Stay in Harmony with the Fall with Chinese Medicine
Dr. Sunny Sun, DAOM
As the daylight gradually become shorter, the air starts to chill, and the leaves begin to change their color, mother nature is preparing itself for a beautiful season: the fall. It signals to put away our summer clothes, begin to harvest and gather the brightly colored foods such as pumpkins and squashes. As the Esoteric Scripture of the Yellow Emperor, the “Bible” of the Chinese medicine, states: “天有四时五行，以生长收藏” (“benefit from the cycle of four seasons and the five elements in the nature, all creatures seed, grow, harvest and store on their circuits”.)
Human body are subject to the season cycles as
occurs in the nature. Fall is the time for our bodies to harvest and gather energy for the colder months ahead. Based on the five elements theory in the Chinese medicine, fall is associated with the element of Metal, which governs organization, order, communication, and the mind.
The lung is the major internal organ related to the fall and the Metal element. Some people find it is hard and heavy to breath in the hot and humid summer days, instead, it is easy to breath in the crispy air and enjoy vivid leaves on the trees in the fall. Meanwhile, do not forget that dryness is the theme of the fall as well and is most likely to affect the lung. It can be the signs of dry lips, dry skin, cracks in hands or feet, a dry throat, or a dry cough, sometimes even nose bleeding. Although the dryness can present in any season, we will generally find that it is more pronounced in the fall.
Additionally, the lung is a tender organ, because it locates in the uppermost part in the human body. Thus, the Chinese medicine sees it is susceptible to wind, cold or any sudden temperature change. During this change, please be aware it does impact on our health and be sure to dress properly. I have seen many people still in their light and thin summer clothes at the beginning of the fall, which made them much easier to catch a common cold, sore throat, cough, running nose and feel tired.
Allergic rhinitis (AR), or hay fever is one of the most commonly seen conditions in the fall. As of 2016, an approximately 6.2% US adults had allergic rhinitis. As associated with rhinitis, allergic asthma may present which is triggered by an allergen such as mold or pollen. Around 8.6% of the US population currently had asthma with rates highest among those aged 5-14 years. Thus, it is not surprising that the market for allergy, asthma and their relief products is fairly large. In 2017, an estimated 87.63 million people bought medications because of allergyAlthough AR is not life-threatening, it affects quality of life and has substantial economic and social impact. Pharmacotherapy provides limited symptoms relief, as “scratching the itchiness over boots”, not dealing with the causes of the condition.
People increasingly start to use complementary medicine, such as acupuncture as part of their options. A randomized-controlled clinical trial conducted in Germany suggested that the traditional Chinese therapy is an efficacious and safe treatment option for patients with seasonal AR. Improvement was noted in 85% of active treatment group participants vs. 40% in the control group (P=0.048). Patients in the active treatment group showed a significant after-treatment improvement on the visual analogue scale (P=0.006) and Rhinitis Quality of Life Questionnaire (P=0.015).
In 2013, a larger scale of research, which involved 422 patients, 46 specialized physicians, 6 hospital clinics and 32 private outpatient clinics, discussed the effective acupuncture treatment for AR. 212 patients received acupuncture with cetirizine (a rescue medication), 102 patients had sham acupuncture with cetirizine, 108 patients only received cetirizine. Twelve treatments were provided over 8 weeks in the first year. The conclusion for this research, quote: “acupuncture led to statistically significant improvements in disease-specific quality of life and antihistamine use measures after 8 weeks of treatment, compared with sham acupuncture and with ceritizine along” .
For the allergic asthma, a controlled study showed that after 12 times of treatments given over a time period of 4 weeks, improvement of general well-being was seen: 79% in the acupuncture group vs. 47% in the control group (p=0.049). Immunological peripheral blood work have shown major improvement in acupuncture group versus non- acupuncture group in the levels of antibodies and white blood cells.
