Traditional Chinese Medicine Provides Safe and Effective Treatments for Anxiety and Depression

January 17, 2011admin Comments Off

Over the years, numerous studies have found that acupuncture and the therapies of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) are safe and effective methods for the treatment of anxiety and depression.  Compared with pharmaceutical substances, studies suggest that one particular modality – acupuncture – is as or more effective than medicines, without the debilitating side effects associated with anti-depressants and anxiolytics.

Many studies have been conducted to determine if the therapies of TCM are viable, alternative treatments for anxiety and depression.  Acupuncture in particular has been of keen interest for researchers.  In the past, most studies have focused on clinical outcomes and have used subjective reporting scales to determine effectiveness.    Pioneering studies such as the one done by the University of Arizona, have shown that acupuncture can be as or more effective than tricyclic anti-depressants like amyltriptaline in the treatment of depression.  More recently, studies have included more objective measurements such as blood levels of neurotransmitters (epinephrine, dopamine, serotonin, GABA, and endorphins), PET, fMRI, CAT scans in order to understand the mechanisms behind acupuncture’s effects.   Evidence supports that cerebral changes in neurotransmitters as well as activation in areas of the brain that control our emotions are seen with the administration of acupuncture.  These studies show that acupuncture can directly influence our moods via our physiology.

When one adds dietary therapy, nutritional and herbal supplementation, meditation, therapeutic movement (Yoga, Tai Chi, Qigong, etc), one can greatly enhance the chances for a successful therapeutic outcome.  The addition of these therapies further supports production and utilization of neurotransmitters as well as healthy brain function.   They accomplish this by providing necessary nutrients and minimizing negative impacts.  For instance, B vitamins,  essential fatty acids, and antioxidants are known to support brain and nerve health.   The amino acid tryptophan or its cousin 5HTP are well known to support the production of serotonin.   Herbs such as Kava Kava and St. John’s Wort have both been shown to help with anxiety and depression respectively.  Avoiding the consumption of excessive amounts of simple sugars and instead eating complex carbohydrates has been known to improve mood by helping to balance blood sugar and therefore our emotions.  Additionally, those with sensitivity to gluten find avoiding those foods to be helpful in supporting positive moods.  Finally, exercise is a great way to help calm the mind by clearing out the extra amounts of adrenaline and cortisol that stress produces.

Another benefit of TCM is it’s general lack of side effects.  Compared to pharmaceutical approaches in the treatment of mood disorders, which sometimes create a host of serious and debilitating side effects, TCM is very safe.  This feature of TCM is often very attractive to those who don’t react well to conventional approaches.  Given potential side effects, cost, addiction, and impact on quality of life, TCM seems to be a rational first-line approach for the treatment of mild, mood disorders.

The one potential negative aspect of treating mood disorders via natural medicine can be that the rate of improvement may be relatively slow and mild compared to a pharmaceutical intervention.   Many people feel positive changes upon entering care under a TCM practitioner, but generally require longer course of treatments via acupuncture and herbs to see maximum effect.  If a person is suffering from bad panic attacks or is feeling suicidal, TCM would not the first line treatment of choice in my opinion.  It would be better medicine to offer a stronger pharmaceutical treatment  and psychiatric intervention for immediate relief in an acute crisis.  Then, one can consider using more gentle methods to create mental and emotional balance and harmony.

Traditional Chinese Medicine is a great choice for the treatment of anxiety and depression.  If you would like further information check out my website at

Integrated Healthcare – An Answer for America’s Ailing Healthcare System

August 16, 2010admin No Comments »

Integrated MedicineNow more than ever, Integrative Healthcare is becoming more viable as a potential remedy for what is ailing America’s healthcare system. Currently, we are facing a national crisis on just how we are going provide healthcare to Americans and keep it affordable and fair for everyone.  Unfortunately, if we don’t change our underlying philosophies, I don’t believe we will find an answer within the current system.

The main reason that we won’t be able to fix this system is that its’ focus is in the wrong places:  illness care and gross profiteering for third parties.   I am in a position as a Integrative Healthcare provider to have an opinion on the first problem.  The issue revolves around the fact that you cannot build a national healthcare system whose main approach is heroic medicine.  This is a treatment strategy that focuses on illness care only.   No level headed person would argue that this aspect of medicine isn’t extremely important; however, as far as creating a national healthcare policy, it should figure less importantly into the equation than it does currently. Simply stated, keeping people healthy will always be much more inexpensive than treating illness.  Our philosophical focus should shift from waiting until a person develops the acute or chronic health problem, to preventing it in first place.  This can be accomplished by relying heavily on education and incentives for health as well as including so called, “Alternative Therapies”, into our healthcare system.

