Tea Medicine Series: Pu-erh (poo-air)

Pu-erh tea (‘poo-air’) contains high levels of polyphenols (flavonoids, catechins and theaflavin), which are beneficial antioxidants. Fat metabolism and stress reductions have been found to be beneficial side effects from inclusion of these naturally present chemicals in food sources.

Pu-erh has become more accessible in the United States, but it is still not as well known as some of the more classic black, oolong, green, or white teas. Teavanna, David's Tea, Numi's and other larger distributors have begun to scale and made Pu-erh more available. You will find that many of these retailers include 'cacao nibs' or 'chocolate' flavor to make it more palatable to the American consumers. Pu-erh by themselves are more of an acquired taste since most popular teas consumed here in the US are not fermented--yes this tea has been aged. Before you prematurely dismiss its place in your arsenal of food medicine, think about how we love kombuchas, 60-day dry-aged beef, and aged cheese. This should not dissuade one from trying it and appreciate its value as a complementary medicinal food in your everyday lifestyle.

So, what's the big deal?

#1 Helps manage Cholesterol

Aging and fermentation process of pu-erh tea can result in the production of small amounts of product that act as natural statin. Those of us who have history of high overall LDL numbers take statins either to treat a dangerous situation or as a preventative measure recommended by their primary care doctors if they detect an unhealthy trend indicated in their patients' blood panels. Reduction of LDLs and raising HDL numbers is vital to avoiding serious medical issues in these patients. Health benefits of including tea is gentle and cumulative; meaning, if you have a emergent health condition that requires more aggressive measure, you must consult with your medical professional first. For others who are already receiving reliable medical care, teas such as Pu-erh can be a great addition to a new healthier lifestyle.

#2 Digestion

In Traditional Eastern Medicine, pu-erh tea is considered to benefit the middle jiao (stomach/digestive tract) Pu-erh helps aid digestion and has detoxing quality. Although eating pre-packaged meals or foods that are highly processed is not recommended, practically speaking, eating clean all the time may not be possible for everyone. If such is the case, we can carve out days each month to detoxify with nutrient dense foods. In the meantime, adding green tea and pu-erh tea may mitigate some of the damage.

#3 Helps with Weight Loss

Pu-erh tea helps suppress fatty acid synthesis (FAS). Lipogenesis (liver's mechanism of creating fat) is slowed by this tea. The natural source of caffeine found in pu-erh motivates your body to secrete the hormones epinephrine and norepinephrine which are shown to increase metabolism of stored fatty acids in fat cells. Our bodies store fat for a good purpose, which is to use it later when we have calorie deficit. When fat is metabolized for use more efficiently, your body can access fatty acids as fuel and thereby not storing it as excess fat around your hips and belly.

[1] Huang HC, Lin JK. Food Funct. 2012 Feb; 3(2):170-7. Epub 2011 Nov 30.
Pu-erh tea, green tea, and black tea suppresses hyperlipidemia, hyperleptinemia and fatty acid synthase through activating AMPK in rats fed a high-fructose diet.

[2] Chiang CT, Weng MS, Lin-Shiau SY, Kuo KL, Tsai YJ, Lin JK. Oncol Res. 2005;16(3):119-28.
Pu-erh tea supplementation suppresses fatty acid synthase expression in the rat liver through downregulating Akt and JNK signalings as demonstrated in human hepatoma HepG2 cells.

[3] Hou CW. J Biomed Sci. 2011 Oct 20; 18:75. Epub 2011 Oct 20.
Pu-Erh tea and GABA attenuates oxidative stress in kainic acid-induced status epilepticus.

Tea Medicine Series: Hawthorn

This little gem is also known as Shan Zha. Hawthorne may be new to us, but it is a medicinal supplement that has been used throughout history throughout Asia, Europe and North America for its health benefits.

The leaves and flowers contain beneficial flavonoids and procynaidins. Flavonoids activate endothelium-derived relaxing factor and inhibit phosphodiesterase, thereby increasing vasodilation. Therefore, patients who take warfarin/Coumadin, vasodilating, antiplatelet, and/or anticoagulant medications should make sure dosage of this herb is moderate.

Hawthorn fruit herbs are often included in herbal formulas for indigestion. Hawthorn fruit helps break down animal fat and supports digestive function. It has been found to be effective in lowering serum cholesterol and blood pressure. [1] [2]

Check your family medical history and examine your daily diet. If you are concerned about your heart health or have history of high LDL levels, a small dose of hawthorn tea may benefit you. Every little bit counts!

