Tag Archives: depression

Acupuncture Has Multiple Benefits

Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture Eugene OregonOne of the most common questions I get from clients in my acupuncture clinic is “What does acupuncture treat?” The fact is that acupuncture can be beneficial for nearly anything that goes wrong with the health of the human body, not to mention mental health. The reason acupuncture is beneficial for such a wide variety of imbalances is that acupuncture is designed to help the body reach an overall equilibrium or balance. It is the goal of acupuncture treatment to restore overall balance rather than to attack a specific condition, and it is this approach that leads to such a wide range of benefits and allows acupuncture to treat so many conditions and types of illness. Here is a short but interesting recent article describing some of the multiple benefits of acupuncture treatment http://www.wral.com/carolina-partners-acupuncture/13196803/.

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Chinese Medicine and Mental Illness part IV

TCM and Mental Illness 4

Chinese Medicine and Mental Illness IV

According to Chinese Medical theory, the liver and the liver energy act as a general of the psyche. The liver energy is in charge of the planning and execution of life plans, projects and overall direction. Correspondingly, the liver is in charge of the smooth circulation of life energy or “chi” throughout the body’s energetic system: also known as the 12 regular and 8 extra meridians of Chinese energetic anatomy. When the liver energy is healthy and flowing smoothly, one has even energy coursing throught the body’s energetic system, and on a psycholgical level, is able to make and execute decisions easily in accordance with one’s life plans, goals and ambitions. In addition, healthy liver energy and adequate liver blood ensures proper sleep and overall emotional balance which are the foundation of effective execution of life plans.

In pathology, liver energy can be either deficient or stagnant. In TCM (Traditional Chinese Medical) theory, deficient liver energy corresponds with deficient liver blood and can lead to listlessness and depression in addition to the physical symptoms of dry eyes, hair and skin, frequent sighing, insomnia and exessive fatigue. If liver energy and blood are deficient one is unable to project their life energy properly in the advancement and completion of goals which leads to a depressive state. Liver stagnation or liver excess on the other hand, is a build up of energy that is unable to move freely or be adequately channeled into life goals. Emotionally liver energy excess leads to frustration, anger and hostility. Both liver deficiency and liver excess are effectively treated with acupuncture, herbs, dietary therapy and proper exercise.

In the realm of the human psyche, the heart plays the most central role according to TCM theory. The heart and heart energetic system is said to be the dwelling place of the mind and spirit, or “shen”, as it is termed in chinese. The mind or shen is the central force of our consciousness, personal identity, relationship to the divine and the center where all thinking and emotion is processed. While we have seen that each of the internal organ systems has emotions that are most closely associated with them, the heart is affected by all of the emotions and has the responsibility for maintaining emotional equilibrium in the overall psyche. Accoding to Giovanni Maciocia, it is essential to treat the heart in any presentation of mental and emotional disorder. When the heart energy and heart blood are in good order, a person is emotionally balanced, happy, at peace and clear minded. Imbalances of the heart center specifically include anxiety, insomnia and in excess cases, severe mental emotional disorders like mania, bipolar and schizophrenia. Again, in the case of excess or deficiency of heart energy, TCM has clear and effective protocols for treatment via acupuncture, herbs and dietary therapy.

As we can see, TCM has an extensive and systematic way to diagnose and treat a wide variety of mental and emotional illness. These are protocols that have been used successfully to treat these patterns for in some cases, several thousands of years. Please join us for our final installment next time, where we will discuss the Spleen/ Stomach system in relation to the human psyche.

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Chinese Medicine and Mental Illness Part III

Chinese Medicine Eugene Oregon

Chinese Medicine and Mental Illness III

As touched upon in the last article, the mental and psychological aspects of a person are completely integrated with the physical body from the standpoint of Chinese Medicine. Each of the internal organs in fact is associated with a particular aspect of the human psyche. The lungs and the energy of the lungs for instance, are associated with grief and sadness. On the positive side the ability of the lungs to take in new air and to oxygenate the blood, brain and body represent the ability to cut through grief and sadness and move into the ever present now where all real healing takes place.

People that are experiencing grief and sadness often have a tight feeling in their chest and trouble breathing deeply. This correlates nicely with the excellent results that doctors in the UK are getting with their patients by writing them prescriptions for exercise instead of immediately reaching for meds. A 2000 study at Duke University showed that long term, patients treated solely with exercise had a higher than 70% recovery rate from depression versus less than 50% for those treated with Zoloft or Zoloft plus exercise (Anatomy of an Epidemic – Robert Whitaker. Random House, New York 2010 pp (345-346). Imagine now if we were to add acupuncture points and herbal therapy designed to directly heal the energy of the lungs in addition to a prescription for exercise.

