Saturday, January 18, 2014

An Introduction To Traditional Chinese Medicine

Countless volumes were written about the Chinese medical theory and the history of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Ongoing research in China and in the West is testing the efficacy of traditional treatments and the herbs used by the Chinese for many thousands of years. Chinese medicine finds new applications in the treatment of terminal cancer patients. Many chronic disorders that are hopelessly incurable in the West seem to improve considerably with the Chinese approach to disease. This article presents an introduction to a highly developed and complex medical system.

"When the mind is calm and stable, the vitality of life circulates harmoniously throughout the body. If the body is nourished and protected by this circulation of vitality, how can it possibly become ill?" From Huangdi Neijing also known as the Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine

Chinese Traditional Medicine is one of the oldest systematized medical systems in the world. Its recorded history dates back to about 1,000 BC, but its concepts are much older and deeply rooted in the Chinese culture and the Taoist philosophical thought which originated in China more than 5,000 years ago. It is almost impossible to understand the concepts of Chinese medicine without a rudimentary understanding of the philosophy and cosmology of traditional China where immortality was considered to be the highest purpose of life. The Chinese medical ethics developed around this goal and physicians strove to preserve life and prevent disease. They received payment for as long as the patient remained healthy.


Human Body and the Traditional Chinese Medicine

Traditional Chinese Medicine regards human body holistically as a part of a greater whole. This attitude is based on Taoist philosophy and its understanding of the universe. Just as much as an individual has an effect on his or her environment, the environment in which he or she is immersed, has an influence on the individual. Everything we do has a consequence and manifests itself in the flow of energy. Our actions disturb the harmony in nature within and without. We must strive to restore balance and maintain the equilibrium. Symptoms of disease are seen in the context greater than the patient's body and are understood as a disturbance in the flow of energy. To heal means to restore the balance and harmony. 

The anatomical classification of a human body differs form the classification known to the Western medicine and there is no dichotomy between the body and the mind, and both, physical and mental illness, is regarded as a manifestation of an obstructed energy flow within the body and between the human body and the environment. 


Key Concepts of Traditional Chinese Medicine
  • Qi (chi) is one of the most important philosophical concepts in Taoism. Qi literally means air, gas, or breath and is often translated as energy or energy flow. Although not really identical, this concept is often compared to the Greek pneuma or the Indian prana for a better understanding. Qi is the life force that permeates everything that exists in the universe. Obstructions in the flow of qi result in disease and illness. To restore health means to open energy blockages and restore the qi flow in the body.
  • Jing Luo* or meridians are the channels through which the qi energy circulates in the body. Disease occurs when the flow of energy in the meridians is obstructed. Complex techniques were developed to open blockages and restore the flow of energy.
  • San Bao or three treasures are considered to be the three elements sustaining human life. They are the Jing or essence, Qi or energy, and Shen or spirit, soul, or mind. Longevity depends on the properly nurtured body where everything is in balance and the essence jing is abundant. Depleted jing means premature aging, disease, and premature death.
  • Jin Ye or body fluids are generated mostly in the digestive system from the nutrition that enters the body. In the body the fluids undergo multiple transformations until pure fluids are separated from the impure or turbid ones. The pure fluids are transported upwards to the lungs and excreted through the breath. The turbid fluids are transported downwards and excreted through the bladder. Multiple body organs are involved in the transformation of the fluids.
  • Xue or blood is understood as a dense form of body fluids that are under the energizing influence of the qi. Xue does not only flow in the anatomical blood vessels, but also in the meridians because of its relationship with the qi energy. The Chinese developed a very complex theory of blood and its importance to health. Blood provides moisture and nourishment to the organs, bones, tendons, muscles, and the skin. Energized with qi, blood is the foundation for mental activity.
  • Yin Yang represents another ancient concept in Chinese philosophy. Yin and yang are complementary, interdependent aspects of a greater whole. They do not represent duality or dichotomy, although in the West they are often understood as such, but are rather understood as polarities in the non-dualistic Chinese thought. They arise together and the harmony in the universe depends on the balanced flow or interplay between the two forces. In Chinese medicine, health is understood as a perfect balance between the two forces. Because these forces fluctuate constantly, even a healthy body undergoes changes under the influence of the external and the internal environment. Shift in balance is natural. When it becomes pathological it manifests itself as a disease. TCM doctor has to determine the reason for imbalance and bring it back.
  • Wu Xing or the Five Phases also known as the Five Elements, is another concept central in the Chinese thought and was devised to explain the changes in the universe. In the Chinese medicine wu xing correspond with the organs of the body and represent natural cycles and patterns of change where one element affects another causing change in another one. The five elements are: earth, fire, metal, water, wood.
  • Zang Fu* theory divides the body into five zang organs and six fu organs. The zang and fu organs do not exactly represent the anatomical organs in the body, but are rather generalizations of physiology and pathology of associated systems in the human body. The zang organs are responsible for the production and storage of essence: qi, blood, body fluids. The fu organs receive and digest nutrition, absorb nutrients, and eliminate waste. Health is understood as the perfect function and harmonious interplay between the organs. To restore health means to calm overactive systems or to energize those that are failing to function properly.


