What's that sound? Why won't it go away?
Tinnitus, commonly known as "ringing in the ears" and the perception of sound where no external source of sound is present, is a surprisingly common affliction. You may not know that complementary medicine offers treatment options for this condition, including herbs. Furthermore, Traditional Chinese Medicine recognizes four different types of tinnitus with four different herbal formulas matched to each specific type.
This month, I am pleased to feature a blog post by East West grad and teacher Holly Hutton, who outlines several herbal treatment options for tinnitus, along with diet and lifestyle suggestions.
Go to Holly's post, "Tinnitus-Ringing in the Ear, Treatment Options From Many Traditions" for a clear elucidation of the complementary approach to this common condition.
Arthritis, joint and back pain is so prevalent throughout the world that there really is no point to describe how many sufferers there are. It is safe to say that if you are around the age of 55 or older you probably have some form of arthritis somewhere in your body.
From a Western medical perspective there are two broad forms of arthritis, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Osteoarthritis is joint pain primarily caused by a gradual loss of protective cartilage. This can be caused by physical injury, mechanical stress or metabolic abnormality that can gradually break down the cartilage that cushions the ends of the bones from rubbing against each other. This is the most common type of arthritis.
Rheumatoid arthritis is the most severe type of inflammatory joint disease. It is an auto-immune condition where the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues, which in turn damages the joints and surrounding soft tissue. This is a chronic form of arthritis that leads to stiff, deformed joints of the hands, arms, legs and feet. It is the slowest and most difficult to treat.
Western medical treatment involves the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) such as aspirin, ibuprofen and steroid-based drugs such as corticosteroids and immune-suppressive drugs. All of these have long-term adverse side effects and some have short-term adverse effects such as stomach irritation, gastritis and ulcers.
TCM classifies both types of arthritis as “Bi syndrome” disease. Bi means for “blockage.” Thus in TCM all such pains are considered to be caused by some sort of blockage. What is blocked or what causes blockage in arthritis, and for that matter back pain, which is considered in the same category, gets us into some strange concepts and terms (from a Western physiological point of view).
The most common type of arthritic pain is caused and aggravated by coldness and dampness. No wonder that individuals with this type of arthritis complain that their symptoms are worse in cold, damp weather, but also by wind. Heat, a fourth TCM cause, occurs as resistance from the continued effects of Cold-Damp-Wind causing blockage.
Western rheumatology hypothesizes that one of the major reasons why cold and damp weather aggravates most people’s arthritic pains is because of changes in air pressure. Specifically, it is the change of barometric pressure which is the weight of the atmosphere that surrounds us. This pressure occurs when barometric pressure drops before bad weather sets in and cause the joints and cartilage of our joints to expand. This theory is given by Dr. David Borenstein, MD, FACP, FACR, a rheumatologist and clinical professor of medicine at George Washington University Medical Center and past president of the American College of Rheumatology. Still, many people claim that weather does not affect their arthritic pains.
The virtue of the Chinese description of “Bi Syndrome caused by Cold-Damp-Wind” is that it leads the herbalist to select the most appropriate herbs which are classified in TCM as treating Coldness, Dampness, Wind or Heat.
Cold pattern arthritis (Cold Bi) is characterized by severe joint or muscle pain in a fixed location. It is relieved by the application of warmth.
Damp pattern arthritis (Damp Bi) exhibits symptoms of pain, soreness, swelling of the muscles and joints, and a feeling of heaviness and numbness in the limbs.
Unlike Cold Bi, Wind pattern arthritis (Wind Bi) is characterized by pains that move from place to place, or joint to joint. It is described as being aggravated and caused by exposure to wind.
Heat pattern arthritis (Hot Bi) is characterized by severe pain and joints that feel hot, and look red and swollen. This type of arthritis is relieved by applying cold to the affected areas.
Underlying physiological imbalances that predispose an individual to develop arthritic and lower back pains are described in TCM as coming from deficiencies of the Kidneys and Liver.
In TCM, the Kidneys include the adrenals so that any type of stress or fatigue, be it climatic, physical or emotional will cause the Kidney-adrenals to hyperfunction and react to regain homeostasis. The Liver’s job is to moderate the adrenal hormones caused by stress by breaking them down as necessary. The Liver also neutralizes toxins which cause internal stress.
This TCM Kidney-Liver organic function may be deficient due to congenital conditions or may gradually weaken with lifestyle abuse and age. Thus to achieve any enduring benefit from treatments, one would wisely add herbs to supplement and strengthen this vital internal TCM function.
Traditional diagnostic methods based on symptomology, tongue, and pulse are employed to determine the most effective treatment approach. However, in the case of arthritis and lower back pain, there is one formula which is in a unique small class out of the possible thousands of TCM formulas that I consider to be the “best bet” or "use first, refine later" group of formulas. It is Du Huo Ji Sheng Tang (Du Huo Angelica and Loranthes Mistletoe (Taxillus) Decoction).
How effective is it for these conditions? I would estimate that it will relieve joint pains at least 80% of the time.
It consists of the following:
Active Herb’s version of this formula is called Jointsjoy.
Another version, Solitary Hermit, is manufactured and sold as part of the Plum Flower herb line.
A Planetary Herbal formulation based on this formula and widely used in my clinical practice is simply called Lower Back support.
Any of these three products can be used with more than relative efficacy to relieve and cure musculoskeletal pains of all kinds.
Gluten or dairy intolerant? You may not need to give up wheat and dairy, says Dr. John Douillard, DC, in his book Eat Wheat (Morgan James Publishing, 2017). Backed by years of clinical experience helping people who previously were unable to digest wheat and dairy, Dr. Douillard employs traditional thousands-of-years-old Ayurvedic principles backed by more than 600 scientific studies to develop the methods described in his book for gut health.
His conclusion? Most who claim to experience varied and myriad symptoms of discomfort as a result of eating dairy, wheat and other glutinous grains is the result of a toxic condition that has weakened their digestion.
Based on my own clinical experience, I agree that, with the exception of the less than 0.5 to 1% who actually have lactose intolerance and celiac disease (the latter being a serious conditions that can be medically diagnosed through simple clinical tests) should absolutely avoid consuming these foods. However, the rash of symptoms attributed to eating dairy and wheat ranging from simple bloating, heavy dull feeling and lethargy after eating, to a wide range of metabolic to mental and emotional conditions may do better if they view these as symptoms that may benefit from treatment rather than a primary handicap.
