Saturday, December 31, 2016

Benefits of Massage for Lupus

This article discusses:
 - What is Lupus from a Western medicine point of view
 - Looking at Lupus from a Chinese medicine point of view (TCM)
 - Benefits of Massage for Lupus

Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system becomes hyperactive and attacks normal, healthy tissue that can damage any part of the body: skin, joints, kidneys, blood, heart, and lungs. Normally, the immune system produces antibodies that protect the body from anything foreign, like viruses, bacteria, and germs, but with an autoimmune disease, your immune system cannot tell the difference between these “foreign invaders” and your bodies healthy tissues, and creates auto antibodies that attack and destroy healthy tissue and cause pain, inflammation, and damage in the body.

Anyone can get Lupus, most develop the disease between the ages of 15-44 years old, and is 9x more common in women than men, with women of color 3x more likely to develop Lupus. Lupus is not contagious, most doctors believe Lupus results from both genetic and environmental stimuli. These environmental factors include: 

  • Extreme stress 
  • Exposure to ultraviolet light 
  • Smoking 
  • Some Medications or Antibiotics 
  • Infections 
  • And the Epstein Barr Virus
About 2 million Americans, and around 5 million people worldwide, have a form of Lupus. Lupus has no cure, but can be managed with treatment. Infections are the leading cause of death in people with Lupus, so treating any infection at the first signs, is a priority. 

Common symptoms of Lupus:

  • Extreme Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Painful/Swollen Joints 
  • Anemia 
  • Swelling in Legs, Hands, Feet, around Eyes
  • Pain in the Chest with Deep Breathing 
  • “Butterfly” Rash across Cheeks and Nose
  • Sun/Light Sensitivity 
  • Hair Loss
  • Abnormal Blood clotting 
  • Raynauds Phenomenon
  • Mouth/Nose Ulcers
Western Treatment for Lupus involves seeking treatment through a rheumatologist, and once diagnosed with Lupus, your doctor will develop a treatment plan based on your age, symptoms, general health, and lifestyle. The treatment plan should consist of:

  • Reducing Inflammation caused by Lupus
  • Suppress the Overactive Immune System 
  • Prevent Flares and Treat them when they occur
  • Control the Symptoms of Lupus; as stated above
  • Minimize Damage to Organs 
The medications used to treat Lupus include:
Anti-Inflammatories, which help reduce pain caused by inflammation, and for many people with Lupus, this is the only medication they need to control it

  • Aspirin and Tylenol, they are easily available over the counter and help with reducing pain and can control some symptoms of Lupus. Both can cause stomach irritation.
  • Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) for inflammation suppression, joint pain and stiffness. Can also cause stomach irritation or bleeding ulcers, and to reduce these chances, can be taken with antacid medications like Prilosec or Prevacid
  • Corticosteroids that can quickly decrease the swelling, heat, tenderness, and pain associated with inflammation. Prednisone is the most common steroid prescribed.
  • Immunosuppressives are used to control inflammation and the overactive immune system, but can reduce your bodies ability to fight off infections.
  • Anticoagulants to thin blood and prevent clots that can be life threatening
  • Repository Corticotropin Injection that helps the body to produce its own natural steroid hormones, like cortisol, that help the immune system defend itself against inflammation.
  • Benlysta, which is the first and only drug specifically developed for and approved to treat Lupus, was developed to disrupt activation of B lymphocytes by interfering with BLyS, a protein required for B cell activity
In Chinese medicine (TCM), “Lupus” is not the term used, but is characterized by the symptoms that result from a Yin Deficiency and is mainly viewed as stemming from an internal injury, emotional distress.

In the case of Lupus there is:

  • Kidney Yin/Yang Deficiency
  • Lung Yin Deficiency
  • Liver Deficiency
  • Spleen Deficiency
  • and Liver Stagnation
In the body, Yin is the body fluids and other nourishing, cooling, and moisturizing mechanisms in the body and Yang is metabolic heat. When there is not enough cooling mechanisms in the body, hot Yang energy cannot be controlled. This is a kind of overheating in the body that causes many of the symptoms of Lupus.