Diagnosis and Treatment of Disease

Like in the Western medicine, the Chinese doctors examine their patients, make a diagnosis, prescribe medication and treatment. The anamnesis (or gathering of the case history) involves:
  • pulse diagnosis
  • tongue diagnosis
  • diagnosis of the feces and urine
  • examination of physiognomy
A doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine uses his senses to assess a patient's health. Everything that can be observed is useful for a diagnosis of disorder: skin color and texture, body odor, sound of the voice, breathing, etc. After the diagnosis is made, an adequate medication and treatment will be prescribed to restore the energetic balance within the patients body and with the environment. Medication in TCM is based on the more than 5,000 years old documented tradition. Chinese Materia Medica includes plants, minerals, and body parts of particular animals. A special diet will be suggested as certain foods may be detrimental to the condition of a patient, while others restore the balance and enhance the energy flow in the body.

Practitioner of TCM seeks to cure the symptoms of a disease and to eradicate the cause of it. Herbal medication may be sufficient in some cases, however to restore health, a particular treatment or a combination of treatments will prescribed by the doctor. Treatment may include:
  • Acupuncture is a method of treatment unique to Chinese medicine. It was developed and perfected over thousands of years. Because disease is understood as an obstruction in the flow of qi along the meridians, acupuncture is used to restore the flow and create a balance within the body. To achieve this acupuncturist manipulates the energy flow with the help of thin needles that are inserted into the acupuncture points along the meridians of affected organ system. There are twelve main meridians and 400 acupuncture points that are recognized by the World Health Organization. Depending on the patients condition multiple acupuncture sessions may be necessary to remove the energy blockage.
  • Moxibustion is a treatment in which mugwort herb or moxa is used to warm the area in the vicinity or directly on the acupuncture point in order to stimulate circulation. Depending on the diagnosis, moxibustion is used together with acupuncture to especially treat chronic health problems and health problems associated with aging.
  • Cupping is a therapy in which heated glass cups are applied to the skin in the area where the energy is congested and does not flow properly. The cups create suction and draw the blood into the area. This treatment leaves the patient with dark bruises on the area of application, but is very effective for treating cold and flu as well as muscle injuries and headaches. Bruising depends on the severity of injury or congestion and disappears after a few days after the treatment has been completed.
  • Tui na is a Chinese body work developed to restore the balance in the body. The therapist uses a wide range of massage techniques to manipulate the energy flow in the meridians. Tui na is often used in conjunction with acupuncture.
  • Qi gong is therapy that combines breathing, movement, and meditation. It helps to restore and regulate the flow of qi in the body and to promote overall mental and physical health. The exercises were devised to promote longevity.
  • Five elements nutrition is a diet based on the qualities of certain foods according to the Five elements theory. Depending on his condition, a patient is advised to follow a particular diet and to avoid foods that are detrimental to his condition. Emphasis is put on balance and energetic tendencies of certain foods and their interaction with the body systems.
  • Herbal medicine uses thousands of herbs, minerals, and body parts of certain animals. After a diagnosis is made, Chinese practitioner prescribes the most efficient herb or a formula. Over the millennia, countless standardized formulas were developed to treat diseases and conditions. They are all based on the same energetic principles that underlay Chinese medical theory and are meant to restore balance in the body of the patient. Herbs may be added to food and eaten with stews or soups. They can be drank as teas, used in poultices, as tinctures, or as pills.


