Western and Chinese Medicine Working Together

In February of 2014, Bayer agreed to purchase the Dihon Pharmaceutical Group, a Chinese manufacturer, as a strategic approach to infiltrate the Chinese healthcare market and become the world’s largest non-prescription medicines group.

According to consulting firm McKinsey, China’s healthcare spending forecast is expected to triple to $1 trillion by 2020 from $357 billion in 2011.  These numbers have made China a magnet for makers of medicines and medical equipment.

In recent years, numerous Western companies have invested in Chinese medical research or products derived from Traditional Chinese Medicine.  Most of the companies have focused on using Chinese medicine to expand their market share in China, while a few companies, such as Nestle, have chosen to pursue FDA approval for botanical drugs.

Nestle, partnered with Chi-Med, is the first to start the final clinical testing trials.  This is the final step before approval for sale, for a botanical drug, which treats inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) including ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, based on Traditional Chinese Medicine.  If Chi-Med and Nestle succeed in gaining U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval, the companies will be at the forefront of exporting Chinese medicine globally.

Many widely-used drugs have been derived from Chinese herbal medicine. Most recently, artemisinin, which was isolated from qing hao, has been proven to treat malaria.  Despite success in the isolation of botanical drugs, recently revised FDA regulations may make it difficult to develop new plant-based drugs.  The greatest challenge lies in the ability to ensure the batch-to-batch consistency, given that plants-based components tend to vary based on soil, weather conditions, harvest time, genetics and various other factors.

Another problem that may occur with plant-based Chinese herbs, such as the case with lei gong teng for example, is even though it has profound pharmacological effects in treating pancreatic cancer and rheumatoid arthritis, it is also toxic to the liver.

New drug development has researchers strategically trying to pair the active ingredient with aptamers to form compound molecules that will allow the formula to target cancer cells while avoiding healthy liver cells.  This pairing of active ingredients with aptamers is similar to Chinese formula construction as a chief herb is paired together with a courier herb, where the courier herb directs the chief herb to the problem.

In everyday occurrences, Chinese medical practitioners frequently see cases where herbal therapy can achieve effects that cannot be matched by pharmaceutical drugs.  Nonetheless, Chinese herbs and traditional knowledge paired with Western research and technology may be able to identify how to create plant-based formulas that will be able to treat various troublesome diseases.

Health Concerns Gives Back at Local Food Bank

Part of Health Concerns’ mission is to be socially and environmentally conscious and to actively strive to make our community and the world around us a better place.  Every year, with this goal in mind, the Health Concerns team takes time to volunteer for a worthy cause and we lend our time and talents to the Alameda County Community Food Bank, a wonderful local non-profit and force for good here in the bay area. The ACCFB handles an incredible amount of food and relies on 12,000 volunteers each year to ensure they reach as many people in need as possible.  Collecting and distributing enough food for 49,000, the organization serves one in six residents of Alameda County.  The largest demographic served by ACCFB is made up of children and teens under 18, making up 42% of their clients.  The second largest group is made up of people aged 50 years or older.

Additionally, the Boy Scouts of America have a food drive, soliciting and collecting donations to benefit food banks nationwide.  Thanks to these efforts, ACCFB’s three acre warehouse is packed with 115,000 pounds of donated food that will be fully cycled back into the community within a few short weeks.  Health Concerns staff was there to help sort the many crates of fresh produce that will eventually find its way to local agencies that prepare and serve hot meals for those in need.  Many of us spent our time there sorting through freshly cut herbs to ensure their freshness and quality (you know how much we love herbs at Health Concerns!).  Because of a very strong storm here in the bay area, the ACCFB was left significantly understaffed as many were unable to attend when they were scheduled.  Health Concerns staff helped pick up the slack to ensure the food was sorted and processed in an effective and timely manner.  Seeing the volunteers and food bank staff cheerfully gathered, ready to work for a common good on a brisk winter morning was a truly inspiring way to spend the day.  If you are interested in making a donation to the ACCFB, you can find more information here.

During this holiday season, we hope you discover your own ways of finding the holiday spirit and spreading joy wherever possible.

Take a moment to check out our volunteer day photos!

Doing Good with TCM: Healing at San Quentin

The drive to help those around you to heal is nearly ubiquitous for any healthcare practitioner. What is particularly wonderful for those in the TCM discipline is the underlying approach to holistic health. A specialist such as, say, a gastroenterologist, has a tremendous capacity to help very specific problems thanks to an intensely narrow focus. It’s this same narrow focus that might restrict him from helping an individual achieve overall health. Branches of holistic medicine such as acupuncture and TCM have the benefit of addressing and encouraging progression towards overall health, which includes aspects of physical, emotional and spiritual wellness. This emphasis has helped many find solutions to lifelong problems, improved the lives of patients in ways they couldn’t have foreseen, and brought inner peace to those in need of it the most. These things considered, the following story is truly an inspirational reminder of the uniquely remarkable aspects of alternative medicine.

Students of American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine recently had the opportunity to attend a remarkable event unlike anything they experienced before. On Friday, August 22, 2014, they attended the 11th Annual Health Fair held within the walls of San Quentin State Prison to assist in providing healing modalities that can help those serving time in the facility with many of their issues. It was the first time ACTCM students attended the event. They joined other practitioners such as chiropractors, nurses, dentists, yoga and Tai Chi instructors to offer health education and services to life-sentenced inmates on a rare, once-per-year basis.

The fair is remarkably popular among inmates and lines for services stretched long around the practitioners. Many of the patients were receiving their first acupuncture treatments. For safety reasons, instead of using traditional needles, ACTCM students provided ear acupuncture seeds to accommodate the inmates’ chief complaints. The most commonly reported health issues included stress, anxiety, insomnia, depression, pain, anger, trauma, testicular issues and toothaches. The men were instructed to keep the seeds in their ears and to rub their ears. Inmates were calm, respectful and showed a sincere interest in making deep, personal changes. They showed an interest in the work and processes. Many profound moments were shared between the inmates and ACTCM students. One man commented “Thank you for looking at me with compassion and treating me like a human being.”

Feedback from the inmates regarding the effectiveness of the treatments offered was impressive and positive. Many reported their pain completely went away after a few days. Some reported sleeping better and feeling more emotionally and mentally healthy. One experienced a complete cessation in symptoms after years of severe hyperhidrosis (excessive hand sweating) that forced him to wear plastic bags over his hands when writing or eating. Their stories illustrate the power and beauty of acupuncture, truly a medical art.

One of the ACTCM students present, Courtney Clouse, remarked that the experience was a strong reminder that there is far more that people have in common than the perceived differences and judgments that too often divide us. The fair served as a reminder that often, the power to heal is found within ourselves. TCM modalities encourage our own innate healing abilities and bring us back to balance and ultimately to inner peace. Watching these men with criminal, sometimes violent, pasts embrace this, and take their first steps to recognize their inner strength to bring about personal transformation seems like a wonderful metaphor for what TCM is all about.

Preventing Type 2 Diabetes

personal_trainerIn 2007, the estimated economic cost of diabetes was $174 billion. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, of this amount, $116 billion was direct medical costs and $58 billion was due to indirect costs such as lost workdays, restricted activity and disability due to diabetes.

Diabetes refers to how your body uses blood sugar, or glucose.  Having diabetes, no matter which type, means that you have too much glucose in your blood.  Having too much glucose can lead to serious health issues such as cardiovascular disease, nerve damage in the limbs, kidney damage, foot damage, skin conditions, hearing impairment and Alzheimer’s disease.

Diabetes was the seventh leading cause of death in the US in 2010.

An estimated 79 million adults aged 20 and older have prediabetes and most of them aren’t aware of it. Prediabetes is a condition where blood glucose levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to be called diabetes. Those with prediabetes are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes within the next 10 years.

People with type 2 diabetes either lose the ability to respond to insulin or their bodies no longer make enough of it. Insulin helps the body use glucose as fuel and without it, sugar builds up in the bloodstream. People with prediabetes belong to a large group of individuals with a condition known as insulin resistance syndrome, or IRS, in which the body gradually loses sensitivity to the blood-sugar-regulating hormone.

Individuals with IRS tend to have a family history of heart disease and diabetes, as well as a characteristic of obesity in which weight settles around the abdomen rather than below the waist, high levels of triglycerides in the blood, high blood pressure and low levels of “good” cholesterol.

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends blood glucose screening if you have any of the above risk factors for prediabetes.

If you are diagnosed with prediabetes, healthy lifestyle choices can help bring your blood sugar levels back to normal or to help keep it from rising toward the levels seen in type 2 diabetes. Guidelines from the American College of Endocrinology suggest the following to treat prediabetes:

  • Eat healthy foods. Choose foods low in fat and calories and high in fiber.
  • Get more physical activity. Aim for 30 to 60 minutes of moderate physical activity at least five time a week.
  • Lose excess pounds. If you’re overweight, losing five to 10 percent of your body weight can reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

At Health Concerns, we have a variety of formulas that can help you achieve and maintain a healthy weight, which in turn, helps your body regulate your blood glucose levels (click the formula name to view its monograph):

Astra Essence
Leantain GT
Myrtle Seng

Eight Common Digestive Problems

salad woman happyEverybody experiences digestive problems from time to time, but not everyone feels comfortable with discussing them.  In 2009, there were 51 million visits to American physician offices, hospital outpatient and emergency departments with digestive disorders as the primary diagnosis, according to the Center for Disease and Control and Prevention (CDC).

This evidence suggests that digestive disorders are steadily becoming a problem. Below are eight of the most common digestive disorders many Americans experience.


Symptoms of reflux, such as heartburn, are among the most common of the digestive difficulties. In 2004, approximately 20 percent of Americans reported reflux symptoms that have occurred at least weekly. Frequent symptoms may indicate a person has gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD.

Heartburn is defined as a burning sensation in your chest, just behind your breastbone. “It may be accompanied by a sour taste in the mouth, hypersalivation, or even finding food or fluid in the mouth,” said Michael Gold, a gastroenterologist at MedStar Washington Hospital Center in Washington, D.C.

Peptic Ulcers

Peptic ulcers are open sores that develop on the inside lining of your esophagus, stomach and upper portion of your small intestine. According to the CDC, over 25 million Americans will suffer from an ulcer at one time in their lives. The most common symptom of a peptic ulcer is abdominal pain.


Every year, nearly 1 million Americans are diagnosed with gallstones. Gallstones are hardened deposits of digestive fluids, which are primarily made of cholesterol and bile salts. Only 25 percent of people with gallstones will require treatment.

Gallstones can vary in size from as small as a grain of sand to as large as a golf ball. Some people may develop only one gallstone, while others may develop multiple gallstones at one time.

Lactose Intolerance

Lactose intolerance, also known as lactose deficiency, is caused by a person’s inability to digest the milk sugar (lactose) in dairy products. Between 30 and 50 million Americans are lactose intolerant, with the majority affected being African-Americans, Asian-Americans and Native Americans.

Though symptoms are not deadly, they can be uncomfortable. Symptoms of lactose intolerance include cramping, bloating, gas, nausea and diarrhea.


Diverticulitis occurs when small, bulging pouches, called diverticula, form in your digestive system such as in your esophagus, stomach, small intestine and large intestine. Diverticula are common in people 40 and older, yet only 20 percent will experience complications.

Diverticulitis can cause severe abdominal pain, nausea, fever and a change in bowel habits.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease   

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) involves inflammation of part or all of your digestive tract. Two of the most common inflammatory bowel diseases are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

Ulcerative colitis causes long-lasting inflammation in part of your digestive tract, usually in the innermost lining of your colon and rectum. Symptoms usually develop over time rather than suddenly.

Crohn’s disease causes inflammation anywhere along the lining of the digestive tract and spreads deeply into affected tissues. Symptoms involve abdominal pain, severe diarrhea and even malnutrition. The inflammation caused by Crohn’s disease can involve different areas of a person’s digestive tract in different people.

Celiac Disease

About one percent of the U.S. population has Celiac disease, which is an immune reaction to eating gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. Symptoms vary from person to person and may include abdominal pain, bloating, chronic diarrhea, vomiting, constipation and pale, foul-smelling or fatty stools.


According to the Mayo Clinic, constipation is described as having less than three bowel movements a week. Occasional constipation is common, but some people experience chronic constipation and may have difficulty going about their daily routine. Signs of chronic constipation include fewer than three stools passed weekly, lumpy or hard stools and straining to have bowel movements.

At Health Concerns, we have a variety of formulas that can help you treat a variety of symptoms for your digestive problems. These formulas include:

Ease Plus
Gentle Senna

Obesity and Pregnancy: A Closer Look

PregnancyObesity in America has become one of the most pressing health issues to date. From 2010 to 2012 alone, the proportion of obese adults aged 20 and over climbed from 23% to 34%. Obesity is widely defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of above 30. While BMI can be a fairly reliable tool, it does have some downsides (for example, many bodybuilders have very low body fat, but weights that result in a high BMI without being overweight or obese). The parameters of what constitutes obesity may get blurry at times, but there is little confusion over the fact that obesity can be detrimental to one’s health.

Obesity affects more women than men, leading to some unique challenges–namely, the ability to successfully conceive and deliver a healthy child. Nearly 36% of women of childbearing age are obese, and it can cause complications before, during, and after pregnancy. Even obese women who have never experienced any severe health problems can easily develop conditions ranging from hypertension to diabetes once they become pregnant. This, in turn, can have serious consequences for both the woman and the fetus–from premature birth to stillbirth or miscarriage.

For many women, losing weight is about more than simply conjuring enough willpower–even the American Heart Association has released new guidelines encouraging doctors to consider obesity as a disease, in and of itself.  In fact, there is an effort nationwide to change the way doctors view pregnant, obese patients.  The committee on ethics of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists suggests that “obese patients should not be viewed differently from other patient populations that require additional care or who have increased risks of adverse medical outcomes.” Obese patients should be cared for “in a nonjudgmental manner,” it says, adding that it is unethical for doctors to refuse care within the scope of their expertise “solely because the patient is obese.”

It is known that obesity affects a disproportionate amount of women of lower socioeconomic status, as they lack access to healthy food choices and opportunities for regular exercise.  While attempts at weight loss are best done before pregnancy, women who become pregnant should not cease them.  Losing weight during pregnancy is not recommended, but obese women should aim to gain less weight than thinner women.  This should be made a priority as babies of obese women are more likely to develop neural tube defects such as spina bifida and anencephaly.  They are also more likely to suffer birth injuries such as shoulder dystocia, which may occur when the infant is very large.

High blood pressure, more common in obesity, can result in pre-eclampsia during pregnancy.  Pre-eclampsia can damage the mother’s kidneys and cause complications with the child such as low birth weight, prematurity and stillbirth.  Medical procedures such as sonograms also are more difficult to conduct with obese women.  This can delay detection of abnormalities that may require careful monitoring or medical intervention.

Maintaining a healthy weight is important for everyone. However, considering the additional risks involved, it is particularly vital for women who are pregnant or may become pregnant. Health Concerns has a number of formulas designed to promote healthy weight. Please take a moment to explore the following formulas (click to view monograph):

Astra 18 Diet
Astra Diet Tea
Griffonex 5-HTP
Leantain GT
Myrtle Seng

*Herbs are generally not recommended for pregnant women.

Alternative Approaches to Menopause Relief

BLOG 8Menopause is something that all women experience at some point in their adult life, which can make it frustrating to consider how treatment options have remained so limited for so many years. While the severity of symptoms vary on a case-by-case basis, many women can agree that the mood swings, hot flashes, and symptoms of vaginal atrophy–whether severe or mild–can cause disruption in everyday activities. For these reasons and more, many women are searching for a treatment option that proves safe and effective for relief from these potentially debilitating symptoms.

For years, health care professionals nation-wide executed a one-size-fits-all treatment plan for women going through menopause: hormone supplementation. By administering hormone therapy to women whose bodies were no longer producing significant levels of estrogen, doctors and researchers believed they had found the cure-all for menopause.

However, in 2002, the Women’s Health Initiative conducted clinical trials that led them to conclude that one of the most popular forms of hormone replacement therapy, (a combination of estrogen and synthetic progesterone) increased a woman’s risk of heart disease, stroke, certain types of cancer and blood clots.

While there has since been progress made (for instance, we now know that transdermal administration of estrogen with or without progestin is considered safer than oral administration), there is an undeniable call for more research. Any hormone treatment must be based on the individual case at hand and prescribed at the lowest possible effective dose for that individual. Other non-hormonal remedies have also been examined by healthcare professionals, but the scientific research behind these methodologies is still unclear.

For these reasons, many women are seeking a more natural approach to treating their more acute menopause symptoms. Some of these non-hormonal remedies include regular exercise and acupuncture, while many women found relief from increasing their daily intake of soy products and other fortified foods.

At Health Concerns, we have a variety of formulas that can help women address a variety of symptoms surrounding healthy aging and menopause maintenance. These formulas include:

Three Immortals™
Woman’s Balance®

Women at Higher Risk for Bone Loss

OsteoporosisMaintaining good bone health is an issue that people of a younger age demographic are having to consider. Research has shown us that a combination of genetics, environment, and individual factors all play a role in the development of both osteopenia and osteoporosis. Now, researchers and doctors are attempting to identify the best methods of preventative treatment for individuals displaying early symptoms of bone loss. Osteopenia, or secondary osteoporosis, is defined as being significantly below the normal bone density range, but not low enough to qualify for a diagnosis of full blown osteoporosis.

It’s important to identify and take steps to prevent bone loss early. Osteoporosis can sometimes appear to occur suddenly due to the fact that there are not real outward symptoms that stem directly from bone density deterioration. There are several factors that contribute to a loss in bone mass, some of which may be hard to avoid. Some chronic conditions and medicines can impact the ways in which a person’s body may react to processes such as Calcium and Vitamin D absorption.

Conditions like diabetes, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, and inflammatory bowel disease (to name a few) can often cause symptoms of osteopenia and osteoporosis. Alternately, individuals taking certain medications, ranging from antidepressants to blood thinners, should also be aware of their increased risk of developing one or both of these conditions. Bone loss is more common in women, who make up an estimated 80% of all osteoporosis cases.

There are several steps that you can take to help prevent bone loss before and even after its occurrence. Some of these steps include (but are not limited to):

  • Diet and regular exercise
  • Quit smoking
  • Limit your caffeine and alcohol intake
  • Have regular bone density screenings
  • Bone-building supplements

Additionally, eating foods rich in Calcium and Vitamin D can help reduce bone loss, according to WebMD. Some foods to add to your shopping list:

  • Yogurt
  • Sardines
  • Kale
  • Soy milk

When maintaining good bone health is a main priority for your patients, Health Concerns has a number of formulas that can help.  Click each product name to view its monograph.


How to Ditch Cold and Flu Symptoms

BLOG 7While the worst of the winter cold season is over, the summer can oftentimes bring a slew of viruses that can negatively affect your fun in the sun. Informing yourself of these pesky ailments can better ensure a more healthy lifestyle year-round. Many people assume that they know all they need to know about the common cold, but the reality is that many people aren’t positively informed about some of the most basic prevention and treatment methods.

Occasionally, you will hear people complain of illnesses lasting several weeks. While this may seem like an unusually long period of time to be sick with a cold, the truth is that most colds last an average of 2-14 days, while the residual cough can last up to 6 weeks. If your acute cold symptoms last longer than two weeks, you may consider seeing your health care practitioner to ensure that your cold hasn’t evolved into something more serious, like sinusitis.

Here are a few facts about the common cold that all people should be aware of. By informing oneself, you become better equipped to find a treatment plan that is best for you, should you become ill.

  • There are more than 200 different viruses that cause colds, with new strains being identified regularly.
  • Colds caused by viral infections cannot and should not be treated with antibiotics.
  • Not all cold symptoms are signs of a viral infection–bacterial infections can cause many of the same aggravating symptoms.
  • Adults who work or live with or around children are significantly more susceptible to catching a cold.
  • External factors and certain lifestyle choices can impact your susceptibility, as well as the duration of a particular illness–reducing stress, regular exercise, restful sleep, and good hygiene can all help prevent illness and reduce the duration of symptoms.
  • Adults get an average of 2-5 colds per year, while children can get as many as 10 per year.

There is no cure for the common cold, and as mentioned above, antibiotics should not be administered for a viral infection. To better treat the immediate symptoms associated with the common cold, there are a variety of over the counter tonics, sprays, and pills.

For those seeking a less invasive treatment plan, with less risk of pesky side-effects, Health Concerns has a variety of cold and flu formulas for just this purpose. Try one of the formulas below next time you feel the symptoms of a cold arise–the results won’t disappoint!

Cold Away®
Isatis Gold™
Yin Chao Jin™

And for prevention during next year’s cold and flu season, try:

Astra C™
Astra 8™

Common Allergens and How to Find Relief in Spring

BLOG 6As many as 35 million Americans suffer from hay fever, more commonly known as pollen allergy. For allergy sufferers, the trees, grasses, weeds, and flowers that blossom during the Spring cause symptoms that can be quite severe in some people. Different people are allergic to different kinds of pollen, making them more sensitive during certain seasons. It is also common for many people suffering from allergies to react to multiple allergens.

This year, the rains in some areas have kept the pollen at bay, ensuring that this coming Spring allergy season will be shorter in duration, but more severe in nature. Symptoms of  most pollen allergies include itchy, watery eyes and/or nose, sneezing, and congestion. For some people, direct contact with their allergen can cause them to break out in an itchy rash.

So what’s the solution? For many people, administering over the counter antihistamines is the first choice made in order to treat their immediate symptoms. Unfortunately, antihistamines can make some people extremely drowsy–an inconvenient side effect that many find unappealing. Below are some natural, alternative remedies for individuals with pollen allergies:

  • saline nasal irrigation
  • reduce your exposure as much as possible (keeping allergens out of your garden, for example)
  • invest in a ventilation fan and/or a dehumidifier for indoor areas
  • monitor daily pollen counts for your area

In addition to these simple at-home remedies, there are particular herbs that address the symptoms of pollen allergies:

  • Butterbur
  • Milk Thistle
  • Phleum pretense (for allergy sufferers with asthma)

The South was the first to be impacted by this year’s severe allergy season, followed shortly by the Northeast. Some cities have been hit harder than others, prompting people to seek relief sooner than usual.

At Health Concerns, there are several formulas that have a unique combination of herbs that can help treat the worst of allergy symptoms. You can find out more below by clicking on any of the links:

Nasal Tabs 2™
Astra C™
Xanthium Relieve Surface™

Health Concerns

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