Feature Formula: Gan Mai Da Zao Tang

Dried red jujube
Dried red dates

Gan Mai Da Zao Tang—or Licorice, Wheat and Date Decoction—is a 2,000-year-old formula created by the Chinese master herbalist Zhang Zhong Jing and recorded in the classic text Jin Gui Yao Lue. Although this blend of three herbs may look simple, its effects on body, heart and mind can be profound, if it is matched with the right patient.

Gan Mai Da Zao Tang is used in cases of “Zang Zao”, or what the Chinese call “Restless Organ Syndrome”. This state of agitation is associated with frequent crying and mood swings, poor sleep, irritating bodily sensations, fatigue and feeling emotionally low.

Each herb in the formula serves a unique role. Licorice gently boosts energy by helping the digestive system. Wheat berries calm the spirit and anchor the mind. And those beautiful red dates? They soothe rattled nerves and moisten dryness.

I like to think of Gan Mai Da Zao Tang as the hug you offer a friend who is going through a difficult transition. Its sweet taste and gentle nature make this formula easy to digest, and its simplicity works well with other herbs.

If you are suffering through an emotional storm, ask us if Licorice, Wheat and Date Decoction is right for you.

Is Anxiety Ruining Your Holiday Season?

anxiety in train stationIn my last post I looked at the role of the Heart in social anxiety and offered a simple heart-opening exercise to help anxiety sufferers stretch their social muscles (Help for the Heart in Social Anxiety).

For some, the holidays are a truly challenging time of year. While family and social engagements can be festive occasions, some people become paralyzed by the obligations of the season. Friends and family members who love parties, dinners and overnight guests are often blind to the discomfort these situations can cause for people with anxiety.

Most people have been taught to respect the “holiday spirit” by agreeing to the spree of shopping, eating and socializing that has become Thanksgiving through New Year. Anxiety sufferers are no exception. They dress for parties that don’t excite them, join dinners that trigger their fears of ridicule, and return to homes where they feel uncomfortable or unloved.

In fact, this warm, sentimental, joyous time of year can elicit feelings of anxiety and insecurity on a massive scale.

It is time we open our hearts to the possibility that this is all too much for some people. The frenzy of spending, eating, traveling, drinking and socializing can actually deplete us of the energy we require to feel nourished, especially during the dark months of winter. Often anxiety is a signal that you should stop, breath, and reevaluate your situation. More than ever, the holidays may require you to practice conscious self-care.

If winter obligations are causing you discomfort, consider reducing your commitments for the sake of your health.

Anxiety can come from any number of sources—money, over-scheduling, spending time with people with whom you don’t feel connected, even needing to board your dog while you travel across country. The shear volume of expectations during the holiday season can create a cumulative feeling of helplessness and instability.

To manage these feelings, start by telling yourself I accept this anxious response as a signal that I am overwhelmed. This year I promise to take better care of myself so I am able to participate in the events and activities I actually enjoy.

If you encounter a friend or loved one wishing to bow out of a social opportunity—a company party, a family ice-skating outing, a gift exchange—consider that they may feel stretched thin. Most of all, don’t take their disengagement personally.

By allowing others to care for themselves, we actually create space and goodwill toward our own needs.

This season comes like clockwork each year, yet our lives may not unfold on the same schedule.  Through respecting your needs during the holidays, you will be better able to appreciating the small miracles of the season—body, heart and mind.

Help for the Heart in Social Anxiety

heart in coffeeMillions of Americans are treated for social anxiety every year. This experience is provoked by feeling disconnected from the kindness, patience, acceptance, and understanding of the people surrounding you. This sense of separation can come up at work, school, and family functions—even with people you know very well.

The fear of being judged is at the heart of social anxiety. This discomfort can convince you to avoid or flee from interactions that bring up feelings of insecurity and rejection.

Additionally, as technology adds distance to our way of communicating, it can become harder to be physically present for social interactions that challenge your sense of safety. It may feel easier—though not ultimately better—to hide.