Chinese medical system was successfully used for thousands of years in China and other Asian countries where the Chinese established their colonies. It was brought to the West with the influx of Chinese immigrants. Its efficacy is legendary and its popularity is growing. As a holistic system, TCM is not only interested in alleviating the symptoms, but most importantly, it addresses the causes of the disease and seeks to restore balance and modify behaviors that disturb the inner and outer flow of energy. All aspects of existence are being addressed to align the body, mind, and spirit.

By Dominique Allmon

Glosary:

*Five Zang organs: heart including the pericardium, lungs, liver, slpeen, and kidneys. Six Fu organs: the gall bladder, stomach, large intestine, small intestine, bladder, and sanjiao* which represent three different areas of the body. There are also extraordinary fu organs that include the brain, bones, bone marrow, blood vessels, and uterus. Although they are named fu, their function is similar to that of zang organs.

*Jing luo or Meridians. There are twelve standard meridians and eight extraordinary meridians. The twelve standard meridians extend along the arms and legs. They are divided into yin and yang meridians and are assigned to particular organ systems in the body. The eight extraordinary meridians are not directly associated with the zang fu organs. They are rather described as storage vessels for the qi energy and are of great importance to the cultivation of immortality by the adepts of the esoteric art of Chinese alchemy.

*San jiao or triple warmer or triple burner represents an energetic model of the human body in which the body is divided into three areas. The upper warmer corresponds to the thoracic cavity and is responsible for the respiration. The middle warmer corresponds to the dorsal cavity and is responsible for digestion. Lower warmer corresponds to the lower dorsal cavity and is responsible for elimination.

Dominique Allmon©2014

*This information is for educational purpose only. It is not meant to diagnose or cure a disease.



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An Introduction to Traditional Chinese Medicine by Dominique Allmon is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Health Benefits of Chia Seeds

Chia seeds seem to be in everybody's mouth now, but this fame did not come overnight. There is a 16th century written record that chia, or Salvia Hispanica, was cultivated by Aztecs in the pre-Columbian era. It has been suggested by the historians that chia were as important a crop for the Aztecs as was the corn. 
 
Black Chia Seeds

To this day the plant is cultivated in Mexico and Guatemala where it is an important source of nutrition. 

Botanically, chia is a member of the mint family. The seeds are either black or white and are easily digested. They do not have to be ground in order to be consumed.   

