Health WellNews

Cupping in Chinese Medicine

Have you seen those dark purple cup marks on the upper back of your favorite celebrity lately and wondered what that was all about? That is from an ancient Chinese medicine technique called cupping, which is a wonderful and effective supplement to an acupuncture treatment.

Cupping describes the practice of Chinese medical practitioners using thick glass cups in certain regions of the body to relieve pain and for other medicinal uses. In what is called “fire cupping,” the acupuncturist takes the glass cup, saturates a cotton ball with alcohol and applies a small flame to the cotton. The cotton is then placed in the glass cup (with lightning speed and accuracy) whereby the oxygen is removed from the glass and the skin is suctioned up tightly. What the cup is doing is drawing pressure out and up. Nowadays, some practitioners use plastic suction cups or cups made of bamboo.

There are two types of cupping: one is “dry cupping” and is the most common. This is where the cup stays put for about five minutes or more. The acupuncturist may in some instances use a small lancet to draw out a tiny amount of blood from an area before placing the cup over the region in what’s called “wet cupping.” The next type is called “moving cupping” and is the most pleasurable experience. This is when oil is put on the skin before the cup is suctioned so that the cup can be moved along a large region, for example, down your back.  This feels like a massage and is very relaxing and helpful for stiffness. Multiple cups are typically used for any of these forms of cupping.

Why cupping?

Cupping promotes blood flow, eases stiffness and pain, especially in the back, neck, and shoulders and lifts tense muscles. By promoting better circulation through cupping, tissues receive vital nutrients and oxygen. Cupping releases stagnation of blood and lymph fluid and removes harmful toxins. It has been shown to help respiratory ailments and the common cold, muscle conditions, stress, arthritis, digestion and gynecological issues.

Cupping feels wonderful during and after treatment, but any bathing suit modeling or cruise vacations should be postponed a few days after therapy due to local redness or purple color and perhaps bruising of the area. You might have a small cup mark, but this is very common, it should dissipate in a couple of days, and is not harmful. Of course, if you experience any other acute complications, see your physician.

Certain conditions are contraindicated for cupping techniques and your acupuncturist will advise against treatment. These conditions include broken skin, skin ulcers, high fever, inflammation, thin skin that bleeds easily, pregnancy (no cupping on the abdomen) and bony areas of the body.

Cupping is an old therapy, and although some patients have mentioned seeing their grandparents apply cupping using glass jars, it is not recommended to self-diagnose or to try fire cupping at home on your own. It can be dangerous and you could get a severe burn or blisters. See your friendly acupuncturist to give you a relaxing cupping treatment that is both safe and effective.


The Liver: Mental & Emotional Aspects

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the organ connected to springtime is the liver. The liver is connected to the wood element, which refers to living and growing things like plants, trees and humans. In TCM, practitioners use the mental and emotional characteristics of the liver to diagnose and treat imbalances in their patients as well as its physical manifestations.

When the emotional aspects of the liver are working as they should, you are able to stand firm in your convictions, with proper boundaries between you and others around you. The liver influences confidence and assertiveness, and the ability to make decisions and stick by them. The liver also has a lot to do with stress and anger. Physically, an imbalanced liver can create tight tendons, necks and shoulders, and emotionally  it can lead to a tightness of the spirit.

The key emotions of the liver are anger and frustration. So what would lopsided liver energy look like to a casual observer?  Imagine this: a red-faced hypertensive man waiting impatiently in line at a store, huffing and puffing because he has to wait like everyone else. He is pointedly looking at his watch and glaring at the cashier. Every once in awhile he bumps into the woman in front of him as he checks his watch, and she moves back, submitting to him and allowing him to take over her personal space. He is becoming more and more furious by the minute, because he is late for his scheduled activities. Most people would describe this guy as controlling and overbearing, but in the world of acupuncture, his liver energy is simply out of sync.

When the liver isn’t doing its job, everything in the body tends to rise upward. In these types of patients, you can often see the physical manifestations of their emotional state. These patients might hold everything in their bodies in a tight, rigid manner. They often clench or grind their teeth in anger and frustration. Their faces might be suffused with color. That doesn’t mean all people who have a liver imbalance act this way, or that the liver is responsible for creating miserable “Type A” individuals. This liver energy is necessary for keeping us on track. Without it, we wouldn’t have a sense of purpose, and we wouldn’t be able to get anything done.

