Let’s face it. Sometimes even the most disciplined of us are going to overindulge. We convince ourselves it’s ok to eat one more bit of dessert, drink just one more drink, eat the whole bag of junk food we’ve been craving. But afterward, inevitably, we feel lousy. Especially during the holiday season, where for a couple months we are surrounded by Halloween candy, Thanksgiving turkey and Christmas desserts it’s no wonder most of us gain at least a few pounds. But, there are some things we can do to help avoid that after dinner heartburn. Here are 8 easy steps we can all take to avoid that bloated, sluggish feeling and revive us from our food coma.

  1. Portion Control I get it, we all know we shouldn’t overeat. But, once the food is on your plate, it’s only a short trip from the plate to your mouth, so it’s better to serve smaller portions to begin with. You can also use a smaller plate to the same effect. In the end moderation is key, because the more pressure at the bottom of your stomach, the longer food will have to stay in your stomach and there’s more chance for the food you just ate to try and go up, not down.
  2. Savor the Flavor Actually chew, swallow and taste your food, don’t vacuum it in and straight down. Digestion starts in the mouth with chewing the food into small pieces that are easier to digest. Enzymes in saliva begin to break down carbohydrates and your taste buds signal the rest of the digestive tract to get ready for the types of food it’s about to digest. Even before we put the food in our mouth the smell and the appearance of the food will trigger digestive enzymes in our body.
  3. Relax and Enjoy What we are thinking and feeling, and what state our body is in while eating, has a lot to do with how well we digest our food (or not!). If we are stressed, scared, or angry then our Flight or Fight(Sympathetic) System will be triggered. The sympathetic nervous system slows down digestion in order to move blood and resources to your muscles and the areas of your body will need to deal with the threat and stress. So, the more relaxed we are the more efficient our digestion is.
  4. 100 steps “If you take 100 steps after each meal, you’ll live to 99.” This common old Chinese saying (which sounds a lot better in Chinese because it rhymes) is actually quite true. There have been several studies (click here and here for those studies) showing moderate activity after eating improves blood sugar metabolism and assists in digestion. This doesn’t mean go for a run, because this will actually slow your digestion, but instead of slumping down in the chair and loosening our belt, it’s much better to go for a walk around the block or in the backyard.
  5. Eat Your Fiber – Only 5% of people in the US eat enough fiber. Fiber is the fibrous part of plants our bodies are unable to digest or absorb. This extra bulk helps move things through your digestive tract quicker, and is an important food for our gut bacteria. We can get more fiber in our diet simply by eating more whole fruits and vegetables. Avoid processed foods as most of the fiber in these has been removed.
  6. Warm It Up Spices such as garlic, coriander(cilantro), cardamom, basil, cumin and cinnamon are all considered warming in herbal medicine. They have been used throughout human history not just for their added flavor boost, but because of this warming quality on the digestion. This means spices increase circulation, activity and movement through the digestive tract. They help the body produce and release bile to digest fats, reduce cramping and bloating and in some cases directly fight off pathogens that may be in the food.
  7. Herbal Allies Perhaps one of the most well-known herbs for digestion is Ginger. Reducing nausea and bloating and stimulating movement through the digestive tract, ginger after a meal can greatly assist the whole digestive process. Shan Zha is a type of Hawthorne Berry very commonly consumed in China to help digestion. A berry that could be used for a similar purpose here in the US is the cranberry. Yep, that side dish of cranberry at Thanksgiving is more than just a pretty garnish! Digestive Bitters are another helpful remedy, especially when consuming meals high in fat. Bitters are a blend of many different herbs that target the liver, pancreas and other digestive organs in order to stimulate their digestive activity.
  8. Digestive Enzymes I’ll always recommend consuming whole foods and herbs over isolated chemical supplements, however, sometimes supplements can be a helpful “Band-Aid” solution. If we know we are going to eat something our body needs help with, or if we have a chronic digestive illness we can take these enzymes preventatively before the meal to give our body a little extra help. There are many digestive supplements on the market and many of them of good quality. Consult with your natural health practitioner about which might be most helpful for you. For a natural source of enzymes, two fruits, papaya and pineapple, contain papain and bromelain which are helpful in digesting protein.

