Saturday, June 9, 2012

Tongue Acupuncture and Autism

There is an ancient Chinese belief:
One tonifies a disease with similar remedies e.g. kidney of a pig for a kidney problem; and the brain of a pig for a brain disorder etc. Thus, by acupuncturing the tongue, can we improve communication???

It may not sound like the most pleasant therapy, but tongue acupuncture is attracting attention from parents of children with chronic disabilities in Hong Kong and world-wide. It is being studied for treating brain disorders in children, ranging from cerebral palsy to autism to blindness.

Strange enough, and to our surprise, children are more tolerant of this painful and yet seemingly painless technique, especially for the autistic. One just wonders whether it is the purism of heart or the relative higher pain threshold of these beautiful yet lonely children that paved their way for forever improvement.

Autism or Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a behaviorally defined, lifelong disorder of the brain. Although it is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders in children, its cause is still a mystery, and no cure is currently available. Autism is characterized by deficits in language, social communication and cognition. The basis of the disorder may be neurochemical (serotonin or dopamine neuronal dysfunction), neurobiological (genetic basis), or neuropsychological (dysfunction of complex information processing or theory of mind). Children with autism usually have secondary problems in behavior including aggression, irritability, stereotypies, hyperactivity, negativism, volatile emotions, temper tantrums, short attention span and obsessive-compulsive behavior. Direct and indirect evidence suggests that neurochemical systems might be relevant in understanding the pathogenesis of autism.

We are witnessing a worldwide increase in the incidence of autism. Rates of 10-15 per 10,000 used just a few years ago are being replaced with new rates of 40-60 per 10,000 individuals. There has been an increasing trend of autism in Asians and Caucasians recently. Therefore, an urgent need exists for developing new intervention strategies that may be useful for this population.

How Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) views Autism

The Chinese translation of Autism is Self-Shut-Off Syndrome in Hong Kong and Taiwan. However, in People's Republic of China, it is known as the Lonely Syndrome. However, in TCM, no such disease called Autism exists. TCM doctors approach health and disease according to the philosophy of Yin-Yang, which encompasses balance and the homeostasis of the universe and the 5 elements (gold, wood, water, fire and soil). They also believe in the phenomenological and empirical observations of Qi, Blood and the 8 Principles. TCM practitioners differentiate syndrome according to 8 principles; Qi and Blood or according to the theory of Zang-Fu organs. The pathogenesis of disease is based on disharmony of Yin and Yang, conflicts between antipathogenic Qi and Pathogenic Qi; or the abnormal descending or ascending Qi. Qi is the life energy that flows through the entire body. The 8 principles involve Exterior/Interior, cold/heat, deficiency/excess, and yin-yang. This philosophy is based on more than 5,000 years of cumulative experience of human physiology and pathophysiology.

The etiology of disease, in TCM concept, can include 6 exogenous factors (wind, cold, summer heat, dampness, dryness, fire) and 7 emotions (joy, anger, melancholy, worry, grief, fear and fright), together with improper diet, overstrain, lack of physical exercise, stagnated blood and phlegm fluid. In the western concept, this may affect the body's immune defense system.
 
A TCM diagnosis has four components: Inspection, auscultation /olfaction, Inquiring, and palpation. For inspection, one looks at the vitality, color, appearance, observe the 5 sense organs (eye, nose, ear, gums, lips/mouth, throat), and observe the tongue. For auscultation, one listens and smells. By inquiring, one asks leading and relevant questions that address heat versus cold, inside versus outside and strong versus weak, and for palpation, one feels the pulse qualitatively (not according to the western methodology) and palpates other parts of the body. Integrating these 4 components with knowledge of zang-fu (the organ system) and jing-luo (the meridian system) helps the TCM doctor make a Syndromal diagnosis and develop a treatment based on TCM methodologies. Treatment choices include herbal medicine, natural medicine, acupuncture, Acu-Tuina or acu-massage.

