Ear Candling


Origins of ear candling
What can it help with
What are ear candles
What happens during treatment
Conditions that may need approval from your doctor
Side effects
After-care advice
Frequency of ear candling

Origins of ear candling

Rock painting in the Hopi Tower, North Rim, Grand Canyon, USA
Rock painting in the Hopi Tower, Grand Canyon, USA

Pictorial records show the use of ear candles in cultures across the globe, the most famous being a rock painting in the Hopi Tower.

Ear candling was practised by ancient cultures such as the Aztecs, Greeks, Romans and Aborigines. The ancient Egyptians reputedly used reeds from the Nile coated with wax. It is generally accepted that ear candling was used for cleansing the ear canal and for spiritual purification. Ear candling was also practised in Italy, Spain, Hungary, Romania and Asia, using materials such as rolled tobacco leaves, corn husks, hollow reeds and waxed cloth or paper.

What can it help with

Many claims are made regarding the benefits of ear candling such as loosening of compacted ear wax, reduced signs and symptoms of tinnitus, headaches, migraines, sinus problems, snoring, bell’s palsy, hay fever, labyrinthitis, Ménière’s disease, dizziness, stress related insomnia and anxiety, to name but a few.

In my opinion the benefit of ear candling comes from its ability to de-stress combined with the stimulation and warming of local acupuncture points. This stimulation and warming, particularly when combined with acupressure massage, can stimulates the body’s healing processes potentially offering benefits from many health related problems.

What are ear candles

Ear candles by BIOSUN®
Ear candles by BIOSUN®

The term ‘candle’ is a little misleading as unlike everyday candles they are hollow, have no wick and are usually made from cotton, flax or hemp fibres. Good ear candles are made from unbleached organic crops and the fibres are stiffened by dipping into pure beeswax. Some candles incorporate herbs, essential oils and other ingredients.

What happens during treatment

Ear candling is most effective when combined with a face, neck, scalp and ear massage. The massage I offer incorporates acupressure to enhance the therapeutic effect in a similar way to acupuncture but without the needles. Massage is recommended but optional.

The session is in a warm treatment room with soft background music, you remain fully clothed. For the ear candling you will be asked to lie on the couch on your side (first one side then the other), for the massage you will lie face up.

Prior to treatment I will consider any contraindications and ask you to sign a consent form. Total treatment time with massage is about 50 minutes, without massage about 35 minutes.


The candles I use incorporate a filter, this protects the ear canal from the loose debris and wax produced by the burning candle.

If any of the following apply then ear candling may not be advisable, you should discuss your needs with Austin  before booking; it is likely that a suitable therapeutic alternative can be offered.

Acute infectious diseases – Such as flu, mumps, measles, tuberculosis and chicken pox are highly contagious.

Alcohol or drugs intoxication – May cause dizziness, nausea and inappropriate and dangerous behaviour.

Artificial ear drums – Residue could potentially damage an artificial eardrum.

Bruising, open cuts, abrasions or sunburn – These areas will be avoided during massage and if the outer ear is involved may negate ear candling.

Cochlear implants – May cause damage and feel uncomfortable. However, an external hearing aid that can be removed prior to treatment should be fine.

Ear grommets or tubes – Once the grommets or tubes have been removed you should wait 6 months.

Eczema or dermatitis – If in the outer ear may feel uncomfortable and cause irritation.

High temperature or heavy cold – Uncomfortable, potential dangerous and a risk of infecting others.
Outer ear infections May aggravate and spread the infection.

Perforated ear drum – Residue could be deposited in the middle ear.

Skin or scalp infections – Such as impetigo, scabies, conjunctivitis, folliculitis, and pediculosis capitis (lice) and tinea capitis (ringworm) carry a real risk of passing on the infection.

Conditions that may require approval from your doctor before ear candling

Serious medical conditions – Such as cancer, diabetes, thrombosis and heart conditions.

Disorders of the nervous system – Such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, cerebral palsy and trigeminal neuralgia.

Epilepsy – Depending on your particular circumstances you need to be sure that the procedures and ingredients of ear candling will not trigger an episode.

Recent head or neck injury – Blows to the head, concussion or whiplash can dislocate the middle ear bones. If you are experiencing new ear problems you should consult your doctor.

Undiagnosed lumps, bumps and swellings – Any undiagnosed lumps, bumps or swellings should be seen by investigated by your doctor; these areas will be avoided during massage.


Allergies  – You may be allergic to an ingredient used in the manufacture of the candles although these are present in such small amounts that it is rarely a problem

Low blood pressure – You may experience dizziness when sitting or standing up after treatment.

Oil used in the ear canal – The oil in your ear may get hot and vapours could stick to the oil causing residue to accumulate. You should wait 48 hours before ear candling.

Pregnancy – When pregnant you may be more sensitive to smells and prefer a candle with no added ingredients. It may be difficult to stay comfortable during treatment.

Reduced hearing – When there is compacted ear wax hearing may be reduced temporarily due to it hydrating and expanding. Hearing should improve after a day or two as ear wax is naturally expelled.

Side effects

Ear candling should be a gentle procedure and the side effects are usually positive rather than negative:

Change in sleep patterns, often improved

Changes in bowel movements (short-term)

Feeling of fullness in the ears (more treatments may be required before wax is expelled naturally)

Feeling of tiredness (short-term)

Feeling relaxed and de-stressed

Headache or light-headedness (drinking water after a treatment usually prevents a headache)

Increased appetite (short-term)

Increased mucus as sinuses are stimulated

Increased thirst (short-term)

Increased urination (short-term)

Release of muscle tension

After-care advice

Sit up slowly, you may be temporarily light-headed or disorientated

Drink some water to promote elimination and help prevent headache

Try to avoid water sports such as swimming for 24 hours

Occasionally your ears may feel more sensitive to the environment, if so avoid winds and draughts, or place a small amount of cotton wool just at the entrance to the ear canal

Never poke at your ears with cotton buds or other instruments as you may damage the eardrum

If you have sinus problems cut your intake of dairy products as these promote mucus

Frequency of ear candling

The effects of ear candling, such as pressure balancing and expulsion of earwax can continue for up 48 hours so a minimum of 2 days should be left between sessions.

Compacted earwax may clear after one session or may take two or more sessions

In general chronic and severe conditions require more treatments

Chronic sinus problems may require a minimum of 3 sessions not more than a week apart. Maintenance treatments once or twice a month may help to minimise your symptoms

Unless symptoms are completely clear you may benefit from further treatments

Fibromyalgia and Traditional Chinese Medicine

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) considers every individual to be unique and therefore any illness they have will be unique to them. This is particularly noticeable in fibromyalgia as patients often have differing signs & symptoms and varying levels of impairment.

I see patients with signs & symptoms of widespread musculoskeletal pain and tenderness, sleep disturbance, anxiety and low mood, etc. that have been diagnosed by their GP or consultant with fibromyalgia. It occurs to me that many of these patients also have signs similar to chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS); in fact I wonder if sometimes fatigue and sleep disturbance are a precursor to fibromyalgia.

TCM considers one cause of fibromyalgia and to some extent CFS to be due to a previous and unresolved invasion of external pathogenic factors; in a Western sense these might be seen as bacterial or viral infections. Particularly problematic are reoccurring infections often over many years that never seem to fully clear and are perhaps treated inappropriately with long courses of antibiotics or steroids. Other important factors that may cause or contribute to fibromyalgia are emotional stress, irregular diet and excessive physical work.