Dark blue berries and star shaped clusters of cream white blossoms with a strong sweet and musty aroma, the elder is one of the most famous and revered of all herbs in the Western Hemisphere.

‘Our forefathers also held the Ellhorn holy wherefore whoever need to hew it down (or cut its branches) has first to make request “Lady Ellhorn, give me some of thy wood and I will give thee some of mine when it grows in the forest” – the which, with partly bended knees, bare head and folded arms was ordinarily done, as I myself have often seen and heard in my younger years.’ (Arnkiel)

Used for thousands of years as protection against the invasion of evil influences both physical and spiritual, today elder is recognized as an effective anti-viral. Tracing it’s use back to several thousand years before the common era, the elder tree has been one of humanities allies long before recorded history ever remarked upon its virtues. The entire plant, from the bark and leaves, to the flowers and berries has been used for everything from food and medicine to flutes and toys. Over the millennia elder has gained a reputation for having influence over spiritual forces, both evil and good.

In Cole’s Art of Simpling he relates:

‘in order to prevent witches from entering their houses, the common people used to gather Elder leaves on the last day of April and affix them to their doors and windows,’

Lady Northcote in The Book of Herbs says:

‘The Russians believe that Elder-trees drive away evil spirits, and the Bohemians go to it with a spell to take away fever. The Sicilians think that sticks of its wood will kill serpents and drive away robbers, and the Serbs introduce a stick of Elder into their wedding ceremonies to bring good luck. In England it was thought that the Elder was never struck by lightning, and a twig of it tied into three or four knots and carried in the pocket was a charm against rheumatism. A cross made of Elder and fastened to cowhouses and stables was supposed to keep all evil from the animals.’

Potent Antiviral

Today, the flower and berries of the elder plant have been extensively studied for their potent antiviral abilities against influenza and herpes simplex 1. They have also been shown to be anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and antipyretic (lowers fever). Elder’s blue berries are also high in Vitamin C, making elder a perfect herbal remedy with direct action against the virus or bacteria making you sick, and also relieving the many side effects that come along such as a high fever, sore throat, and inflamed airways.

Chinese Medicine and More

In Chinese Medicine Elder is described as cooling and able to expel superficial heat causing symptoms of cough, sore throat and malaise. This is the same use as what modern research indicates. Elder’s cooling nature is especially helpful at breaking a fever, and relieving the upper and outer areas of your body like the sinuses, throat and skin when they feel warm, congested and are inflamed. While best to take in the first days before feeling very sick, elderberry is a perfect immune boost even if you are already suffering from a cold or flu. More than just a cold and flu remedy however elder has many medicinal compounds inside that are antioxidant, beneficial for blood pressure and also assist in blood sugar metabolism.

Great Recipes to Enjoy

If you want to make your own medicine from elder it is quite easy. Simply make a tea with the freshly picked flowers or blue berries. Elder wine is a common treat enjoyed in Europe and a syrup made with the berries is a great way to get your kids to take their medicine. Click here for many great recipes using elder such as vinegar, syrup and a tasty cordial. I look forward to making this cordial every year! Keep in mind however, there are many types of elder tree out there though, and while the flowers and leaves can be used medicinally in all species, the blue berries are the only berries that should be consumed in any significant quantity. So, if you live in Colorado like I do where the main type of elder that grows in the mountains contains the red berries, please, only consume the flowers and not the berries.

  1. Chevalier, Andrew. Natural Health Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine 2nd ed. New York, New York: Dorling Kindersley Ltd, 2000.
  2. Garran, Thomas Avery. (2008) Western Herbs According to Traditional Chinese Medicine: A Practitioner’s Guide. Rochester,      Vermont: Healing Arts Press.
  3. Grieve, Maude. (1971) A Modern Herbal. New York: Dover Publications, Inc.
  4. Hearst, Caroline et al. (2010) Antibacterial activity of elder (Sambucus nigra L.) flower or berry against hospital pathogens. Journal of Medicinal Plants Research, 4(17), 1805-1809.
  5. Vlachojannis, J. E., Cameron, M and Chrubasik, S. (2010) A Systematic Review on the Sambuci fructus Effect and Efficacy Profiles, Phytotheapy Research, 24, 1–8.

What Is Holistic Rheumatology?

