Monthly Archives: July 2013

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Breast lumps or cysts are the most common reason for women to seek medical consultation in the United States. Like every other part of our bodies, our breasts are subject to various types of problems. Breast lumps can occur in women of any age, but are more common in middle age. Although the majority of breast lumps are benign or non-cancerous, women still experience the discomfort of tenderness, pressure or distention within the breast. Conventional medicine provides women with a variety of treatments for breast lumps. Traditional Chinese medicine, which has accumulated abundant experience and knowledge in treating and preventing breast lumps over its long history, is another option for achieving and maintaining healthy breast tissue.

Understanding Breast Lumps
Breast lumps fall into two categories: benign lumps or cysts, and malignant tumors. Breast lumps are frequently, but not always, associated with the conditions of premenstrual breast distention, infertility, irregular periods, and menopausal syndrome.

Breast Cysts are fluid-filled sacs that may develop in the breast. Breast cysts may cause breast pain. The most common conventional medical interventions are to withdraw fluid from the cyst with a needle, or to surgically remove the cyst if necessary.

Fibrocystic Breasts normally contain small, nodular lumps and cysts. Most of these lumps and cysts are located in the upper, outer area of the breasts. Although most women with fibrocystic breasts do not have an increased risk of developing breast cancer, women who have fibrocystic breasts are more likely to develop breast cysts.

Fibrous Breast Lumps are small, solid, non-cancerous lumps that are composed of fibrous and glandular tissue. Fibrous breast lumps usually appear in young women. these lumps can be removed surgically, but they often recur.

Breast Cancer is a malignant, hard, stony lump or mass in the breast. Breast cancer may start from the milk glands, milk ducts, fatty tissue, or connective tissue. Statistics indicate that one out of eight women will develop breast cancer at some time in her life. Conventional treatments include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and hormone-blocking drugs.

In traditional Chinese medical theory, benign breast lumps or cysts are classified as Ru Pi (breast nodule), while malignant breast tumors are classified as Ru Yan (breast stone). Even the earliest Chinese medical literature had records for diagnosing and differentiating the patterns of both Ru Pi (breast nodule) and Ru Yan (breast stone). In the following section, we will focus exclusively on non-cancerous breast lumps.

Breast Lumps and the Liver Connection
Jane is an artist and free-lance writer. Whenever she has an argument with her husband about his ongoing affair with his former girlfriend, swelling lumps appear in her breasts, and she experiences distention and tenderness in her breasts. Jane visits my clinic regularly for help with her emotional and physical complaints. Breast lumps are extremely susceptible to emotional disturbance.

Chinese medicine believes that the diagnostic pattern called “Liver Qi Stagnation” is the mechanism primarily responsible for the development of breast problems, including breast lumps. In traditional Chinese medicine, the two main functions of the Liver are to store the Blood and to regulate Qi. The Liver regulates Qi by promoting its free flow, and encouraging smoothness of flow. When the Liver is dysfunctional, Qi does not flow freely and smoothly, and Liver Qi Stagnation is one result. Chinese medicine considers emotions to have a very powerful effect on the functioning of the internal organs, and strong or unresolved emotions can damage the organs with which they are associated. Although anger is the primary emotion associated with the Liver, the Liver is responsible for keeping all the emotions in a state of smooth flow. Therefore, when there is emotional stress or psychic trauma, and the Liver is overwhelmed, several types of Liver dysfunction can result, among which is Liver Qi Stagnation. Among the possible Liver disorders, Liver Qi Stagnation stands out sharply as the main cause of breast lumps. One reason for this is that the Liver meridian (energy pathway) is connected by internal pathways to the breasts. Liver Qi Stagnation based in emotional stress is especially common among women, and traditional Chinese gynecology places a lot of emphasis on keeping the Liver on an even keel. Regulating the Liver, soothing the Liver, cleansing the Liver, calming the Liver, and softening the Liver through Chinese herbal medicine, acupuncture and dietary therapy are common treatment strategies in the practice of traditional Chinese medicine gynecology.

Patterns of Breast Lumps and Leading Herbs for Treatment
The following four patterns are differentiated for non-cancerous breast lumps.

  • Qi Stagnation. Emotional problems are the main cause of this pattern of breast lumps. Symptoms of this pattern include: growing lumps with dull pain; enlarging or shrinking lumps with emotional disturbance; depression; a feeling of distention under the rib cage; a thin white tongue coating; and a wiry or thin-choppy pulse. The leading Chinese herbs for treating this pattern include immature tangerine peel (Qing Pi), buplerum (Chai Hu), nut-grass rhizome (Xiang Fu), melia fruit (Chuan Lian Zi), and vaccaria seed (Wan Bu Liu Xing).
  • Phlegm Accumulation. The excessive consumption of dairy products, fats and sweets leads to this pattern of breast lumps. Symptoms of this pattern include: variably-sized lumps with no pain or slight pain; dizziness with a feeling of heaviness; no appetite; thick or puffy tongue body; and a deep, wiry and slippery pulse. The leading Chinese herbs for resolving Phlegm include atractylodes (Bai Zhu), poria (Fu Ling), and Job’s tears (Yi Yi Ren).
  • Excessive Heat. The habitual consumption of greasy, hot, spicy foods, deep fried foods and alcohol, or long-standing anxiety or anger lead directly to the Excessive Heat pattern of breast lumps. Symptoms of this pattern include: lumps with burning pain; irregular periods; hot flashes; anxiety; dizziness; disturbing dreams; red tongue tip; and a deep-thin-wiry-rapid pulse. The leading Chinese herbs for eliminating the Excessive Heat pattern include peony bark (Mu Dan Pi), gardenia (Zhi Zi), gentiana (Long Dan Cao), coptis (Huang Lian), and skullcap (Huang Qin).
  • Chronic Disharmony. Chronic illness, or slow recovery from surgery or childbirth are the sources of the Chronic Disharmony pattern of breast lumps. Symptoms of this pattern include: growing and disappearing lumps with menstrual cycles; breast distention; irregular periods; lassitude; dark eyelids; insomnia; back pain; pale-red tongue; and “soggy” pulse. The leading Chinese herbs for balancing the Chronic Disharmony pattern include astragalus (Huang Qi), rehemannia (Di Huang), angelica (Dang Gui), and Fu Ti (He Shou Wu).

Top Herbal Formulas for Breast Lumps

Mood Smooth (Jia Wei Xiao Yao San) is a classical formula which functions to harmonize the Liver and the Spleen. It has been in use for a thousand years. It is one of the favorite herbal formulas among women in China and other Asian countries. It is used to relieve breast lumps, and is also widely used to soothe mood fluctuations, relieve depression, and treat the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome. Like many other traditional Chinese herbal formulas, this formula also reflects the underlying philosophy of treating the whole body instead of concentrating on one part while ignoring or hurting another part.

Mood Smooth (Jia Wei Xiao Yao San)
Bupleurum (Chai Hu)
Mint (Bo He)
Angelica (Dang Gui)
Peony (Bai Shao)
Atractylodes (Bai Zhu)
Poria (Fu Ling)
Licorice (Gan Cao)
Ginger (Sheng Jiang)
Peony Bark (Mu Dan Pi)
Gardenia (Zhi Zi)

LumpEASE is a formula which was developed recently by Dongzhimen Hospital (affiliated with Beijing University of Traditional Chinese Medicine), and has already won wide acceptance and acclaim from women in China who suffer from breast disorders. Literally translated as “Breast Lumps Disappearance,” this formula is widely used and sold in every hospital and pharmacy in China.

LumpEASE (Ru Kuan Xiao) Salvia Root (Dan Shen)
Citrus Seed (Ju He)
Vaccaria Seed (Wan Bu Liu Xing)
Eupolyphaga (Tu Bie Chong)
Melia Fruit (Chuan Lian Zi)
Honeylocust Spine (Zao Jiao Ci)

By Wei Liu, TCMD, MPH, LAC and Changzhen Gong, PhD, MS - The American Academy of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (AAAOM)




…. but that is not reason enough to kill yourself


Over the last 50-75 years, the incidence of asthma in industrialized countries has steadily increased, especially among children, to alarming proportions. Scientists around the world are studying this “epidemic,” as well as researching the long-term effects of taking anti-asthma drugs such as bronchodilators. In China, research on the efficacy of acupuncture and herbal medicine in the treatment of asthma shows that traditional Chinese medicine compares favorably with standard Western treatment, and provides an alternative approach for those who want to strengthen their bodies natural defenses and avoid the long-term use of drugs.

Asthma is an immune-system-related respiratory disorder in which the breathing passages become narrow or blocked, and are typically inflamed. Asthma can be “extrinsic” or “intrinsic.” Extrinsic asthma is caused by an allergic reaction to a foreign substance (called an allergen) such as pollen, animal dander, animal fur, dust, mold, food additives, or feather pillows, and it is strongly seasonal. Intrinsic asthma is a non-seasonal, non-allergic type of asthma. Trigger factors for intrinsic asthma attacks include air pollutants, tobacco smoke, strong odors, cold weather, physical exertion, emotional stress, or temperature or humidity changes. Often, an episode of intrinsic asthma will follow a severe respiratory infection.

Asthma in Chinese Medicine
In traditional Chinese medicine theory, asthma is clearly differentiated between the actual attacks and the periods between attacks. When the attacks are happening, this is considered to be an acute, Excess condition, and the objective is to disperse the Excess and stop the attack. Wind, a non-substantial pathogenic factor, lodges in the bronchi and combines with Cold or Heat pathogenic factors to cause bronchospasms.

Between attacks, the body is considered to be in a Deficiency condition. The Lungs and Kidneys work together to produce “wei qi,” or Defensive Chi. Defensive Chi can be thought of as analogous to the immune system. It is a Yang energy that is manufactured from the food we eat. The Kidneys are the root of our ability to produce Defensive Chi, and the Lungs spread Defensive Chi near the outer surface of our bodies to ward off pathogenic factors like Wind, Cold, and Heat. When the Lungs or Kidneys (or both) are weak, there is often a deficiency of Defensive Chi, making us more vulnerable to colds, infections, asthma attacks, etc. It is thought that a person’s Defensive Chi can be weak due to a hereditary constitutional weakness (up to 75% of children with asthma have a family history of the disorder); but mothers who smoke during pregnancy and childhood immunizations are also cited as contributing factors in asthma.

Acupuncture can have a remarkable effect in stopping an acute asthma attack. Many patients experience immediate relief after an acupuncture treatment, feeling that the airway blockage was simply removed. Because bronchospasms result from over-stimulation of the parasympathetic nervous system, some traditional acupuncture points for “calming the spirit” are widely used for asthma. Stimulation of these points can relieve both physical and emotional stress, possibly because they trigger the release of neurotransmitters in the brain. The patient can therefore experience both a physical release from his bronchial constriction, and also an emotional or psychological release from the fear of constriction and suffocation.

In Chinese philosophy, and in Chinese medicine, man is seen as an integral part of nature. The fact that allergen-induced asthma attacks are strongly seasonal, with the most devastating attacks occurring in winter and spring, leads Chinese medicine practitioners to coordinate their treatment of asthma sufferers with the seasons. In the winter and spring, during attacks, the emphasis is on dispersing the pathogenic factors of Wind, Cold, and Heat. In the summer, attention is turned to tonifying the Deficiency condition of the Lungs and Kidneys, and stimulating the body to increase its reserves of Defensive Chi. Because summer is the most Yang time of the year, the energy of the season is used to build up the body’s supply of Yang energy.