The tiny seeds of the plant Salvia hispanica are one of the most nutritious superfoods known to us. They are an excellent source of 
  • complete protein
  • soluble and insoluble fiber
  • antioxidants
  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • vitamins A, C, E, niacin, thiamine, riboflavin, folate, and B12
  • minerals such as calcium, magnesium, manganese, boron, strontium, phosphorus, potassium, iron and zinc
Because of their nutrient content chia seeds have many important health benefits:
  • Chia seeds support digestion, detoxification and elimination. They are high in fiber and have the ability to swell up in the intestine. They soothe and lubricate the colon and help strengthen peristaltic action thus improving elimination. Mucin in chia also helps reduce inflammation of the digestive tract.
  • Chia seeds are great for weight loss and weight maintenance. Improved digestion and elimination are important for anyone who is trying to lose weight. But chia are also rich in essential fatty acids that directly contribute to weight loss as they boost metabolism and help build lean muscles. They are nutrient dense but, at the same time, very law in calories. Chia seeds can also give a prolonged feeling of satiation as they can absorb water nine times their own weight. Simply soak chia seeds in water for 15-20 minutes and drink the mixture between the meals.
  • Thanks to their law glycemic index chia seeds help stabilize blood glucose. Research shows that chia has the capacity to slow dawn the rate at which complex carbohydrates are digested and assimilated into the body. The soluble fiber in chia helps stabilize blood sugar levels and prevent glucose spikes. 
  • Chia seeds can improve cardiovascular health. They help reduce high blood pressure and have slightly blood thinning properties thus preventing dangerous blood clots. They can lower harmful LDL cholesterol and reduce triglycerides in the blood. At the same time they help increase the levels of good HDL cholesterol. 
  • Chia seeds have strong anti-inflammatory properties. They bring relief to people suffering from inflammation as the highly concentrated Omega-3 fatty acids convert into inflammation-fighting and pain-relieving prostaglandins. Moreover, Omega-3 fatty acids provide lubrication to painful joints. Studies demonstrated that people who consumed ca. 40 grams of chia seeds daily had significantly lower levels of the C-reactive protein - a blood protein that indicates chronic inflammation in the body.
  • The essential fatty acids in chia seeds help improve brain health and cognition. They make the cell membranes more flexible which allows better saturation with nutrients and better transmission of impulses between the cells. 
  • Chia seeds are an amazing source of energy. Already the ancient Aztec warriors used chia seeds to build up strength help, sustain energy and maintain hydration for long distance journeys on foot. Now athletes use chia to optimize physical performance, regulate hydration and maintain energy levels during intense workouts.
  • Chia seeds, especially the dark variety, are very rich in antioxidants. They contain high levels of chlorogenic acid, caffeic acid, quercetin, myricetin, kaempferol, and vitamins C and E. All these compounds are strong free radical scavengers and act both, individually and synergistically, to prevent oxidation.
As you can see, the tiny chia seeds are quite amazing. Anyone who wishes to delay aging and improve his health should eat chia on daily basis. They are gluten free and therefore perfectly suited for people with sensitivity or allergy to gluten. 

Chia seeds store very well. High levels of vitamin C and E and the cinnamic acid in chia seeds prevent the seeds from turning rancid.  

 The seeds have a slightly nutty flavor. They can be sprinkled on salads, added to a morning cereal, yogurt, puddings and smoothies, or used in baking recipes. They are easily digested and do not have to be ground, but you can grind them to a fine meal if you want to. 

When buying chia seeds make sure you are buying a superior, organic product. 

By Dominique Allmon

*This information is for educational purpose only. It is not meant to diagnose or cure a disease. 


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Health Benefits of Chia Seeds by Dominique Allmon is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. *This information is for educational purpose only. It is not meant to diagnose or cure a disease.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

9 Health Books That Will Change Your Life Forever

One of the most important things I have learned from my father was the understanding that knowledge is the key to power.


Knowledge is power and power can be used and abused in many ways and yet, the most valuable is the knowledge that empowers us to take control over our own lives and not the lives of others.

What could be more exciting than the knowledge that allows us to determine how young and how healthy we are at any age. That's right! At any age. 

People in the West are not only aging faster, but also living longer than ever. Our beauty ideals, however, did not change since the 1980s. Those who can afford it resolve to drastic measures such as plastic surgery. But plastic surgery is superficial and results are not always flattering. And they do not last. Most importantly, plastic surgery does not address the aging process that is taking place on cellular level.

The only lasting and effective change is the change from inside out. Our bodies have the most remarkable ability to heal themselves and sometimes even small changes in lifestyle can reverse conditions that seem to be hopeless. We just have to stop doing what harms us.

