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How Does Acupuncture Work?

 
 
 
 
 
How Does Acupuncture Work?

“Oh, I believe in acupuncture.”


by Elizabeth Carpenter, MS, L.Ac.  
Director, Oriens Living, New York
 
 

Sometimes people say this to me conspiratorially, like we’re both confessing to something akin to faith in the tooth fairy and genies.

Sometimes their statement is meant to confirm their position in the billion dollar alternative medicine consumer movement, providing options for wellness, prevention and “healing” to those not fully satisfied, or not served at all, by the modern healthcare system.

And sometimes, particularly when they are new patients, the statement seems meant to reassure us both that the work we’re about to do together is likely to be effective.

After all, acupuncture’s reputation precedes it: you enter treatment for one thing (for example Irritable Bowel Syndrome) and end up with all sorts of side benefits like great sleep, good mood and abundant energy.

Still, I can’t help but smile internally. Because it really doesn’t matter. And yet it does.

It doesn’t matter -- because acupuncture’s therapeutics are not belief-dependent.

And yet it does matter -- because of the role placebo plays in every therapy.  Whether it’s your new drug from your MD, or your acupuncture treatment, if you “believe” it will work, you give yourself a bonus, so to speak, a little expeditor boost.

So... “Do you believe in acupuncture?”
Millions of people do, and here are the two main reasons why you should:  track record and proof.

Acupuncture expanded from China to Japan in 219 A.D., was in Korea by 514 A.D., in  Vietnam by the 8th century. It got to Europe by the 17th century, with France as the early adopter 100 years earlier. America got ahold of it late, the 20th century.

So here’s my second question, “how can a bogus healthcare system develop in sophistication, and spread worldwide over 21 centuries?”

To me, however, the most exciting and compelling reasons to believe are scientific ones.  Well actually, science is second. First place has to go to all the “miracles” in my clinic and those of my colleagues: people getting well who’ve failed so many other therapies, babies getting conceived to previously infertile couples, lives being restored.  But back to science…

In the West we’ve categorized Qi (chee) or “energy” as completely unscientific.  Never mind that medical imaging, space and computer technologies, and even simple conveniences like electric lights are results of harnessing and manipulating energy.  Never mind the electromagnetic gradients of cell behavior and the electromagnetic fields of the heart and brain …. Qi is a ridiculous concept, right?

The premise of acupuncture – that there are “energy pathways” in the body that have been reliably mapped, and can be reliably manipulated to restore health and function, but are not able to be seen – is itself what laughs acupuncture out of legitimacy in a biomedicine centric world.

But here’s the thing:  now we know “Qi” and “meridians” are real.  


Do You Believe in Acupuncture?


Stereo-microscope photographs and images from transmission electron microscopy in the research papers show assemblies of tubular structures 1-2 μm wide (red blood cells are 6-8 μm in diameter).

Apparently these structures have remained undiscovered for so long because they are almost transparent and so thin that they are barely visible with low-magnification surgical microscopes.

They’re called Bonghan Ducts (after the researcher that first found them), that cover organs and travel distally all the way out to fingers and toes via specific channels.  The channels have been found inside blood and lymphatic vessels, in the brain, cerebrospinal fluid and spinal cord, and also form networks that overlay internal organs.

In other words, they are just like and just where the ancient (and modern) acupuncture texts map them to be.

They are associated with embryonic organization, persist through adulthood, and contain both DNA and adult stem cells, perhaps accounting for why acupuncture is always regulatory, never detrimental, and explaining why the same point can bring resolution for opposite concerns (for example constipation and diarrhea), and have both immediate and longterm effects of restoring function.

The Bonghan ducts and channels system helps account for acupuncture’s broad regulatory effects on core health systems:  immune, hematopoiesis, hormone paths, all the organ systems, all the circulatory systems.

So now there are three pools of science explaining how acupuncture works:
 


The Neurophysiology Model
Acupuncture channels are independent but use the nerve system and stimulate the brain to change physiology throughout the body. This includes acupuncture's effect on endorphin release (pain killers), other brain chemistry, as well as hormones, and other chemical messengers

The Connective Tissue Model
Acupuncture points are mostly located in areas featuring connective tissue, the web of ground substance, a matrix, that holds us together, literally. Acupuncture cues travel the matrix exerting local and long-distance effects.

