Moringa Miracle Herb or Case of Consumer Beware

Recently I came across a book on African Herbs which contained numerous herbal moringa treemonographs.  The monograph that caught my eye was  on Morniga oleifera.  I was intrigued by Morniga’s popularity among breastfeeding mothers.  Moringa has followed the superfood path of being the latest and greatest remedy for everything under the sun.  In reading through the monograph, I found some support for these health claims but not for others.  Below is an example of how health claims are perpetuated and the importance of looking beyond the headlines.
Los Angeles Times – “Scientifically speaking, Moringa sounds like magic. It can rebuild weak bones, enrich anemic blood and enable a malnourished mother to nurse her starving baby. Doctors use it to treat diabetes in West Africa and high blood pressure in India …. And it’s not only good for you, it’s delicious.”

Indigenous to sub-Himalayan regions of Northern India and Pakistan, Moringa now has world wide distribution. All parts of the plant have numerous medicinal actions including antibacterial, anthelmintic, anti inflammatory, antibiotic and anti-hypertensive, to name a few.  The Moringa tree is know by different names throughout the world including “drumstick tree” or it’s common name of “horseradish tree”. In Ayurvedic medicine it is known as Shigru and Jacinto in Spain.

 

Moringa is considered a food and medicinal herb. Moringa oleifera grows in many  health claimscountries where malnutrition is widespread and has been used to increase vitamin and protein levels, providing a valuable source of antioxidants and vitamins.  The leaves are the most common part of the plant used in commerce.  When one searches the web there are numerous links to the health benefits of Moringa. A blog post by Wellness Mama on the super food claims of Moringa covered a important point:

Perhaps you’ve seen some of the health claims that gram-for-gram, Moringa has more protein than yogurt, more potassium than bananas, more calcium than milk and more Vitamin C than oranges.  While this is technically true, it is important to note the distinction that this is “gram for gram,” and not by volume. Since Moringa leaves are relatively lightweight, 100 grams of Moringa leaves would be substantially more volume than 100 grams of an orange.

Consider this: a medium size orange is approximately 130 grams, or 4.5 ounces. Now consider a leafy substance like Moringa leaves. For simplicity, we’ll use a similar leaf, Spinach, for comparison. The FDA estimates that 1 cup of raw spinach is about 30 grams. This means that to get the same “gram for gram” comparison, a person would have to eat 4+ cups of fresh spinach leaves to consume the same number of grams as one orange.  This comparison becomes even more glaring with some of the other nutrients. For instance, it is claimed that “gram for gram” this plant contains two times the protein of yogurt, but 100 grams of yogurt is only about 1/2 cup, while a person would have to consume 3+ cups (or six times as much by volume) fresh leaves to get to 100 grams.  Additionally, while it is a good natural source of the nutrients listed above, 1 cup of fresh Moringa leaves provides only 10-20% of the RDA for these nutrients listed above, so a person would have to consume a lot to obtain “superfood” levels of these nutrients. Most Moringa supplements are dried, not fresh, which reduces the amount of certain nutrients and concentrates others.

This points to the faulty logic used as the basis of advertising.  So although Moringa is full of vitamins and protein, it is important to look at the detail, this isn’t a case of comparing apples to apples.

 

bookBack to the monograph.  The monograph reported on traditional uses of Moringa.  According to the monograph Moringa leaves and seeds were used as food:

  • Soup is made from the leaves and is used to treat hypertension
  • Fresh leaves are eaten like spinach, the leaves are used for making sauces
  • Moringa pods are eaten as a vegetables
  • The leaves are used as a protection against malnutrition
  • Moringa leaves are a rich source of Vit. E, A and fatty acids
  • The fruits or seed pods, known as drumsticks, are a culinary vegetable commonly used in soups and curries
  • The flowers are featured in some recipes as well, although they need to be cooked slightly to neutralize toxicity.

The bark, leaves, and root of Moringa have also been used in traditional healing:

  • Leaves used as poultice aiding in wound healing
  • Leaves are used against nervous ailments
  • Juice from crushed bark, flowers, roots and leaves, mixed with honey is used for nervous disorders
  • Bark or leaf used for its antispasmodic properties
  • Root chewed against mouth ulcers
  • Root chewed to aid in digestion
  • Root pulp is poulticed against pulmonary diseases
  • Root decoction if drunk against epilepsy, hysteria, fever.
  • Lightly boiled leaves, bark or root pulp or pulverized root is applied to painful joints
  • Extract of bark or root for scurvy
  • The root and pounded flower are used on wounds
  • Infusion of root is used as gargle
  • Root poultice is a stimulant, used for some forms of paralysis and fever.
  • Juice extracted from crushed roots ear drop for ear infections
  • The leaf infusion contains oxytocin
  • Leaf pulp used as dressing against inflammation
  • Whole plant decoction used against viral hepatitis
  • Used as gargle for throat related infections
  • Seed oil is rubbed on joints.
  • Used as a traditional supplement for infants. One rounded soup spoon contains about 8 g of powder with 2.2 G protein.
  • During the 19th c. Plantations in the West Indies were exporting the oil. It is pleasant tasting edible oil which does not become rancid.
  • In one study the seeds of Moringa were used to purify water. (Gilpin et al., 1994)

Moringa is promoted as a galactagogue or milk stimulating herb by many commercial moringa plantsources.  In a review of literature on Moringa some cultures used it primarily for increasing protein levels during breastfeeding. The Philippines have documented use of its ability to augment breast milk production.  There is a survey of studies that does show it has a demonstrated  significant increase in milk produced 4-7 days after treatment. The caution is that the internet is filled with much misinformation about whether Moringa leaf should or should not be taken during pregnancy, at this point I would air on the side of safety.  The other parts of the plant should not be taken and can cause miscarriage or bleeding.

Cautions:  The leaves of the Moringa oleifera tree are generally considered to be safe and edible, but there is some controversy regarding the roots and stems pointing to potentially harmful effects, especially in women. These parts of the plant may not only act as a contraceptive (both temporary or permanent) but may also lead to miscarriage and other problems.  There is research showing a potentially immunosuppressive and cytotoxic effect of the seeds of the plant, and extracts or supplements that contain the roots, seeds and stems should be avoided for this reason until more research is done. Additionally, the leaves of the plant have been shown to have a mildly laxative effect and may cause digestive disturbances in some people. Supplementation of the seeds or one extract of the leaves (methanolic) at doses around 3-4 fold higher than the recommended dosages appears to be associated with genotoxicity and should be avoided; water extracts of the leaves do not appear to confer this risk.  Moringa oleifera has anticoagulant properties of unknown potency and biological significance.

Important drug contraindications:  Some medications are changed and broken down by the liver. Moringa might decrease how quickly the liver breaks down some medications. Taking moringa along with some medications that are broken down by the liver can increase the effects and side effects of some medications.

