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How to Treat Acne With Acupuncture and TCM

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By Xiaomei Cai, L.Ac., Ph.D. & Qineng Tan, L.Ac., Ph.D.

acne breakout pimples blemishes
Hiding pimples and acne scars? Acupuncture can help clear blemishes.

Acne breakout, pimples, blackheads? Painful cystic acne and acne scars can affect your confidence and even lead to depression. Acupuncture and TCM provide an alternative skin care option to treat hormonal acne and clear up blemishes.

What causes acne? Acne is a skin condition in which bumps on skin form when hair follicles become clogged with dirt and oil. Sebum, the natural oil produced by skin glands, builds up in the pores and causes blockages. Pimples may appear on the face or other parts of the body (back acne, chest acne, bumps on arms, pimples on scalp/scalp acne, etc.).

Acne is most common during the teenage years, but people of any age can experience skin breakouts. Acne is also influenced by fluctuations in hormones, reactions to cosmetics or foods, weather, and perhaps most commonly, stress.

Rosacea is another skin condition that typically causes redness, flushing, and visible blood vessels on the skin, but it can also cause red bumps to break out, similar to acne. This is known as “acne rosacea.”

Everyone gets a few pimples at some point in their lives. However, severe acne that causes scarring can have a serious impact on a person’s confidence in daily life, as well as being physically painful. 

There are many types of products and acne medication available, both over the counter or with a prescription, including: benzoyl peroxide, retinol for acne cream, acne patch, and acne face wash. 

Topical treatment for acne may clear blemishes on a skin-deep level. Acupuncture and other TCM skin treatments can help get rid of acne and other skin problems, like rosacea, by addressing the root causes: hormonal imbalances, inflammation, and stress.

Types of Acne

acne pimples scars treatment
Breakouts and blemishes can be caused by hormone imbalances.

Acne blemishes can show up in different forms. The most commons types of acne include:

  • Whiteheads – small, closed, white bumps that develop when a pore is clogged 
  • Blackheads – open bumps that are filled with oil and dead skin
  • Red bumps on skin – papules are hard, red, inflamed bumps on skin 
  • Pustules – a papule that has a pus-filled tip
  • Nodules – large, painful red bumps
  • Fungal acne or bacterial acne – when red bumps are caused by bacteria or yeast clogging the follicles
  • Acne rosacea – rosacea can cause acne-like breakouts in addition to red flushing
  • Cysts or Cystic acne – large, painful, nodules that are deep down, under many layers of skin

Cystic acne is considered to be the most severe type of acne. The deep, inflamed cysts can get very big, last a long time, and leave permanent scars. Cystic acne may be genetic, as it tends to run in families. 

Hormonal acne, which is also called “adult acne,” occurs because fluctuations in reproductive hormones like progesterone and estrogen and the stress hormone cortisol stimulate the overproduction of sebum. This kind of acne is most common among women in their 20s through their 40s.

Many women have breakouts that occur cyclically, coinciding with their PMS week or their period. Women may also experience pregnancy acne during the postpartum period. Women over 40 may have unexpected patches of pimples during perimenopause and menopause. Acne is also common among women with PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome).

Advanced Dermatology Acne Treatment

dermatologist acne treatment
Dermatologists can recommend a variety of acne treatments.

Dermatologists have tools that allow them to help remove pimples, known as acne extraction or blackhead extractions. Injections of corticosteroids can help reduce inflamed blemishes.  Laser resurfacing can help minimize acne scarring.

A dermatologist can also provide acne medication. Cystic acne and hormonal acne will usually be treated with oral birth control pills to help manage hormone levels. Spironolactone is also sometimes prescribed; this is a diuretic, usually used to treat high blood pressure, that also has an effect on the hormones that control oil secretions.

Isotretinoin, also known as Accutane, is a medication used to treat severe acne, cystic acne, or nodules. Antibiotics are usually prescribed to help clear bacterial acne or fungal acne.

Many of these courses of treatment can cause unwanted side effects, and they do not get to the root cause of the hormone imbalance or internal toxicity.

TCM and acupuncture provide a way to get rid of acne that works from the inside out.

Can Acupuncture Help Acne?

According to TCM theory, skin problems reflect imbalances that originate deeper in the body. Heat and dampness are pathogenic forces that can take root in the organ systems. When heat “overflows” due to imbalances in the digestive or reproductive organs, the body tries to release some of the excess by allowing it to erupt out of the skin.

Acupuncture for acne can both help at the deeper, root level and on the surface of the skin.

We use meridian acupuncture points to target the internal organs that are creating toxic levels of heat or producing too much of some hormone. Then, we also use needles to stimulate the localized areas of the skin that are affected by the breakout and encourage healing. 

Acupuncture treatment for acne will often focus on clearing heat from the stomach, intestines, liver, and lungs. This will help lead to fewer breakouts.

Acupuncture needles can be placed on the face where blemishes occur. The tiny “wounds” created by the very thin needles bring blood flow to the area and encourage the body’s repair and rebuilding mechanisms. The thin needles create a micro-trauma that brings blood flow to the area and encourages the body’s repair and rebuilding mechanisms to kick in. This is why acupuncture is also effective as an anti-aging treatment and a good alternative to botox injections.

One study showed a 94% effective rate for patients given 10 sessions of acupuncture for acne. A systematic review of acupuncture treatment for acne concluded that TCM offered an alternative with fewer side effects than conventional medical treatment.

TCM skin care for acne is highly individualized. An acupuncturist finds clues about which organ system is out of balance by observing the placement and appearance of recurrent breakouts, in addition to other symptoms related to digestion, hormone cycles, and emotional health. Cupping is another TCM treatment that can help draw out toxins and excess heat and improve circulation. Herbal supplements and dietary recommendations will be based on each person’s individual situation.