This is a specialty where we focus on treating pain and inflammation of the musculoskeletal system using natural holistic treatments. In this post we’ll discuss the many holistic solutions to rheumatological diseases such as Fibromyalgia, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and more.

Why Do We Have Pain?

Before we talk about how to get you out of pain it’s important to know why we have pain in the first place? Think of a suspension bridge like the Golden Gate Bridge. Tall, red, steel towers, with arching cables spanning the length of the bridge reaching to the steel girders lining the pavement of the road below. This suspension bridge is a great analogy for the way our body is constructed. The steel cables are like our muscles, tendons, and connective tissue and are attached to the large steel supports and the road, which are like our bones. All these must be balanced and even for the bridge to be usable; just like the tissues in our body must be balanced and healthy for all the blood vessels and organs to have clear passage and space to function. If the steel cables of the bridge have uneven tension one side is pulling more than the other, and it would begin to pull the whole bridge up in one spot while another spot would sink. In the short run, if the amount of pulling was small, it may not cause permanent damage, but over time cracks develop and the cables weaken from this imbalanced tension. This must be repaired, or eventually everything will collapse. The same is true with our body, if one area is continually pulled or pushed more than another, the body must adapt or collapse. The way we repair a bridge is by sending in construction crews. The construction crew must be able to easily drive along the road in order to deliver all the necessary equipment to the bridge, then they must block the area they are working on in order to give them space to do their work. In our body the “construction crew” is our immune system and the response and flow of this crew is dependent upon the vessels in our body and a proper inflammatory response. Like the construction crew rushing to the area, our body increases blood flow to an injured area and immune cells infiltrate the spot to break down the damaged tissue and repair it. Like the orange cones and flashing signs blocking the work site, the nerves send a pain signal as a warning to restrict movement in the area and prevent further damage.

Is Inflammation a Bad Thing?

Overall, inflammation is not a bad thing. Just like a construction zone, it may not be convenient, but it is our bodies natural repair mechanism and the only way it can heal the damage. Of course, we’ve all heard the hype around chronic inflammation being a bad thing and causing many diseases such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes, but this is different than a short amount of inflammation. In our bridge analogy chronic inflammation is similar to our bridge continually breaking and the construction crew continually blocking traffic across. We’ve all tried to drive along roads that are always under construction and know the pain and annoyance this causes. More than just an annoyance however, what if this bridge is the only way in and out of a city? How well will the city function if supply trucks, workers, and residents can never get in and out efficiently? This is what is happening in the body when we experience continual, chronic injuries and inflammation and don’t allow for proper healing. So, yes, while inflammation is inherently not a bad thing, chronic inflammation, like a construction crew that never finishes will cause everything to become more congested.

How Can We Heal?

Fortunately, there are many things we can do to help our “construction crew.” We must treat the root of the pain, keep inflammation in check and maintain free and open pathways of healing. Holistic Rheumatology utilizes many tools of natural health to assist your body’s natural healing mechanisms.  When we use Acupuncture to heal the body, the acupuncture needle alerts the body to the area of damage. If our Golden Gate Bridge has a crack in it, someone must see the damage and call the repair crew. An acupuncture needle is doing just this. By inserting a needle into the body, it is signaling the brain and the immune system to recognize the damage and quickly send help. Herbal medicines are another great tool to help our body heal. They are like the tools and resources our construction crew uses in order to fix the damaged structures of the bridge. Perhaps we need asphalt to repair the road, cement, more steel cables, or more cones or barriers to block the area off. In the same way herbal plants are jam packed with minerals, vitamins and nutrients our body needs in order to nourish our tissues and provide it with the resources and tools it needs to heal. How do the engineers know how to build and repair the bridge in the first place? They run simulations and experiments in order to test their ideas and materials. This is what exercise and stretching does for us. By stretching and exercising we are modeling and practicing the activities and movements our body may have to perform. By physically training our body daily, we are forcing the body to adapt and change, so when we are unlucky and get into a car accident, or fall, we’ve already put our body into a position that it recognizes, we’ve already strengthened it sufficiently, and now it will not become injured so severely. No physical structure, neither our body nor a bridge, can continually function smoothly without continual routine maintenance and repair. The food we eat every day provides nourishment and resources to our body, so everything runs smoothly and efficiently and can provide the day to day maintenance it requires. This is why I combine multiple modalities in my practice to heal your pain. Nutrition alone, while providing the resources for routine maintenance is not always enough to repair recent damage. Herbs, while giving your body important tools to heal tissue damage and calm chronic inflammation, are not as quick at signaling the brain and the immune system as acupuncture is. Acupuncture, while sending a good strong signal, is not going to smooth out the bumps in the road. For this massage is best at maintaining smooth and efficient movement along your muscles and tissues. This is why at Wiseman Natural Health all these modalities of natural medicine are combined to give you the best tools available to stimulate your body’s natural healing mechanisms and keep you healthy every day.