Traditionally in TCM, all children with mental retardation, cerebral palsy, autism, global developmental delay or delayed language development are grouped under the Syndrome of 5-Delays. This Syndrome is based on observed delays in hair growth, teeth eruption, speech, standing and walking. In the TCM concept, brain dysfunction in children is a disequilibrium of body functions. The TCM approach is a holistic approach, firmly rooted in the Yin/Yang theory; disease is viewed within the framework of a Balance of Energy.

Acupuncture

Acupuncture has been practiced in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for over 2,000 years. In 1997, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) in the USA recognized the legal status of acupuncture as a treatment technique, and since that time several other countries including Canada, the United Kingdom and several in Europe, have also done so. Research studies have now proven the benefits of acupuncture in treating pain and disorders of the brain.

Acupuncture uses very thin needles, as thin as a hair on your head which are inserted into targeted points in the body called acupoints. There are more than 400 acupoints in the body, linked through a system of 14 meridians, or pathways. Acupoints are rich in nerve terminals, and when stimulated, result in activation of both the local point and other, more distant points in the body that fall along the same meridian. Their stimulation may result in neural signaling, electromagnetic energy enhancement, neuro-immunomodulatory and neurochemical-hormonal effects.

The therapeutic effect of acupuncture depends on the acupoint(s) selected and the type of stimulation used. Body acupuncture, electrical acupuncture, laser acupuncture, and even acupressure have been practiced. Traditional acupoints on the scalp and body (by manipulation and electrical) have been found effective for treating children with brain dysfunction, resulting in improvement in the patient's overall functional abilities.

Tongue Acupuncture

Tongue diagnosis is an important part of the clinical diagnostic examination in Traditional Chinese Medicine for a syndromal approach such as autism. The tongue is the only body organ which can be exposed and seen externally. By looking at its color, thickness, dryness, superficial growth, and smell, TCM doctors can determine a treatment based on the eight principles. Moreover, according to TCM, the tongue reflects the condition of the heart, which is the master organ, controlling all the other internal organs. Thus indirectly, the tongue is linked by meridians to all the organs of the body.

Tongue Acupuncture (TAC) is an innovative acupuncture technique invented by my team collaborator, Dr. Sun JG from China. It is based on one of the most ancient medical books in China, Wang Di's Internal Medicine, and the idea that the tongue is the intersection site of all 14 meridians in the human body. Dr. Sun discovered that the tongue contains more than 40 acupoints. We hypothesize that there is a Human Map in our tongue, which is connected via rich neural-vascular pathways inside the tongue to different regions of the brain, especially the cerebellum. Neuroimaging with PET and functional MRI has demonstrated the possible role of the cerebellum and other brain region dysfunction with ASD. The cerebellum can be viewed as having its own internal topography, one that is directly linked to the modulation of emotions and social behavior, thought, language and the ability to plan. Is autism part of the system dysfunction of the cerebellum and its connecting pathways?

In our research, we had been encouraged by the positive results in two normal subjects in the areas of language and visual processing, after a short course of TAC. We decided to conduct further research to test how TAC might affect the cerebellum [cognition], temporal lobe [language], frontal lobe [executive function and affect] and basal ganglia [ritualistic/stereotypic mannerisms]. This was done through monitoring changes in glucose metabolism, via a PET scan. The use of Brain FDG-PET in the integration of Western-Chinese Medicine is essential to scientifically assess Alternative Medicine strategy for neurobiological diseases from a functional outcome perspective.
Research Phases of Tongue Acupuncture (TAC)

In March 1999, we launched a pioneer research program in integration of TCM with WM into our Neuro-Habilitation model for children with various forms of brain disorders. More than 700 children with various neuro and/or developmental disabilities were enrolled in the research program, of which about 250 cases involved children with autism.

TAC was given to specific tongue acupoints daily (5 days per week) for 1-2 courses Each course lasted for 4 weeks. (Total = 20-40 sessions). The tongue acupoints were determined by Dr Sun, based on his experience of the TCM approach of the Syndrome of 5 Delays. We began by looking at individual cases and studying the daily written reports completed by the child's mother that described the child's progress after each TAC sessions. As we were also interested in assessing the long-term efficacy of TAC, children with noted improvement after two completed courses were offered the option of further courses, at the parents' requests and depending on the degree of clinical improvement.