Top 3 Tips to Get Rid of Acne Naturally

melon cooling foods
Cooling foods like melons help get rid of excess internal heat.

Reducing stress is probably the most important thing you can do to help stop breakouts from happening. It is also generally advisable to avoid or limit spicy or greasy foods. Here are some of our best tips for clear skin.

  1. Start your day by drinking a cup of warm water with slices of lemon.
  2. Eat cooling foods and avoid foods that produce heat. Melons, mung beans, and radishes are top choices, along with lots of greens and purple-blue berries and plums.
  3. Try a homemade skin mask made from cooked, mashed dandelion greens. Apply for 20 minutes to get rid of blemishes and redness. Dandelion is a natural antibacterial and antifungal herb and is also good for the liver.

Acupuncture Near Me for Acne in West Los Angeles

Acne affects almost everyone at some point in their life. Breakouts can have a negative impact on your self-esteem, especially when we live in a culture that is so focused on appearances. The best acne treatment involves reduction of stress and inflammation, good nutrition, and restoring internal balance. At Art of Wellness we have over 30 years of experience helping patients heal skin conditions of all kinds.




*This article is for education from the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine only. The education provided by this article is not approved by FDA to diagnose, prevent, treat and cure human diseases. It should not stop you from consulting with your physician for your medical conditions. Traditional Chinese Medicine is based on Qi, which is an invisible force that usually cannot be observed by modern science. Because science focuses on testing ideas about the natural world with evidence obtained through observation, these aspects of acupuncture can’t be studied by science. Therefore acupuncture and Chinese herbs are often not supported by double-blind, randomized trials, and they are considered alternative medicine therapies in the United States.

 



 





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How to Detox With Acupuncture and TCM

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By Xiaomei Cai, L.Ac., Ph.D. & Qineng Tan, L.Ac., Ph.D.

herbal detox tea
Chinese herbs detox tea

Why is it important to do a detox or body cleanse periodically? When done with the right support from an acupuncturist near me, detoxing can help improve your digestion, immune function, fertility, and many other aspects of your health. Store bought colon cleanse products or a juice cleanse won’t really do the job, though. A detox program with acupuncture and Chinese herbs will do more to optimize your health than just a detox diet will.

When we recommend our Detox Program at Art of Wellness, we are not talking about fasting or detox drinks, like a master cleanse. The goal of our program is to detoxify the organ systems of the body: it’s a liver detox, kidney cleanse, lungs, heart, and spleen. This is a full body cleanse designed to give you a health reset. According to TCM philosophy, your body knows how to repair and renew itself, but it cannot do this job when it is congested and out of balance.

In TCM, we have a broad concept of what “toxins” are and how they can affect our bodies and our health. Toxic chemicals that come from our environment, such as food additives, pesticides, cleaning products, and beauty and hygiene products are certainly part of the problem. Drugs, medicines, alcohol, and unhealthy foods can also be toxic. So can behavioral habits, like sitting and looking at our screens and devices too long.

But our own bodies produce toxins, too. The waste products our organs create are “toxic,” and if they are held in the body too long without being adequately cleared out, they can negatively impact organ function. Imbalances in the system can cause conditions of excess heat or phlegm, which can lead to all kinds of problems with both your physical and mental health.

Stress, lack of sleep, and extreme emotions can also contribute to toxic conditions in the body and mind. When the organ systems are out of balance, the body is under constant pressure to keep functioning, but we do not feel our best.

Signs you need to detox include:

Inflammation is largely created by toxic conditions in the body, and most pain conditions and chronic illnesses stem, at least in part, from inflammation somewhere.

Why You Need a Liver Detox

tai qi qigong exercise detox
QiGong and Tai Qi exercises help with detox.

In conventional medicine, we think of the liver as being a sort of filter that removes toxins from the blood and helps metabolize fat. In TCM theory, we consider the liver to be the storehouse and distributor of blood; therefore, it also plays a crucial role in the menstrual cycle. The liver is also strongly connected to a person’s emotional life. 

Stress, lack of sleep, too much sugar, alcohol, fatty, fried foods, pharmaceutical medicines, and recreational drugs all tax the liver above and beyond what it needs to do just to keep the blood flowing to nourish the body. When too many demands are placed on the liver, it can cause all kinds of symptoms, including: fatigue, insomnia, and headaches. Feelings of anger, frustration, anxiety, and irritability may arise. Conversely, when a person is feeling bitter and resentful, and isn’t able to express it, those unresolved emotions may begin to cause trouble with liver function.

Just as the liver governs the blood, in TCM, the kidneys govern the water of the body, controlling elimination through the bladder, and maintaining blood pressure by keeping the right amount of water in the bloodstream. Signs that the kidneys are not balanced include: problems with blood pressure, edema, puffiness in the face or extremities, UTIs, chronic fatigue, and menopause symptoms, like dryness and hot flashes.

Detoxing the organ systems, including the liver and kidneys especially, can help rejuvenate the digestion and allow better nutrition to reach all parts of the body, as the quality and flow of blood and other bodily fluids will be improved.

Making sure that your excretory system is in good working order before starting a cleanse is important. If you are already having problems with constipation, for example, we will want to make sure we get things moving before we start cleansing the organs. Our detox also focuses on the body’s largest excretory organ: the skin.

Top 10 Reasons To Detox

detox herbs bath
Relax with detox herbs in your own bath.

It is a good idea for everyone to detox periodically; detoxing every six months is reasonable for most people. Sometimes we will specifically recommend a detox for a patient when they are struggling with a particular health problem, or if they are planning a pregnancy.

