An Introduction to Traditional Chinese Medicine Herbs

Posted by & filed under Alternative Medicine, Herbs & Medicine.

traditional-chinese-medicine-herbsTraditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is a holistic system of health care that uses a variety of therapies and treatments to combat and prevent illness and achieve optimal health in patients. One of those avenues of treatment involves traditional Chinese medicine herbs. More than 5,700 medicinal substances of plant, animal and mineral origin are used by practitioners of TCM, according to the Center for Spirituality & Healing at the University of Minnesota.

How herbal therapies are used in treatment

Often two substances or more are mixed and prescribed by the practitioner as part of a balanced approach. The Center for Spirituality & Healing notes:

“Although there are literally thousands of traditional herbal formulas for just about every condition imaginable, a formula is almost always modified by the TCM practitioner to suit the subtle nuances of the condition and constitution of the patient, making each formulation highly individualized.”

Your practitioner will evaluate your qi — or life force energy — flow and look for any imbalances or disharmonies that may be causing mental, physical or spiritual problems that need treatment.

The formulations in traditional Chinese medicine

Medicinal herbs are typically dispensed to patients in one of five forms:

Chinese Herbal Decoctions: These tea-like mixtures often have a strong taste and smell and involve lengthy preparation times, making them less popular to use among Western practitioners of TCM.

Herbal Powders: When mixed with water to brew a tea, these herbal formulations typically have a less intense taste and smell than decoctions, making them a more popular option in the west.

Chinese Patent Formulas: These popular and frequently-used formulations come in the form of a pill or tablet.

Syrups: Perfect for soothing coughs and sore throats, herbs that come in the form of a syrup also make a great option for getting children to take TCM.

Liniments, Salves, Compresses and Plasters: Practitioners prescribe herbs that need to be applied externally to the skin in any of these types of formulations.

How to use the materia medica

Practitioners use a book called a materia medica (for example, this visual version) as a reference for TCM herbs. This reference guide is a compendium of substances used in TCM. It will include information like traditional usages, dosages, contra-indications and potential interactions with other drugs. It may also include information like the Chinese, English and Latin names; which channels, or meridians, the herbs will enter; and where they fall on the temperature scale. Some may also have references to published research on the substances.

The Center for Healing and Spirituality describes the process of determining which substances to prescribe like so:

“TCM assesses medicinal substances for their effects on particular vital substances, their resonance with particular zang fu organ systems, the channels of the jing luo system into which the substance is said to enter, and the pathogenic factors and patterns of disharmony that the substance is known to address.”

An imbalance of the five essential substances is what creates health problems and impedes the body’s natural ability to heal itself.

To learn more about Oriental medicine, email our admissions department. If traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture sound like a potentially great career path for you, learn more by downloading out free ebook.


How to Treat PTSD Naturally

Posted by & filed under Alternative Medicine, Health & Fitness, Meditation & Yoga.

how-to-treat-ptsd-naturallyMilitary veterans and others experiencing PTSD — or post-traumatic stress disorder — may turn to traditional methods of medical treatment for help. Those methods could include therapeutic practices like cognitive behavior therapy, stress reduction techniques and prescription drugs. However, many have also found relief from PTSD symptoms by incorporating holistic health and complementary and alternative medicine approaches into their treatment plans. According to Social Worker Today:

“Not all people who have PTSD present with the same needs or the same symptoms, and no one prescriptive approach works for everyone,” says Karen Soltes, a social worker who founded Warriors at Ease, an organization that helps yoga and meditation teachers learn how to provide services to veterans and military personnel who suffer from PTSD and other combat-related illnesses.

How to treat PTSD experienced by veterans, active military personnel and others varies by individual, but natural methods like yoga and meditation, massage and acupuncture have proven helpful.

What is PTSD?

You often hear about PTSD affecting those who have served in a military combat zone, but the condition can affect anyone who has experienced a traumatic event. Events triggering PTSD could include an accident, an assault, abuse, or a man-made disaster, according to the National Center for PTSD. Sufferers of the condition develop anxiety and can have difficulty separating the traumatic event from present and future circumstances. Some symptoms can include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Flashbacks
  • Emotional numbness
  • Nightmares or other sleep disturbances
  • Hyper-arousal or -vigilance
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Suicidal Thoughts

It’s normal to experience some unpleasant thoughts and emotions after a traumatic event, but if the symptoms last for more than a few months, you may have PTSD.

PTSD is a painful and difficult condition to endure, and many sufferers fail to seek help due to a perceived stigma around mental illness. If you or a loved one may have the condition, don’t hesitate to seek help. PTSD can effect anyone and is not a sign of weakness, experts say.