Our pilot control study of 30 children with autism using TAC demonstrated improvement in core features (language, social communication, cognition) and secondary features (hyperactivity, attention, aggression, temper tantrum, sleep, functional independence).

As TAC had been introduced in this study as a new acupuncture technique (level 3 evidence), our next step was to proceed to Randomized Control Trials and Double Blind Randomized Placebo Control trials (TAC versus Sham TAC) to produce Level 1 evidence. These studies were conducted for Autistic Spectrum Disorder and Cerebral Palsy children.

The majority showed functional improvement of various degrees, depending on the age and severity of their disabilities. Some improvement was noticeable within a few TAC sessions, especially for drooling, spasticity (scissoring or tiptoeing), ataxia, and poor balance in walking. Functional improvement was noted after one to two courses of TAC. Most children tolerated TAC well, with only occasional pain and minor bleeding in some patients.

What's Unique About Tongue Acupuncture and Autism?

In a revolutionary new treatment, our research team has demonstrated for the first time in a clinical trial how acupuncture can successfully improve the dysfunction related to autism, by activating vital connections in the brain. We hypothesize that repetitive stimulation of specific tongue acupoints can reconnect the neural circuit through its rich neural network to the cerebellum. Improvement may result through the resignaling of the neural circuits via neurotransmitters, like serotonin/5-HT, dopamine and neurochemicals like cortisol. This reconnection of the cerebellar-frontal-temporal circuits may reverse the basic dysfunctional pathways in autism, including attention, emotion, or hyperactivity, and open up a positive road for learning communicative or cognitive skills. Once the “latent” brain is reactivated again, the use of intensive therapeutic interventions (such as speech, occupational therapy and behavioral therapy) and education can help children process information in a more efficient way.

Future Direction

Many questions remain yet unanswered. Alternative treatment strategies, such as TAC, should be viewed as a complementary approach in neurological disabilities. However, an interdisciplinary approach involving Western and Chinese medicine provides an innovative starting point for a new conceptual treatment framework for autism. If we can demonstrate the topography of the brain with concordant tongue acupoints, this research will play an important role in developing a potential paradigm shift as to the pathogenesis of autism and neural plasticity.

TAC can be viewed as a START-UP program or adjunctive therapy for autism. We hope that we can use a simple, relatively non-invasive quick treatment strategy to benefit families with autism worldwide.

Acknowledgement:
I would like to thank deeply all the lovely disabled children and supportive parents who actively participated, with bravery and enthusiasm, in this innovative and yet unexplored research program. Without them, it would be difficult to sustain my initial enthusiasm for the Integration of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Western Medicine. The pressure was heavy; but, seeing the cheerful faces of my children and their grateful parents over the last three years, helped me to pursue for research for new treatment modalities for all those who suffered from AUTISM.

DR JG Sun, who performed the acupuncture (Tongue Acupuncture inventor and research collaborator).

Pediatric Acupuncture: Healing as a Family

Treating a child with traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) therapies presents its own challenges and rewards. As Oriental medicine specialist Mitch Lehman points out, among the latter is the deep satisfaction of bringing families together to experience the power of childhood healing firsthand.

Some are sick. Some are gravely ill. Some are scared. Some are not only unafraid, but they’re quick to allay the fears of their parents. All are very young, and all come to have their symptoms soothed, or even to be healed.

For Mitch Lehman, L.Ac., treating children with acupuncture and other therapies from the practice of traditional Chinese medicine is more than carrying on a tradition that stretches back thousands of years. It’s a matter of being here now with a very young person who’s in pain.

“I have treated children going through chemotherapy, children with cystic fibrosis, and children battling ADHD and much more,” he says.

“I’ve been with kids who are facing very serious conditions. And what I’ve been part of, in terms of sharing in the experience of healing, has been amazing.”

It’s not that children come to Lehman’s clinic — Select Health of San Diego (www.san-diego-acupuncture.com) — anxious to get started with acupuncture or to taste therapeutic Chinese herbal concoctions. To the contrary, there’s a lot to overcome at first.