  • Levothyroxine-Interaction Rating: Moderate.  Be cautious with this combination.  Levothyroxine is used for low thyroid function. Moringa might decrease how much levothyroxine your body absorbs. Taking moringa along with levothyroxine might decrease the effectiveness of levothyroxine.
  • Moringa might lower blood sugar. Diabetes medications are also used to lower blood sugar. Taking moringa along with diabetes medications might cause your blood sugar to go too low. Monitor your blood sugar closely. The dose of your diabetes medication might need to be changed.
  • Moringa might lower blood pressure. It has the potential to add to blood pressure lowering effects of antihypertensive drugs.
  • There is research showing a potentially immunosuppressive and cytotoxic effect of the seeds of the plant, and extracts or supplements that contain the roots, seeds and stems should be avoided for this reason until more research is done.

This points to my initial concern about the over marketing of an herb, where it becomes almost impossible to filter through the numerous web pages to find reality.  As the global use of herbal medicinal products continues to grow and many more new products are introduced into the market, public health issues, and concerns surrounding their safety are important.  I am not in the camp of over regulation at all, but I do feel that for the most part consumers are not doing the level of research needed, or looking to clinical herbalists, who for the most part are trained to dig deep for efficacy and contraindications.

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Two Immortals- Help with Menopausal Symptoms and Hypertension

Er Xian Tang (Two Immortals Teapills)

TCM action: warm kidney yang, tonify kidney essence, and drain deficient fire

Last year one of my esteemed herbal teachers, Leslie Tierra, talked about the great results that she was getting treating women with Er Xian Tang who had yin deficiency with deficient fire. This peaked my interest and I started to look at the history and herbs that comprised the formula. In a nutshell, deficient fire is often seen in women who are experiencing pre and post menopausal symptoms which might include hot flashes, night sweats, facial and malar flushing, irritability, palpitations, insomnia, decreased sex drive and vaginal dryness to name a few.

The formula Er Xian Tang was developed in the 1960’s at a hospital affiliated with Shanghai College of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Er Xian Tang was designed as a treatment for cases of hypertension (Western terminology) where there was a combination of kidney yang deficiency and deficiency fire of the kidney, two seemingly contradictory conditions. Yang deficiency include signs of internal cold and weakness including coldness, lassitude, edema of the legs, loose stools, sterility or infertility, frequent urination, urinary incontinence, while the signs listed above indicate deficiency of Kidney fire.

A comparison of the role of the heart and kidney in allopathic and TCM can be helpful in understanding the intent of the formula. Er Xian Tang treats renal hypertension.   Renal hypertension from an allopathic perspective results impaired functioning of the kidneys, reduced urinary elimination and excessive renin (a protein and enzyme secreted by the kidneys) production. The heart sends a continuous supply of oxygenated blood around the body. The kidney filters the blood, extracting waste in the form of urine, and also helps regulate the water and salt levels to control blood pressure. When the heart is no longer pumping efficiently it becomes congested with blood, causing pressure to build up in the main vein connected to the kidneys and leading to congestion of blood in the kidneys. The kidneys suffer from the reduced supply of oxygenated blood. When the kidneys become impaired, the hormone system, which regulates blood pressure, goes into overdrive in an attempt to increase blood supply to the kidneys resulting in renal hypertension. This eventually damages the heart, which has to pump against higher pressure, in the arteries.

In TCM Er Xian Tang treats kidney yang deficiency and deficiency fire of the kidney. In TCM, according to the five elements theory, the Heart is categorized as yang and the Kidneys are considered yin. Normally, the Heart yang (fire) descends and joins with the Kidney-yang to warm and propels kidney-yin (water) to ascend to nourish heart yang (fire) to prevent it from hyperactive. Think of it as a continual loop with fire warming the kidneys, while water helps to contain heart fire. Or as Western medicine describes: the heart sends a continuous supply of oxygenated blood to organs including the kidneys that help to regulate water and salt levels to control blood pressure. In both systems the heart and the kidneys are closely related, with a mutually dependent function. If this functional relationship becomes abnormal in TCM it results in a condition termed “non-coordination between the heart and the kidney”.

This gets us back to yin deficiency with deficient fire. In Chinese medicine, the Heart and Kidney energies should work together. The Heart sends Fire down to warm the Kidneys: in return, the Kidneys send pure fluids up to nourish the Heart. In Heart and Kidney Yin deficiency with Deficient Heat the downward action or upward action is severely reduced. This leaves too much Yang (fire), due to lack of cooling Yin (water), hence deficient heat, resulting in night sweats, insomnia, and steaming bone syndrome. Normally you expect to see symptoms of deficiency fire of the kidney associated exclusively with yin deficiency, yet in this case, this type of fire is described as yang excess which arises from an imbalance of yin and yang (the deficient yin can not control the yang). When yin and yang are both deficient, one can experience symptoms of each deficiency, which may either flip back and forth between the two or manifest simultaneously.

Er Xian Tang, Two Immortals

Xian Mao-Curculigo, Golden Eye-Grass Rhizome

Tastes and Energies: spicy-hot,

Category: Tonify the Yang

Actions: Warm Kidney yang and tonify Kidney essence,

Contraindications: Yin Deficiency w/ Heat

Yin Yang Hou-Epimedium Leaf

Tastes and Energies: spicy, sweet, warm,

Category: Tonify the Yang

Actions: Warm Kidney yang and tonify Kidney essence, tonify Yin, harnesses Liver yang,

Contraindications: Yin deficiency w/ Heat

Ban Ji Tian-Morinda Root

Tastes and Energies: spicy, hot, toxic,

Category: Tonify the Yang

Actions: warm Kidney yang and tonify Kidney essence,

Contraindications: Yin deficiency w/ Heat amp heat

Huang Bai-Phellodendrum Bark, Amur Cork-Tree Bark

Tastes and Energies: bitter, cold

Category: Clear Heat Dry Dampness

Actions: nourish Kidney yin and drain fire from deficiency, used for steaming bone disorder, night sweats.

Contraindications: Spleen Qi Deficiency w/ Cold

Zhi Mu-Anemarrhena Rhizome

Tastes and Energies: bitter, sweet, cold

Category: Clear Heat, Drain Fire

Actions: nourish Kidney yin and drain fire from deficiency, nourish yin and moistens dryness, generates fluids and clears heat.

Contraindications: Spleen Qi Deficiency, diarrhea

Dang Gui-Angelica Sinensis Root

Tastes and Energies: sweet, spicy, warm

Category: Tonify the Blood

Actions: Moistens and nourishes the blood and regulates the penetrating and conception vessels. Invigorates blood, moistens the intestines, increases circulation

Contraindications: Spleen Qi Deficiency, dampness

Er Xian San cautions:  during pregnancy, during early states of acute illness, loose stools, diarrhea, poor appetite or chronic digestive weakness.

The intriguing aspect of Er Xian Tang is that it contains herbs that are contraindicated (not used) in cases of yin deficiency with deficient fire. It contains hot natured herbs, Xian Mao, Yin Yang Hou, and Ban Ji Tian, which tonify yang but can also increase fire. The formula also contains Huang Bai and Zhi Mu that are bitter and drying, which may damage yin. Huang Bai and Zhi Mu are considered a traditional Dui Yao, or herbs that are often used together to reinforce and complement each other. Together they clear heat, enrich yin and drain deficient fire. Huang Bai is bitter, cold, consolidates yin, drains deficient fire, while Zhi Mu, is sweet, cold, enriches yin, moistens dryness, and supplements the kidneys. Dang Gui builds blood, increases red cell proliferation, normalizes heart contractions and dilates coronary blood vessels increasing peripheral blood flow. Huang Bai and Zhi Mu are cold energetically and help to balance the spicy and heating energies of Xian Mao, Yin Yang Hou, and Ban Ji Tian.

