Chinese Medicine, Fertility, Health, Herbal medicine, Menstruation, Womens Health

The Rose


Love planted a rose, and the world turned sweet. Katharine Lee Bates

Ah the scent of roses! Love and beauty and English country gardens. The rose however originated in China but of course is now grown worldwide with hundreds of different varieties. As well as a token of love and the subject of copious amounts of love poetry, the rose is also used extensively in cooking and beauty products. As it’s Valentines day this week, I wanted to write about the Rose as a medicinal herb.

In Chinese herbal medicine it is called Mei Gui Hua. It is described as a ‘docile’ herb, gentle in it’s nature. Most commonly, it’s included in formulas for Women with menstrual irregularities, menstrual pain and pre-menstrual breast tenderness. It can also be included for patients with digestive problems especially stomach distension and heartburn. It has a very mild laxative effect but generally calming for the stomach especially when stress is a factor.

It is said to ‘regulate the qi’ and relieve constraint. It is thought to have a balancing effect on the endocrine system which helps to regulate the menstrual cycle and has also been shown to help clear up the skin. I consider it to be a fertility herb as our goal when supporting Women trying to conceive is to regulate the menstrual cycle. I’m always conscious too, that the fertility journey is often an emotional one. Rose therefore seems appropriate.

I love rose as part of a herbal tea. On it’s own it has a strong bitter flavour but combined with other herbs such as lime flower, chamomile and perhaps a little lavender, it’s delicate flavour is revealed. It’s an excellent tea to drink in the evening to ease away the days stresses. I’d recommend to people who emotionally overeat in the evening to make a pot when they get in from work.

Mei Gui Hua, the rose, to me is a Woman’s herb. Gentle and compassionate. So instead of a bunch of roses this valentine’s day, how about a delicious rose tea blend instead?

Acupuncture, Chinese Medicine, Cupping, Health, Uncategorized


Photo courtesy of Bob Wong, Art of acupuncture.

I love this photo. It’s very cheeky. It makes me think of the sort of thing that could happen when you get a group of Chinese medicine practitioners together at a dinner party, perhaps during the washing up.

So what is cupping and when do we use it?

I’d like to say at this point, I do use a professional cupping set! The cups themselves are either glass, plastic or bamboo. Traditionally, practitioners used a flame to create a vacuum effect which ‘sucks up’ the tissues which is known as fire cupping. Although I was taught this method, I prefer the ‘health & safety’ version of a plunger that attaches to a valve on the cup. I personally feel it gives me more control of the amount of suction I use.

Applying the cups ‘sucks up the tissues’ separating the muscle fascia and allowing the blood and fluids to move more freely in the tissues and muscles. In the old Chinese medicine texts, they talk about ‘drawing out the pathogenic evils’ a term I like actually. However, ‘mobilising the blood flow’ is probably a term we can better understand.

I use cupping a lot in my practice. Most commonly, for tension in the upper back and shoulder area. What I find is that cupping releases the muscle tension quickly, more so than deep tissue massage (which is great, don’t get me wrong). Cupping is also very helpful when patients have a chest infection, bad cough etc.

What happens at a treatment then? Is it uncomfortable? What about those marks?

A common presentation is where the upper back is tight and painful, probably with restricted movement in the shoulders and neck. I will usually apply some massage oil which allows me to slide the cups covering a large area. Most patients find their mobility improves straight away and continues to improve further over the next few days or so. In cases where patients have been unwell with a lung/chest related problems, the treatment will be more conservative. I would probably just leave the cups in situ for a short time.

A good practitioner will always be checking in with their patient to ensure they are comfortable. I find that patients are happy with an acceptable level of discomfort. The best example being when you have muscle tension and someone gives you a bit of a massage. It’s kind of a bit uncomfortable but feels good. I consider that ‘therapeutic discomfort’. Similarly, the next day muscles feel a bit sore but movement is better, same as after an exercise work out.

The marks produced can look a bit dramtic and for those unfamiliar with Chinese medicine, they can look a bit scary. As a rule, the darker the cupping mark, the more stagnation is present. What we see over the course of a few sessions is that the resulting marks become much less, to the point where no marks appear indicating the tissues are healthly.

Cupping is generally very safe however I would urge patients to check their practitioner has the appropriate training. There is an art to effective cupping and an appropriateness to it’s application. When and where and how much to use it comes from good training and experience.




Chinese Medicine, Stress

Raw chocolate mulberries, a christmas gift idea!


I love nosing around Sante health shop which is below my treatment room in Trinity st, Colchester. Linda, who owns the shop is very particular about what she sells. Where possible everything is organic and ethically produced. They sell an array of high quality supplements and over the counter remedies (check out the manuka honey throat lozenges). There’s a fantastic selection of hair and beauty products that don’t contain loads of potentially toxic chemicals which I must say make good Christmas gifts.

Maybe I shouldn’t spread this around but there is also a small selection of chocolates, in particular Raw chocolate covered mulberries. Huge OMG!

I was drawn to them because white mulberries  or “Sang Shen” are used in Chinese herbal medicine. You might find them in a herbal formula that treats premature aging or wasting diseases as white mulberries are indicated to tonify blood and yin. Also they moisten the intestines so would be used to treat constipation in the elderly for example.

