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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
Chiroin
Greenexcellent
Leantain GT
Myrtle Seng
Pomexcellent

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.

Reflux

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.

Gallstones

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

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.

Constipation

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:

Chzyme
Colostroplex
Enteromend
Ease Plus
Gentle Senna

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®
Nulignan™

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.

BioStrong™
OsteoHerbal™
NuLignan™

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™

Common Skin Conditions and How to Treat Them

BLOG 5Western society places much emphasis on having “perfect” skin. While no one is perfect, maintaining healthy skin is important. Some of the most common skin conditions can be uncomfortable or even painful. In order to avoid painful symptoms like rashes, bacterial infection, and even sores, one must be able to first identify and then appropriately treat an outbreak at the first sign. Below is information on some of the most commonly seen skin conditions and how to successfully manage them.

Acne: According to the American Academy of Dermatology, acne is the single most common skin condition, affecting approximately 40 to 50 million people in the United States alone. While acne is typically associated with puberty and young adulthood, individuals can experience acne in near every age group. The most common causes for acne are:

  1. Enlarged, over-productive oil glands
  2. Blockage of the hair follicles that release oil
  3. An infection of the bacterium P. ances within the hair follicles

The best way to prevent acne is by using a gentle cleanser every day. For removal of excessive oil, benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid are among the most commonly used Western treatments. For spot treatments, tea tree oil has proven to be an effective, natural remedy for many.

Eczema: There are various types of eczema, the most common form being atopic dermatitis, or atopic eczema. Symptoms of eczema include areas of skin that become red, inflamed, and irritated. Eczema is more common in children, although they often outgrow their symptoms by puberty. For those that don’t outgrow them, finding relief from symptoms is essential. Scratching an affected area can easily cause infection which could  potentially making the condition worse. Creams and ointments that contain corticosteroids are commonly used in the Western treatment of eczema, as they can lessen inflammation. However, natural products like coconut oil can also be used for similar purposes, with fewer potential side effects.

Psoriasis: Psoriasis is a skin disorder in which the primary areas of the scalp, elbows, knees, and lower back are affected with red plaques covered with silvery scales. Psoriasis is not contagious, but it can be genetic. While the direct cause is unknown, psoriasis typically begins as small red bumps that expand and develop a scaly texture. The rash can become itchy, and itching may cause bleeding and irritation. Psoriasis can be treated medically with topical use of corticosteroids, but there are several alternative methods that can be used in the home with or in place of these medicated ointments.

RosaceaRosacea is a common skin condition for many people over 30. The exact cause of rosacea is unknown, but there are steps that can be taken to help prevent “flare ups.” Essentially, rosacea occurs when the blood vessels under the skin expand, giving skin a red, ruddy appearance. Typically, the face is the most affected part of the body. Oftentimes rosacea can irritate the eyes, making them appear red and watery. While many turn to their medical doctor for help, there are several factors that can be taken into account and modified to help ease the symptoms of rosacea.

Health Concerns has several products that can be used for a variety of acute and chronic skin conditions. You can find out more below by clicking on any of the links:

Skin Balance™
TAMU Oil™
Resinall K™
EPAQ™

The Physical Impact of Stress

BLOG 4 Stress is a difficult term to singularly describe because every person responds to stressful stimuli in different ways. Similarly, the effects of stress manifest in unique ways from one person to the next. What is known is that stress can have weighty physical consequences if left untreated. Blood clotting, increased heart rate and blood sugar have all been linked to unmanaged stress. Aside from the impact on your heart, stress can prove to aggravate the symptoms of diabetes, ulcers, and muscle and joint pain. While we may never be able to completely remove ourselves from the everyday hustle and bustle, there are ways to better identify and confront the major stressors in your life.

The way that we internalize and respond to stressful stimuli ultimately dictates how we let stress affect us. Listed below are several methods that you can practice to help you better cope with the stress in your life.

Identify your stress triggers. Learn what makes you tick. Start journaling! Tracking your stress level throughout the day may reveal some surprising discoveries about what causes you the most stress. This can allow you to take time to think about ways to better cope with and prepare for these situations.

Accept what you can’t control. Stress oftentimes comes in a form that is beyond our immediate control. Successfully coping with your stress may mean letting go of the things you cannot control in favor of finding proactive solutions to manage the situation at hand.

Meditation. A simple and commonly used relaxation and stress reduction technique. Meditation is great way to transfer yourself into the present moment, allowing yourself to release the pent up anxieties surrounding what has been or what could be.

Regular exercise. Exercise has been shown to activate you brain and improve your mood.

Get enough sleep. Poor sleep and stress often go hand in hand. Ensuring that you get a full night’s sleep may mean unplugging before bedtime.

Allow yourself some “down time”. Be sure to schedule some time away from work. Take time to do something just for you.

Alleviating stress is the first step in improving both your interpersonal wellbeing and your overall physical health.  Health Concerns has a number of formulas that can be used to treat the painful symptoms of stress. Click each product to view the monograph.

Calm Spirit®
Ease Plus™
Schizandra Dreams™
Griffonex 5-HTP™

Health Concerns

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