TCM views fibromyalgia as both deficient and excess in nature. Underlying deficiencies such as Blood, Yin and Yang deficiency ultimately lead to excess conditions such as Dampness and Qi & Blood stasis. It is the deficiencies that tend to feed the condition and cause the fatigue, and the excesses that tend to cause the pain.

TCM Treatment of Fibromyalgia

In my clinical experience I have found cupping therapy to be a good treatment for fibromyalgia. Although many patients find physical treatment painful and in some cases even find the touch of their clothes painful, they actually find cupping pleasant and helpful. My observations are supported by a 20111 study that concluded cupping to be beneficial in the treatment of fibromyalgia by reducing pain and the number of tender areas.

Subject to an in depth consultation and TCM pattern diagnosis I usually find a threefold treatment plan offers the best results:

Acupuncture and moxibustion to address the underlying deficiencies and to calm the mind of anxiety and low mood.

Dietary changes based on TCM food energetics to further address deficiencies and resolve Dampness.

Cupping therapy to move stagnation, ease pain and reduce symptoms.

Depending on the patient, their particular issues and their TCM diagnosis treatment is often weekly for some time and then monthly to maintain improvement. Due to the nature of fibromyalgia some patients find that they come for treatment only when they feel they need it.

Cupping Therapy

Fire cupping for fibromyalgiaCupping is an established and ancient treatment skill still very popular around the world today. I favour fire cupping using glass cups. Just before the cup is placed on the skin a flame is held momentarily in the cup to cause a slight vacuum. Once on the skin the cup remains in place due to the vacuum and can be left in one place (static cupping) or slid about (sliding cupping). Cupping has a strong therapeutic effect on the treatment area and the underling tissues and organs.


In 20111 the centre for evidence based Chinese medicine at Beijing University concluded in a study of 30 fibromyalgia patients that cupping therapy was associated with a reduction in symptoms for both pain ratings and number of tender points.

A 20052 clinical trial from the Mayo Clinic concluded that acupuncture lessened fibromyalgia pain, fatigue and anxiety.

The 20033 World Health Organisation (WHO) report on the efficacy of acupuncture concluded that acupuncture has a therapeutic effect on Fibromyalgia.


1Cao H, Hu H, Colagiuri B, Liu J. Medicinal cupping therapy in 30 patients with fibromyalgia: a case series observation. Forsch Komplementmed 2011; 18: 122- 126.

2Martin, D. Mayo Clinic Proceedings, June 2006; vol 81: pp 749-757.

3WHO (2002): Review and Analysis of Reports of Controlled Clinical Trials

Healthy Eating

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kohlrabi vegetableIntroduction

The following is general advice for healthy eating; it is based on empirical evidence gained over thousands of years through the practice of Chinese medicine and my own clinical observations. This advice holds true for many people however in some circumstances you may need to follow different dietary advice, so please seek a proper *pattern diagnosis.

Diet has a fundamental and profound effect on our physical and emotional wellbeing and I believe that even moderate changes in the way we eat, drink and think about our food plays a significant and important role in our wellness and treatment of disease. The correct diet based on your pattern diagnosis will often enhance the effectiveness of other treatments such as acupuncture and lead to improved health.

Brief Dietary Advice

In general in the UK we tend to eat too much dairy and cold raw food such as salads and sandwiches, we also have a diet high in sugar from hidden sources such as juice drinks, breakfast cereals, processed foods and high glycaemic carbohydrates. Most of us would benefit from more variety in our diet and reducing our portion sizes.

The following rules would be healthy for most of us, particularly when the patterns of ‘Spleen Qi Deficiency’ or ‘Dampness’ are indicated by signs and symptom like a propensity to worry or over-think, a tendency to low moods, tiredness, loose stools, a feeling of bloating after eating, a feeling of weak limbs, a tendency to obesity or even being overly thin.

  • Avoid or reduce bananas, oranges and non-organic yoghurts
  • Avoid or reduce dairy food, particularly cheese, ice cream and cows’ milk (goats’ milk is a good alternative)
  • Eat in moderation, chew well and stop eating just before you feel you are full
  • Substantially reduce sugar intake including reducing or stopping fruit juice and cordials, and processed carbohydrates such as white pasta and white bread
  • Favour warm cooked foods, i.e. whole wheat rolled oats porridge made with water for breakfast (some fruit or raisins may be added for extra sweetness) instead of cold cereal, sugar and cows’ milk
  • Enjoy your water at room temperature or slightly cool (not cold from the fridge) and sip it throughout the day rather than gulping it down in large quantities
  • Avoid drinking too much while eating
  • Enjoy a variety of good quality organic green tea (preferably not supermarket tea bags), Jasmin tea in moderation is particularly good for warming the Spleen and resolving Dampness
  • Avoid drinks containing Aspartame and other artificial or alternative sweeteners
  • Avoid eating too near to bed time; allow about 4 hours before your last meal and bed
  • Eat in a relaxed way, not rushed while working or worrying
  • Savour and enjoy your food

Further Reading

I can recommend in no particular order three excellent books on diet and Chinese medicine which give the reader a good understanding of basic *patterns of disharmony and how to put into practice a healthy diet:

  1. Recipes for Self-healing, Daverick Leggett, Meridian Press, ISBN: 0952464020
  2. Helping Ourselves A Guide To Traditional Chinese Food Energetics, Daverick Leggett, Meridian Press, ISBN:0952464004
  3. The Tao of Healthy Eating: Dietary Wisdom According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, 2nd edition, Bob Flaws, Blue Poppy Press, ISBN: 0936185929

Starting on Page 4 of this document is an extract from the 1st edition of Bob Flaws’ book that offers a very good explanation of how Chinese medicine considers the digestive process. Reading and understanding these processes will greatly enhance your understanding of the importance of diet and the TCM function of the Spleen and Stomach.

Another excellent source of information, particularly for pregnant women or women undergoing fertility treatments is at Debra Betts’ site http://acupuncture.rhizome.net.nz under the ‘Dietary Therapy’ section.

The Five Flavours and Energetic Nature

Chines medicine categorises food by its energetic effects rather than its calorific value. Some foods are warming and nourishing while others are cooling and eliminating; some foods strengthen Qi while others nourish Blood, Yin or Yang. Cold foods such as milk and bananas are problematic for people with Yang Deficiency or Dampness, but (in moderation) are beneficial for people who are Yin Deficient. So depending on your state of health, effectiveness of your digestive system and your constitution you should favour eating nourishing healthy foods that are right for your individual body type and *pattern diagnosis.

Chinese medicine groups all foods by the five flavours, Salty, Sour, Bitter, Sweet, Pungent and their energetic nature, Hot, Warm, Natural, Cool, Cold:

Salty Flavour e.g. Kelp, Seaweed, Soya Sauce, Leek

Salty relates to the water element and the Kidneys. Salty moistens and purifies, softening the hardening of muscles and glands. It regulates the body’s water balance, promotes digestion and improves mental concentration. In small amounts it nourishes the quality of the Blood but too much salty flavour can cause Blood to stagnate and stress the Heart.

