My trip to Thailand to help build a yoga and meditation space for women supported by the International Women’s Partnership for Peace and Justice was a great success. With so many women from all over the world contributing their skills the building went up amazingly quickly.
I’d taken my needles and moxa with me together with home made potions and lotions to keep the mosquitoes and insects away.
The first acupuncture success was my self treatment to deal with jet lag on the flight out. I managed to get through a 30 hour journey (with only 2 hours sleep) and the 7 hour time change without any tiredness at all. I needled myself in specific points every 2 hours during the trip and felt totally normal by the time I arrived. Pretty miraculous really after such a long journey.
Once there my home made insect repellent did keep the flying critters from biting but did nothing to keep away the crawling red ants. Most of us got quite a few bites from these persistent creatures which not only caused itchy inflamed bites but also bruising.
I found that a moxa cigar aimed at the bites not only reduced the immediate affect of the bites and reduced the irritation but also made then heal much more quickly. If treated with moxa the bites didn’t become infected nor did the bruising spread.
Of course it would have been much better not to have been bitten in the first place but for that I think I would have had to be vacuum packed for my whole trip. Despite the ants I wouldn’t have missed this wonderful building experience. Acupuncture, moxa treatments and home made mosquito repellent definitely helped keep me and my fellow builders happy and healthy.
Many of us have agreed to return to Thailand to build again and if you’d like to know more about the work the IWP do or more about sustainable living you can look at the following sites
Science has provided some information about why acupuncture can help with pain in muscles, tendons and other areas of the body. And it’s all to do with nitric oxide.
Apparently the endothelium (inner lining) of blood vessels uses nitric oxide to signal the surrounding smooth muscle to relax, thus resulting in vasodilation (the widening of blood vessels) and increasing blood flow. Nitric oxide is highly reactive (having a lifetime of a few seconds), yet diffuses freely across membranes.
The researchers found that acupuncture and heat which could be from moxabustiin can lead to elevated levels of nitric oxide in the skin at the "acupoints" where the needles are inserted and manipulated. They noted that nitric oxide increases blood flow and encourages the release of analgesic or sensitizing substances, which causes the skin to feel warmer and contributes to the beneficial pain reducing effect of the therapies.
It’s good to know that after nearly 2000 years of use, science is contributing to an understanding of why acupuncture and moxabustion works.
'To plant a seed with our needles and ........ to unleash the power
Of the body to return to balance and blossom as a flower.
No matter where we practice or who we treat, may we
Do so with compassion, love, respect and integrity.'
Over the years many of the people I have trained with have become fantastic acupuncturists (obviously) but also wonderful life long friends. Like many professions we meet up regularly to undertake CPD and one recent meet up in London got me thinking about what makes an outstanding acupuncture therapist and also a great friend.
Nearly everyone who is a British Acupuncture Council member will have, at the very least, a degree level qualification and will therefore possess skills and knowledge about Chinese medicine. But like a good friend a good acupuncturist will be something more.
The best treatment won't just be about symptom relief and the placing of needles at the correct points but will deal with the client/patient's underlying dis-ease. To do that the acupuncturist and client need to have a relationship based on trust, integrity and compassion. Like a good friend the therapist will be sensitive to the client patient's needs and be totally non judgemental. She will really listen and work with the client rather than work on them. A good friend doesn't tell you what to do but makes suggestions and allows you to decide. Like a good friend a good therapist will empower the other person to discover for themselves what changes they need to make to regain the best health they can.
And like all relationships the benefit isn't just one way. Whether as a therapist or a friend by being whole heartedly there and present for another person, the best therapists and friends grow and learn to become better, healthier and wiser themselves.
Acupuncture can help you sleep. Dr Neil Stanley, has more than 36 years’ experience in sleep research and is the author of How to Sleep Well. Stanley says the three essential ingredients for good sleep are a dark, quiet, comfortable place; a relaxed body and a quiet mind. “It doesn’t matter what gets you a quiet mind – camomile tea, yoga, listening to Pink Floyd really loudly – as long as you enjoy it.” I’d add acupuncture to that list. It’s great at creating a relaxed body and quiet mind!
Having just finished the very first UK based post graduate Toyohari acupuncture course I'm now offering Japanese Toyohari treatments to those of you who are frightened of needles. The treatments are very gentle and involve the use of non insertive silver and gold needles that don't break the skin. How great is that. You can have amazing results from a very gentle, relaxing treatment.
You don’t have to be a superstar tennis player to suffer from tennis elbow. In fact you don’t have to be a tennis player at all. Most of my patients with lateral epicondylitis suffer as a result of some other cause such as carrying, lifting or repetitive actions at work or in the garden. This causes inflammation and microscopic tears of the muscles and tendons where they attach to the outside of the elbow. The result? Often burning pain and discomfort.
Research has shown that simple acupuncture can help resolve tennis elbow and the treatments can be remarkably relaxing. Very fine sterile needles are inserted around the elbow and in other parts of the body depending on each individual’s treatment needs. Some of the needles are inserted and removed immediately whilst others a left in place for 20 minutes or so whilst the patient relaxes or often falls asleep.
