Close up of a man's ear


In this article I would like to give an insight into the sort of issues I treat as an Acupuncturist and also introduce the use of Auriculotherapy or Ear Acupuncture as an additional means of addressing chronic health problems.

Chronic Health Problems
Acupuncture is known by many as a wonderful solution for everyday stresses and strains which sometimes build up and make life difficult and tiring. Relieving stress and strains and restoring vitality is what a lot of people use acupuncture for.

One of the main  strengths of Acupuncture is also to maintain health for people with complex illnesses or problems that have been lingering a long time. Technically a problem becomes defined as chronic if it has been present for longer than 3/4 weeks, but many complex problems linger for months, years, or even decades.

In this ‘chronic health category ‘ are problems with organic body systems giving rise to long term problems like migraines, asthma, body pain, insomnia, stomach problems  and so forth, which people have suffered for years and often come to accept the loss of vitality as ‘normal’.

Some of these problems are accompanied by emotional shutdown characterised by depression, sadness, anxiety, anger amongst many. Invariably the weaknesses in the body and mind are linked and become cyclically reinforcing. Unlocking this downward spiral of health is a forte of Acupuncture and I see a lot of people in this category.

However, there are even more complex manifestations of chronic illness seen in increasing numbers in my practice. Some of these originate from a genetic weakness where the health has been compromised by an autoimmune disease , eg rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia etc.

Some of these genetic disorders are also at the base of health problems with multiple causes, such as, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD) and so on. These issues can often be ameliorated by acupuncture but it takes long term treatment to really make a difference.

Other types of complex problems I see are characterised by the breakdown of the body, mind and spirit by traumatic events, such as rape, deaths, violence, cruelty and so forth. These people respond well to acupuncture and auriculotherapy but again there is no easy solution to the life long consequences of major trauma.

And other mind and body  breakdowns are simply the result of never ending stress which cannot be resolved easily and which come from things like loveless relationships, job insecurity, absence of affirmative parenting, loss of dear ones, dehumanising jobs, and all sorts of issues that weaken the body, mind and spirit. These issues are often part of the bigger picture of everyday illnesses and are the sort of complex issue that acupuncture can help to unravel.

What can Acupuncture and Auriculotherapy do?
Acupuncture is an holistic approach to problems that deplete our body and mind. It is not a solution by itself to the  chronic health disorders listed above, but it is an effective intervention that pulls the body and mind together when repeated crises split us apart. It can also be used safely alongside conventional medical treatment. It lifts the spirit and re-engages the whole person in their recovery. At its best it helps people reinhabit their bodies and find peace of mind again.

Auriculotherapy is a kind of Acupuncture adjunct that can be used on its own or as part of an acupuncture treatment. It is a micro-system which uses the ears to detect physical, emotional and neurological dysfunction in the whole body, much as reflexology accesses the whole body via the feet. The treatment is via small needles placed in the ears, or sometimes small seeds placed on ear points, or even via low grade laser activation. In terms of intervention it is reasonably minimal and is also suitable for children for this reason.

Auricular treatments date back to 450 BC but most of the modern discoveries come from research carried out in the 1950’s which found that points on the ear corresponded to anatomical locations on the body and could be accessed to treat both pain, organic dysfunction , psycho-emotional distress and neuro-vascular problems.

Auriculotherapy has been found to especially help soldiers returning from war zones in a traumatised state with recurring flashbacks and severe psycho-emotional dysfunction, now commonly called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

These dats it is understood that many people suffer from PTSD, not just soldiers, this being a result of ‘ war zone’ type experiences that go on in so-called everyday life!

It is common for survivors of major traumas to experience PTSD, and in my practice I treat eg.women who have been abused or raped when younger, or people who have been bullied from an early age,  or people who have survived a major car accident, or police and fire fighters who have seen too much tragedy and destruction, as examples of this.

Acupuncture and Auriculotherapy can really help and has been used in all sorts of trauma situations;

In 2002 a survey by a psychiatry department in Greenwich Village, New York, of 225 of those who had survived the Twin Towers inferno, asked what had been most useful in their recovery.

They listed in order of priority, Acupuncture, Massage, Yoga, and EMDR ( eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing) ( see’ The Body Keeps the Score’, 2014, Van der Kolk).

Studies using neuro-imaging since 2005 confirm that Acupuncture can unlock the overload on the brain which comes from repeated or severe trauma (see below).

