Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) with TCM

Like so many other medically defined conditions, polycystic ovarian disease, or PCOS, simply is not a concept that existed in ancient Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). The ancient sages of TCM recognised symptom patterns that we now call PCOS, but herbal treatment for the condition is both more and less than medical intervention.

What Does a TCM Practitioner See When a Woman Comes In With PCOS?

Most practitioners of TCM are also trained in conventional medicine, so you can discuss your concerns with confidence. The choice of herbal treatments, however, depends on symptoms as they are traditionally defined.

Sometimes the TCM practitioner will see that symptoms require “warming up” the body. For this, the patent medicine might be Gui Zhi Fu Ling Wan, which is also known as the Cinnamon and Poria Pill. Sometimes the TCM practitioner might see that primary problem is “redirecting” the body’s energies away from the center of the body, where they are “congealing” in the ovaries. For this symptom pattern, the remedy might be Dan Gui Shao Yao San, which is also known as Dong Quai and Peony Powder. This is the same remedy that is used in older women to treat hot flushes.

But sometimes the problem is that the menstrual cycle simply needs to be reset. In Western terms, there is an excess of luteinizing hormone. In almost all cases of PCOS, there is a problem with too much testosterone.[1] The ovaries make both estrogen and testosterone. PCOS causes the ovaries to burn lots of sugar, which they use to make both hormones to excess. It is necessary at least to reduce the production of testosterone. Low-calorie diets (exercise without diet won’t work) reduce the supply of sugar to the ovaries and reduce the production of estrogen. But clinical trials show that the herbal formula Wen Jing Tang, which is also known by its Japanese name unsei-to,  normalizes both luteinizing hormone and the balance of estrogen and testosterone.[2] In the terminology of TCM, this formula “Warms the Menses” to restart ovulation and fertility.

When Would TCM “Warm the Menses”?

Not every woman should get the Wen Jing Tang formula. There are some very specific indications that the formula will help.

  • Traditionally, this formula was used for women who had abdominal distension. That could be bloating, or it could be belly fat. In TCM, both bloating and belly fat indicate the same kind of disturbance in the flows of Chi through their channels. A “harder” kind of stasis only meant that the energy had been in the wrong channels so long that bloat turned into fat. But the misdirection of energy was the same.
  • Warm the Menses formula usually is given to women who have some uterine bleeding, but not necessarily menstruation. Their periods may come late or not at all. But there is still some bleeding.
  • This formula is not intended for women who have fevers, who have hot flushes, or who have express (however deservedly) outbursts of rage. It adds energy to the body, so it’s best to avoid this formula if there is already too much energy in the body.

Usually, this isn’t the first combination a TCM practitioner would try. But this is the combination that works best with Western medicine.

TCM Augments Medications and Supplements

The herbal formulas of Traditional Chinese Medicine do not replace any other medications your doctor prescribes. They don’t take the place of any supplements you may be taking, such as inositol. Your medications and supplements help to determine the pattern of symptoms for which your TCM practitioner chooses appropriate combinations of hepcosrbs.

What kinds of medications and supplements also make a difference? Documented clinical experience gives some insights.

Here are some examples:

  • The most commonly prescribed medication for PCOS is metformin. It  is considered especially useful when symptoms include obesity.[3] However, at least one clinical trial has found that myo-inositol is effective than metformin.[4]
  • Myo-inositol can be combined with the fertility drug clomiphene. Fertility researchers at the Alexandrovska University Hospital in Bulgaria gave 50 women both myo-inositol and clomiphene for three months. In just three months, 29 women started ovulating again and 11 became pregnant. After the other women in the study went off myo-inositol, they continued on clomiphene. In that group, six more women became pregnant.[5]
  • Another team of doctors at the Hôpital Jeanne de Flandre in Lille, France asked 26 women to consent to treatment with myo-inositol in addition to clomiphene. Their pregnancy rates were 35 percent higher than the pregnancy rates for women who received clomiphene alone.[6]

 

Would these women get even better results if they took some doctor-supervised combination of metformin, myo-inositol, clomiphene, and/or Wen Jing Tang? It all depends on symptoms. Whether or not a woman takes any other medications, Wen Jing Tang works best when the energetic need of the body is to warm and gently stimulate the reproductive organs.

 

How Should Women Pursue TCM Treatment for PCOS?

 

PCOS is never simply a matter of eating the wrong foods in the wrong amounts at the wrong times, but it is often helped by diet. Dieting puts the brakes on some of the hormonal processes that perpetuate the disease. A clinical study has found that no matter what treatments women choose for infertility associated with PCOS, they get better results if they diet first.[7]

 

Beyond dieting, it’s important to get good medical care and good alternative medical care. Be up front with your doctor about any herbs you are using. Be open with your TCM practitioner about any medications you are taking. You don’t have to be a purist to get good results from TCM, but you do need a skilled practitioner who thoroughly understands and respects your choices.

 

Will you overcome PCOS with Wen Jiang Tang? Maybe you will, but chances are your TCM practitioner will try one of two other herbal remedies first. Wen Jiang Tang is something you take when your body is ready for it, perhaps In the second of third month of treatment. You may have to wait a few months for results, but working with your TCM practitioner will still get a better and faster result than you can expect from one mode of treatment alone.

 

[1] Barber TM, Franks S. Genetic basis of polycystic ovary syndrome. Expert Review of Endocrinology & Metabolism. 2010. 5(4):549-61.pcos

[2] Ushiroyama T, Hosotani T, Mori K, Yamashita Y, Ikeda A, Ueki M. Effects of switching to wen-jing-tang (unkei-to) from preceding herbal preparations selected by eight-principle pattern identification on endocrinological status and ovulatory induction in women with polycystic ovary syndrome. Am J Chin Med 2006;34(2):177-87. doi: 10.1142/S0192415X06003746. PMID: 16552830.

[3] Tagliaferri V, Romualdi D, Immediata V, De Cicco S, Di Florio C, Lanzone A, Guido M. Metformin vs myoinositol: which is better in obese polycystic ovary syndrome patients? A randomized controlled crossover study.