Thus I appreciate that this is not just another theoretical book but one that lists numerous cases of his patients who were suffering from various degrees of gluten and dairy sensitivities and intolerances and who, after undergoing recommended detoxification cleanses, reported that not only were they able to eat these foods again, but with better digestion and a more lasting improvement of health and well-being overall.
All systems of natural healing believe that the foundation to health is a healthy gut, meaning the ability to break down and assimilate vital nutrients and efficiently eliminate metabolic wastes. I agree with Douillard’s thesis that the underlying causes of gluten sensitivity-intolerance is a toxic, weak digestive system. In fact the symptoms associated with gluten sensitivity-intolerance are common to all traditional healing systems. The Western herbal tradition addresses this with the use of digestive bitters such as Angostura bitters commonly sold in liquor stores throughout the world and originally designed to relieve digestive problems by stimulating hydrochloric acid and biliary secretions. Then there is Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) with dietary and herbal treatment its most common diagnoses: Spleen Qi Deficiency, Liver-Spleen Qi Stagnation and diseases caused by Phlegm. Finally Dr. Douillard’s specialty, Ayurvedic medicine, has a wide range of treatment and herbs for specific digestive problems and the elimination of deep-seated toxins called ‘ama’ which is related to the TCM concept of invisible Phlegm, or the lymphatic system which according to Douillard is lodged in the fat cells.
In fact, Douillard describes how the most recent research has discovered a direct connection of the lymphatic system between the GI tract and the brain. This explains the Chinese description of schizophrenia and psychosis as “invisible Phlegm masking the brain” and the relationship between gluten sensitivity-intolerance and the brain in Dr. Perlmutter’s book, Grain Brain. However, merely eliminating gluten not only deprives us of the pleasure derived from these foods but also a wide range of associated vital nutrients they contain, including fiber, iron, zinc, folate, niacin, thiamine, riboflavin, calcium, Vitamin B12, and phosphorus.
With approximately 21% of the population currently adopting a gluten-free diet and a $9 billion gluten-free food industry (in 2014) to support it, there has been little interest in finding a deeper cause or cure. In fact, Douillard exemplifies how the condition he calls "toxicity impaired digestion" (TID) is best treated with traditional medicine, diet and herbs.
His approach is to eliminate all processed and refined food from the diet, engage in periodic cleanses which he describes and are freely available on his website www.Lifespa.com, and adopt a seasonal approach to foods based on regional availability which is described in his book and his previous book, The Four Seasons Diet, also based on traditional Ayurvedic dietetics.
On a recent vacation in Kauai, my wife, Lesley and I underwent Douillard’s four-day cleanse based on taking increasing spoonfuls of ghee first thing each morning and eat no other fat throughout the rest of the day; and the traditional Ayurvedic healing food kichari, consisting of split yellow mung beans and white rice, with traditional healing spices of turmeric, coriander and cumin prepared without ghee, three times each day. In addition warm water is sipped every 10 or 15 minutes and certain Ayurvedic herbs such as triphala for eliminating metabolic waste were taken.
The fast was remarkably easy to follow and adhere to and there was little hunger for other foods. You can download the details of Dr. Douillard’s short cleanse or even embark on his 28-day cleanse. There are three levels of foods to use besides the basic kichari and ghee, which is the foundation. One is to add vegetables and fruit to the regime and another, especially for those with low blood sugar, to add white meat such as chicken.
The most unusual and a key component of the diet was the morning intake of ghee – pure butter fat. Ghee is considered one of the most healing foods in Ayurvedic and Tibetan medicine. Like all fat, it satisfies hunger but uniquely it cleanses and heals the walls of the intestines, stimulates the production of new bile for the liver and gall bladder, strongly strengthens the immune system, and encourages eliimination of old “ama” -- difficult to discharge, toxin-laden fat from the body – literally consuming good fat to eliminate bad.
We both felt significant benefit from this short cleanse and it did seem to ‘reset’ our digestive systems. We look forward to repeating the cleanse.
For many, reintroducing grains and dairy back into the diet may have to be a gradual process, beginning with yogurt, cheese or ‘scalded’ organic whole milk; with glutinous grains such as wheat, and occasional small servings of whole grains.
Douillard's point, in short, is that sensitivity-intolerance to these foods is not the cause but a symptom of deeper digestive imbalance, which if left untreated can be a precursor to more serious diseases later in life.
Dr. John Douillard is the author of six books, numerous articles on natural health and fitness and the creator of Lifespa.com a respected source for Ayurvedic health and wellness.
In my previous blog on treating H. pylori-induced stomach inflammation with herbs, I touch briefly on a fundamental difference between conventional and complementary medicine: namely, that conventional medicine prefers to identify an isolated pathogen or discrete named diagnosis which it aims to treat singularly; whereas complementary or traditional medicine relies on signs and symptoms, within the unique individual and their personal conformation, and how these elements fit into a time-tested model of healing.
Being an herbalist means learning to think like a herbalist, which apart from a special knowledge of the therapeutic properties of plants also means to not overly focus on the symptoms of a disease but also the particular unique physiological ‘terrain’ from which the disease and its symptoms arise. With Chinese medicine, this means treating ‘root (cause) and branch (symptom) based on principles of yin and yang. In Ayurveda, it means differentiating the individual’s underlying prakriti (doshic or humoral imbalance) from the vikruti (doshic disease imbalance).
There are several layers of healing. One is to disguise the symptom, another is to deal with the microbiological cause of the symptoms. Still another is to treat the “cause of the cause” which is the imbalances in the body that predispose one to develop such things as infections (like H. pylori overgrowth). Still another cause beyond these physical ones are the psycho-spiritual reasons one develops a disease.
Relief or “cure” can be achieved at any of these levels. The first treatment principle should be to relieve the symptoms, which is the most superficial level of healing; second, treat the “cause of the cause” being the most physiologically beneficial level overall: and then attention must be paid to the third, psycho-spiritual level, which is the most profound.
Only masking the symptoms, which is the usual approach in Western medicine such as when antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs such as cortisone are given, is fraught with possibly damaging side effects. This is why many people seek the herbalist or acupuncturist for the second and third levels of healing. Every healer has some facility to work on each of these levels but the herbalist and acupuncturist uniquely specialize on second “cause-of-cause” level.
The third, psycho-spiritual level may either be all encompassing or may provide other levels of relief beyond the physical.
