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So how does traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) seek to restore a body that’s clogged up with cholesterol? The main goal is to undo blockages in the flow of energy, or qi, while stimulating blood flow in the affected systems to restore their natural functions.
Acupuncture has become a popular technique to treat a range of illnesses, and has numerous benefits for general wellbeing. Needles are inserted into the skin at particular points to promote the flow of blood and qi (life essence).
Physician Zhang Rui Fen, who is from Eu Yan Sang, a well-known TCM brand in Asia, explains that, in cases of high cholesterol, acupuncture points associated with the stomach and spleen networks are stimulated. If you are a DIY type of person, you may be interested to know that there are three such acupoints found on the leg [see sidebar], “and you can massage them regularly to stimulate them,” says Physician Zhang.
A LEG-UP ON CHOLESTEROL
Stimulating three acupressure points on the stomach and spleen meridians can help to reduce cholesterol levels. Located on the leg, massaging these points regularly can be helpful.
Acupuncture can even help with weight loss, which is beneficial when dealing with high cholesterol. Recently, evidence has emerged that links acupuncture of the ear to weight loss, specifically abdominal fat. Clinical trials in 2013 at South Korea’s Kyung Hee University show that stimulation of these acupoints in the ear helped patients regulate their hunger and resulted in weight loss.
There are five acupoints on the ear — namely hunger, endocrine, spleen, stomach and the master-point, shen men or divine gate — that relate directly to weight management. A patient should be able to see waist reduction after 10–20 sessions as the body begins to normalise its fat levels.
2. CUPPING & SCRAPING
Apart from acupuncture, cupping (baguan) and skin scraping (guasha) can be used to stimulate blood and energy flow.
Skin scraping, for example, lightly bruises the body through vigorous rubbing, and is believed to chafe off unhealthy elements from the body and stimulate blood flow. Physician Chen explains that this treatment covers the spleen-related channels and helps to remove unhealthy dampness from the body.
3. HERBAL TREATMENTS
Besides physical methods such as acupuncture, cupping, and scraping to manage cholesterol levels, another option in TCM’s medicine chest is the consumption of herbal decoctions that provide a positive impact on blood circulation. “The dosage and mixture of herbs required may differ for each individual, so it is essential for a patient to consult a physician first for assessment and accurate diagnosis,” insists Physician Zhang. In other words, do not haphazardly throw in these herbs into your meal plans.
One sought-after TCM herbal remedy is red yeast rice, mostly consumed in capsule form. Made by fermenting rice with the yeast strain monascus purpureus, it aids digestion and blood flow, and supports healthy cholesterol levels. Clinical trials in Taiwan show an 18% reduction in blood cholesterol levels over eight weeks, due largely to natural compounds produced during the fermentation process. These compounds are similar to the synthetic compounds in Western cholesterol-lowering drugs; but, due to their organic nature, they are not harsh on the body. In another sidebar, Physician Zhang lists other herbs commonly prescribed to manage cholesterol.
HAVE YOU HEARD?
Acupuncture on these five points in the ear is one way to manage weight and thus cholesterol level:
4. HOLISTIC CARE
Physician Zhang adds that, after undergoing regular TCM treatment, “bowel movement, quality of sleep, body aches and pains, and energy level of the patient usually improve.” She also adds that, while TCM and Western medicine don’t share the same vocabulary for cholesterol, “modern TCM physicians are largely aware and informed on the Western concepts of good and bad cholesterol, and can advise on dietary habits to aid in treatment.”
One thing TCM and Western medicine agree on is that the best way to deal with cholesterol is a holistic approach that includes exercise, a healthy diet, and, in the case of TCM, herbal remedies and stimulating massages. In short, while beneficial TCM herbs exist, there is no real magic bullet.
If you’ve reached this article directly, may we suggest that you read this to understand the basic principles of cholesterol management according to TCM.
Coronary heart disease is the number 1 cause of CVD death globally. Understanding more about this disease will help you prevent it.
Cholesterol is usually associated with the spleen and liver dysfunction. Can TCM keep cholesterol levels down?
Natural herb remedies can be as effective as over-the-counter medications in curbing heartburn.
You’d be surprised how similar traditional Chinese medicine is to conventional Western medicine when it comes to cholesterol management
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