By Dr. Mao Shin Ni Author of Secrets of Longevity Cofounder of Tao of Wellness
The Power of Chinese Medicine
First things first: What is Chinese medicine? Chinese medicine is a tradition going back 5,000 years that works with nature to maintain wellness and prevent disease.
In Chinese medicine, the emphasis is always on treating the whole entire person – mind, body and spirit – rather than just the body part that isn’t functioning well. Additionally, it focuses on treating not only a person’s inner life, but also their outer life, including relationships to people and the environment. Disease is a symptom of life out of balance. Chinese doctors use a combination of natural techniques to maintain a healthy balance, including herbal medicine, diet and nutrition, energy exercises like tai chi, and other forms of bodywork, like acupuncture.
Is Chinese Medicine Right for You?
Alternative medicine is enjoying tremendous recognition today, undoubtedly because the remedies are more in tune with Mother Nature, have fewer side effects, and are usually less expensive. In a way, we are coming full circle to the wisdom that we once knew: Herbs, bodywork and healing foods can work for us, just as they did for our ancestors.
Because Chinese medicine falls under the umbrella category of alternative medicine, it too is growing in popularity and becoming more accessible to everyone. Just think, you don’t have to go to your nearest urban Chinatown anymore to find these cures.
Chinese medicine is definitely a different way to think about your health. So, how do you know if it is right for you? If you like the idea of taking care of yourself now to prevent disease later, and if you are willing to learn how to work wisely with nature to jumpstart your innate self-healing power, Chinese medicine could play a role in your basic health regime. However, this does not mean that you should self-treat or abandon Western medicine.
While Chinese medicine uses natural, noninvasive healing practices as the first line of health care, it does not hesitate to use chemical and invasive medicine when necessary. To have the best of both worlds, continue to work with your physician and consider building a team of health professionals, such as licensed acupuncturists and herbalists, who can give you recommendations based on your unique needs and help you unlock the power of healing within.
Chinese Cures to Relieve Stress
Chronic stress seems to be our national disease. We push ourselves to go, go, go and suffer the health consequences later. Remember, stress is the underlying cause of up to 80% of all chronic diseases. The good news is that you can use Chinese cures to maintain balance and peace in the middle of your day.
Jujube, the red Chinese date, has been used for thousands of years in China to reduce stress and promote sleep. A big plus of the jujube seed is that it doesn’t make you tired when you take it during the day – actually, it seems to reduce fatigue related to nervousness. It is usually served as tea, made from a powder extract. You can find jujube seed in health food stores, online, and from acupuncturists and Chinese herbalists.
This prized berry boosts energy and focus; it also soothes nerves and takes the edge off anxiety. You can eat the berries, but most people drink it as tea or take capsules. Again, look in health food stores and online.
You might have heard of this one, which is often used as a sedative. Sometimes called “nature’s tranquilizer,” valerian has been used for centuries to regulate the nervous system and relieve tension, irritability, nervous exhaustion and stress. Valerian is also a natural pain reliever that reduces the sensitivity of the nerves. This herb is very accessible and you should be able to find it as tea or supplements with no problem in a health food store.
Ancient Qigong Breathing Practice
Take a moment to notice your breath. How deeply do you breathe? Shallow breathing mimics the bodily actions of stress, and actually induces your body to feel anxiety. Specific breathing techniques will relax and revitalize your being.
Qigong, an ancient practice from China, has one such breathing exercise that can release stress. In this practice, you must become mindful of every breath you take: monitor the speed, quality, and depth of inhalation and exhalation. The goal is to slow down, smooth out, and deepen each breath.
With every exhalation, utter the word “calm” in your mind and breathe out the tension from a part of your body, starting from the top of your head and working your way down through every part of your body until you get to your feet. Release any remaining tension through your toes and the bottoms of your feet, visualizing it as dark smoke. This ancient practice will not only help you keep your cool in the moment, but over time, it will help you breathe more deeply.