Getting Over the Hurdles

After 2,800 hours of school and 7,000 hours of clinical training, Lehman opened his own clinic in 1997 and has been in practice ever since. Today, his practice includes treating autoimmune disease
patients, fertility and gynecology, post-traumatic stress disorder and addictions, and, of course, pediatrics.

“My pediatrics instructor, Alex Tiberi, got his assistants deeply involved in working with children from the start,” Lehman explains. “He would mark the points for e-stim, and we would do the actual work hands-on.”

Pediatric acupuncture doesn’t jump right in with acupuncture needles. Instead, most pediatric patients start with e-stimulation, a process that uses small-voltage electrical stimulation at key acupuncture points. “You can’t start young children off with needles without a lot of preparation,” he says. “With young children, I usually begin with e-stimulation, which doesn’t hurt at all, and can even be kind of pleasant. Of course, e-stim doesn’t work with older children, so I gradually introduce the idea of needles to them — by using them on myself or on their parents, so they can see how we react to them. That gives them something tangible to go with.”

Building Trust

“A big challenge with pediatric patients is the fear of the unknown,” Lehman says. “We all deal with that, even as adults, but for a child it’s even more intense.”

Children and their parents come to Lehman and find what looks like a medical clinic. “They’re a little nervous, because they naturally associate medical clinics with not feeling good, or even pain,” he says. “So I find that I have to develop a rapport with the child, to build a sense of trust through my honesty and by showing the child that I respect his or her opinion and will respond to any needs.”

That means if it hurts, Lehman stops whatever he’s doing and proceeds more gradually. “Trust is something we keep building together,” he says.

Sharp Points

And then there’s that fear of needles. “I have to gauge their nonverbal reactions to the needles, too,” Lehman says. “I’m communicating that what I’m doing is a good thing for the child, so he understands that this really is good for him. And if it gets too intense, I’ll back off with what I’m doing and give him relief.”

One three-year-old Lehman treats has taken to calling the herbal formula Lehman prescribes for him “those yucky tasting herbs.” And they are certainly that, Lehman laughs.

“He’s right,” Lehman says, “but he takes it anyway, and he doesn’t make a big deal out of it.”

Tough Cases

One current case Lehman is working with is that of a 10-year-old boy with Tourette’s syndrome. TCM views Tourette’s as a “tremor-related” disease, as Lehman explains, in the same category with Parkinson’s and other conditions related to the concept of “wind.” “In Western medicine, Parkinson’s and Tourette’s have nothing to do with each other,” Lehman explains. “But TCM views them as being similar, and the treatment is thus similar.”

Tourette’s is a terrible, and often-misunderstood, disorder. Lehman’s patient is at that age when symptoms begin to intensify in most patients, and the prognosis is not good most of the time. Treatment is limited to strong prescription medications that carry harsh side effects. But Lehman and the patient’s family have worked closely together to forestall, at least, the need for medication. “At this point, his symptoms would be getting progressively worse without any treatment,” Lehman says. “But he’s actually stabilized in terms of symptoms.”

Lehman says the young lad isn’t crazy about the idea of needles, but he’s making adjustments as he goes. “Right now, I’ve got him using a couple of ear needles, and his parents are very involved in helping him maintain their use between visits. They are very involved in his care and have really educated themselves on all the nuances of dealing with Tourette’s.”

That gets to the heart of a concept central to TCM and Lehman’s practice. “I work as part of a team with my patients and parents,” he says. “Everyone is crucial to healing in TCM. It’s all interrelated — a part of who we are as family members, neighbors in towns and cities, members of communities, clients and vendors to each other, and so on. Interrelationship is at the heart of TCM. We all have to be doing what we are doing, and doing it in harmony.”

The Youthful Spirit of Healing

That’s what amazes Lehman about his young patients: They are very active in their own healing.

Lehman has even seen that in his sickest patients. “No matter what they are fighting — even kids with cystic fibrosis or cancer — they are still kids, and they want to be kids. I’ve seen even the sickest kids respond to the treatment with this spark of life, this vigor to really live. It is a joy to see that. So even though I can’t necessarily cure a child in a case like that, I can be a part of the effort to restore her energy and zest for living. That’s precious to each of us, whether we’re sick or well.”

