Pain Pain Go Away…. Yes Please!!

Pain Pain Go Away…. Yes Please!!

It probably wont surprise any of you to hear that pain the first reason most people come in to see me. Its the first reason most people book in with an Acupuncturist and the thing Acupuncture is best known for. 

Theres a good reason for this: Acupuncture has been proven to perform equally and over Morphine (!!) in numerous separate studies. Additionally Acupuncture is actually the only modality (comparing physiotherapy, chiropractic, remedial massage, etc) which has been demonstrated to reduce the number of painkillers taken during episodes of pain (here) which is what its all about!

Acupuncture has actually been shown as number 1 or number 2 for back and neck pain specifically, which is unsurprising to us Acupuncturists but nice for everyone else who’s not sure where to go for pain relief. Migraine and Headache are also number one with Acupuncture treatment performing over the drugs and as top of the list.

The studies have been done, the evidence is in, and Acupuncture is the number one, go to, best proven non drug treatment for pain – as recommended by the Cochrane review, Mayo clinic, Harvard Medicine, and the Joint Commission for Pain Management (USA) – among others (too many to list).

Since ‘Pain’ is such an unspecific descriptor, I thought I’d list a few things below which Acupuncture performs well for. There’s a great overall review here if you are interested.

Low back pain
Neck Pain
Shoulder pain/ Impingement
Frozen shoulder
TMJ (Temporo Mandibular Joint)
Headaches and Migraines 
Chronic pain syndromes, such as Fibromyalgia 

In Western Medical terms, Acupuncture has been shown to 

Relieve pain – by delivering analgesia via alpha-adreno-receptor mechanisms
Reduce inflammation – by promoting release of vascular and immune-modulatory factors
Improve muscle stiffness, joint mobility and dispersal of swelling – by increasing local microcirculation
Accelerate repair of injured body tissue
Improve function and mobility
Relieve stress and promotes wellbeing, thereby facilitating recovery – by stimulating nerves located in muscles and other tissues, which leads to release of endorphins

Please keep in mind: all reference to Acupuncture means Real Acupuncture, the kind practised by a licensed, registered Acupuncturist under AHPRA. If you are seeing someone without this registered Medical title (a Physiotherapist, Chiropractor or massage therapist doing ‘acupuncture’ – as dry needling), you are seeing someone who has done a short course – which is a lot like comparing someone with  a first aid certificate to a paramedic. No sympathy or surprise for not getting results will be given from me! Dry needling is also performing under massage in clinical trials (here) which really says it all!

If you aren’t sure what this means, you can read up here for the facts.

Chinese Herbal Medicine, Acupuncture and Immunity

Chinese Herbal Medicine, Acupuncture and Immunity

Chinese Herbal Medicine and Acupuncture have been used for hundreds of years to treat immune, lung and respiratory conditions of all kinds. From asthma to allergies, coughing, hayfever, and both resistance to and treatment of viral and bacterial infections (bronchitis, pneumonia, and the like).

If you’re thinking ‘What? Wow! How can this be possible? And why didn’t I know this?’ Then you certainly aren’t the only one, as I get many surprised people in clinic learning through personal experience exactly how effective Chinese Herbal Medicine and Acupuncture can be for these kinds of conditions!

I’m including plenty of information here for you to get both a better understanding of what kinds of immune conditions can be treated with Chinese medicine (complete with references if you are curious). Every year come autumn through spring I see a numerous individuals who have had several cold and flu type infections – and several rounds of anti-biotics – who come and get excellent results quickly!

Some of the respiratory diseases shown to be effectively treated with Acupuncture and/ or Chinese Herbal Medicine include:
– Allergic Rhinitis (here)
– Immunity (here)
– Asthma (here)
– Common cold and flu (here and here)
– Pneumonia (here)
– Allergies (here)

Both Chinese Herbal Medicine and Acupuncture have been shown to have anti-inflammatory, immune-regulatory, anti microbial, anti-influenza activities (here, here, and here) and have been extensively used throughout many epidemics in Asian cultures since the 12th century.

The oldest Chinese text for the treatment of External Pathogens (our name for a germ/ bug) was published in 1065 – around 800 years before European cultures had any idea such a thing as a ‘germ’ might be possible. This book is around the size of a bible and is one of several texts detailing treatment of these kinds of conditions.

