Field Trip

This past Wednesday, I got excused from my clinic shifts and joined other DC/ND students and one other AOM student on a field trip to tour the Standard Process manufacturing facility and farm in Wisconsin.

Standard Process is used by both the DC and ND programs in clinic. Although we don't prescribe supplements in the AOM clinic, many of us are familiar with their products from personal use. Many Oriental Medicine practitioners who are advocates of the use of nutraceuticals use them in their practices, which is why the tour is also open to AOM students.


Early Wednesday morning we took a comfortable 2.5 hour coach bus ride to the 378-acre organic farm and manufacturing plant in Palmyra, Wisconsin, to learn how Standard Process grows and processes the ingredients they use in their supplements. They gave us the royal welcome and treated us to never-ending supplies of samples of their supplements and protein bars and even served us a delicious and healthy lunch!

Highlights of the trip included touring the farm and learning about the history of the land and the company's organic farming practices, as well as meeting Brandon LaGreca, a Licensed Acupuncturist in Wisconsin who treats Standard Process company employees onsite once a week. 

I had the pleasure of sitting with Mr. LaGreca at lunch and hearing his perspective on the use of nutraceuticals in the OM practice, as well as hearing from other Standard Process employees about how much they love acupuncture. After lunch, he did a presentation for the ND and AOM students on the properties of various Standard Process products from an OM perspective, which was engaging and unexpected!


I personally plan on incorporating nutraceuticals in my practice because I know how much they can positively impact a patient's health and healing. My primary philosophy on nutrition and supplements follows the OM perspective, which means that l think they should be prescribed based on a person's OM diagnosis. The problem with this is that OM translations for modern supplements are hard to come by, which is what made Mr. LaGreca's presentation all the more fascinating.

I have seen OM translations for the properties of Western medicinal herbs (which aren't part of Chinese herbal medicine), but it is rare, if not impossible to find translations of the properties of things like B-vitamins, for example. I think this is valuable information for all OM practitioners, regardless of whether they use supplements in their practice, because a large majority of their patients will be using them on their own.

I asked Standard Process staff where I could find more information on their supplements from the OM perspective and was informed that they hold annual seminars for OM practitioners. Sounds like fun! If I'm still in the area when they hold the next one, I will definitely be attending.


I'll end this blog with a photo of the compost piles at the farm. During our farm tour, we stopped to watch as they were being turned by tractor. Look at all that steam being released!

Summer - Season of the Heart

We reached our longest day of the year this past week as the solstice marked the start of the summer season. Along with a continuation of the beautiful blue skies and warm temperatures that we've been having this month, we were also graced with a lovely full moon that rose as the sun was setting. The solstice seemed even more special since I learned that the full moon hasn't coincided with a summer solstice this closely since 1948 -- a pretty rare event!


The change in season and the hot summer days also mark a change in the Chinese seasonal elements. We move from wood representing the new growth of spring to fire representing heat and the peak of energy of the summer.

Summer is the most yang of the seasons and is associated with the heart, pericardium, san jiao and small intestine, the color red, the emotion of joy, and the mind and spirit (shen), since they are ruled by the heart. Summer represents the manifestation of what we have been cultivating since spring.


During this time when the weather is hot and the sun is out, people spend more time outside. This reflects the peaking of our qi and vital energy. This is the time to cultivate these yang energies, while also keeping them in check so that they don't grow to excess. Since it is the season of the heart and joy, we need to cultivate emotions such as joy, happiness, passion, and excitement, while also keeping them balanced. When the heart is balanced, our minds are calm and our sleep is restful. When it's out of balance, we may feel a lack of joy and feel depressed or feel too much joy and experience manic behavior. Some symptoms of a heart out of balance are nervousness, insomnia, poor memory, and speech problems.