Of course, Social Medicine in America has been helping to influence national healthcare policies for a long time and has talked endlessly about the importance of health education and incentives – if our national leaders and populace would only listen!  The drumbeat goes steadily onward yet, we as a nation don’t heed the call.  Everyone knows the importance of not carrying extra weight yet, obesity rises continually.   We all know that exercise is a great way to improve cardio-vascular health yet, we are more and more sedentary.   The same can be said about unhealthy habits, lifestyles, too much stress, environmental exposures, etc.  Somehow this message needs to get through as it forms one of the most important aspects of true preventative healthcare.  We as a nation need to step up to our personal responsibilities and do our part to keep ourselves healthy.

A way to reduce cost while providing superior healthcare would be to include more evidenced based “Alternative or Complimentary Medicines” as part of our integrated healthcare system.  These therapies, which include acupuncture and Chinese medicine, are already widely used by many Americans to treat chronic health problems and to prevent illness.  Additionally, the evidence mounts daily about some of these medicines effectiveness.  But due to the fact that most of these services are not covered by our current insurance systems, they are greatly underused.  This is very unfortunate as we are wasting a vast resource whose fundamental philosophy is in line with where our national healthcare needs to shift.  In essence, these therapies whose roots are often found in ancient cultures, are another part of the remedy for today’s healthcare ills.

Although a huge amount of money can be saved by shifting our focus from illness care to real preventative healthcare, this shouldn’t be the only driving force.  Another compelling reason is the tangible, real life benefits of being healthy.  When we are physically healthy, we in a much better place to be happy, harmonious, community minded, in service to others, productive, financially sound, etc.  We are then more likely to self-actualize, grow, transform, and ideally become more whole.  Therefore, we stand a much better chance of being successful and thriving in life, rather than merely surviving.  As far as society is concerned we are then in a much better place to be a contributing member of the community.   Doesn’t that sound like that would serve the greater needs of the nation a little better than our current system?

If you agree that an Integrative Healthcare approach is a good idea, support your local complimentary healthcare provider or talk to your local Senator or Representative about changing our current system.   Check out www.hughsacupuncture.comfor more information about Traditional Chinese Medicine and other health topics.  Thanks for reading!

Spring Cleansing with Traditional Chinese Medicine

May 7, 2010admin No Comments »

Happy Spring!!

spring flowers- cleansing with Chinese medicineSpring has arrived in the Front Range!  As you might have heard me say in the past, one of Traditional Chinese Medicine’s philosophies is that wellness is partly achieved by staying in harmony with the seasons.  Spring is a time of renewal and growth.  It is time to shed our energy conserving habits of Winter and shift our focus to supporting our bodies’ tendency to detoxify and cleanse.  We can help that process by eating foods that are lighter and more cleansing, moving outdoors to get more sun and fresh air, increasing cardio-vascular exercise, and abstaining from substances that are toxic for our bodies.

About cleansing…
One question that I often get this time of year is whether I think fasting is a good way to help our bodies cleanse and detoxify.  As a TCM practitioner, I try to approach fasting by first determining if it makes good clinical sense for an individual’s constitution to focus on cleansing. For those who are very weak and debilitated, I typically recommend they don’t fast, but rather first work on building their constitutional strength.  For those who use fasting would support their health, I suggest more aggressive measures for robust, excessive constitutions and more nutrifying and gentler methods for those with more deficient constitutions.

There are some general rules that most people should follow regardless of their constitutional types.  The first rule is listen to your body and be flexible.  For instance, if during a fast one feels too fatigued or sick to attend to daily life, they are probably being too aggressive. Time to pull back a little bit.  Secondly, have a suitable transition period before and after to allow the body time to prepare itself as well as assimilate the changes from a fast.  Thirdly, make sure that the timing in one’s life is good for a fast.  During a big project at work or times of heavy physical activity are not the best times for fasting.  Fourth,  if fasting on foods and liquids make sure they come from whole, organic food sources. Fifth, break the fast with a healthy, whole food diet.  Avoid binging, especially on poor quality foods right after ending the fast.