Addressing all three of these levels, with respect to the individual patient’s particular physiology, history of illness and mental or emotional disposition, is the definition of “wholistic” healing to which most herbalists and traditional practitioners aspire. It is an approach which, in my opinion, is most likely to bring about the sort of transformation that leads to deep and lasting healing.
Recently, a colleague sent me the following question:
A friend in Canada tested positive for H. pylori bacteria. Of course, the Western doctor he goes to wanted to start heavy antibiotic treatment. Plus, he said he would need to be on some 'pill' for the rest of his life! He is refusing until he can seek out alternative answers to this. He is 70 yrs. old, does not have a hiatal hernia, just a bit of indigestion at times.
Helicobacter pylori is a common bacterium that many have with or without any noticeable symptoms. Recently a study found that Otzi, the 5,300-year-old ice-mummy, was also infected with H. pylori. Today it is estimated that it is present in about half the population.
H. pylori is known to produce an enzyme, urease, that allows the bacteria to live in harsh acidic environments such as the stomach. Urease reacts with urea to form ammonia which can neutralize enough of the stomach acid to allow organisms to survive in tissues for years. It is highly contagious and is transmitted through saliva, fecal contamination in food or water, and poor hygienic practices in general. As stated, the good news is that most people do not exhibit any symptoms. However, if enough of the stomach acid is neutralized, it can be a factor behind many acute gastrointestinal problems such as gastritis and GI tract ulcers.
I’ve been involved with the study and practice of herbal medicine since 1968. In all of that time, I focused on treating the patient more than the disease. This is because my model, traditional herbalism, does not focus on treating specific pathogens associated with a disease, but the whole disease complex itself.
In other words, a Western herbalist may treat gastrointestinal symptoms caused by H. pylori with herbs not specifically targeted to eradicating the bacterium, but with herbs that reliably treat ulcers, abdominal and acid reflux. An Ayurvedic herbalist might treat these conditions as a humoral imbalance of excess pitta. A traditional Chinese herbalist would treat it based on Eight Principles and pattern analysis. In all three models, there is no particular advantage in testing and discovering that the inflammation is caused by H. pylori.
Today, many complementary health practitioners seeking to impress their patients too often resort to describing their diseases based on a Western medical model. The problem is that herbs are more food-like than drugs, exerting a broader function on restoring homeostasis and health. Still, many herbs do have specific tropisms or indications. For the patient described above, look to herbs that treat symptoms of ulcers, acid reflux, belching, bloating, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain as symptoms of gastritis. All of these conditions are effectively treated with dietary and herbal treatment.
So while I’ve not treated H. pylori as a discrete entity, I have had a lot of experience successfully treating all the conditions previously mentioned. Because people have responded positively, I can only assume that the diet and herbs I prescribe regularly such as Triphala inhibit the growth of H. pylori.
Bitters, triphala, goldenseal, and coptis are among the many botanical remedies taken singly or in a formula for treating gastritis, acid reflux, and gi tract ulcers. These herbs treat a broad range of gastric imbalances but have also substantiated research that they are effective for H. pylori.
Berberine is a constituent of herbs such as goldenseal, coptis, barberry, Oregon grape and the Ayurvedic herb guduchi (Tinospora cordifolia). All of these have been shown to have broad-spectrum antibiotic and antipathogenic properties. Studies in vitro have demonstrated that berberine can inhibit H pylori. While these may not be robust enough to eradicate the organism entirely (if that is even possible), when used in a compound herbal formulation for gastritis, or in bitters, along with probiotic foods and a balanced diet, they will certainly contribute to a multilayered comprehensive gut healing regime.
Triphala, an ancient Ayurvedic healing compound consisting of three fruits, Terminalia belerica, T. emblica, commonly known as “amla” and T. Chebula or black myrobalan (Chinese: he zi), also has broad spectrum antipathogenic properties. Chebula or black myrobalan has been cited as effective against all harmful bacteria and specifically effective for inhibiting urease active of H. pylori.
The remaining two fruits in Triphala are also effective against H. pylori, especially amla (T. emblica). Amla fruit is one of the greatest antioxidants in the plant kingdom and is highly regarded both for its nutritional and for its medicinal benefits. It is claimed as one of the two or three highest known sources of natural tannins and Vitamin C which is impervious to both age and heating. Research confirms what native people of India have known for millennia, that Amla is good for the health of the whole body, especially the liver and GI tract. It is an effective treatment for gastritis, Crohn's, iBS, stomach and duodenal ulcers and to inhibit the growth of H. pylori in the stomach.
Tinospora cordifolia, called “guduchi” and “the body’s protector” is bitter, pungent and astringent with a post-digestive ‘sweet’ effect meaning that it is an antipathogenic herb with tonic-nutritive properties. It is one of the most powerful antipathogenic herbs of special benefit for inflammatory gastric disorders.
Deglycyrrhizinated licorice root (DGL) is a well-established anti-ulceration and mucosal healing agent. DGL can coat and soothe the intestinal lining and promote the healing of inflamed tissue and ulcers. Research suggests that flavonoids in licorice have impressive antimicrobial activity against H. pylori. The flavonoids have been shown to have antimicrobial activity against strains of H. pylori that were resistant to clarithromycin and amoxicillin, two of the primary antibiotics used in triple therapy. Some forms of licorice can elevate blood pressure but because DGL has low glycyrrhizin levels it is safe to take if you have high blood pressure.
Sulforaphane is a naturally occurring chemical found in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage and brussels sprouts. Some studies have demonstrated that it can inhibit H. pylori. Eating cruciferous vegetables, especially broccoli sprouts, will ensure that you get plenty of sulforaphane, but it is also available in capsule form from several supplement manufacturers, including a product called Broccomax.
Some studies have suggested that Vitamin C may inhibit and even kill H. pylori but more research is needed to determine the optimal dosing and program duration. Even if Vitamin C does not eradicate H. pylori, it is still worth taking a controlled dose because studies clearly show that Vitamin C levels in the stomach lining can be reduced when H. pylori is present, largely as a result of the inflammatory and oxidative stress caused by the infection. Vitamin C is also an excellent nutrient for assisting with gut healing.
Vitamin U – also known as MSM – is found in raw cabbage. In fact, Vitamin U is not a vitamin at all. Cabbage juice has been studied extensively in Russia and other Eastern European countries for the healing of damaged and eroded intestinal mucosa. It appears to enhance the healing of damaged tissue and may assist in healing ulcers.
