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V-Steam: Do You Need One

by Karen Craven on 03/24/15

If you are female and reading this, it will not surprise you that being female comes with some often intense pain in the pelvic region.  It might surprise you, though, to learn that it shouldn't.

I use acupuncture and herbs to address menstrual cycle imbalances and other women’s issues but have recently added a new therapy called vaginal steaming. This is an ancient therapy designed to increase blood flow in the perineum and deliver herbs topically to address all of these issues:

   Dysmenorrhea - painful periods

   Amenorrhea - absent periods

   Oligomenorrhea - light or irregular periods

   Menorrhagia - heavy bleeding during periods

   Metrorrhagia - bleeding between periods

   Fertility concerns

   Interstitial cystitis

   Vaginal health issues - bacterial or viral

   Dyspareunia - pain with intercourse

   Maintenance of healthy vaginal tissue after menopause

   Pelvic floor dysfunction

   Hemorrhoids

We are doing V-steams at the clinic and can combine a steam with an acupuncture treatment.  For menstrual issues, it is appropriate to do one to three steams the week before your cycle depending on the level of dysfunction with your cycle. For fertility, one steam per week during the time you are building up your body and preparing for IVF or IUI. If working on conception naturally, two steams in the days leading up to ovulation after your cycle is appropriate.  For maintaining healthy tissue, three to four steams a year is appropriate. Other health issues will vary from these recommendations.

Here is a list of the herbs we use with some of their common uses:

Cyathula Officinalis (Chuan Niu Xi) - increases blood circulation, for dysmenorrhea, amenorrhea, retention of lochia, low back and knee pain, contra-indicated during pregnancy

Carthamus tinctorius flower (Hong Hua, safflower petals) - moves blood, unblocks menses, for amenorrhea, pain and masses. retention of lochia, postpartum abdominal pain

Lavender Angustifolia - for vaginal discharge and anal fissures spasms, stimulates the uterus, benefits digestion, stimulates peripheral circulation, lowers fevers, is antiseptic and has antidepressant effects, for tension and migraine headaches, nerve pain, muscle pain, cold sores

Motherwort (Leonurus Cardiaca, Yi Mu Cao) - stimulates the uterus and circulation, for issues with menses, childbirth, and menopause - especially of nervous origin, relaxes spasms, lowers blood pressure, sedative and nerve tonic, antibacterial and fungal, good for palpitations, contra-indicated during pregnancy

Mugwort (Artemisia Vulgaris, Ai Ye, moxa) - warming and stops bleeding, amenorrhea, dysmenorrhea, for prolonged periods, uterine bleeding due to cold, vomiting blood, nose bleeds, bloody stools, regulates menses, alleviates pain, calms a restless fetus, for lower abdomen cold pain, infertility due to cold uterus, vaginal discharge, genital itching, tinea, topical for eczema.

Oregano (Oreganium Vulgare, wild marjoram)- uterine stimulant, relaxes spasms, dysmenorrhea, benefits digestion, increases circulation, contra-indicated during pregnancy

Rosemary (Rosmarinis officinalis) - relaxes spasms and relieves pain, anti-microbial, for depression, apathy, nervous exhaustion, headaches and migraines associated with nervous tension or feelings of cold, poor circulation, digestive issues associated with anxiety, contra-indicated during pregnancy

Partridgeberry (Mitchella Repens) - relaxes the uterus, strengthens contractions and calms nerves, for menstrual disorders, preparation for birth, labor pains, nervous exhaustion and irritability, contra-indicated during first 6 months of pregnancy, can be used last two months with blackberry as a uterine tonic.

Red Sage Root (Radix Salvia Miltiorrhiza, Dan Shen) - for amenorrhea, dysmenorrhea, retention of lochia, postnatal pains, breast abscesses, mastitis, ulcers, boils, sores, bruises, controls bleeding, stimulates circulatory and immune systems, palpitations, irritability, insomnia

CALCIUM SUPPLEMENTS: Friend or Foe

by Karen Craven on 04/01/14

Is calcium supplementation safe?