The gentle cleanse…
This is for those who are looking for a slower, gentler cleansing regiment or have a more deficient constitution (pale, low energy, slow digestion, low libido, cold signs, etc.)

Start by eliminating junk and processed foods for a two week period.  Then move to eating just steamed veggies and brown rice for a 5-7 days. Ideally, 2/3 of the veggies should come from green non-starchy veggies.  Consume only fresh, filtered water and warming teas.  Avoid fruits and juices.  Reverse the fast by going back to a clean, whole food diet.

A more aggressive cleanse…
This is for those who have more excessive constitutions, with signs such as: frenetic energy, tendency towards anger, heat signs,  GI inflammation, etc..

Start by following the gentle cleanse.  After switching to steamed veggies, then move to either a vegetable juice fast or absolute fast for 1-3 days.  Reverse the process by eating steamed veggies and brown rice for 5-7 days.  Then move to a clean, whole food diet.

These two basic plans are normally modified according to individual need.  For instance, one can add herbs and medicinal substances to focus the fast on certain organ systems.  Each person is different.  If you are unsure if cleansing is right for you, contact your natural healthcare provider for a consultation.

If you are looking for an acupuncturist in the greater Fort Collins area, check out my website at !

Healing Is a Journey

April 5, 2010admin No Comments »

Healing Journey with Acupuncture and Chinese MedicineOne of the most profound principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine is that the process of searching for a holistic cure for illness often involves a deep, personal transformative journey.  This is especially true in chronic disease.  In order to affect a cure, often those suffering with chronic illnesses need to look deeply into all aspects of their personal life to understand the cause of their symptoms.    In this way, it is helpful to look at the symptoms as a manifestation of an underlying deeper imbalance in lifestyle, diet, exercise, and habits.  This can provide a great deal of useful information as to what areas to focus on in order to achieve balance and ultimately, excellent health.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) believes that the route to wellness lies in correctly balancing the elements of life.   For balance to be achieved, it is necessary to be in harmony both internally and externally.  In TCM, one first begins to learn how to balance their internal constitution – essentially, their genetic tendencies.  This occurs when one correctly understands what elements predominate and which are more recessive, and then uses natural healing means like foods, exercise, activities, lifestyle, herbs, acupuncture, qigong, etc., to help nurture and support balance.  As one develops internal balance, it is wise to also examine one’s external environment (where one lives, the seasons, relationships with others, etc) to determine if those elements are in harmony.  Through this deep examination one can not only gain the necessary knowledge to treat their illness, but also create a blueprint for thriving in life. A deep wisdom that is relatively easy and simple to implement – with the correct knowledge and intention.

As a TCM healthcare provider, I have the honor of witnessing this growth process daily within clients.  In this way, my clients and I form a partnership that nurtures health and wellness.  Ideally, my role as a guide is to support growth by helping clients move forward when they are stuck at one point or another.  As much as possible, this growth should occur without my undue influence, allowing the client to fully experience their personal journey.  The client’s role is to understand how excellent health is a function of personal choices and one’s constitution and actively pursue changes that bring greater balance and harmony.  This type of introspection can cause a deeper integration of the healing experience into other aspects of life.  We then move beyond healing one particular malady, establishing a balance that will support excellent health, a calm mind, and most importantly, spiritual growth.

If the unexamined life isn’t worth living then the converse must also be true- that the examined life is very worthy of living.  Deep introspection can not only impart more meaning to a life, but it is often absolutely necessary to understand why we become ill.  In this way, healing an illness becomes a journey that can positively impact all the other aspects of one’s life.

If you are interested in more information about Traditional Chinese Medicine, please visit my website at .

Which Natural Health Supplements Are Right for You?

February 11, 2010admin No Comments »

natural supplementsAs a holistic healthcare provider, my opinion is often sought by clients in a quandary over whether they should try a supplement; often to either improve health or treat an illness. There are three main factors to consider when choosing supplements: appropriateness, quality, and dosage. By looking at these aspects, one can make a rational choice, if any at all, as to what will work best for them.