According to Chinese Medicine 5 Element Theory, the energy of the lungs helps to nourish the kidneys and the energy of the kidneys. The emotion related to the kidneys is fear on the negative side. Note that people that have paranoia as a part of their mental illness are often subject to fearful thoughts and emotions. According to Wikipedia: ‘Paranoia is a thought process believed to be heavily influenced by anxiety or fear, often to the point of irrationality and delusion. Paranoid thinking typically includes persecutory beliefs, or beliefs of conspiracy concerning a perceived threat towards oneself. (e.g. “Everyone is out to get me.“).’ Note also that the side effects of many psychiatric medications, e.g. sexual dysfunction, dizziness, fatigue, hearing loss and vision impairment are an indication of damaged kidney energy according to Chinese Medical theory.

On the positive side the kidneys represent the basis and foundation of all of our genetic potential. The positive attributes associated with strong kidney energy are will power, determination and persistence. Healthy kidney energy allows an individual to move forward fearlessly through life and to complete their objectives in this lifetime.

As you can begin to see, through the assessment of the energy of the internal organs via Chinese Medical diagnosis, it is possible to develop a holistic treatment plan geared toward restoring balance to an individual’s mind, body and psyche. Depending on the results of Chinese Medical diagnosis, acupuncture prescriptions and herbal prescriptions designed to heal for instance, the lung energy or the kidney energy can be formulated and applied. It is this focus on balancing the entire mental/emotional/ and physical being that sets Chinese Medicine apart from therapies that would seek to control only a certain aspect of the brain chemistry. Join us soon for part four of our series where we will discuss the energy of the liver and heart as they apply to mental illness and the human psyche from the perspective of Chinese Medicine.

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Chinese Medicine and Mental Illness Part II

 Chinese Medicine and Mental Illness Part II

acupuncture, eugene or, mental illness

Chinese Medicine and Mental Illness II

If psychiatric medications are failing to affect the root causes of mental illness as we have shown in the previous article, how can Chinese Medicine possibly be of help? To start with, there is a fundamental difference between the way that mental illness is viewed from the Western and Eastern perspective. From the Western perspective, mental illness is still primarily thought of as a chemical imbalance in the brain. This is the hypothesis that has been driving the perpetuation of psychiatric medications so pervasively in the west. It would be great if it were actually the case – that a simple chemical imbalance in the brain could be mediated by a medication without altering the overall balance of brain chemistry and the rest of the body negatively – but that appears to be rather naïve and over simplistic at this point.

Again to borrow from Robert Whitaker, “All of this physiology-the 100 billion neurons, the 150 trillion synapses, the various neurotransmitter pathways-tell of a brain that is almost infinitely complex. Yet the chemical imbalance theory of mental disorders boiled this complexity down to a simple disease mechanism, one easy to grasp.” (Anatomy of an Epidemic, Crown Publishing, New York 2010).

It was this simple disease mechanism theory that led to the commercial launch and overwhelming success of Prozac in the late 1980’s. Prozac, an SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor), was marketed as an effective drug for treating depression, because as they advertised, low levels of seratonin were clinically shown to be responsible for depression. The truth is that most of the research done on seratonin levels and depression failed to show any conclusive evidence whatsoever of a direct correlation between seratonin and depression. Regardless of this lack of evidence and thanks to ingenious marketing campaigns, doctors were soon writing upwards of 600,000 prescriptions for Prozac per month. Also according to Robert Whitaker, Med Watch filings between 1988 and 1997 showed 39,000 complaints about Prozac possibly being associated with suicide, psychosis, mania, hallucinations, hostility, convulsions etc.

In contrast to the still widely believed chemical imbalance theory of mental illness in western medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine has always viewed the physical, mental and emotional aspects of a person as one unified whole. To this day, this difference in philosophy could in fact be considered the main difference between western and eastern philosophy in general. Though it is changing slowly, many western sciences, including western medicine and psychiatry still adhere to models of thought based on Newtonian physiscs. In Newtonian physics the “principle of locality” states that things can only be influenced by variables in their immediate surroundings. It is this kind of simplistic logic that allows for models of disease etiology that are simplified to one dimensional cause and effect scenarios such as the chemical imbalance theory of mental illness. The Chinese Medicine model of mental and emotional health, as we will see in the next article, takes into consideration the health of all of a person’s internal organs, blood circulation, living conditions, level of fitness, diet and other environmental factors.