How Trauma affects the Brain
With recent  advances in neuroscience and neuro-imaging using MRI scans of the brain, there has been confirmation that therapies such as Acupuncture can make a real impact on stress disorders such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. These scans have shown that areas of the brain to do with fear show rapid regulation under acupuncture treatment (see Van der Kolk above) and that Auriculotherapy in particular can unlock problems with the functioning of the brain (see below).

To understand how acupuncture and auriculotherapy help unlock trauma we need to briefly explain how the brain works…

Without going into too much technical jargon, the brain has different ways of responding to perceived dangers and threats. When we feel endangered and the alarm bells ring in the brain the first place that is automatically triggered is the animal or reptilian or emotional brain which lies in the brain stem in the sub-occipital cortex. This is where our first instinctive reactions come from (‘ the fight or flight ‘ instincts) and it involves the arousal of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline.

For a few moments the animal brain takes over and it partially shuts down the higher brain which is in the prefrontal cortex ( or forehead). The higher brain is where the executive functions of planning and consideration take place, where we rationally work out our best options and make reasoned decisions. It will pick up distress signals coming from the animal brain and start to work out what to do. If the fight or flight instinct is successful and we escape danger then we recover our equilibrium and regain our senses and our higher brain once more becomes a calm place of self awareness and perception.

The filtering out of perceived threats to our well-being will however start to break down if there are repeated arousals of stress hormones which simply swamp the body’s ability to respond rationally. Neuro-imaging has shown that highly emotional states of intense fear, sadness, and anger all increase the activity in the sub cortical animal brain, which significantly reduces the activity in the frontal lobe. When this happens the inhibitory capacities of the frontal lobe break down and people lose sense and perspective and go into a heightened animal-response state that does not release. People in this state will typically become enraged by minor frustrations, or emotionally numb or catatonic, and be unable to feel their bodies. Theses people are trapped in a powerful vortex and this state can continue for many years in some cases.

The key to unlocking this viscous cycle is to allow the two sides of our brain to re-establish communication, ie to get the rational brain and emotional brain back in equilibrium.

The bridge between the two lies in the ‘limbic brain’ where important processors and modulators  lie such as the thalamus, the amygdala, the hippocampus, the cingulate gyrus, and the hypothalamus.

This is where sensory input of danger is sorted out into significance and categories and then sent to the higher brain for interpretation.

 Neuro-imaging has shown that this neural pathway becomes dysfunctional if repeatedly battered by trauma. These people are locked into the original stimulus or trauma and are often unable to release their trauma via talking or counselling and mindfulness alone because their higher brain cannot make contact with their lower brain. It has been shown for example that when traumatised people are asked to recall their original feelings of being traumatised , the blood supply to the amygdala and hippocampus shuts down and the person is unable to recall or process these feelings, so staying locked in the original heightened state of arousal.

These people need a bottom up regulation which involves recalibrating the autonomic nervous system which originates in the brain stem. The therapies that will help will involve breath, movement, touch and energy balancing which work below the conscious mind, primarily yoga, bodywork, acupuncture, and Auriculotherapy.

Acupuncture has always been an effective means of ‘zoning out’ where patients are able to drop into the subconscious quiet space of the body and mind, the space where real change can take place. Again this has been scientifically tested by the use of MRI scans on the brain on people undergoing acupuncture treatment, and recording the quietening down of brain activity as soon as the needles are administered.

Interestingly Auriculotherapy studies have shown that the body points found in the ear are connected to the autonomic nervous system, I.e. to the part of the nervous system that comes from the animal brain. People who have Auriculotherapy report that they drop into a very deep place in their mind and body. Being able to access the workings of the animal brain is very important in unlocking the chronic trauma and shock patterns discussed above.

End Note
Acupuncture and Auriculotherapy are two of the most effective ways of enabling psycho-emotional processing particularly when verbal/counselling or drug interventions cannot alter the deeper mind blocks. In this respect , massage, bodywork and yoga, and general physical exercise are also useful and combine well with acupuncture.

Once these deeper blocks are removed and the person regains a sense of body mind connection then the person is more likely to benefit from counselling and psychotherapy, and again these therapies combine well with Acupuncture .

Being able to reinhabit our bodies is ultimately the pathway to better health – Acupuncture, Auriculotherapy, yoga, bodywork and other body and mind therapies are all ways we can help this to happen.

Feeling blue

Spring Changes Affecting Our Health

Here is my perspective from an Acupuncturist’s point of view, about the the changes accompanying the onset of Spring.