Chinese Herbal Medicine is in fact being specifically mentioned (here) as a potential solution to one of the most concerning issues of our era: the rise of Antibiotic resistant bacterial infections This is a situation when bacteria become resistant to antibiotics that were once effective to treat them. The most serious concern with this is that the most commonly available anti-biotics will become ineffective: more people will be seriously unwell for longer periods, and those with immune system compromising health conditions will be at serious risk. (and no, they can’t just develop new ones – scientists have been trying for 30 years!). This has been occurring in many countries as a considerable issue of concern for decades and Australia has just has our first case in Victoria earlier this year. Believe me when I say this is a momentous event – and a terrifying one. (You can read more about the warning here)

While new understandings of the mechanisms of Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine are continuously evolving (research into Eastern medicine is developing at a rate more than double that of western/ mainstream medicine) some of the major reasons Chinese Medicine can potentially assist with almost anything respiratory and immune related is certainly due to the activation and regulation of certain natural immune responses in the body. For those with medical training, this includes Immunoglobulins (IgG and IgM) and the InterLukins (3 and 6 especially) which are known to be specific for immunity and infection in the human body. You can read a general summary here)

Things you should do if you are fighting off a cold:

  • Drink more fluids
  • Reduce your stress
  • Take a day off work (if you can) as soon as you feel sick or have a quiet weekend to have some recovery space
  • Get more sleep
  • Adjust your diet: warm fresh vegetables, soups, broths, warm foods and drinks. Reduce your sugar and dairy intake.
  • Take a zinc supplement and increase your vitamin c.
  • Book an Acupuncture/ Chinese Herbal Medicine appointment pronto and get some immune system TLC 🙂
  • When you should go to your (western medicine) Doctor:

  • If you have a history of serious respiratory tract infections, an auto-immune or compromised immune system issue. (Go now! Do not collect $200)
  • Young children have numerous signs and symptoms when unwell that are not concerning for adults (in fact many health issues in children have the reverse presentations for adults – this is why paediatrics is a specialty).
  • If you are seriously unwell for more than 5 days its worth booking a visit. This does not mean post viral fatigue, or lingering symptoms at a low level.

  • Keep in mind: the vast majority of colds are viral, rather than bacterial in nature. Anti-biotics are completely irrelevant for use against viral infections and should not be generally used as any sort of ‘just in case’. The single most common cause of anti-biotic resistance is the prescription of anti-biotics for conditions that do not require them.

    Please…. Seriously reconsider going in sick and sharing your bugs with the rest of your workplace. Air conditioning will circulate your germs….. very effectively…. to everyone else! While this is irritating (on a number of levels) for anyone, it is considerably past that for anyone with a compromised immune system – especially those going through chemo/radiotherapy and pregnant women. Don’t presume they will have told you!! I have had numerous clients hospitalised in this kind of situation so please don’t share.

    Essential Oils Usage and Safety: Myth busting and Misinformation

    Essential Oils Usage and Safety: Myth busting and Misinformation

    Essential oils are the new health and self care buzz: use them on yourself, your family, drink them and do whatever you like! Splash them around! I have two words in response to these suggestions: just don’t.

    I’ve been involved in the essential oil industry for more than two decades. As an interested layperson, staff (head office and sales) and then trainer for essential oil and skincare companies, and now cosmetic formulator for my own brand, I’ve certainly been in a position to observe the transitions in awareness and interest in essential oils.

    Over the last 5-10 years in particular, there has been a huge upsurge in interest and usage in essential oils. Some of this has been good, absolutely, but most of it is more misinformation and PR than substance, and some of it just outright lies disguised as branding. While every brand needs a ‘point of difference’, when the lies start being dangerous to public health, its time to cut through the crap and get real.

    Its well past time we get some common sense and clarity so I’ve decided to add mine to the voices of reason (and there have already been many excellent ones) in this situation and dispel a few of the myths.

    Lets start with: what are essential oils?

    Essential oils are highly volatile, concentrated compounds isolated from plant materials. Some of them will be from leaves, some from flowers and root substances, some from fruit peels, and some from the resins of trees. While exact measurements can vary, it usually takes several kilograms of raw materials to make a much smaller volume of essential oil. In the case of some essential oils, like rose, it may take 100 kilograms of rose petals to make 1 kilogram of essential oil.

    These levels of concentration ore obviously far higher than what you would find easily in nature. 1 drop of essential oil could easily be the equivalent of the rind of several oranges or lemons, or a kilo of peppermint leaves. If you wouldn’t eat a kilo of peppermint why would you ingest the equivalent in essential oil?

    Therapeutic/ food grade

    Some of the MLM (multilevel marketing – pyramid) companies have created and patented this term. In simple marketing terms, this is great PR. If your product sounds more highly regulated then its quite natural for potential customers to think its higher quality, safer and better. A reasonable assumption, aside from the fact that it just isn’t true.

    What the label ‘food grade’ refers to is the use of essential oils as a flavouring in commercial food. Its incredibly common, with the use of essential oils in commercial food production second only to the perfume industry. This does not mean that you can use them as medical supplements! It means that a tiny percentage – less than 1% – is permissible for use as a flavouring agent. If you’ve had a cough lozenge or a commercial cake mix, you’ve eaten essential oils. That’s not scare mongering, its just fact.

