Chinese herbs prevent diabetes: As effective as drugs.


A recent study found that an herbal formula used in TCM can reduce the risk of people with prediabetes from developing Type 2 diabetes by 32 percent. In other words, simple, inexpensive and safe herbs are as effective in preventing Type 2 diabetes as the prescription drugs acarbose and metformin.

If you are concerned about your risk of diabetes, my suggestion is to start with the safe and proven methods that have been in use for centuries.

Chiropractic Care and Anxiety

Anxiety is a problem which has afflicted us all at one time or another. Fortunately, our anxiety is usually the result of a specific context or situation, and it resolves as we move to meet the problem or it is otherwise solved. Not so for many, however, who have to deal with anxiety on a day-in, day-out basis. Many people experience panic attacks for no reason, where their heart starts pounding, they get short of breath, and they get a feeling of dread. Generalized anxiety, a free-floating sense of worry that is out of proportion to the cause, can last for weeks or months, and can result in insomnia, hyperactivity, headaches, irritability, abdominal distress and other symptoms.

Mainstream medicine, of course, relies primarily on drugs to treat anxiety disorders, but these drugs can create more problems than they solve. Benzodiazepines, for example, interfere so much with mental functioning that anyone who is taking that class of drug is not permitted to have a commercial drivers license, and they are also highly addictive. A common anxiolytic, Xanax, is one of the most frequently-used drugs to treat this condition, despite the fact that there are no long-term studies confirming either it's effectiveness or it's safety.  Overall, the use of anti-anxiety drugs increases your risk of death from a variety of causes, so with all of this in mind, drugs may not be the best answer for this particular problem.

Fortunately, there are several ways of managing anxiety that do not require drugs. EEG neurofeedback, a technique which uses real-time electrical signals in your brain to alter its patterns, has been used quite successfully to manage anxiety. Fortunately, Litchfield has an excellent clinical therapist who is also highly skilled in EEG neurofeedback. David Pavlick is a clinical social worker with an office at the Center for Alternative Medicine, and has helped many people overcome their anxiety.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT, is the current darling of psychology, and it, too, appears to be  very effective in treating anxiety. In fact, a variety of talk therapy techniques have been shown to help people with anxiety.

But, as is the case for most chronic problems, a multidisciplinary approach usually results in better results. People with chronic problems, especially mental and emotional disturbances, should also be examined by a primary care chiropractor to eliminate underlying physical and nutritional causes for the anxiety.

Multiple studies have confirmed that balancing the essential fatty acids (EFAs) can reduce the symptoms of stress. Back when I started practicing, I used to hand a patient a bottle of EPA or DHA and have them take it for a month to see what kind of response we would get. These days, however, I can order a simple blood test, covered by insurance, which will show me the patients' levels of the various essential fatty acids, eliminating the guesswork. I can tell without trial and error whether or not such an approach is likely to work, and if so, exactly what kind of dosages of which EFAs I need to make my patients better.

The B vitamins, magnesium and calcium also play a role in anxiety states, and adjusting these levels may help as well. Imbalanced hormones will also often play a role, as an over- or underactive adrenal gland, or an imbalance in the hypothalamic-pituitary axis can be primary causes of anxiety symptoms.

Very often, I find, that in order to correct my patient's nutritional status, we have to begin by fixing impaired digestion, one of the most common -- and most overlooked -- causes of mental and emotional issues that I see.

With all of these conditions, once again, instead of guessing, I test, and use objective measures to tell me if these types of intervention will be useful.

Finally, Traditional Chinese Medicine can be successfully employed to help patients with anxiety. From a TCM point of view, there is no separation between mind and body, and the freedom from that false duality gives us the ability to view anxiety from an entirely different angle.

In TCM, anxiety stems primarily from an imbalance in the Spleen organ system. Because the Spleen, in TCM, is responsible for extracting qi from the food, Spleen imbalances result in qi stagnation or depression.

When qi becomes depressed in the middle jiao, then you start to experience the signs and symptoms of panic attacks, as well as other classical signs of anxiety. Thus, from a TCM point of view, restoring normal Spleen functioning is primary to the treatment of anxiety. (As a side note, I find it very interesting that in both TCM as well as Western alternative medicine, the digestive system is found at fault in mental disorders.)