The treatment also often includes moxabustion (a type of heat therapy that uses the herb mugwort to warm an area and help relieve pain and inflammation) and sometimes a light massage of the area to relax the muscles.
Most of my patients find the pain reduces almost immediately but usually at least five treatments are needed to resolve the root problem.
It is essential that patients help the healing process themselves. Resting the injury if possible is invaluable, as is an anti inflammatory diet and strengthening exercises. A good acupuncturist will help you develop useful home treatment strategies to promote your healing.
Home in Leeds and have just treated my Dad. He doesn’t usually ask for acupuncture treatments but he’s been very poorly recently. His type 2 diabetes has been totally out of control. He has not been able to eat, has lost weight and is totally exhausted. I guess he’s always been pretty sceptical about traditional acupuncture and I’ve never wanted to force this issue with him.
I gave him an early afternoon treatment. As it was his first treatment ever it was very simple. A few points in the back, some moxibustion on a point called Rich for the Vitals and a couple of points in his feet. All done in 1/2 an hour as he sat at the table.
Later we had tea (dinner to all you south of Yorkshire) and he said he felt hungry for the first time in weeks. He was also still up and about at 10pm commenting that it was ages since he’d not collapsed by 8 o’clock.
My Dad is 82 years old and acupuncture won’t cure him but it can certainly contribute to an increase in his quality of life and make living with diabetes easier.
If you’re interested in how acupuncture can improve your quality of life get in touch with me or your local Acupuncturist or alternatively you can look at the research about diabetes and acupuncture on the BAcC website at
Having just spent the last few days walking in the sun, eating outside and meeting up with friends and family, it feels like Summer has finally arrived.
In the West summer formally starts on the summer solstice when the sun is the furthest north, this year it’s the 21st of June. But for Five Element Acupuncturists summer actually started on the 5th May, the turning point halfway between the solstices when the sun’s rays hit the earth at 45 degrees. This might seem a bit odd to us modern Westerners but the Gaelic calendar, which is also based on the needs of an agricultural society recognises that Summer starts in May. Good for Irish kids as they get a lovely long holiday from early in July.
So what does the Summer mean for our health?
According to traditional Five Element Chinese medicine, each season is ruled by an element. Summer is associated with the element of Fire and the energy of Heart, Small Intestine, and the tongue. Knowing which element relates to each season can provide knowledge about health at that time and in Summer special attention should be paid to these organs.
When the Fire element is working well within us, the heart is strong and healthy. If not balanced there can be too little joy (depression), or too much (chaos) or inappropriate exuberance. Agitation, nervousness, heartburn, and insomnia are symptoms that a person's Fire is out of balance.
To prevent these problems try the following
- take full advantage of the long summer days. Get up earlier in the morning, go to sleep later at night, and try to rest at midday.
- fluids are very important in summer months so drink plenty of water or fresh watermelon juice which is particularly cooling. Avoid drinks full of sugar and chemicals (like fizzy drinks) as these don't actually relieve thirst, and also inundate the body with more toxins to eventually clear.
- you can add stronger or spicier flavors to your diet at this time of year but avoid indegestion by choosing ligher foods over heavier foods.
- avoid dehydration and sunburn especially for small children and older people as they are
are especially susceptible to these downsides of the heat.
- take cool baths, seek the shade and wear lighter clothing.
Summer really is a great time to focus on changes in life, a time to grow and be more aware of yourself and others. The predominant nature of Summer is Yang and so excitement, assertiveness, and exuberance comes more naturally to us all. Truly a time to be open hearted, to enjoy the weather and each other's company.
If you are not feeling the joy of Summer good acupuncture from a qualified and registered acupuncturist can help. Please get in touch.
In order to maintain British Acupuncture Council membership all professional Acupuncturists have to undertake CPD (continuing professional development). In my previous life as a lawyer these CPD days were often the bane of my life, often dry and dull and sometimes that even when I was the one providing the training!
Definitely not so as an Acupuncturist. For a start I arranged for it to take place in my home. I then invited Linda Winstaley to lead the day and friends to attend. We had a lovely day exploring Five Element diagnostic techniques, talking over treatments and finding out what we are all doing in our practices around the region.
In our acupuncture circles you not only respect those with more experience but are generous with your own knowledge by sharing it with contemporaries and also mentoring those who follow on. It's a lovely way of working. It deepens our collective understanding of how acupuncture works and definitely improves our individual treatments and help our patients. Linda is an experienced acupuncturist and teacher and adopts wholeheartedly this centuries old tradition. During the day she generously passed on her knowledge to those of us with less experience.
It was also fun. By then end of the day we'd had a few laughs and quite a few exasperated groans, some good food and lots of tea. We all felt enriched by the day..........and Linda was so engaging that, as you can see from the photos, even the cat couldn't stay away.
If you are an Acupuncturist interested in knowing more about Five Element diagnosis please get in touch to join our CPD group for future training days.
Gaynor Hollis is a Classical Five Element Acupuncturist with a thriving practice in Birmingham. She is interested in all things healthy and life style related not just Chinese and Japanese acupuncture.