Can acupuncture enhance a woman's sexual desire and pleasure?

Acupuncture and Chinese herbs have been used to strengthen and promote optimal sexual health for centuries. Chinese Emperors took their sexual health quite seriously and would consult with a team of physicians if they experienced any difficulties in the bedroom. While Oriental medicine is well know for improving men’s sexual performance; in fact, there have been medical textbooks devoted to the subject; acupuncture can quickly increase female libido and restore sexual desire.
1. How can women use acupuncture to improve a lagging libido?
To understand how acupuncture can improve a lagging libido, you have to know the underlying factor that is causing the problem. Causes of waning sexual interest include emotional issues, post-childbirth, breastfeeding, onset of menopause, drug reactions, stress, weight gain, relationship conflicts, hormonal imbalances and physical responses, such as pain or inability to reach orgasm.
With Chinese medicine, a low libido is seen as an imbalance of Qi (energy) within the organ systems, specifically the Kidney and Heart system. Once the cause of the problem is discovered, specific points are stimulated to alter various biochemical and physiological conditions in order to strengthen both the mind and body to bring you back to prime sexual health. Chinese herbs are chosen that will enhance the treatment by increasing vaginal lubrication, calm the mind and regulate hormone imbalances. Ginseng, for instance, can balance the glandular system, which effects mood and sexual desire. Hormonal precursors, such as Horny Goat Weed, boost natural levels of testosterone to arouse sexual drive and libido. Other herbal extracts combine synergistically to awaken and enhance female sexual pleasure as well as increase orgasmic strength.
2. Are there other benefits for women’s sexual health that can be garnered through acupuncture?
Acupuncture is not only for a lagging libido, it can be used for numerous sexual health conditions for both men and women. Here is a brief list of Sexual Health problems that Oriental Medicine and Acupuncture can help:
  • Diminished Libido
  • Vaginal Dryness
  • Infertility
  • Menopause
  • Premature Ejaculation
  • Low Sperm Count
  • Diminished Sperm Motility
  • Impotence
  • Male Climacteric (men-opause)
3. Why should a woman investigate acupuncture as compared to conventional medicine to improve their sexual health?
One of the most appealing qualities of acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine is the low risk of adverse reaction or side effects. While conventional medicine may treat some symptoms of lowered libido it can also increase the risk of certain types of cancer and have a number of significant side-effects.
Another benefit is that acupuncture treatments work synergistically to treat the whole person. In Chinese medicine, due to our diagnostic system, we are able to assess a persons whole constitution (the health of their whole body) and treat the root (or cause) of a health concern along with a branch (or the symptoms) of a health concern. It is in this way that we are able to treat a person’s whole body and mind, rather than just a symptom.

Can acupuncture enhance sexual desire and pleasure?

Acupuncture and Chinese herbs have been used to strengthen and promote optimal sexual health for centuries. Chinese Emperors took their sexual health quite seriously and would consult with a team of physicians if they experienced any difficulties in the bedroom. While Oriental medicine is well know for improving men’s sexual performance; in fact, there have been medical textbooks devoted to the subject; acupuncture can quickly increase male and female libido and restore sexual desire. 1. How can acupuncture improve a lagging libido?
To understand how acupuncture can improve a lagging libido, you have to know the underlying factor that is causing the problem. Causes of waning sexual interest include emotional issues, post-childbirth, breastfeeding, onset of menopause, drug reactions, stress, weight gain, relationship conflicts, hormonal imbalances and physical responses, such as pain or inability to reach orgasm.
With Chinese medicine, a low libido is seen as an imbalance of Qi (energy) within the organ systems, specifically the Kidney and Heart system. Once the cause of the problem is discovered, specific points are stimulated to alter various biochemical and physiological conditions in order to strengthen both the mind and body to bring you back to prime sexual health. Chinese herbs are chosen that will enhance the treatment by increasing vaginal lubrication, calm the mind and regulate hormone imbalances. Ginseng, for instance, can balance the glandular system, which effects mood and sexual desire. Hormonal precursors, such as Horny Goat Weed, boost natural levels of testosterone to arouse sexual drive and libido. Other herbal extracts combine synergistically to awaken and enhance female sexual pleasure as well as increase orgasmic strength.
2. Are there other benefits for sexual health that can be garnered through acupuncture?
Acupuncture is not only for a lagging libido, it can be used for numerous sexual health conditions for both men and women. Here is a brief list of Sexual Health problems that Oriental Medicine and Acupuncture can help:
  • Diminished Libido
  • Vaginal Dryness
  • Infertility
  • Menopause
  • Premature Ejaculation
  • Low Sperm Count
  • Diminished Sperm Motility
  • Impotence
  • Male Climacteric (men-opause)
3. How does acupuncture compare to conventional medicine to improve sexual health?