Mulberries taste like little toffees. When they are covered in raw chocolate then….well…they are GOOD! I’m planning to give these as gifts for my older relatives but mainly I shall be buying them for myself…ha ha.

Acupuncture, Chinese Medicine, Health, Menstruation, Womens Health

Nourishing the Blood

A patient of mine recently asked if I could help her 17-year-old daughter. Probably due to medication for her epilepsy she had been having a continuous heavy menstrual bleed for about 3 years. (It is here I bite my tongue and make no comment about her consultant advising her to “just put up with it”!) So I said of course and two treatments later, the bleeding had stopped.

However, three years of heavy menstrual bleeding had taken its toll. This poor young lady was incredibly pale in the face. Examining her tongue, it was again pale with an orangey colour. She was also exhausted. It was fairly obvious that she was very anaemic or as we would diagnose in TCM, Blood deficient.

Blood deficiency represents a little more than just anaemia. It refers to the lack of available nutrients in the blood. Symptoms may include: muscle cramps, spasms, muscle weakness, numbness and tingling in the limbs, dry hair and skin, hair loss, blurred vision, floaters, tired, dry or gritty eyes, dry brittle or withered nails, infrequent, scanty or lack of periods (amenorrhea), dizziness, fainting, poor memory, tiredness and vivid dreams.

This case though, got me revisiting Blood nourishing foods. Telling a teenager they’re having Liver and onions for tea might not go down too well but the fact is that Liver is one of the best sources of iron along with shellfish, beans, nuts and seeds and good news…dark chocolate!

So I’ve been hunting for a good hassle free liver pate recipe and found this:

Not a bad idea to be mindful of the nutrients we’re getting. So why not splash out on a tray of oysters once in a while and try making some homemade liver pate.

Acupuncture, Acupuncture awareness week, BAcC, Chinese Medicine

Why choose a British Acupuncture Council registered acupuncturist?

BAcC_member_pos_largeBAcC…..a leading self-regulatory body for the practice of traditional acupuncture in the UK

The British Acupuncture Council (BAcC) is the UK’s largest professional body for traditional acupuncturists. Acupuncturists who are members will display this logo and/or use the letters MBAcC. When seeking out an acupuncturist, it is important to consider the level of training the practitioner has received and whether that practitioner adheres to strict standards of hygiene, safety and ethical practice.

Codes of conduct and safe practice

Committed to ensuring all patients receive the highest standard professional care

Acupuncturists who are registered with the BAcC  are bound to a code of professional conduct and safe practice. Members are required to do  first aid certification on a regular basis. During our training it is drummed into us, to needle safely, dispose of needles safely. Patients are treated with respect and are given full autonomy towards their treatment.

link to BAcC codes of conduct and safe practice

Register of members

3,600 hours of high standard training

Traditional acupuncturists registered with the BAcC undergo three years of initial training to BSc standard. This involves a foundation in Western medicine, anatomy and physiology, pathology and pharmacology. We study the Classics of Traditional Chinese medicine in it’s historical context but also how this can be applied to our modern understanding of the human body and modern disease.

There are over 300 acupuncture points. What I remember from my own training was that we underwent an extensive, (very stressful) point location exam which entailed us to give both anatomical descriptions of acupuncture points and to locate exactly the point to an examiner. In order for students to progress to the next stage of training (i.e clinical practice) we were required to achieve a pass score of 80%.

We began our clinical training as observers, then assistants, then we were allowed to progress to ‘actually treating real patients!’ Cases were discussed, treatment plans formulated and we performed our treatment under the watchful eye of our clinic supervisor.

Ongoing CPD (Continuing professional development)

A good practitioner never stops learning. BAcC registered acupuncturists are required to complete ongoing CPD.

Acupuncture is an extremely safe treatment however it is possible to make a patient feel very unwell by administering the incorrect treatment without first a proper diagnosis. At best, the treatment might simply be ineffective but in some circumstances could potentially be dangerous. There are also treatment techniques, particularly in muscular-skeletal treatment, that require experience. Some of the techniques I use now, I have worked up to over time as my experience has grown.

In my opinion, Acupuncture should only be administered by a fully qualified practitioner. Certainly, if someone was sticking needles in me, better be properly trained to do so! I find it upsetting to hear people say “they have had acupuncture, but it didn’t work.” I’ve learned now to inquire, “who administered the treatment?” then I find out they had treatment with their GP. I’ve also encountered patients who have had bad experiences with their GP ‘doing a bit of acupuncture’. One lady told me, that it was very painful and left her with big bruises, quite a contrast to the the treatment she received from me. Unfortunately GP’s expect to stick one needle in their patients and get miracle results. Acupuncture just doesn’t work like that, there is so much more to it than that.

With a  BAcC registered practitioner, acupuncture is safe and it works. Accept no less.