Although the timings of our seasons are no longer reliable, we can all feel the signs that Spring is on the way, and by the time this article is published the daffodils may well be gone and signs of summer may even be around!

After the dark days of Winter, Spring is the beginning of renewed growth, of new plans, of lighter mornings and evenings – what’s not to like?!

Well, for some the feelings of optimism in the air are soon replaced by a rush of energy that creates a kind of giddy mayhem. Tired minds and bodies are flooded with a relentless imperative to get going. Tired energy now gets spread even more thinly. Muscles and joints start to ache. Eyes get red and watery and we start to sneeze. Noses run and throats seize up. Voices get louder and minds get more restless. Soon we don’t know if we are coming or going. Some might start to think, what’s the point…I can’t be bothered.

It needn’t be like this…as Acupuncturists we try and help people find a more sustainable and balanced life that allows a smoother transition from one season to another. Many of my clients have acupuncture on a monthly basis or seasonal basis. They come even if they are relatively well as they understand the benefit of aligning themselves with changes in the natural world.

Life still goes pear-shaped even when we nurture ourselves, but we are more likely to get back into balance if we take care of our minds and bodies in a holistic way.

Thame Therapy Clinic

Facial acupuncture – would you? By Sarah O’Hanlon of Muddy Stilettos

I’m a long-standing fan of this alternative therapy clinic in Thame, a buzzy little market town on the Oxfordshire/Bucks borders that’s a handy five minute whizz from Muddy HQ. I reviewed the cupping treatment here last year but this time round I despatched Sarah to try out facial acupuncture. Turns out getting stabbed in the face with a load of needles is a lot more fun than it sounds…


Thame Therapy Clinic is right in the centre of the town just off the main market square, with up to three hours free parking right outside. There’s all sorts on offer here from hands-on treatments such as physiotherapy, osteopathy and massage to talking therapies such as counselling, psychotherapy and speech and language therapy. It’s open Monday to Saturday, 9am to 6pm, except on Wednesdays when it closes at a working woman-friendly 9pm.



Beyond the big blue front door and the town centre bustle, there’s a network of basic treatment rooms. Nothing particularly posh or interior-designed but my view is ‘who cares’ if the treatments are amazing. My treatment took place in one at the back overlooking a peaceful, verdant little garden. Clinic owner Andy Roscoe was my designated needle-prodder on the day. He’s been practising acupuncture for 25 years and has run the clinic in Thame for 24 of those. This was reassuring – if you’re going to let someone stick needles in your mug, you want them to know what they’re doing.


I opted for the Facial Rejuvenation treatment which is also known as cosmetic acupuncture. It’s gained popularity in recent years among A-list actresses and women who want to their skin to look brighter, plumper and smoother but don’t want to go down the invasive route of Botox or similar. Basically, it’s a halfway house between a softly-softly standard facial and more hardcore intervention – so needles, yes, but not ones filled with worrisome chemicals. I went for the 60 minute treatment, although Andy does offer a 90 minute option with some zero balancing thrown in. Yep, me neither – turns out it involves pressure being placed on certain joints to rebalance your energy. I was curious but apparently you have to clear your diary for the rest of the day because it’s so intense all you can do afterwards is float home in a state of nirvana. Which sounds lovely but is possibly not an appropriate vibe for the school run or back in the office.

Obviously I went along because quite frankly I want my face to look better! But Andy has an holistic approach and emphasized how feeling happier and more relaxed on the inside really does show on the face. It’s an obvious point but sometimes in the whirlwind of every day like, we forget this. We carry a lot of stress and tension in the face, so a treatment that relaxes it should have a positive knock-on effect on the whole body, promoting a broader sense of wellbeing.


The treatment began with Andy taking my pulses, standard practice for acupuncturists, before, during and after the treatment. This is when you realise there’s no hiding place regarding any, ahem, less than healthy lifestyle choices. He spotted my liver was a bit in need of a boost – funnily enough I’d been celebrating a friend’s birthday the night before.

He popped some needles in points in my feet and hands to help detox the liver and rebalance my energy, then moved on to my face where he swiftly popped in around 10 more, far fewer than I was expecting. If you’ve never had acupuncture before, be assured they don’t hurt, they’re extremely fine and you feel just the mildest of pinpricks as they go in. With facial acupuncture, the theory is that as well as helping energy circulate around your body, the tiny traumas to the skin caused by the needles helps stimulate the production of collagen and elastin.

Wanna see a photo? Of course you do!