Clin Endocrinol (Oxf). 2017 May;86(5):725-730. doi: 10.1111/cen.13304. Epub 2017 Feb 10. PMID: 28092404.

[4] Jamilian M, Farhat P, Foroozanfard F, Afshar Ebrahimi F, Aghadavod E, Bahmani F, Badehnoosh B, Jamilian H, Asemi Z. Comparison of myo-inositol and metformin on clinical, metabolic and genetic parameters in polycystic ovary syndrome: A randomized controlled clinical trial. Clin Endocrinol (Oxf). 2017 Aug;87(2):194-200. doi: 10.1111/cen.13366. Epub 2017 Jun 8.

[5] Kamenov Z, Kolarov G, Gateva A, Carlomagno G, Genazzani AD. Ovulation induction with myo-inositol alone and in combination with clomiphene citrate in polycystic ovarian syndrome patients with insulin resistance.

Gynecol Endocrinol. 2015 Feb;31(2):131-5. doi: 10.3109/09513590.2014.964640. Epub 2014 Sep 26.

PMID: 25259724.

[6] Rolland AL, Peigné M, Plouvier P, Dumont A, Catteau-Jonard S, Dewailly D. Could myo-inositol soft gel capsules outperform clomiphene in inducing ovulation? Results of a pilot study. Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2017 Jun;21(2 Suppl):10-14.PMID: 28724178.

[7] Legro RS, Dodson WC, Kunselman AR, Stetter CM, Kris-Etherton PM, Williams NI, Gnatuk CL, Estes SJ, Allison KC, Sarwer DB, Diamond MP, Schlaff WD, Casson PR, Christman GM, Barnhart KT, Bates GW, Usadi R, Lucidi S, Baker V, Zhang H, Eisenberg E, Coutifaris C, Dokras A. Benefit of Delayed Fertility Therapy With Preconception Weight Loss Over Immediate Therapy in Obese Women With PCOS. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2016 Jul;101(7):2658-66. doi: 10.1210/jc.2016-1659. Epub 2016 May 12. PMID: 27172435.

Wu Zi Yan Zong Wan, The Five Seed Fertility Fruits Formula

Wu Zi Yan Zong Wan

The Five Seed Fertility Fruits Formula

Wu Zi Yan Zong Wan is a Traditional Chinese Medicine often referred to as “the fertility fruits” or the “five ancestors tea pills.” This formula combines five seeds and berries that help a man’s body keep his reproductive energies from “leaking.” With his masculine powers properly directed, he is more readily able to father children. The formula also encourages stronger erections, longer lasting intercourse, and increased fertility. Let’s take a look at the five “ancestor” herbs that make up the formula.

 

Gou Qi Zi (also known as Fructus Lycii Chinensis and goji berry) is added to formulas as a Yin tonic. The energies of the herb assist the “holding” energies of the body.  It helps the lungs hold moisture so they are moistened. This stops dry cough. It brightens the eyes both physically and energetically. It can relieve dry eye, but it can also resolve the effects of emotional energies that make the eyes tired. And it nourishes the energies of the Kidney, to hold fluids and the reproductive force known as Jing, and the Liver, to house emotions until they can be properly processed.  It helps a man focus his raw emotional energy on what’s important.

In scientific terms, however, Gou Qi Zi has a much more specific effect on a man’s sex life. It contains compounds that help preserve dopamine-making neurons in the brain. Dopamine is the brain’s reward chemical. Maintaining the brain’s normal production of dopamine maintains a man’s normal interest in sex.[1] It also helps you feel better about your life in general. A clinical trial that involved drinking 120 ml (half a cup) of goji berry juice every day for 15 days found that it significantly “improves subjective measures of energy levels, athletic performance, sleep quality, mental acuity, calmness, feelings of health and contentment, mood, and gastrointestinal regularity compared to placebo.”[2]

 

Tu Si Zi (also known as Semen Cucscutae Chinensis and ) s strengthens Yang, nourishes Yin, and astringes Jing. What does that mean? Chinese dodder seed gives the body’s outward, assertive energies a boost. At the same time it helps the body hold onto energies needed for its inner workings. The combination of these effects helps the body conserve Jing, or its reproductive essence.

Tu Si Zi has many other applications. This herb contains as-yet unidentified compounds that relieve knee pain.[3] Energetically, the knees, the Kidney, and a man’s reproductive function are all interrelated. Practically, if your knees are killing you, you aren’t going to have good sex. Along with epimedium (horny goat weed), Tu Si Zi helps improve the male memory.[4] But most importantly for male fertility, laboratory studies confirm that Tu Si Zi improves sperm’s “swimming ability” and strengthens the sperm’s cell membrane against oxidative assault.[5]

 

Che Qian Zi (also Semen Plantaginis and psyllium seed) is a sweet, cooling herb. Its energies calm those of the Bladder, Kidney, Liver, and Lung.  It promotes

urination. This helps “dry out” diarrhea. It clears Liver Heat, the energetic effect of strong emotions that cannot be contained. This normalizes energies in the breasts and eyes. And it clears phlegm from the Lungs.  In Western medicine, psyllium seed is the most commonly prescribed source of natural fiber, used to treat both constipation and diarrhea, but it also keeps digested sugars from entering the body too quickly.

Western medicine has focused on the use of psyllium seed as a treatment for constipation and high cholesterol, so it has not investigated how the herb can support men’s reproductive health. However, there is laboratory evidence that Che Qian Zi increases the production of bile salts. The liver uses bile salts to remove excess estrogen from the body.[6] It is possible, although it’s not proven, that this ingredient helps a man’s body to eliminate estrogen-like compounds from food and polluted drinking water.

 

Fu Pen Zi (also known as Fructus Rubi Chingii and Chinese Raspberry Fruit) contributes energies that stabilize and bind. It is also an astringent herb. It keeps vital energies from leaking out of the body. Traditional herbalism uses it to invigorate Yang energies to reduce urinary frequency, enuresis, impotence, spermatorrhea, premature ejaculation, or wet dreams.

