Acupuncture Study Shows Potential Promise in the Treatment of Autism

My daughter isn't afraid to pay a visit here

A recent study published by the Chinese Journal of Integrated Traditional and Western Medicine shows promise in the treatment of childhood autism. This study, which consisted of 55 patients between the ages of 2 and 7, evaluated the use of electro acupuncture (EA) as a treatment modality for ASD. Acupuncture treatment consisted of a transcutaneus electrical device placed on acupuncture points LI-11, LI-4, St 36 and LV 3. Patients received acupuncture twice a day for 12 to 24 months. Results were based on before and after SPECT scans evaluating changes in brain activity, as well as journals kept by parents to record changes in behavior.

Results based on recorded parental observations found that ‘the patients’ active language skills were increased, they exhibited increased attention to social stimuli, smiled more, looked at others more often and responded more to their own names’. Neuro imaging after electric acupuncture showed an improvement in defect areas within the prefrontal lobe, Broca’s area, temporal lobe, parietal lobe, hippocampus, visual cortex and thalamus. A correlation was seen between the level of change and the abatement of symptoms. The researchers noted that further studies are needed to confirm results, given the limited number of participants. In addition, with regard to observational data, the lack of blinding and likely parental desire for positive outcome will need to be addressed in further studies.

Zhao, Z., Jia, S., Hu, S., & Sun, W. (2013). Evaluating the effectiveness of electro-acupuncture as a treatment for childhood autism using single photon emission computed tomography. Chinese Journal of Integrative Medicine, 20(1), 19-23. doi:10.1007/s11655-014-1680-2

The Billion Dollar Diet Industry’s Dirty Secret

Woman on a diet

There is a secret the multi-billion dollar dieting industry does not want you to know. According to a growing number of research studies the weight loss, promised by so many diets on the market today, is at most short-term and in some individuals may have the reverse effect. It seems that calorie restricting diets, especially when undertaken by those in a healthy weight range, may lead to increased weight gain and put you at an increased risk for obesity. These studies have shown that in comparing dieters to non-dieters the dieting groups showed a larger mean annual weight gain. Twin studies have confirmed these findings.

The reasons for this are both physical and psychological. Restricting calories in one’s diet has been shown to lead to an increased fixation on food. The body’s response to this ‘short-term starvation’, as coined by dietitians’ Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, is overeating as a means of restoring the body’s energy stores. The 1945 Minnesota Starvation Study, which restricted the caloric intake of 36 male volunteers to 1560 calories a day, was the first of its kind to illustrate the human response to decreased calorie intake. The effects, which mirrored many of today’s chronic dieters, were an obsession with food, increased rates of depression and a 40% decrease in metabolism. In essence, for most of the population, there are no ‘good’ calorie restricting diets.

From a Chinese medical perspective the diet one should eat to lose weight is one that meets the needs of the particular individual and addresses his/her body’s needs. Outside of the parameters of eating locally sourced whole foods, no diet is seen as perfect for all people. For example, individuals whose weight gain is the result of a weak digestive system need to focus on nourishing foods while those who are exhibiting symptoms of heat within the digestive system need cooling foods. Food is viewed not as something to be controlled but something to be in harmony with and eating as a pleasurable experience.

Amelie de Mahy L.Ac, providing acupuncture and Chinese herbs to the communities of Walnut Creek, Lafayette, Danville, Concord and Pleasant Hill.



Have Anatomical Acupuncture Meridians Been Discovered?

Meridian Lines On An Acupuncture Figurine

One of the most common critiques of Traditional Chinese medical theory has been the inability to verify the existence of acupuncture meridians. For many opponents of TCM this lack of physical basis has served as a means of invalidating the entire system. Recently, however, Korean researchers within the Department of Physics and Anatomy at Seoul University believe they may have discovered anatomical meridians. Their research is based off of studies done by Bong Han Kim, a Korean research scientist, whose discoveries were largely ignored by the medical community.

These ‘meridians’, which are known as Bonghan Ducts (BHDs), are small transparent threadlike structures closely resembling fibrin strings. The ability to discern BHDs from fibrin strings is a recent development due to the discovery of a sFigur mit Akupunkturpunkten / Meridianenuitable staining agent (Trypan Blue) selective to the ducts. Bong Han Kim’s research was unable to be replicated due to his omission of this information. His original research simply mentioned the injection of a blue dye into an acupuncture point that he later observed to have circulated on a pathway similar to an acupuncture meridian.