So, fortunately, for people experiencing anxiety, there are a number of approaches that can be used to assist them. From nutrition to acupuncture to lifestyle and herbal interventions, a variety of forms of alternative medicine can be used as an adjunct to, or even primary means, of helping people deal with anxiety disorders.

Dr. Avery Jenkins is a chiropractic physician specializing in the treatment of people with chronic disorders. He can be reached at or by calling 860-567-5727.


And the Answer Is...

Last Friday, I issued the first DocAltMed IQ Test, with a reward of 10% off any supplement purchase from our Dispensary. The question was:

What institution provided the first acupuncture education for doctors in the U.S.?

Before revealing the answer, I would like to first thank the many competitors who submitted a response. Your answers were thoughtful, informed, and well-researched.

This was a difficult question to answer, however, because of the many competing claims for "first." For example, one organization claims that it "has the unique distinction of being the first acupuncture course for physicians in North America," by virtue of its first course in 1979.

Wikipedia, in a marvelous display of acupuncture misinformation, reports on no postdoctoral programs whatsoever. Of course, that Wikipedia page is so filled with half-truths and innuendo that only about every third word is believable. (Overall, I have found that when it comes to Wikipedia, the entries on alternative medicine are dominated by a few skeptics lacking any credibility (and also, presumably jobs, since it would appear that their main calling in life is to disseminate crowdsourced falsehoods)).

The American Academy of Medical Acupuncturists was presented to me as a possible candidate; however, it was not formed until 1987, and restricts training and membership to a subset of physicians, as only MDs and DOs are eligible. DCs, despite being physicians, are not participants in the AAMA.

The physicians who practice acupuncture the most are chiropractic physicians, and may be board certified by two agencies. One is the recently-formed ACA Chiropractic College of Acupuncture, and the other is the International Academy of Medical Acupuncture (I am a Fellow of the latter organization, through which I obtained my postgraduate education). Interestingly, the chiropractic interest in acupuncture extends  way beyond James Reston's re-introduction of acupuncture to the West, as I described in my earlier post.

In fact, the modern founder of chiropractic, DD Palmer, mentions acupuncture in his 1910 textbook, The Art and Science of Chiropractic. Other investigators since that time have noted the coincidence of chiropractic manipulation's success with visceral diseases, and the presence of acupuncture points along either side of the spine which can influence those very same conditions. From 1910 until 1972, however, acupuncture utterly disappears from the printed page in the U.S.

It is not terribly surprising then, that chiropractors be among the vanguard of doctors who adopted this new and powerful technique. Thus, it was at the Columbia Institute of Chiropractic, in New York, which began the first postgraduate program in acupuncture in the fall of 1972. Columbia has since become New York Chiropractic College, and has moved from the city to beautiful Seneca Falls, NY.

Dr. John Amaro, founder of the IAMA, recalls it this way:

"I am personally proud to have been in that very first acupuncture certification program which was taught by masters of acupuncture who were physicians from the United States, Great Britain, The Republic of China and Japan. As few early Asian educators of acupuncture spoke English the lectures and demonstrations were translated. Chinese acupuncture practitioners from Communist People's Republic of China would not begin the introduction of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) in the United States for as much as an entire decade later when communication was established. Virtually all acupuncture in North America from 1972 to 1982 was performed through Japanese or Taiwanese "Meridian Style" influences. Likewise, virtually all acupuncture in North America was performed by chiropractic and medical physicians as "acupuncturists" as a profession would not become a reality until the National Commission for the Certification of Acupuncture was established in 1985.

The Chiropractic profession had always taken the lead in acupuncture education and certification. Even though the National Commission for the Certification of Acupuncture would not become established until 1985, the State of Arizona established Board Certification in Acupuncture through the Arizona State Board of Chiropractic Examiners as early as 1983."

So, interestingly, not only did the chiropractic use of acupuncture predate any other health profession, but chiropractic doctors were the first to properly certify and regulate its members who practice the art, a full 4 years before the medical profession even started to form its acupuncture college, and 2 years before the acupuncture-only profession was created. Today, over 35,000 chiropractic doctors practice acupuncture.

Surprised? I thought you would be. Chiropractic is full of interesting history which is rarely reported or discussed.