Healthy nutrition, supplementation, exercise, proper relaxation and a positive outlook on life, are the crucial elements that act in synergy to sustain our mental and physical health. 

To a great degree we can determine how fast we are aging and how healthy we are, but many people do not have the necessary knowledge. Fortunately, many passionate physicians and researchers in the field of aging and gerontology popularize the latest research making it accessible to all those who wish to stay vital till the old age.

A visit to a bookstore may leave us confused. How are we to determine which of the hundreds of anti-aging books is really right for us. Where do we start? 

To make it easier to the readers of this blog I have selected nine books that address aging in a very effective and comprehensive way. Together they map out a program that will allow anyone to take control of their weight issues, hormonal imbalance, inflammation, chronic disease and degenerative processes that contribute to premature aging.

The books to start with:
 
This short list of highly readable books is a good start to the theory and practice of anti-aging and longevity. Keep in mind that many chronic conditions can be reversed and it is never too late or too early to embrace an anti-aging strategy. Smart fitness programs, nutritional supplements and state of the art skin care can help us feel and look younger longer. And with positive attitude we can really enjoy our journey through life.

By Dominique Allmon


         

*Information in this article is for educational purposes only and is not meant to diagnose or cure a disease.

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Nine Health Books That Will Change Your Life Forever by Dominique Allmon is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Can Graviola Cure Cancer?


Graviola (Annona muricata)

I would like to start the New Year with an article that may open your eyes to natural cures as a real alternative to conventional medicine.

About six months ago my Spanish neighbor Miranda told me that she was diagnosed with cancer. Her kidneys were infested with tumors and she had six to nine months to live if she underwent the classical anti-cancer therapy that included chemotherapy, surgery and radiation. Her younger brother had the same disease and did not make it.

Miranda is a diminutive, good-natured  lady in her mid-fifties. The diagnosis did not change much of her outlook on life. A Spanish Catholic she decided to put her life into God's hands and was playing with the idea of dying without allowing the horrible chemotherapy to destroy her.

Miranda is a lucky lady. She has at least three natural health "obsessed" neighbors: a therapeutic masseur and at least two herbal medicine aficionados, one of those using graviola on regular bases as an "insurance" against cancer.

I see Miranda from time to time, but do not have the courage to ask about her disease. She still has her wonderfully thick hair and does not look incredibly sick. In fact, it seems to me that she is somewhat improving. And always smiling!

Another neighbor told me that Miranda decided to change her lifestyle. She decided to detoxify her body and change her nutrition just a bit to begin with. She also works with the masseur next door. She undergoes a massage therapy to calm her nerves and reduce the stress. And, after the herbs-loving neighbor made a suggestion, she is now on graviola for almost five months. The best thing is, her tumors disappeared completely and she is in no need of any conventional anti-cancer treatment!

Each cancer case is individual, each immune system reacts differently to stimulation, but Miranda is the first person I have ever met who recovered from cancer with natural means. 

Graviola fruit also known as soursop or guanabana

For years I kept graviola and few other nature wonders in the back of my mind for the horrible eventuality. If I were ever to be diagnosed with cancer this would be what I would opt for. Knowledge may save your life, I told myself years ago. It can save the lives of others if you share it with them. This is what the other neighbor did and saved Miranda a lot of pain.

I checked the Internet and found that graviola is surrounded by controversy and I advise caution when you decide to use it a s a cure. But one thing must be said, graviola was used by native people of South America to cure many ailments and can be still used to improve one's immune response. Like with any product on the market you must consider the purity of the product and the real content of the herb before you buy a supplement.

~ Health Benefits of Graviola ~ 

Graviola (Annona muricata), also known as soursop, is an evergreen plant native to Central and South America. It grows in Mexico, Cuba, the Caribbean, Colombia, Brazil, and Venezuela, among others. Graviola is also cultivated in parts of Africa and in Southeast Asia.

Graviola plant produces fruits with edible white pulp and indigestible black seeds. The fruit pulp is used to make smoothies, juices and desserts.