One of the most appealing qualities of acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine is the low risk of adverse reaction or side effects. While conventional medicine may treat some symptoms of lowered libido it can also increase the risk of certain types of cancer and have a number of significant side-effects.
Another benefit is that acupuncture treatments work synergistically to treat the whole person. In Chinese medicine, due to our diagnostic system, we are able to assess a persons whole constitution (the health of their whole body) and treat the root (or cause) of a health concern along with a branch (or the symptoms) of a health concern. It is in this way that we are able to treat a person’s whole body and mind, rather than just a symptom.

Chinese Herbal Aphrodisiacs

For centuries the Chinese have associated vibrant health and longevity with both abundant kidney Qi and strong libido. In Chinese medicine your kidney Qi and Essence direct your sexual development and keep your libido healthy; improving the health of your kidneys often means increasing the health of your libido. Some of the most expensive and sought-after kidney-supportive Chinese herbal formulas have become known as aphrodisiacs; they enhance sex drive and performance because they build kidney yin, kidney yang, and kidney Essence.

Many also enhance immunity, energy, and stamina, giving them a profound impact on your overall healthand longevity. According to Anne Marie Colbin, author of Food and Healing, "An aphrodisiac is a substance that will expand and relax someone who is sexually too tight, or contract and strengthen someone who is too spacey and scattered." A number of Chinese herbal aphrodisiacs have both of these properties; they contain compounds that can stimulate as well as sedate your nervous system.

This may sound surprising, but because of their dual actions Chinese herbal aphrodisiacs are legendary. The Chinese have invested a few thousand years of research in perfecting herbal formulas for preserving sexual vitality. However, it is sometimes difficult for Westerners to understand that these formulas are meant to be used within the context of boosting every aspect of your health. In the age of Viagra, it cannot be emphasized enough that taking a single drug or herbal formula does not make you sexually potent. Great health and vitality are what give you sexual vigor.

The health of your libido is not measured by just how much and how often you want to engage in sexual activity; it is much more than that. A women’s libido requires having energy and vitality, but also feeling relaxed and loving. Men tend to take herbal aphrodisiacs to build kidney yang energy for short bursts of sexual satisfaction, but women need to take them over a long period of time to build both kidney yin and kidney yang energy. Building only your kidney yang energy will ultimately exhaust your kidney yin and kidney Essence. By strengthening your kidney yin, kidney yang, and kidney Essence, herbal aphrodisiacs can fortify your sexual vitality by gently strengthening the health of your entire body.