Traditional Chinese Medical thought, like eastern thought in general, more closely resembles the newer models of quantum physics. All aspects of a person, of a situation, of reality as a whole are known to be interrelated and integrated; with variables too immeasurable to boil down to simple cause and effect models. Without straying too far from our topic and at the risk of sounding “new agey”, this is also one of the draw backs of applying the scientific method to acupuncture experiments. Acupuncture experiments very often have faulty designs and are carried out by scientists just triggering points rather than dedicated doctors of acupuncture. Such scientific experiments fail to measure such variables as dedication, intention, awareness and personal and energetic development in those applying the acupuncture, not to mention the need for varied point prescriptions even amongst study participants with the “same” diagnosis.

Even moreso than the human brain, the universe IS a phenomenon of infinite complexity. As such it is also not to be accurately subjected to simple theories of cause and effect with impunity. Stay tuned for our next article, where we will begin delving more deeply into the TCM models and treatments for mental illness.

Terry  M. Chen, Licensed Acupuncturist

Open Sky Acupuncture, Acupuncture Eugene Oregon 

(541) 343-4343

Open Sky Acupuncture

eugeneacupunctureclinic.com

 

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Chinese Medicine and Mental Illness Part I

eugene acupuncture for mental illness
Chinese Medicine and Mental Illness

In a very well written book, author Robert Whitaker notes that since the advent of second generation psychiatric drugs like prozac in 1987, the number of Americans with mental illness has not only not declined; as one would think they should with drugs that are actually improving or helping to reverse mental illness; but rather the number has continued to increase dramatically (Anatomy of an Epidemic, Crown Publishing, New York 2010). Mr. Whitaker further illustrates that between the years 1987 and 2007 the number of Americans that were mentally ill enough to be receiving Social disability checks from the government had in fact nearly doubled from a little over 2 million to 4 million.

Even though statistics are showing conclusively that medications alone are not helping to reduce incidence of mental illness, prescriptions for such medications are on the rise, and more and more, also being prescribed for an ever widening variety of conditions. According to a Washington Post Article from March 12, 2012, physicians are now beginning to prescribe atypical antipsychotic medications like, Zyprexa, Seroquel and Abilify for conditions which they have not been approved for including insomnia, anxiety, attention-deficit disorder, dementia and behavioral problems in toddlers (http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2012-03-12/national/35448725_1_atypical-antipsychotics-psychotropic-drugs-abilify.

The same article goes on to note that that anti-psychotic prescriptions for conditions that were considered “off label” doubled between 1995 and 2008, from 4.4 million to 9 million. These statistics are clear indications that our current medication based approach to mental illness needs some revision. Medications alone are not an all encompassing answer to mental illness and writing prescriptions for such medications without due diligence in attempting to help a patient with more natural, less invasive means could not be considered best practice.  Why wouldn’t a therapist or physician first attempt to help people with more natural means like behavioral therapy, dietary therapy, exercise or how about one of the world’s oldest and most tried therapies for all types of physical and mental imbalance: Traditional Chinese Medicine?

Writing prescriptions for “problems of living” is fast, it’s easy and there is plenty of financial incentive to utilize them, but is that really the best direction for the treatment of mental illness and the future of healthcare in America? This is the first in a 5 part series in which we will continue to explore the topic of America’s rise in incidence of mental illness and the role that Chinese Medicine could play in helping find more natural solutions for mental illness.

Terry  M. Chen, Licensed Acupuncturist

Open Sky Acupuncture, Acupuncture Eugene Oregon 

(541) 343-4343

Open Sky Acupuncture

eugeneacupunctureclinic.com

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Acupuncture and TCM for Depression part 2

acupuncture and chinese medicine for depressionAs a primer to this second article on depression and Chinese Medicine, please read the first article here: Acupuncture for Depression I.

 

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, the body/mind complex of a person is basically looked at in terms of patterns of energy. In a nutshell, vigorous mental, emotional and physical health is related to the unobstructed flow of psycho/physical energy throughout the energy system or energy channels of the body. Many types of diseases that affect people are due to stagnation of this psycho/ physical energy; termed “Chi” in Chinese Medicine. The type of particular disease pattern that energy stagnation might cause in a person is related to a person’s constitutional weaknesses as well as the location of the energy stagnation; which energetic channels and which organ systems are affected etc. In general, energy stagnation of any sort will affect the liver channel and organ system as the liver is primarily in charge of circulation of energy throughout the entire psycho/ physical system.