It would be hard to find an American women who hasn’t heard that she should take calcium supplements to protect her bones. Osteoporosis is an issue for both men and women in the second half of life and can be the cause of back and hip pain and an increased risk of falling.  


With all the push to get women to take calcium you would expect osteoporosis rates to be declining, but they aren’t.  A look at the studies done on calcium intake and hip fractures, mineral density and bone health are very interesting. The information is very conflicting.  


Nutritional research foundations found that calcium supplementation did not prevent osteoporosis and in some cases worsened the bone loss. 1   Studies funded by the National Dairy Council, The Beefcheckoff, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, and the Egg Nutrition Center found that more protein and more calcium help ward off osteoporosis. 2  A very small study of 26 women who ate less protein, less calcium by half and increased their magnesium intake considerably were able to improve their bone density which had previously been below the fracture level. 3 A study done in New Zealand found a 20-30% increase in heart attack risk with calcium supplementation when they looked at a dozen clinical trails involving 12,000 patients. 4  Wisdom would seem to lie in reading many opinions and being careful to look at the source of funding for the research that you read.


So what to do for bone health?  Weight training can increase bone density. In Dr. Miriam Nelson’s book, Strong Women Stay Young, there is research to support this ideas. 5  It is not necessary to go to the gym or even to buy weights to strength train.  Items we have at home like bottles of water or canned goods make acceptable weights. Weight bearing exercise like walking also helps us maintain our bone density.  Adequate Vitamin D and a diet of leafy greens is an excellent way to care for your bones. Consider these ideas if you are concerned about bone density. 


Inspiration for this information came from Kathy Abascal’s book, The Abascal Way To Quiet Inflammation, pages 144-148.


1. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/86/6/1780.full; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18065599

2. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/87/5/1567S.long

3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2352244

4. http://www.bmj.com/content/341/bmj.c3691?view=long&pmid=20671013 

5. http://www.strongwomen.com/book/strong-women-stay-young/


How to Avoid a Cold and Enjoy the Process

by Karen Craven on 02/17/14

I don’t know anyone who has time to be sick, but sometimes our hectic schedules and habit of running out without proper outer wear leaves the door open for germs to get us. An easy way to push the germs back out is to make a simple broth of ginger and green onions.  Both ginger and green onion are diaphoretic.  That is a fancy word meaning they make you sweat, not heavily, but lightly.  A light sweat helps clean the body and not deplete it of needed fluids that will also carry germs out.  


To avoid catching cold and make use of this simple broth you have to do something very hard first. You have to stop!  You have to stop and take a moment for yourself to quickly recharge before the germs overwhelm your immune system and make you feel terrible. This is truly difficult, but if you don’t you could end up missing days of activity and making others sick as well. 


So here is the drill:


1.The very moment the thought pops into your head, “Oh man, I think I’m catching a cold”, you have to, as soon as humanly possible, go home. 


 2. On your way home, run by any store that has fresh ginger and green onions and get some.  I keep these in my house year round.  You can peel ginger and freeze slices of it so that you always have it on hand. 


3.Next get all your responsibilities handed off or dealt with in some version of good enough for the rest of the day or at least several hours. 


4. Grab a saucepan and 2 cups of water, some of the ginger roughly equivalent to the size of your finger and 5 green onion whites sliced.  This is all very rough so don’t worry about the amounts too much.  I often tell people to do 5-5-5.  Five slices of ginger, 5 green onion whites sliced and boil for 5 minutes.  The five minute thing is important.  All the lovely properties of the ginger and green onion will evaporate if you boil too long.  


5. Let the broth cool enough to drink.  While it cools take a quick, very warm shower (keep your head dry) and wrap up warmly in bed.  Sip your hot broth, cover up very heavily and gently perspire the nasties out of your body.  


This works like a top if you catch it in time and I think it is delicious, that's the enjoy the process part of this.  I like to add a little cayenne pepper flakes if I am shivery cold or a teaspoon of Bragg’s liquid amines for more flavor.  This broth is also a wonderful start to a soup by just throwing in any veggies or protein you have on hand.  


Stay well,

Karen Craven L.Ac.