.

    I also want to recommend the healing sounds. There are six healing sounds that correspond with our organs to rejuvenate energy in our body and bring balance. There are also great YouTube videos and two books that are good reads if you are interesting in learning more about healing sounds: Healing Sounds  by Jonathan Goldman, and Six Healing Sounds: Taoist Techniques for Balancing Chi  by Mantak Chia, that comes with a CD. Dr. Yurasek and John Robertson also teach healing sounds in Medical Qi Gong class here at the National campus in Lombard.
  4. Self-reflection
    The stillness of the winter season is a good time for self-reflection and taking a good look at you. Traditionally, people have made New Year's resolutions in January, which is a form of self-reflection. I have always looked at resolutions as how we can better ourselves in the New Year. Self-reflection is a great tool to use to find the balance and peace we desperately need in our busy lives as students and for our patients.

Cumin: Nutritional Food Therapy Herb 

Gui Zhi Tang is the most important formula in the classical medical text Shang Han Lun, which translated in English means "On Cold Damage" or "Treatise on Cold Injury." This formula can be taken regularly to harmonize your Yin and Yang and to strengthen your immune system. Cumin is a spice that boosts immunity and improves liver function, reduces flatulence and aids in digestion. It is an excellent addition to meat curries, stews, vegetables, seafood, and sauces. 

Grains

According to nature, our bodies are meant to slow down and conserve energy during the winter. Times have changed since the times of the Yellow Emperor thousands of years ago in China, but the basic principles should not. Keep in mind winter's wisdom in order to stay healthy throughout the New Year! Remember this is cold and flu season, so prevention is the key. I would recommend herbs and getting acupuncture at least once a week during this cold and flu season will strengthen your immune system. 

Happy New Year and thanks for continuing to support the AOM blog!