Acupuncture, Acupuncture awareness week, Chinese Medicine, Drug and alcohol dependency

Acupuncture for addiction

auricular1One of the areas where acupuncture, specifically ear (auricular) acupuncture, has been used successfully for many years is in drug and alcohol services. Firstly I would say, it makes sense to find non-pharmocological ways of treating drug and alcohol dependency. For a lot of addicts and alcoholics, coming off drugs and alcohol is in many ways the straightforward part. The difficulty is staying clean, coming to terms with the feelings of guilt (towards friends and family that have been affected) and generally rebuilding their lives.

A recent study published in the Journal of Psychiatric And Mental Health Nursing found ear acupuncture within drug and alcohol services to be both effective and extremely cost-effective. In my experience, the sessions are run in a group setting. Five needles are placed in each ear (see photo) which is known as the NADA protocol. The clients are left to relax usually with some suitable relaxing music in the background.

One of the biggest problems for clients is establishing natural sleep patterns. To be able to use a natural therapy such as acupuncture is far preferable to sleeping pills particularly for someone who has addiction problems. Clients often find that after one or two sessions of acupuncture they are able to sleep at least for a few nights following the treatment. This enables clients to then find a normal routine and are in a much better place to make good decisions…i.e stay off drugs/alcohol and develop positive coping mechanisms.

Many of the clients I meet who’ve had addiction problems are often very driven people….they don’t know when to stop and demonstrate extreme behaviors. The acupuncture treatment allows clients to find balance…I call it a “positive zero”, not too manic/hyper but not too lethargic. In Chinese medicine we would simply say..”freeing the flow of qi”.

There is a lot of help out there for addicts and alcoholics. It affects people from all walks of life. If you or someone you know is suffering from an addiction problem then GET HELP! Your GP can refer you to local services or there are many projects that will accept self-referral. There is no judgement….only help!

Acupuncture, Acupuncture awareness week, Chinese Medicine

What is acupuncture?

Needling Liver 3Today is the start of Acupuncture awareness week. The British acupuncture council are keen to get the message out to the public about what acupuncture is and what treatment can offer. Although most people have heard of acupuncture, for many it might seem an odd approach to health treatment. Some also may not relish the thought of someone sticking needles in them! Below are the four main questions that most people want answered before considering acupuncture.

What is it?

The longer I practice acupuncture, the harder I find it to answer this question but here goes. Acupuncturists use very fine needle to stimulate certain points around the body. We locate the points using physiological and anatomical landmarks. (There are around 360 different points!) When the points are stimulated (the acupuncturist gives the needle a little twiddle) the patient feels an achy feeling at the site of the needle. The acupuncturist decide which points to use following a (sometimes very complex) diagnosis based on the principles of traditional chinese medicine but also using our knowledge of western conventional medicine.

How does it work?

The modern scientific explanation is that needling the acupuncture points stimulates the nervous system to release chemicals in the muscles, spinal chord and brain. These chemicals will either change the experience of pain or they will trigger the release of other chemicals and hormones which influence the body’s own internal regulating system.

The traditional Chinese medicine texts use the language of qi and the meridian system. The concept of qi is vast and should be regarded as a metaphor or a physiological abstraction. If qi is flowing correctly in the channels then the body is in balance. It simply means that if body systems are functioning correctly then the person will be healthy. When the flow of qi is disrupted, the person will experience illness. The flow of qi is disrupted by either external factors such as environment, viruses (“external pathogenic factors”) or by internal imbalances in body systems that have become depleted i.e overeating leading to deficiencies in the Stomach and Spleen….I could go on for ever here! Chinese medicine is simple yet vastly complex.

Does it hurt?

Absolutely not and the additional benefit is that most patients will end up having a little doze whilst the needles are in situ. It’s a very pleasant feeling of relaxation (which in this day and age is difficult to achieve).

Is it safe?

Treatment from a properly qualified acupuncturist  registered with the BAcC is very safe. Occasional side effects include feeling a bit sleepy, emotional or getting a headache. Sometimes a small bruise occurs where the needle has been placed. A report on the safety of acupuncture can be found here.

Acupuncture, Chinese Medicine, Electro-acupuncture

Acupuncture decreases plantar fasciitis pain

Acupuncture should be considered as a major therapeutic instrument for the decrease of heel pain in plantar fasciitis (PF), according to a Greek study. Thirty-eight patients with PF were randomly allocated to receive treatment with ice, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication, and a stretching and a strengthening program, or another group who received the same therapeutic procedures plus acupuncture. Scores for pain and mobility/function were significantly smaller in acupuncture group after at two months. (Treatment of Plantar Fasciitis in Recreational Athletes: Two Different Therapeutic Protocols. Foot Ankle Spec. 2011 Aug;4(4):226-234).

The study above doesn’t specify the details of the acupuncture treatment but I must say that on the whole, I’ve found plantar fasiitis quite an easy problem to treat. I would usually use electro-acupuncture because of it’s reliable pain relieving effects. If the calf muscles are tight then I use massage to release them and check the achilles tendon as often this is tight also.

I suppose footwear is something to be aware of, overly flat shoes are reported to exacerbate the problem. Encouraging the patient to stretch and rotate the ankle keeps a good blood flow. There are always different approaches to a problem. Traditional acupuncturists will tend to ‘treat what they find’ so treatment isn’t always the same for any two patients presenting with the same complaint.