When I consider what the most useful single herb I know with these same antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal – in fact, every ‘anti’ property we would need to fight off harmful pathogens—is, it is Isatis tinctoria, an herb commonly known in old English as “woad,” meaning “weed.” As an ancient East - West cruciferous family medicinal herb, it happens to have all of the same antipathogenic sulfur compounds found in cruciferous vegetables and of course biologic MSM sulfur. Both the leaf and the root of Isatis are used in Traditional Chinese Medicine called da qing ye and ban lan gen respectively. These are classified as bitter and cold, which from an herbalist’s perspective means they are broadly antipathogenic and reserved for short-term use to treat the most stubborn pathogens such as viruses but are equally effective for bacteria and funguses as well.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) there are 361 charted acupuncture points on the body. Acupuncturists generally recognize any active point on the body that is particularly sensitive as an acupuncture point, so understood in this way, the number of actual points are limitless.
Within the medical tradition of Indian Ayurvedic medicine, there is a comparable number of points on the body that can be treated called marmas. Like Chinese acupuncture the science of marmani developed in India about 5,000 years ago in Vedic times. Ayurvedic texts describe 117 major marma points. Located at anatomical sites where veins, arteries, tendons, bones or joints intersect, they are similar to the more numerous Chinese acupoints as today they are also stimulated by palpation for both diagnosis and healing. Interestingly, about 75 of the 117 principal marma points exactly correspond to principle acupoints used in Chinese medicine.
Many of the points on the Chinese Gall Bladder meridian, especially on the head and shoulders, treat the condition known in Traditional Chinese Medicine as “Wind.” There are broadly two types of wind: “External Wind,” which includes inflammations on the surface layers of the body including allergic reactions affecting the skin, eyes, ears and nasal sinuses as well as viral and bacterial conditions such as colds, flu, headaches and other common afflictions. “Internal Wind” is completely different and includes more chronic diseases such as epilepsy and Parkinson’s. In both cases, the description “Wind” denotes diseases that represent some fundamental instability.
While not exactly corresponding in location, the Chinese acupoint called feng chi or “Wind Palace,” also less poetically known as Gall Bladder 20 (GB 20), seems closely related in action to the Ayurvedic point Krikatika Marma. These points are located within an inch of each other at the occipital base of the skull can be stimulated to treat allergies, itchy eyes and all kinds of headaches. With effective 4- to 5-second stimulation, one can experience a feeling of immediate clearing in the head which caused one of my acupoint students to dub the point/s a “brain cooler.”
Feng Chi (GB20) is in a natural groove located behind the ear at the base of the posterior mastoid (ear) bone where the muscles of the neck attach to the skull. Krikatika marma is on both sides of the central axis leading into the skull at the juncture of the 2nd cervical vertebra.
Fortunately both these points are easy to find and easy to massage even on oneself. To locate GB 20, simply interlock the fingers of both hands palms facing inward and cradle the occiput on the back of the skull. Both your thumbs should naturally fall to the grove connecting the neck and the skull on your neck. Krikatika marma is one inch towards the center on either side of the cervical spine.
These both connect to the brain and are very powerful. Until you become more familiar with their effect you should stimulate them deeply but probably not more than 4 to 5 seconds each.
They can be used to immediately relieve allergy symptoms especially of the eyes, ears and nasal passages. Neck pain and stiffness with a decrease in range of motion, stress-related emotional disturbance, middle ear infections, tinnitus, Meniere’s syndrome, and asthma.
I sometimes think of GB 20 as a “lobelia” point because like the herb Lobelia inflata, it has such powerful antispasmodic (Wind-relieving) properties. Similarly, stimulating Krikatika affects the upper lobes of the lung, stimulating bronchodilation and the relief of asthma.
GB 20 and Krikatika marma offer instant relief of Meniere's disease which is a disorder of the inner ear that causes episodes of spinning vertigo, feeling of fullness in the ear and fluctuating hearing loss which is progressive, ultimately leading to permanent loss of hearing and ringing in the ear (tinnitus).
Meniere's disease affects only one ear and can occur at any age but usually starts between the ages of 20 and 50. It's considered a chronic condition, but various treatments can help relieve symptoms and minimize the long-term impact on your life. There is no known cure for Meniere’s disease and there are a variety of Western drugs usually with varying degrees of undesirable side effects, ranging from anti-nausea drugs and valium to steroids and even surgical intervention to cut off neurological response. Certainly for this disease alone, GB 20 and krikatika marma, with no side effects, are worth trying.
GB 20 and Krikatika marma are also useful for those who may experience brain fog and eyestrain from study or working with a computer for long hours. It seems quite natural that one might raise their finger-clasped hands above and behind their head occasionally not only to stretch and take in more oxygen but also to drop down as they take a deep inhale and maintaining a brief inhaled breath allow their thumbs to stimulate these two acupoints points for the price of one. One can easily extend the benefit of these points by massaging back and forth between these two points.
Note: this can be a very powerful experiential treatment. Start out cautiously massaging no more the 4 or 5 seconds on each side and wait an hour or so before repeating.
One of the common problems associated with aging is dry eyes. This can be complicated with an increased allergic sensitivity to airborne allergens. One randomized, placebo-controlled study showed that stimulation of GB 20 in dry-eye patients was significantly improved after 4-weeks of treatment.
I recently had a patient with a severe eye inflammation exhibiting symptoms of severe itchiness, redness, and swelling which caused him to go to his ophthalmologist for a remedy.
The ophthalmologist diagnosed it as inflammation caused by allergy and prescribed some exorbitantly expensive cortisone-based eye drops for relief. It was at this point that my patient sought alternative treatment. Because he would be traveling and it would not be convenient to make an herbal eyewash, I showed him how to massage GB 20.
This point worked like a charm, making it unfortunate that he had already spent nearly $200 for a tiny container of no more than a tablespoon of cortisone eyedrops which he never used. (Believe it or not, it was a cheaper brand from the original prescription which with even Medicare would have cost over $600!)
The first treatment priority was to allay the itching. Each time he felt an urge to rub his eyes he would massage GB 20 for 4 to 5 seconds as described. The itching completely stopped, lasting at first for an hour and after a few times, each time longer until the itching was completely gone.
