Archive for April 2013

Modern TCM in 24 Hours

In this week’s 24 Hour newspaper, I wrote about Traditional Chinese Medicine’s powerful and complex, but low-tech, diagnostic systems and treatments are important in our modern world. Check it out here: Ancient traditional Chinese medicine approach has relevance in modern times. (or click here for the PDF version)



Health Product Review

I recently attended the CHFA show, a trade show for those in the health industry. I always like seeing what’s new and learning about healthy supplements and foods. And I love testing things out myself. The day I got home, I took pictures of what I was most looking forward to trying. I haven’t tried it all yet, but here’s my review, so far.

Fermented Milk Thistle

I’ve used Botanica’s other fermented herbal products before, so I was looking forward to trying this. Milk thistle helps support a healthy liver and the fermentation helps make the herb more easily digested. I often say that I’m not a good judge of what other people might find tastes good, or even okay. That’s because I have taken Chinese herbs on and off for over 16 years. But this is a great way to help cleanse the liver, so I think it’s worth holding your breath if the taste doesn’t work for you.


Oregapet Dog Treats

Oregano oil helps kill bacteria, parasites, and other pathogens and since one of my dogs just had 17 of her teeth removed, chew treats that can help prevent the loss of more teeth is something I’m happy to give them. And, well, they seemed to like them. Simple as that. I haven’t tried it, but I am also interested in their Bed & Body spray. It’s meant to prevent and kill ticks, fleas, parasites, and bacteria on animals and the materials they come into contact with. It looks like a great alternative to the chemically unhealthy Febreeze.


Itoen Green Tea

Reminds me of my time spent in Japan, so I love this cold green tea. To avoid the plastic bottles, I’ll make my own from loose leaf tea. But, if I’m out and looking for a drink on the go, I’d rather skip the pop or juice and choose this option instead. Green tea, as you’ve probably heard, is a healthy beverage. It’s high in antioxidants, boosts metabolism, fights cancer, and supports a healthy heart.


Arayuma Cinnamon

Did you know that most of the cinnamon you buy is not actually cinnamon? What you may actually be eating is cassia, or Chinese cinnamon. True cinnamon, Cinnamomum verum (“true cinnamon”), is medicinal, helping to balance blood sugar, kill bacteria, support healthy blood vessels, and aid digestion. This cinnamon really does taste better. Not only that, but it’s also Fair Trade Certified, organic, and gluten-free. I use cinnamon a lot, so I think I’ll need to get this one by the dozen.


Kokuho Rose Rice

I’m half Japanese, so I grew up with rice as a staple of my diet. Though most of the rice of my childhood was white rice, I now choose brown or other more whole rice options for their health benefits. At the health show, my mom and I recognized this rice label immediately, as Kokuho Rose is the brand she used most. I didn’t know that what I might be buying in the store may be different from this one. We chatted with one of the granddaughters of the founder of this rice company. Just as grapes vary depending on the soil and their growing conditions, so too does rice. The northern grown rice yields faster growing strains, but may not taste as good as this particular one, grown in the south. After trying it, I have to say, I agree. Maybe I’m turning into a food snob. I don’t know anything about wine, but am “particular” (i.e. picky) about dark chocolate, tea (especially green), and maybe now also rice. 🙂


Goji & Milk Thistle Nut Butter

I love nut butters, especially almond, cashew, and hazelnut. This one caught my eye because the addition of the herbs sounded intriguing. Now, I’m not sure if the quantity of the herbs in here would be significant enough to have therapeutic health benefits–I doubt it–but healthy foods eaten regularly accumulate their benefits, so I think it’s worth it. These are the ingredients: raw organic cashew butter, raw organic almond oil, raw organic goji berry powder, raw organic agave, raw organic milk thistle, raw organic vanilla powder. This is a superyum superfood. There are other flavours as well–marine phytoplankton, blue-green algae (looks disgusting as it’s a dark green, but it tasted good), berry antioxidant, and acai berry. There are 2 downsides. One is that I’m not sure if you can find it on the shelves yet, as I was told it’s new to Canada. And second is that it only comes in single-serve packets. I wouldn’t buy it unless it came in jars.


One Degree Products

I only got the business card for this, but what I found most unique is that every product they sell (bread, flour, seeds) has a QR code on it that will lead you to their website with specific information about where each ingredient is sourced. You “meet” the farmer online. Can’t comment on the taste, but a very interesting idea in this world of mass production.


Tea Tibet

This is a 100% (!) non-profit tea company. All profit goes to benefit charities in Tibet. The management of this was spearheaded by the co-founder of Stash tea and Tazo tea. Beautiful packaging with lovely quotes on the back of the teabags. Wonderful causes.


Your experience?

Have you tried any of these products and have comments on them?



2000 Plus Years in 24 Hours

Local newspaper 24 Hours contacted me to ask if I would be interested in writing a short series of articles about alternative/integrative medicine. “Of course!” was my answer. A chance to write about Traditional Chinese Medicine and its role in modern healthcare? Jump!

So, here is a link to part one: Ancient Medicines Find Favour with Canadians (click here for the PDF version)



Tough Mudder: Running Sucks

I see a lot of runners at my clinic. It could be because runners are generally a health-conscious group, open to alternative forms of treatment like acupuncture and biopuncture and Chinese herbals. It could also be because running causes a lot of injuries. I think it’s a combo of both reasons.

I’m not a runner. But I need to be for June 22nd. That’s when I do the Tough Mudder. Or, at least, that’s when I hope to do the Tough Mudder. I’ve signed up for it, paid the fee, and started training. But I do wonder if I’ll make it.