Sour Flavour e.g. Grapefruit, Olives, Lemon, Raspberry

Sour relates to the wood element and the Liver. Sour stimulates contraction and absorption and controls conditions involving loss of body fluids such as haemorrhage, diarrhoea and sweating. It counters the effects of fatty foods, checks stagnation and benefits digestive absorption. It stimulates the gall-bladder and pancreas and despite its acid nature usually lowers the acidity of the intestines. Sour flavours support the Spleen’s function of containment and give tone to the tissues. It invigorates Blood and eliminates stagnation, but as with most things only when taken in moderation, too much can cause tightness and over-retention of moisture.

Bitter Flavour e.g. Rye, Chicory, Thyme, Rhubarb, Dandelion Leaf

Bitter relates to the fire element and the Heart. Bitter travels downward through the body draining and drying. It stimulates digestion and improves appetite, and draws out Heat and Dampness. Bitter flavours reduce excess and therefore should be restricted in cases of Cold or Deficiency. Bitter acts on the Heart but also benefits the Lung. Too much bitter flavour can deplete qi and moisture.

Sweet Flavour e.g. Pumpkin, Rice, Beef, Potatoes, Dairy, Apples

Sweet relates to the earth element and the Spleen. Sweet is the most common flavour and to some extent it is found in all foods; it harmonises all the other flavours and is central to our diet. Sweet treats deficiency and is tonifying and strengthening, gently stimulating the circulation of Qi and Blood. Sweet is moistening and benefits dryness, however in excess (common in our modern society) it leads to Dampness, Phlegm and Heat. Refined sugars, sweetening chemicals and foods processed to produce sweetness should be avoided as they can engender pathogens and weaken Blood.

Pungent flavour e.g. Onion, Cayenne Pepper, Ginger, Garlic, Peppermint

Pungent relates to the metal element and the Lung. Pungent disperses stagnation and promotes the circulation of Qi and Blood. It stimulates digestion and helps breakdown phlegm. Hot pungents such as horseradish and chilli are extreme and will eventually cool the body due to sweating. Warm pungents such as cloves and nutmeg have a longer lasting effect helping to warm Cold conditions. Cool pungents such as echinacea and mint can be used in cases of Heat. Dampness and Stagnation often arise due to an underling deficiency and although pungents can help resolve Dampness and move Stagnation an excess of pungents can exhaust Qi and Blood, so pungents frequently need to be supported by a tonifying diet.

Energetic Nature

The flavour of foods remains unchanged during cooking, for instance a potato is considered Sweet and in moderation Tonifies Qi and Blood. However, we can change the Nature of the food through its preparation and most of us would benefit from Boiled, Stir-Fried or Stewed foods as these are unlikely to be too cooling or warming. Cold foods should be avoided where there is a Cold diagnosis such as Yang deficiency or Spleen Qi Deficiency, and Warm foods should be moderated where there is excess heat such as might be seen in eczema or heartburn. In general those with digestive problems should favour Neutral preparation.

Preparation from coldest to hottest effects food as follows:

Raw Cooling
Steamed Cooling/Neutral
Boiled Neutral
Stir-Fried Mildly Warming
Stewed Warming
Baked More Warming
Deep-Fried Heating
Barbecued More Heating
Grilled More Heating
Roasted Most Heating

For most of us a balanced diet should include regular use of all Flavours in moderation, with the Sweet Flavour taking the central position. Particular Flavours can be increased, decreased or avoided based on our individual needs or our *pattern diagnosis. We can include more Warming foods for those with Cold conditions, and more Cooling foods for those with Heat conditions. People with weak digestive processes should avoid Raw foods as these are the most difficult to digest and may lead to deficiency of Qi and Blood and the engendering of Dampness.

Extract From Bob Flaws’ Book

Printed below is an extract [sic] from Bob Flaws’ book ‘The Tao of Healthy Eating: Dietary Wisdom According to Traditional Chinese Medicine , 1st edition’. The 2nd edition of his book includes additional material and rewrites such as, not one, but several healthy eating pyramids for different dietary styles, new discussions of the modern Western diet, trans-fats, corn syrup, pesticides, and chemical additives, recipes for specific pattern discriminations and a concise history of Chinese dietary therapy.

“The Process of Digestion

In Chinese, the digestive system is called the xiao hua xi tong. The words xi tong simply mean system but the words xiao and hua are more pregnant with meaning. Xiao means to disperse and hua means to transform. In Chinese medicine, digestion equals the dispersion of pure substances to be retained and impure substances to be excreted after these have undergone transformation. Therefore, the digestive tract is called the xiao hua dao or pathway of dispersion and transformation. In TCM we mostly describe the process of digestion in terms of the functions of the Chinese stomach and spleen. Once one understands the functions of the stomach-spleen according to TCM theory, Chinese dietary theory becomes very clear and logical.

Three Burners

The stomach and spleen are a yin yang pair. The stomach is one of the six hollow bowels and is relatively yang. The spleen is one of the five solid organs and is relatively yin. The stomach’s function is to receive food and liquids and to ”rotten and ripen” these. In Chinese medicine, the stomach is likened to a pot on a fire. As mentioned in the previous chapter, all physiological transformations in Chinese medicine are warm transformations. The body is seen as three alchemical retorts. These are called jiao or burners. There is an upper burner containing the heart and lungs, a middle burner containing the stomach and spleen, and a lower burner containing the kidneys, intestines, liver, and reproductive organs.

The Stomach as a Pot

The stomach is the pot of the middle burner and the spleen is both the fire under this pot and the distillation mechanism to which this pot is attached. Just as a mash rottens and ripens in a pot, so foods and liquids rotten and ripen within the stomach. In Chinese medical terms, this means that, as foods and liquids rotten and ripen, the pure and impure parts of these foods and liquids are separated or come apart. It is then the spleen’s function to distill or drive off upwards the purest parts of foods and liquids, sending the pure part of foods up to the lungs and the pure part of liquids up to the heart. The pure part of foods or the five flavors become the basis for the creation of qi or vital energy within the lungs. The pure part of liquids becomes the basis for the creation of blood within the heart. The sending up of the pure part of the foods and liquids by the spleen is called ascension of the clear.

The stomach then sends down the impure part of foods to be further transformed by the large intestine and the impure parts of liquids to be further transformed by the small intestine. In Chinese medicine, the large intestine’s function is to reabsorb the pure part of the impure foods or solids. This becomes the postnatal or latter heaven fuel for kidney yang or the life fire. The small intestine’s function is to reabsorb the pure part of the impure parts of liquids. This is transformed into the body’s thick liquids, such as cerebrospinal and intra-articular fluids, and nourishes postnatally kidney yin. The large intestine conducts the impure of the impure solids down and out of the body as feces. The small intestine conducts the impure of the impure liquids to the bladder from whence they are excreted as urine. This sending down of the impure part of foods and liquids initiated by the stomach is called the descention of the turbid.

Therefore, in Chinese medicine, digestion is spoken of as the separation of the clear (qing) and turbid (zhuo) This separation is dependent upon the qi hua or energy transformation of the middle burner or stomach/spleen and upon the spleen qi’s ability to transport or yun foods and fluids. Hence, Chinese spleen function is summed up in the two words yun (transportation) and hua (transformation). Yun hua is the older, more traditional form of the modern term xiao hua.