With 4.5 million Americans currently living with knee replacements, it is fast becoming in extremely common procedure. While improved technology and surgery techniques are making this procedure much more successful, patients are still not well informed as to the reality of post surgery recovery. One study of patients undergoing physical therapy post knee replacement showed the majority of patients only completed eight weeks of physical therapy, and at this point their mobility was worse than before the surgery. The recovery is even worse for people who are obese, elderly, have multiple joints replaced or multiple joints affected with pain. Acupuncture is an approach that has been used very successfully post-surgery and many more studies are showing acupuncture helps this process by reducing inflammation and pain post surgery. However, when people only look at scientific articles it is difficult to translate this into what this actually means for your recovery post surgery, specifically what are you actually going to feel and be able to do with your new knee. For this reason here is a story of two patients who came in for knee problems post knee replacement surgery. The first patient came in immediately after surgery, the other six months after.

For patient #1, while their knee was sore and swollen like it typically is post replacement, they were only a week out of their surgery and everything lay before them as they endeavored to do everything they could to recover well. For patient #2, it had certainly been “the worst of times.” Six months out from their knee replacement adhesions had formed all around the knee, walking was a continually painful exercise and the tension and pain was not only worse than it had been before the surgery, but now the hip, the back and the opposite knee were also starting to become very painful. This all despite the fact both patients were undergoing physical therapy for their knee directly after their surgery.

When treating patient #1 immediately after their surgery we did not do acupuncture and massage directly over the replaced knee as the risk of infection is still high in the initial stages. The treatment consisted of acupuncture points above and below the knee, points in other areas of the body, which are beneficial for pain and healing of the knee, and massage on the leg, hip, back.  In general, the treatment was designed to not only help the affected knee, but to also treat other areas of the body to help the muscles and tissues not become tight and sore from the compensation of walking with a limp post surgery. As the treatments went on we were able to treat more directly on the affected knee and electrical stimulation was applied to further decrease pain and increase circulation through the affected area. After only four weeks patient #1 was able to ride a bike, have nearly 110o of flexion in the knee, and perform many different weight bearing exercises. Not only that, but the opposite knee(which the doctors advised replacing in the future) was having no problems and felt better than it had in years. At six weeks the knee would feel some soreness post a heavy workout, but otherwise felt mostly recovered. At eight weeks the knee felt as good as it had in years. At this point was when I saw patient #2 who was six months post surgery, walking with a cane and having problems throughout their back, hip and other knee. Immediately we began a similar procedure as in patient #1 with the addition of massage to break apart the scar tissue and adhesions that had formed. After 4 weeks the patient was recovering well, they had increased movement, were riding a bike daily and had a decrease in their pain, however the knee still would get sore after a mild workout and it took a few more months before they began to see the improvements that patient #1 saw after only 6 weeks.

These stories are by no means singular cases. While anecdotal case studies are not an depth scientific analysis as to the physiological mechanisms involved in post surgical care, they are perhaps more relevant to you the patient. Through hearing these stories you can know what you should expect post surgery, and more importantly what kind of treatment you should be receiving. Too often I see patients come in many months post surgery in the same state as patient #2 because they were never told what their options were for optimal recovery. Inevitably when I explain to them what there recovery plan should have looked like they are frustrated they didn’t receive the information beforethe surgery. So, if you are looking at getting a joint replacement, or any surgery for that matter, please seek a qualified acupuncturist, massage therapist and physical therapist. It will be the difference in recovering twice as fast with little to no complications.



Whenever people ask me what I do, I always tell them I practice acupuncture and Chinese Medicine. Inevitably they know what acupuncture is but are often unsure as to what Chinese Medicine is. Given that most people don’t know that acupuncture is only one part of Chinese Medicine, and aren’t familiar with Chinese Medicine as a whole, I figured I’d give a brief explanation as to what this type of medicine is.