It is suggested by Japanese researchers that acupuncture has its efficacy in treating the dyspnea on exertion of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) after studied 68 patients diagnosed of COPD who received standard medications. It was a randomized, placebo-controlled trails lasted for 12 weeks of treatment. At the end of the trials, the Borg scale score after the 6-minute walk test was significantly better in real acupuncture group compared with the placebo one (covariance, -3.6 [1.9] vs. 0.4[1.2]; mean difference between groups by covariance, -3.58; 95% Cl, -4.27 to -2.90. Also the improvement were seen in the real acupuncture group in the 6-minute walk distance during exercise, indicating better exercise tolerance and reduced dyspnea on exertion.
Additionally, the Chinese Medicine sees that the lung ties to the skin and hair. When there are skin conditions, the lung is the organ that is regulated profoundly in most cases by acupuncture. Give an example: a literature review, which explored the clinical research progress of acupuncture in the treatment of chronic eczema between the year 2004-2014 in China, showed its effectiveness was between 81.3% to 97.1% comparing to the controlled group 40.3%. In a retrospective study of 100 patients diagnosis with chronic eczema between December 2012 to August 2013 in a regional hospital in China, a positive result also showed that patients overall improvement after acupuncture treatment can reach to 98% verses the control group’s 70% in which the patient topical applied loratadine and halometasone cream(p<0.05)
As the above-mentioned researches show promising results on acupuncture in treating major respiratory conditions, it is still necessary to see a licensed practitioner in real world for treatments instead of Google diagnosis or self-treating. Not just because acupuncture and the Chinese Medicine treatment are personalized or customized approaches, more importantly, they target on the root cause(s) of the disease instead of symptom relief.
In my 5 years practice and over 12000 patients visits I have encountered many patients with lung problems always worse in the Fall as the ancient Chinese wisdom and knowledge had described it in the “Classics of Yellow Emperor” 2400 years ago. My personal rate of success in improving and/or correcting long term lung and skin related health problems is 80-85 % with 15- 20% patients not getting any worse. Because, for every good doctor of any medical approach the first most important pledge should be ” first do no harm”.This is my promise and guarantee of Chinese Medicine.As far as improvements, as you can see form above studies and my own experience there is good chance for long term improvements. . As it says in old Chinese texts ” treat a root of the disease not just the symptoms”.
Please look out for my next newsletter in November about immune system problems and prevention and treatment of cold and flu. Until then I wish you a very healthy Fall!
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1. Statista. (2017). Allergies in the U.S.: Statistics & Facts. Retrieved from: https://www.statista.com/topics/3948/allergies-in-the-us/
2. B., Brinkhaus, J., Hummelsberger, R., Kohnen. et el. (2004). Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine in the treatment of patients with seasonal allergic rhinitis: a randomized-controlled clinical trial. Allergy: European Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. Vol. 59 (Issue 9), 953-960. Retrieve fromhttps://doi.org/10.1111/j.1398-9995.2004.00540.x
3. B., Brinkhaus, M., Ortiz, CM. Witt, S., Roll, K., Linde, et al. Acupuncture in Patients with Seasonal Allergic Rhinitis: A Randomized Trial. Annal of Internal Medicine. Vol. 158 (Issue 3), 225-234. doi10.7326/0003-4819-158-4-201302190-00002.
4. J., Stefanie, S., Claus, Z., Hua, D., Volker, M., Eike. (2007). Immunomodulatory effects of acupuncture in the treatment of allergic asthma: a randomized controlled study. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. Vol. 6 (Issue 6). Retrieve from http://doi.org/10.1089/acm.2000.6.519
5. Suzuki M, Muro S, Ando Y, et al. (2012). A Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Trial of Acupuncture in Patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) the COPD-Acupuncture Trial (CAT). Arch Intern Med.Vol. 172(Issue 11):878-886. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2012.1233.
6. Z., Guitao, H., Xinfang. (2016). Clinical Research Progress on Acupuncture and Moxibustion in the Treatment of Chronic Eczema. CJGMCM, Vol. 31 (Issue 2), 303-305. doi: 10. 3969/j.issn.1003-8914.2016.02.074.
7. P., Ying. (2015) Clinical observation of acupuncture treatment for chronic eczema patients. Contemporary Medicine Forum. Vol. 13 (Issue 1), 19-20. Retrieve from http://med.wanfangdata.com.cn/Paper/Detail?id=PeriodicalPaper_ddyylc201501016&dbid=WF_QK