Detoxing can help:

  1. Boost Immunity – a cleanse will help get your lymphatic system, which produces and transports immune cells and removes waste from cells, moving, improving the efficacy of your immune system.
  2. Break Free From Addiction – if you are ready, a commitment to the detox program and food plan can help you end patterns of substance abuse, drug use, alcohol addiction, smoking, and other types of dependency.
  3. Infertility – We often advise people who come to Art of Wellness for fertility treatment to begin with the Detox Program. Not only will this help increase the chances of conception occurring, whether naturally or with the aid of ART, but it will also lay the foundation for your child’s health in the future.
  4. Improve sleep – This works both ways. In order for the body to do its routine daily work of removing toxic waste, it needs plenty of sleep. The Liver, in particular, is working hard through the night to clean and deliver fresh blood to the cells. Sleeping on your side enhances your body’s ability to do this work, allowing the internal organs to drain properly. When your body is functioning well, your sleep will be of better quality, more restful and refreshing.
  5. Improve skin and hair – Dull eyes and skin, dark circles or bags, puffiness, and thinning hair are signs of stagnant blood and Qi. Nutrients from the right foods and Chinese herbs help to nourish the skin, and clear heat, dampness, and dryness. When old cells are removed, hair and eyes can shine again. Acupuncture treatment can help stimulate collagen production, which also happens while you sleep.
  6. Weight loss – While our acupuncture detox is not about how to lose belly fat fast, many people will find that it gives them a good foundation for new eating habits. Detoxing the liver and kidneys will help your body metabolize fat better. 
  7. Balance hormones – severe PMS symptoms, bloated stomach and mood swings, perimenopause symptoms, infertility in women and infertility in men (oligospermia) can all be improved when hormone function improves. Acupuncture treatment can also help relieve conditions like PCOS, fibroids/leiomyoma, and endometriosis for women, and BPH in men.
  8. Reduce inflammation – many illnesses and pain conditions are inflammatory in nature. If you are suffering from pain due to plantar fasciitis, gout, rheumatoid arthritis, tennis elbow, carpal tunnel syndrome, shoulder or hip pain, acupuncture can help.
  9. Increased energy – better nutrition, better circulation, better sleep, and better organ function will all work synergistically to help you feel more energetic.
  10. Chronic illness – many chronic illnesses are rooted in toxic conditions within the body or exposure to toxins. Hard-to-treat conditions like autoimmune conditions and other systemic problems may be helped with alternative medicine when conventional medical treatments have not been successful. We treat many conditions with acupuncture and herbs, such as: lupus, lyme disease, celiac disease, fibromyalgia, and Crohn’s disease. We also provide support for people going through cancer treatment.

7 Steps of Detox Program With TCM Acupuncture and Herbs

cupping acupuncture detox
Cupping draws Qi and blood from deep inside the body.

Pain and dysfunction occur when there is imbalance and when there are areas of stagnation within the body. Think of the metaphor of a house that needs to be deep-cleaned; there are dark corners of the body that have been ignored for a while, where dust and cobwebs have gathered. The Detox program reaches into these pockets of stagnation, sweeps them clean, and makes sure they get some fresh air and sunlight shining on them, in the form of invigorated Qi and blood.

  1. Acupuncture Treatments – the primary goal of acupuncture treatments during the detox phase is to get Qi moving freely, remove blockages, and to assist in elimination of toxins from the body.
  2. Cupping Treatment – the TCM modality of cupping creates a vacuum-like suction that moves Qi and blood from the innermost parts of the body outwards. During the detox program, cupping helps to pull toxins out of the lungs and other organs.
  3. Detox Herbs – the Chinese herb detox tea helps to clear heat and toxins from the body and improve digestion and elimination.
  4. Foot Pad Detox – detox foot patches, worn as you sleep at night and removed in the morning, help to pull toxins and fatty deposits from the body. 
  5. Detox Bath – Sweating is an excellent way to remove toxins through the skin; this is why so many traditions rely on saunas and hot baths. Our herbal sachets allow you to enjoy a therapeutic herbal soak in your own bathtub.
  6. Exercise – Your acupuncturist will instruct you on how to practice daily exercises, based on QiGong movements, that will help to get Qi and blood moving.
  7. Nutrition – the food plan during the detox is based on whole grains, lean proteins, and plenty of vegetables, flooding your system with nutrients.

Detox Near Me Los Angeles, Westside

The beginning of the year, springtime, after recovery from a long illness, while preparing for a healthy pregnancy–anytime may be the right time for you to detoxify your system and get a fresh start. We recommend that you take the time to dedicate yourself to a week of cleansing with the Art of Wellness Detox Program at least twice a year for optimal health benefits.

 

 

*This article is for education from the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine only. The education provided by this article is not approved by FDA to diagnose, prevent, treat and cure human diseases. It should not stop you from consulting with your physician for your medical conditions. Traditional Chinese Medicine is based on Qi, which is an invisible force that usually cannot be observed by modern science. Because science focuses on testing ideas about the natural world with evidence obtained through observation, these aspects of acupuncture can’t be studied by science. Therefore acupuncture and Chinese herbs are often not supported by double-blind, randomized trials, and they are considered alternative medicine therapies in the United States.

 

 

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How to Treat HIV/AIDS With Acupuncture and TCM

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By Qineng Tan, L.Ac.,Ph.D. & Xiaomei Cai, L.Ac., Ph.D.

HIV/AIDS
Living with HIV/AIDS can cause a lot of stress and anxiety.

What does it mean to be HIV positive? HIV is a viral infection that harms the immune system over time and, if untreated, can eventually lead to AIDS, a syndrome that causes people to become weaker and get serious infections easily. There is no cure for HIV/AIDS, but there are various therapies that can slow the progression of HIV. Acupuncture and TCM herbs can help to improve immune function and relieve symptoms related to the side effects of other HIV/AIDS drug therapies.