To keep the heart balanced and help you enjoy summer to the fullest in accordance with the nature, try to align your lifestyle with the following Chinese medicine principles:

  • Wake up early, enjoy the sun (in moderation), and play outside. It is the time to rise early in the morning (easy to do when first light comes before 5am!). We need to take advantage of the sun's energy that is available during the summer. Try to soak up some early morning rays.
  • Rest at midday -- especially between 11am and 1pm -- the hours of the heart.
  • Eat foods that are in season that naturally keep the body cool and generate fluids, like: melons, cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce, watercress, broccoli, asparagus, corn, cilantro, mint, and dill.
  • In general, the diet should contain more fresh fruits and vegetables, but don't overdo it by eating too many of them raw, as this taxes the spleen/stomach.
  • Don't over-consume cold foods such as ice cream and iced drinks. Stick to room temperature liquids.
  • Drink more liquids.
  • Avoid eating meat, cheeses, nuts, and seeds on very hot days.
  • Eat a little pungent food during the summer to help strengthen the lung organ, which can get compromised by the excess yang energy of the heart. Pungent foods such as garlic, onions, celery, fennel, leeks, mint, cinnamon, and chili pepper will help to regulate the lung and sweating.

Summer always seems like the hardest trimester -- maybe because it's the time when we should be outside playing and not inside studying and taking midterm exams. But alas, I have six exams next week. Maybe I can play in July?

Marvelous Medicinal Mulberries

2016-06-23_aLast week, I noticed that an area of the parking lot behind Lincoln Hall was completely covered in fallen mulberry fruit. The trees were heavily laden with the red and black berries and the ground below and the parked cars were stained purple with the ripe berries from the three mulberry trees that had grown over the walls of the neighboring houses.

On one of my daily walks through the neighborhood, I noticed many more mulberry trees and stained sidewalks and thought -- these nourish the blood; I need to pick them! So my friend/classmate and I met up in the parking lot of Lincoln Hall to pick the falling berries. Unfortunately, due to poor timing, we went out just as a thunderstorm passed through and we ended up getting showered with rain and berries.

What those who are familiar with mulberry trees may know--which I didn't since they don't grow in Hawaii--is that it doesn't really work to just pick the fruit off the branches. If you try to pull a berry off, you'll inadvertently pull on the branch, which shakes off the ripe berries from the other branches and you end up getting showered in berries and covered in purple juice. I've read that it's best to hold a blanket below the tree, shake the branches, and let the fruit fall on the blanket.

All parts of the mulberry tree are used in Chinese herbal medicine. The fruit, or Sang Shen (Sang means Mulberry) is a great blood tonic. Sweet and cold in nature, it goes to the heart, liver and kidney organs and nourishes and tonifies the blood and yin. It is used in formulas to treat deficiency symptoms such as dizziness, tinnitus, insomnia, and premature greying of the hair. It can also be used for wasting and thirsting disorder (Diabetes) and constipation due to blood deficiency, as it is moistening to the intestines. 

2016-06-23_bThe mulberry leaf (Sang Ye -- Ye means leaf) is used for "releasing the exterior" in cases of "wind-heat," aka, catching a cold or fever, with symptoms of headache, sore throat, and coughing with dry throat and thick, yellow phlegm. It is especially good for the eyes and can alleviate red, sore, dry, and painful eyes, as well as spots in the visual field. In China, the leaves of the white mulberry also serve as the food source for silkworms, which also happen to be a Chinese medicinal herb. The silkworm, or Jiang Can, is used for "internal wind" with symptoms such as convulsions, spasms, and facial paralysis, as well as many other indications such as heat rash, scrofula, and neck nodules.

The mulberry branch (Sang Zhi) is used to dispel "wind-dampness," which often manifests as pain. It is especially good for aches and pain in the upper extremities - the shoulder, elbow, arm, wrist, and finger, usually with a feeling of heat.

And lastly, there's the mulberry bark (Sang Ji Sheng), which is also used to dispel wind-dampness, but like the berry it also tonifies the Kidney and Liver blood deficiency that causes dry, scaly skin and hair, hair loss and premature greying. The bark also strengthens the bones and sinews, especially of the low back and legs and treats degenerative conditions causing joint aches and pain, as well as numbness, weakness and atrophy. It is also good for treating restless fetus and uterine bleeding during pregnancy, and promoting lactation.


Since the mulberry only lasts for a couple of days after it's picked, I'm thinking of picking a bunch and making some preserves. That way I can enjoy a blood tonic with my toast!

