Acupuncture for Hot Flashes

hot flash

Now that it’s summer in Boulder, let’s talk about those overwhelming hot flashes you’ve been having and how acupuncture and Chinese herbs can help.

Many women suffer from hot flashes related to menopause. For some women, these temperature fluctuations let up quickly after menstruation officially stops. Other women live with hot flashes and night sweats for years after menopause. This condition is, in many cases, treatable with Chinese medicine.

Unfortunately, Western medication for hot flashes is often anti-depressants. Since many patients don’t want to be on mood-altering medications, women are left with few options for managing this uncomfortable symptom. Acupuncture and Chinese herbs, on the other hand, really work to cool you down, regulate your hormones, and help you sleep. In fact, Chinese medicine has been used to help women through menopause for centuries.

Let’s look at what a course of treatment could include.

Warm, Hot, or Raging?

Hot flashes—and their nighttime counterpart, night sweats—usually begin as mild episodes of discomfort in perimenopause. During this time, the period becomes irregular. Blood flow may change, and you may experience a shift in frequency, duration of your period, or premenstrual symptoms. The perimenopausal transition can last for a number of years, and hot flashes and night sweats may start well before a woman is officially in menopause.

Menopause occurs once a woman has naturally gone six months without having a period or has had her ovaries removed. This hormonal shift can instigate stronger hot flashes and night sweating, although all women are different. For some women, hot flashes are never a problem; others report living with this condition for years after menopause.

The first question I ask hot flash sufferers is how frequently their episodes occur. Once a day? Twelve times a day? Only at night…but all night? Frequency is important to determine, as it will help us chart whether your treatment is working.

Next I want to know how hot a patient feels. Just uncomfortably warm? Briefly hot, but then chilled to the bone? Or are you soaking your sheets at night? Severity of the episodes is also an important point. This will steer me toward whether I recommend acupuncture, Chinese herbs, or both.

Finally, how long a patient has suffered from hot flashes is critical. Is it a new symptom, or have you had them for years? Typically, newer symptoms are easier to treat, whereas older problems take more time to unravel.

Acupuncture, Herbs, or Both?

Patients with mild hot flashes—often women in perimenopause—can usually expect great results with acupuncture alone. I recommend weekly treatments with sessions spaced further apart once symptoms significantly diminish. During that time I will have you track how often you have hot flashes and their severity.

If your hot flashes and night sweats are not managed by acupuncture alone, we should consider a customized Chinese herbal formula. Taking Chinese herbs every day is like getting a daily treatment. For women with strong symptoms, or for those who don’t want acupuncture, herbs are a promising solution.

Finally, some patients benefit most by using both acupuncture and herbs. Women who have had hot flashes a long time, or who have hot flashes with a complex overall health picture, should consider using both.

In all cases, the most important thing to remember is this: come in early. The longer the problem lingers, the harder it can be to treat. That being said, even if you’ve had symptoms for years, Chinese medicine may really be able to help. Most patients can expect changes in the first few sessions.

As one patient shared, “…following just a few treatments with Norah, my hot flashes are now what I would consider ‘micro-flashes’ and are few and far between.” (For more details see Testimonials.)

If hot flashes and night sweats are causing you to dread the summer months in Boulder, call us today to talk about acupuncture and herbal treatment options.

Why Does My Acupuncturist Look at My Tongue?

dog tongue

Something you may not know about your acupuncturist is that she is used to seeing some very challenging cases. As a practitioner of Chinese medicine, I have the privilege of working with clients who may be coming to my office after seeing many other practitioners. Because our medicine is not well understood in the United States, it is often used later in the disease process. One of my goals as an acupuncturist and herbalist is to change this dynamic.

That being said, I have had the opportunity to work on difficult cases and witnessed powerful changes in my patients’ wellbeing. One of the tools I use in the diagnostic process is looking at the color, texture, moisture level, and overall vitality of the tongue. Believe it or not, everyone’s tongue is different. Your tongue tells me a lot about your internal health and can offer clues to very stubborn illnesses.

The tongue illustrates the state of the organs, most specifically, the stomach. Different regions of the tongue correspond to different organ systems and can reveal heat, cold, stagnation, and phlegm in parts of the body I can’t see from the outside. I may be able to discern phlegm in the lungs or intestines from observing the tongue, or your tongue may show the cause of your anxiety or insomnia. The tongue even reveals abstract symptoms like fatigue and irritability.

The #1 thing to remember about tongue diagnosis? Don’t brush your tongue! The coating, texture, and moisture level are all key indicators of your body’s internal climate. And don’t worry. If you’ve had coffee, a Jolly Rancher, or a breakfast burrito, I am usually able to look through all of that to discern the real state of the organs. And rest assured, yours will not be the first blue tongue that has shown up in my exam room.

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.

Are You Making this One Immunity Mistake with Every Cold?

frozen branchAutumn is the start of the dreaded cold and flu season, which means coughs, sniffles, body aches, and missed days of work. In fact, you may already be impulsively buying immune-boosting supplements to stave off catching the latest bug living on your office door handles. But are you making this one immunity mistake every time you catch a cold?

This year, before you spend any more money on immunity herbs and supplements, remember this: taking immune-boosting herbs at the beginning of an illness may actually make you sicker.

Believe me, I know the allure of those immunity herbs. Before I became a trained herbalist, every time I came down with something, I took tonic herbs, which never seemed to help me recover quickly. It wasn’t until I visited an acupuncturist during the first few days of a cold that I learned how counterproductive this self-help remedy actually is.

Herbs like ginseng, astragalus, and medicinal mushrooms, such as Reishi, are immune super-herbs. These plants have powerful stimulating characteristics that are ideal for jump-starting a weakened immune system. But these herbs also become super foods for invading viruses and bacteria.

It’s kind of like giving your cold or flu the spa treatment, complete with a smoothie, a pedicure, and a massage.

In Chinese medicine, the herbs used at the beginning of a cold address the surface of the body. After all, cold and flu bugs are superficial illnesses, meaning they are not lodged too deeply inside. We call this a surface invasion and use medicinals that gently open the pores, releasing the pathogen through the skin. Many Chinese formulas for colds and flus actually induce a light sweat.

If a cold or flu bug has decided to call your body home get an acupuncture treatment and a custom Chinese herbal formula right away. If I could train patients to do one thing when they feel “a little something coming on,” it would be to call me within the first 24-48 hours of getting sick.

Chinese medicine has been effectively treating the common cold for over 2,000 years. Acupuncture and the appropriate herbs can significantly reduce the amount of time you spend on the couch, and in some cases, keep you from developing a full-fledged illness, like pneumonia.

If chronically low immunity is always a factor for you during the colder months, visit our clinic before you catch that first cold. We create customized acupuncture and herbal treatments meant to support your immunity, optimize your digestion, and keep you sleeping so that you’re prepared for winter weather.

When it comes to protecting your immunity, start now, and start early. Stay warm, eat cooked healthy food, exercise, sleep, and monitor your mood. If you encourage your body to naturally repel cold and flu bugs, those immune super-pills won’t be necessary.

Just think of how much time and money you’ll save!