The Growth Control Model
The Bonghan ducts, as above.


 

The truth is, science is doing it’s thing: it’s asking questions, to arrive at verifiable stories of how things work.

In the meantime, that acupuncture works,is not a question for the billions of users of acupuncture worldwide. It’s a fact.  As science catches up on the exact mechanisms of action, proving them through the gold standard method of the randomized controlled trial, you can still get in on the benefits for whatever you’d like to restore or improve.

You don’t even have to believe . . . but it wouldn’t hurt.

To Thriving!

-Elizabeth


More to Read:

Feulgen Reaction Study of Novel Threadlike Structures (Bonghan Ducts) on the Surfaces of Mammalian Organs , Shin et al., THE ANATOMICAL RECORD (PART B: NEW ANAT.) 284B:35–40, 2005

Bonghan Circulatory System as an Extension of Acupuncture Meridians, Kwang-Sup Soh, J Acupunct Meridian Stud 2009;2(2):93−106

Charles Shang, MD, Dept. of Medicine, Harvard Medical School;
http://www.acupuncture.com/education/theory/mechanismacu.htm

 

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Easy Meditation for Over-Thinking

Easy Meditation for Over-Thinking


"The mind is a phenomenal servant and a horrible task master." 

too-many-thoughts

"My mind has a mind of its own."

If this sounds like you, then, which end of this quote are you on?

Meditation is the hot thing now, even though it's been a performance optimizer and success strategy for thousands of years. Fortune 100 CEO's are hiring meditation coaches now, and that's putting it back on the map, along with the yoga explosion.

Anyone can meditate and anyone can reap the benefits.  But the most common objection I hear when suggesting it to patients is:

"I can't meditate because I think too much."

Which always makes me smile because that's the very point and the purpose of meditation.  

We meditate precisely BECAUSE our minds are out of control. Yet the more we do it, the more it yields. We become smarter, more intuitive, with better memories; we become better decision makers; we're less reactive; we slow down brain aging, reduce our risk for dementias, relieve our stress.  In short, we build better brains.

BUT, if our minds are in overdrive, how can we possibly meditate?

 

Consider this

Say you decide to climb Everest, but you're a couch potato.   Your first step would not be to fly there and start the climb. Your first step would be to do something like climbing the 2 flights of stairs instead of taking the elevator.  

Yet when it comes to meditation, there's this notion that with no preface, no training, no lead-up, you'll sit cross-legged on the floor for an hour chanting "OM"...free of thoughts. That's an Everest meditation!

The newbie should begin with something equivalent to the couch potato taking the stairs.  And p.s., Any advanced meditator will tell you thoughts come up all the time during meditation….often important breakthrough ones, distracting boring ones, dramatic fantasy ones. It's how you deal with them that counts.

I suggest starting with this exercise.
This is very simple, so don't be confused.  There's no trick involved.

 

1-2 Minute Newbie Starter Meditation Practice

This is from The Institute of HeartMath, a research institute dedicated to developing practical skills for optimal physiology & performance. 

Just take deeper than normal, slower than normal breaths in and out of the heart area.    Fold your hands right over the heart to help you feel the area you're breathing in and out of.  Make the inhale and the exhale the same length.  About 5 seconds in and 5 seconds out.  And during this slow, even, deep breathing in and out of the heart area, actively put your attention on the sensation.

OK, you just meditated for 2 minutes.

How do you feel?  Lighter? Calmer? Odd? Same?

The breath is a lever on your mind.  You are always breathing. Therefore, you always have the option to exert leverage on what your mind is saying, doing, and proposing to you.  

If you don't believe you have the time to do this mini-meditation once or twice every day, then consider this ancient advice on the paradox of meditation practice:

"Meditate for 20 minutes a day. If you don't have the time, then meditate for an hour."