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is an infection that affects the immune system by destroying the white blood cells (CD4 and T-cells) that are such an important part of the body’s immune response, causing people with HIV to be much more prone to all kinds of infections. Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) is the late stage of HIV, in which the CD4 cells have reached a critical low point and other infections are taking hold in the body.

Over a million people in the U.S. are currently living with HIV. Many more people may have HIV and not know it. People can have HIV for several years without feeling any symptoms, while the illness is in its early stages.

HIV is a progressive illness, which affects the functioning of the immune system over a long period of time.

4 Stages of HIV Infection:

  1. Infection – when a person contracts the HIV virus, it spreads quickly in the body, often causing flu-like symptoms: fever, headache, rash, sore throat. If you have these types of symptoms, and you think you may have had contact with an infected person or a needle recently, it is very important to go get tested for HIV. Early testing allows people to get treatment as soon as possible, and to know if they are contagious and can spread the virus to others.
  2. Asymptomatic – the HIV virus remains in the body, causing damage to cells and weakening the immune system, while the person may have no symptoms of HIV/AIDS. This latent stage of HIV can last for quite a long time, averaging 8-10 years. This is why many people do not realize they have HIV until they are tested.
  3. Symptomatic – Eventually, a person with HIV will begin to feel the effects: fatigue, mouth sores from oral candidiasis, diarrhea, and weight loss. Other infectious diseases can easily get into the body because of the weakened immune system; these are called opportunistic infections. Common co-infections associated with HIV include:  tuberculosis (TB), cryptococcal meningitis, toxoplasmosis, hepatitis, and pneumonia.
  4. HIV progression to AIDS – In some cases, people with HIV who receive treatment to help boost their immunity are able to stave off progression into the AIDS stage of illness. However, if the CD4 cell count drops and other infections take hold, a person is considered to have progressed into the AIDS stage. 

Being diagnosed with HIV can be emotionally devastating. Knowing you have a serious illness with no cure is naturally going to cause a lot of stress, feelings of anxiety, and even depression. With good health care, it is possible these days to live a long life with HIV. Putting together a team of caring health care professionals who can provide integrative care for HIV/AIDS will help you maintain the best physical and mental health possible. TCM provides holistic care for patients living with HIV or AIDS that works on all levels: keeping your mental outlook positive, helping you sleep better, boosting immune function, and relieving symptoms that are due to side effects of medical treatment, or caused by concurrent infections.

How Do You Get HIV/AIDS?

needle syringe HIV
HIV can be passed through sharing needles or syringes.

The HIV virus is carried through certain bodily fluids: blood, semen, vaginal secretions, and breastmilk. In order for HIV to be transmitted from one person to another, one of these types of body fluids must have the infection present in it, and must get into the other person’s bloodstream through broken skin or mucous membrane. 

HIV is not transmitted through saliva, sweat, urine, or feces, and is not carried in the air in droplets. You cannot get HIV through water or air, or by touching surfaces. The way that HIV is most often passed from person to person is through sexual contact. Other ways you can get HIV are by sharing needles while using drugs, getting a tattoo with a needle that wasn’t properly sanitized, or a blood transfusion. (As a reminder: we only use single-use, disposable, sterile needles for acupuncture treatment.) A woman could also pass HIV to her baby when breastfeeding.  Using condoms during sex and only using sterilized needles are the primary ways to prevent HIV infection. 

Top 10 Symptoms of HIV

Most people with HIV will go through a long phase of having no noticeable symptoms. Eventually, after the virus has spread slowly, people with HIV will begin to show symptoms such as:

  1. Fatigue, feeling tired all the time
  2. Fever, or feeling hot even if you don’t show a fever
  3. Diarrhea
  4. Insomnia, night sweats
  5. Weakness, dizziness
  6. Weight loss, wasting, loss of appetite
  7. Nausea
  8. Skin rash, or purple spots on skin, bruise easily
  9. Shortness of breath
  10. Swollen lymph glands
coated tongue
A coated tongue may be a sign of candida.

Oral candidiasis, also known as thrush or oral candida, is also common among people living with HIV because the suppressed immune system makes it easier for the fungal infection to take hold. Burning sensation or pain in the mouth cavity and redness with white patches are the signs of oral candidiasis. Long-term use of antifungal medication (Fluconazole) to control thrush can cause side effects and eventually  cease to be effective as the body develops a resistance to it.
HIV can also lead to neurological problems, like peripheral neuropathy, in which the signals between the brain and the rest of the body are compromised, causing symptoms like: muscle twitching, loss of balance and coordination, tingling or burning sensations, or numbness.

Medical Treatment for HIV and AIDS

Advances have been made in medical treatment for HIV/AIDS. Different combinations of medications that block the replication of the virus can help to slow the progression of HIV in the body. This type of drug therapy for HIV used to be called HAART, short for “highly active antiretroviral therapy.” Now, it is usually referred to as ART or cART, which stands for “combination antiretroviral therapy.” This form of treatment for HIV can increase chances of survival and quality of life, but is not well-tolerated by all patients. Lifelong use of the medication is required, which, for some, makes HIV a manageable chronic illness. For other patients, the side effects of cART may not be tolerable. Side effects of HIV medications can involve gastric problems, headaches, fatigue, and peripheral neuropathy. Medications can cause liver dysfunction, damage to the liver, and bone marrow suppression, meaning fewer blood cells are being made by the bone marrow.