First off, I will state my bias up front; I believe 70% of the supplements consumed in the U.S. are a waste of money. They are sold based on the same insecurities, fears, and promises that cosmetic manufacturers use to move products: feelings of inadequacy, fears of poor health, and promises of a quick, and above all else, easy solution to maintaining our good health. There are definitely times that supplements are very helpful, even curative. Other times they might not be the wisest choice for a particular health issue. But I often see that the marketing hype around this issue plays on our emotions rather than appealing to our wisdom. When pressed about why people use supplements, often one the three above reasons will come up as the main motivating factor. This is exactly what the supplement manufacturers count on to sell their products.

When deciding whether or not to use a supplement, first consider if it is the most appropriate approach for the problem at hand. Depending on the illness or health issue, this could be a huge question to consider. It involves correctly diagnosing the problem and then selecting from what are often a myriad of approaches for the most clinically effective treatment that restores health with minimal side effects. For these reasons, when dealing with complex health issues, it is helpful to have some expert guidance from a healthcare professional trained in natural health and the use of supplements. Preferably, one who has little to no financial gain from prescribing the supplement. This removes the concern for any potential ethical issues.

Another big issue is that of quality. Although there are numerous well made products out there, some supplements on the market are mostly useless due to weak active constituents, poor processing, and improper handling and storage. In most cases, it is worth looking into how a company manufactures its’ supplement to determine if it is high quality. Vitamin C is a great example because how it is processed, manufactured, handled, and stored will determine how much is actually available to be absorbed by the body. Considering all the hype involved in advertising, price isn’t always the best determinant of quality, but it is generally true that you get what you pay for.

This brings us to dosage. One of the biggest mistakes in trying supplements is not using enough to achieve a therapeutic result. This partly goes back to using a high quality product, but that should be factored in the dosage. As a culture, we are quite familiar with modern pharmaceutical products that are highly distilled and extremely potent. One little pill with a tiny amount of active constituent will often have huge therapeutic effects. This can mislead us into insufficient dosing when it comes to supplements. A good example here would be using essential fatty acids in the form of fish or plant oils. Here, I often see individuals underdosing by one half the therapeutic dose and thereby, not getting the necessary amounts of the active constituents, EPA and DHA to be therapeutically effective.

Of course for most people, overdosing is a more common way to misuse supplements. The hope is that if a person uses more, than they will get a stronger response. In general, this is true – until one reaches the therapeutic dosage level where a person will typically see diminished returns. Going beyond that amount can also create problems. With some substances (vitamin A, for instance) it is downright dangerous to use too high a dose. However, in the vast majority of cases a person is usually only throwing their money away as overuse of most supplements isn’t as much dangerous as it is wasteful. The guiding thought should be that after reaching a therapeutic level, more supplements don’t equal more “health”.

So remember that when it comes to choosing supplements there are three main factors in making the right selection: appropriateness, quality, and dosage. Here it really pays to do one’s homework and find out what goes into the making and proper use of supplements.

Stay tuned for another informative article on holistic medicine. If you are interested in more information on natural therapies and Chinese medicine, check out my other blog entries or please visit my website at

Harmonize with Winter using Chinese Medicine

January 21, 2010admin No Comments »

Happy New Year!

Although the passing of Solstice signals that we are beginning to move out of the dark days of winter, we still have a few months of cold before us. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Winter is the most yin of the seasons. A time when life has returned to its deepest inner aspects. Now, many animals are hibernating or have moved to warmer climates, plant life has returned to its roots, and people are staying indoors to escape the cold.

According to Chinese medicine, the Kidneys are the organs associated with Winter. In Chinese medical theory, the “Kidneys” would include not only their function of blood filtration, but also the adrenal glands that sit atop them. At this time of the year, the Kidneys are more active and potentially more vulnerable to depletion than at other times.

In TCM it is believed that by harmonizing oneself with the seasons, you can avoid illness and promote great health. Therefore, during the Winter it is a good time to focus on strengthening the Kidneys.

In the cold months, Man’s energy moves inward, our subconscious mind following old, instinctual patterns as we tend to focus on thoughts of survival. On one hand, this can lead to a rise in levels of fear based emotions such as generalized anxiety. This is very natural considering that for all of our history, Winter has traditionally been a pretty tough time for humans with regard to survival. But as a result of this stress, the Kidneys can be overly taxed – unless one does something to mitigate the effects.