The East West Herb Course and TCMZone organized a special training for our advanced and graduate East West Course students to receive advanced clinical training at Shanghai University of Traditional Medicine (SHUTCM). Based on the enthusiastic and grateful responses to all of us during and after the trip, everyone felt that this experience provided a quantum leap in their education and understanding of herbal healing especially from the TCM perspective, which is a core part of the curriculum of our course.
With a relationship dating back to 2008, herbal medicine supplier and continuing education provider TCMZone, LLC, has been collaborating with Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine to create a specialized clinical training. Along with Lesley and myself, TCMZone collaborated with Longhua hospital and Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine to design the ideal advanced training program for our advanced students and graduates.
The program allowed for maximum of preferences and individual flexibility. Some of us (“the gang of seven,” consisting of me and Lesley, Susan Kramer and her 87-years-young mother, Madeline, East West graduates and instructors Joshua Farahnik and Holly Hutton, along with her husband Paul Claeyssens, an archaeologist) were able to extend their trip for additional sightseeing a week before and after the scheduled tour and training. Kristi Shapla, also a graduate and instructor explored other parts of China with her husband, Roman.
The actual TCMZone scheduled tour began with two days of sightseeing trips in Beijing, followed by a nine-day Shanghai training with clinical rounds in the morning and special lectures in the afternoon. During the clinical rounds, students were divided into four- or five-person groups led by interpreters and following a senior doctor to observe clinical treatment with Chinese herbal medicine in different inpatient/outpatient departments. Lectures on advanced herbal medicine, on topics such as autoimmune diseases, rheumatology, gastroenterology, gynecology, cardiovascular diseases, Shen or neurological disorders, and oncology were scheduled each afternoon. These were taught by senior doctors and professors. Combined with observing the professors in in- and out-patient settings (the latter seeing on average 30 to 50 patients each morning at the hospital), this made for a memorable and profoundly enrichening experience.
What was immediately apparent was that only in China is traditional medicine and modern Western medicine so completely integrated. Each of the doctors and professors we saw had degrees in both fields.
This is something I had heard but seeing and experiencing both systems being used virtually side by side is a completely different thing. As with any change, there are both positive and negatives but in this case, since both approaches have so much to offer, it is mostly a positive for health care.
The fact is that in China today the most successful TCM doctors have a dual degree in traditional as well as Western medicine. Those who are critical of such a merger feel that the wholistic body-mind-spirit aspect of TCM has been edited so that it had already become “Maoist Communist Traditional Chinese Medicine” because it veered to a more ‘sanitized’ approach without its deep rooted spiritual underpinnings.
Undoubtedly this is true to an extent but most fail to recognize how individual spiritual beliefs that accumulate around a core of pragmatic truth can eventually cloud that essential universal truth which is the source of its power.
Even in the West today, we see how people tend to make up for their deficiencies of skill and understanding by resorting quasi, unprovable methods such as flower essence therapy, kinesiology, aroma therapy and other methods that are more properly the domain of shamanism than a reliable mainstream system of healing.
TCM views the emotions as an expression of body-mind rooted in organic imbalances which at least in theory, can be treated with herbs, acupuncture and other physiological methods. So if a particular emotional imbalance presents itself in a consultation, herbs are added to the formula to balance the corresponding organ imbalance, such as herbs for the liver when there are symptoms of anger and depression, herbs for the Heart when there are psychotic and delusional symptoms, for the Kidney-adrenals when there are pronounced symptoms of fear and paranoia – and so forth.
As a whole, the TCM department alone sees about 8,000 patients a week.
As we observed new patients in an outpatient setting, it took only 10 to 15 minutes, especially on a follow up consultation for a TCM doctor to assess the patient and send down via computer his or her formula to the huge herbal pharmacy on the ground floor. This could result in a patient receiving a shopping cart full of his or hers individually packaged herbal formula when the herbs we intended to be brewed as a tea – or perhaps they would be giving their formula as a granulated dried extract. Herbal pills and patents medicines were also available if the condition was milder or warranted that delivery system.
We did not see the tendency found among western herbalists and less experienced TCM practitioners for extended hour or longer intake sessions to delve too deeply into minute dietary, emotional or lifestyle considerations. Certainly the doctor might give suggestions and point out such changes but it was not something that either the doctor or the patient felt needed to occupy a lot of time. However, it was somewhat amusing to some of us to find that there was at least one specially designated space in the hospital called “emotions treatment room.”
We were able to ask questions and observe pulses and tongues as well. Patient compliance was expected and reportedly excellent. After examining each patient either on a first-time or follow-up basis, the doctors entered the information on a computer and the formula was sent to the hospital pharmacy where it was put together as teas, concentrated granules, pills and even individually bagged prepared liquids. The patient then went to the large dispensary on the first floor of the hospital and we could see how some of them received large plastic bags with numerous individual bags of their formula. Unlike practice in the US, when acupuncture was prescribed it was usually three days a week with rounds of 12 or more treatments.
Because both western and traditional methods were combined (usually administered by different physicians), it did not mean that the more natural traditional methods were less favored. Younger people, who have less time due to work, generally sought quicker symptomatic relief from Western medicine. While there were many younger patients who visited the traditional doctors, the majority were older patients above the age of 55 (retirement age in China).
So many of contraindications we in the West have been taught, such as the combination of Blood-moving herbs such as dang shen (Salvia milthiorrhiza) for angina and cardiovascular disease with blood-thinning pharmaceuticals, was not a concern shared by our far more experienced colleagues. This would also be true for the use of immune-tonic herbs with autoimmune diseases.
In fact, as in the case of treating cancer and other serious and otherwise incurable diseases, natural methods such as herbal medicine and western therapies and pharmaceuticals were prescribed together. The strategy of traditional Chinese medicine oncologists was to relieve pain, side effects of Western interventionist therapies and most importantly prevent recurrence. The most common type of herbal formula prescribed by TCM oncologists was called “fu zheng” or “make normal” formulas. (By the way, Planetary Herbals carries a fu zheng-styled formula created by Roy Upton called “Reishi Mushroom Supreme.” As a cancer specialist, I prescribe this formula to every cancer patient to be continued throughout treatment and recovery for up to two years after one has been declared cancer-free.)
All our concerns about whether patients were getting good results were appeased as many of them in the various departments we visited (oncology, rheumatology, dermatology, respiratory, gynecology, gastrointestinal, trauma, mental and neurological) would return to us happily exclaiming how much benefit they were receiving from the herbal formulas they were given.
To describe all that we learned from our herbal study tour in China, would be too long. We are still assimilating and sorting through our notes and photographs.