Modern science confirms that Fu Pen Zi is a vasodilator.[7] It supports the movement of blood into the penis for a stronger erection. It’s also a muscle relaxant.[8] It prevents muscle spasms that could occur at just the wrong time and ruin good sex.

 

Wu Wei Zi, literally the “fruit of five flavors (also known as Fructus Schisandrae Chinensis and schisandra fruit) is sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and pungent. Its five flavors enable it to lend its energies to all five of the energy organs of the human body, the Heart, Kidneys, Liver, Lungs, and Spleen. This herb also has five functions. It can calm, clear, and tonify the body, as well as expel “evil energies” known as Wind and break up stagnation, the physical effects of energies out of place.

Schisandra also has scientifically documented potencies. It stimulates the production of several detoxifying enzymes in the liver, including the CYP2E1 we talked about above and also CYP1A2 and CYP3A11. This helps the liver detoxify caffeine. It also helps a man’s body clear out estrogens that may have been generated by the breakdown of plastics or that come from other sources of environmental pollution.[9]

The formula Wu Zi Yan Zong Wan acting as a whole has been scientifically demonstrated to treat the effects of alcohol on the liver.[10] It acts on a specific enzyme system called CYP2E1.[11] This is the enzyme your body uses to detoxify a huge number of environmental chemicals. It’s absolutely critical for the body to detoxify benzene and aniline dyes. It is the enzyme that clears out painkillers and anesthesia. It’s also the enzyme your liver uses to detoxify alcohol.

But of more interest to most men is the fact that laboratory studies confirm that Wu Zi Yan Zong Wan makes erections stronger, specifically in males with hypertension.[12] It normalizes the production of a compound called nitric oxide (NO) in the cavernus cavernosum, the blood vessels that power the penis. It allows the penis to relax and fill with blood so it becomes erect. Although Wu Zi Yan Zong Wan is not so strong that it comes with the warning “For erections that last more than four hours, see your doctor,” it has the same action as the “little blue pill” that your doctor might prescribe for you.

How do you reconcile the Western science with the known efficacy of the formula in TCM? It’s simple, really. Wu Zi Yan Zong Wan is not a formula is not a formula for men who “have something wrong with them.” It is just a formula that removes certain physiological distractions that interfere with fertility and enjoyment of sex.

Men who have problems in the bedroom or disappointments with pregnancy don’t necessarily have problems specifically in their reproductive organs. The problem may really be the toxic effects of chemicals on the job. Or it can be the physiological effects of toxic emotional experiences. Or it can be the after effects of anesthesia from surgery or even the general stress of an infection somewhere else in the body.

Wu Zi Yan Zong Wan is given to men who function perfectly well as men, but just need some help dealing with toxic environments or toxic lifestyle. Six months of treatment with Wu Zi Yan Zong Wan will help the men who need resume their normal sexual potency as they achieve generally better health.

[1] Lin S, Ye S, Huang J, Tian Y, Xu Y, Wu M, Wang J, Wu S, Cai J. How do Chinese medicines that tonify the kidney inhibit dopaminergic neuron apoptosis? Neural Regen Res. 2013 Oct 25;8(30):2820-6. doi: 10.3969/j.issn.1673-5374.2013.30.004. PMID: 25206603.

[2] Amagase H, Nance DM. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, clinical study of the general effects of a standardized Lycium barbarum (goji) juice, GoChi. J Altern Complement Med 2008;14:403-12.

[3] Liang Y et al. Effects of traditional Chinese medicine and rehabilitation training on knee joint function after anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction in arthroscopy. Chinese Journal of Clinical Rehabilitatin. 2006;10(27):6-10.

[4] Liu, Z. Y., Yang, Y. G., and Zheng, B. [Effect of improving memory and inhibiting acetylcholinesterase activity by invigorating-qi and warming-yang recipe]. Zhongguo Zhong.Xi.Yi.Jie.He.Za Zhi. 1993;13(11):675-6, 646.

[5] Peng, S. J., Lu, R. K., and Yu, L. H. [Effects of semen Cuscutae, rhizoma Curculiginis, radix Morindae officinalis on human spermatozoan’s motility and membrane function in vitro]. Zhongguo Zhong.Xi.Yi.Jie.He.Za Zhi. 1997;17(3):145-147

[6] Jenkins DJ, Kendall CW, Axelsen M, et al. Viscous and nonviscous fibres, nonabsorbable and low glycaemic index carbohydrates, blood lipids and coronary heart disease. Curr Opin Lipidol 2000;11:49-56.

[7] Mullen W, McGinn J, Lean ME, et al. Ellagitannins, flavonoids, and other phenolics in red raspberries and their contribution to antioxidant capacity and vasorelaxation properties. J Agric Food Chem 2002;50:5191-6.

[8] Bamford DS, Percival RC, Tothill AU. Raspberry leaf tea: a new aspect to an old problem. Br J Pharmacol 1970;40:161P-162P.

[9] Hong M, Zhang Y, Li S, Tan HY, Wang N, Mu S, Hao X, Feng Y. A Network Pharmacology-Based Study on the Hepatoprotective Effect of Fructus Schisandrae. Molecules. 2017 Sep 28;22(10). pii: E1617. doi: 10.3390/molecules22101617. PMID: 28956809.

[10] Chen ML, Tsai SH, Ip SP, Ko KM, Che CT. Long-term treatment with a “Yang-invigorating” Chinese herbal formula, Wu-Zi-Yan-Zong-Wan, reduces mortality and liver oxidative damage in chronic alcohol-intoxicated rats. Rejuvenation Res. 2010 Aug;13(4):459-67. doi: 10.1089/rej.2009.0985. PMID: 20583953.

[11] Chen ML, Ip SP, Tsai SH, Ko KM, Che CT. Biochemical mechanism of Wu-Zi-Yan-Zong-Wan, a traditional Chinese herbal formula, against alcohol-induced oxidative damage in CYP2E1 cDNA-transfected HepG2 (E47) cells.

J Ethnopharmacol. 2010 Mar 2;128(1):116-22. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2009.12.036. Epub 2010 Jan 4.