Er Xian Tang serves as an example of evolving TCM formulation, where a new formulations are being utilized to address modern disharmonies by combining strongly warming yang tonics with cold, fire-purging herbs. In this case and the studies that have been conducted the formula appears to be effective for hypertension and for some other applications, such as menopausal syndrome and male infertility.

Additional notes:

Xian Mao and Yin Yang Huo are used to tonify the kidney and according to the Taoist’s aid in prolonging life. The name “Two Immortals” references the use of the word Xian.   Xian Mao was named in the Bencao Gangmu (by Li Shizhen; 1596) as one of the herbs believed to contribute to immortality. Xian Ling Pi (Epimedium, now know as Yin Yang Huo) alludes to the immortals’ intelligent nature, boosts the qi and strengthens the will. Around 100 B.C., a poem about attaining immortality, the ode Yuan Yu (Journey to Remoteness, or Roaming the Universe) was written. It depicts the transition to immortality:

Having heard the precious teaching, I departed,

And swiftly prepared to start on my journey.

I met the feathered ones at Cinnabar Hill,

I tarried in the ancient Land of Deathlessness.

In the morning, I washed my hair in the Hot Springs of Sunrise,

In the evening, I dried myself where the suns perch.

I sipped the subtle potion of the Flying Springs

And held in my bosom the radiant metallous jade.

My pallid countenance flushed with brilliant color,

Purified, my Jing began to grow stronger,

My corporeal parts dissolved to a soft suppleness,

And my spirit grew lissome and eager for movement.

 

Traditional Chinese Medicine: Erectile Dysfunction (ED) and alternatives to Viagra

I recently saw my first client with ED and spent time researching how Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) approaches working with this condition.  Erectile dysfunction (ED) or impotence occurs when a man has consistent and repeated problems sustaining an erection. Erectile dysfunction (ED) is the inability to get or keep an erection firm enough to have sexual intercourse. It is also sometimes also referred to as impotence.   Several studies have looked at the prevalence of ED including one, the Massachusetts Male Aging Study, that reported that ED is increasingly prevalent with age. At age 40, approximately 40% of men are affected. The rate increases to nearly 70% in men aged 70 years.  Age was the variable most strongly associated with ED, although there are emotional and physiological reasons attributed including: diabetes, obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure and atherosclerosis, endocrine diseases, lifestyle, diet, neurological and nerve disorders, medications, drug abuse, anxiety and depression. Additionally men may have difficulty obtaining or maintaining erections after various forms of cancer treatment. Surgery and radiation therapy to the pelvic area, hormonal therapy, chemotherapy, and various medications may all significantly impact a man’s ability to obtain or maintain an erection. Viagra is the leading medication prescribed for ED, although as with all medications,  it is not without its associated side effects:

  • HeadacheUntitled1
  • Flushing in the face, neck, or chest
  • Upset stomach, indigestion
  • Abnormal vision
  • Nasal congestion
  • Back pain
  • Muscular pain or tenderness
  • Nausea

If considering options than Viagra, such as those explored below, it would be advised see a TCM trained specialist.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) considers that the strength or weakness of men’s sexual function is associated with the energy of certain internal organs, including the kidneys, liver and heart. The Kidneys are one of the major organs to support the body’s sexual function by storing essence (Jing), controlling human reproduction, growth and development. Essence or Jing rules the production of sperm. The heart plays an important role in erection and arousal. Kidney essence is classified as yin, while qi is yang, yet they depend on each other to maintain a dynamic balance, if out of balance it can result in ED/impotence. Excessive sexual activities and frequent masturbation can deplete the kidney essence.

The Ming Men (located on the middle of the lower back) is an essential part of traditional Chinese physiology. Called the “Gate of Life,” it holds the Genuine Yin and Yang of the body from which all substances and functions develop. The term Ming Men refers to one of the body’s two kidneys, where the male’s “essence” is stored. In Kidney Deficiency cases, warming the Ming Men and Kidney Yang are necessary to balance the body.

index4Men’s sexual function disorders have been strongly associated fast paced life styles. This state of chronic stress restricts the flow of the qi through the Liver channel which travels through the pubic area and reproductive organs. When the Liver is affected by stress and the Liver channel is blocked then qi cannot flow smoothly leading to sexual dysfunction and disorders.

The process by which the penis becomes erect is complex, involving not only the nerves, muscles, blood vessels, and other tissues in the penis itself, but also includes factors such as emotion, lifestyle and general health. During arousal nerve impulses are sent to nerves in and around the penis, which cause an increase of blood flow into that organ, causing it to become firm and erect. If there is insufficient blood the penis is unable to achieve erection.

The Heart plays a crucial role in erection, orgasm and ejaculation. In TCM the ability to have an erection and ejaculation depend on the communication between the heart and kidneys. The Heart-Qi needs to descend to communicate with Kidney-Qi. Vice versa, Kidney-Water needs to ascend towards the Heart and contain Heart-Fire, the coordination between the descending of Heart-Fire and ascending of Kidney-Water ensures a normal sexual cycle in men. During the excitement phase of sexual response the Minister Fire within the Kidneys is aroused and flows up towards the Pericardium and Heart: for this reason the person becomes flushed in the face (the complexion is a manifestation of the Heart) and the heart rate increases during sexual excitation. With orgasm and ejaculation, there is a downward movement of Qi, which releases the accumulated Minister Fire downwards: in order for this to occur normally the downward movement of Heart-Qi is crucial. If there is deficiency of Minister Fire within the Kidneys it will result in decreased libido and ED or impotence in men. If Heart-Qi and Heart-Blood are deficient or not descending to communicate with the Kidneys, there may be ED, impotence or premature ejaculation.

tongue blood stasisThere are several other common patterns in ED including blood stasis and damp heat. In cases of Blood Stasis, the flow of energy (called Qi) and Blood is blocked or obstructed in the lower abdomen preventing needed blood flow to create and maintain an erection. This condition often presents with signs of a tight and tender to palpitation lower abdominal area. Treatment will focus on breaking the stagnation in the lower abdomen, returning the proper flow of Blood though the affected area.

Another reason for ED or impotency is the presence of damp heat. Whenindex5 damp heat accumulates it acts creases stagnation or impedes the free flow of Qi. There are many causes of damp heat including unresolved health issues, unresolved low-level pathogens, and or excessive alcohol intake. Signs that point to the presence of damp heat include itching, pain, and swollen prostate, sweating in the genitals, heaviness and aching in the lower limbs, greasy yellow coating on tongue. Treatment includes clearing heat and nourishing any underlying deficiencies.

In determining treatment for ED it is important to utilize the four basic techniques of assessment: questioning, smelling/listening, palpitation and inspection. Furthermore the constitution of the client is taken into account at the same time as TCM pattern differentiation. The following is a summary of pattern differentiation taken from Giovanni Maciocia and Shen-Nong.com, as well as, several other authors.