While a person is still in the asymptomatic phase of HIV, doctors may not begin using antiretroviral therapy because of concerns related to side effects and resistance. However, taking some steps to optimize immune function can potentially help stave off progression into symptomatic and AIDS stages. TCM herbs and acupuncture can be helpful during this phase to help strengthen the immune system and hopefully slow down the progression of disease.

Acupuncture and herbal treatment with TCM may also be used as an adjunct therapy during later phases in order to help people tolerate cART better by reducing nausea and other gastrointestinal effects of the medication and helping to improve appetite. For patients with HIV, TCM treatment is designed to help strengthen the body’s immune defenses in the hopes of preventing advancement to the AIDS stage of disease. For patients in the AIDS stage, TCM treatment focuses on helping to alleviate symptoms of opportunistic infections and to mitigate the side effects of other medications.

TCM for HIV/AIDS 

Chinese herbs HIV/AIDS
Chinese herbs can help slow the progression of HIV.

What is HIV from the TCM perspective? TCM puts a lot of emphasis on the prevention of disease by maintaining a balance of yin and yang energies in order to protect the body’s Vital Qi. It is Vital Qi that keeps invasive illnesses like viruses from getting into the body and taking hold there. There are no TCM historical records that point specifically to AIDS, but we do have centuries of practice treating various kinds of invasive viral infections. Modern TCM practitioners apply this knowledge when treating patients with HIV/AIDS. 

Syndrome factors of HIV according to TCM:

  • Qi deficiency
  • Blood deficiency
  • Yin deficiency
  • Yang deficiency
  • Phlegm
  • Dampness
  • Qi stagnation
  • Essence deficiency

An invasion of heat causes the early symptoms of HIV infection: fever, itching (pruritis), and fatigue. Then, later on, as the virus moves deeper into the body, toxic heat causes problems with the organ systems of the stomach, spleen, kidneys, and liver that lead to the weight loss and poor appetite indicative of later stages of HIV and AIDS. Herbal formulations can help relieve the diarrhea that is often reported by patients with AIDS/HIV. Herbs that work to help strengthen the spleen can improve fatigue, shortness of breath, nausea, diarrhea, and skin rash.

Strengthening deficient Qi is central to TCM treatment for HIV and can help to improve immune responses in the body. Chinese herbal formulations can aid in reducing the spread of the infection with results similar to those of cART medicines, while simultaneously having a positive effect on the immune system overall. Herbs do not come with the negative side effects associated with drug therapy for HIV/AIDS.

In addition to the other immune-related problems, people living with HIV/AIDS are also likely to have systemic inflammation. HIV can cause damage and inflammation in the gut, and cause blood clotting, making people more susceptible to cardiovascular problems and heart disease. Acupuncture has been shown to help reduce systemic inflammation in HIV patients. Some studies have suggested that herbs may help AIDS patients to live longer, and improve chances of long-term survival. Treatment of HIV with acupuncture and herbs can help to relieve symptoms and reduce the side effects of other treatments.

Acupuncture Near Me for HIV/AIDS in the Los Angeles Area

If you or someone you love is living with HIV, getting the best care possible as soon as possible is vital for improving the long-term outcome. Putting together a program of complementary health care for HIV/AIDS can help offer the best chances for survival, quality of life, and peace of mind.

 

*This article is for education from the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine only. The education provided by this article is not approved by FDA to diagnose, prevent, treat and cure human diseases. It should not stop you from consulting with your physician for your medical conditions. Traditional Chinese Medicine is based on Qi, which is an invisible force that usually cannot be observed by modern science. Because science focuses on testing ideas about the natural world with evidence obtained through observation, these aspects of acupuncture can’t be studied by science. Therefore acupuncture and Chinese herbs are often not supported by double-blind, randomized trials, and they are considered alternative medicine therapies in the United States.

 

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How to Treat Herpes Simplex With Acupuncture and TCM

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By Qineng Tan, L.Ac., Ph.D. & Xiaomei Cai, L.Ac. Ph.D.

Cold sores on the mouth or around the genitals are signs of herpes simplex.

Cold sores around mouth, blisters on lips? Burning, itching sores around the genital area? Herpes simplex is a skin disorder caused by one of two viral infections: HSV-1 or HSV-2. TCM methods, including acupuncture and herbs, can help clear up a painful herpes outbreak and prevent herpes simplex outbreaks in the future.

Herpes simplex is one of the most common kinds of infectious disease, affecting several billions of people worldwide. It is estimated that about 66% of the world’s population has had a HSV-1 infection at some point in their lives. Herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) is the viral infection that is associated with oral herpes or orolabial herpes–the one that causes sores around the mouth, often referred to as “cold sores” or “fever blisters.” Herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) is the kind that causes genital herpes. Herpes virus is related to varicella-zoster viruses, the viruses that cause Chickenpox and Shingles.

How do you get herpes? The skin infection caused by herpes simplex spreads from person to person through close contact. HSV-1, or oral herpes, can spread through sharing utensils, toothbrushes, or towels, or by touching one of the mouth sores, or kissing. HSV-2, or genital herpes, is usually spread through sexual contact is therefore considered a sexually transmitted disease (STD). In fact, either one of the two viral infections can cause sores on the mouth or genital area, or even on other parts of the body. If oral herpes, or HSV-1, gets into the eyes, it can cause serious damage, even causing scarring or permanent loss of vision.

A person can pass herpes to another person even if they aren’t having an active outbreak with visible sores. A pregnant woman can pass the herpes virus to her baby during birth, and the virus can also be passed during breastfeeding. Once a person has been infected with HSV-2, the virus stays in the body and can lie dormant, then resurface in periodic recurrent outbreaks.

Initially, herpes skin disorders manifest in the skin cells, causing the red, painful, blister-like sores. After a while, the infection moves deeper, into the nerve cells, where it can lie dormant until something happens to activate it again, like an illness or stressful life event.