Bonghan Ducts have been found in large arteries and veins, inside the heart, in the fascia surrounding the organs and in large lymph vessels. Though there is no certainty of their exact function, they are believed to be a part of a circulatory system possibly for hormones and tissue-regenerating materials. Other theories include the possibility that they serve as a novel pathway for cancer metastasis.


Amelie de Mahy L.Ac, providing acupuncture and Chinese herbs to the communities of Walnut Creek, Lafayette, Danville, Concord and Pleasant Hill.


What is Cosmetic Acupuncture?


Cosmetic  Acupuncture, or Facial Rejuvenation, is a safe and effective anti-aging treatment dating back to the Tang dynasty in 7th Century China. The practice, which was originally reserved for royalty, takes a holistic approach to rejuvenating the skin. Traditional Chinese medicine believes that the face is a reflection of the health and vitality of the body. Therefore care is taken to strengthen the health of the entire person as opposed to focusing exclusively on the face.

How does it work?

One of the earliest Chinese texts, the Neijing, states that as we age the numerous acupuncture channels that are in

Acupuncture needles with spa stone on tray, closeup

the face begin deteriorating, leading to wrinkled, dull skin. By needling the face, qi and blood is returned to the area creating a younger-looking appearance. From a Western perspective, Cosmetic Acupuncture stimulates collagen production, helps smooth the color of the face and plumps fine lines and wrinkles.

What to expect?

The specifics of the treatment vary with the practitioner and style of Cosmetic Acupuncture practiced. Most acupuncture sessions, though, last around 90 minutes with needles retained for 30 minutes. For optimum results patients require 10 to 12 weekly or bi-weekly sessions. Results vary depending on the individual’s age and the condition of the skin, but most patients begin to see a change after the first few treatments. One of the earliest shifts is in the tone of the skin. By week 4, patients can begin to notice a plumping of fine lines.

Amelie de Mahy L.Ac, providing acupuncture and Chinese herbs to the communities of Walnut Creek, Lafayette, Danville, Concord and Pleasant Hill.


Neuropathy: Origins and Treatment from a TCM Perspective


Peripheral neuropathy is a disease of the peripheral nerves affecting an estimated 20 million people.  It most commonly affects the hands and feet and is associated with muscle weakness, pain and numbness. There are numerous causes of peripheral neuropathy ranging from physical trauma, diseases directly or indirectly leading to nerve damage and toxin exposure.

Walking for those suffering from peripheral neuropathy can prove difficult due to pain and an inability to accurately perceive both the ground and the position of the feet. The latter can also lead to a loss of balance. People often describe it as walking on pillows or the sensation of pebbles beneath the feet.  

fingers workingTraditional Chinese Medicine views neuropathy as the result of a deficiency and/or blockage leading to poor nourishment of the tissue. Treatment involves the use of acupuncture needles to stimulate and nourish blocked areas. Thin needles are often placed in acupuncture points near areas of numbness and pain as well as distally, based on the root cause of a patient’s neuropathy as seen from a Chinese Medical perspective. The treatment should be painless. Herbal medicine may also be prescribed to help alleviate pain and promote the flow of ‘qi’( or energy ) to the hands and feet.  Patients often notice a difference after one treatment, though it will take repeat visits to sustain the relief.

Amelie de Mahy L.Ac, providing acupuncture and Chinese herbs to the communities of Walnut Creek, Lafayette, Danville, Concord and Pleasant Hill.

The Chinese Herb That Could Save Your Life

Closeup portrait, scientist holding 50 mL conical tube with blue liquid solution, performing laboratory experiments, isolated lab background. Forensics, genetics, microbiology, biochemistry

Each year more than 45,000 individuals are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. It remains one of the most lethal cancers with a 5-year survival rate of  <5%. Thus far there has been little hope for those diagnosed. Current medications often add weeks not years to one’s life. However, a new study published in the American Journal of Physiology – Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology, has brought some hope to individuals diagnosed with this deadly cancer. Researchers have discovered that an extract of the Chinese herb lei gong teng, called Triptolide, may actually lead to pancreatic cancer cell death.