 

To Thriving! -Elizabeth


 

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It’s Not the Bubble Baths of Life…

It's Not the Bubble Baths of Life...


...that teach us anything.”
~ Pema Chodron

By Elizabeth Carpenter, MS., L.Ac.
Founder & Chief Clinician, Oriens Living, New York

Elizabeth Carpenter's Blog-Bubble Baths of Life

I recently had the privilege of being in mind-scrambling agony.

Nervy, hot, searing,  throbbing, sustained pain. So much pain that I couldn’t think. I couldn’t connect with hope. I couldn’t find a single position to be comfortable in. I couldn’t walk, sit, bend (even nod) or stand. No amount of aspirin or ibuprofen could touch it.  I couldn’t sleep. My mind was bent on fear: what will happen if scenarios….

And on the other side of it – having engaged the medicine of healing – I’m so thankful. Thankful it’s over, yes. But also thankful to have gone through it. Because, as one of my favorite teachers, Pema Chodron, lectured us while teaching on the topic mind management and anger, “it’s not the bubble baths of life that teach you...."

So what did I learn and how did the lessons come?

I got a big reminder of what my patients are experiencing when they seek my help. I got the chance to be in their boat, to increase my sympathy and compassion, to identify with how desperate and bleak things can seem and feel.

Second, I got the chance to test and work the system – the medicine I practice every day on behalf of others:Medicine is not something done to us or given to us to swallow. Those are just tools of the healer, efficacious and miraculous as they are.  Instead, I believe medicine is the attention we pay.

Healing (which literally means “to make whole”) is a partnership with our potential.  Getting well is a matter of offering the materials and cues needed for the body’s innate programming to take over. Medical science is constantly evolving, and can explain a good deal about how things work and what goes on in the body. But healing itself – the impulse to heal, the instruction set, the why of it all, remains a mystery. Every human, indeed every organism, is endowed with an innate intelligence or healing capacity.

We all have it.

And when we nourish that potential, it comes to life and heals us. Our job is to give it what it needs to get the job done. Positive attention - our healers and rest, food and water, herbs and therapies, and the faith that we can heal - trips the wellness wiring within and the miracle occurs. We recover.

And hopefully, having gone through our pain and illness, our dark days and nights, and come out the other side, we are better stewards and appreciators of the enormous gift of life and health we experience most other days.

To Thriving!

Elizabeth

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Think with Your Heart & Feel with Your Head

Think with Your Heart, & Feel with Your Head.


By Elizabeth Carpenter, MS., L.Ac.

Founder & Chief Clinician, Oriens Living, New York 
 

I love this quote from Dr. Joseph Michael Levry,
founder of Naam Yoga:

"Think with Your Heart…"

We get so trapped in our heads trying to find solutions to problems.  We’re taught even as toddlers, to be rational.  In truth, the ability to evaluate information logically is a critical success skill.  But when it comes to happiness, and really feeling that big YES about our lives?... this is not the province of the intellect.  This is fulfillment of the heart.  Thinking with the heart is the ability to synch physical, circumstantial reality with what feeds the soul.  To do this, we must bypass the rational mind, and access our inner vault-- the heart, where real knowledge of who we are, what brings joy and what makes sense--for us-- resides.

"….and Feel with Your Head."

Conversely, we need to feel with our heads. (Interestingly, mastering this ability opens the way to “thinking with the heart.”)  When we feel emotionally jammed, our energy gets jammed in our bodies.  We become prisoners of how we feel.  And when we’re stuck like that, we are paralyzed, because emotion drives everything about us.

The admonition to feel with your head means that when we find ourselves overwhelmed--and it’s “Ground Hog Day” every minute because the tape loop in our head keeps replaying the story, evidence, and justification for why we feel so awful—it’s time to use that big rational brain of ours to break the cycle.  We must get curious and ask ourselves important questions:  “What am I really feeling?…And if I'm honest with myself, where's that really coming from ?…What’s holding me hostage? What piece of this story can I shift to let this play out differently?”  i.e. We need to leverage our enormous intellectual capacity for problem-solving, to tease open the emotional jam so our “heart” intelligence provides solutions that satisfy.