Deficient Liver Blood causes most symptoms of Lupus such as:

  • Aversion to Bright Lights, as the Liver Nourishes and Lubricates the Eyes
  • Alopecia/Hair Loss, as Hair is sometimes considered Excess Liver blood
  • Arthritis/Joint Pain, as it is said the Liver Blood Nourishes and Lubricates the Tendons
  • Rashes, as another Function of Blood is to Lubricate the Skin 
Diagnosis in TCM would include:

  • Questioning Patient with Personal and Family Medical History
  • Examination of Physical Features such as Face, Tongue, Hair, Nails, Sputum/Mucus, and Locations of Pains
  • Smelling of the Breath
  • Feeling the Pulse
  • Listening to Sounds in the Chest 
Treatment of the Symptoms and Deficiencies could involve:

  • Herbal formulas that help with the imbalance of Yin and Yang 
  • Acupuncture or Moxibustion for Tonification where it is needed
  • With maturity and age, flare ups will gradually decrease as the amount of Yang in the body becomes more in balance with Yin
Benefits of Massage for Lupus

Many people with Lupus greatly benefit from massage as it: 

  • Induces the relaxation response
  • Releases endorphins that make you feel good
  • Reduces inflammation and soreness, leaving clients able to move comfortably, and experience less exhaustion and physical pain
  • Can be beneficial to circulation and other body systems affected by Lupus, as it can help feed the tissues oxygen and nutrients, which can help organs function better 
  • Having a caring, nurturing, relaxing touch can help decrease stress for a client with Lupus, and in turn, help them cope with their symptoms
  • Being in the parasympathetic state of the nervous system can help the body repair and recharge 
Some treatments and massage guidelines that are helpful include: 

  • Stretching
  • Reflexology
  • Swedish Massage
  • Trigger Point Therapy
  • Lymphatic Drainage, and
  • Deep Pressure, if clients constitution is strong
Start off with a 15-30 minute massage to see how client feels, if they respond positively, you can proceed with a full 60 minute massage.

If a client is currently experiencing a flare up with fever, rash, or other symptoms, you should postpone the massage, or try energy work or light touch, as deep pressure can exacerbate Lupus during a flare up.

Just having light touch or energy work can still induce relaxation, which a client with Lupus will benefit from.

Clients should always maintain clear communication with their Massage Therapist about what is going on with their body and where they are experiencing pain.

As a Massage Therapist, you should always listen to the clients body and never push it further than their constitution limits. 

Friday, December 16, 2016

Benefits of Massage with Rheumatoid Arthritis

Benefits of Massage for Rheumatoid Arthritis

For my research paper subject I chose to study and find more information regarding Rheumatoid Arthritis. In this paper I will go through the following:

  • a Western Medicine description of the condition, 
  • a Traditional Chinese Medicine description of the condition, 
  • the benefits of massage for this condition, 
  • the contraindications of massage for this condition, 
  • and the modifications of massage that can be made for this condition.
     Western Medicine on Rheumatoid Arthritis: in the Western Medicine point of view Rheumatoid Arthritis it is known as an autoimmune disease. This disease is the body’s immune system trying to help protect the body but going about it in the wrong way. In this condition it is the immune system attacking the joints of the body. The joints most commonly affected are those of the hands, wrists, elbows, knees, and ankles. Swelling and pain generally occur as symptoms of this condition. This condition can cause a decrease in joint mobility, a decrease in the cartilage of the joints, and a decrease in the spacing between the bones in joints. There are many ways to have self-care when dealing with this condition. A few ways to keep good self-care with this condition are a healthy diet, physical exercise, or hot and cold therapies.
     Traditional Chinese Medicine on Rheumatoid Arthritis: in Traditional Chinese Medicine Rheumatoid Arthritis is looked at in a different way. There are categories for different types of arthritis such as the upper and lower body, the deficiency or excess of the condition, the pain of the condition, or the hot and cold types. Rheumatoid Arthritis is known as a disorder of Qi and blood circulation that leads to the swelling and pain of the condition. Rheumatoid Arthritis is an invasion of the joints by wind and dampness which belong to the Wood and Earth elements. Traditional Chinese Medicine remedies can help to relieve the pain from the condition. A few of these ways are acupressure, acupuncture, herbal remedies, Qi Gong physical exercises and massage, or diet changes.
      Benefits of Massage on Rheumatoid Arthritis: there is a vast number of ways that massage can benefit those with Rheumatoid Arthritis. Massage can have a very pleasant effect on Rheumatoid Arthritis and the pain that comes with it, massage has been known to help soothe and calm the body overall from the tension and stress it has gone through with the condition. Massage therapy can help relieve the sore muscles and joints in the major areas affected by this condition also. Since Rheumatoid Arthritis attacks the joint and lessens mobility, massage therapy can make a significant difference in improving range of motion for those affected by it. Stiffness and pain can decrease significantly when massage therapy is applied with this condition.
      Contraindications of Massage on Rheumatoid Arthritis: there are times when massage therapy should not be used with this condition. The main contraindication of massage therapy on Rheumatoid Arthritis is when the patient or client is experiencing a painful flare up in the symptoms of the condition. Massage therapy can worsen or increase this pain of condition with too much pressure. This might be an instance when massage should be avoided until flare up ceases or make use of light pressure in massage so as not to increase pain.
       Modifications of Massage on Rheumatoid Arthritis: there are times when modifications may be needed for client to have a relaxing experience throughout the massage. The massage should be modified if the client or patient is in significant pain from the condition. Light pressure is a common way of still giving relief to the client but not worsening the pain or swelling of condition. Deep pressure may be applied if the client or patient with condition feels more relief this way rather than light pressure. Applying passive range of motion during massage can be beneficial if agreeable to client and if client is not experiencing much pain at the time. Checking your client’s range of motion before and after the massage can help form a basis of their level of range of motion and how they are improving.
      It is always good to know and learn more about the different conditions that can be helped by massage therapy. Rheumatoid Arthritis can be very painful and degenerative. The benefits of massage are endless for those experiencing this condition. Those with this condition are often seeking relief when using massage therapy and it is best when we know best how to care for them in the right ways.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Essential Oil Ideas for the Holidays

3 Beautifully Aromatic Essential Oil Ideas for the Holidays  

***My favorite resources are listed at the end of this Blog.***

#1:  Diffuse a festive blend in the air.  Use these in an electric diffuser, or simply in a bowl with boiled water poured on top.

NOTE: The amounts below make 1 use in the diffuser which will last 1-3 hours.  To make a larger amount for multiple use or to make stocking stuffers, multiply the drops of oil by 10 or less.  For example, 3 drops of Peppermint x 10 = 30 drops.

Christmas Candy

(recipe via Kathryn Sharp, White Sage Landing)
3d Peppermint
1d Clove
1d Nutmeg - or substitute Allspice
3d Green Mandarin (or any Orange oil)
1d Vanilla – if you’re doing this in a bowl with boiled water, you can substitute  1/8 tsp cooking vanilla for the essential oil.

Winter Wonderland

3d Douglas Fir
2d Peppermint
1d Allspice
3d Orange

4d Frankincense
3d Myrrh
Note this blend works best in a bowl with boiled water as the resin quality of Myrrh tends to clog an electric diffuser.
Make stocking stuffers by getting some bulk quantity Sample Vials and filling them with your blend. Print a label on your computer, and wrap it around.  Each vial will last for several uses of the blend.
Or keep it simple with any single Tree oil such as Pine, Fir, or Spruce.  Not only do these smell woodsy refreshing, they help clean the air and support the health of our lungs.

