January is a common time for resolution-based diets and lifestyle shifts that may purport to ‘boost our immunity’. As we explore in Yoga & Somatics for Immune & Respiratory Health, ‘boosting’ immunity is, however, a problematic phrase, as immune issues are so often down to poor modulation – inappropriate rather than inadequate immune responses – with some parts stuck on over-reaction, especially inflammation. We can see in Fig 1, below, how the immune system’s balance can become dysregulated in either direction, leading to different issues.
On average one out of six European couples experience sub/infertility. Looking at the reasons for unfulfilled parenthood, approximately 50 percent are due to female pathology and 50 percent are due to male issues. However, society as well as medicine (both Western and Eastern approaches) tends to focus on treating the female side of childless couples. Since the percentage of male factor infertility is the same as that for female infertility, treatment of the male partner is underrepresented. The overall sperm quality has dropped by 50% within the last 40 years but additionally, the COVID pandemic has aggravated the problem. On top of this, the male factor plays an important role in early pregnancy loss and should be treated to prevent miscarriage.
My first book, Acupuncture for Babies, Children and Teenagers, has a chapter on anxiety and depression which is purely for acupuncturists to guide them in treating it in the clinic. I realised over the years, however, that there is so much that is helpful in the way that Chinese Medicine understands people which can be applied outside of the clinic. This wisdom can be used by parents, at home, to make changes which will support their child’s mental-emotional health. That is why I chose to write a second book, for parents and practitioners.
One of the many tools we have to support young people whose mental health is struggling, is our ability to make a ‘bespoke’ diagnosis of exactly the nature of each person’s distress. ‘Anxiety’ and ‘Depression’ are necessary but limiting labels that are used to describe a multitude of different feeling states. Using the Five Element model, we can begin to understand that one child’s anxiety is very different from the next, and that each child’s depression will have a unique flavour to it.
Let’s take a look at each Element to illustrate this.
Meet Sun, an intuitive and curious child whose grandparents are Traditional Chinese Medicine teachers and practitioners. Sun has been studying with their grandparents, Grandparents Terra, over the last two summers when they stayed with the grandparents Terra in the country. The grandparents Terra have now moved back to the city and below is a conversation Sun had with some students at the Chinese Medicine School where the grandparents teach. Sun is giving an example of the information they have learned from their wise tutors. The information in this conversation can be gathered from the two books Sun’s Season of Channels and Sun’s Dance of the Channels (available for pre-order) both of which are published by Singing Dragon.
As we approach the final countdown to the release of my book exploring the fascinating cross-over between the microbiome, gut health and Oriental Medicine, and the opportunity this affords us as practitioners and patients of Eastern or Western medicine, and as human beings, I noticed the coincidental timing of the ‘Healthy Eating Week’ run by the British Nutrition Foundation. I pondered upon seeing this on the meaning of ‘healthy eating’. I also found myself thinking about how we often underplay the significance of food as medicine and the role of inadequate diets in the initiation of disease. For there is a real paradox in many advanced societies that despite the abundance of food available, dietary deficits remain significant, and health problems linked to our diet and digestion are all too common. Many will rightly question what lies at the root of today’s struggle to define and implement healthy eating to achieve sustained good health.
The Eight Extraordinary Vessels theory has been in existence for thousands of years, and many practitioners of Eastern medicine find themselves intrigued by these “mysterious vessels.” Over the years, many practitioners have indicated it is too dangerous to deeply explore the eight extraordinary vessels, while others believe quite differently. Li Shi Zhen of the 16th century had the viewpoint that not employing the eight extraordinary vessel theory with patients is a disservice to them. Following this guidance, I was profoundly inspired to deepen my study of these vessels and the works of Li Shi Zhen. During the course of my study and employment of the theory in my clinical practice, I discovered there is limited information on how best to proceed as a beginner practitioner regarding the eight extraordinary vessels. This discovery motivated me to write a book for the practitioner interested in knowing more about the eight extraordinary vessels and putting that knowledge into practice for the benefit of their patients.
“Early practitioners and philosophers were not afraid to use these vessels. Li encouraged all of his students as herbalists and acupuncturists to honor and practice the highest level of medicine by incorporating these vessels into their treatments. In this way, he believed practitioners could serve the highest purpose.” (pg.13)
Practical and useful advice for the clinical management of patients with acne
Some of you may already know my first book Treating Psoriasis with Chinese Herbal Medicine. I am very excited to introduce my new book, which has been just released, which is called Treating Acne and Rosacea with Chinese Herbal Medicine. It is the second book in my series on dermatological diseases and zooms in on another of the most common skin conditions of today: Acne. The book covers prescriptions and treatment options with Chinese herbs for all types of acne and TCM syndromes. In addition to this, and for better understanding and assisting in your practice, a separate chapter on acne rosacea is included.
As crucial as Chinese herbal medicine is in the treatment of acne is, I always say – never let a patient go home without giving suitable dietary advice. As well as a good diet can improve the skin, an improper diet can worsen the skin. You and I know this from our daily practice. With the following information, I would like to give you an insight into how general diet rules work best and which ones you can give to your patients with acne.
I recently spoke on a podcast and the subject of “processed food” came up frequently during the interview. After we had concluded I realized that I could have elaborated on the different levels and methods that are utilized in the processing of food. Not all processed food is unhealthy and in our often-busy lives, it’s helpful to make a distinction so we can choose efficiently and wisely for our health. Nowadays our grocery store aisles contain food products that have been hugely altered from their original states in ways that would have been unimaginable 100 years ago. Many staples such as bread, yoghurt, cereal, and baked goods have gone from being just simple processed food items to becoming ultra-processed food (UPF). Awareness and education of what we think we are eating and what we are actually eating is crucial not only to our own health but for the health of our children and grandchildren born into this world of quick, easy and addictive food products.
Sabine Schmitz (M. Med. TCM) is a graduate of the Zhèjiang Chinese Medical University in Hángzhou, China where she majored in Chinese medical dermatology. Her enormous knowledge treasures from China as well as her many years of experience benefit many patients with chronic and complex skin diseases – such as psoriasis and eczema – but also many other patients with various diseases. Sabine has a busy TCM practice specializing in skin diseases, gynecological disorders and infertility treatment. Her first book with Singing Dragon, Treating Psoriasis with Chinese Herbal Medicine (Revised Edition) was published in 2020 as part of a new dermatology series. Her second book with us, Treating Acne and Acne Rosacea with Chinese Herbal Medicine, will be published in November 2021.
When I look at social media these days, I see more and more reports from patients describing improvements in their skin diseases by using Chinese herbs. That is a good thing because it spreads awareness of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and gives other patients, who might currently be looking for a suitable therapy, options and ideas. Sometimes, patients upload pictures of granules, sometimes raw herbs or, in rare cases, I see pills. However, today I would like to discuss why raw herbs are best in the treatment of chronic and complex skin diseases from a therapist’s point of view, who sees difficult skin diseases every day.
Using decoctions as treatment
The wide variety of treatment options developed over the centuries and the extensive range of internal and external applications TCM offers are a direct response to the flexibility required in curing complex disease patterns. When talking about raw herbs, I am referring to “decoctions”, in Chinese this is called jiān jì (煎剂). As seen in practice, decoctions, or teas, of raw herbs are the most effective form of treatment. They are easy to prepare and drink. And when I say easy to prepare, I mean boiling raw herbs up for a couple of hours a week – it’s not rocket science and most patients will do this when the benefits are properly explained to them. Continue reading →