 

Depression, according to TCM, is always related to stagnation of energy affecting the channel and organ system of the liver to some degree. The relationship between liver energy stagnation and depression is dynamic and double directional, meaning that liver energy stagnation may cause depression and that in “reactive depression” one’s circumstances and emotional reaction to them may conversely cause liver energy stagnation. This is a common aspect of TCM diagnosis, that pathologies are often times not linear, but rather multidimensional and occurring mutually and simultaneously. In other words, one may already have mild liver energy stagnation caused by poor diet or lack of exercise that combines with some devastating life circumstance to create a depressive disorder, or vice versa: some negative life circumstance might cause one to become lethargic and to begin eating poorly, thus exacerbating the liver energy stagnation already induced by emotions. It is an interesting clinical note that liver chi stagnation almost always attacks its neighbors the spleen and stomach, causing digestive upset, lack of appetite and/or other gastrointestinal distress. Irrespective of the etiology of the liver energy stagnation and concurrent depression, the treatment plan for such initial stage depression would be to unblock and circulate the energy of the liver utilizing acupuncture, herbs, diet and exercise. Untreated, liver energy stagnation may give rise to excess heat in the body. The pattern is then considered more serious and is termed “liver heat” or “liver fire”. Liver heat or liver fire can in turn damage the body’s fluids and give rise to “liver blood” or “liver yin” deficiency. It is another interesting clinical note that anti depressant medications, while often helpful in the short term, will over time exacerbate liver energy stagnation and eventually lead to liver blood and liver yin deficiency making them a poor long term solution. Acupuncture on the other hand, has also been shown to stimulate serotonin production in the brain which makes it an ideal alternative to SSRI (selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor) anti depressants. See an article about serotonin production and acupuncture here.

 

As we can see from this brief synopsis of depression in TCM, although depression can often times be classified simply as “liver energy stagnation” in its initial stages, the pattern can become quite a bit more complicated in later stages. In addition to the possible patterns of liver heat, liver fire, liver blood deficiency and liver yin deficiency, other organ systems may be affected as a consequence of the imbalance of liver energy. Liver fire may over time give rise to “heart fire”, “heart blood deficiency”, “heart yin deficiency” or “kidney yin deficiency” as the heat spreads and the pattern becomes more complex. It is therefore important that in the treatment of depression within the context of Chinese Medicine, that all components of the imbalance be adequately diagnosed and taken into account in order to render the most complete treatment possible. I will delve more deeply into the various patterns of depression according to Chinese Medicine in the third article in this series. In the next article we will also look more closely at the mental, emotional and psychological aspects of the liver, heart and kidney energetic systems.

 

Terry  M. Chen, Licensed Acupuncturist

Open Sky Acupuncture, Eugene Oregon 

(541) 343-4343

Open Sky Acupuncture

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Another Verification of Acupuncture for Depression

acupuncture combats depression by increasing seratoninYet another study has come out adding to the growing body of evidence that acupuncture is an effective treatment for depression. A group of researchers in Hong Kong conducted a study in which one group of patients suffering from depression received electro acupuncture on the scalp, while a placebo group received sham scalp acupuncture. The group receiving real acupuncture after 9 weeks, showed markedly less depression than the placebo group. Acupuncture has long been known to help regulate neurochemicals in the brain including serotonin. Read the full article here. http://www.reuters.com

Terry  M. Chen, Licensed Acupuncturist

Open Sky Acupuncture, Eugene Oregon 

(541) 343-4343

Open Sky Acupuncture

eugeneacupunctureclinic.com

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Acupuncture and TCM for Depression part 1

acupuncture and chinese medicine for depressionAccording to 2011 statistics compiled by the Center for Disease Control, 1 in 10 adults in the U.S. reports being affected by depression. Depression accounts for nearly 40% of all psychiatric illnesses. Likely the number of adults actually affected by depression in the U.S. would be known to be substantially higher if we were able to include those that do not actively acknowledge or report about their mental state. According to the same statistics compiled by the CDC, those groups most likely to be affected by depression include:
– persons 45-64 years of age
– women (who are affected twice as much as men)
– blacks, Hispanics, non-Hispanic persons of other races or multiple races
– persons with less than a high school education
– those previously married
– individuals unable to work or unemployed
– persons without health insurance coverage

According to the DSM-IV, (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), depression is a type of mood disorder not due to any known organic factor. It is characterized by a depressed mood, lack of interest in daily activities and is generally accompanied by one or more other associated symptoms such as:

– lack of concentration

– weight loss or gain

– fatigue

– thoughts of death or suicide

– insomnia.
Depression is divided into major depression and dysthymia by the DSM-IV, with dysthymia being a chronic, low grade depression and major depression constituting an identifiable, acute depressive episode. If a major depressive episode occurs for someone already suffering from dysthymia, it is called double depression.
While the actual causes of depression are still widely debated with proponents on the side of psychological causes versus proponents on the side of biological causes, most likely there is no clear line, with depression being the product of both psychological causes and biological disposition in varying proportion. The Western treatment of depression currently consists of various forms of psychotherapy and/or treatment with anti-depressant medications. There are three main types of anti-depression medication currently in use, with SSRI’s (selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors) being by far the most utilized of the three categories. SSRI’s include the popular drugs Zoloft, Prozac and Paxil.
While Western approaches to depression treatment can be very effective, especially in short term, acute presentations of major depressive episodes, treatment with pharmaceuticals unfortunately fails to address underlying causes of depression and can, in the long run, contribute to a host of other difficulties resulting from the negative side effects of long term anti-depressant use.
Traditional Chinese Medicine offers another approach to the treatment of depression that is low cost, effective and has no side effects. The effectiveness of acupuncture specifically for depression treatment is being studied more and more with clinical findings consistently supporting its effectiveness in depression treatment. Please see the following for more information: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9895187- http://www.acupuncture-online.com/depression.html -
I will go into the treatment of depression with Traditional Chinese Medicine and acupuncture in part 2 of this article, coming soon.

Terry M. Chen, L.Ac.

Open Sky Acupuncture – Eugene, OR.

http://www.openskyacupuncture.com

http://www.eugeneacupunctureclinic.com

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The Liver Fire Blues

acupuncture, Eugene, Oregon, Terry M. Chen, L.Ac., pain management.

Ah early May and spring is finally in the air here in Eugene, Oregon. The breeze is alive with the smell of fresh, colorful flowers, newly cut grass and…oh my what’s that other smell? Sniff, sniff… pew, that’s the smell of over heated liver qi.

According to TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine Theory), each of the body’s organ systems has a season associated with it. Spring time is associated with the liver and gallbladder. During the spring time it is quite common for liver imbalances to become exacerbated. So what does the liver do when it is out of balance? Well, not only do the internal organs have particular seasons associated with them according to TCM, they each also correspond with a particular set of emotions within the emotional spectrum of human experience. The liver just happens to be associated with some of the superstars of emotional imbalance: depression, anger, irritability and frustration.

When the liver becomes over burdened, a condition known as liver qi (energy) stagnation, it tends to cause over heating, a tense feeling in the nervous system and a hot temper. I’ve noticed that people’s driving tendencies as of late have become even more obnoxious as the spring time ramps up. That feeling of always having to be somewhere five minutes ago, of never having accomplished everything that you “need” to do, these are  common attributes of overly stagnant liver qi. Some physical signs of liver qi stagnation include a feeling of something stuck in the throat, inability to take a full, deep breath, frequent yawning and a congested feeling in the right flank, over the liver. Muscles and tendons may feel rigid and tight and eyes may become dry and over strained.

When liver qi stagnation is left untended over time, it graduates to the further imbalance of liver heat and then liver fire. With liver heat, the temper starts to flare and feelings of frustration and anger begin to run rampant. With liver fire, the anger increases, perhaps to the point of fury. Tell tale physical signs of liver fire include a red face and eyes, constipation and hot, concentrated urine, and severe headaches and dizziness.

One of the first steps to take during spring to help facilitate the smooth flow of liver energy is to include plenty of exercise. The liver is in charge of circulation of energy throughout the body according to TCM, and physical exercise helps it do this job well. Eat clean, primarily vegetarian foods. A list of foods and herbs specific to helping cleanse and circulate the liver will be coming to the nutrition and lifestyle page shortly here: Liver Cleansing Foods. Breathe deeply and practice calming the mind and witnessing your thoughts. These practices help to relax the nervous system and promote homeostasis in the body.

I personally kicked off my own liver energy moving campaign today with a long over due trip to the gym. Afterward I was in the market getting groceries. Coming down a small crowded isle a woman with a full cart and obviously in a hurry almost rammed right into my cart. I turned one way and she turned her cart the same way. I turned the other way and she again turned her cart towards mine accidentally and with growing frustration. As we untangled carts and moved around each other she just glared at me as I smiled, fresh from my workout and with happily circulating liver energy.

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