    This is a loophole which some companies have utilised to make more claims for usage of their product – for better sales.

    Although its been shown that most environmental toxins from plant material are eliminated during the distillation process, your best bet is to purchase certified Organic essential oils, in which situation the supplier and process is independently audited. Australian Certified Organic is the standard in Australia and there are many essential oils suppliers offering this.


    The idea and suggestion of essential oils is quite a new one in popular culture and actually something that is directly warned against in aromatherapy training. This is because the high levels of volatile plant compounds in many essential oils are difficult for the liver and kidneys to metabolise: and yes, there have been several cases of kidney and liver failure associated with essential oil ingestion.

    Not only is it illegal to recommend in Australia, but in countries where essential oils are prescribed have stringent training: their use far from casual. In France Medical Doctors do another 2 years of study to recommend essential oils diluted at 1-2% in carrier oil (such as coconut) and then swallowed in a vegetable gelatin capsule. Even in this scenario, this prescription will be for a set period of time, while appropriate for the condition being treated. If you wouldn’t take cold and flu medication when you didn’t have one, pain killers without a pain condition, or just randomly pick up someone else’s heart medication and take it for prevention, then there’s simply no reason for you to be ingesting essential oils ‘medically’.

    I hope its obvious in any case that this kind of use is a long, long way from dropping essential oils in water and swallowing!

    I have 20 years in essential oil training and usage, a health science degree and am currently completing a masters of applied science in herbal medicine: and I wouldn’t feel comfortable ingesting essential oils myself (much less someone else, even if it was legal).


    1. One more time: Oil and water do not mix.
    Remember those experiments in primary school when you would put oil and water together, shake it, and then watch the two substances separate again? Same same. This does not take advanced biochemistry to understand, its really pretty simple.
    2. There are clear parameters for the use and application of essential oils which have been tested and applied for many years: the general rule is .5- 1% for babies and sensitive areas (such as the face), 2-3% for larger areas of the body, and up to 30% for concentrated products for small areas, such as liniments and balms.

    Essential oils also, like herbs, have varying chemical compounds and alkaloids which, of course, is what gives them unique profiles and properties. Its also what makes a particular oil appropriate – or inappropriate – for different uses.

    Essential oils have differing safety profiles and recommended dosages for concentration within a blend. Some of them are well known dermal sensitisers and should not be used on sensitive patients, or at high concentrations within an essential oil blend. Cinnamon and clove, for example, should be no more than 1% of a blend to then be diluted in carrier oil for application to the skin. Some of them are contraindicated for conditions such as high blood pressure or epilepsy, and many of them are photosensitive (reactive with sunlight) or contraindicated in pregnancy.

    When I worked for an essential oil company -about 15 years ago now – we would quite often see people coming in with burns due to direct application of a particular essential oil. (yes, despite the warnings on the label to dilute them). Some of these where quite dreadful and clearly very painful for the person affected. Skin reactions and burns are NOT a detox effect – and fainting and dizziness are not a ‘spiritual gateway’. This is toxic overexposure.

    The topics of photosensitivity and essential oils in pregnancy are considerable issues in clinical practice so quite honestly if you don’t know which essential oils these are then I strongly recommend you steer clear. Many great organic skincare companies sell products specifically for pregnancy and babies and they will be your best bet.

    All about the money, money, money

    Unfortunately when all these pieces of information are collated its obvious that this is really about one thing: profit.

    If all you need is 2-3% essential oil in a blend of carrier oil then its not hard to work out that a bottle of essential oil is going to last you a long, long time. If a 12ml bottle has approximately 240 drops then that one bottle could last you years. No company is going to make significant money from something that has that kind of use, and therefore alternate, more expansive use has been manufactured.

    While I’m sure many of the sales representatives for these companies truly love the essential oils and don’t mean for harm for any of their customers (which is truly the operative word here) ignorance is not bliss, and neither is it an acceptable excuse.

    The advice of ingestion and direct application is in direct opposition to what trained Aromatherapists recommend. This is more than simply a different train of thought, its both negligent and irresponsible.

    If you are interested in using essential oils I highly recommend you talk to an Aromatherapist for advice. Or do some research with reputable sources (ie, not an MLM company)

    Health Practitioners Beware:

    I’ve spoken to many Natural health practitioners over the last few years who have been approached to sell these oils. If you are not qualified in this area I urge you to tread with extreme caution. If this isn’t legally within your scope of practice then you are legally liable for any and all negative consequences and you will not be covered by your insurance.

    Don’t take my word for word for it! Have a look at some other sources.