The secret of Triptolide’s effect lies in its ability to override a cellular mechanism which allows cells under increased stress to avoid termination. Within a normal mammalian cell the ability to access protein is enabled through a process called protein folding, which occurs in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). When there is a build-up of proteins improperly folded the result is increased stress within the ER which triggers the unfolded protein response (UPR). This response can compensate for the damage for a short period but if it is not resolved it will trigger cell death. Glucose related protein 78 (GRP78), a regulator of cellular stress more prevalent in cancer cells and tissue, helps preserve the cell before the unfolded protein response triggers the cell to die. And because it is more prevalent in cancer cells it allows them to survive longer and continue multiplying, which is why this protein is thought to play a major role in helping pancreatic cells thrive.

What the study found was that use of Triptolide inhibited glucose related protein 78 (GRP78), and induced the unfolded protein response which led to chronic stress within the cancer cell. The result was cancer cell death.

“This study not only demonstrates that triptolide-mediated ER stress induces autophagy, but it provides convincing evidence that the autophagy aids in cell death, instead of cell survival,” the authors stated.

The article can be found at: Mujumdar et al. (2014) Triptolide Activates Unfolded Protein Response Leading to Chronic ER Stress in Pancreatic Cancer Cells.

Amelie de Mahy L.Ac, providing acupuncture and Chinese herbs to the communities of Walnut Creek, Lafayette, Danville, Concord and Pleasant Hill.

The Role of Qigong in Cancer Treatment

chinese do taichi outside

Qigong is a system of self-healing which includes breathing exercises, postures, fluid movements, self-massage and meditation. Its purpose is to increase and move the qi, or ‘life energy’ within the body. This cultivation of qi aids in bringing one into balance, preventing disease and improving health. When one’s internal qi is strong and free flowing, well-being will be the natural state.

chinese do taichi outside

The link between qigong practice and cancer treatment is in the role of qi within the disease’s development. Though there are a variety of factors that lead to cancer cell proliferation, a fundamental aspect within the system of Traditional Chinese Medicine, is a deficiency of the body’s ‘Vital Qi’. Causes for this weakening are poor diet, emotional problems, physical overexertion and the environment’s impact on the body. Loss of this qi can lead to improper functioning of the body which creates an environment for tumor development.

Physical weakening, commonly seen as a result of cancer and of western treatment modalities like chemotherapy and radiation, is often improved with the practice of qigong. Patients have noted a decrease in symptoms from these treatments, help in the amelioration of pain as well as the slowing of the disease’s progression.

Qigong is safe to practice at any stage of cancer. There are a myriad of different qigong forms. Patients with cancer, however, should concentrate on forms designed to strengthen and nourish the body and assist in regulating specific organs.

Amelie de Mahy L.Ac, providing acupuncture and Chinese herbs to the communities of Walnut Creek, Lafayette, Danville, Concord and Pleasant Hill.

Ankylosing Spondylitis: The Disease and Its Treatment

Woman getting an acupuncture treatment in a spa

Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a chronic inflammatory disease primarily affecting the joints of the spine and sacroiliac joints. It is also known as rheumatoid spondylitis as it is considered a systemic rheumatic disease. Rheumatic diseases are characterized by pain in the joints and muscles as well as inflammation and stiffness. AS initially manifests as back pain, which may progress to a limitation of spinal motion and chest expansion. Ossification of the annulus fibrosis (the outer covering of the intervertebral disc) and calcification of the anterior and lateral spinal ligaments, which are seen in late stage cases, give the appearance of a “bamboo spine”. This term describes the spines rigidity as seen through radiographic tests.

The disease is more common in males and usually begins before the age of 30. It is characterized by pain that is worse in the morning and improves with activity. There is no specific test to diagnose AS. Use of X-ray or MRI can help confirm diagnosis through the characteristic spinal changes, but reliability is limited due to varying disease progression. Blood tests can be helpful since those with AS may show an increase in C-reactive protein and a higher ESR rate in acute inflammatory periods. A high percentage of individuals with AS also possess the Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) B27, though most with this surface antigen do not contract the disease. Over the counter anti-inflammatory medications are the primary drugs used in the treatment of AS. In addition, physical therapy is routinely implemented to help diminish the characteristic pain and stiffness.