The following are some of the best Chinese herbs with aphrodisiac properties. You can find them in many Chinese herbal formulas traditionally given to enhance libido and sexual performance, and in those prescribed for women who are infertile or menopausal. (Chinese herbal formulas are mixtures of herbs that have specific effects when combined together.) Here, these herbs are recommended primarily for their ability to enhance your kidney Qi and kidney Essence. Taking increased amounts of these herbs is not always beneficial; too much may have the opposite effect. For instance, if you take an excessive amount of an herb that strengthens your kidney yang when you are lacking kidney yin can create an imbalance in your Qi and result in a lack of libido. For best results, consult with your practitioner of Chinese medicine.
  • Chinese ginseng is a powerful herb for strengthening your Qi and helping your body adapt to stress. It is used as a sexual tonic because of its modulating effects on your nervous system. If you are lethargic it can give you sexual energy, and if you are tense it can help you relax. Chinese ginseng contains compounds that may have effects on your body resembling those of certain sex and adrenal hormones. It does not act as an immediate sexual stimulant, but when taken long-term it can enhance your sexual vitality. It is usually used in combination with other herbal aphrodisiacs to increase sexual potency, kidney yang, and kidney Essence. In postmenopausal women ginseng can prevent atrophy of the vulvar and vaginal tissues. As a single herb, the recommended dose of ginseng is 200 milligrams taken two to three times a day. Chinese ginseng should not be taken by women with a deficiency of kidney yin because it can be too warming. 
  • Rehmannia is superb for nourishing your kidney yin and kidney Essence. In Chinese medicine, this herb is said to be "food for your kidneys," very rejuvenating, and with the potential to increase your longevity. Rehmannia is usually used in combination with other herbs to build Blood, and strengthen yin and Qi. As a women's herb, it can enhance your sexuality and draw Qi and energy into your reproductive organs. You will benefit most from the prepared form of rehmannia that has been soaked in wine, steamed, and sun-dried (this form of rehmannia should not be used if you have diarrhea). Rehmannia is seldom prescribed as a single herb. One of the most popular Chinese herbal formulas containing rehmannia, along with other herbs for building kidney yin and kidney Essence, is Six Flavor Rehmannia Pills; the usual dose is eight pellets three times a day, depending on the type of product purchased.  
  • Epimedium is considered to be the most powerful vegetarian sexual tonic in Chinese medicine, although surprisingly little is known of it in the West. For women, it is best used in combination with herbs like rehmannia, which strengthen or tonify yin, because epimedium has strong kidney yang-building effects. It may possess male hormone-like actions and is believed to work by stimulating your nervous system, especially the nerves in your genitalia. This herb has also been found to decrease high blood pressure, but it will not affect blood pressure that is too low. In addition, epimedium has powerful immunity-boosting and immunity-regulating effects. In Chinese medicine, it is also used for promoting heath and longevity. Epimedium should not be used regularly by women who have an overactive sex drive, a high fever, or symptoms of kidney yin deficiency such as hot flashes, insomnia, or anxiety. It is best used in a Chinese herbal formula. 
  • Cordyceps is one of the shining stars among Chinese herbal aphrodisiacs. It builds your sexual energy over time by enhancing your kidney yang and replenishing your kidney yin. Because of its dual nature, expansive yet contractive, cordyceps is a perfect sexual tonic for women. It also has immunity-enhancing properties. In China, cordyceps is highly valued. Fortunately, it has become more readily available as a result of modern cultivation techniques. The recommended dose of cordyceps as a single herb is 500 milligrams two to three times a day. Refrain from using cordyceps if you have a fever.