Chinese Medicine has five main branches of treatment modalities, acupuncture, massage (tui na the Chinese form of massage), herbal medicine, nutrition and exercise.  Acupuncture also includes more than the use of hair-thin needles to stimulate points throughout the body, and includes the techniques of moxibustion, gua sha, or scraping, and cupping. In fact the Chinese word for acupuncture is zhen jiu which literally translates to acupuncture-moxibustion. Most people in the West, when they think of the acupuncture system only picture the channels, or meridians, and acupuncture points that and don’t realize that Chinese Medicine is in fact a whole system of medicine with its own unique physiology and diagnostic system. This is why it takes 3-4 years of graduate level education, just like in traditional Western Medical education, to learn how to properly treat someone using these techniques. First, we have to learn the basic ways in which the body functions, then we have to learn the ways in which those functions become diseased, and finally we have to learn how to treat them. Not only that, but we learn this from both a Western and Chinese viewpoint.


For example, from the view of Chinese Medicine everything, and everybody, has a balance of yin and yang. Yin qualities are all the cooling, moistening, physical, substantial, nutritive qualities, whereas yang are all the heating, warming, energetic, moving, metabolizing aspects. Everyone must maintain this balance of yin and yang, because if either becomes more or less than the other disease will result.


Yin and yang can further be subdivided into the five elements. The elements correspond to the specific functions each organ must carry out in the body and the various processes which take place not only through the day but throughout our lives as well. The word “element” in Chinese is translated from the word xing, which actually translates better to a fundamental process and not a static thing. For example, the word xing is used for pedestrian as well. If any one of these “elements” is not balanced with the rest than these fundamental processes in the body break down and disease will result. To connect everything further, the elements, the organs and the yin yang balance is all tied in through an energetic flow within channels, or meridians. There are twelve main meridians that distribute all the energy and various substances through the body. Just like yin and yang and the five elements if any of these is not balanced with the rest, or if any become blocked than disease results.


Overall, these processes and systems are connected in very specific ways. They are affected by the food we eat, the activities we do and the environment around us. It is very important to know exactly what system is affected by what and how to arrive at a proper diagnosis to figure out the best treatment to bring it all back into balance. This treatment at its core is preventative. Therefore it is always our goal to use the tools available to us to prevent disease before it becomes a bigger problem. This is why even though we will often use acupuncture, herbs and/or massage, nutrition and exercise are in reality the most profound treatments. Nutrition and exercise are the simplest and easiest ways that you can prevent disease on a daily basis. This is reflected in a basic tenant of Chinese Herbal Medicine medicinals that can be taken on a daily basis with no risk of side effect, i.e. food, are considered the most superior forms of medicine, as opposed to the medicinals consumed for a short period of time because they have a high risk of side effects are considered the most inferior forms of medicine. This idea of food as medicine is very important in Chinese Medicine and every person should have a basic understanding of what they should or should not eat depending on who they are as a person and what type of illness may be affecting them. Exercise is also very important in China where, even in the largest cities, there are many beautiful parks with walking paths, there are parks with outdoor exercise equipment on many corners and every morning you will see people doing exercises such as qi gong and tai qi throughout the parks and in their homes. Ultimately, when you take care of your body on a daily basis with nutrition and exercise you may only need to see a practitioner for massage, acupuncture and/or herbs once in a while.

During the SARS epidemic “health workers (took) herbal formulas to boost their immune system and combat the virus. Equally, patients treated with Chinese herbal formulas were achieving a much higher success rate compared to the Western medical approach of using the antiviral ribavirin combined with steroids.(Reuters, April 21, 2003)

As this quote shows Chinese Herbal Medicine has been highly effective at treating epidemic diseases such as SARS and the same holds true for other diseases that are simpler such as the common cold and flu. In fact, Chinese Herbal Medicine is not the only form of herbal medicine that has demonstrated effectiveness in treating these diseases and many other traditions of herbal medicine throughout the world also contain efficacious herbs. There is a certain sense of irony as each year fear over a flu pandemic grows, and yet there have been effective herbal treatments for this and other infectious diseases.