Thank you very much to all who participated, and since nobody won, everybody is eligible to participate in next week's Alternative Medicine IQ Test.

Dr. Avery Jenkins is a chiropractic physician specializing in the treatment of people with chronic disorders. He can be reached at or by calling 860-567-5727.

The Map of Human Health

On the surface, it was just another typical moment in a chiropractic physician's office. I was walking down the hall from one treatment room where I had just left a patient with an injured knee, to check on another patient who was receiving care for a painful shoulder. But on that short walk down the hall, I was actually walking the long divide between two health care paradigms. While the patient with shoulder problems was receiving what would normally be considered "standard" treatment -- heat, ultrasound and chiropractic manipulation -- the patient with the bum knee had several acupuncture needles inserted around her knee and ankle.

In one room, the basics of applied physiology were being utilized: Heat was being used to perfuse the injured area with blood, bringing with it oxygen, nutrients, and other supplies for healing, and taking away the detritus of repair. Ultrasound was altering the permeability of the cell membranes, allowing the injured tissues to more readily imbibe the blood's bounty. And joint manipulation was restoring normal physiological shape and function to the ligaments surrounding the joint.

But in the other room, a completely different process was apparently taking place: The normal flow of qi, a nebulous "life energy," was being restored. Excess yang, represented by the heat of inflammation, was being quenched by employing the water principle of the body, as water is always used to put out a fire; meanwhile, meridians controlling the patient's earth energy were used to nurture the damaged tissues.

How do I, as a doctor trained in both eastern and western medicine, reconcile these two utterly divergent approaches? One is so clearly logical and wrapped in the science of the west, while the other explodes with image and allegory, as if the needles tell a parable of health in their placement and actions.

And with increasing frequency, I find that I not only combine these disparate therapies in my practice, but in the treatment of singular patients. Some patients receive both chiropractic and acupuncture. Some are treated with eastern herbs and western physiotherapy. Others are treated with western nutrition and acupuncture.

"Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself," said the poet Walt Whitman. "I am large, and contain multitudes."

Perhaps the best way of uniting these two approaches to human health which do not speak the same language either literally or figuratively is to apply the principles of scientist and philosopher Alfred Korzybski which can be best summed up by this statement:

The map is not the territory.

Too often, Korzybski argued, we look at a thing and we conceptually "map" it. We assess its shape and weight, its color and texture, and assign those properties to that object, forgetting that it may have other properties of which we are not aware -- or that it may not always have those properties which we have assigned to it.

That's a mouthful, I know. An easier way to understand the concept is to imagine two maps of the same place, for example Ansonia, Connecticut.

One map is a road map.  It clearly shows all the roads in the area, what their names are, and where they go.

The second map is a topographic map. This map does not show the roads so clearly, but it does give us other information that the road map does not. Through the use of contour lines, it shows us the hills and valleys of the terrain, where the swamps are, the steepness of the slopes.

Both maps show us the exact same territory. But they provide us with entirely different types of information.

In the pursuit of understanding, we all too often forget that the theories and hypotheses that we make -- the maps, as it were - are only maps. They are not the territory itself. The map of the human body developed by western medicine is certainly not the only map, nor is it the "true" map. It is merely a map that shows us certain characteristics of that territory. Imagine the arteries and veins as roads, the organs as cities and villages, the nerves as railroad get the picture.

The map developed by Traditional Chinese Medicine shows us different features of the human body. Instead of roads and tracks, we see the swamps and the forests, the peaks and the valleys. Entirely different information, but also of great value as I help my patients navigate their way back to health.

Is one more valid than the other? I think it would be the height of arrogance to claim that the western medical map was superior to the eastern. After all, 100 years ago, the eastern map of human functioning was already highly detailed and had been refined for centuries, while western medicine was still scrawling  "here be dragons" on the margins of its crudely-drawn understanding.

I employ both, because I find both to be useful. They help me and my patients reach their destination. And as I continue to proceed along the twin paths of east and west, I find that I can increasingly see one in the other. From the road I see the hills, and from my path in the hills I can hear the hissing of cars on the road. I think -- I hope -- that my patients will be the beneficiaries of this understanding.  As the wise Siddhartha said, "In the sky, there is no distinction of east and west; people create distinctions out of their own minds and then believe them to be true."