On the other hand, the positive side is that it is the perfect opportunity to look deeply into our selves to reflect on the past year, understand our present, and prepare for the coming year. Meditation, prayer, journaling, goal creating exercises,counseling, coaching and other techniques that reveal our deeper desires to our conscious mind can be very helpful. These tools support Kidney energy and have the ability to calm our emotions, relax the mind and raise our spirit.

Other ways to tonify the kidneys would include Qigong, Tai Chi or Yoga exercises, balancing foods, herbs, and acupuncture. These methods can help keep the Qi flowing smoothly and support the body’s physical and energetic health. They also can be tailored to the season to specifically support the Kidneys. Consult your local acupuncturist, Tai Chi or Yoga instructor for an approach that works for you.

This year consider making a New Year’s resolution to harmonize with the seasons. By doing so, you will have a better chance of greater health and success throughout the year!

For more info on Traditional Chinese Medicine check out :

Avoid the flu with Traditional Chinese Medicine

December 10, 2009hughsacupuncture No Comments »

With the influenza season in full swing, it is a good idea to take preventive measures to decrease your chances of getting sick. There are a number of natural, safe, and simple measures from Traditional Chinese Medicine and Naturopathy that one can use to minimize exposure and to increase resistance to the flu. Remember, an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure!

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Is it Wise to Get Vaccinated Against Swine Flu?

November 2, 2009hughsacupuncture No Comments »

swine flu vaccinationAs flu season gets under way we are faced with a more potent strain of flu bug this year known as “swine flu” or the H1N1 virus. A lot of people are naturally concerned and are asking their healthcare providers if they should get vaccinated against the virus. What makes this virus more worrisome than past bugs is that due to its novel assortment of avian and swine genes, most people don’t have natural immunity against it. According to the Center for Disease Control(CDC), “laboratory studies have shown that no children and very few adults younger than 60 years old have existing antibody to 2009 H1N1 flu virus”. The one exception to this is people over 60. With this group, the CDC says, “about one-third of adults older than 60 may have antibodies against this virus. It is unknown how much, if any, protection may be afforded against 2009 H1N1 flu by any existing antibody”.

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Harmonize with Fall Using Traditional Chinese Medicine

September 15, 2009hughsacupuncture No Comments »

protect yout natural immunity with chinese medicine in the fallFall Greetings from Hugh’s Acupuncture Clinic!

Despite the warm weather recently, earlier sunsets and cooler mornings signal that Autumn is around the corner. At this time in nature, animals start to prepare for hibernation and plant life begins to decompose as leaves, flowers and fruit return their nutrients to the soil. The trees prepare for the upcoming cold by drawing their sap inwards towards their roots and humans are busy bringing in the Fall harvest.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the lungs are associated with Autumn. In TCM theory, one of the functions of the lungs is to extract Qi from air, using it to nourish the tissues and internal processes. Part of this Qi, along with the Qi from food, goes to build Defensive Qi. This Qi is similar to the Western concept of the immune system. Indeed, because the lungs interact directly with the outside environment, they play a very important role in fighting off external pathogens.
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Traditional Chinese Herbs – A Patient’s Guide

July 7, 2009hughsacupuncture No Comments »

preparing a formula with chinese herbsChinese Herbs are one of the five treatment modalities of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). In a TCM clinic, Chinese herbs are often employed alongside acupuncture, massage, therapeutic movement, and nutritional therapy to treat a wide range of health complaints. Clinical efficacy is well documented with more than 350 herbs that are commonly used today that have a history of use that goes back at least 2,000 years. Over that time, a vast amount of experience has been gained that has gone towards perfecting the clinical applications of herbs. According to Chinese and Japanese clinical studies, these herbs, and others that have been added over the centuries, can greatly increase the effectiveness of modern drug treatments, reduce their side-effects, and sometimes replace pharmaceuticals all together.

One of the reasons that Chinese herbs are gaining in popularity today over Western herbs is because of the vast scope of clinical experience in safely using Chinese medicinals. In every province of China, there are large schools of traditional Chinese medicine, research institutes, and teaching hospitals, where thousands of practitioners each year are given herbal training. The written heritage of Chinese medicine is quite rich. Ancient literature is retained, with increasing numbers of recent commentaries. New books are written by practitioners who have had several decades of personal experience or by compilers who search the vast amounts of diverse modern literature and arrange the results of clinical trials into categories. For this reason, Chinese herbology remains a living, growing system of medicine that continues to daily add to its body of knowledge.

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