Primary Patterns:

Kidney Deficiency:

  • Weakness of Life-Gate Fire/Ming Men
  • Deficiency of Kidney Yang Deficiency
  • Deficiency of Kidney Yin Deficiency
  • Damage of the kidneys by fear

Damp Heat:

  • Downpour of Damp Heat into the Lower Burner
  • Damp Heat in Lower Burner
  • Damp Heat in Liver-Gallbladder Channel

Blood Deficiency/Stagnation:

  • Liver-Blood Deficiency
  • Heart and Gallbladder Qi Deficiency
  • Heart-Blood Deficiency
  • Damage of the heart and spleen
  • Blood Stasis

Qi:

  • Liver Qi Stagnation

Untitled2Weakness of Life-Gate Fire-The Gate of Life or Ming men is (located on the middle of the lower back) is an essential part of traditional Chinese physiology. Called the “Gate of Life,” it holds the Yin and Yang of the body from which all substances and functions develop. Along with the Yin-Yang theory, one of the most fundamental principles in Chinese medicine is that of the “Three Treasures.” The Three Treasures consist of jing (essence/potential energy), qi (energy/function), and shen (spirit or spirits). In terms of understanding the Ming Men the concepts of jing and qi are primary. Original Qi is stored in an energetic center called Ming Men. The relationship between the Kidney organ-system and Ming Men is defined by the relationship between the elements of Water and Fire, or Kidney and Heart as explained above. Strengthening Jing and the Life-Gate are often the first approach when working with ED/Impotency.

  • ED/Impotence
  • Seminal discharge, white/cold
  • Dizziness/vertigo
  • Tinnitus
  • Pale complexion,
  • Cold extremities
  • Listlessness of spirit
  • Weak aching lower back and legs
  • Frequent urination
  • Pale Tongue with white coating
  • Deep thready pulse

Formulas:

  • Wu Zi Yan Zong Wan (Five Ancestors Teapills)
  • Zan Yu Dan (Procreation Elixir)
  • Right-Restoring Pill combining with Procreation Elixir
  • Jin Suo Gu Jing Wan (Golden Lock Teapills) Kidney Yin and Yang deficiency with leakage of fluids creating instability at the Gate of Life.
  • Cong Rong Bu Shen Wan (Cistanches Tonify Kidney Pills)
  • Er Xian San (Two Immortals Teapills) regulates the chong and ren channels
  • Ge Jie Da Bu Wan (Gecko Tonic Teapills)

Deficiency of Kidney Yang symptoms: Yang is responsible for our physiological functions and energy. A deficiency of Kidney Yang is an internal condition results in cold and weakness, along with ED or impotence. A deficiency of Kidney Yang indicates a deficiency in the “Life Gate” or Ming Men. This coldness results in the lower libido, ED or Impotence. It is

  • ED/Impotence
  • frequent clear urination,
  • cold limbs,
  • dizziness,
  • tinnitus,
  • fatigue,
  • lower back weakness
  • Deep-Weak pulse
  • Pale tongue

Formulas:

  • You Gui San (Right side Replenishing teapills)
  • Wu Zi Yan Zong Wan (Five Ancestors Teapills)
  • Jin Gui Shen Qi San (Golden Book Teapills)
  • Ba Ji Yin Yang Teapills (Morinda Pills to Balance Yin and Yang)
  • Huan Shao Dan Wan (Return to Spring Teapills)
  • Ge Jie Dan Bu Wan (Gecko Tonic Teapills)

Deficiency of Yin Deficiency

  • ED/Impotence
  • Dizziness
  • Scanty urination
  • Night-sweating
  • Insomnia
  • Tinnitus
  • Floating-empty pulse
  • Red tongue w/o coating

Formulas:

  • Zuo Gui Wan (Return Left Pill)
  • Zhi Bai Di Huang Wan (Eight Flavor Rehmannia Teapills) with deficient heat
  • Liu Wei Di Huang San (Six Flavored Teapills)

Damage of the kidneys by fear-Fear can shock or injure the Kidney-Adrenals, along with leading to the disordered movement of qi.

  • ED/impotence
  • soft erection
  • timidity
  • tendency to doubt and suspicion
  • palpitations
  • susceptibility to fright
  • restless sleep
  • thin and slimy tongue coating, string-like
  • thready pulse.

Formula: Huan Shao Dan Wan (Return to Spring Teapills)

Downpour of Damp Heat into the Lower Burner

  • ED
  • Premature ejaculation
  • Sweatiness of the scrotum
  • Heavy aching lower limbs
  • Thirst
  • Bitter taste
  • Dark burning urine
  • Yellow slimy coating on Tongue
  • Pulse is Slippery and rapid

Formula: Long Dan Xie Gan Tang (Gentian Liver-Draining Decoction

Damp Heat in Lower Burner

  • ED/Impotence
  • Difficult-painful urination
  • Deep yellow urine
  • Itching of genitals
  • Urethral discharge
  • Sticky-yellow coating on tongue, with red spots on root
  • Slippery pulse

Formula: Long Dan Xie Gan Tang (Gentian Liver-Draining Decoction

Damp Heat in Liver-Gallbladder Channel

  • ED/Impotence,
  • Difficult-painful urination
  • Rash external genitalia
  • Irritability
  • Sticky-yellow coating on tongue, with red spots on root
  • Wiry pulse

Formula: Long Dan Xie Gan Tang (Gentian Liver-Draining Decoction

Liver-Blood Deficiency

  • ED/Impotence
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Depressed mood
  • Insomnia
  • Pale tongue
  • Choppy pulse.

Formula:

  • Shao Yao Gan Cao Tang Jia Wei (Peony and Licorice Teapills)
  • Si Wu Tang (Dang Gui Four)

Heart and Gallbladder Qi Deficiency

  • ED/Impotence
  • Premature ejaculation
  • Depressed mood
  • Timidity, sighing
  • Insomnia
  • Palpitations
  • Easily startled
  • Pale tongue
  • Weak pulse

Formula: Da Bu Yuan Jian

Heart-Blood Deficiency

  • ED/Impotence
  • Palpitations
  • Dizziness
  • Depressed mood
  • Insomnia
  • Pale tongue
  • Choppy pulse

Formulas:

  • Gui Pi Tong (Ginseng and Longan Combination)
  • Si Wu Tang (Dang Gui Four)

 Damage of the heart and spleen

The Spleen is the source of Blood production along with ensuring its flow within the vessels. If the spleen is operating properly then it transports and transforms sufficient nutrients for plentiful heart blood. Vise versa, according to the five-element theory, the Heart is the mother of the Spleen. If there is deficiency of Heart Blood or Qi it impairs the function of the Spleen to transport and transform. This domino effect will impede the Spleens ability to transport sufficient nutrients to keep Blood flowing in the vessels (ability to achieve and maintain erection).

  • Inability to achieve and/or maintain erection
  • Lassitude
  • Palpitations
  • Poor memory
  • Restless sleep
  • Poor appetite/eating habits
  • Colorless facial complexion
  • Thin and slimy tongue coating, pale tongue,
  • Fine or choppy pulse.

Formula:

  • Gui Pi Tong (Ginseng and Longan Combination)
  • Spleen-Restoring Decoction

Blood Stasis-Surgery, cancer, radiation and chemotherapy can potentially result in creating stagnation of blood to the perineum, which can impede the flow of blood and qi.