In Chinese medicine, the Heart is the ruler of your inner kingdom.

It is highly sensitive to input from the outside world and can easily become disrupted by emotionally challenging situations. Once upset, the Heart can stay aflutter for a long time. You may literally feel your heart beating in your chest, be unable to sleep, or wish to physically hide from other people.

Anxiety is not just a mental phenomenon; it is a full-body experience. This is your Heart’s way of protecting you. Yet sometimes the Heart becomes over-stimulated and needs help finding a sense of safety.

What happens when you encourage the Heart to relax its vigilant grip?

The term “wearing you heart on your sleeve” means you are willing to be vulnerable to the outside world, even with the risk of rejection or failure. When the Heart spirit is healthy—meaning when it feels safe—it recognizes its connection to others. Instead of seeing danger, the Heart sees familiarity and warmth. Imagine peering into the eyes of a sweet dog or a beloved friend. It feels good to sense this connection, right?

One immediate way to work with social anxiety is to focus on your Heart center. To begin, imagine the warmth of your physical heart connecting with the warm heart of someone you know and trust. Then notice the sensations in your body. Pay attention to whether your breath deepens and your muscles relax. Maybe you even feel safe enough to smile during this exercise.

The Heart is not only the ruler of your inner kingdom, it is the lens through which you perceive the world.

A relaxed Heart connects you to the goodness of life.

My work with anxiety patients is built around the belief that physical relaxation opens us to emotional relaxation. Much like meditation or yoga, acupuncture settles your body so that your mind has a place to land.

If you’d like to explore how acupuncture can help with social anxiety, please call Boulder Acupuncture and Herbs today.

Acupuncture for Anxiety? Absolutely.

holdingleavesWith the holidays on the horizon and the arrival of shorter, colder days, many patients are experiencing an increase in stress and anxiety. Acupuncture is one of the best tools I know of to manage this discomfort. In fact, I love helping patients with stress and anxiety so much that I am introducing a new, targeted treatment program designed specifically to help you feel relaxed, right away.

My interest in treating anxiety began during my first year of acupuncture training as the stress of school began to rise. It wasn’t until I told a Western medical nurse practitioner about episodes of chest constriction and lightheadedness that I discovered I was having an acute anxious response.

“Are you under a lot of stress?” she asked me.

At the time my husband was finishing his graduate thesis and neither of us had a job. I was less than one quarter of the way through school and already feeling overwhelmed.

The nurse took my hands in hers and said, “That is a lot of stress. I want you to know that feeling panicked is a natural response to that much stress.”

Oh. I didn’t realize I was under that much stress. But she was right. I was under incredible pressure to accomplish my goals and keep my life together. I knew I needed a body-mind solution. That’s why I chose acupuncture.

Acupuncture offers a full-spectrum healthcare option for body, mind, and spirit.

What I love about this unique approach to working with anxiety is that it is not limited to impacting the way we think; it always involves the body, without question.

What does working with me look like? First, I start by asking questions about your experience, including what initiates your symptoms and how you feel during anxious episodes. Many anxiety sufferers experience muscle tension, abdominal discomfort, heart palpitations, and nervous exhaustion along with their anxiety symptoms, which naturally add to the feeling of stress.

I then come up with a treatment plan that helps your body recognize relaxation as a safe space. It disrupts the sympathetic nervous system response—the “fight or flight” mechanism—and switches the body into parasympathetic mode, the “rest and digest” function.

Over time your body and mind will sink into deeper states of rest and relaxation through acupuncture.

The key to integrating this profound benefit of treatment comes by creating links between the relaxed state of treatment and simple practices you can use outside of the clinic. These may include acupressure, breathing exercises, and creative self-expression, which offer relief between sessions and extend the benefits of our time together.

My goal is to help you see relaxation as your natural state and provide tools for working with your symptoms in the midst of everyday life. You really are capable of feeling grounded, connected, and centered, even in the presence of triggers.

Anxiety is a complex condition, but it is not unmanageable. Acupuncture can help.