Medical treatment for herpes simplex focuses on minimizing the pain of an outbreak of sores and attempting to prevent future outbreaks with antiviral medications. People who have genital herpes must take care to practice safe sex and avoid sex during outbreaks in order to prevent spreading herpes to their partners. People with herpes can suffer from depression brought on by the knowledge that they may have to live with this highly contagious viral infection for the rest of their lives, and with the danger of possibly transmitting herpes simplex to others with whom they are intimate.

Fortunately, TCM herbs and acupuncture offer an alternative medicine option for dealing with herpes simplex. TCM can help with quick healing of the burning sores that signify an outbreak, but can also work on a deeper level to strengthen the immune system so that it can fight the virus better from within.

Top 5 Symptoms of Herpes Simplex

Signs of a herpes simplex infection depend on which type of viral infection you have, and where the infection spreads. Usually, symptoms manifest either around the mouth or genital area, but sometimes the herpes virus can spread to the eyes (herpes keratitis). The most common symptoms of herpes include:

  1. Itching, burning, tingling around the mouth or genital area
  2. Painful, fluid-filled blisters or sores around the mouth or genital area
  3. Flu-like symptoms: fever, body aches, swollen glands
  4. Trouble urinating, burning sensation when peeing
  5. Pain in eyes, cloudy vision

Once a person has had their first symptomatic period of a herpes infection, they may have recurrence of symptoms periodically–in some cases, frequently. The majority of people who have been infected with HSV-2 experience another outbreak within a year; some people experience recurrent outbreaks several times a year or as often as once a month.

There are a few other skin conditions that might sometimes be mistaken for herpes simplex. Impetigo is a bacterial infection that can cause red sores to form around the mouth and nose. “Jock itch” is a fungal infection that can cause a red rash in the groin area. Folliculitis is when hair follicles become inflamed and form pimples with pus; this can happen in the facial or genital region due to shaving, but it can also be related to herpes, if the viral infection causes irritation and blockages in the hair follicles. Molluscum contagiosum is another viral skin infection that causes raised lesions to form; however, they are generally painless and flesh-colored, not similar to herpes lesions. Bacterial vaginosis, a common bacterial infection which can cause a burning sensation in the vagina, may increase a woman’s chances of getting herpes and other STDs.

What Triggers a Herpes Outbreak?

The herpes virus is similar to the varicella virus (chickenpox) in that it stays in the body long after the initial infection, and can flare up and cause trouble later on. The varicella virus can lie dormant for many years, and then emerge as a case of Shingles late in life, causing a very painful rash.

herpes simplex outbreak
Exposure to sunlight can trigger a herpes outbreak

Herpes can cause rare or frequent outbreaks, depending on the severity of the initial infection, how or if it was treated, and what sort of care a person takes to prevent recurrences. A person who has experienced recurrent outbreaks may become aware of early signs that show up a few days before sores actually break out on the skin, such as tingling or shooting pain in the genital area or around the hips or legs. 

The things that can trigger a herpes simplex outbreaks include:

  • Illness, fever
  • Suppression or weakness of the immune system
  • Exposure to sunlight, changes of the season or temperature
  • Menstrual period, hormonal changes
  • Prolonged period of stress, emotional stress
  • Surgery, trauma

Medical Treatment for Herpes Simplex

The typical treatment for herpes simplex HSV-1 and HSV-2 includes the use of antiviral medications such as acyclovir (Zovirax), famciclovir (Famvir) and valacyclovir (Valtrex). These medications may be taken intermittently, to help treat outbreaks when they occur, or, in some cases, may be recommended for daily usage to help prevent outbreaks from occurring. For some people, these medications help to reduce the frequency of outbreaks, and there is some evidence that they may help prevent a person’s sexual partner from being infected. However, these antiviral medications do not help everyone who has herpes simplex. They can only reduce the spread of the virus in the body; they do not eliminate it completely. Some people may become allergic or resistant to the drugs. Some people experience side effects, including potentially serious kidney problems or unusual bleeding. 

TCM treatment with herbs and acupuncture can help to reduce the severity of herpes outbreaks and prevent recurrence, without any negative side effects.

Can Acupuncture Help Herpes?

From the TCM point of view, the redness and burning of the blister-like rash that accompanies viral infections like herpes and varicella is caused by heat and dampness. Clearing heat and damp from the liver and gallbladder will usually be one of the primary goals of acupuncture treatment and herbal supplementation, as this will help to quickly cool down an outbreak of the painful sores. Maintaining the health and balance of the liver system long-term will help to prevent future outbreaks. 

TCM also factors in emotional well-being when considering each individual’s presentation of a disease. The flare up of herpes simplex viral infection is associated with stress and negative emotions, especially anger. Anger is connected to the Liver and Gallbladder, and also to the eyes, which is why sometimes the herpes skin disorder will manifest in the eyes. Learning lifestyle behaviors and dietary choices that will help to balance the emotions and reduce excess heat in the body will also help reduce the occurrence of herpes flare ups.

Chinese herbs herpes
Herbs can help relieve herpes simplex outbreaks.

Some herbal formulations work well to heal sores related to herpes outbreak. There are also specific Chinese herbs that function as “antivirals.” These herbs can help control the virus in the body, which, when combined with treatment and herbs that strengthen the immune system, can be effective at reducing the risk of recurrent outbreaks of herpes.