One of the most important qualities of herbal medicine that makes it highly effective in treating these diseases is the differing diagnostic criteria compared to Western Medicine. For example, in western medicine to treat influenza the same treatments are always used. First, one must provide an influenza vaccination to prevent influenza, and if a person contracts the virus and is in a vulnerable state then treat the symptoms. Unfortunately, as recent history demonstrates the efficacy of these treatments is not always that great because there is limited ability to treat the virus itself. Herbal medicine on the other hand treats illness according to each person’s unique set of symptoms and therefore different herbs are used at different stages of disease. There are always going to be similarities and differences in each disease presentation, but whereas western medicine may diagnose the same illness in two people and therefore prescribe the same treatment, herbal medicine may view the same disease as having two differing diagnoses.

When we are discussing colds and flus in Chinese Medicine there are two main criteria for diagnoses, cold and heat. In Chinese Medicine humans and nature are inseparable parts of the same whole and under the same influences. Therefore, out in nature there are many influences upon the environment such as cold, wind, heat, humidity and dryness and these influences can also affect your body. For example, if you have contracted the flu and you have chills, very achey muscles, possibly a headache, some nausea, a runny and congested nose with clear mucus then these symptoms are most likely due to cold. Cold causes things to contract and be tight and aching so those are the main symptoms experienced and one must use warming herbs to disperse the cold.. On the other hand if you have a severe sore throat, a headache, nausea and a fever this is most likely due to heat and “light and fluffy” herbs that float to the upper body and release the cold through the surface are used. While there are many different formulas and herbs that could be used I will focus on a few that have been shown to be highly effective.

The first group of herbs I will discuss are ones that are better at treating what in Chinese Medicine is known as heat. The most common symptoms seen with this pattern of diseases usually includes sore throat, fever and cough with colored mucus and is most often treated with a formula in Chinese Medicine called Yin Qiao San. Within this formula are 10 herbs, some of which I will discuss later, but the main herbs for which the formula is named after are Jin Yin Hua(Honeysuckle) and Lian Qiao(forsythia). The overall formula inhibits viruses and enhances the immune systems ability to attack against pathogens. It is anti-pyretic, anti-inflammatory, anti-allergy and enhances the phagocytic ability of macrophages. The main herbs in this formula, Jin Yin Hua and Lian Qiao have these effects and more. They are also effective at relieving cough and Lian Qiao is highly effective against the influenza virus. Two other herbs within this formula Jing Jie and Mint both contain high quantities of menthol or menthol like chemicals which have effects at alleviating pain, inhibiting bacteria, decreasing inflammation and reducing fever. Mint, in its various forms has been an herb highly valued in Western Herbal medicine for many centuries. In the Bible it is described as being used as a tithe to the Pharisees. The form used in Chinese Medicine differs slightly to that used in Western Herbal medicine but both have similar constituents and activities. Two other herbs which are being used more for there powerful anti-viral and anti-bacterial effects are ban lan gen(isatis) and Huang Qin(Scute). Ban Lan Gen’s effectiveness has been demonstrated in numerous studies to be effective at treating many different infectious diseases from bacterial endotoxins to lyme disease and influenza. Huang Qin has also been shown to be highly effective at treating many forms of infection as well as being anti-inflammatory and slightly sedative. In fact, the form of scute used in western medicine differs from that of Chinese version and is used primarily as a sedative.

Several western herbs are worth mentioning here as well, namely goldenseal, chamomile, olive leaf, oregano and thyme. Goldenseal contains a highly antiseptic ingredient called berberine. Along with thyme, the essential oil of oregano and olive leaf these herbs are extremely effective at treating bacteria and viruses. Chamomile is an herb that is used for many differing complaints from digestive upset, to nervousness and irritability but also contains constituents which have anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial effects that would help in treating colds and flus. A Chinese herb, Ju Hua(Chrysanthemum) has similar effects to chamomile and is traditionally used for similar complaints.