Holistic treatments can help 

Yoga, meditation and massage can help anyone reduce stress and anxiety and improve mental and physical wellbeing, so it’s no surprise research has shown the positive impact of those practices on patients suffering from PTSD. A study showed that yoga, for example, reduced stress, improved quality of life factors and improved the mental wellbeing of veterans suffering from combat-induced anxiety.

Studies have shown massage therapy reduces cortisol and increases serotonin and dopamine in the patient, which can help decrease feelings of hyper-arousal and danger. It can also raise the levels of serotonin and dopamine in the brain, which can decrease feelings of anxiety and suffering.

Complementing traditional treatments

Another benefit of using yoga, massage and other alternative medicine practices to help those with PTSD is they also make overall treatment plans for stress-related illnesses more successful. According to Social Worker Today:

“Not only do some of these techniques have the potential to bring relief and reduce dependency on medication, they also may help motivate reluctant veterans toward traditional approaches and lead those already in treatment to be more engaged and compliant.”

Other complementary and alternative medicine techniques used to help PTSD-sufferers include:

  • Acupuncture
  • Reiki
  • Tai chi
  • Biofeedback
  • Hypnosis
  • Guided imagery
  • Relaxation therapy

This Veterans Day — November 11, 2016 — the clinic at the Acupuncture and Massage College will be offering free massage and acupuncture treatment to military veterans. Call (305) 595-9500 to schedule an appointment.



How to Learn the Acupuncture Points Chart

Posted by & filed under Acupuncture, Alternative Medicine.

acupuncture points chartThe acupuncture points chart is a complex map of the human body used by practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine in diagnosing and treating patients. Originally highlighting 365 points — a figure that corresponds to the number of days in a year — acupuncture professionals have since identified many more points and channels between them. Applying a firm pressure to manipulate these points helps stimulate the body’s natural healing abilities to facilitate the flow of qi — or life force energy — throughout the body in order to achieve a healthy and harmonious balance. The condition of the patient and their specific ailments will determine which points the practitioner will focus on during a treatment session.

Schedule an appointment

If you want to learn more about the acupuncture points and have never been treated by a practitioner of Oriental medicine, schedule an appointment for acupressure or acupuncture. Talk to your practitioner about any health issues you have and ask which points will be targeted during treatment to correct imbalances you may be experiencing. Find out how the points connect to the affected organs and system in your body. Obviously, what you learn in a single treatment, or even a handful of treatments, will only be a snapshot of the acupuncture points chart, but it will help you begin to understand both some specific points on the chart along with how treatment works.

Read and do research

Plenty of resources exist online, in bookstores and at the library to introduce you to the acupuncture points chart. Avail yourself of available resources to familiarize yourself with the chart and identify the points used for treating common ailments. Here are six points that are frequently used by practitioners and some common ailments they treat:

1. Gallbladder 20 (GB20): Feng Chi

Headaches, eye bluriness, cold/flu symptoms

2. Large Intestine 4 (L14): He Gu

Stress, toothaches, facial and neck pain

3. Liver 3 (LV3): Tai Chong

Stress, low back pain, high blood pressure, insomnia

4. Pericardium 6 (P6): Nei Guan

Nausea, anxiety, carpal tunnel syndrome

5. Spleen 6 (SP6): San Yin Jiao

Urological and pelvic disorders, fatigue, insomnia

6. Stomach 36 (ST36): Zu San Li

Depression, knee pain, gastrointestinal issues

The above is, of course, only a small sampling of points found on the human body and the health problems they can help alleviate.

Go to school for acupuncture

The best and most thorough way to learn the acupuncture points chart is by entering an accredited program at an institution of higher learning that teaches traditional Chinese medicine. There you’ll be immersed in classes that include human anatomy, physiology and acupuncture taught by experts in the field. Your training will not only give you a deep understanding of the chart, but how to identify the points on the human body and how they work in the treatment of a broad range of health issues.

For information about AMC’s Oriental Medicine and Massage Therapy programs you can email our admissions department.  Download our free ebook to learn more about what to expect from a career in the exciting and growing field of alternative medicine.


An Introduction to Balancing Chakras

Posted by & filed under Alternative Medicine, Meditation & Yoga.

balancing-chakrasThe chakras are the seven life-force energy centers of the body which receive, transmit and assimilate energy, often called qi (chi) or prana. The word chakra is derived from the Sanskrit word meaning “wheel of light.”

The earliest known written record of chakras is found in the Hindu scriptures called the later Vedic Upanishads, circa the 6th century B.C. The concept of chakras plays a key role in Ayurvedic medicine and yoga, two ancient Indian healing systems popular in contemporary healing methods.

The seven principle chakras

Although the body contains thousands of minor chakras, practitioners are usually concerned with balancing the seven principle chakras. They are:

  • Root
  • Spleen
  • Solar plexus
  • Heart
  • Throat
  • Third eye
  • Crown

These main chakras are aligned vertically from the base of the spine to the top of the head when the body is in Lotus position. Located in the ethereal realm, chakras embody spiritual energy on the physical plane.