When we think with our hearts, we create the life we love.  When we feel with heads we move obstacles to get beyond pain.

In effect, what we’re really doing is balancing the two sides of our brain -- creativity and logic.  And that’s called genius.

To Thriving! Elizabeth

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Leaving Traces in Your Brain

Leaving Traces in Your Brain

by Elizabeth Carpenter, MS. L.Ac.

human-brain

Day after day, your mind is building your brain.  So what are you thinking about, obsessing about? What are you enjoying every day?

 
Due to a concept known as Neural Darwinism – “survival of the busiest” –
whatever captures your mind-share dominates your brain changes.

You teach your brain WHAT to think about,
and HOW you should feel.

Turns out that old meditation saying is a scientific fact:
“you become what your mind rests upon."

Fact

You are leaving traces in your brain with your thoughts, feelings, and experiences.

Rick Hanson, Ph.D. neuropsychologist, in his wonderful new book, “Hardwiring Happiness,” explains the concept of experience-dependent neuroplasticity - Your repeating thoughts and experiences,

“don’t just grow new synapses, remarkable as that is by itself, but also somehow reach down into your genes—into little strips of atoms in the twisted molecules of DNA inside the nuclei of neurons—and change how they operate.  For instance, if you routinely practice relaxation, this will increase the activity of genes that calm down stress reactions, making you more resilient.”

But it’s ANY repeating thought-feeling, not just those useful ones. What matters most is how you spend the bulk of your mental time. So what are you doing with your mental time?  What are you asking your brain for more of?  Self-criticism, worry, love, joy, anxiety, fear, anger? Hanson says your attention on a something first acts like a spotlight to highlight it, and then behaves like a vacuum cleaner and sucks it up into your brain – for good or bad.  The more time you spend dwelling on something, the more you hard-wire it in! Awesome, or awful, your choice.

The Bad News

Most of us are spending a lot of time replaying bad things that have happened (an argument, a resentment, a regret) and bad things we anticipate (worry and fear of what we don’t want to happen).

Two Kinds of Good News

First, we can choose to linger over and replay the good stuff, to rewire and hard-wire ourselves for more goodies 🙂 Second, by waking ourselves up mid mind-rant, we can interrupt our negative thinking and decide to shift mental focus onto something better.

How To Use Your Mind to Build a Better Brain
  • Consciously enjoy and extend your time feeling grateful over the good stuff that happens to you, someone you care about, or in the world.
  • Feel thankful a few extra seconds when good things come your way
  • Notice when you’re enjoying good conversation, good food, a good experience and consciously take pleasure in it

These simple practices focus your attention so your brain highlights and sucks up the good stuff, leaving positive traces and instructions in your brain.

The Net

> You become more resilient.
> You hardwire happiness
> Self-Rx brain anti-aging /dementia-prevention

Go for it – dare to enjoy all your goodies and build a better brain!

 

To Thriving! 

Elizabeth Carpenter, MS, L.Ac., CEFP

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Stress Mastery

Stress Mastery


By Elizabeth Carpenter, MS, L.Ac., CEFP
Founder & Chief Clinician, Oriens Living, New York
 
 

2014 Promises to be a Record Year for our Sun’s Activity and Solar Flares.

 
Q: Why am I mentioning this in an article on stress?

A: Because you are running on electromagnetism: your brain, your heart, ion channels and gradients, more. The sun’s activity impacts all electromagnetics earth. NASA and the science community are monitoring the sun very carefully as solar events can, and do, knock out our power grids.

So as we enter what promises to be a record year for electromagnetic stress: between our 24/7 always on /always available lifestyle, our dependency on multiple electromagnetic technologies, and the sun’s drama….  

We need to step up the stress challenge more than ever before.
Our physical, mental and spiritual health depend on it.

How often have you said,“The stress is killing me.”?

 
Here are a few ways it does!