  • Prickling pain in testes
  • Pain or distention in chest and hypochondria
  • Stabbing pain
  • Dark complexion
  • Dry skin
  • Purplish dark tongue
  • Thready, uneven pulse

Formulas:

  • Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang (Stasis in the Mansion of Blood Decoction)
  • Wen Jiang Tang Wan (Warm Cycle teapills)

Liver Qi Stagnation-Normal flow of liver qi ensures that all emotional processes are in harmony and blood is flowing sufficiently. If there is a stagnation of liver qi then this can result in the lack of nourishment to tendons including genitalia.

  • ED/impotence
  • Depression
  • Anxiety and irritability
  • Discomfort of the chest and stomach
  • Distension and oppression of the hypochondriac region
  • Poor appetite/eating habits
  • Loose stool
  • Thin tongue coating
  • String-like pulse.

Formula:

  • Xiao Yao San (Bupleurum and Dang Gui Formula
  • Jai wei xiao yao san (Bupleurum and Peony Formula) clears deficient heat
  • Chai Hu Shu (Disperse Vital Energy in Liver), for liver qi stagnation and Liver Blood Stasis

Traditional Formulas used for ED/Impotence:

Ge Jie Da Bu Wan (Gecko Tonic Teapills), Qi, Yang, Blood and Jing deficiency

Symptoms:

  • Weakness or pain in low back knees
  • Joint pain and stiffness
  • Difficulty walking
  • Weakness, fatigue, exhaustion, listlessness
  • Weak voice, pale face
  • Spontaneous sweating
  • Occasional chills and feverishness
  • Dizziness, vertigo, tinnitus, hearing loss
  • Forgetfulness, poor memory,
  • Frequent urination, nighttime urination
  • Edema,
  • Chronic diarrhea w/undigested food, abdominal distention, poor appetite
  • Cold limbs, cold intolerance
  • Decreased sex drive, impotence
  • Shortness of breath, wheezing, shallow breathing aggravated by exertion, shallow breathing aggravated by exertion, chronic persistent cough
  • Palpitation
  • Insomnia

Jin Suo Gu Jing Wan (Golden Lock Teapills), Kidney Yin and Yang Deficiency creating instability at the Gate of Life

Symptoms:

  • Chronic leakage of fluids, spermatorrhea, nocturnal emissions, premature ejaculation, impotence,
  • Urinary frequency, night urination, urinary dribbling or incontinence
  • Fatigue, weakness, listlessness
  • Excessive sweating
  • Weakness and rapid fatigue in muscles, sore and weak low back and limbs
  • Chronic watery diarrhea
  • Tinnitus

Wen Jiang Tang Wan (Warm Cycle teapills) * deficiency and cold in Chong and Ren channels causing blood stasis

Symptoms:

  • Five palms heat
  • Dry lips and mouth
  • Dry skin or hair
  • Fatigue, weak or cold limbs
  • Impotence
  • Pain in the testicles
  • Urinary incontinence

*primarily used for women in the category of warm the menses and dispel blood stasis, but can be used for spermatorrhea, erectile dysfunction, orchialgia, seminal insufficiency.

Supplementary herbs and formulas:

  • Wu Chi Pai Feng Wan (Black Chicken White Phoenix Pills)
  • Tonic wine: soak red deer antler, ginseng roots, lycii berry and schizandra in rise wine. Take 1 tsp 3 times a day, especially for winter.
  • Planetary Herbs: Damiana Male Potential
  • Ashwagandha
  • Shilajit
  • Damiana
  • Yohimbe
  • Ginseng

Moxibustion and Qi Gong: In cases of Kidney deficiency that require warming, moxibustion can also be performed at index6these acupuncture points. The moxibustion treatment involves the burning of a herb, Ai Ye-mugwort, to warm and circulate the energy in the local area, strengthening the Life Gate fire.

Qi Gong has specific movements to strengthen the Gate of Life (http://www.funwithqigong.com/2009/07/open-and-move-from-the-gate-of-life/)

References:

http://www.shen-nong.com/eng/exam/specialties_menimpotence.html

https://www.jcm.co.uk/liver-gallbladder-based-erectile-dysfunction-treatment-by-chinese-medicine-part-1.html

http://www.altmd.com/Articles/TCM-for-Erectile-Dysfunction

http://maciociaonline.blogspot.com/2013/06/the-treatment-of-male-problems-in.html

http://www.itmonline.org/5organs/kidney.htm

http://www.tcmtreatment.com/images/diseases/impotence.htm

http://www.theacupunctureclinic.co.nz/male-sexual-dysfunction-by-will-maclean/

Artemisia Tridentata-Big Sagebrush, a Valuable Medicinal Herb

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Sagebrush Country

I live in the big sky country,  the high desert of Central Oregon.  Everywhere I look I see Big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata).  The genus Artemisia comprises hardy herbaceous plants and shrubs, which are known for the powerful chemical constituents in their essential oils. In a  search of artemisia on the USDA plants database in Oregon there are 150 species of artemisia that appear. The name Artemisia comes from Artemis, the Greek name for Diana. There are any number of artemisia species that are popular in our modern herbal materia medica,  from wormwood to mugwort.   The intent of this post is to continue to explore my bio-region and develop herbal protocols based on the use of local plants and to that end, sagebrush (artemisia tridentata) will certainly play a  role.  This is by no means a definitive article but a written documentation of my search through the literature related to traditional uses and potential current applications.

My exploration of plants always starts through the eyes of First Peoples/Native American’s, who have had a long relationship with using artemisia species throughout North America.  The focus of this blog is to explore the use of Artemisia tridentata, which is mostly relegated to the western states. Big sagebrush and other artemisia species are therange dominant plants across large portions of the Great Basin.

Any number of tribes used artemisia tridentata including tribes affiliated with my bio-region, Okanagan-Colville, Paiute, Shuswap and the Thompson.  Many of the tribes used it similarly. These uses include the following:  respiratory and gastrointestinal aids, cold and cough remedy, antirheumatic both internally and externally, antidiarrheal, ferbrifuge, dermatological aid, eye wash, gynecological aid, analgesic, diaphoretic, emetic, pulmonary aid, and antidote for poisoning.  All parts of the plant were used including the leaves, stems, seed pods, branches and roots.

tridenta

Artemisia tridentata

It was used both externally and internally.*   Externally it had many uses including: as a poultice of fresh and dried leaves for chest colds, as a wash made of the leaves and stems for cuts and wounds, as a leaf decoction for an eye wash, the leaves were packed into the nose for headaches, the ground leaves were used as a poultice along with tobacco for fever and headaches, the leaves were powdered and used for diaper rash or packed into shoes for athlete’s infection, a decoction of the leaves were mixed with salt and gargle for sore throat, mashed leaves were used for toothaches, a leaf decoction was used in a bath for muscular ailments. *  There are many references to it being used internally as an infusion or decoction, but as one informant indicated it was too strong and powerful to drink, “you wouldn’t have any more kids, no children”.  Internal use is not recommended due to some chemical constituents found in the plant.  There are many references to artemisia being inhaled for headaches, for spiritual cleansing, to produce sweat and rid the body of colds, respiratory infections and pulmonary issues.