I also went for the optional electro-stimulation where the needles are hooked up to a super-gentle machine, creating a very mild fizzing sensation. It took me a few minutes to relax but it’s just a slightly odd sensation rather than anything painful. The benefit of the electro stimulation is that you don’t need to use as many needles because it somehow turbo-charges them (not a technical term, obvs).

Andy removed the needles after 15 minutes and next came the facial rollers. The first one was warm and filled some amazing-smelling aromatic potion that sent me into a reverie and helps relax the face. The second one was cooler and apparently stimulates the blood flow. Then came a Chinese Tui Na massage, following the pathways of trad acupuncture and using organic argan oil. This was my favourite part – I could’ve happily had a snooze, and it makes the whole thing feel more pampering than you’d expect of a needles-based treatment.


I glided out looking like I’d enjoyed the best night’s sleep ever; glowing, radiant and unusually serene. There are no needle marks so you don’t have to slink home and hide or slather your cheeks with foundation. In the coming days, my face looked more relaxed – I wasn’t holding so much tension in it and seemed to be squinting and frowning less. And when I ventured into the Muddy HQ a colleague quizzed me at length about how perky I looked. Suffice to say, I will be back. I’m not a fan of serious cosmetic procedures such as fillers or Botox but this treatment sits well with me as it’s not so invasive and feels more meaningful somehow. Yes, my face looked pretty darn amazing if I do say so myself, but I also felt a deep sense of wellbeing and relaxation too.


£60 for a 60 minute treatment – great value I say, plus you’d pay a lot more in London. If needles make you nervous, Andy charges from £45 for 45 minutes of facial massage. Or you can upgrade to the full VIP float-off-to-nirvana option, including acupuncture, massage and zero balancing for £90.

A: Thame Therapy Clinic, 23 Upper High St, Thame, Oxfordshire OX9 3EX. Tel:01844 215 555.

Words by: Sarah O’Hanlon
Full article can also be viewed here:



As an Acupuncture practitioner I see endless applications of this therapy for everyday health problems. I thought it might be useful if I summarise the common issues I see regularly in the clinic to give you an idea of the scope of Acupuncture.

1. First up is ‘tiredness and stress’. This is the main complaint of about 60% of my patients. Typically I see this in working women in their 30/40’s with 2/3 children and a partner who works long hours.

2. Second is ‘pain’. Often acute physical strains from eg. Picking up a heavy weight or maybe a whiplash car accident, or a sports injury. But also physical pain coming from stress, such as sitting for a long time in front of a computer, or arthritic pain in the joints from damp and cold.

3. Third is ‘emotional overload’ causing mental stress and physical symptoms. This is very common and underlies most of the other issues I see. Helping people unblock emotionally is one of Acupuncture’s great strengths.

4. Fourth there are the chronic ongoing conditions such as headaches or IBS or menstrual pains where medical drugs don’t really address the cause of the problem. Many people are ground down by these issues and feel their lives are restricted.

5. Fifth are the patients who need help detoxing and strengthening. This could be during treatments for cancer or those getting off drugs like cigarettes or alcohol.

6. Sixth are the increasing numbers of women (and men) who use Acupuncture to help with fertility issues, including IVF assistance.

7. Finally there are some lesser known Acupuncture applications which sometimes feel like ‘miracles’. In this category come turning breech babies, overcoming the terror of flying, and controlling menopausal sweats.

For more information on Acupuncture please contact Andy Roscoe on 07932 011 281.

Girl sitting in meadow with dandelions and has hay fever or alle

What can I do about Hayfever..?

After a warm winter and a cold spring, the recent lift in temperatures has brought a sudden rise in pollen levels and for some the start of hayfever misery.

Medical solutions range from relatively harmless saline solutions to stronger suppressants such as anti-histamines and steroids. The latter two may be faster acting but often carry side effects such as drowsiness, nasal irritation and nosebleeds.

If you have tried these and are worried by the side effects, you might instead try acupuncture or homeopathy. Both approaches are sophisticated and holistic because they are tailored to your individual needs and constitution. Side effects are rare and although fast relief is not guaranteed it often happens.

Andy Roscoe, Acupuncturist, has been treating this problem for more than 23 years.

He recalls treating a combine harvester driver who had suffered for over 20 years from hayfever every harvest time. His symptoms almost disappeared in one session, and occasional maintenance sessions thereafter kept them under control. Both his livelihood and his life came back into balance.

