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The Inside Scoop on Cholesterol and The One Chinese Herb That Could Crush It

hawthorn-01According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people who suffer from high LDL cholesterol are twice as likely to develop heart disease – the number one cause of death in both men and women (source). High levels of LDL cholesterol is a serious health condition that affects approximately 71 million adults in the U.S. (1 out 3). But an ancient Chinese herb is turning heads in the medical community due to its surprisingly powerful effects on cholesterol levels.

Good vs Bad Cholesterol: What’s The Difference?

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Cleveland Clinic reports on Acupuncture Myths!

The Cleveland Clinic published a wonderful piece about the myths associated with acupuncture.  It is fantastic to see “mainstream” medicine giving a much deserved nod to the community of alternative medicines.

Traditionally, Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture are not considered “alternative” care – it’s conjunctive care.  Our clinic practices an Integrative approach to medicine, utilizing the compliment of care available.

What myths did you believe before you tried acupuncture?



Needles? Ouch! And 9 Other Acupuncture Myths

Test your knowledge about this ancient medical art

There are a lot of misconceptions about acupuncture, but the truth is that this practice has been around for more than 3,500 years and provides relief to people around the world.

Below, find ten of the most common myths about acupuncture:

Myth 1: Acupuncture hurts — after all, we’re talking needles

Fact: Although we use needles, they are very slender and fine (about the size of a cat whisker). You may or may not feel an initial prick, sometimes described as a mosquito bite. Any discomfort will either fade on its own or ease up as your acupuncturist adjusts the needles. You should experience a Qi (pronounced “chee”) sensation, often described as heaviness, throbbing or an electrical sensation. That’s your body’s healing energy doing its work

Myth 2: Acupuncture is ancient folk medicine; no legitimate healthcare professional would recommend it

Fact: Acupuncture is a treatment option that many medical institutions recommend. Even the United States military uses acupuncture. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) funds many clinical research trials on acupuncture. Both the NIH and the World Health Organization (WHO) recognize acupuncture as a valid treatment for a wide range of conditions.

Myth 3: Most people who use, or practice, acupuncture are into ‘New Age’ healing

Fact: On the contrary, you probably have a friend, coworker or neighbor who receives acupuncturetreatments.

Myth 4: Acupuncture may conflict with medication, physical therapy and other ‘mainstream’ conventional medical treatments

Fact: There is no conflict between acupuncture and conventional medicine; they complement one another. Acupuncture works nicely as an adjunct to your conventional treatment plan.

Myth 5: Acupuncture is only useful in treating pain

Fact: It’s true that acupuncture helps relieve joint pain, including knee painback pain; headache; stomach pain and menstrual cramps. However, acupuncture is also used to treat nausea/vomiting, chemotherapy side effects, morning sickness, hypertension (high blood pressure), allergiesdepressioninfertility and other conditions.

Myth 6: Acupuncture has a lot of side effects and you’ll need time off work

Fact: Acupuncture has few to no side effects. After your acupuncture session, you can usually carry on with your day without any restrictions.

Myth 7: Acupuncture’s effects are psychological. It doesn’t really do anything

Fact:  Acupuncture and its effects are far from psychological. Studies show that during acupuncture, our brains begin to release chemicals such as endorphins (natural painkillers) Acupuncture also has an anti-inflammatory effect and helps people’s immune system.

Myth 8: Once you start acupuncture, you’ll always need acupuncture

Fact: For most conditions, acupuncturists strive to improve your main problem so you do not have to return for more treatment. For chronic conditions, some people stay on a maintenance schedule, however, such as returning once a month, because acupuncture continues to help.

Myth 9: If you do not see results in one or two treatments, then you’re unlikely to benefit from acupuncture

Fact: The response to acupuncture is always an individual one. Some people respond quickly — within one, two or three treatments. Others need a full course of eight to 10 treatments. Acupuncture’s effects are cumulative, building with each treatment, so the acupuncturist will assess its effects after you complete a full series of treatments. Acupuncturists use a variety of styles and techniques, so if you do not see results with one clinician, seek out another acupuncturist.