As mentioned before however, there are differing symptoms a person may have when they contract a common cold or flu. When these infections take hold it is possible one may not have a sore throat, but instead have muscle aches, more chills than fever, clear mucus and possibly a headache. These symptoms are associated with a different pattern in Chinese Medicine and while the aforementioned herbs may help there are different herbs that are used more effectively. The herbs used in this situation tend to be “warmer” according to Chinese Medcine. These are herbs such as Ma Huang(ephedra), Gui Zhi(cinnamon) and Sheng Jiang(ginger). In western medicine herbs such as thyme, garlic, the already mentioned ginger and oregano fall in this category. Interestingly, all these herbs demonstrate anti-microbial, anti-viral and anti-inflammatory effects. However, these herbs also have differing effects on increasing superficial circulation, inducing sweat and relieving pain which assists in relieving the aching feeling and enhancing the immune systems abilities to fight infection. Some of these herbs such as ma huang are highly effective at dilating the bronchioles in cases of respiratory inflammation, reducing fever, and assisting the immune system as well. Overall, depending on what symptoms and what area of the body is more affected one can use differing herbs.

Often these herbs are combined with other herbs to further enhance the immune system’s ability to fight off infection during a cold or more importantly to prevent an infection from taking hold in the first place. One main formula for this purpose in Chinese Medicine is Yu Ping Feng San or the Jade Windscreen. There are only three herbs in this formula one of which has become extremely popular in both western and Chinese herbal medicine, Huang Qi(Astragalus). This herb is used in enhancing the immune function not only in respect to preventing colds and flus, but is commonly used in China during cancer treatment to prevent the damaging effects on the immune system. Echinacea is a common herb in Western herbal medicine that is used for a similar purpose. It has been shown to have marked effects on increasing the white blood cells function of fighting infections.

Overall, the most important thing to keep in mind when treating and/or preventing the common cold and flu is to treat the symptoms as they are presenting in you. For example, you may be a person that always gets a sore throat when you get sick or you may be different and instead always get achey joints and chills. Depending on who you are different herbs may be more effective. When in doubt seek a qualified herbal practitioner in order to receive a proper diagnosis and treatment.

Fall is now upon us and that means falling leaves, cooler weather, Halloween costumes and of course those dreaded colds and flus. During this time of year I treat many people for their runny noses, sore throats and coughs and thought it would be beneficial to give a few tips from Chinese Medicine on how to stay healthy this season.

In Chinese Medicine there are five main elements that not only govern the world around us, but also our bodies within. Fall time is associated with the metal element which corresponds to the Lungs in Chinese Medicine. Traditionally, humans would use metal tools in order to perform many functions such as defending themselves from attack, reaping the crops for the harvest, or pruning back the plants in preparation for the winter. These functions are all attributed to the Lungs as well. The lungs are in charge of your bodies defenses and must mount a proper immune response and they must harvest the oxygen and nutrients from the air through the process of respiration. They must also prune back the waste material and rid the body of carbon dioxide and also rid other waste products through the paired organ of the Large Intestine. Just as the tress must shed their leaves each year so must your body shed unwanted and used material on a regular basis.

Chinese Medicine uses acupuncture, herbs and nutrition to support all these functions of the Lungs in order to maintain a healthy system and fight off any viruses that may be trying to take hold. First of all, receiving regular acupuncture if you’re prone to getting sick or if you are already experiencing symptoms can boost your immune system and reduce the time it takes to kick that cold. Secondly, there are many very classic herbal formulas that have been used in Chinese Medicine for centuries that support the immune system, actively fight off bacteria and viruses and reduce any symptoms such as cough, sore throat or a runny nose. Finally, proper nutrition is essential for maintaining your bodies immune system and can even reduce any symptoms that you may be experiencing. Some specific foods such as mushrooms are great for boosting the immune system and keeping your body strong. Apples, pears and almonds are all fruits that are harvested in the fall and extremely beneficial to the lungs. During this time of year, especially in Colorado, the lungs are prone to dryness and we easily get that dry sore throat, sticky sputum that is difficult to cough up and causes irritation and cough. Foods such as apples, pears and almonds help moisten the lungs, soothe that dry and irritated throat and reduce coughing. A traditional recipe from China calls for an Asian pear cut in half and scoop out a small section in the middle of each half. Fill with slivered almonds, rock sugar and cinnamon and place in the oven at 400 degrees until soft. (If rock sugar is not available use good quality local honey.)

So, remember while you’re enjoying those beautiful fall colors and trying to stay healthy to eat healthily and treat any symptoms that come up before it manifests into a severe cold.