Electro-Acupuncture for Pain Relief

This trimester in clinic, I've had several new patients who come in weekly for treatments for their pain (back, knee, arm, foot). As with all my patients, when they come in, I'll ask them how they felt after the last treatment and if there are any specific treatments or techniques that they liked or thought worked best. This past week, three of those patients said that they liked the e-stim, or Electro-Acupuncture treatments and that it provided more pain relief for them.


Electro-Acupuncture is a therapy that applies pulses of electrical current to the needle to stimulate the acupuncture site. It's a modern solution for practitioners who may not have the time (or desire) to strongly stimulate each point individually for 10-20 minutes. It works very well with cases involving a lot of stagnation of blood or qi, or both, such as chronic pain, menstrual disorders or restoring blood flow to parts of the body following a stroke to treat neuralgia or even paralysis.

2016-06-17_m2During a treatment session, acupuncture needles are first placed on the acupuncture points, just as in traditional acupuncture. Then electrical stimulation is added by attaching small clips (imagine miniature car battery jumper cables) that connect a pair of needles to a small battery-operated generator. The acupuncturist controls the intensity by increasing or reducing the current. In our clinic, we use a machine with only two leads, but Dr. Fan, our Accessory Techniques instructor suggested that we get one with six leads to use in our practices.

2016-06-17_m3I love getting feedback from patients and hearing that there is an aspect of their treatment that they either enjoy or benefit greatly from, especially when it comes to pain. But to be honest, I don't get too excited about treating pain, especially acute musculoskeletal pain. Maybe it's the pressure of wanting to help the patient right away and a fear that they'll leave without any relief. I'm also partial to addressing and treating the root of the pain, rather than just treating the branch, which is often done with acute pain cases. The difference between the two usually means needling directly into the painful area vs. doing distal points that may reduce or tonify the patient overall. Using the e-stim usually involves the prior -- using the electrical current on local points in the area of the pain. Also, unlike my patients, I don't get very excited about using Electro-Acupuncture because it seems unnatural to mix an ancient healing practice with modern technology. But that extra stimulation, no matter the frequency or intensity seems to do the trick for pain, especially acute.

2016-06-17_m 4_web

In addition to pain treatments, I've also used Electro-Acupuncture for treating infertility and Bell's palsy. The reactions towards using the modality in these cases weren't as positive as those of the pain patients.

I'd like to better understand Electro-Acupuncture so that I can embrace it, along with pain treatments, and maybe some day get excited about the two. My personal homework for the week -- getting some books from the LRC on Electro-Acupuncture and learning more about it!

Japanese Acupuncture

Lately I've been brainstorming ideas on how to study Japanese acupuncture after I graduate. I knew that it was something that I wanted to learn and practice since I learned about this style of oriental medicine many years ago. Japanese acupuncture treatments also happened to be a lot more effective for me than Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) styles.

Japanese acupuncture and moxibustion differ from Traditional Chinese Medicine in many ways, but its techniques resonate with me mostly because of the following aspects:


1) Strong emphasis on palpation and sensory awareness of the Qi's arrival when needling. Japanese acupuncture and massage were originally practiced by the blind, which led to the development of a palpation-focused diagnosis.

2) Extensive use of moxibustion. Japanese style uses direct moxa more than indirect (see picture). This involves burning little cones of mugwort the size of rice grains on the patient's skin to warm and tonify, while also producing white blood cells to reduce pain and inflammation and increase the immune response. TCM also uses direct moxa, but not as extensively, usually using "cones" of moxa that are much larger.

3) Application of both "root" AND "branch" treatments, or treating the entire person (root) and their symptoms (branch). When treating patients, I feel that the treatment is incomplete if the treatment strategy only focuses on the patient's chief complaint or current symptoms.


4) Tendency to use finer needles and a more superficial, less aggressive needle technique. There are Japanese techniques that involve only brushing the needle against the skin. The Japanese also invented the guide tube, a useful tool for reducing discomfort for the patient.

Although there are many styles of Japanese acupuncture, most of them employ the techniques mentioned above, making it beneficial for pediatric and geriatric acupuncture patients, or those who have an aversion to needles. Since I would like to focus my practice on working with geriatric patients, I feel that the Japanese style would be a good fit.

Now to find somewhere to learn Japanese acupuncture! Last week in clinic, Dr. Kim advised me to go to Japan to study. Hmmm....