    Why you shouldn’t google DIY Natural health remedies

    Why you shouldn’t google DIY Natural health remedies

    There’s this phenomenon I’m observing a lot lately… I’m sure you’ve noticed (or done it) yourself too… it’s the DIY natural remedy search. This is not only through google, but through forums and other pages like facebook, be that interest groups and forums or just as a post requesting advice.

    There are a number of issues with this which I urge you to consider seriously before you ask advice – or worse, follow it – in this situation.

    Although its always a great thing when people engage in their health – its something we all need more of – that is simply not what is happening in this scenario. Unfortunately what seems to be occurring is something close to Isaac Asimovs observance that ‘democracy means my ignorance is as good as someone else’s knowledge’ – something not only incorrect but potentially dangerous when it comes to health. It seemed well past time to lay some of the most common misconceptions to rest.

    1. In/Accurate Information
    One of the common and more significant issues with the internet is the capacity to publish any information at all on the internet without fact checking or accountability: which means you have no idea if the person whose advice you are asking has a qualification, a personal experience, a problem, or simply no idea.

    2. Natural does not automatically mean safe
    Whenever people say things suggesting its natural is just safe, my usual response is – so is arsenic. Natural supplements, be that herbs, enzymes, minerals etc are generally much safer with much lesser risk of harm – that’s why you can purchase them so easily. However Herbal medicines and supplements have chemical profiles and active compounds which can have powerful effects. This is why they are so effective!! The vast majority (80% plus) of pharmaceuticals are still derived from plants and natural substances.

    3. Its medicine, people.
    Practitioner level supplements are regulated under the TGA in Australia, the same government department which checks and qualifies other medical grade pharmaceuticals – commonly known as medications. These levels of supplementation are exclusively available for access by a qualified practitioner, because of potential risk in the case of misuse. These are at a much higher potency that you can commonly buy at a health food store. Additionally, any herb or supplement will have a unique profile and use, which may be best used for short or long term, and within certain parameters of dosage for best effect.

    4. What does ‘professional’ mean anyway?
    That issue of qualifications (above) has received a lot of attention lately, thanks to some self declared ‘experts’ without any. Not everyone wants to spend 5-8 years – and up – of their life studying something – I get it. Or of course they are more interested in something else! And that’s completely fair enough. But if you aren’t prepared to make that investment of time and energy learning something, refrain from giving advice on that topic. Just sayin’.

    5. Legal Smeagal
    That pesky issue of qualifications…. Has other ramifications. Health professionals in Australia require insurance and Association memberships (as well as AHPRA, if they are in a Registered Profession) and part of that means that we are accountable for the advice we give. That extends to consultations, emails, and other, less formal exchanges, like facebook and parties. This is something every practitioner is taught in training: do not give advice (or treatment) in these situations because you are accountable for it – without legal protection. This means that by definition, the only people who will give you advice on public forums are those unlicensed to give it. You can see the problem here, no doubt.

    6. Its all about context
    I’m presuming – and really hoping – you wouldn’t take an antibiotic, anti-depressant, or insulin prescribed to your friend just because you had similar symptoms, and there’s no reason why you should presume it to be appropriate in the case of a natural product either. The foundation of all medicine is appropriate diagnosis. It might surprise you that most experienced practitioners not only don’t diagnose ourselves, (except for obvious things) but we don’t do it for our immediate circle of loved ones either – we’re too close to them to diagnose clearly. If that’s true of an experienced professional, how likely are you as a layperson to get it right?

    7. DIY danger
    I’m sure we’ve all done this one – the DIY home disaster. From hair to bathrooms, its happened for us all. However unlike your bathroom, the damage you may be doing with an incorrect supplement or herbal medicine may take a while to become obvious, and you might not pick up on it for a very long time. Its true that most of us are poor judges of our experience – we very much live in the now and so don’t tend to pay attention to changes until our attention is brought to something. There is however one aspect of this similar to your bathroom – it will probably take longer (and cost you more) than if you had gone to a professional in the first place.

    8. Its really disrespectful
    In the same way actors often detest reality tv (its obviously a way of not paying the real wages entitled to a professional), no health practitioner is going to spend time and energy giving advice for someone who cant be bothered making an appointment. Because if you cant get motivated to make that small step, how likely are you to follow any of our suggestions to actually get results? Also: the obvious here, but Health professionals have overheads, just like you do (in fact, more than you do). To bring that analogy back, if you want to be proud of Geoffrey Rush and Cate Blanchett, you need to share the love.

    9. You’re missing the point
    The most basic foundation of all natural medicines is holism. If you aren’t clear on this term, holism means that the whole being – be that a plant, or a person, is more than its isolatable parts. You are a whole being, not just your biochemistry or your genetic profile or your disease diagnosis. Which means what you get is way more than ‘just’ a herb or supplement (or treatment) – you get a whole experience.