√ Shuts down logic & critical thinking
√ Shuts down intuition & creativity
√ Negatively affects mental focus and memory
√ Produces anxiety, nervousness & irritability
√ Disrupts hormones
√ Undermines immune system
√ Disturbs weight & metabolism
√ Slows reaction times & throws off coordination
√ Disturbs sleep

It’s been 30 years since Time magazine broke the story to the world that stress is the enemy, a silent killer, a mojo hijacker. Yet we’re more stressed than ever.

The Stress Pre-Emptor

We report our stress as mental, but stress is actually something we feel. The stressors may be external – a deadline, a resource constraint, an argument, an event. But the bottom line is this: stress is an internal emotional response to a perception, which in turn prompts a physiological response.

While short-term stress can be energizing and enhance performance, chronic stress engineers physiological changes that short circuit our mental and physical performance, and can lead to significant long-term damage to our health.

To be able to handle stress – which is a normal part of life and something that will continue to escalate -- we need to build resilience.

Resilience is defined as the capacity to prepare for, recover and adapt in the face of stress, challenge and adversity. It is especially important for preventing stress build-up and wasted time and energy. You can learn how to accumulate and store resilience. Building resilience begins with your heart.

The Heart of the Matter

Rollin McCraty, PhD, of the Institute of HeartMath® (a non-profit research organization) puts it this way in his book, The Energetic Heart, Bioelectromagnetic Interactions Within and Between People:

“While it was formerly maintained that emotions originated only in the brain, we now recognize that emotions can be more accurately described as a product of the brain and body acting in concert. Moreover, evidence suggests that of the bodily organs, the heart may play a particularly important role in emotional experience. Research in the relatively new discipline of neuroradiology has confirmed that the heart is a sensory organ and acts as a sophisticated information encoding and processing center that enables it to learn, remember, and make independent functional decisions that do not involve the cerebral cortex.”

The heart, it turns out, is much like energy-based, mind-body medical systems such as Chinese Medicine suggest: intelligent and central to how the mind and brain process our experiences and direct our physiological affairs.

Your Heart-Brain Connection

The heart’s own nervous system is so complex it’s now being called a heart-brain. The heart actually sends more information to the brain than vice versa. These neural signals affect brain centers involved in decision-making, creativity and all aspects of our physiological self-regulation (hormones, immune response, etc).

The emotions we feel change activity for both branches of our autonomic nervous system (ANS). The common parlance for the “speed up” sympathetic branch of the ANS is fight/flight. The complement system, the parasympathetic branch, we identify as rest/digest/repair.

For optimal performance, we need the two branches to work in concert. Too often, however, our sympathetic nervous system dominates; particularly under the burden of chronic stress it can become “locked.” When this happens, rather than co-captaining our physiologic game, parasympathetic barely gets to play.

The Good News

We can optimize heart-brain communication!
We can master stress to master health and create much more quality of life in each sphere: mental, emotional, physical, spiritual.
Any one of the 3 strategies employed in The Oriens Stress Mastery Program will help you change your stress response, and therefore enhance your quality of life.

We use them together – a triumvirate for Stress Transformation.

The Oriens Stress Mastery Program

√ Self-Regulate in Real-Time through HeartMath® Training – Real-time techniques (used by NASA, Fortune 100’s, Olympic teams and others) integrate into your everyday life and workflow to pre-empt, interrupt and recover from stress. These anytime/anywhere techniques help you self-regulate your HRV (heart rate variability) to optimize heart-brain communication so you produce calm, peaceful alertness on demand.

√ Teach Your Body-Mind to Prefer Calm with Acupuncture – Acupuncture operates through your electromagnetic grid. The strategy in this case, is to literally hard-wire your heart-brain’s preference for an optimized state. In perfect synchrony with HeartMath® Training, acupuncture helps to both introduce a coherent state and to reinforce it.

√ Uncover & Neutralize Hidden Mental-Emotional Stress with Harmonyum Healing – This very gentle, calming, revitalizing hands-on treatment directs energy into the spine and other areas where emotional
 and physical traumas are held and remembered by the body. Safely lifting stress and bringing hidden issues to the surface for your conscious contemplation and action, you address the root of stress.

To Thriving! -Elizabeth

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