Some have criticized the ‘disease’-oriented approach used in China as well as by prominent TCM proponents in the West such as Giovanni Maciocia as opposed to the strict pattern approach as not traditional. Both have their roots in tradition and both involve pattern differentiation which is the heart and soul of TCM. It is mostly a matter of orientation but if practiced properly, both will lead to a similar treatment approach; however, the disease approach has several advantages, including that it connects with modern scientific medicine.
Many thanks to TCMZone and its manager, Jennifer Knapp, and president Dr. Dan Wen, for making such a fabulous experience available to advanced and graduate students of the East West Course. While students and graduates from our school number into the thousands and among their number some of the most accomplished and leading herbalists in the country, it was particularly gratifying to see how the level of the 22 who were able to go on this ‘journey of a lifetime’ were able to attend courses in advanced herbal medicine and earn the respect of the extraordinary professors and mentors in China. For more photographs from the tour, see our Facebook page.
Upon completion, we each received a beautiful certificate in Advanced Herbal Training signed by Dr. Dan Wen and Professor Yan Xiao-Tian, Director of International Education College of SHUTCM who said, "We are glad to see TCMZone's continuing education program has grown so successfully. The large group recently led by TCMZone from the USA represents a growing interest from practitioners for this kind of clinical training in TCM hospitals in China."
I know that there are hundreds of other students who might want to go to China to study. I heartily recommend it, as you will never see anything like that level of herbal practice anywhere in the US. Our school is organizing a similar tour next year, dates to be announced! It can be tailored to include not only herbal medicine, but acupuncture, body work, and Qi Gong. Space is always limited so if you have any intention to go on next year’s trip, be sure to contact Jennifer Knapp at TCMZone to get yourself on the list. http://tcmzone.com 888-788-8086.
by Beverly Jennings, RH (AHG), MT, East West School of Planetary Herbology Graduate
East West students were fortunate to have the opportunity to spend an entire day with renowned herbalist Ron Teeguarden (pictured above) and his son Lucky at East West’s yearly seminar at the Quaker Center in Ben Lomond, CA. Ron Teeguarden, who is widely recognized as the father of tonic herbalism, is author of the classic, Chinese Tonic Herbs, a book that introduced the art of tonic herbalism to the American public. His second book, Wisdom of the Chinese Tonic Herbs, is recognized as a major work on the subject of Chinese tonic herbs and the Asian arts of longevity and radiant health.
Ron thoroughly believes in the power of tonic herbalism for radiant health and longevity, and spent the day sharing this precious art with a mesmerized audience of herbalists, acupuncturists, teachers and students alike. Expressing much gratitude to all of the ancient Chinese masters who had passed on this information to their students, he very lovingly introduced us to special herbs and substances, one by one.
Shen Nong, author of the Pharmacopeia of the Divine Farmer, was the master who first introduced the Superior Class of herbs consisting of 120 herbs, such as Ginseng Root, Rhubarb, etc. 2,500 years ago. He divided herbs into three classes: Inferior, General and Superior herbs.
Ron Teeguarden’s powerful message to us is that glowing health means "health beyond danger" and that Chinese tonic herbalism is an approach to achieving and maintaining glowing health.
By incorporating tonic herbs into our lives within a time frame of approximately six months to two years, we can increase jing (life essence), qi (energy) and shen (spirit). He emphatically remarked that herbs can definitely increase jing (life essence). Throwing a mix of tonic herbs into tall glass teapots with candles burning beneath them, he introduced us to many of these herbs throughout the day.
We were given tastes of tonic teas, Himalayan goji berries, powerful Chinese tonic tinctures, tastes and fragrant smells of Vietnamese cinnamon. He very generously introduced us to snow lotus – a very rare herb grown very high up in the mountains of Tibet and we munched out on snacks of cordyceps grown on rice that you can snack on like popcorn. We tasted Dragon Herbs' schizandra goji tinctures, Hermit’s Mix of pine nuts, walnuts, longan berries and plump goji berries. This is a powerful anti-aging tonic providing all three treasures of jing, qi and shen. We learned that jing tonics of deer antler can increase your will power. We all received a copy of Ron Teeguarden’s 30 Tips For Getting Healthy Now and For Living a Long, Healthy, Productive and Happy Life! (and during those 8 hours of lecturing, he taught us exactly how to achieve that!).
Ron also offered a Power Point presentation of herbs grown in pristine areas in China, high up in the mountains, near the Shaolin Temple, where the water is pure and the soil fertile. We saw pictures of his manufacturing facility in China. He is very proud of the fact that his company Dragon Herbs is a Di Tao facility, which means that they will sell nothing but the highest quality, most effective tonic herbal products in the world. His company has built its reputation on Di Tao!
He taught us the secrets of how to discern buying excellent ginseng roots versus low-grade versions and what to look for. Since a large group of students from the East West School are traveling to China in May, this was perfect timing, to prepare everyone.
Ron emphasized that if we, as herbalists, acupuncturists, teachers, CEOs, etc. are giving out so much healing energy, it is imperative that we replenish it, and he recommends incorporating tonic herbs daily, as he taught us!
We sincerely want to thank Ron and Lucky for passing on this precious knowledge. We also want to thank Michael and Lesley Tierra, for inviting him to present at this year’s seminar to all of the East West School of Planetary Herbology staff, students, herbalists, acupuncturists and all who attended.
Christopher Hobbs needs no introduction to the herb world. If you have even the faintest spark of interest in herbs, you should know of him. I can’t even begin to count his many achievements, the number of books he’s written on herbal healing, yet he remains one of the humblest, most likable people I know and I’m proud to say, one of my closest and dearest friends. It seems like we have shadowed, competed, shared and walked this wondrous way of herbs with each other for decades. He is one of only a few colleagues I turn to when I have a question about a plant, founding the American Herbalists Guild, sharing our love of Mahler, art music, jazz, or life. I count the two or three years that I spent working with him side by side in my clinic, on patients together, as one of the happiest of my clinical career – and I could hardly feel more honored than to have served as a vehicle for his becoming a California State licensed acupuncturist.
So, this is not the first time that I found myself searching the Internet on a subject that one of his brilliant articles popped up on my screen. I am grateful that he so graciously has allowed me to feature his especially wonderful article on the quintessential European herb, Gentian lutea, and the quintessential traditional European formulation – bitters.