Acupuncture For Dysmenorrhea

Dysmenorrhea or painful menstruation occurs before, during, and after a woman's menstruation.  The cramping can occurs mainly in the lower abdomen, but can also be experienced in the lower back and even down the legs.  Pain symptoms vary from woman to woman but normally present as throbbing, sharp pain that often come and go or a constant, dull pain.  Often, in severe cases, there is nausea and vomiting, sometimes lightheadedness.  Roughly half of women have some form of recurring dysmenorrhea, ranging from mild to debilitating symptoms usually for one-to-three days.  Although Western doctors and their patients often take dysmenorrhea to be just a normal part of being a woman, from a Chinese medicine perspective the symptoms point to underlying imbalances that can be easily corrected. 
From a Western medicine perspective, the menstrual cramping is caused by high levels of prostaglandin hormones produced by the uterus triggering abnormal muscle contractions that cut off blood flow in areas of the uterus.  The condition is categorized into the following two types: 
  • Primary dysmenorrhea: begins from adolescence, can last through early adulthood, and is related to hormonal imbalances that cause excessive uterine contractions.
  • Secondary dysmenorrhea: commonly occurs in women who are in their thirties and forties and is often accompanied by conditions such as pelvic inflammatory disease, endometriosis, myomas (benign tumors), and fibroids.
Contraceptive pills are the standard treatment for hormonal imbalances that are accompanied by irregular periods.  If no specific condition is diagnosed as the cause of the dysmenorrhea, then analgesics are usually prescribed.
In Chinese Medicine, there are two main approaches to gynecological conditions.  There is the more common "organ energetics" approach espoused by the more recent development in Chinese medicine called TCM or "Traditional Chinese Medicine."  And there is the "channel energetics" approach emphasized by CCM or Classical Chinese Medicine.  Although developed more recently (that is, in China during the 1950s), TCM does not represent an advancement but a very simplified, abbreviated version of what Chinese medicine was before Mao came into power.  After their assent to power the China faced a healthcare crisis with not enough practitioners to treat the vast population.  So what was traditionally ten years of apprenticeship training was truncated down to three years of class room instruction with less than half of the energetics of the body being taught.
As suggested above, the energetics of the body is made up of the twelve organ energetics and over seventy channels that have their own unique energetics.  TCM practitioners have learned organ energetics and just fourteen channels; that is, the twelve organs' energetics and regular channels associated with those twelve organs plus two other channels, Ren and Du.  CCM practitioners have learned organ energetics and the over-seventy energy channels recognized by Chinese medicine.  Basically, TCM says that patient signs and symptoms are caused by imbalances in organ energetics and need to be corrected by rebalancing organ energetics.  CCM recognizes imbalances in organ energetics and those imbalances that arise in channel energetics as well. 
So what?  Why bring up these differences?  First, there are very important differences in these approaches beyond what has been already stated.  And, although I will be approaching dysmenorrhea from a TCM perspective (because it is much more likely to be encountered by readers) for the remainder of this article, I bring up CCM in order to just hint at the breadth of Chinese medicine so that the reader does not come to the conclusion that TCM is Chinese medicine.
From a TCM perspective, a healthy period requires adequate blood volume and flow, assisted by qi or subtle energy.  Liver, Spleen, Kidney organ and Chong channel energetics are involved in a woman's period.  For instance, Liver qi assists in the normal flow of blood and qi.  If Liver qi stagnates from emotional stress, then blood cannot move adequately enough, usually causing pain a day or two before the period.  If Liver-blood stagnates, then there will be pain during the period. 
Basically, TCM-style of Chinese acupuncture works to get blood and qi moving smoothly with the treatment of the Liver channel as its main focus as the Liver channel's pathway passes through the genitalia and reproductive organs.  If a woman is what Chinese medicine calls "blood deficient," acupuncture can assist in the conversion of other body resources to form new blood.  This is important because blood deficiency means that there is not enough blood for the blood to flow smoothly and evenly, causing dull or sharp pain.
Chinese medicine does not treat Western medicine conditions--including "dysmenorrhea."  Instead the Chinese medicine practitioner takes a naturalistic approach by organizing patient signs and symptoms into basic patterns of imbalance, after conducting an extensive intake.  Usually there are multiple patterns of imbalance involved in a patient's health presentation.
Common Patterns in TCM-Style of Chinese Medicine for Dysmenorrrhea
  • Qi Stagnation and Blood Stasis: dark-red menses with clots, pain worse with pressure, beginning before or at the first day or two of the period and during period.
  • Qi and Blood Deficiency:  scanty menses, dull pain better with pressure occurring during or after the period.
  • Liver and Kidney-Yin Deficiency: thin, scanty menses, lower abdominal pain.
  • Cold in the Uterus from Yang Deficiency: pale, scanty menses, pain during or after period and better with heat.
  • Low Abdominal Damp-Heat: strong-smelling, yellow or bright-red menses, pelvic inflammation, possibly burning pain during period.
  • Uterine Damp-Cold: dark, scanty menses, low back pain, pain before or during period, relieved with heat but worse with pressure.
TCM-style acupuncture treatments usually include nutrition, other lifestyle modifications, and, perhaps, Chinese herbs.