The analogy of the cooking pot is very important. It is said in Chinese that the stomach fears or has an aversion to dryness. In other words, stomach function is dependent upon the creating of a mash or soup in its cauldron or pot. It is also said in Chinese that the spleen fears dampness. Since spleen function is likened to a fire under a pot distilling the essence from the mash held in the stomach, it is easy to understand that too much water or dampness can douse or injure that fire.

Using this analogy, it is simple and crucial to understand that the digestive process, according to Chinese medicine, consists of first creating a 100°F soup in the stomach, remembering that body temperature is 98.6°F. Whatever facilitates the creation of such a 100° soup in the stomach benefits digestion and whatever impedes or impairs the creation of a 100° soup in the stomach impedes or impairs digestion. This is basically true even from a Western medical perspective. Most of the insights and principles of Chinese dietary theory and therapy are logical extensions of this commonsense and irrefutable truth.

The Implications of this Process

Cooked vs. Raw Foods

First of all, TCM suggests that most people, most of the time, should eat mostly cooked food. Cooking is predigestion on the outside of the body to make food more easily digestible on the inside. By cooking foods in a pot on the outside of the body, one can initiate and facilitate the stomach’s rottening and ripening in its pot on the inside of the body. Cold and raw foods require that much more energy to transform them into warm soup within the pot of the stomach. Since it takes energy or qi to create this warmth and transformation, the net profit from this transformation is less. Whereas, if one eats cooked foods at room temperature at least or warm at best, less spleen qi is spent in the process of digestion. This means that the net profit of digestion, i.e., qi or energy, is greater.

The idea that eating cooked food is more nutritious than raw food flies in the face of much modern Western nutritional belief. Because enzymes and vitamins are destroyed by cooking, many people think it is healthier to eat mostly raw, uncooked foods. This makes seeming sense only as long as one confuses gross income with net profit. When laboratory scientists measure the relative amounts of cooked and raw foods, they are not taking into account these nutrients’ post-digestive absorption.

Let’s say that a raw carrot has 100 units of a certain vitamin or nutrient and that a cooked carrot of the same size has only 80 units of that same nutrient. At first glance, it appears that eating the raw carrot is healthier since one would, theoretically, get more of that nutrient that way. However, no one absorbs 100% of any available nutrient in a given food. Because the vitamins and enzymes of a carrot are largely locked in hard to digest cellulose packets, when one eats this raw carrot, they may actually only absorb 50% of the available nutrient. The rest is excreted in the feces. But when one eats the cooked carrot, because the cooking has already begun the breakdown of the cellulose walls, one may absorb 65% of the available nutrient. In this case, even though the cooked carrot had less of this nutrient to begin with, net absorption is greater. The body’s economy runs on net, not gross. It is as simple as that. Of course, we are talking about light cooking, and not reducing everything to an overcooked, lifeless mush.

This is why soups and stews are so nourishing. These are the foods we feed infants and those who are recuperating from illness. The more a food is like 100° soup, the easier it is for the body to digest and absorb its nutrients. The stomach-spleen expend less qi and, therefore, the net gain in qi is greater. This is also why chewing food thoroughly before swallowing is so important. The more one chews, the more the food is macerated and mixed with liquids, in other words, the more it begins to look like soup or a stew.

Cold Food & Liquids

As a corollary of this, if we drink or eat chilled, cold, or frozen foods or drink iced liquids with our meals, we are only impeding the warm transformation of digestion. Cold obviously negates heat. And water puts out fire. This does not mean that such food and liquids are never digested, but it does mean that often they are not digested well. In Chinese medicine, if the stomach-spleen fail to adequately transport and transform foods and liquids, a sludge tends to accumulate just as it might in an incompletely combusting automobile engine. This sludge is called stagnant food and dampness in Chinese medicine.

Dampness & Phlegm

If the solid portions of food are jam-packed into the stomach or their digestion is impaired by cold and chilled foods and liquids or if too many hard to digest foods are eaten, stagnant food may accumulate in the stomach. The stomach tries all the harder to burn these off and becomes like a car stuck in overdrive. It becomes hotter in an attempt to burn off the accumulation. This often results in the stomach becoming chronically overheated. This, in turn, causes the stomach to register hunger which, in Chinese medicine, is a sensation of the stomach’s heat. This hunger then results in eating more and more and a vicious loop is created. Overeating begets stagnant food which begets stomach heat which reinforces overeating. Further, persistent stomach heat may eventually waste stomach yin or fluids causing a chronic thirst and preference for cold drinks and chilled foods.

If the liquid portions of food and drink jam the transporting and transforming functions of the spleen, what is called the qi ji or qi mechanism in Chinese, these may accumulate as dampness. This plethora of water inhibits the spleen qi’s warm transforming function in the same way that water inhibits or douses fire. Over time, this accumulated dampness may mix with stagnant food and congeal into phlegm which further gunks up the entire system and retards the flow of qi and blood throughout the body.

Different people’s digestion burns hotter than others’ Those with a robust constitution and strong ming men or fire of life tend to have a strong digestion. These people can often eat more in general and more chilled, frozen, hard to digest foods without seeming problems. Likewise, everyone’s metabolism runs at different temperatures throughout the year. During the summer when it is hot outside, we generally can eat cooler foods and should drink more liquids.

However, even then, we should remember that everything that goes down our gullet must be turned into 100° soup before it can be digested and assimilated.

Post-digestive Temperature

In Chinese medicine, there is an important distinction made between the cold physical temperature of a food or drink and a food or drink’s post-digestive temperature. Post-digestive temperature refers to a particular food or drink’s net effect on the body’s thermostat. Some foods, even when cooked, are physiologically cool and tend to lower the body’s temperature either systemically or in a certain organ or part. In Chinese medicine, every food is categorized as either cold, cool, level (i.e., balanced or neutral), warm, or hot. Most foods are cool, level, or warm and, in general, we should mostly eat level and warm foods since our body itself is warm. Life is warm. During the winter or in colder climes, it is important to eat warmer foods, but during the summer we can and should eat cooler foods. However, this mostly refers to the post-digestive temperature of a food.

If one eats ice cream in the summer, the body at first is cooled by the ingestion of such a frozen food. However, its response is to increase the heat of digestion in order to deal with this cold insult. Inversely, it is a common custom in tropical countries to eat hot foods since the body is provoked then to sweat as an attempt to cool itself down. In China, mung bean soup and tofu are eaten in the summer because both these foods tend to cool a person down post-digestively. If we are going to eat cold and frozen foods and drink iced, chilled liquids, it is best that these be taken between meals when they will not impede and retard the digestion of other foods.

Many Westerners are shocked to think that cold and frozen foods are inherently unhealthy since they have become such an ubiquitous part of our contemporary diet. However, chilled, cold, and frozen foods and liquids are a relatively recent phenomenon. They are dependent upon refrigeration in the marketplace, refrigeration during transportation, and refrigeration in the home. Such mass access to refrigeration is largely a post World War II occurrence. That means that, in temperate zones, people have only had widespread access to such foods and drinks for less than 50 years. 50 years is not even a blink on the human evolutionary scale.