Myth 10: You’ll need a doctor’s referral or a prescription for acupuncture

Fact: Guidelines vary by state. In the state of Ohio, you do not need a doctor’s referral or prescription for acupuncture but a physician should perform a diagnostic exam  for the condition you plan to treat. It is important you seek out a qualified and medically licensed acupuncturist before starting any course of treatment.

Chronic Pain? Let's talk.

I seriously have patients ask me, an acupuncturist, if acupuncture works.  

My head screams “8 years of schooling, student loans, tons of continuing eduction, a life’s work…. what do you think?!”.  I realize, however, what they’re really asking is “Would acupuncture work for me?“.  

I also, very often, hear “I tried acupuncture and it didn’t work.  I only felt better for a few days/weeks/months before the pain returned”.  


Let me touch on the second point, duration of relief, and then return to efficacy.

It is insane for me to hear a patient complain about an improvement that lasts longer then 4-6 hours.  The typical long-term use of muscle relaxers, narcotics, pain relievers, and anti-inflammatories cannot provide relief longer than 12 hours.  If a treatment, acupuncture included, brings benefits that last longer than the VERY transient effects of the pharmaceutical industry we should mark that down as a success.


In my experience the duration of relief is completely individualized.  There are a number of variables that play into the successes of the treatment.

1. Patient Compliance – are they following instructions on icing/heating, stretching, changes in posture, activity, lifestyle modifications

2. Timeline of Injury – how long has the patient been in pain?


In chronic pain it will often take some time to change the body’s perception of pain, response to injury, posture, structural alignment, etc.

Pain is so individualized.  It is a multidimensional stimuli that is hard to even quantify.

In a study conducted on pain perception, Psychologic Aspects of Pain perception, researcher Mcgrath says “The perception of, expression of, and reaction to pain are influenced by genetic, developmental, familial, psychological, social and cultural variables. Psychological factors, such as the situational and emotional factors that exist when we experience pain, can profoundly alter the strength of these perceptions.” 

More and more research is being conducted on acupuncture’s efficacy in pain management.  We are finding that complimentary and alternative approaches to pain can be very effective.  If this is true, why are patient’s still preferring a pharmaceutical solution to their pain? 

Leave your answers in the comments section!



In the News: Acupuncture for Chronic Pain

A recent NCCAM-funded study, employing individual patient data meta-analyses published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, provides the most rigorous evidence to date that acupuncture may be helpful for chronic pain. In addition, results from the study provide robust evidence that the effects of acupuncture on pain are attributable to two components. The larger component includes factors such as the patient’s belief that treatment will be effective, as well as placebo and other context effects. A smaller acupuncture-specific component involves such issues as the locations of specific needling points or depth of needling.

Although millions of Americans use acupuncture each year, often for chronic pain, there has been considerable controversy surrounding its value as a therapy and whether it is anything more than an elaborate placebo. Research exploring a number of possible mechanisms for acupuncture’s pain-relieving effects is ongoing.


  • Vickers AJ, Cronin AM, Maschino A, et al. Acupuncture for chronic pain: a meta-analysis. Archives of Internal Medicine. 2012.


Remember my article on chinese unicorn ants of  herbal medicine?  I wrote on the medicinal properties of cordyceps in chinese medicine.  This herb has been used to treat a myriad of conditions including cancer, chronic fatigue, autoimmune conditions, kidney disease, blood sugar regulation, sexual dysfunction in men and women, as well as many other disease states.

Boing, Boing! (one of my favorite blogs) did a quick piece of cordyceps found on a tarantula.  YEESH!

Tarantula and Cordyceps


This paper on traditional uses of cordyceps is a very interesting weekend read.  Get smart!