Holistic approaches have the potential to reintegrate the mind and body, rather than just the suppression of symptoms.

If you are interested in trying  acupuncture or homeopathy then call Andy on 07932 011281.



It has been fashionable for some years to describe low energy or depression in the winter as ‘suffering from S.A.D. or Seasonal Affective Disorder’.

andy_newS.A.D. appears to be a general description of mid-winter malaise but in fact the concept is does have diagnostic significance and was well understood more than 2000 years ago in Chinese Acupuncture thinking.

In Acupuncture the vitality of all living organisms is seen in the context of the different energies of each season, amongst other things. In turn each season is related to different organs in the body.

So for example, Summer is related to Fire energy which is encapsulated in the Heart and Small Intestine. Winter is related to Water energy which is held in the Kidney and Bladder. Spring is the Wood energy which is held in the Liver and Gall Bladder. Autumn is Metal Energy which is held in the Lungs and Colon. And in the Late Summer (a fifth season between Summer and Autumn), we have Earth energy which is held in the Stomach and Spleen.

To show either an extreme liking or disliking for a particular season is to reveal therefore an imbalance in one or more related organs, which in turn may indicate where treatment needs to be focused to restore health generally.

When we are generally in balance it is possible to feel the beauty and benefits of every season.

In the case of people who regularly suffer from S.A.D. in the Winter, it is often indicative of exhausted Kidney energy leading to similar in the Heart as we struggle to keep the internal fires burning in the absence of light and warmth.

Acupuncture can really make a difference to your patterns of energy and in particular help you beat the Winter blues.

Click here, for more information about me or to find out how Acupuncture can help you, call me on 07932 011281.


How Food Affects Your Inner Energy


Chinese medicine believes that it is not just what you eat that is important but also when and how we eat it. Eastern Dietary therapy believes that what is right for one individual may not be right for another and that the best diet for an individual is based on many factors: lifestyle, metabolism, inherited constitution and internal organs all differ from person to person and all should be taken into account. Therefore this information is meant as only a general guideline and should only be used within the context of a full diagnosis and consultation.

Before considering any of the information below it is important to remember that food is our fuel for life and you get out what you put in. Food and our diet is too often seen as a burden or necessity in modern life but enjoying food and having a respectful and good relationship with food can make a huge difference in how you feel from day to day.

What we eat:

  • Choose food with strong Qi, that’s as close to nature as possible: Always choose fresh food over processed food and Organic over non organic. Wherever possible choose locally-grown in-season food. Try at all times to avoid over-processed and pre-packaged food, in order for these foods to have such long shelf lives and best before dates all the goodness and essential fatty acids are often removed. Yes, it is more expensive but how important is your health and feeling good to you.
  • Avoid the rubbish: You will be amazed at how much better you can feel by just avoiding certain foods. It is essentially important to avoid where possible additives that de-nature food and prolong its artificial life such as sweeteners, preservatives, colourings and flavourings. For example organic meat doesn’t contain the hormones and antibiotics that non-organic animals are fed. Choose good quality fats (extra virgin olive oil) and avoid cheap hydrogenated vegetable fats. If it’s cheap, it’s often because it has no nourishment to offer. What you spend on good food now, you might save on health in years to come.
  • Balance / Avoid extremes: Neutral foods (rice, pulses, beans etc) should make up the bulk of our diet, while foods that are more extreme in nature (strong flavoured rich, greasy, spicy, salty, sweet etc) should make up a small part of what we eat. This means that very concentrated and refined foods (like sugar and fruit juice) should only be consumed occasionally. We should also aim to avoid over-consuming any one type of food. In our current western society it is all too common for someone to eat a wheat based cereal, a sandwich for lunch and then pasta for the evening meal resulting in a diet consisting almost entirely of wheat. This is obviously imbalanced and may be the reason that intolerance to certain foods occur.
  • Mix things up: Try and eat a wide range of different foods rather than repeating the same meals week in week out. Colours can be a good guide to this, for example try to eat a range of different coloured vegetables with every meal – red, orange, green, purple will mean your getting a good range of nutrients.
  • Eat the right proportions: Eastern therapy believes that our diet should mostly consist of grains and vegetables (about 70-80%). And is said that roughly 10-20% should be made up of protein foods such as meat, dairy, eggs and additional fats.

