Longevity and Traditional Chinese Medicine
Longevity, as understood in the West, relates to the duration of life. It doesn’t always consider the quality of that long life. Longevity, or “Chang Shou,” in China is used to connote the length in years and the blessings of having quality of life unmarred by pain, disease and stress. In looking for ways to live long, healthy lives, the ancient Chinese found some very interesting and effective endeavors.
Self-care techniques and specific acupuncture procedures were tested extensively. The ancient emperors were particularly interested in learning ways to keep healthy, live long and maintain virility. The oldest book of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is called “haung di nei jing” and is derived from conversations between the emperor and his chief physician.
This common human desire of defying age drove the ancient Chinese and Taoist masters to study and develop a wide range of anti-aging herbs and formulas. Herbs are still widely used in TCM to enhance the immune system and slow down aging, and western science is catching on, proving these ancient remedies to be effective still today.
Through the use of specific herbal formulas, self-care techniques, and the stimulation of specific acupuncture points, people can live longer, more energetic lives.
In recent years, the role that stress plays in the development of disease has increased. During a stressful time the body produces an increased amount of cortisol which supplies cells with extra energy that may be needed during times of stress. For reasons that are unclear, this reaction may be accompanied by a decrease in the activities of the lymphatic organs including the thymus, lymph nodes, and spleen. Simultaneously, the number of lymphocytes in the blood tends to decrease. Since these white blood cells defend the body against infection, a person who is under stress may have a lowered resistance to disease.
Although it is not possible to prevent stress completely, we can reduce it. Taoist philosophy views a person as an energy system wherein body and mind are unified, each balancing the other. They believe that there is a universal life energy called “qi” present in every living creature. Acupuncture restores balance to the body, promotes qi flow, and stimulates our natural healing mechanisms. Acupuncture can also calm the nerves and restore and enhance function to various organs. It is especially helpful in digestive disorders.
In TCM, creating a life and work space conducive to health and wellness is crucial to achieving longevity. Feng Shui is the ancient art of creating a healthy environment.
Although there are many theories of anti-aging in traditional Chinese medicine, the most important is the association of aging and decreased immuno-function. The function of the kidney involves the immune system, endocrine system, reproductive system, and nervous system. The principle of oriental medical anti-aging treatment – both with acupuncture and herbs – is to tonify and regulate Kidney Qi and in turn, enhance the immune system to prevent aging.
There are many formulas for enhancing longevity in traditional Chinese medicine. The main ingredients of these formulas are herbs such as Huang qi; astragalus, which can significantly lower blood pressure and reduce proteinuria in the kidneys (and is the key ingredient in T65, a newly distributed anti-aging drug said to reverse the signs of aging); ren shen or ginseng root, which in lab research prevents human cell’s aging and extends the life cycle of amniotic cells and slows their regressive change; and Wu jia pi, Aacanthopanax root bark ( Siberian Ginseng) which increases the non-specific immune system, regulates the imbalance of the endocrine system, controls red and white blood cells and blood pressure, and also has the indication of anti-radiation, detoxification and anti-oxidation in cells.
One of the most famous Chinese formulas is Shou Wu Chi, which has been shown to reverse graying of hair (the name literally means black hair). Its main ingredient polygonum, is now known to be a good source of resveratrol, one of science’s latest anti-aging miracle elements.
The health of your internal organs reflects in your face. An entire branch of TCM practice uses someone’s facial appearance as part of assessing his underlying health. Because there is such a strong relationship between inner health and outer beauty, looking and feeling younger, which have long been goals in Asian culture, go hand in hand. This is achieved by a total approach of diet, stress management, herbs, acupuncture and environmental improvements. Live right, live healthy, live long. And don’t forget to be kind and to laugh often!
Diane Sheppard is a licensed acupuncturist with a Ph.D. in Oriental Medicine. Dr. Sheppard trained in both China and the U.S and is now a staff practitioner at Eisenhower Wellness Institute. She can be reached at AcQPoint Wellness Center in La Quinta. 760-775-7900 www.AcQPoint.com
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