PMID: 20051262.

[12] Sohn, D. W., Kim, H. Y., Kim, S. D., Lee, E. J., Kim, H. S., Kim, J. K., Hwang, S. Y., Cho, Y. H., and Kim, S. W. Elevation of intracavernous pressure and NO-cGMP activity by a new herbal formula in penile tissues of spontaneous hypertensive male rats. J.Ethnopharmacol. 11-20-2008;120(2):176-180.

Polyphenols, What are they ?

What are polyphenols ?

Polyphenols are micronutrients that we get through certain plant-based foods. They’re packed with antioxidants and potential health benefits. It’s thought that polyphenols can improve or help treat digestion issues, weight management difficulties, diabetes, neurodegenerative disease, and cardiovascular diseases.

You can get polyphenols by eating foods containing them. You can also take supplements, which come in powder and capsule forms.

Factors that influence activity of polyphenols in the body include metabolism, intestinal absorption, and the bioavailability of the poly-phenol. Although some foods may have higher levels than others, this does not necessarily mean that they are absorbed and used at higher rates.

Read on to learn the polyphenol content of many foods. Unless otherwise stated, all numbers are given in milligrams (mg) per 100 grams (g) of food.

 

CLOVES AND OTHER SEASONINGS

In a 2010 study that identified the 100 foods richest in polyphenols, cloves came out on top. Cloves had a total of 15,188 mg polyphenols per 100 g of cloves. There were a number of other seasonings with high rankings, too. These included dried peppermint, which ranked second with 11,960 mg polyphenols, and star anise, which came in third with 5,460 mg.

 

COCOA POWDER AND DARK CHOCOLATE

Cocoa powder was the fourth richest polyphenol food identified, with 3,448 mg polyphenols per 100 g of the powder. It’s not a surprise that dark chocolate fell close behind on the list and was ranked eighth with 1,664 mg. Milk chocolate is also on the list, but due to its lower cocoa content, falls much further down the list at number 32.

 

BERRIES

A number of different types of berries are rich in polyphenols. These include popular and easily accessible berries like:

  • highbush blueberries, with 560 mg polyphenols
  • blackberries, with 260 mg polyphenols
  • strawberries, with 235 mg polyphenols
  • red raspberries, with 215 mg polyphenols

The berry with the most polyphenols? Black chokeberry, which has more than 1,700 mg polyphenols per 100 g.

NON-BERRY FRUITS

Berries aren’t the only fruits with plenty of polyphenols. According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, many fruits contain high numbers of polyphenols. These include:

  • black currants, with 758 mg polyphenols
  • plums, with 377 mg polyphenols
  • apples, with 136 mg polyphenols

Fruit juices like apple juice and pomegranate juice also contain high numbers of this micronutrient.

 

BEANS

Beans contain many nutritional benefits, so it’s no surprise that they naturally have hefty doses of polyphenols. Black beans and white beans have the highest number of polyphenols. Black beans have 59 mg per 100 g, and white beans have 51 mg.

 

NUTS

Nuts can be high in caloric value, but they pack a powerful nutritional punch. Not only are they full of protein; some nuts also have high polyphenol content.

One 2012 study found significant levels of polyphenols in a number of both raw and roasted nuts. Nuts high in polyphenols include:

  • hazelnuts, with 495 mg polyphenols
  • walnuts, with 28 mg polyphenols
  • almonds, with 187 mg polyphenols
  • pecans, with 493 mg polyphenols

 

VEGETABLES

There are many vegetables that contain polyphenols, though they usually have less than fruit. Vegetables with high numbers of polyphenols include:

  • artichokes, with 260 mg polyphenols
  • chicory, with 166–235 mg polyphenols
  • red onions, with 168 mg polyphenols
  • spinach, with 119 mg polyphenols

 

BLACK AND GREEN TEA

Want to shake it up? In addition to high-fiber fruits, nuts, and vegetables, black and green teas both contain ample amounts of polyphenols. Black tea clocks in with 102 mg polyphenols per 100 milliliters (mL), and green tea has 89 mg.

 

RED WINEpolyphenols

Many people drink a glass of red wine every night for the antioxidants. The high number of polyphenols in red wine contributes to that antioxidant count. Red wine has a total of 101 mg polyphenol per 100 mL. Rosé and white wine, while not as beneficial, still have a decent chunk of polyphenols, with 100 mL of each having about 10 mg polyphenols.

 

 

 

Polyphenols are powerful micro nutrients that our body needs. They have numerous health benefits that may offer protection from the development of cancers, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, and diabetes. It’s best to consume through foods naturally containing them.  If you take supplements, make sure they are made from a reputable company with high quality sourcing. At the Natural Health practice we use Superfood Red

Five Elements of Traditional Chinese Medicine

What Are the Five Elements of Traditional Chinese Medicine?

Everyone experiences life differently. One of the fundamental teachings of Traditional Chinese Medicine is that each individual has a unique response to a disease based on their constitution and the energy balance of their organs. Traditional Chinese Medicine explains energy balance in terms of five elements that are balanced or imbalanced in those five organs.

The five elements are water, wood, fire, earth, and metal. They can be used to classify every aspect of a person’s physical, emotional, and spiritual health. The five elements generate and control each other. Water generates wood. Wood feeds fire. Fire creates ashes, or earth. Earth condenses into metal. Metal releases water. Water controls fire. Wood controls earth. Fire controls metal. Earth controls water. Metal controls wood. But how is this ancient scheme useful to modern, scientific people?

Modern people can use the five elements to understand how they respond to health and disease. Each of the elements is a metaphor for the way people feel. A “fire” person tends to exhibit anxiety. A” metal “person tends to experience grief and a sense of lacking purpose. A “water” person may live in a flood of emotions.

Each element describes a way of thinking, a lifestyle, or everyday health habit that is useful in moderation but toxic in excess. Each imbalance generates symptoms, but it also points to the kinds of changes in thinking, lifestyle, and habits that will bring health back into balance. Your herbalist can deal with the physical aspects of the five elements. You can deal with lifestyle changes in terms of the five elements to enjoy good health. Let’s look at examples for each element.