Dampening Foods

Not only do foods have an inherent post-digestive temperature but different foods also tend to generate more or less body fluids. Therefore, in Chinese medicine, all foods can be described according to how damp they are, meaning dampening to the human system. Because the human body is damp, most foods are somewhat damp. We need a certain amount of dampness to stay alive. Dampness in food is yin in that dampness nourishes substance which is mostly wet and gushy. However, some foods are excessively dampening, and, since it is the spleen which avers dampness, excessively damp foods tend to interfere with digestion.

According to Chinese five phase theory, dampness is associated with earth. Fertile earth is damp. The flavor of earth according to Chinese five phase correspondence theory is sweet. The sweet flavor is inherently damp and also is nutritive. In Chinese medical terms, the sweet flavor supplements the qi and blood. Qi is energy or vital force and blood in this case stands for all body fluids. Therefore, the sweeter a food or liquid is, the more damp it tends to be.

When one looks at a Chinese medical description of various foods, one is struck by the fact that almost all foods are somewhat sweet and also supplement qi and blood. On reflection, this is obvious. We eat to replenish our qi and blood. Therefore it is no wonder most foods are somewhat sweet. All grains, most vegetables, and most meats eaten by humans are sweet no matter what other of the five flavors they may also be. This sweetness in the overwhelming majority of foods humans regularly eat becomes evident the more one chews a food.

A modicum of sweetness supplements the body’s qi and blood. It is this flavor which gathers in the spleen and provides the spleen with its qi. However, excessive sweetness has just the opposite effect on the spleen. Instead of energizing the spleen, it overwhelms and weakens it. This is based on the Chinese idea that yang when extreme transforms into yin and vice versa. When the spleen becomes weak, it craves sweetness since that is the flavor which strengthens it when consumed in moderate amounts. However, if this craving is indulged in with concentrated sweets, such as sugar, this only further weakens the spleen and harms digestion. Thus, another pathological loop is forged in many people.

Going back to dampness, the sweet flavor engenders dampness and the sweeter a food is the more dampening it is. According to Chinese medicine, this tendency is worsened when the sweet flavor is combined with sour. Therefore, Chinese medicine identifies a number of especially dampening foods. These include such sweet and sour foods as citrus fruits and juices and tomatoes, such concentrated sweets as sugar, molasses, and honey, and such highly nutritious foods as wheat, dairy products, nuts, oils, and fats.

Highly nutritious foods are those which have more wei than qi. All foods are a combination of qi and wei. In this context, qi means the light, airy, aromatic and yang part of a food. Whereas, wei, literally meaning taste, refers to a food’s heavier, more substantial, more nourishing, yin aspects. Highly nutritious foods, such a dairy products, meats, nuts, eggs, oils, and fats are strongly capable of supplementing the body’s yin fluids and substances. However, in excess, they generate a superabundance of body fluids which become pathologic dampness. Although to some this may appear a paradox, it has to do with healthy yin in excess becoming evil or pathological yin or dampness, phlegm, and turbidity.

It is also easy to see that certain combinations are even worse than their individual constituents. Ice cream is a dietary disaster. It is too sweet, too creamy, and too cold. Ice cream is a very, very dampening food. Pizza is a combination of tomato sauce, cheese, and wheat. All of these foods tend to be dampening and this effect is made even worse if greasy additions, such as pepperoni and sausage, are added. Tomato sauce bears a few more words. It is the condensed nutritive substances of a number of tomatoes. Therefore it can be especially dampening.

In the same way, drinking fruit juices can be very dampening. Fruit and vegetable juices are another relatively modern addition to the human diet. Prior to the advent of refrigeration as discussed above, juices would turn into wine or vinegar within days. Therefore, when they were available in traditional societies, they were an infrequent treat. Now we have access to tropical fruits and juices thanks to refrigeration and interstate and intercontinental transportation. However, we should bear in mind that we would not eat 4-6 oranges in a single sitting nor every day. When we drink a glass of orange juice, tomato juice, apple juice, or carrot juice, that is exactly what we are doing. We are drinking the nutritive essence of not one but a number of fruits or vegetables. This over-nutrition typically results in the formation of pathogenic dampness and phlegm.

Meats, because they are so nutritious, or supplement qi and blood so much, also tend to be damp in the same way. The fatter and richer a meat is, the more it tends to generate dampness within the body. Amongst the common domestic mammalian meats, pork is the dampest with beef coming in second. Therefore, it is important not to eat too much meat and especially not greasy, fatty meats. Most people do fine on two ounces of meat 3-4 times per week.

On the other hand, eating only poultry and fish is not such a good idea either. Everything in this world has its good and bad points. Poultry and fish tend to be less dampening and phlegmatic, it is true, but chicken, turkey, and shellfish tend to be hot. If one eats only these meats, they run the risk of becoming overheated. I have seen this happen in clinical practice. From a Western scientific point of view, we can also say that eating too much fish may result in mercury accumulation and toxicity and overeating commercial chicken may result in too much estrogen and exposure to salmonella food-poisoning. Chinese medicine sees human beings as omnivores and suggests that a person should eat widely and diversely on the food chain.

The Basic Healthy Diet

Therefore, to sum up the traditional wisdom of Chinese dietary theory, humans should mostly eat vegetables and grains with small amounts of everything else. We should mostly eat cooked and warm food which is not too sweet, not too greasy or oily, and not too damp. In addition, we should eat moderately and chew well. It is healthful to drink a teacup of warm water or a warm beverage with meals. This facilitates the formation of that 100° soup. But it is unhealthy to drink or eat chilled, cold, and frozen drinks and foods with meals.

In general, I would emphasize that most Americans do not eat enough vegetables. It is easy to load up on breads, grains, and cereals but not as easy to eat plenty of freshly cooked vegetables. Grains, like meat and dairy products, are highly nutritious but heavy and relatively more difficult to digest. If overeaten they can cause accumulation of dampness and phlegm. In Asia, Daoists and Buddhists interested in longevity emphasized vegetables over grains and even modern Chinese books on geriatrics counsel that more vegetables should be eaten.

Amongst the grains, rice holds an especially healthy place. Because it promotes diuresis, it tends to leech off excessive dampness. Other grains, in comparison, tend to produce dampness as a by-product of their being so nutritious. This ability of rice to help eliminate dampness through diuresis becomes more important the more other dampening foods one eats.

Flavors & Spices

As said at the beginning of this chapter, the purest part of foods are the five flavors. These are sweet, salty, bitter, pungent, and sour. Chinese medicine also recognizes a sixth flavor called bland. Each of the five flavors corresponds to one of the five phases and, therefore, tends to accumulate and have an inordinate effect on one of the five major organs of Chinese medicine. Just as overeating sweet injures the spleen, overeating salt injures the kidney, overeating sour injures the liver, and overeating spicy foods injures the lungs. I know of no one who overeats bitter food. A little bitter flavor is good for the heart and stomach. In general, although most food is sweet, one should eat a modicum of all the other flavors. Overeating any one flavor will tend to cause an imbalance in the organs and tissues associated with that flavor according to five phase correspondence.

Most spices are pungent or acrid and warm to hot. These spices aid digestion when eaten in moderate amounts. As discussed above, the digestive process is like an alchemical distillation. The middle burner fire of the stomach-spleen cooks and distills foods and liquids driving off their purest parts. To have good digestion means to have a healthy digestive fire. Moderate use of acrid, warm spices aids digestion by strengthening the middle burner fire.