The English, and subsequently the Americans, are not fond of bitter foods or herbs. In fact, bitter has often been spoken of disparagingly in the English language for example in the statement, “a bitter pill to swallow,” meaning, in a wider sense, that a person found something very difficult to accept. Such events as paying taxes or being forced, as a child, to eat some food we found particularly revolting fall into this category.
It is no wonder then, that the druggist was often called upon to disguise drugs or herbal preparations that tasted bitter. For this purpose, a person trained in pharmacy would have many tricks, sugar coating, encapsulation, or the addition of sickeningly sweet syrups to bitter liquids to make an elixir. For what adult, or especially child, would take their medicine for long if it was very bitter?
Many Europeans would. For instance, in modern Germany, it is estimated that over 40 million doses of bitters are consumed every day, and not just because people think that it’s good for them; they actually enjoy them.
In the European tradition, exposure to a bitter flavor is said to give the digestive system strength and tone, much in the same way that cold water is applied in Russia. It is said that Russian people cut a hole in the ice and dip their babies in the icy water for a second or two, in order to give the baby vigor. Those who survive should indeed be the hearty ones. Referring to this effect, it was Parkinson who quoted Galen as saying, “if our stomackes could brooke (tolerate) this and other bitter medicines, and were not so nice and daintie to refuse whatsoever is not pleasing to the palate, it would worke admirable effects in the curing of many desperate and inveterate diseases inwardly…”
One could speculate that people in the English-speaking countries have become so accustomed to the flavor of salt and sweet that the bitter flavor (as well as its benefits) has been completely forgotten. This may be a pity, for modern scientific research shows that some of the bitter herbs used in soft drinks, liquors, tonic waters, and even candies may have marked healing properties. For instance, modern German research shows that bitter tonic herbal formulas (called bitters) may activate digestive substances, such as bile and hydrochloric acid, enabling us to digest our food more efficiently and effortlessly. Bitters have been shown to stimulate and heighten nervous system function, as well as the immune system, helping people recover more quickly from various chronic illnesses. Bitters are often prescribed by physicians and natural health practitioners alike in many parts of Europe for mild to moderate digestive problems, such as irritable bowel syndrome, colic, gas, and constipation. Rudolf Weiss, a respected German herbalist, physician, and author of Herbal Medicine, says of bitters, “…pharmacological studies provide the explanation for something which has been known for a long time and which any careful observer is able to confirm for himself: that bitter plant principles have marked general stimulant effects that are far from limited to the stomach….generally [benefitting] physical and mental exhaustion.”
Probably the best-known and studied pure bitter herb in the world is called gentian. Gentian is one of any number of species from the genus Gentiana in the family Gentianaceae. Some works list 40 or 50 different species; all of them seem to contain the bitter principle and sweet, aromatic taste that has made these herbs so popular. Although several ancient kinds of gentian will be mentioned below, the author has used several species that grow wild in the mountains of California completely unknown to Europeans, the Chinese, or Indians, in making home digestive tonics. These species seem to be even more bitter than the famous official species, Gentiana lutea L. In fact, it was the well-known English physician-botanist John Lindley who said in his Flora Medica (1838), “There is scarcely a plant of this natural order in which the bitter principle does not exist in considerable intensity.” Lindley considered all species of gentian as potentially useful in medicine.
Just how long have the benefits of bitter herbs been known? In Traditional Chinese Medicine, an intact system of medicine that is more than 5,000 years old, gentian was called lung tan, meaning dragon’s gall because of its exceedingly bitter taste. Bretschneider, physician to the Russian Legation at Peking in the late 19th century, wrote in his Botanicon Sinicum that gentian was first recorded from around the time of Christ in the Shen nung Pen ts’ao king, one of China’s oldest and most revered works on materia medica. Traditionally, the Chinese did not usually differentiate individual species of a genus, and thus lung tan could have been any number of Gentiana species, although the most important species used today is Gentiana scabra, known as Lung-tan. Since the days of the Pen King, and probably before the beginning of recorded history, this herb has been used in China to help ease a variety of ailments.
Featuring the world premiere of ARCANA: SUITE FOR PIANO commissioned by and dedicated to and performed by Michael Tierra, pianist.
Peace United Church, Santa Cruz, California
March 20, 7PM
I am diverging this month from the usual blog on herbs and healing to write about a very special piece of music celebrating herbs and healing. This month I will be performing the premiere of Arcana, a 20-minute long suite of short piano pieces which I commissioned highly celebrated contemporary composer, Alex Shapiro, to write for me nearly two years ago. (Buy tickets for the March 20 show in Santa Cruz here.)
I began my life as a musician. I was a pianist, sometime composer, conductor, and an early avant garde music exponent. At one point in the late 1960s, seeing the possibility of fusing my own revolutionary creative musical impulses within the popular genre of rock and roll, I joined up with avant garde musician Joseph Byrd and others to form a rock band known as “The United States of America (http://bit.ly/1RikfWY).
Even though I initiated the band and we were able to secure a potentially lucrative contract with Columbia Records which led to an LP recording, there were conflicts with one member of the band that caused me to turn my back on it and move to a cabin at the foothills of Mt Shasta. So except for one rare take, I was not on the first recording nor did I join the one and only tour the group undertook before disbanding.
Later, while living for 4 ½ years in a remote Northern California forest commune called Black Bear Ranch, I found myself strangely attracted to the wondrous world of wild plants that grew in the forest or as weeds in our communal garden. Herbal medicine is not simply using plants for healing, but also represents a philosophically rich path whose metaphorical meaning engages us with our interdependence with nature and the possibility that what we need to assuage our ills and imbalances might just be underfoot – a secret for us to discover.
It is my belief that the same creative spirit that imbues music, art and poetry strangely partakes of the creative energy of the planet as represented by the diverse world of plants. Just as plants provide the fundamental nourishment for all life, in some unique way they nourish our spirit. In fact, plants are the first medicine, and for those who are willing to honor their ancestral connection, even in our 21st century a world of rapid technical progress, they are still often the best medicine for healing certain diseases of mind, body and spirit.