Science Says
Scientific studies in China and elsewhere show that the ancient Chinese medicine theories have a basis in scientific fact. The whole scope of traditional Chinese medicine is an elaborate and elegant construct which can’t be scientifically proven in its entirety, but modern research reveals a number of mechanisms that support the ancient healing arts:

Neuro-regulation of Air Passages. Researchers at Nanjing University of Traditional Chinese Medicine found that relieving asthma attacks by acupuncture is closely related to neuro-regulation of air passages. They further found that sympathetic nerve excitement and diastolization of the smooth muscle of the bronchial tubes can be achieved by stimulating acupuncture points on the back. The systaltic function of the smooth muscles of the airways is regulated through the neuroendocrine center of the hypothalamus, and this function can be measurably affected by needling certain back shu points.

Serum cAMP and cAMP/cGMP. Levels of certain substances in the blood called cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) and cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP) seem to have a bearing on asthma patients. Asthma patients experiencing wheezing and breathlessness have lower serum levels of cAMP and cAMP/cGMP. Many clinical studies conducted in China found that acupuncture can increase the levels of serum cAMP and cAMP/cGMP.

RBC-CR1R. Red blood cells have the function of transporting oxygen to body tissues, and also aid in immunoabsorption. In traditional Chinese medicine, the Kidneys have the function of generating and controlling bone growth, storing our genetic essence, generating bone marrow, and aiding in the production of blood. Kidney Deficiency in traditional Chinese medicine and low red blood cell counts in conventional medicine are related. Research in Hangzhou Red Cross Hospital shows that the immunological index of red blood cells (RBC-CR1R) was markedly increased after optimum-timing acupuncture treatment for Kidney Deficiency, compared with the control group.

Acidocyte Regulation. An acidocyte is a type of white blood cell. An increase in acidocyte levels indicates allergic reaction in an organism. A clinical study at the Affiliated Yueyang Hospital of Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine shows that acupuncture at UB13 (Fei Shu), LU5 (Chi Ze), LU7 (Lie Que), ST40 (Feng Long), Ren 22 (Tian Tu), and extra point Ding Chuan can decrease acidocyte levels.

17-Hydroxy Corticosteroid in Urine. Traditional Chinese medicine believes that there exists a correlation between asthma and the pattern of Kidney Deficiency. Clinical observations reveal that asthma patients tend to have lower levels of the hormone 17-hydroxy corticosteroid in their urine, which is closely related to Kidney Deficiency in Chinese medicine. Many clinical studies show that acupuncture can increase the level of 17-hydroxy corticosteroid in urine.

Regulate Hypophalmus-pituitary-adrenocortical function. It is believed that asthma attacks are correlated with a lower hypophalmus-pituitary-adrenocortical function. Clinical research found that tonifying the Kidneys with acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can improve that function and relieve asthma attacks.

More Support
In a randomized, controlled clinical trial in the department of the Osler Chest Unit, Churchill Hospital, Oxford, England, twelve matched pairs of patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease received either traditional acupuncture or placebo acupuncture over a three-week treatment period. After treatment, the traditional acupuncture group showed a significant improvement in terms of subjective scores of breathlessness and six-minute walking distance. Kim Jobst at Oxford University conducted a parallel study of the efficacy of acupuncture on asthma. This study also showed improvements by two measures: “quality of life” scores, and breathlessness measurements.

These clinical trials at Oxford indicate that acupuncture treatments achieved the following goals: reduced the spasmodic tendency in the bronchi; kept the lungs from contracting at the least little irritant in the air; opened narrowed blood vessels in the lungs; and promoted relaxation and the ability to breathe more fully.

By Wei Liu, TCMD, MPH, LAC and Changzhen Gong, PhD, MS - The American Academy of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (AAAOM)