That is why traditional cultures found the use of pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, mace, and cloves so salutary. These spices contain a high proportion of qi to wei and so help yang qi transform and distill yin substance, dampness, and fluids. On the other hand, when eaten to excess, such spices can cause overheating of the stomach and drying out of stomach fluids, and remember, the stomach does not like to be dry. Therefore, a moderate use of such spices is good for the spleen but their overuse is bad for the stomach and lungs.

A Return to a More Traditional Diet

What this all adds up to is a diet very similar to the Pritikin diet or Macrobiotics. Both these dietary regimes suggest that the bulk of one’s diet be composed of complex carbohydrates and vegetables and that one get plenty of fiber and less animal proteins, refined sugars, oils, and fats. This is very much the traditional diet of all people living in temperate climates the world round. This is also very much like what our great grandparents ate.

One hundred years ago, most people only ate meat once or twice a week. Mostly they ate grains and vegetables. Because they did not have refrigeration, they ate mostly what was in season and what could be stored in root cellars and through pickling, salting, and drying. One hundred years ago, sugar was too expensive for most people to afford more than a tiny bit per year. Likewise, oils and fats were relatively precious commodities and were not eaten in large            quantities. Those oils which were available were pressed from flax, hemp, sesame seeds, or were derived from fish oil, lard, and butter. They were not the heavily hydrogenated tropical oils which are so frequently used in commercial food preparation today.

It was also a well-known fact of life 100 years ago that rich people who ate too well and exercised too little were more prone to chronic health problems than those who lived a more spartan and rigorous life. If one looks at the cartoons of the 18th and 19th centuries, one frequently sees the overweight nobleman with the enlarged and gouty toe. Likewise, the Chinese medical classics contain numerous stories of doctors treating rich patients by getting them to do some physical work and to eat simpler, less rich food. Gerontologists today have noted the fact that those ethnic groups who tend to produce a large proportion of centenarians, such as the Georgians, the Hunzakuts, and certain peoples in the Peruvian Andes, all eat a low animal protein, low fat, high fiber diet.

The Modern Western Diet

The modern Western diet which we take so much for granted is mostly a product of post World War II advances in technology and transportation. Until after World War II, mass refrigeration and interstate transportation did not allow for everyone to buy a half gallon of fresh orange juice anytime of the year at an affordable price nor to keep a half gallon of ice cream (or now frozen yogurt) in their home freezer. In addition, special interest advertising has fostered erroneous ideas about the healthfulness of many of these ”new” foods. We have been so bombarded by tv commercials extolling the healthful benefits of orange juice that we seldom remember that these are partisan propaganda bought and paid for by commercial growers who depend upon the sale of their product to turn a profit.

The modern Western diet is a relatively recent aberration in the history of human diet. It is an experiment which has largely run its course as more and more people as well as governmental agencies come to the conclusion that so much of what we take for granted these days as a normal diet is really not healthy. Just as we are now realizing as a society that smoking is bad for the health, likewise we are also now coming to realize that too much sugar, fats, oils, and animal protein are also not good for the health nor conducive to longevity.

Pesticides, Preservatives, & Chemicals

Traditional Chinese Medicine has, in the past, not said anything about pesticides, preservatives, and chemical additives because these things were not known until relatively recently. However, poisoning is a TCM cause of disease listed in the bu nei bu wai yin category of neither internal nor external etiologies. All the evidence suggests that eating food which is contaminated by pesticides, preservatives, and chemical dyes and additives is also not good for long term health and well being. Therefore, it is advisable to eat food which is as free from these as possible. That means organic produce and grains and organically grown meat. These are becoming increasingly more common and available.

Wrecked Foods

Since Chinese medicine says that the qi comes from the purest of the pure part of foods, the xiang or flavor/aroma, Chinese dietary theory also suggests that food should be freshly made and eaten within 24 hours. As food becomes stale, it loses its aroma and its ability to supplement qi is directly proportional to this aroma. Food which is stale is called wrecked food in Chinese. The implication is that, although the substance is still there, the xiang, aroma, or qi is gone.

Such wrecked foods tend to be more dampening and phlegmatic.

If one follows the above Chinese dietary guidelines, one will eat nutritiously and well. One will be supplemented by their food and not unduly harmed by it. Such a moderate, commonsense diet is one of the four foundations of good health. This diet is more or less appropriate to everyone living in a temperate climate. Patients suffering from specific diseases may require various individualized modifications of the above outlined regime. However, because whether in sickness or health the process of digestion is essentially the same, this is the healthy diet for the majority of people. In the following chapter, we will discuss specific modifications for the most common groups of imbalance described by TCM. Yet even these modifications are based on this same commonsense approach to food and eating.

Treatment should primarily be based on pattern discrimination”

*Pattern Diagnosis

Patterns of disharmony (also called pattern diagnosis and pattern discrimination) are the diagnosis that traditional Chinese medicine practitioners give to the disharmonies that lead to disease; it is these patterns that are treated to return your body and mind to a proper and healthy balance. After your initial consultation and throughout your treatments I will discuss with you your particular pattern diagnoses. Bear in mind that these patterns can change as your condition changes or if you contract new conditions, such as a common cold or stiff neck. There are dozens of pattern disharmonies and some more common examples are Spleen Qi Deficiency, Liver Qi Stagnation, Liver Blood Deficiency, Kidney Yang Deficiency, Kidney Yin Deficiency, Lung Qi Deficiency, Damp, Heat, Cold and Wind.

Preparing for Treatment

Normally you will have received (in person, via email or downloaded) a patient questionnaire to complete at your leisure and bring to your initial consultation. During your consultation I will consider this questionnaire and ask further questions and carry out any relevant examinations.

I will explain clearly the consultation, diagnosis and treatment plan. If there is anything you are unclear about or concerned about please tell me. Your understanding of your illness and its treatment is an important aspect your recovery. There are many traditional Chinese medicine treatment methods at my disposal* and if you are uncomfortable with a particular method I can usually offer a suitable therapeutic alternative.

When preparing for treatment please wear loose clothing with legs and sleeves that are easy to roll-up out of the way. You need to be prepared to remove items of clothing as required, but be assured that I am always mindful of your modesty and comfort.

To gain the best from treatment please enjoy a light meal beforehand and refrain from any strenuous activities for a few hours. No alcohol should be taken before or after treatment.

*Acupuncture is not always used, particularly if you are needle-phobic or have a condition or medication that is not suited to acupuncture. Other Traditional Chinese Medicine treatment methods I frequently use are acupressure, massage, moxibustion (heat treatment) and cupping therapy.

Tui Na (tuina) Massage

Chinese Tuina Hand massage
Tuina Hand Massage

Tui Na (tuina) massage is traditional Chinese therapeutic massage that has been practiced for thousands of years, evidence suggests it was used as far back as the Shang Dynasty of China, 1700 B.C.E.

Tuina is a therapeutic tool that can also be used for simple and effective relaxation and stress relief in the form of a neck, shoulder and back massage. It is excellent for treating musculoskeletal disorders and with the acupuncturist’s skilled knowledge of points and channels it can be used to treat a wide range of pathologies including stress related disorders, digestive, respiratory and reproductive problems.