 

The Water Element

In your physical body, the water element refers to a set of processes that focus on the kidney and bladder. In your emotional life, the water element refers to hidden power and deep emotions.

Water holds hidden power. In the United States, the Colorado River is at places so shallow it is possible to wade across. But that same river has carved out a Grand Canyon that is over 1500 meters deep.

Water is the power that holds the mysteries of our lives. The kidneys house the essence called Jing, which holds the key not just to physical reproduction but also to parenthood in a spiritual sense. The body’s water element holds in the right place in the flow of life. We find our place in the flow of life by practicing stillness. When we aren’t still often enough, our lives float out of place, and our physical bodies generate the diseases associated with imbalances in the water element, such as kidney disease, bladder problems, diabetes, difficulties in having good sex, infertility, and diabetes.

At a deeper level, the water element allows us to create our lives, to manifest our dreams and insights. This power is called Zhi Wang. It is our water element that enables us to hold to our desires and achieve our goals, and it is also our connection to family and history.

Disease Caused by Imbalances of the Water Element

The Zhi Wang gives us our ability to project our will into the world, but the Jing gives us an inheritance from our ancestors. Both are functions of the water element. Just as what your grandfather and grandmother ate could have activated genes that were passed down to you, the Jing can endow you with your ancestors’ trauma. These traumas interfere with your ability to project your will and they cause diseases associated with the kidneys. As you overcome these physical diseases, you also overcome the emotional trauma that came to you on the streams of life, and vice versa. What we do echoes in our lives and in future generations, both through changes in our genes, and in the mysterious set of energies and experiences that make up the water element.

The Wood Element

wood

The wood element is that set of physical and emotional energies, knowledge and spirit that enables adventure. The wood energy fuels adventure. Wood people are doers, usually to the point that other people regard them as pushy. They are organised. They are assertive. They get things done.

Wood is fed by water. Water is released by the force of metal, and gathered in pools by calm reflection. When “wood” people don’t spend enough time gathering their energies and making wise decisions, their energies burst out in anger and fire.

Traditional Chinese Medicine associates the wood element with the liver and gallbladder. It also associates “fiery” conditions with imbalances of the liver. Emotions that spill over into headaches and eye aches and breast pain all relate to imbalances of the liver, and treating with liver herbs and needling liver points, cures them.

Inverted Wood

“Wood” people often suffer anxiety, headaches, and outbursts of emotion when their natural need to be active and growing is thwarted. When people with this kind of temperament are faced with lifes difficulties and decide to “ride it out,” their bodies rebel. The problem is even worse if they don’t exercise. The wood energies have to be expressed of the liver’s natural flow, both physically and energetically becomes blocked.

At a deeper level, the wood element relates the ethereal soul, the Hun. A healthy Hun gives the individual power to act as needed. Action relieves emotional distress—and diseases of the physical liver. The Hun, or “liver mind,” gives the individual the ability to make accurate assessments of the situation. A wood person might naturally be the one to burst into a burning building to save a baby. The Hun gives that person the ability to look for the safest entry and exit; both hero and baby will escape the fire. Similarly, the Hun gives the wood person the ability to move around and away from emotional trauma, to live a life unencumbered by situations that cannot be changed.

The Fire Element

Every textbook of Traditional Chinese Medicine will tell you that the fire element is associated with the heart, pericardium, and small intestine, as well as the energy channel connecting them. What usually gets lost in translation is that the fire element, and the organs with which it is associated, are powered by fun.

Fire embodies movement, enjoyment, and play. “Fire” people aren’t angry people. They are naturally bubbly and spontaneous. But when they have difficulty accepting their spontaneous, playful nature, the fire element within them, they can feel shamed for being a dreamer or are told they are comedians not to be taken seriously, they can achieve healing through the realization that they can be the spark even if they aren’t the fire. They don’t have to achieve their dreams by themselves. They can be the inspiration.

The Heart As Mirror

But how can fire people be an inspiration to the world? Traditional Chinese Medicine teaches that the heart is a mirror, or more precisely, a reflecting pool. Fire people provide the reflecting pool through which other people understand themselves. However, fire people can also generate a ripple in the pool, so that other people can imagine themselves to be something new. The heart person’s joyful, playful, fun emotions create the healthy ripple that stirs the pool.

Just as the physical heart sends blood throughout the body, the spiritual heart can send joy throughout the universe. However, in some people, the heart is captured by trauma. Post-traumatic stress causes the reflecting pool of the heart to replay unhappy, unresolved traumatic memories over and over again. Water transmits shock, not joy. The energy heart is healed by making wise choices between allowing the pool to be stirred and seeking to achieve a calm, reflecting pool. When people stretch themselves to control the reflecting pool, they develop shen, the ability to reach out from their trauma to the good of themselves, their neighbors, and the world.

The Earth Element

The earth organs are the stomach and spleen. They provide “homeliness” for the spirit. They “hug” the rest of the energy body. They are the reason we have so many warm feelings associated with meals for special occasions and why we enjoy comfort food.

This emotional comfort is necessary for rationality. The Yi of the spleen organizes rational thought. Conversely, smoothly rational thinking tonifies the stomach and spleen. When we cease to be grounded, we lose touch with our emotional home and let our emotions overpower rationality, our stomach and spleen suffer. Worry, confusion, and a lack of direction lead to cravings for comforting foods, and nausea, indigestion, excessive appetite or deficient appetite, fatigue, and bowel problems.

Rumination Causes Imbalances in the Earth Element

Ruminants are animals like cows that chew their cud. They eat grass, chew it, send it to one stomach for digestion, up-chuck it for a little more chewing, send to a different stomach for digestion, and then chew it some more.

Rumination in human beings can be the process of questioning things that have already been decided. It can be a long process of second-guessing. And it can lead to imbalances of the stomach and spleen energies that lead to actual disease of the stomach and spleen. The cure for both physical and metaphysical problems of the stomach and spleen is always to re-establish the normal flow. Well-timed rational thought, in addition to acupuncture and herbs, will help resolve stomach problems.