Chinese medicine tends to classify most rheumatic diseases as bi syndrome. The specific bi syndrome type and the etiology leading to that syndrome are largely determined on a case-by-case basis. Types of bi syndromes are wind, cold, damp, fixed and heat bi. There can also be some level of kidney deficiency due to its role in governing the bones.

I recently treated a 30-year-old male who, after years of misdiagnosis, was diagnosed with AS in the year 2006. Originally, the pain was believed to be due to a trauma suffered in 1999. During that time the patient began experiencing periods of debilitating back pain. The pain usually began in the morning when trying to walk. It was described as an intense electrical pain that shot up through the pelvis into the back. During the first few years the pain would last for weeklong periods and gradually return to normal. In 2006 the pain was constant for a 4-month period. The use of crutches or a wheelchair became necessary for mobility. A rheumatologist eventually confirmed the diagnosis with an MRI and blood test (patient tested positive for HLA B27). Pain eventually shifted to stiffness in the back.Moxa sticks

When the patient came for treatment his main complaint was pain and stiffness in the lumbar region and acute neck pain at the T1 level. He also complained of occasional back pain in the T-10 area. Lumbar pain was said to worsen in cold and damp weather. Additional symptoms included fatigue and occasional dizziness.

Patient was diagnosed with cold damp bi and kidney deficiency. The points I needled included GB20, which is effective in treating pain of the neck and upper back and, in this patient’s case, also useful in treating the dizziness he experienced; Huatuojiaji points alternating from T1 to L5, which are an effective means of treating AS locally, given the location of the disease and the primary areas affected; DU4, which is another point used to treat pain and stiffness at the lumbar spine and is also a tonifying point of the kidneys, which as mentioned earlier are often deficient in patients suffering from AS; and DU14, which has a good effect in treating spinal stiffness and assisting in expelling wind.

This combination of points makes up the dragon insertion method, a series often used for individuals with CNS disorders, like MS. Though there are minor variations in point selection they are named as a representation of their shape, with T1 to L5 representing the dragons body, DU 4 representing the dragon’s tail,GB-20 representing the dragon’s eyes and DU 14 representing the dragon’s mouth. However, in this case, given the differentiation, it is also a successful means of relieving pain and tonifying. Other options when treating AS patients include the use of moxa on the jiaji points to relieve cold.

In addition to acupuncture, herbs can also be an important part of a holistic AS treatment plan. Despite the fact that CDoctor wrapping Chinese traditional herbal medicine.hinese herbs are tailored to the specific needs of the patient there are formulas that are especially helpful for treatment of this disease. In a study published by Chinese Medical Research and later translated and summarized by Blue Poppy, Dr. Li Xian-lin found that Shen Jin Tong Bi Wan (Extend the Sinews & Free the Flow of Impediment Pills) effectively treated 91.37% of the 243 patients enrolled in his 15-to-16 year study of AS patients. The formula consisted of Ma Huang 10 grams, Gui Zhi 10 grams, Du Huo 10 grams, Qing Fei Teng 12 grams, Mu Gua 12 grams, Shen Jin Cao 15 grams, Wu Jia Pi 12 grams, Wu Shao She 15 grams, Dang Gui 15 grams, Chi Shao 15 grams, Du Zhong 15 grams, Gan Cao 10 grams. This formulation was based on his view that AS resulted from wind, damp and cold invading as the result of an overall deficiency. Patients took five grams (in pill form) three times a day.

In this patient’s case pain relief after treatment was immediate. Neck pain was resolved with lumbar pain relief initially lasting for 5 days with reported decrease in morning pain and stiffness. For three weeks the treatment was repeated with continued decrease in symptoms. Patient reported he has had no acute flare-ups 4 months after treatment and has had continued relief in overall lower back pain. Given the relief the patient experienced due to the acupuncture he was uninterested in taking herbs.

It seems from treatment that acupuncture can help relieve pain and improve flexibility. The anti-inflammatory effect of acupuncture may also play a role in the relief of symptoms. The use of traditional Chinese medicine does not appear to arrest the disease’s process but may give significant symptomatic relief.

This article was previously published in the California Journal of Oriental Medicine