Subject to a health consultation, contraindications and a pattern diagnosis* tuina and acupressure when administered by a skilled and caring practitioner is suitable for infants, children, adults and the elderly. I often combine treatments to gain the maximum benefits,  so a typical session may include acupuncture and or cupping combined with local tuina massage.

*Patterns of disharmony: Also called pattern diagnosis and pattern discrimination are the diagnosis that traditional Chinese medicine practitioners give to the disharmonies that lead to disease; it is these patterns that are treated to return your body and mind to a proper and healthy balance. After your initial consultation and throughout your treatments I will discuss with you your particular pattern diagnoses, bear in mind that these patterns can change as your condition changes or if you contract new conditions, such as a common cold or stiff neck. There are dozens of pattern disharmonies and some more common examples are Spleen Qi Deficiency, Liver Qi Stagnation, Dampness, Heat, Coldness, Liver Blood Deficiency, Kidney Yang Deficiency, Kidney Yin Deficiency and Lung Qi Deficiency.

Women’s Problems

Women’s Problems

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) acupuncture is very good for alleviating the underlying causes and signs & symptoms of many women’s problems such as period pains, erratic periods, heavy periods, long periods, short periods, PMS, endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), menopausal changes, anxiety and infertility.

I treat holistically, after all it is unlikely that one woman’s circumstances and signs & symptoms are exactly the same as another’s, they may be similar but there will be distinct differences, recognising this patient individuality is one of the distinctive strengths of TCM diagnosis and treatment.

No matter what the Western disease label, in Chinese medicine diagnosis we simply look at all the signs and symptoms, menstrual history, use of medications, contraceptives, general health and lifestyle of the patient. If offered I will also consider Western medicine evidence such as endocrine tests, bloods and scans. Treatment will be directed at alleviating the signs & symptoms (pain, bleeding, hot flashes, etc.) and treating the underlying disharmonies and imbalances such as blood deficiency, blood stasis and stress. Treatment may vary depending on where in her cycle the patient is and where I think we will get the best results. For instance when PMT plays a significant role then mid cycle treatment may be appropriate and where there is severe pain then treatments shortly before the period are suggested.

By Austin ©2014 Austin Austin www.austinaustin.co.uk

Sciatica – Lumbosacral Pain

I often treat patients who attend clinic with pain in the lumber, buttock and leg, commonly described as sciatica.

Sciatica is usually described by the patient as a stabbing or burning pain that radiates from the buttock down the back or side of the leg occasionally reaching the foot (generally following the path of the sciatic nerve). Typically it affects only one side and is aggravated by driving, walking, bending and coughing. The pain can vary in intensity and affect more or less areas of the leg at different times of the day. The pain can be severe, debilitating and very draining.

Western medicine breaks sciatica down into primary and secondary types. Primary sciatica is due to an infection affecting the sciatic nerve directly. Secondary sciatica is caused by adjacent structures causing pressure or displacement of the sciatic nerve, such as a prolapsed lumber disk, infection in the tissues about the sacrum, coccyx or pelvis, or muscular dysfunction. In clinic I find that a condition called piriformis syndrome, where the piriformis muscle in the buttock excerpts pressure on the sciatic nerve, is often the cause of sciatic pain.

It appears to me that the Western medicine treatment of sciatica  is often vague and comes down to taking pain killers and waiting for it to spontaneously resolve; unfortunately by the time I see a patient the pain has often been present for a long time and or the problem resolves briefly but returns frequently. Fortunately though traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) takes a more practical approach and is often an extremely effective treatment.

TCM classifies the signs and symptoms associated with sciatic pain as Bi Syndrome (pronounced ‘bee syndrome’), a particular diagnosis referring to a painful condition. The cause of this bi syndrome is most often considered to be due to stagnation of qi and blood in the Gall Bladder and or Bladder meridians that closely follow the pain route, see images below.

Bladder Channel

Gall Bladder Channel

This stagnation of qi and blood may be caused by various aetiologies but some common examples are:

  • Prolonged trauma or strain generally characterised by stabbing or piercing pain and a history of trauma. I have noticed that a poor driving position or excessive driving over many years can be a cause and trigger of sciatica
  • Invasion of Wind-Cold-Damp generally characterised by a radiating heaviness with the pain worse in cold damp weather or a cold damp environment, and better for a warm dry environment
  • Kidney Deficiency generally characterised by frequent recurrence of the sciatica. It is often aggravated by exertion, alleviated by rest and accompanied by a weak sore back and knees, tiredness and a feeling of cold in the affected area

Experience shows that TCM treatments are frequently effective in treating the underlying patterns causing qi and blood stasis and relieving the pain of sciatica. Treatment may consist of acupuncture, cupping, moxibustion, massage, or often a combination of these therapies. Usually the patient responds quickly with relatively few treatments, although further treatments may be recommended to treat the underling disorders to help prevent recurrence.

To prevent sudden relapse the patient should not let the affected area get cold and should slowly build up exercise and stretching. Where there is an underlying pattern involving Damp then it may also be advisable for the patient to modify their diet to avoid foods cold and dampening in nature.

By Austin ©2014 Austin Austin www.austinaustin.co.uk

Moxibustion The Power of Heat

Moxibustion is a traditional technique often used in combination with acupuncture or as a standalone treatment.  Moxibustion has been used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) for more than a thousand years to help maintain health and fight disease primarily by invigorating blood, stimulating Qi and expelling cold.

Moxibustion produces heat through the burning of moxa (herbs, principally mugwort – artemisia vulgaris), the heat and the intrinsic qualities of the herbs provide the therapeutic qualities. There are many ways to administer moxa and two common methods I use regularly are ‘sparrow pecking’ and ‘needle moxibustion’.

Sparrow Pecking

MoxibustionA cigar like stick of moxa is lit and the end is allowed to become red hot and smouldering, this smouldering end is used to warm the treatment area, acupoint or channel. The moxa stick is held about 1cm above the treatment area and moved back and forth, like a sparrow pecking. The moxa stick may also be moved above and along the treatment area or channel but never staying in one place long enough to burn. Warming of the channels can be very effective for clearing cold obstruction such as sciatic type pains. Moxa is often used to help turn a breach baby by stimulating acupoint BL-67 of the big toe.

Needle Moxibustion

Needle moxaA small cone of moxa is placed on the inserted acupuncture needle and then lit and allowed to smoulder. This is quite a pleasant experience and provides very precise heating to the acupuncture point. Each cone will burn for about 5 minutes and multiple cones may be used during one treatment. Needle moxa is ideal for treating deficiency and internal cold, it can tonify the function of the Kidneys, benefit lumber pain, treat tiredness and intestinal disorders, etc.


Moxibustion is ideally administered in the clinic however I often prescribed it to be used by patients at home. It is well suited to the treatment of some childhood ailments and parents can administer treatment regularly without attending clinic each time. Joint pain and chronic tiredness are often treated at home, and many midwifes are now familiar with using or referring for moxa to be used at home to help turn breech presentations.

Moxibustion is not suitable for everyone, it is important that you seek a proper pattern diagnosis* from a qualified practitioner as inappropriate use can aggravate certain conditions.