#2:  Make an Aromatic Salt Scrub for feet or add to a hot bath.  With some small decorative storage jars, you can make this into a larger batch and create a fabulous gift to give others.
In a bowl, mix together:

1 cup coarse sea salt + a little extra if needed
1/2 cup carrier oil such as jojoba, liquid coconut, sweet almond, or a mixture of these
Optional if you have it: 1 Tsp Cucumber Seed Botanical Oil
10-20 drops total Essential Oils.
© For a tropical Thai aroma I use Lime, Massoia, Plai, Lawang, & Lemongrass

© For a luxurious romantic bath try Ginger Lily and Cardamom together

© To relax and get away from it all combine Rose Geranium, Lavender, & Bergamot

Stir together and transfer to a glass jar with a lid.  Use 1 large spoonful in a hot bath, and about 1 tbsp per foot & leg in a spa style scrub.

There are all kinds of jars available in a variety of sizes that you can use to package up your Foot Spa Salt Scrub for the special people on your list.  This makes a great gift for Massage Therapists to give to your regular clients too!

#3:  Create a Room Spritz to add some quick ambience, refresh the air during and after a party, or just to jazz up cleaning day.  These also make a great gift!
Spritzer Tops (aka Finger Misters) can be ordered to fit different bottle sizes.  This one shown is a small size that fits a 1 or 2 oz glass bottle.  Then use either plain water or a beautiful Aromatic Hydrosol as the base you add essential oils to.

In a 1oz Spritzer Bottle combine:  Use plain water or an Aromatic Hydrosol such as Spruce, Pine, or another type of Tree as the carrier base.

Blend #1:
2d Rosemary
2d Eucalyptus
2d Thyme
3d Lemon
1d Cinnamon

Blend #2:

4d May Chang or Lemon Tea Tree
4d Peppermint
2d Eucalyptus

Blend #3:

3d Palo Santo
3d White Sage
3d Douglas Fir

I hope this gets your creative juices flowing. Have fun & smell wonderful this holiday season!

~Cynthia McMullen, Essential Oil Instructor
Alaska Institute of Oriental Medicine, Acupuncture & Massage Therapy

You can study at our school in Alaska from anywhere in the world!  We have a fabulous series of Online Essential Oil Courses - you can even get certified through us.

Some of my favorite RESOURCES:

White Sage Landing - beautiful organic essential oils - the ones I use - and a small variety of hydrosols.  Use code CMCM when ordering.

SKS Bottles - huge variety of bottles and jars, spritz tops, droppers, in bulk quantity only.

Mountain Rose Herbs - smaller quantities of bottles and jars, spritz tops, droppers, essential oils and hydrosols. Also a nice selection of salt scrub supplies.

Original Swiss Aromatics - organic essential oils and hydrosols.

Oshadhi - I love their organic hydrosols, huge selection!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Natural Therapies for Anxiety

Natural Therapies for Anxiety
Acupuncture & Herbs
Massage Therapy
Energy Healing
Meditation – QiGong – Tai Chi

See video at end -
Anxiety: Frankincense and Energy Work

Approximately 38 million Americans suffer with chronic anxiety or depression with one out of eight adults currently taking antidepressant medications for these symptoms. While these medications can offer support and benefit on certain occasions, there are many people that do not respond well to this form of treatment. What happens when you need to try something else?

Natural therapies can offer tremendously helpful support in healing the root causes of this epidemic. This approach is much more comprehensive and much less invasive to the brain than using SSRI medications. Oriental medicine looks at the whole mind-body-spirit, and treats on all 3 levels.


Practiced for over 2,500 years, acupuncture is a branch of Chinese medicine that treats the energetic level of the human body/mind. Did you know acupuncture is usually a profoundly relaxing experience that establishes a deep quality of restoration and balance to the central nervous system? Many people report a pleasant feeling of an altered mind state, floaty, dreamy, or sleepy after treatment. This feeling tends to stick around for a few hours after the treatment and becomes a more continuous experience with repetitive treatment.

Acupuncture works by balancing the flow of Qi, or internal life force, in the body. Energetically, anxiety is considered a byproduct of weakened Qi in the heart or kidneys. Other symptoms such as low back pain, heart palpitations, insomnia, irritability, or nightmares commonly accompany the anxiety and are naturally included as part of the treatment.