Zombie Unicorn Ants of Chinese Herbal Medicine

I recently asked my followers on my Facebook page to let me know what articles about health, wellness, and chinese medicine they would like to read about.  A long time friend made the first comment, “Zombies”.  Challenge accepted Dan.  Challenge Accepted.

Chinese Medicine has existed for thousands of years and seems to be a separate entity from recognized and more “modern” Western Medicine.  Though the concepts, treatments, and ideologies are very foreign to the average person, the method for arriving at the treatment strategies is the exact same as the principles every esteemed modern scientist follows.

Step 1.  Observation.

Picture this.  A young man, in the mountains of Tibet in the 15th century

Tibetan Man
The perfect cone of Kailas . . . a Buddhist pilgrim on the sacred mountain. Photograph: Galen Rowell/© Galen Rowell/CORBIS

happened to look down and notice a long, white unicorn-horn looking thing sticking out of an ant’s brain.  This ant was acting very peculiarly.  Every ant in the little ant line was heading south, but this unicorn ant broke free from the line and moved towards a small bush.  This little unicorn ant started climbing, climbing, climbing until it reached the top of the bush.  The ant grasped hold of the tip top brach, held tight, then died.


Our 15th century Tibetan man was shocked by this and since it’s a bazillion years before iPhones, the interwebs, and tv he decided to do a little experimentation.  Whatever made that little horn pop out of the ants head, change his behavior, make him branch off from the herd and walk like a zombie away from everything his instincts would have normally dictated might have a very entertaining effect on this our Tibetan.  What else does he have going on?


So, Mr. Tibet pops the ant in his mouth and sits back and waits.  And waits.

The cordyceps fungus attacks the ant’s exoskeleton, infects the ant’s body, then its brain. This brain infection causes the ant to climb the rainforest vegetation until it dies at a height above the forest floor, providing a biological advantage for the spread of the fungal spores. This family of fungi is also of great medical interest: providing metabolites such as Cyclosporin A, an immunosuppressive drug used in organ transplantation.


Then all of the sudden he starts noticing a few things.  The first thing he notices is that he feels a great sense of happiness (but perhaps he’s just relieved the ant wasn’t poisonous).  It seems that we are off to a good start in the observation of the ingestion of the unicorn ant.  Secondly, he notices that perhaps due to his good mood, he feels the need to head back in town in search of some female companionship.  Could he have found a secret aphrodisiac?!  This could make him reach and famous because just like the bigwigs over at Viagra will attest to, sexual health is a billion dollar industry!

What our Tibetan man doesn’t realize is that the ant had been infected by a parasitic fungus known as Cordycepts sinensis, or in Chinese Medicine, Dong Chong Xia Cao.  The fungus attacks a host caterpillar or ant, invades the insect and then begins the take-over.  Some of the cordyceps species have been known to effect their hosts behavior for their survival which accounts for the zombie-like behavior that our Tibetan man saw.

Our Tibetan man, Zurkhar Nyamnyi Doje, became famous for his discovery and wrote a medicinal text explaining the tonic properties of this little fungus.  According to the Materia Medica of Chinese Herbal Medicine, this herb works as an adaptogen to increase energy, enhance stamina, and reduce fatigue.  In Western Medicine is is used during organ transplants as an immunosuppressive drug.  It is also being researched for it’s anti-cancer properties.  Cordyceps has polysacchariedes and cordycepin that have been shown to have anti-cancer components.


Another new area of research worth noting in these large waisted times is cordyceps effects on insulin resistance.  Preliminary research have found a hypoglycemic affect from ingesting cordyceps!  That little zombie ant might be able to help us fight the battle of the bulge!



Treating conditions with Chinese Medicine isn’t as simple as chasing down zombie ants.  Finding a licensed practitioner who can assess and diagnose the root cause of a particular condition is going to dictate the success of the herbs.  Who knows, you might not need to be popping zombie ant fungus, you might need some dragon’s blood.


Zombie Herbs.

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