[1] Rajendran, S. et al. Effect of tincture of crataegus on the LDL-receptor activity of the hepatic plasma membrane of rats fed on atherogenic diet. Atherosclerosis. 123(1-2)::235-41, June 1997.

[2] Zhe Jiang Zhong Yi Za Zhi (Zhejiang Journal of Chinese Medicine), 1991; (6)::245.


Alcohol Abuse Related Disease Now Affecting Children

Fatty liver diseases are often associated with alcohol abuse. Unfortunately, Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) is thought to be the fastest growing cause of liver disease in both Western and developing world. What is causing excessive fat accumulation in liver cells in people who do not abuse alcohol?

Researchers posit that dietary consumption of fructose and uric acid concentrations may play a significant role in disease progression in NAFLD. Please refer to the original study for further in-depth information.

Whether the study is conclusive or not, there is no reason to not make healthful modification to mitigate potential health problems--especially for children. Replace sodas and juices with healthier options such as tea (oolong, green, pu-erh tea, and black teas are excellent choices to combat western diets) and whole fruits instead of juices (yes, including natural/ organic sources) as juices contain high concentrations of fructose. Nature provides balance when we consume whole fruits--natural sugar, fiber, and satiation when consumed naturally.

As an acupuncture professional, we can help patients by providing good herbal supplement, patient education including nutrition with medicinal properties, and providing support treatment with acupuncture. 

Managing Your Pain Vs. A Cure

The American College of Physicians is now recommending that patients with low back pain try alternative methods to relieve low back pain before taking over the counter medication or prescribed opioids and other versions of painkillers. Nonpharmacological therapies are encouraged. 

Findings show that steroid and acetaminophens like Tylenol were not as helpful as expected, while other Non-steroidal Anit-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) pain relievers such as aspirin and naproxen provided some relief. The review suggests patients with low back pain try alternative therapies including acupuncture, massage therapy, yoga, and exercises including working with physical therapist to relieve pain.

When you visit an acupuncturist, make sure you relay the following information to the practitioner to ensure that you receive the best possible treatment:

  • How did it happen? Did your PCP order image study? What are the findings?
  • Nature (quality) of your pain - dull, ache, sharp, shooting pain, radiating.
  • Frequency - is it constant? does it come and go? with exertion? when resting?
  • Intensity (severity) - how bad can it get? what activity or position makes it better or worse
  • Location - Is it localized to a specific area? Or is it generalize to a larger area?
  • Weather - does certain weather condition make it better or worse? 
    Ever wonder why retirement communities are vast AZ and FL? (aside from cost of living)
  • Other associated conditions: do you also happen to have neck pain along with your low back pain? Knee pain act up similarly when low back pain is aggravated? Does consumption of certain foods worsen your pain level?

At Harvest Acupuncture, we tailor treatments according to the individual's needs and specific constitution. We also work closely with our physical therapy colleagues in order to produce optimal results for our patients. Contact us for more information and see if acupuncture is for you. 

Nutrition and Acupuncture

If you have recently started to see an acupuncturist, you will find that there are many people who are joining you in the practice. As your begin in a new journey to better health, you will start gaining healthful momentum over time and examine other areas of improvement to bolster your acupuncture treatments and other therapies. The simplest routines one can perform on regularly are consumption of nutrient dense and balance meals, exercising appropriately for your current state of health, and getting regular sleep, rest, relaxation.

Before changing your diet completely, it would be wise to speak with a medical professional and your primary care physician about your current state of health to ensure optimal results. Your doctor will likely perform a comprehensive check-up with blood work and make sure there are no major red flags. He or she may provide list of restrictions or provide alternative foods or modification according to your health. Share these results with your acupuncturist. They will help you add specific foods with medicinal properties or health benefits. Always start small and easy—change is difficult, and difficulty often leads to poor results or inconsistency or noncompliance. Slow and steady wins the race. If change is slow and difficult, your acupuncturist may also recommend herbal supplements tailored to your needs. It is important that you mention your allergies and other dietary restriction to your practitioner before taking anything.

With modified diet, herbal supplements, and acupuncture, your digestion will improve and as a result sleep and energy level will also likely benefit as well. This is why it is very important to do the simplest things in a correct manner. Doing so produces cumulative benefits. It all starts with picking quality ingredients, cooking with balance and with proper methods, and enjoying your meals in a peaceful and enjoyable environment.

To ensure optimal absorption and extraction of nutrients from food, chew thoroughly and slowly. Take the time to enjoy your meals and give your body an opportunity to properly digest. Eating in a peaceful and social environment can help self-regulate portions and help you feel satiated. Eating while stressed or distracted like while working, watching YouTube, or television can undo our mindful eating habits.