Acupuncture Near Me for Herpes Simplex

While herpes simplex is often considered a disease one has to “learn to live with,” it is not necessary to suffer the pain and emotional burden of herpes simplex infection without relief. Alternative medicine for herpes in the form of acupuncture and herbs offers a holistic treatment option that can help relieve the physical symptoms of recurrent herpes outbreaks as well as associated mental and emotional struggles with shame, anxiety, depression, and relationship concerns. Boosting the immune system, strengthening the Qi and organ systems, reducing heat through proper nutrition, and relieving stress can all work to help people with herpes live free of the fear of the next outbreak.

 

 

*This article is for education from the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine only. The education provided by this article is not approved by FDA to diagnose, prevent, treat and cure human diseases. It should not stop you from consulting with your physician for your medical conditions. Traditional Chinese Medicine is based on Qi, which is an invisible force that usually cannot be observed by modern science. Because science focuses on testing ideas about the natural world with evidence obtained through observation, these aspects of acupuncture can’t be studied by science. Therefore acupuncture and Chinese herbs are often not supported by double-blind, randomized trials, and they are considered alternative medicine therapies in the United States.

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How to Treat Hemorrhoids With Acupuncture and TCM

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By Xiaomei Cai, L.Ac., Ph.D. & Qineng Tan, L.Ac., Ph.D.

hemorrhoid pain
Hemorrhoids can cause pain, itching, and bleeding.

Bleeding and discomfort when you go to the bathroom? Burning or itching around the anus? Hemorrhoid pain is caused by swollen blood vessels around the rectum. Acupuncture and TCM reduce inflammation and can bring swift hemorrhoid relief.

Sometimes called “piles,” (from the Latin “pila,” meaning “balls”), hemorrhoids often do resemble little balls or clusters of grapes. The word “hemorrhoid” actually refers to the specific formation of blood vessels and cushioning tissues that surround the anus. Colloquially, though, the term is usually used to describe the condition of inflammation and irritation that can occur in this area.

Hemorrhoids are very common; probably more than half the population experiences them at some point in their life. However, the discomfort of talking to a doctor about hemorrhoids can be almost as miserable as the physical discomfort of having them, so many people avoid getting hemorrhoid help.

How do you know if you have a hemorrhoid? Sometimes people have a lot of itching, burning and discomfort after a bowel movement, or throughout the day. Sometimes there is no pain, but you may see a little bit of blood in the toilet bowl, or when you wipe with toilet paper. When you touch the area, you may feel a lump, or swollen tissue.

Hemorrhoids are generally classified into two categories based on their location: internal hemorrhoid and external hemorrhoid. Internal hemorrhoids form inside the anus and lower rectum and can cause bleeding, usually without pain. In some cases, though, the swollen veins can protrude out from the anal sphincter during or after a bowel movement and then need to be pushed back in. This is called a “prolapsed internal hemorrhoid.” The situation can become more serious if the internal hemorrhoid can’t be pushed back in, or if a blood clot develops in the vessel (thrombosis); then, it becomes painful to go to the bathroom, or even sit. In some cases, a prolapsed hemorrhoid becomes “strangulated,” meaning the blood supply is cut off, which can cause severe pain. Hemorrhoids become prolapsed because the connective tissues in the area weaken due to intense pressure, usually due to straining during a bowel movement, or because of the extra weight of pregnancy or obesity.

External hemorrhoids develop outside the anus, under the skin. These are the kind of hemorrhoids that tend to cause itching and a little bit of bright red bleeding. Again, they are aggravating, but not too serious unless a blood clot forms; then, it is called a “thrombosed external hemorrhoid.” This type of hemorrhoid can turn blue or purple in color and become acutely painful. In some cases, surgery will be performed to drain blood from the clot, or remove the hemorrhoid.

Most of the time, people suffer quietly with hemorrhoids, waiting for them to go away on their own. Only when they cause severe pain and bleeding are medical treatments considered. However, TCM and acupuncture offer a way to deal with hemorrhoids so that they heal more quickly and reduce the chance to return.

Top 10 Hemorrhoid Causes

fiber cereal and fruit prevent hemorrhoids
Eating more fiber can help prevent constipation and hemorrhoids.

What causes hemorrhoids? The tissues and blood vessels around the anal area can become weak, irritated, and inflamed. The upright posture of our human bodies naturally puts pressure on the elimination organs. Many women get hemorrhoids during pregnancy and/or birth because of intense pressure on the perineal area.The major reasons for hemorrhoids include:

  1. Pregnancy
  2. Constipation
  3. Diarrhea
  4. Sedentary lifestyle
  5. Straining while on the toilet
  6. Sitting too long on the toilet without progress
  7. Lack of dietary fiber
  8. Obesity
  9. Family history of hemorrhoids
  10. Aging

Overall, focusing on eating a diet that includes plenty of fiber, drinking enough water, maintaining good bathroom habits (going when you feel the urge and not waiting) and a healthy weight will go a long way towards preventing hemorrhoids. But what can you do when you already have hemorrhoids?

Treatment for Hemorrhoids

hemorrhoid suppositories
hemorrhoid suppositories

Often, people will just deal with hemorrhoid itching and pain on their own by using over-the-counter products like creams that contain phenylephrine, which constricts blood vessels (Preparation H), or disposable wipes impregnated with witch hazel and other soothing ingredients (Tucks medicated pads). These treatments may help reduce pain and swelling temporarily, but they do not get rid of hemorrhoids at their root.

When people do talk to their doctor about hemorrhoids, they may be prescribed something stronger, like a steroid cream, or hydrocortisone rectal suppositories.

If the situation persists or becomes more severe, there are several types of outpatient procedure to treat hemorrhoids, including rubber band ligation, sclerotherapy, infrared photocoagulation, and electrocoagulation. All of these procedures cut off blood supply to the hemorrhoid, so that it will form scar tissue and fall off. Hemorrhoid stapling and hemorrhoidectomy are outpatient procedures in which the hemorrhoids are surgically removed, and/or prolapsed tissues are affixed back inside the anus. While these surgeries may be helpful in some cases, recovery can be painful, and there can be problems with the way things work afterwards, potentially leading to more surgery later on.