Artemesia annua

Artemisia annua

An interesting fact is that the Paiute’s and Okanagan-Colville indicated that they used a decoction of leaves for malarial fever, which is also similar to the use of other artemisias around the world.  Most of artemisia’s research as an antimalarial is focused on Artemisia annua (sweet annie).   Artemisia annua is a very interesting plant and is the source of the most powerful antimalarial drug ever discovered, artemisinin.  It is also being investigated in treatment of breast cancer.

Many of its traditional uses can be attributed to artemisia’s active medicinal constituents including camphor, terpenoids, and tannins. Sagebrush essential oil contains approximately 40% l-camphor; 20% pinene; 7% cineole; 5% methacrolein; and 12% a-terpinene, d-camphor, and sesqiterpenoids.  The essential oils present account for its use in inhalation.  Sesquiterpene lactones are among the prominent natural products found in Artemisia species and are largely responsible for the importance of these plants in medicine and pharmacy.

For my own purposes I can definitely see incorporating it into liniments, antiseptic washes, chest poultice, fumigation, powdered for use as foot powder.  Although there is tremendous oral history of its internal use I personally would be hesitant and look to other herbal options.

A few of my references:

Adams, James D., Garcia, Cecilia.,  Healing with Medicinal Plants of the West. Abedus Press, 2009.

Moreman, Daniel E., Native American Medicinal Plants.  Timber Press, 2009.

Parks, Willard Z.  Notes of the Northern Paiute of Western Nevada, 1933-1944.  Compiled and edited by Catherine S. Fowler.  University of Utah, Anthropological Papers, Number 114, 1989.

 

Herbal Remedies for Cold and Flu Season

coldsEvery fall I teach a class at the local community college on herbal remedies for cold and flu season.  I teach from a primarily Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) point of view, that contends that we are surrounded by pathogens and the way to prevent “catching” them is to ensure a healthy immune system.  In other words, prevention is the first order of defense.  I would suggest you read my blog post at Changing of the Seasons. to get a better idea of some ways you can increase your immunity.

To get started there are several Westerns categories of herbs that are particularly useful for addressing cold and flu symptoms including:

  • Alterative-Alters or improves functioning
  • Antibacterial
  • Antiviral
  • Antibiotic
  • Antipyretic-lowers fever
  • Diaphoretic-induces sweating
  • Expectorant-expels mucus

The good news is that there are numerous herbs that are helpful for colds and flu, although in this article we are only going to cover a few,  I would encourage you to continue to read and learn.  Many herbs have several properties and in Western Herbalism they would use them according to what symptoms are being presented. Many herbs cover several categories, so it is important to know their individual actions.comparison It is helpful to know all of the properties of herbs, for example Goldenseal, which is antibacterial is also very astringent, drying up mucous, yet with colds mucous is a natural and necessary body defense, mucus should not be stopped, it is better to thin the mucus, using expectorants rather than a drying antibacterial.

Wearing a scarf can help reduce exposure to cold

Wearing a scarf can help reduce exposure to cold

Prevention:  Hand washing, hand washing, hand washing, enough said.  There are several tactics that I recommend for increasing immunity as we go into the fall season.  Although not a herb, adequate supplies of Vitamin D, which contain calcitriol are a must. Recent research indicates that calcitriol enhances innate immunity by prompting cells to produce a large numbers of antimicrobial peptides that are like broad spectrum antibiotics. Fatty fish is the only natural source of vitamin D. A 3.5 oz serving of cooked salmon, for example, has 360 IU; 3 oz. of canned tuna has 200; and 13.4 oz. of canned sardines has 250.  Most experts now believe 1,000 to 2,000 IU per day from all sources—sun, diet, supplements—may be what we need for optimum health.  Look for supplements that contain vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol), which is three to four times more potent than vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol).

Mushrooms are another go-to in terms of building immunity.  In Japan and China, medicinal mushrooms, such as shiitake, maitake and reishi, have long been regarded as longevity tonics. Research indicates that all these fungi are powerful allies for strengthening the immune system.  Shitake and maitake can both be incorporated into our meal preparation, reishi needs to be taken as a supplement.  Here is a web site that has much more detailed information on using reishi medicinally.

Last but not least Astragalus, (Astragalus membranaceus) is considered an adaptogen, providing deep immune-system support.  There have been many clinical studies showing how astragalus not only boosts the immune system, but also encourages an increase in immune cell (T-cells, natural killer cells, macrophages, immunoglobulin) activity, production, and function.  Both astragalus and mushrooms contain polysaccharides, which have been found to improve immune function by increasing the activity of macrophages, which have a voracious appetite for harmful microorganisms and cancerous cells. Since astragalus is a mild tonic herb, 1 oz a day is the suggested dosage, for chronic

Taking action: We can take several steps to try to mitigate or reduce the symptoms of colds and flu by tuning into our bodies.  At the first sign of an imbalance, sneezing, runny nose, or sore throat, take immediate action.  One of the remedies that I swear by, is Fire Cider Vinegar.  In fact I just received a call a local actress, who had used my Cold and Flu Kicker (fire cider vinegar) and was desperate to get some more before her play started.

Fire Cider Vinegarfire cider

Fill a mason jar with:

  • 1 part minced garlic
  • 1 part grated horseradish (let it sit for three minutes in a bowl before adding it to the mix.)
  • 1/2 part grated ginger (no need to peel)
  • 2 parts minced onion
  • 2 rhizomes of grated turmeric (optional)
  • ¼ -1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

Cover with organic apple cider vinegar and let sit for 4-6 weeks. Strain off. At this point you can add ¼ -1/2 cup of honey and take by the tablespoon full as a daily tonic or when you feel a cold coming on, although I usually just add some to water and drink straight. Warning it can be quite potent.

Scallions:  The record shows that the Chinese started use scallions in the late Han dynasty (25-220AD). This remedy is for the very early stages of wind cold.  It induces sweating by warming and unblocking the yang and can treat both abdominal pain and distention or nasal congestion when the blockage is from “cold”.

Cinnamon and Scallion Cure: Finely chop the white part of one scallion. Put it into a teacup and add two slices of raw ginger and a dash of powdered cinnamon. Fill the cup with hot water, let the herbs steep for 10 minutes, then drink. The cinnamon and ginger induce sweating, and the scallion clears the sinus.

garlicGarlic:  Cultures around the world have embraced garlic as a cure for everything from colds to cancer. Prior to the discovery of penicillin, garlic was the treatment of choice for infections, such as pneumonia, bronchitis, tuberculosis and dysentery.    It is believe that the sulfur compounds that imbue garlic with its characteristic odor and flavor that are responsible for the herb’s health benefits. Most of the research has focused on the sulfur compound allicin, which has antimicrobial properties. Allicin is created when alliin, a sulfur-containing amino acid in garlic, comes into contact with another garlic compound, the enzyme allinase. This enzymatic reaction takes place when garlic is chopped, crushed or chewed, but it is destroyed during cooking.  Eating raw garlic, or better yet, combining it with olive oil and spreading it on bread is a great way to get lots of garlic into your system.  Suggested dose is 3-5 cloves a day, at the first sign of symptoms.