Generally speaking, we can benefit from cooking our food. While salads are promoted as healthy or "clean eating", our practitioners promote cooked food. Bioavailability of important nutrients are unlocked when we apply heat to food. Scientific American and medical journals have reviewed studies that state benefits cooking vs. raw vegetables. Eastern medicine generally agree with this idea, especially if a patient tends to have gastrointestinal weakness, bloating sensation, and tends to feel cold easily. 


As it is with many health conditions, symptoms are expressed similarly amongst the affected population, but root issues may be more diverse, varying from person to person.

1. Genetic vulnerability and predisposition. Generally, in eastern medicine, constitutional weakness often leads to respiratory and immunocompromised health conditions.

2. Even born of healthy constitution, poor eating habits and environmental factors can affect a healthy person in a negative manner--leading to weakened or compromised immune system. Eastern medicine would recognize this condition as 'dampness ' formation as a result of inability to properly perform 'transformation and transportation' (metabolism) function. Not only does this cause allergies, but it can also express itself as weight gain, retention of water especially in the lower half of the body, lethargy, and poor digestion (gas/ belching, flatulence, distension, loose stool).

3. Ignoring elevated stress level, prolonged exposure to environmental toxins, and poor rest/sleep can accumulate and weaken the body's ability to resist causative factors.

Most of us are trained to react to diseases, but we can do more. Eastern medicine philosophy asks us to always treat the person and the root, not the just the disease and symptoms. This means one must act while healthy rather than reacting when diseases have arrived or have begun to attack. Nutrition, physical training, meditation/ mental wellness exercises, and care specific to shielding from an individual's vulnerabilities must be practiced before the season arrives. For instance, if one is vulnerable to spring pollen and windy conditions, he/she must build up immunity starting in summer and autumn in order to survive winter and ward off spring's attack.

Visit your trusted acupuncturist/ herbalist soon. There's so much to do before spring arrives! Prepare now and enjoy your health dividends.

Chronic Constipation

When you talk to your acupuncture practitioner, open up the discussion and include other seemingly unrelated symptoms that you've been experiencing along with difficult bowel movements and constipation. Diagnosis and treatment plans vary depending on pattern of disease that is specific to you. Etiologies of constipation are numerous and treatment plan in eastern medicine can be vastly different from one to another.

Chronic constipation is usually a deficient pattern in Traditional Chinese Medicine whereas acute constipation is more likely to be considered excess pattern. Deficient pattern means that a person's overall health constitution or certain biological system function (in this case, GI tract) has over time fatigued. Excess pattern usually involves pathogenic factors such as inflammation, bacterial infection, or lifestyle changes that causes mental-emotional and/ or physical stress.

In eastern medicine, a deficient constitution or a chronic condition, is a sign of weakening function. Instead of treating the patient's symptom, a skill practitioner will always educate his patient to first stop worsening the condition before treating. What good is a treatment if it will happen again? Some conventional therapies to alleviate chronic constipation include medicine, laxatives, dietary fiber, and nutritional supplementation (fibrous vegetables). Your acupuncturist will likely encourage you to keep eating your vegetables, but with one subtle important distinction. Cook or blanch your vegetables whenever you can instead of eating all your fresh vegetables in salads. But why?

A weakening GI function does not need more work than it can handle. By cooking vegetables (not excessively--like deep frying) and eating moderate portions, the body is better able to process fibrous vegetables and absorb nutrients efficiently. Marketing and juice companies have persuaded us to join the raw food movement, but this is not ideal for deficient patients. In fact, I would argue that it is not ideal for any person. Patients tend to benefit a great deal for such a small change in how they prepare their meals.

Your trusted acupuncture professional will keep track of your progress and help your body restore its functions. It is important to follow up and maintain as chronic issues tend to happen over time and usually require time, effort and patience to recover.


Memorial Sloan Kettering: Acupuncture May Positively Affect Sleep for Breast Cancer Survivors with Hot Flash

'Basic science in animals has shown that electro-acupuncture can make the brain release endorphins as well as influence a type of neurotransmitter called norepinephrine. Those types of neurotransmitters, which transmit signals from one neuron to another in the brain, have also been implicated in temperature regulation. I’d seen some studies demonstrating that acupuncture may be effective in reducing hot flashes, but often the number of people in the study was very small and the design was kind of problematic. So I set out to design my own study. When I wrote the trial, there was a study showing that in a large sample of breast cancer survivors, gabapentin was effective for hot flashes, so that’s why I picked it as an effective comparator.'