The Metal Element

The metal organs are the lung and large intestine. Together they balance Yin and Yang. Centuries before theory of quantum entanglement, Traditional Chinese Medicine theorised that they also process tiny bits of rock and metals from the air, water, and food that link us with all that has gone before. Metal expands, and the metal organs expand our connections with the universe into our bodies and into the world.

All of this connecting with universe makes “metal” people emotionally sensitive. They get physically sick when they cannot let go of the connections they receive. The large intestine becomes constipated. The lungs become congested. People who are constantly starting over, never able to move on from what they have received from the universe, develop problems in their lungs and large intestine.

Curing Imbalances of the Metal Element

In modern terms, the lifestyle changes that help to resolve energy imbalances of the metal element that manifest themselves in the lungs and large intestine is setting boundaries. Setting emotional limits strengthens the energy called Po. And healing physical problems of the lungs and large intestine also strengthens the limiting energy called Po.

What the Five Elements Mean for You

The five elements are a metaphor. They are symbolic representations for five aspects of our spiritual and emotional lives.

The five elements are also mnemonic. They stand for physical functions that, in a mysterious way, tie into five aspects of our life choices and life experiences.

But the five elements also provide the music of our lives. As the sage Lao Zi said, “That the musical notes and tones become harmonious through the relation to another, before and behind gives the idea of following another.”

The five elements lead each other but they also follow each other. They  drive the cycles of human experience and human health. Keeping them in balance and in motion is the foundation of a healthy life.

 

He Huan Pi : Cortex Albiziae

He Huan Pi is a traditional Chinese herb prepared from the bark of the mimosa tree, Albizia julibrissin.  Although this tree is native to China and Korea, it is a favorite ornamental plant in the Southwestern United States because of its feathery red and pink flowers that bloom all summer. Also known as Albizia or Cortex Albizae, this herb is in the general category of “herbs that calm the spirit.” Traditional Chinese Medicine used He Huan Pi as a “sweet” herb to make emotions sweeter. It was said to release constrained emotions that cause bad temper, and to release pain and swelling in fractures and abscesses.

Described in the Shen Nong (The Divine Husbandman’s Guide to the Materia Medica) over 1800 years ago, He Huan Pi became known as the “Tree of Happiness” for people who suffered emotional pain.Modern practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine, as well as many conventionally trained doctors in China, most often include He Huan Pi in herbal prescriptions for insomnia.[1] It’s also used in herbal formulas for treating anxiety, memory loss, confusion, and depression. The American herbalist Michael Tierra goes so far as to describe He Huan PI as “herbal Prozac.” But surely there’s no scientific evidence that this herb has any functions analogous to its understanding in ancient herbal medicine—or is there?

He Huan Pi May Stop the Spread of Cancerous Tumors

He Huan Pi is a “Yin” herb. It helps the body restain and redirect fluids, tissues, and energies that might go astray. One of the things He Huan Pi might restrain and redirect is cancer.

Angiogenesis, the formation of new blood vessels, is an important step in the spread of cancer. Cancerous tumors have to build new capillaries to provide them nutrients and oxygen, as well as to form a path for cancer cells to travel to other locations in the body.  He Huan Pi, the whole herb, not just a single chemical found in the herb, stops angiogenesis in laboratory tests.[2] A single chemical found in the herb called julibroside J(21) kills cancer cells inside the tumor.[3]

He Huan Pi Is Mildly Sedative

Laboratory studies confirm that He Huan Pi causes mild sedation and sleepiness.[4] It’s the kind of herb that you might take when you wanted sleep without the grogginess the next morning or the risk of sleepwalking at night. The problem is that the combination of He Huan Pi and any of the following medications for insomnia might be too much: Ambien (zolpidem), Ativan (lorazepam), Klonipin (clorazepam), or Seconal (secobarbital). It’s probably also a good idea not to combine He Huan Pi with calamus, California poppy, hops, kava, or St. John’s wort.

He Huan Pi Fights Aging and Anxiety

Scientists In Hong Kong obtained lab rats with a metabolic condition similar to type 2 diabetes in humans .When they fed the animals small doses of He Huan Pi , they noticed that the rats did not lose their whiskers as they got older. They also noticed that the rats did not lose their ability to run through several different kinds of three-dimensional mazes to get food. When they killed the rats and examined their brains, they found that He Huan Pi had an antioxidant effect that protected against the kinds of protein tangles that occur in Alzheimer’s disease. And not surprisingly, given that a large part of what rats do with their lives is to hunt for food, the ability to find food in a three-dimensional maze greatly reduced signs of anxiety.[5]

A laboratory experiment with rats is never proof that an herb or medicine works in humans. However, we’ll never have experiments that put people in three-dimensional mazes to see if they can remember the path to lunch. And it’s utterly unethical and illegal to examine human brains in this kind of experiment. However, these experiments hint that He Huan Pi might have anti-aging effects in people, especially in people who have type 2 diabetes.

So is He Huan Pi something you need to track down at the natural products store? The truth is, no one needs to take an He Huan Pi supplement. But when it is given to you by a physician or an herbalist trained in Traditional Chinese medicine, you can be sure that it is safe and it is supportive of your good health.

 

[1] Chen FP, Jong MS, Chen YC, Kung YY, Chen TJ, Chen FJ, Hwang SJ. Prescriptions of Chinese Herbal Medicines for Insomnia in Taiwan during 2002. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2011;2011:236341. doi: 10.1093/ecam/nep018. Epub 2010 Oct 20. PMID: 19339485.

[2] Cai W, Li Y, Yi Q, Xie F, Du B, Feng L, Qiu L. Total saponins from Albizia julibrissin inhibit vascular endothelial growth factor-mediated angiogenesis in vitro and in vivo. Mol Med Rep. 2015 May;11(5):3405-13. doi: 10.3892/mmr.2015.3228. Epub 2015 Jan 20. PMID: 25607254.

[3] Zou K, Zhao YY, Zhang RY. A cytotoxic saponin from Albizia julibrissin. Chem Pharm Bull (Tokyo). 2006 Aug;54(8):1211-2. PMID: 16880673.