Echinacea (ssp): Echinacea has been used for as a natural antibiotic in that it activates leukocytes and T-cell formation to assist your body ability to fight off infections.  Echinacea is considered an alterative, a class of herbs that alters your body ability to function.  The trick with using Echinacea is to take it every two hours, due to our livers filtering system.  Furthermore according to several leading herbalists, it becomes ineffective after 10 days.  Again it is one of those herbs that one should use immediately when one starts to experience symptoms.

Elderberries (Sambucus nigra): All parts of the elder tree are medicinal but for this elderberriesblog we are going to concentrate on the berries and flowers.  The berries are not only delicious but they are antiviral and effective for dispelling colds. In research conducted in Israel, Hasassah’s Oncology Lab, determined that elderberry stimulates the body’s immune system and they are using it therapeutically. My preferred method of preparation is making a decoction of elderberries and then preserving it with 30% alcohol.  For every cup of water I add one oz of elderberries, simmering this covered for 1 to 2 hours (crook pots work well).  Straining the mixture, I measure and add 30% alcohol which acts as a preservative.  There are

Is it a Cold or the Flu:  Although a seemingly simple question it can make a big difference in an herbal treatment protocol.  This is a simple chart that help to distinguish whether you are dealing with a cold or flu.

Cold or Flu Chart

Cold or Flu Chart

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) a cold is considered wind cold and the flu is considered wind heat.  Wind is considered one of several pernicious influences in TCM.  Why this is important is that the herbs that are used to address a cold or the flu are based on the energy or nature of the illness.  A simple way of looking at this is that stimulating or heating herbs are used to address wind cold and cooling or cold energy herbs are used to address wind heat.  Furthermore if we know the constitution of the person experiencing the illness, we can then include herbs to strengthen the person’s response.

A Wind-Cold pattern may include a slight fever with more chills than fever, aversion to wind coldcold, sudden onset and the throat is itchy and slightly sore. Herbal strategies for this type of sickness include releasing the exterior with stimulating diaphoretic herbs. Some Examples of stimulating diaphoretic herbs scallions, cinnamon, cayenne and ginger, or Fire Cider.

Cold be Gone Tea: 1 Tablespoon cinnamon cassia stick, broken up and  simmered in 1 pint of water for 20 minutes.  After I remove from heat, I add  1 Tablespoon of grated ginger and 1/8 tsp of cayenne.  I then sweeten with honey and sip throughout the day.

wind heatA Wind-Heat pattern may include a high fever with slight chills, sweating, aversion to heat, yellow secretions (through coughing, nasal discharge or even a yellow coating on the tongue) and a swollen sore throat. Herbal strategies for this type of sickness includes releasing the exterior through relaxing diaphoretics and using bitter, cooling herbs.

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium):  Yarrow is one of my favorite herbs in that it grows all around my house and has enough uses that it deserves its own chapter, but in this case it can be very specific for fever.  It works as a diaphoretic by opening up the pores and letting trapped internal heat escape.   It causes sweating relieving the first signs of flu, fevers, chicken pox and measles (it helps eruptions come out faster). and is extremely effective for breaking a fever.

  • Create an infusion by covering one ounce of dried yarrow with a quart of boiling water. After 4 hours, strain the infusion. For small children, add the infusion to a tepid bath (ask your doctor first.) For older children and adults, the infusion may be sipped as tea.
  • Alternatively, yarrow tea may be made by steeping 1-2 teaspoons of the dried herb in one cup boiling water. Drink three times daily. In capsule form, 2-4 grams may be taken three times daily.

Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum): is in the aster family. Boneset is a fabulous herb for fevers, colds and flu. It does not taste good, but it does the job, although it needs to be taken when warm to be effective. It was considered a miracle herb in the 1918 epidemic influenza. It should only be used for a short time, for acute conditions. Infusion of 1 T in cup of water, or 10-40 drops of tincture.

Fever Reducing Teatea

2 parts catnip

2 parts yarrow

1 part peppermint

1 part echinacea root

In parting, a Traditional Chinese Patent formula that I always include when talking about Wind Heat is Yin Chiao. Yin Chiao is known to remove excess heat in the blood which, in yin chaotraditional Chinese medicine could become a health hazard for many body systems. It also helps remove harmful toxins in the body through expelling heat.

The most interesting thing about this formula is the comparison between it and the best-selling cold and flu medicine “Airborne”.  Planetary Herbs Yin Chiao contains Forsythia Fruit, Japanese Honeysuckle Flower, Platycodon Root, Chinese Mint Aerial Parts, airboneLophatherum Leaf, Chinese Licorice Root and Rhizome, Schizonepeta Whole Plant Parts, Prepared Soy Bean, Burdock Fruit and Phragmites Rhizome. Notice the small print on the label of “Airborne”, many of the herbs are the same, begging the question of whether “Airborne”  is effective due to its vitamin content or the Chinese Traditional herbs that are specific to reducing fever and having antiviral properties.

 

 

 

 

“Chios tears” Pleases, Perfumes, Relieves and Heals

chio mastic

Chios Mastic

Recently I was talking with a good friend of mine and mentioned that I was having a bit of a hard time, emotionally.  He reminded me how healthy gut flora was tied to our emotional health.  In speaking about his process to become “gut healthy” it included  chewing  Chio mastic and he offered me up a bag of the resin. As an herbalist, I was familiar with the use of resins in other traditional cultures, but not this particular variety.  Needless to say, it peaked my interest.  I started chewing and researching.

Chio mastic comes from the Pistacia lentiscus of the pistachio genus , which is mainly cultivated on the Greek island of Chios.  When you first pop a piece of the resin in your mouth it is hard and I was somewhat concerned that it might stick to my teeth, but the more I chewed the more it soften and turned into opaque gum.  In fact, it has primarily been used as a chewing gum for 2,400 years.  Besides chewing gum, it is used in cooking especially in Greek, Turkish and Arabic kitchens.

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Harvesting Chios Mastic

Although Pistacia lentiscus is considered a tree, it has more of the appearance of a large shrub.  Incisions are made in the trunk and branches, where the juice slowly exudes and hardens into tears of resin.  Several parts of the plant are used medicinally, including the leaves, fruits and resin.  The healing properties of mastic gum have been known since antiquity.  Dioscorides used it for coughs, stomach aliments and to sweeten the breath.  Galen recommended it for inflammation of the stomach, intestines and liver. Al-Razi prescribed a mixture of alum and mastic to fill decayed teeth.  In Milan in 1712, it was included in “Jerusalem Balsam” and was a considered a panacea medicine-curing everything from stomach aches to protection from the plague, along with aloe, frankincense, and myrrh.

Today it is exported all over the world and is the basis for many products including bakery, sweets, jams, ice cream, chewing gums, ouzo and wine.  The resin is added to several popular burn medicines.  The Chios Mastiha Growers Association who promote, educates and ensures proper cultivation of the tree’s products,  has several links to research on the antibacterial, dermatological, antioxidant and anticancer properties of this unique resin.

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Chio Tears

According a much referenced article in the New England Journal of Medicine published in December 24th, 1998.