When we eat:

  • Eat Breakfast like a King, Lunch like a Prince and Dinner like a Pauper (or peasant): Our digestive systems are at their strongest between 7am and 9am, and at the weakest between 7pm and 9pm. Therefore it is best to give your body as many nutrients as possible during these times (7am) with a good hearty breakfast (i.e. porridge, muesli or a cooked breakfast). This will set your metabolism in motion and give you the energy you need to get through the day.
  • Avoid eating late at night: As mentioned above your metabolism starts to wind down after 7pm. Eating after this hour in the short term will overburden your digestive system and possibly affect your sleep. The food will sit undigested in your system and can cause you to wake tired, groggy and sluggish and disinterested in food. In the long term it will continually deplete digestive fluids and can cause weight gain and digestive problems.
  • When you’re eating – do nothing else but eat. Our blood can only be in one place at one time and when we eat our blood and our focus is needed in our digestive system. If we are doing something else, our blood will be diverted to another part of the body and taken from where it is needed in the digestive system. For example: if you stand or walk while eating, blood will be diverted to your legs, if you watch television, read, drive or work blood will be diverted to your brain. For this reason eating on the go, business lunches and TV dinners can weaken your digestive system over time. Animals are great examples of how we should eat, when you see an animal feed it does nothing else but focus on its food, and lets nothing distract it.
  • Aim to eat when relaxed and stay that way: Eating while stressed, nervous or uptight will lead to food stagnating in your digestive system. In the long term this can lead to digestive problems like heartburn or ulcers.
  • The Stomach likes regularity: So try to make your meal times as regular as possible as your body will prepare for digestion. It is important not to skip or miss meals as this weakens the body and digestive fluids. Equally constant snacking and eating late similarly depletes these important digestive fluids. Diabetics are only too aware of the need to eat a regular sensible diet to maintain healthy blood sugar levels.
  • Take time to digest: Your body needs time to digest once you’ve eaten your food. Try not to rush on to the next thing but instead take a while to digest your food and relax. Avoiding indigestion.

How we Eat:

  • Don’t drown your food: Healthy digestion requires an abundance of digestive fluids. Drinking a large quantity of fluid with your meals will water down these powerful digestive juices. Instead have a small amount of fluid (water, green tea or wine) with a meal and drink the rest of your daily fluids between meals.
  • Don’t chill your stomach: In the same way we need heat to cook food our digestive system needs a certain level of ‘heat’ to digest food. For this reason never eat food directly from the fridge or have iced drinks with your food otherwise your stomach will first have to warm the food to 38degrees before it can start to digest it and this takes a lot of energy. Avoid overeating raw food – especially if your digestive system is weak. Instead lightly steam or stir-fry vegetables to make them more digestible without losing valuable nutrients. Cooking soups and stews is a good way to retain more of the goodness from vegetables.
  • Your Stomach has no teeth: Digestion starts in the mouth and so it is imperative that you chew well. Giving your digestive system as little work to do as possible means that your body can quickly transform and transport the nutrients from your food to where it’s needed. Equally as important is eating your food slowly so that your body has time to digest. Indigestion is often a direct result of people eating too fast.
  • Don’t over do it: Try and pay attention to your body, stop before you get totally full. Overburdening your digestive system will lead to stagnation in your digestive system and will often give you that uncomfortable bloated feeling. Eating slowly helps to avoid overeating as the stomach takes a while to give the brain the message that it is full.
  • Listen closely: We are often over run with information on what foods we should eat through diets, science, news and handouts like this one. All this information can sometimes undermine our bodies own ability to know what is good for us individually. Explore how your body feels before, during and after eating different foods. Listen loud, trust and be proud.
  • Cravings: Craving for junk and sweet foods is a sign your digestive system is weak or that your hormones may be out of balance. Make sure you eat enough foods that maintain a steady blood sugar level (oats or brown rice), and if you must snack keep some healthy snacks ready (a tub of mixed seeds and nuts can be great for snacking).

The best changes are slow and gradual – ones that you can keep.

We think it’s important that this information is only used within the context of a full diagnosis and consultation.


‘HELPING OURSELVES’ by Daverick Leggett, 2008, Meridian Press

‘HELPING OURSELVES WITH WHOLEFOODS’ by Paul Pitchford, 1993 and since updated, North Atlantic Books

Written by


Acupuncturist and Director

Thame Therapy Clinic September 2013

23 Upper High St. Thame. Tel 01844 215555


Acupuncture in Guangzhou, China Oct 2013…

Day 1:

Hi everyone from Guangzhao in south eastern china. I’m here for 2 weeks studying acupuncture in an acupuncture hospital which also has western medicine. We are in the middle of a city of 12 million people and it is all go 24/7.