*Patterns of disharmony: Also called pattern diagnosis and pattern discrimination are the diagnosis that traditional Chinese medicine practitioners give to the disharmonies that lead to disease; it is these patterns that are treated to return your body and mind to a proper and healthy balance. After your initial consultation and throughout your treatments I will discuss with you your particular pattern diagnoses, bear in mind that these patterns can change as your condition changes or if you contract new conditions, such as a common cold or stiff neck. There are dozens of pattern disharmonies and some more common examples are Spleen Qi Deficiency, Liver Qi Stagnation, Dampness, Heat, Coldness, Liver Blood Deficiency, Kidney Yang Deficiency, Kidney Yin Deficiency and Lung Qi Deficiency.

By Austin ©2016 Austin Austin www.austinaustin.co.uk

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Acupuncture

“Acupuncture-moxibustion for irritable bowel syndrome is better than the conventional western medication treatment.” This is the conclusion of Pei LX, et al. (2012) in their meta-analysis, see abstract at end of this post.


I have known for many years that acupuncture and moxibustion frequently provide remarkable and life changing results in the treatment of the signs & symptoms of IBS. I have had many patients who have suffered with distressing signs and symptoms for years; they have been through numerous tests and visits to consultants eventually receiving a diagnosis of IBS. They are often prescribed a number of pharmaceutical medications, which in themselves may cause other problems, and are pretty much left to cope as best they can.

A course of acupuncture can relatively quickly relieve many of the signs and symptoms of IBS, such as bloating, stomach cramps, alternating diarrhoea and constipation and urgent stools, to name but a few. When acupuncture is combined with dietary changes based on a pattern disharmony* the results are often remarkable, and over a course of about 3 months many patients are able to get back to a ‘normal’ life.

In my experience for long term recovery it is imperative that acupuncture is combined with changes to the patient’s diet based on Chinese medicine food energetics. Chinese dietetics is different from our general Western ideas of how food affects our health, often changes to diet based on food energetics is not difficult to accomplish.

Acupuncture-moxibustion for irritable bowel syndrome is better than the conventional western medication treatment. This is the conclusion of Pei LX, et al. (2012) in their meta-analysis, see the following abstract from their study:


To evaluate the clinical efficacy and safety of acupuncture-moxibustion in treatment of irritable bowel syndrome systematically.


Clinical randomized controlled trials on treatment of irritable bowel syndrome with acupuncture-moxibustion were collected. Through retrieval of CNKI (1979 – December of 2011) and VIP (1979- December of 2011), randomized and quasi-randomized controlled clinical trials on treatment of irritable bowel syndrome with control study between acupuncture and sham acupuncture or western medication were included. The test bias risk and quality assessment of each experiment were carried out by two researchers in accordance with the Cochrane Handbook 5.1.0 standard. And RevMan 5.1.6 software was adopted for the Meta analysis.


Eleven researches were included with totally 969 patients. Meta analysis shows that the effective rate of the combined methods of acupuncture and moxibustion [RR = 1. 27, 95% CI ( 1.09, 1.49)] is superior to conventional western medication treatment.


Acupuncture-moxibustion for irritable bowel syndrome is better than the conventional western medication treatment.


Zhongguo Zhen Jiu. 2012 Oct;32(10):957-60. [Meta analysis of acupuncture-moxibustion in treatment of irritable bowel syndrome]. Pei LX, Zhang XC, Sun JH, Geng H, Wu XL. Acupuncture and Rehabilitation Department, Jiangsu Province Hospital of TCM, Nanjing, China.”

*Patterns of disharmony: Also called pattern diagnosis and pattern discrimination are the diagnosis that traditional Chinese medicine practitioners give to the disharmonies that lead to disease; it is these patterns that are treated to return your body and mind to a proper and healthy balance. After your initial consultation and throughout your treatments I will discuss with you your particular pattern diagnoses, bear in mind that these patterns can change as your condition changes or if you contract new conditions, such as a common cold or stiff neck. There are dozens of pattern disharmonies and some more common examples are Spleen Qi Deficiency, Liver Qi Stagnation, Dampness, Heat, Coldness, Liver Blood Deficiency, Kidney Yang Deficiency, Kidney Yin Deficiency and Lung Qi Deficiency.

By Austin ©Austin Austin 2014 www.austinaustin.co.uk

Hair Loss (Alopecia Areata)

Alopecia Areata is baldness in one or multiple areas and can occur anywhere hair grows but is often most problematic when it manifests as bald patches on the scalp. From a Western medicine perspective the cause is not fully understood but there may be a family connection and it may involve an autoimmune response. Some pharmaceutical medications such as those seen in chemotherapy can also cause hair loss. My experience also suggests that stress is a factor or trigger in some cases.

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) treatment can be effective in treating alopecia, particularly when the Western medicine aetiology is unclear and no obvious pharmaceutical cause is known. The cause of alopecia according to TCM diagnosis is often one of a Blood Deficiency and Liver Qi Stagnation either of which may cause the hair to become malnourished and fall out. Some of the following signs and symptoms may also be present with these patterns such as dizziness, dryness, painful periods, tight neck and shoulders, a feeling of a lump (plum stone) in the throat, palpitations, tight chest, insomnia, vivid dreams, depression, restlessness, cold hands and feet.

Both men and women can suffer from alopecia however it tends to be predominately women I see as it is perhaps more traumatic for women, and women are more easily prone to Blood Deficiency and Liver Qi Stagnation due to their female nature, menstrual cycle and the modern lifestyle stresses.

Fortunately TCM treatment can be effective in restoring hair growth by addressing the underling patterns of Blood Deficiency and or Liver Qi Stagnation. Subject to diagnosis the following methods may be employed:

Dietary advice to help strengthen the Spleen function and smooth the Liver Qi, by a modest increase in Blood nourishing and Qi invigorating foods such as described by Debra Betts here. It is important to have a proper TCM pattern diagnosis before making changes to your diet as not all cases of hair loss are due to Blood Deficiency or Liver Qi Stagnations and there may be other underling patterns that are more important to address.

Acupuncture to tonify the Spleen function and help your body produce good Blood and Qi. Acupuncture to smooth the Liver Qi, de-stress and help Qi and Blood move effectively to the extremities. Acupuncture to stimulate the area of hair loss to draw Qi and Blood to the area and nourish the follicles.

Plum blossom needling (a special tapping technique using small needles) to invigorate the area of hair loss drawing Qi and Blood to the area to nourish the follicles.

Moxibustion (an external herbal warming technique) to stimulate the area of hair loss drawing Qi and Blood to the area to nourish the follicles.

I will often utilise a combination of these therapies and it may also be useful for the patient to apply fresh ginger to the area once or twice a day until it is hot and flushed, but not immediately following an acupuncture treatment.

*Patterns of disharmony: Also called pattern diagnosis and pattern discrimination are the diagnosis that traditional Chinese medicine practitioners give to the disharmonies that lead to disease; it is these patterns that are treated to return your body and mind to a proper and healthy balance. After your initial consultation and throughout your treatments I will discuss with you your particular pattern diagnoses, bear in mind that these patterns can change as your condition changes or if you contract new conditions, such as a common cold or stiff neck. There are dozens of pattern disharmonies and some more common examples are Spleen Qi Deficiency, Liver Qi Stagnation, Dampness, Heat, Coldness, Liver Blood Deficiency, Kidney Yang Deficiency, Kidney Yin Deficiency and Lung Qi Deficiency.

By Austin ©2014 Austin Austin www.austinaustin.co.uk