“Even low doses of mastic gum — 1 mg per day for two weeks — can cure peptic ulcers very rapidly, but the mechanism responsible has not been clear. We have found that mastic is active against Helicobacter pylori, which could explain its therapeutic effect in patients with peptic ulcers.”

According to a research paper on the anti-inflammatory activity of Chios mastic gum, its terpenes can account for some of its medicinal effects including the hypotensive effects of oleanane, euphane and lupine, alpha-tocopherol and polyphenols, as well as, the anti-bacterial activity of verbenone, alpha-terpineol, and linalool.  In the same paper, which surveyed other research done on the resin, it indicated that it traditionally was regarded  as an anti-cancer agent, especially on tumors of breast, liver, stomach, spleen, and uterus. As stated in the paper “surprisingly enough, these traditional beliefs are in line with recent studies demonstrating that Chios mastic induces apoptosis and possesses antiproliferative activity in colon cancer cells”. The paper  also went on to say that Pistacia lentiscus research also indicates that it has  cardiovascular protection and hepatoprotection by reducing oxidative stress.

As is so often the case, modern scientific findings verify Chio mastic’s traditional medicinal uses.  Finding it available for sale is a bit difficult though, although I did find it on Amazon at 100g for $32 with free shipping.  The growers chios masticassociation’s products were the only ones I could find in chewable resin form.  There are several  dietary companies that are encapsulating the powder, although I would venture to say that the act of chewing and the manufacturing of saliva might have a more medicinal effect than popping a pill.  As a resin it is soluble in alcohol, so making a tincture would be a viable option, although I still believe that the act of chewing, which initiates an alimentary system chain reaction is probably the best option.

Links to more information about Chio Mastic

http://www.henriettes-herb.com/eclectic/usdisp/pistacia_lent.html

http://www.gummastic.gr/index.php?contentid=55&langflag=_en

http://scholarsresearchlibrary.com/JNPPR-vol4-iss1/JNPPR-2014-4-1-48-51.pdf

Blood Nourishing Tonic- East meets West

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Anemia and Blood Nourishing Tonic

Blood is a vital substance according to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). In fact in The Book of Leviticus it states, “the life of a creature is in the blood”. In Western medicine, blood is defined as a bodily fluid that delivers necessary substances, such as nutrients and oxygen, to the cells and transports metabolic waste products away. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word “blood” dates to the oldest English, circa 1000 AD. The word is derived from Middle English, which is derived from the Old English word blôd. Throughout history and cultures, blood has held both medical and mystical importance. In the Greek and Roman Humoural system, blood was associated with air, springtime and a sanguine personality. They believed it to be produced by the liver. Blood became the basis for one of the oldest medical techniques “bloodletting”. In fact an interesting fact was the bloodletting or “bleeding” a patient to health was modeled on the process of menstruation. Hippocrates believed that menstruation functioned to “purge women of bad humors”.

Qi-300x300As we turn towards the East in TCM, blood has a different meaning. In TCM, blood is itself a form of Qi. Although difficult to translate the word “Qi”, I think of it as a all encompassing life force or energy. In fact, in TCM they consider blood inseparable from Qi itself. It is believed that blood is nourished from the distillation of the nutrients that we take into our body (food Qi). Given this outlook, one can start to see the interrelationship between the importance of eating well and the health of your blood. For instance, think of cholesterol, and the relationship between food and the buildup of plaque in our blood. Although this blog post isn’t about our digestion, you can see now important a well running digestive system is to blood health.

Deficient blood is often an underlying and missed issue in many conditions, especially those related to inflammation and circulation. In TCM “blood deficiency” include low blood pressure, various forms of ischemia, cold fingers and toes (including Raynaud’s syndrome,images both primary and secondary), and fatigue (high blood pressure for other reasons may also be present). Other slightly less common symptoms include thinning hair, heart palpitations, dizziness upon standing (postural hypotension) or vertigo (especially if there is hypoglycemia), falling asleep of arms, restless legs, frequent infections, menstrual cramps, headaches of various sorts, slow healing, low sex drive, sinus issues, ringing in the ears, nails that break easily or grow slowly, and low blood sugar. Fertility can also be affected, as the uterus requires adequate blood. Pregnancy is another time that requires an adequate supply of healthy blood. Our joints, ligaments and connective tissue are also sensitive to blood deficiency, since they get the least amount of blood. Sometimes blood deficiency does not present as full-blown anemia, but is still an underlying condition. There are some medical issues that blood deficiency is either directly related or an outcome of another condition.

Since food is considered our first medicine, I will outline some foods that help to nourish your our blood and then talk about one herbal remedy that is also useful. To nourish blood one has to increase the digestive absorption of the food that is eaten and add specific food to generate healthy blood. I will cover increasing absorption of nutrients in another blog post. indexThe nutrients most need to build blood are iron, folic acid and B12. Adequate protein is also crucial. In order to absorb iron we need to have adequate levels of copper, B and C vitamins. Greens, greens and more greens, as long as it isn’t mostly spinach are a great source of iron, along with legumes, grains, nuts and seeds. Algae and seaweeds are also excellent sources, although use sparely, since they are a super food or super concentrated. The Japanese made a blood builder out of pounded sweet rice and mugwort, or for a Western version you can use nettles. When blood deficiency is severe, protein from animal sources might be chosen. Dark grapes, blackberries, huckleberries, raspberries are also great. Actually one of the best sources of iron is organic animal liver, but honestly most people can’t get it down, and prefer it as a desiccated pill. When one builds blood naturally there is less inclination for constipation, a consequence of taking it in tablet form.

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Rumex crispus (yellow dock)

I have been experimenting with making a self-stable blood nourishing syrup. My primary target is pregnant woman, so using herbs that are designated, as safe during pregnancy is vital. There are many Chinese herbs that are great blood nourishers, including dang gui (angelica sinensis), rehmannia root, and peony root, not all safe during pregnancy. Since I am all about a bioregionalism approach I have primarily relied upon what grows in my garden. The base of my syrup is blackstrap molasses, an iron rich food source. I grow medicinal herbs so used yellow dock root (Rumex crispus) as my main ingredient. Although a pain to dig up and process, I find it is more medicinally active than in the dried form. I also included rose hips to potentize its effectiveness with Vit. C.  I also added orange peel for its carminative properties and cinnamon for its ability to enhance circulation. This recipe makes 2 quarts, so divide it depending on how much you want to make. When making syrups, I tend to cook them over several days to extract as much medicinal goodness as possible.

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After 3 days of cooking

 Anemia and Blood Nourishing Tonic*

1/2 cup of rose hips

1-cup dandelion root

1-cup of alfalfa leaf

3-cups yellow dock root

1-cup nettle leaf

1 cup raspberry leaf

2 T. kelp powder

1-Tablespoon of orange peel

1 cinnamon stick

2- qts of blackstrap molasses

Combine the blackstrap molasses and herbs in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce, heat and simmer on low for one hour, let sit overnight, repeat for 3 days. Or you can use a crock-pot set to the lowest setting. Strain and bottle
For adults who are blood deficient, 1 tablespoon 3 t.i.d is recommended, if using as a tonic, 1 Tablespoon a day is adequate.
For children, 1-3 teaspoons daily is sufficient.

*Recipe is based on dried herbs.

 

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