The key is balance. We could take another look at that line the angry man was in, and take into consideration the woman who was bumped into. Her imbalance of liver energy in the opposite direction creates a lack of boundaries, allowing her to have a “pushover” mentality. When someone steps into her personal space, she steps back. She lacks the assertiveness that a strong liver energy can bring forth.

When kept in a state of equilibrium, the liver can move us toward our goals, allowing us to plan and follow a steady course. It can keep us on track with our plans and ambitions, and protect us from those who want to cross our boundaries and take our energetic reserves.


What’s Inside Your Medicine Cabinet?

Springtime is a natural time for cleansing, whether in terms of cleansing the diet or clearing out the garage. In this article, we’ll offer some spring cleaning for your medicine cabinet: natural remedies to allow you to literally clear out old bottles and internally cleanse your body of synthetic medications.

We all have a medicine cabinet, drawer or cupboard in our homes filled with seemingly harmless over-the-counter drugs, bandage material and other toiletries. Unfortunately, many of the things in your medicine cabinet can be potentially dangerous and even lethal. The good news is, a lot of these items can be replaced with natural substitutes.

Painkillers / Anti-inflammatories

Painkillers like ibuprofen and naproxen can be effective for relieving a headache or reducing inflammation in the joints. But these medications were not designed to be taken on a long-term basis and here’s why: Long term usage of NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) has been proven to eat away at the lining of the gastrointestinal tract, which can then lead to ulcers. They also can increase the risk of heart attack, heart failure and stroke, even in people who have no existing heart conditions. So, when you have achy joints or a headache, reach for something more natural. Turmeric and/or ginger are wonderful natural substitutes that can be taken daily to help reduce the pain and inflammation associated with achy joints. For headaches, try a dab of peppermint or wintergreen essential oil on the temples. You can also try eating pineapple regularly. Pineapple contains an enzyme called bromelain. Bromelain is known to reduce inflammation.

Heartburn and Indigestion Medications

Many people suffer from heartburn and indigestion and then reach for proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs) like omeprazole or pantoprazole. These medications are proving to be more harmful than helpful, though. Numerous studies have linked long term use of PPIs to kidney failure and even dementia. But for those who suffer with heartburn, it’s a really tricky balancing act that ultimately comes down to what they eat. The pain can be excruciating. PPIs reduce stomach acid in the gastrointestinal tract, thus reducing pain. Over time though, users of PPIs can wean themselves off these sometimes harmful medications. Substitutes like aloe vera juice, organic apple cider vinegar, baking soda and cranberry juice can all help reduce excess stomach acid production naturally. Ginger and peppermint can soothe the pain associated with acid reflux, heartburn and indigestion.

Cough Syrup and Cold Medications

Even the healthiest of people will get sick at some point. Over-the-counter (OTC) cough and cold medicines are abundant and while some may work, they can come with some potentially harmful side effects. Dextromethorphan hydrobromide is a cough suppressant and promethazine is an antihistamine. Both are commonly found in OTC cold medications. These drugs can cause hives, difficulty breathing, facial swelling, dizziness, anxiety, restlessness and nausea, just to name a few of the side effects. There is also the potential for abuse if not taken properly. But again, there are natural substitutes that have no side effects and in many cases work more effectively. Honey not only helps with a cough, but it also soothes a sore throat. Pineapple juice is another great cough suppressant. Peppermint and thyme are also good for suppressing coughs and opening the sinuses.

When opening up that medicine cabinet, think about this: Nearly every OTC medication was once derived from a natural precursor. Aspirin, for instance, is derived from willow bark, and the main reason it is now produced in synthetic-pill form is that somebody saw an opportunity to make money. So before you pop a pill, consider seeking a natural remedy first. This includes things like traditional Chinese medicine. Acupuncture plus herbal formulas can be a wonderful alternative to those harmful medications. Also, don’t forget to evaluate your daily diet. Diet can play a big role in how your body heals. Making minor adjustments to your eating habits and adding acupuncture to your health regimen can alleviate stress, decrease pain and boost your immunity. Remember, you ultimately have the choice when it comes to your health and what you put in your body. Be sure to take the time to make informed decisions that aren’t detrimental.