The hospital is a bit smaller than the John Radcliffe and I am with a group of 15 acupuncturists observing various doctors in their surgeries. It is like being in the outpatients wing of the JR as people turn up all through the day and wait to be seen.

In the treatment rooms there are anything from 4-10 beds and couches and everyone gets treated together. They pay £10 per treatment of which £9 is paid by their compulsory insurance. Most of them come in every day.

So far I have been seeing people with paralysis of the face (Bells Palsey and other similar problems), neck spondylitis, back pain and various other pains. A lot of patients have chronic serious problems. Most of them get needles, anything up to 40 needles at a time, inserted in under 2 minutes! You may be grateful that this is not what we do in the west as a rule!

A lot also get tuina which is like strong massage and in some cases like osteopathy as they reset bones. Again, this can be vigorous and not for the faint hearted!

So far I am just observing but soon I shall be putting needles in under supervision and joining in the next episode of Casualty!


The hospital and adjacent multi storey highway.


Five mins walk from the hospital, you see this.










Day 2:

Hello again from Guangzhou. It’s now been 4 days in outpatients and they are still coming in thick and fast.

One thing that is different here is that the acupuncturists can also choose to train in tuina which is very similar to osteopathy as it includes bone manipulation as well as all the deep tissue massage. They are surprised that the two disciplines are separate in the UK.

We continue to see many serious cases and the great thing us that the patients can come in every day for treatment if needbe as it is essentially £1 a session ad I explained in the first blog.

Today we saw some young children being treated with acupuncture. Both were premature births. In one a young girl had misformed feet and ice cold legs. She had had operations on her feet to reshape them (in another part of the hospital – how good it is to have integrated medicine) and now she was getting acupuncture to connect up the lower body again. In the other a young boy could not speak and was essentially autistic. In amongst all the kisses and hugs he kept giving us he was given acupuncture to help him speak again, and had two words he could now say.

We see also amazing care given to these children by both parents and doctors and wonder how much this reflects the ‘one child ‘ policy and the preciousness of the only child.

I have attached a few photos of the treatment rooms where we observe to give you an idea of what it is like.

Typical scene in communal treatment room.

Typical scene in communal treatment room.

Two year old cerebral palsey with approx 40 needles in her!

Two year old cerebral palsey with approx 40 needles in her










Patients often get cupping before acupuncture to take out cold and move the energy.

Patients often get cupping before acupuncture to take out cold and move the energy.

Most patients get electro-acupuncture as well as cupping which leaves red and purple bruising

Most patients get electro-acupuncture as well as cupping which leaves red and purple bruising











Day 3:

Hi again with more news from Guangzhou. A week has gone by and we have been on a short break on the Pearl River delta which connects the city to the sea and Hong Kong. This is the agricultural heartlands of the Cantonese speaking people and from where most Chinese have emigrated over the centuries. We are currently travelling through mile after mile of vegetable and fish farms – bit like the south of Spain but without the plastic sheeting!

Reflecting on the first week in the hospital, the main impression is of ralentless demand for medical help. This is mainly due to the population explosion in the city from 3 million in 1980’s to 12 million now. In this context there simply isn’t time to do individual consultations notwithstanding that it is fairly normal to have treatments in shared space in most of China.

The top professors here are seeing on average 70 people a day, 5 days per week. And they are working 9-5pm with a 2 hour lunch break which are not long days by UK standards.

We have seen a huge amount of stroke patients as well as lots of neck pain types. These seem the main specialisations here. It is very rare for an acupuncturist to be the first port of call for a stroke patient in UK. Here they treat these people with western medicine for the first 3 days and then refer them for acupuncture.

The advantage of this is that they use acupuncture to encourage blood and energy to keep flowing through the affected area (without getting into too much technical jargon here), once they have stabilized the patient. In UK we would be unlikely to see stroke patients within the first month of occurrence.

As always it is fascinating to see the two systems of medicine side by side. There is no attempt by the acupuncture doctors here to claim superiority.

Finally on a slightly humorous note we also observe the adroitness of the doctors putting needles in with one hand , on the phone with the other, directing photographs every few minutes, and all the time there is a patient below with a serious problem who sometimes is also on their phone!

All for now, more to come soon. I attach a few photos of life in outpatients including one of me having a walking Tuina treatment, and one with Prof Qin, aka the Flying Needle Doctor.