Chinese & Western Herbs

There are a number of Chinese herbal formulas that can work wonders for anxiety disorders. Here is a brief list of formulas an acupuncturist may use to treat anxiety followed by several common Western herbs that can be easily found at your local health food store:
  • Peaceful (or Calm) Spirit
  • Salvia and Amber
  • Heavenly Emperor's classic formula
  • Free and Easy Wanderer – one of our favorites!
  • Suan Zao Ren Tang
  • chamomile
  • valerian
  • lemon balm
  • passion flower
Massage Therapy

Many people have found Massage Therapy to have a wonderful effect in relaxing the body-mind and re-integrating a sense of peace and calm into the nervous system. Regular massage, which we suggest either once a week or every other week for about one season, trains our body to attain and maintain a strongly serene state. It can become much easier to avoid or release the feelings that anxiety brings on.

Energy Healing

Many people find light touch/no touch energy healing helps them to reach a mind state that is so relaxed it becomes a mentally transformative experience.  In this altered state, it can feel like floating, energetic sensations throughout the body or in focused areas, and simultaneously being in a deep sleep while being aware of not being asleep.  Medical QiGong Energy Healing uses the same energy pathways as acupuncture, and externally re-balances energy (Qi) flow to assist in healing symptoms.  The therapist helps the energy of your heart and kidneys communicate harmoniously again so that deep healing can occur.

Meditation – QiGong – Tai Chi

Many people find meditation, qigong, and tai chi to be their most powerful allies in healing anxiety. With regular practice of various breathing techniques and tai chi postures, people often feel that they have much more control over their anxiety and that it need not run their life anymore. These practices can be direct gateways to the rest and restore mode of the nervous system. On a deeper level, they can help us forge a spiritual connection with our lives that instills an unshakable sense of trust and safety in the workings of the universe. 

From a holistic perspective, our symptoms are never random. There is always a reason why they creep up. In the case of anxiety, it is helpful to disengage from our personal feelings about it and look at the bigger picture. What is the anxiety telling us about ourselves and where we are at in life? Is it a warning sign that something is amiss and needs to be acknowledged or changed? In any regard, the practices mentioned here can offer a profound level of support in getting to the root of the problem and inducing a gentle course in a new direction of calmness and insight.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Natural Therapies for Insomnia

Natural Therapies for Insomnia
Acupuncture & Herbs
Massage Therapy
Energy Healing
Meditation / QiGong

Essential Oils & Ear Reflexology

Sleep disorders plague millions of Americans and can be attributed to a variety of causes. Perhaps the main cause of insomnia and restless sleep is the whirlwind pace that most modern people live with day in and day out. Our society emphasizes ‘doing’ much more than ‘being’.

From the perspective of acupuncture, the yin aspect of life is quite depleted for the average modern American.  [

In case you have never heard of yin and yang, these are the polar forces that are reflected in everything in the natural world. Yin is related to stillness, tranquility, and contemplation. Yang is related to movement, accomplishment, and function. We need yin and yang to be in balance within ourselves in order to experience true health and wellbeing.

When we are yin deficient, we easily become restless, irritable, and excessively busy. Our ability to rest and restore is compromised, as we never seem to get a break from the constant activity in our minds and our lives.

This is one of the main dilemmas that we face in terms of experiencing deep states of continuous sleep. We have forgotten how to turn our minds off due to the frantic speed of everything around us and we have become yin deficient.

The common word is stress, but there is a lot more to this picture than is implied. Another way to look at this is that the sympathetic nervous system is on overdrive. We are stuck in fight or flight mode, as we are trying to keep up with our hectic schedules and myriad responsibilities. We have excessive amounts of cortisol and adrenaline in our systems, which keep us feeling amped up and unable to rest.

With the pattern of yin deficiency and a hyperactive sympathetic nervous system, we often feel too warm, excessively thirsty, dried out, and anxious. This pattern is extremely common in menopausal women. Due to the fact that we are in fight or flight, we sometimes can’t tell if we are tired. We often feel wired or manic. Yet other times a deep-seated exhaustion is felt that penetrates into our bones.