Features of the chakras

Each chakra has associations with specific colors, functions, aspects of consciousness, organs of the body, ailments, elements and more. As loci of life energy, the chakras are connected to each other along energy pathways known as nadis, which correlate to the traditional Chinese medicine paradigm of meridians, or energy channels. As the nadis extend to the aura boundary, the chakras function as aura gates. Chakras also receive and transmit energies to and from nature, individuals, the universe and celestial beings.

The seven chakras, when viewed collectively, reflect unified consciousness, or soul. When viewed individually, they reflect different aspects of consciousness, including body, instinct, vital energy, emotions, communication and connection to the divine.

How chakras affect health

When a person experiences ill health, it is often due to an imbalance or energy blockage in the associated chakra. When an energy blockage occurs, life force energy  — or qi —cannot flow freely and may affect the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health of the patient. Chakra imbalances may be caused by stress, poor nutrition, lack of exercise, cultural conditioning, physical and emotional injuries, or a disconnection from a higher truth, among others. Such imbalances express and manifest in all life aspects.

As prana energy flows through the top of the head and down to the chakras, each chakra nurtures a distinct form of energy related to specific aspects of physical and spiritual development. Energy in turn flows upwards through the chakras, resulting in universal interconnectedness. Chakra imbalances, or stagnated energy associated with a specific chakra, affect the energy flow along the nadis.

Balancing the chakras

Many techniques exist to balance chakras. They include:

  • Guided visualization
  • crystals and gemstones
  • Yoga
  • Reiki
  • Positive thinking
  • Martial arts and other physical exercises
  • Color therapy
  • Meditation
  • Affirmations
  • Aromatherapy
  • Light
  • Sound
  • Touch therapies
  • Sacred geometry
  • Breathing techniques

Even healthy patients need chakra balancing on a regular basis to optimize energy flow. Balancing the chakras promotes well being and health and ensures that mind, body and spirit function optimally.

For information about AMC’s Oriental Medicine and Massage Therapy programs you can email our admissions department.

Four Steps to Changing Career Paths

The Chinese Four Pillars of Diagnosis Used in Acupuncture

Posted by & filed under Acupuncture, Alternative Medicine.

chinese-four-pillarsChinese medicine has a different approach to diagnosing patients than you will typically find in a Western medical health care setting. Looking, listening, touching, asking — these important components make up the Chinese four pillars of diagnosis used in acupuncture. The four pillars are also referred to as the four examinations. Each pillar provides information that adds up to a holistic view of the patient and any health issues that can be alleviated through acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine. Read on to learn more about the each pillar.


A lot can be gleaned from a patient during an examination through observation. As part of a diagnosis, the practitioner will likely note the color and luster of the face and skin throughout the body. Different features of the body, including the eyes and ears, also convey information about underlying imbalances. The acupuncturist will also likely examine the tongue, which may indicate the state of a patient’s health by characteristics like its shape, texture and coating or moisture level. Other aspects of a patient that might be observed include their movements and their mannerisms.


The sound of someone’s voice provides a window into their health. Practitioners generally classify the voice into these five types:

  • Shout
  • Laugh
  • Sing
  • Weep
  • Groan

Each type connects to different organs and provides information about which systems of the body may have ailments.


This pillar is commonly called palpation. During this part of the examination, the practitioner feels various pulse points, including along the radial artery, to ascertain the state of the pulse — be it choppy, rapid, strong or possessing any number of other characteristics. These classifications offer deep insight into both the physical and mental state of the patient. The practitioner may also palpate the abdomen or specific acupuncture points to glean additional diagnostic information.

During the touching or palpation portion of the exam, the acupuncturist is looking for areas that are:

  • Tender or painful
  • Hot or cold
  • Swollen
  • Sweaty
  • Discolored


The final pillar involves a process of inquiries starting with the specific or main complaint, if any, and then branching out from there. A traditional Chinese medical diagnosis may involve ten questions, which range in subject from the patient’s sleeping habits to their appetite to the characteristics of the pain they have. Additional related questions may follow these main areas of inquiry.

A practitioner may also include smelling and tasting as part of the diagnostic process by inquiring about any body odors or tastes experienced by the patient. Smelling and tasting are less used by practitioners today than they were in the past.

All of the external symptoms communicate the condition of a patient’s interior organs and systems. The information gathered during an exam using the four pillars of diagnosis allows the practitioner to understand the patient as an individual and come up with a treatment plan that addresses and imbalances they have with their qi — or life force energy.

To learn more about pursuing a degree in acupuncture and Oriental medicine or massage therapy, download our free guide that breaks down how to change careers into four easy steps.

Four Steps to Changing Career Paths