When hemorrhoids are severe, it is a good idea to consult your doctor, as there are more serious conditions that may produce similar symptoms of pain, itching, or bleeding, including anal fissure (torn tissue or open sore in the anus due to trauma or Crohn’s disease complications), anal abcess (infected cavity in the anus) or anal fistula (an opening from the anal or rectal area that drains pus and/or fecal matter). Sometimes skin tags develop around the area where a hemorrhoid has healed. These can be irritating and difficult to keep clean, so they may need to be surgically removed.

For the treatment of hemorrhoids, TCM methods can provide relief from symptoms and help to reduce the inflammation that caused them.

Can Acupuncture Help Hemorrhoids?

According to TCM philosophy, hemorrhoids can often be related to a build-up of heat and/or dampness in the lower abdominal area; it’s the heat and dampness that cause the blood vessels to swell. You might be concerned by the idea that acupuncture treatment for hemorrhoids would involve needles being placed in a highly sensitive, private area. Let us reassure you this is not the case. The Du Mai meridian, also known as the “Sea of Yang,” is the channel which runs from the rectum area up along the spine to the top of head and then down to the mouth, controlling Yang energy throughout the body. We use points along this meridian, on the top of the head, and in other parts of the body to draw excess heat and dampness away from the area where the hemorrhoids are.

Other presentations of hemorrhoids include:

Top 5 Types of Hemorrhoids Presentation in TCM

  1. Spleen Qi Deficiency – This is when people tend to have poor digestion, bloating, gas, and diarrhea, going to the bathroom very often; the hemorrhoids feel swollen, but not as red. We use moxibustion to work on stomach point 36 meridian point, CV points 6 and 4, and spleen 6 in the middle of the abdomen to help digestion. 
  2. Spleen Qi Sinking-  This presentation tends to happen to people who are thinner, not only having hemorrhoids, but all the organs tend to be lower than usual; may also have prolapsed bladder or uterus, and poor digestion. Moxibustion applied to the middle of the top of the head will head the Qi rise up. For both types, doing Kegel type exercises regularly can help to strengthen the rectal area, also the uterus and bladder. Do three sets, increasing a bit every time: for example squeeze 30 times, release, do again 35, rest, next 40, then rest. Do this exercise every morning and evening.
  3. Blood Stasis – This type is more and more common because of our modern lifestyle, due to sitting a lot for work, which causes blood circulation to be compromised. In Chinese, we have a proverb: “for 10 people who sit too long, 9 will have hemorrhoids.” These manifest more as red, swollen, maybe bleeding. Kegels will also be helpful here, too.
  4. Lower Jiao Fire/Heat – This is when the lower part of the body has too much fire. For this type of hemorrhoids, people tend to have more bleeding, especially triggered by having alcohol, spicy food, crunchy food. These are the kind that may feel very sore with a burning sensation and tend to bleed, especially when wiping. 
  5. Intestinal Dryness – especially here in California, where we have hot, dry weather, without a good habit of drinking water, people can tend to constipation, even going only once or twice a week. These types of hemorrhoids are due to dry, uncomfortable bowel movements, and may have itching and bleeding. Adding more water (warm is better) and more moisturizing foods (sesame oil and lots of ripe bananas, flax seeds, chia, sweet potato/yam, prunes) will be helpful.

Kegel type exercise is helpful for all of these types, to strengthen the sphincter muscle and bring more circulation to the area. Add more movement overall. At bedtime, leg lifts, bicycle movements in the air, upside down, are a good way to exercise without putting pressure on the lower body.

Ideally, when there is good digestion, between 5:00 – 7:00 a.m. is when people should naturally want to go, quickly, without too much need to push. Sitting on the toilet for too long creates the pressure that leads to hemorrhoids.

moxibustion moxa treatment
Moxibustion treatment can help relieve hemorrhoid pain.

Moxibustion treatment–the burning of the herb mugwort near an area–can be very effective for reducing pain quickly. Chinese herbal formulations, used both internally and externally, can help relieve inflammation and pain. An herbal tea formula may include herbs to help strengthen the energy of the spleen, and to lubricate the digestive tract.

We also recommend sitz baths as a home remedy for hemorrhoids: short, 15-minute baths in warm water, to help soothe the area and keep it clean. Your acupuncturist may give you an herbal bath sachet to use to help reduce inflammation and soother the tissues.

One study of acupuncture treatment for internal hemorrhoids showed that, after 24 days, 86% of patients were “cured,” while another 8% showed significant improvement.

Your acupuncture practitioner will also talk with you about changes you can make in your diet and bathroom habits that will help you get things moving more easily.

Acupuncture Near Me for Hemorrhoids

Hemorrhoids are not only irritating; they are a sign that you may need to pay more attention to what you’re eating, and that you need to give yourself a little more time for relaxation, in and out of the bathroom. A combination of acupuncture, herbs, and other TCM treatment for hemorrhoids can help get the pain and swelling behind you.

 

 

 

*This article is for education from the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine only. The education provided by this article is not approved by FDA to diagnose, prevent, treat and cure human diseases. It should not stop you from consulting with your physician for your medical conditions. Traditional Chinese Medicine is based on Qi, which is an invisible force that usually cannot be observed by modern science. Because science focuses on testing ideas about the natural world with evidence obtained through observation, these aspects of acupuncture can’t be studied by science. Therefore acupuncture and Chinese herbs are often not supported by double-blind, randomized trials, and they are considered alternative medicine therapies in the United States.

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