[4] Kang, T. H., Jeong, S. J., Kim, N. Y., Higuchi, R., and Kim, Y. C. Sedative activity of two flavonol glycosides isolated from the flowers of Albizzia julibrissin Durazz. J Ethnopharmacol 2000;71(1-2):321-323.

[5] Li R, Chan W, Mat W, Ho Y, Yeung RK, Tsang S, Xue H. Antiaging and Anxiolytic Effects of Combinatory Formulas Based on Four Medicinal Herbs. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2017;2017:4624069. doi: 10.1155/2017/4624069. Epub 2017 Mar 28. PMID: 28458714.

DISCLAIMER

The information and reference materials contained here are intended solely for the general information of the reader. It is not to be used for treatment purposes, but rather for discussion with the patient’s own physician. The information presented here is not intended to diagnose health problems or to take the place of professional medical care.

Thanks and graduate for reading this blog if you would like to discuss your individual needs, please feel free to email info@roddsanchez.com.au or 02 8213 2888. 

Sydney Acupuncture & Sydney Chinese Herbal Medicine

Gan Cao – Licorice – Glycyrrhiza

Gan caoGan Cao – Licorice – Glycyrrhiza

 

Licorice / Gan Cao  in Traditional Chinese Medicine

Licorice is a common herbal tonic in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Appearing in hundreds of herbal formulas, this familiar root with the unforgettable taste comes in two forms:

Gan Cao (甘草), raw, unprocessed licorice root, and

Zhi Gan Cao (炙甘草), “honey-fried,” processed licorice root.

The distinction makes a difference in how the herbs work to support health.

Raw licorice, Gan Cao, has a “raw” effect on the movement of the mysterious energy called Chi. Raw licorice adds energy to the Spleen, which is a metaphor for the general digestive function.  When the digestive tract does not have the energy to complete the digestion of food, and is releasing undigested food through loose bowels, raw licorice gives it extra energy so that diarrhea stops. When the abdomen does not have the energy to hold its muscles in their normal relationship, raw licorice energizes them to stop spasms and pain. Raw licorice also detoxifies substances that take the body’s normal Chi. And it “guides” the energies of other herbs in a formula into their proper Chi channels.

Processed licorice, Zhi Gan Cao, is usually a “made to order” item in a Chinese herbal apothecary. It doesn’t sit around for months waiting to be sold. It’s cooked, usually in honey, for immediate use.

honey fried Gan cao

The process of “frying” the herb in honey enables Zhi Gan Cao to “harmonize” other energies, not just those of the digestive tract, but also those of the heart. Zhi Gan Cao might be added to a formula when one of the symptoms is a weak pulse, or low blood pressure. But it may also be added to a formula when one of the symptoms is melancholy, not having the “heart” to face a life situation.

It turns out that the traditional understanding of licorice in energy terms mirrors the modern scientific understanding of licorice in pharmaceutical terms.

Taking Too Much Licorice for Too Long Can Result in Hypertension and Hypokalemia

It’s well known from medical observation that taking using too much raw licorice (Gan Cao) per day or processed licorice (Zhi Gan Cao) in herbal teas can have two untoward effects. First of all, there can be high blood pressure, sometimes dangerously high blood pressure. This is the natural result of “energizing” the heart. Secondly, the body responds to licorice by lowering potassium levels. The resulting hypokalemia (low serum potassium) can result in a variety of heart-related problems, including ventricular tachycardia and in some cases ventricular fibrillation followed by cardiac arrest. Perturbations of potassium levels can cause weakness, swelling, and occasionally encephalopathy, swelling of the brain.

How much Gan Cao / licorice is too much?

  • If you don’t have an underlying health problem, it is generally dangerous to take more than 20 g of licorice per day in teas for more than six weeks. If you don’t have high blood pressure, you may develop it.[1]
  • The life-threatening manifestations of licorice poisoning occur only after consumption of vastly more licorice than any practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine would ever prescribe. There is a case report of a woman who recovered from brainstem swelling and muscle breakdown after taking licorice—but she was using a pound (about 450 grams) a day, not the 5 to 15 grams a day that would appear in a professionally prescribed herbal formula.[2] It’s important to remember that licorice is a “medicine,” not a food.
  • To be on the safe side, most authorities recommend that people who already have high blood pressure should not take more than 5 g of licorice per day in teas or herbal formulas. If you have high blood pressure, a professionally trained herbalist will notice, and will not prescribe you too much. But you do need to be able to remember how much licorice you have already had in any given day before you take more. If you have memory problems, leave licorice alone.[3]

What’s Gan Cao / Licorice Good For?

Don’t let the fact that licorice has to be taken in moderate amounts discourage you from using it with professional guidance to support good health. Here are some of the evidence-based applications of the herb:gan cao

  • Licorice extracts can relieve hot flashes associated with menopause. A clinical trial in Iran found that taking 1140 mg of licorice extract a day was more effective at reducing the duration of hot flashes than estrogen replacement therapy, but that estrogen replacement therapy was more effective than licorice for reducing the frequency and severity of hot flashes. Both products work, but they work in different ways.[4] Extract taken 1140 mg a day is usually a safe dose of licorice for women who don’t already have high blood pressure.
  • Licorice creams fight eczema. Both traditional herbal teas and skin creams that contain licorice will relieve itching and redness caused by eczema or atopic dermatitis, but there’s no dangerous of overdose if you use the cream. Clinical studies prove that the creams work. In one clinical trial, applying gel formulations containing 1% or 2% licorice root extract three times daily for 2 weeks seems to reduce erythema by 35% to 61%, edema by 57% to 84%, and itching by 44% to 73%. The stronger, 2% licorice cream works better than the 1% cream.[5]
  • Licorice teas relieve indigestion. Clinical testing in Germany has shown that various herbal teas that contain licorice and peppermint as their main ingredients relieve acid reflux, belching, flatulence, vomiting, and diarrhea. What’s important to remember is that these teas don’t contain just licorice. They also contain other herbs such as the previously mentioned peppermint, and caraway, lemon balm, or the oddly named clown’s mustard. [6]Use a commercial product that has already measured out these herbs for you. Take it after meals.
  • Using deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) as a mouthwash relieves the pain of canker sores fast. The kind of licorice you use for canker sores is neither Gan Cao or Zhi Gan Cao. It’s an extract of licorice that has removed the glycyrrhizin that can interfere with potassium balance. It’s safe to swallow the mouthwash as long as it is made with DGL, not any other form of licorice. A clinical trial in India found that DGL mouthwashes relieved canker sore pain in 75% of patients in just one day, and completely healed canker sores in 75% of patients in three days.[7]
  • Licorice creams can also lighten age spots, although you won’t find an effective product that contains just Applying a topical cream (Clariderm Clear, Stiefel Laboratories Inc., Guarulhos, SP, Brazil) containing licorice, emblica, and belides twice daily for 60 days is as effective as a cream containing 2% hydroquinone for lightening the skin in patients with age spots (melasma). The advantage of this herbal product over the more commonly used hydroquinone is that the herbs remove brown pigments without the side effect (usually on people with golden skin tones) of adding blue pigment.[8]