The fruit is rich in Vitamin C; B vitamins including B1, B2, B3, B5, B6 and folate; minerals including calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, iron, and zinc; and choline.

A cup of freshly made graviola (soursop) juice in Singapore

Indigenous natural medicine uses all parts of the graviola plant: fruit, bark, leaves, roots, and seeds, and attributes different healing properties to each.

The fruit, for instance, is used to rid the body of the intestinal parasites and worms. It is also used to bring dawn the fever, increase mother's milk after childbirth, cure diarrhea and dysentery. The bark, leaves and roots are used as infusion that is considered to be anti-spasmodic, hypotensive and sedative. Crushed seeds of the fruit are used against internal and external parasites, including worms and head lice. A tea made of leaves is used to control diabetes, strengthen the liver, and calm the inflammation of the mucosa.

Graviola contains many active compounds that have been studied by scientists since the 1940s. Of great interest to scientists is the group of chemicals called Annonaceous acetogenins. Graviola produces these compounds in its leaves, stem, barks and seeds. Three independently conducted studies demonstrated that these compounds have significant anti-tumor properties and selective toxicity against various cancer cells without harming the healthy cells in the body. Many of these acetogenins were selectively toxic to cancer cells at a very law doses. Studies published in 1998 describe active compounds in graviola as having strong anti-tumor, anti-cancer, anti-viral and anti-parasitic properties.

While ongoing studies produce even more promising results, there are some who dismiss graviola claiming that there is no successful research proving graviola's efficacy against cancer. Moreover, inferior graviola products are being sold all over the Internet and spectacular claims are being made without much justification by people who take advantage of those who suffer from cancer. 

Like any herb, graviola does not come without side effects and contra-indications. Graviola should not be taken by pregnant women, people with law blood pressure. Since graviola is a potent anti-microbial agent, it can kill off the friendly bacteria in the gut. Supplementation with probiotics may be necessary with prolonged use of graviola products. 

No interaction with pharmaceutical drugs has been reported so far, but since graviola is a cardio-depressant and vasodilator, it may potentiate anti-hypertensive and cardiac depressant drugs. 

Supplementation with CoQ10 during the graviola therapy may render graviola supplements less effective. CoQ10 increases levels of ATP. Graviola, on the other hand, blocks transfer of ATP to cancer cells. ATP (adenosine triphosphate) is a primary source of intracellular energy. In order to survive, reproduce and grow, a cancer cell needs large amounts of energy. When acetogenins in graviola block the energy flow to a cancer cell, it can no longer grow and is destined to die.

Some alkaloids extracted from the seeds and roots of graviola are neurotoxic and may cause neuronal dysfunction and degeneration leading to symptoms of Parkinson's disease. Their use is not recommended.

Many cancer patients and health practitioners using extracts from leaves and stem of graviola as a complimentary therapy in their cancer protocols. The suggested therapeutic use is 2000-3000 mg to be taken three times a day.

Contact certified health care provider, certified herbalist or certified nutritionist before you choose self medication with graviola supplements.

By Dominique Allmon



*This information is for educational purpose only. It is not meant to diagnose or cure a disease.

Selected graviola studies:
  • Schultes, R. E. And Raffauf "The Healing Forest: Medicinal and Toxic plants of the Northwest Amazonia." Portand: R. F. Dioscorides Press.1990.
  • Branch, L.C. and DaSilva I.M.F. “Folk Medicine of Alter Do Chao, Para, Brazil.” Acta Amazonica 1983; 13 (5/6): 737-797
  • Mors, W. B., et. al. "Medicinal plants of Brazil." Algonac, Michigan, Reference Publications, Inc., 2000.
  • Morton, J.F. “Caribbean and Latin American Folk Medicine and its Influence in the United States.” Q. J. Crude Drug Res. 1980; 18(2): 57-75.

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Health Benefits of Graviola by Dominique Allmon is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
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