There are many other factors that contribute to insomnia, but this is the primary issue that many people are facing. Other potential inputs are nutritional imbalances, suppressed emotions, relationship troubles, hormonal imbalances, and energetic imbalances.

Let’s take a look at a few of the top natural treatment options for insomnia:

1) Acupuncture:
All of the major organs of the body are related to specific kinds of insomnia. For instance, there is a liver/gall bladder insomnia in which one is kept awake strategizing, planning and scheduling their lives at night. This person often can’t turn their minds off unless they read or watch TV before bed. Likewise, there are kidney, heart, lung and spleen forms of insomnia that all have specific manifestations. Acupuncture is an excellent treatment option for insomnia, regardless of its etiology.

For chronic insomnia, we generally recommend receiving acupuncture once a week for 4-6 weeks, then we can assess for progress. Acupuncture helps to restore balance to the central nervous system and harmonize Qi, the functional energy that underlies our general state of health. Qi can either become stagnant, meaning that too much energy is locked up in a certain area or organ, or it can become deficient, meaning that there is not enough energy in an area or organ. Either pattern can cause insomnia and both are treatable with acupuncture.

2) Herbs:
There are many Chinese and Western herbs that can be very helpful for insomnia. Chinese herbs are typically used in combination to create formulas that treat specific patterns of disharmony. Western herbs are frequently used on their own. The great thing about herbs is that they don’t cause the drowsiness and disorientation that many of the Western sedative drugs do. Here is a great list, and our Acupuncturist can help you make an appropriate selection.

·         Valerian: Has mild sedative properties that help to relax the nervous system and calm the mind.
·         Chamomile: Has a mild tranquilizing and calming effect that soothes all major systems of the body.
·         Kava: A highly prized medicinal that is used to alleviate anxiety and induce deeper sleeping patterns. Kava is contraindicated for those with Liver disease.
·         Gui pi tang: A Chinese formula that nourishes the heart and spleen, for insomnia with low energy, nightmares, anxiety, depression, and possibly night sweats.
·         Tian wan bu xin dan: A Chinese formula that balances the relationship between the heart and kidneys, for symptoms such as insomnia, low back pain, anxiety, feeling of heat, thirst, and night sweats.
·         Suan zao ren tang: A Chinese formula that nourishes the heart and liver, for insomnia irritability.
·         An mian pian: A Chinese formula translated as peaceful sleep, for insomnia due to heart blood deficiency.

3) Massage Therapy:  This is the ultimate way of teaching our body how to go into a deeply relaxed state.  Through massage, our muscles relax, circulation flows smoothly, and our mind quiets.  For insomnia, we recommend getting a massage once per week for 5-8 weeks to start making full relaxation a welcome change. We like to reassess at this point to see if continued  weekly massage is still needed, or changing the frequency to a massage every 2-4 weeks would be of better benefit.  The goal is to re-train the body to attain and maintain a state of pure relaxation and great sleep on its own.

4) Energy Healing:
  Many people find light touch/no touch energy healing helps them to reach a mind state that is so relaxed it becomes a mentally transformed experience.  In this altered state, it can feel like floating, energetic sensations throughout the body or in focused areas, and simultaneously being in a deep sleep while being aware of not being asleep.  Medical QiGong Energy Healing uses the same energy pathways as acupuncture, and externally re-balances energy (Qi) flow to assist in healing symptoms.

5) Meditation and QiGong:
Meditation – either still or gently moving like QiGong, is a deeply restorative practice and can replicate many of the benefits of sleep. In fact, meditation is often considered to be even more beneficial because it can lead to a state of non-thought, which is said by many spiritual traditions to be the deepest state of relaxation and healing possible for human beings. In sleep, our minds are still processing and dreaming. Spend 15 minutes before bed meditating and it will quite likely allow you to fall asleep faster and to sleep more peacefully. Not sure how to do this? We can teach you, and there are many excellent guided meditations.

6) See our YouTube video on Essential Oil and Ear Reflexology for Insomnia. Click the image to access the video.
 Click Here for Video