Licorice / Gan Cao in Herbal Products Best Used Under a Doctor’s Supervision

There are also specialized uses of licorice with other herbs that get remarkable results, but you can only get these products from your doctor.

  • Stabilizing hepatitis C. Stronger Minophagen C is a prescription formulation of glycyrrhizin extracted from licorice that stops liver damage caused by hepatitis C long enough to stabilize patients so they can receive other treatments. It has to be given by IV, but it reduces mortality from hepatitis C by about 50%.[9] Used long-term, it also reduces the risk of liver cancer in people who have active hepatitis C.[10]
  • Lowering cholesterol. A preliminary clinical trial found that taking 100 mg of licorice extract every day for a month one month reduced plasma total cholesterol levels by 5%, plasma low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels by 9%, and plasma triglyceride levels by 14% compared with baseline in patients with moderately high cholesterol.[11] You could try this on your own, but don’t use any licorice product for high cholesterol for more than one month at a time, and keep your consumption of extract limited to 100 mg a day.

There are even more exciting applications of licorice in combination with other herbs that you would get through a medically trained doctor of both western and Traditional Chinese Medicine. The licorice based formula sho-saiko-to has clinically proven efficacy against hepatitis B, although it absolutely, positively must not be given to people who have had interferon treatment.  Licorice and Peony Decoction can affect not just how women lactate, but also how they relate to their babies. Dozens of formulas that contain licorice can be useful in treating inflammatory bowel disease, peptic and duodenal ulcers, and irritable bowel syndrome.

But don’t attempt to use complex formulas entirely on your own. See a specialist trained in herbal medicine. Take advantage of the best professional health to get the best results of licorice in its many forms for supporting your good health.

[1] Sigurjonsdottir HA, Ragnarsson J, Franzson L, Sigurdsson G. Is blood pressure commonly raised by moderate consumption of liquorice? J Hum Hypertens 1995;9:345-8.

[2] Chatterjee, N., Domoto-Reilly, K., Fecci, P. E., Schwamm, L. H., and Singhal, A. B. Licorice-associated reversible cerebral vasoconstriction with PRES. Neurology 2010;75(21):1939-1941.

[3] Janse A, van Iersel M, Hoefnagels WH, Olde Rikker MG. The old lady who liked liquorice: hypertension due to chronic intoxication in a memory-impaired patient. Neth J Med 2005;63:149-50.

[4] Menati L, Khaleghinezhad K, Tadayon M, Siahpoosh A. Evaluation of contextual and demographic factors on licorice effects on reducing hot flashes in postmenopause women.Health Care Women Int. 2014 Jan;35(1):87-99. doi: 10.1080/07399332.2013.770001. Epub 2013 May 10. PMID: 23663094.

[5] Saeedi, M., Morteza-Semnani, K., and Ghoreishi, M. R. The treatment of atopic dermatitis with licorice gel. J Dermatolog Treat 2003;14(3):153-157.

[6] Madisch A, Holtmann G, Mayr G, et al. Treatment of functional dyspepsia with a herbal preparation. A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, multicenter trial. Digestion 2004;69:45-52.

[7] Das SK, Das V, Gulati AK, and et al. Deglycyrrhizinated liquorice in aphthous ulcers. J Assoc Physicians India 1989;37(10):647.

[8] Costa, A., Moises, T. A., Cordero, T., Alves, C. R., and Marmirori, J. Association of emblica, licorice and belides as an alternative to hydroquinone in the clinical treatment of melasma. An Bras Dermatol 2010;85(5):613-620.

[9] Acharya SK, Dasarathy S, Tandon A, et al. A preliminary open trial on interferon stimulator (SNMC) derived from Glycyrrhiza glabra in the treatment of subacute hepatic failure. Indian J Med Res 1993;98:69-74.

[10] Arase, Y., Ikeda, K., Murashima, N., Chayama, K., Tsubota, A., Koida, I., Suzuki, Y., Saitoh, S., Kobayashi, M., and Kumada, H. The long term efficacy of glycyrrhizin in chronic hepatitis C patients. Cancer 1997;79(8):1494-1500.

[11] Fuhrman, B., Volkova, N., Kaplan, M., Presser, D., Attias, J., Hayek, T., and Aviram, M. Antiatherosclerotic effects of licorice extract supplementation on hypercholesterolemic patients: increased resistance of LDL to atherogenic modifications, reduced plasma lipid levels, and decreased systolic blood pressure. Nutrition 2002;18(3):268-273.

 

DISCLAIMER

The information and reference materials contained here are intended solely for the general information of the reader. It is not to be used for treatment purposes, but rather for discussion with the patient’s own physician. The information presented here is not intended to diagnose health problems or to take the place of professional medical care.

Thanks and graduate for reading this blog if you would like to discuss your individual needs, please feel free to email info@roddsanchez.com.au or 02 8213 2888. 

Sydney Acupuncture & Sydney Chinese Herbal Medicine