With Dr Qin the ‘Flying Needle Doctor’.

With Dr Qin the ‘Flying Needle Doctor’.

Getting walked over by the Chinese…

Getting walked over by the Chinese…












Day 4:

We are into our last 3 days in Guangzhou and still the cultural differences are so interesting.

When we walk into a restaurant our guide will shout at the waiter to find us a table and then shout again for food and tea. No please and thankyou. But then it is considered rude if you don’t wash your cup, bowl and chopsticks before you eat. When you eat it is also ok to talk and eat at the same time and it doesn’t matter what falls out of your mouth!

It is also common to have Chinese youths want to have a picture taken with you, and they get in really close head to head as if you were a family member. No concept of English personal space here!

In the shops the clothes have obscure English slogans on them or American brand names. It is cool here to have a European or American style. Meanwhile back in the Uk it is cool to have a tatoo with a Chinese character on it…

Meanwhile our clinical observations continue in their strange and wonderful ways. We have seen patients hung upside down by their feet on an inversion board. Once vertical they are swung about to increase back mobility and some have had low back manipulation at the same time.

In the acupuncture department we have seen patients getting a red hot needle lightly touching the skin to remove cold from their bodies. There are no marks left on the skin from this. But with moxa treatments (a smouldering herb left on the skin) they do let it burn the skin and it leaves a scar. I have enclosed a picture below of this.

There is generally an obsession here with getting rid of cold and this has puzzled me given the subtropical climate in these areas. The answer however is that a lot of it is down to huge numbers of workers sitting long hours in cold air conditioning, itself a response to the unpleasant muggy atmosphere caused by air pollution on top of the humid climate (itself exacerbated by rapid population growth).

Ironically the same problem was around  centuries ago when workers spent their days in cold damp fields and got pains in their joints. So there has been huge progress materially but same result!

There will probably be time for one more report before returning to some familiar place a long way away.

Moxa scars.

Moxa scars.

Pearl Riverscape in the city.

Pearl Riverscape in the city.











Last Day:

Hi again, just time to squeeze in one more report before we return.

We start our days here with taichi in the park at 7am which is a daily ritual for many city dwellers. You grab your spot under the trees  and pretty soon you are surrounded by people doing sword dancing or fan fluttering or   kung fu type moves. We regularly get locals joining in with us, some with transitor radios on and small dog alongside. Average age seems over 50. We are an obvious oddity going about our business quietly and with proper English personal space around us!

There is a consistent awareness of the need for good exercise such as taichi and diet  advice in the hospital. Every department puts up big dietary posters which are changed each season as the Chinese medicine pays attention to changing seasonal energetics. Every patient can also get an individual dietary plan which addresses their specific complaint. I don’t think we do anything like this in UK hospitals.

There is of course the usual fast food on the streets, and whilst you can always get fried food there is also a lot of steamed food which is healthier. There are also intriguing and challenging options such as tortoise soup, toad casserole and deer antler and hoof pot.

One menu also had 3 kinds of snakes, or snake-three-ways as they say on Master Chef!

We continue to see integrated medicine in all departments. Today we saw how patients in the respiratory recovery section could also have bee sting therapy which can counteract autoimmune diseases or treat allergies or joint problems. Small bees are placed on acupuncture points and the sting activates the body’s healing. Yes the bee dies…not considered an issue here given that anything with 4 legs except the table is eaten!

We saw diabetic patients receiving insulin and also Chinese herbal treatment. Some of these herbs are given as a foot steaming treatment as diabetics often get numb feet. I managed to sample one of these foot tubs – see picture below – with herbs that increase the blood circulation. Whilst I was doing this one of the in-patients brought me his sandals for afterwards. Didn’t feel it was right to ask for a cup of tea!

We saw young children getting tuina/acupressure for breathing problems – gentle but firm rubbing on places on the hands, arms and back. Those with asthma were getting steam nebulisers which blew a herbal concoction onto their face. They also had steroids as far as we could gather.

Finally we sat and practised our flying needle technique with one of the acupuncture  doctors. Safe to say I shall not be doing 40-50 needles in 2 minutes on patients anytime soon! But it is still amazing to watch a master in action, every needle put in like a dragon fly dipping to touch the water momentarily and the sensation for the patient virtually nothing despite the needle being one or more inches deep. Seeing is believing…and now it is time to say goodbye.

Having a herbal foot steamer.

Having a herbal foot steamer.

Taichi in the park.

Taichi in the park.