While for me the path of an herbalist and musical artist seems perfectly natural, somehow these two worlds always seemed distant from each other. Except for the occasional odd curiosity, musicians seemed to not know or care about the part of my life that pioneered the mid 20th century herbal renaissance, nor the nine books I wrote which are still in print about herbal medicine, the thousands of students and healers I’ve taught and influenced, nor my work as a California state licensed acupuncturist. In the past but less so now, herbalism and herbalists were regarded as part of a counterculture that, for the most part, was too caught up with the music of the Beatles, Rolling Stones and Grateful Dead. While they seemed to respect manifestations of the human creative spirit that included classical composers such as Beethoven, Bach, Brahms, Chopin and so forth, they were hardly inclined to an interest in contemporary art music or more obscure music of the Middle Age and Renaissance. How many times I’ve wanted others to recognize the two sides of myself: the serious musician and the herbalist acupuncturist and healer!
I consider that contemporary music (by recently deceased or living composers), is necessary to maintain the ongoing evolution of music. In fact, any serious music lover should maintain at least an equal interest in the music of the present as they to do that of the past. Listening to the glorious music of the great masters is familiar, safe and unchallenging no matter how much we try to nuance one performing artist’s interpretation as compared to another. Listening to contemporary music is exciting, not because of what we expect to get from it, but more what we might receive that we didn’t expect. It is an adventure.
I felt that I needed to write music about healing and herbs but somehow, whether lack of confidence, ability or that I was simply too close to both, I could not do it. I came upon the music of Alex Shapiro quite by accident. I was looking for a contemporary chamber work while planning a program proposal for the Santa Cruz Chamber Players. When searching online, I found my now good friend, Alex Shapiro’s website.
At first I was attracted to the images on her website, a part of the country where I once briefly lived and have visited many times – the Puget Sound islands off the coast of Washington State. It is such a beautiful part of the world that I hate to say much about it for fear that it will be overrun with too many visitors. It is an area I visited several times, first to learn from my first herbal teacher, a woman named Norma Meyers who lived on an island off the coast of Vancouver.
Later, I traveled to Whidbey Island to teach herbal medicine. The pristine waters, the sea life, the haunting botanically-rich nearby Olympic rainforest -- maybe it was only fantasy, but those were the photographic images that first awoke such found memories. Seeing Alex’s beautiful face as part of the whole picture and listening to samples of her various works on her website, I realized I had found a kindred spirit – someone who, as it turned out, I would shyly commission to write a piece of my dreams, a work I could perform that would show my relationship and very special connection to art, music, herbs, nature and healing.
All this being said, this is Alex’s piece in the genre of the romantic piano suite which began with Mussorgsky’s Pictures at An Exhibition and then similar piano suites by Robert Schumann such as Forest Scenes as well as various suites by MacDowell, Grieg, Poulenc, Bartok and many others. Just as each of these composers developed their unique style and tonal palette, the term “arcana” means “secret” or “mystery.” Perhaps the name was inspired from the Herbal Tarot deck I created with fellow herbalist-artist, Candis Cantin, in which the first 22 cards of the deck represent the metaphorical mystery of all aspects of existence. (I don’t consider myself superstitious but I personally use the cards as pictures that awaken subconscious thoughts and feelings to inspire deeper self- understanding.)
Please keep in mind that all of the following is my impression as interpreter of Arcana and may not be anything that Alex had in mind. In fact she once told me that her primary goal always was to write a good piece of music.
Alex’s Arcana is philosophical, representing a perspective of life, our interconnection with plants, healing and the Earth. At least we can see the connection of healing with music in a unique way through each short piece. Before offering my own interpretation of each piece I must tell you that the work is full of vivid interpretive directives such as ‘the secret must be protected,” “with anger,” “the meeting of two selves jaunty and assured, but questions linger,” ”vines and roots begin to spread,” “alarming changes have altered the ground and air,” “arriving at magic and understanding,” and so forth.
Each of the eight pieces of Arcana, like the 22 cards of the Tarot major arcana, is intended to evoke some aspect of our relationship with nature, plants, the meaning of disease, healing and in the end transcendence. To be more specific than this would be “to expose the secret,” which unnecessarily risks the likelihood that the secret is at once universal and unique to each of us.
According to the Alex herself, “Arcana explores the painfully fragile, and often perilous relationship between humans and the healing secrets of earth’s abundant plant life. The music often does so from the perspective of the plants themselves, with healing herbs as protagonists of a story that begins with a dire warning, and ends with the faith that wisdom and grace shall ultimately triumph.”
Alex is truly a contemporary, post-modernist composer who freely adopts any musical style or sound to accommodate her expression. As a composer, she works pretty much strictly on commission and it is safe to say that her music is in wide demand.
Alex’s music as reflected in this work embodies many influences that may not at first seem apparent, including Chopin, the jazz pianist Bill Evans, Brahms and many others blending together to create a unique sound expression. Alex loves dissonance. She also loves Middle Eastern rhythms, melody, rich harmonies as well, in the piece, the art of intimate, personal expression. When I play her music I feel like she is speaking through me to you, dear listeners, of something with rich philosophical and dramatic import.
Following is the program of all-Alex Shapiro music that I directed and produced at this concert on March 20 for which the composer will fly down from San Juan Island to attend:
Of Wood and Touch
Cello --- Aude Castagna
Piano – Ben Dorfan
Solo flute – Kathleen Purcell
Bass Flute – Kathleen Purcell
For clarinet and electronic sound environment
Clarinet – Jeff Gallagher
Vista – Alex Shapiro
For solo violin and electronic sound environment
Violin – Brian Johnston
Below – Alex Shapiro
Kathleen Purcell – Bass flute
Electronic environment including the songs of whales
Arcana - suite for solo piano
Commissioned by, dedicated to, and performed by Michael Tierra
7 Search – What is meaning?
8 From Earth to Sky – something very precious and fragile
Artists: Brian Johnston, Violin; Shannon Delaney, Viola: Aude Castagna, Cello; Kathleen Purcell, Flute; Jeffrey Gallagher, Clarinet; Ben Dorfan, Piano
Alex Shapiro’s music is included in many performances and recordings and there is one recording entitled “Notes From the Kelp” which is only her music and exemplifies the wide diversity of styles and genre’s that is a hallmark of her music.
Please find out more about her at www.notesfromthekelp.com and her website, www.alexshapiro.org.
Following are some You Tube live performances of her music:
Of Breath and Touch performed on Cello on our program and renamed “Of Wood and Touch.”
Alex has composed much creative music for bands. One of her most popular is a novelty piece entitled “Paper Cut” which incorporates the sound of paper as part of the tapestry of the music.
There are many other performances of Alex Shapiro’s amazing music to be found on You Tube and on her website. I recommend checking it out.