Running is hard on the body. Or at least it’s hard on my body. Some people seem built to run. I recall my “Gait Analysis” course from my university days. I remember checking out the feet of my friend, a triathlete. I looked at his running shoes. My analysis was that he was an injury waiting to happen. But it didn’t happen. He was—and is—one of those people who loved/s to run. His body had somehow figured out how to make running work. My body simply does not understand the purpose of running beyond catching a bus or rushing to an appointment.

You see, my knees don’t have enough cartilage under the kneecap to protect them from the friction that happens during repetitive and pounding activities like running. But, then I see how a runner with the wrong feet can be a great runner. I’ve also seen a YouTube videos of a two-legged dog running without any extra support. And I see the patients at my clinic who regularly move past their own pain, suffering, and challenges. So, there is a way.

I am trying to start slowly. I run only on soft surfaces—chip trail, grass, and mud. I keep track of my distances, increasing them gradually. I’m now at 7 km, having started at 4 km. I walk when I need to walk. I listen to my knees. To a point. My knees talk pretty frequently when I run, but I’m learning when their chatter is nothing and when it’s telling me to stop. Last week I erred in my communication with my knees. I pushed an extra km and paid for it. I could barely walk a couple of blocks that afternoon. My knees were M…A…D…mad… at me. But some TLC afterward and I think we are resuming our happy relationship with each other again.

Are you a runner? If yes, what do you like about it?



Tough Mudder: Why?!

I recently—and crazily—decided to sign up for the Tough Mudder endurance race that describes itself as “Probably the Toughest Event on the Planet.” Gulp!

I’m not a runner. I’ve never been a runner. Even as a kid I didn’t like soccer, basketball, or track. I figure skated, danced, dove, swam, did gymnastics, and played volleyball. I had good reason not to like running. Running hurts my knees. Yet, here I am, signed up for an event that includes 10-12 miles—yup, miles (16-19 km)—of running.

I know that this is interspersed with obstacles (mildly put) and is not a straight running course. Where most people I know are worried about the “arctic enema,” “electric eel,” “boa constrictor,” “fire walker,” and “walk the plank” obstacles, I’m most worried about the running. This distance is close to that of a half marathon (21 km) and I’ve never done a 10K or even a 5K.

So, why am I doing this? Well, I like a challenge. Tough Mudder proclaims that this is more than an event, saying, “it’s a way of thinking.” Pushing through obstacles and challenges all the while having fun and sharing the experience with a group of people all there to support each other sounds like a lot more fun to me than racing a bunch of strangers.

Plus, I turn the 40 this year. I remember the big birthday party my mom threw for my dad’s 40th. I remember the “over the hill” jokes and how I thought of 40 as old. Of course, “old” is a very relevant term and we now hear that 40 is the new 30. Did I hear that or did I say that? Hmmm…I forget. Uh oh, forgetfulness.

But seriously, I do believe that new experiences and opportunities to learn are a great way to stay feeling vibrant. I may never do this again, but while I still don’t enjoy running and I may not like the potential for the 10,000 volt zaps, I know that I will enjoy the camaraderie and the chance to celebrate making it through each obstacle. Even if it ends with a couple of ice packs and lots of Tie Ta Wan (one of many Chinese herbal formulas for injury).

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced that has brought you a sense of accomplishment?



Ancient Medicine Made Modern

My medicine is 3000 or more years old. I see that as a huge plus! After all, billions–yes, billions–of people have used this medicine, all the while learning from it and refining it.

Despite it’s age, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is showing no signs of slowing down, at least not in North America, where it continues to grow its following. One of the reasons for the longevity of this medicine is that it is not reliant on the labelling of diseases.

Conventional medicine often requires a disease label with a specific positive lab test result before it can prescribe a pill to try to reverse the symptoms. This means that “new” diseases are often hard to treat as they have no label. Have you ever been stuck with no solutions or treatments when all tests came back “normal?”

TCM looks for observable signs and patterns of symptoms for its diagnosis. This is why “new” diseases can still be addressed by TCM without an official label. So, while we may now encounter fewer cases of “ancient” diseases such as polio, we can still treat relatively modern patterns of illness such as adrenal fatigue and type II diabetes.

Modern day medicine puts scientific evidence as most important to demonstrate a treatment’s effectiveness. I agree, scientific proof is very important. Traditional Chinese Medicine has thousands of years of observational study to support its use. There is also a relative plethora of modern research about the therapies of TCM–herbs and acupuncture, in particular–and you can access that by searching it out on Google Scholar or checking out PubMed.

Modern TCM also recognizes the benefits of other modern day therapies. Testing methods, like xrays, MRIs, CT scans, electrocardiograms, blood tests, ultrasound, allergy testing, and so forth are not to be discounted. They can be hugely beneficial to our understanding of the human body and give diagnostic guidance. Modern treatments, such as antibiotics, surgeries, and medications, have also saved lives. If someone were to fall off a ladder and bleed from a deep cut on her head, I would recommend going to a hospital to get stitches, be tested for a concussion, and receive proper acute care. After being bandaged up and sent home, I would recommend receiving acupuncture and herbs to help speed the healing of the body and reduce the negative impacts of the concussion.

Modern TCM is found in hospitals, care homes, corporate wellness programs, and integrative medicine clinics–like the one that I’m a part of.

Traditional Chinese Medicine, like all lasting therapies and medicines, must continue to evolve in order to stay relevant to our current lives, all the while maintaining its core of being holistic, treating the whole person and not just the disease. With that as its foundation, I expect that TCM will continue to be a modern ancient medicine for many more years to come.

%d bloggers like this: