In Part I of this series I began the discussion about using of herbs to care for the caregiver. As a reminder, many herbs support your body-mind complex to assist in stressful times. They can increase immunity, help sleep, calm the mind and emotions, and treat issues such as anxiety, depression and disturbed Shen, all of which can easily arise during stressful caretaking situations.
As a reminder, Shen reflects the entire physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health of the body. It includes the capacity to think and act coherently and appropriately, the personality’s magnetic force or charisma, enthusiasm, innate vitality, and the joy to live life. It is distinguished by the sparkle in the eyes, an overall vivaciousness, and a will to live. As well, it’s the dynamic verve that enables us to surmount obstacles and make things happen.
According to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), Shen is "’housed" in the Heart, so physical heart issues can affect one’s Shen and vice versa. There are no disharmonies of Shen in and of itself, yet because of its connection with the Heart, Deficient Heart Qi or Blood can weaken Shen. This appears as a lack of joy or enthusiasm in life, dull eyes, dislike of talking, muddled thinking, forgetfulness, insomnia, lack of vitality, depression, unhappiness, confused speech, or excessive dreaming. Extreme Shen disharmony results in irrational behavior, incoherent speech, hysteria, delirium, inappropriate responses to people or the environment, violent madness, or unconsciousness.
Herbs that nourish the Heart Blood also nourish Shen. However, the true remedy for Shen problems is addressing emotional and spiritual issues through counseling, prayer, affirmation, meditation, play, changing jobs, taking holidays, and whatever else is needed to nourish the Spirit and Heart.
Disrupted sleep can lead to Shen disorders. To treat chronic insomnia or sleep issues, most herbs must be taken during the day as well as at night and for several days before they’ll work. Stronger sedative herbs, however, should only be taken a couple of hours before and right at bedtime and avoided for daytime use; they are not for short naps but for longer, restful sleep. Others are simple relaxants and may be used during the day to ease the effects of stress.
When to use each herbal category
For quick and easy reference, I’ve created a chart of herbs in specific categories so you can easily choose which is best for your needs. Here are the symptoms and treatment of each category:
Anxiety: Symptoms includepalpitations, sweating, dizziness, shortness of breath, insomnia, tremors, twitches, and muscle spasms. Other symptoms may accompany these such as digestive upset, frequent urination, diarrhea, headaches and fatigue.
Hysteria: This is a state of mental disorder characterized by emotional excitability, emotional outbreaks, disturbances of sensory and motor functions, and intense agitation, anxiety, or excitement.
Calmatives: These nourish the heart and calm the spirit (Shen). They are useful for nervous disorders, stress, relaxation, and simple sleep problems. They are better for weaker individuals and less acute conditions.
Nervines & Sedatives: Nervines nourish the nervous system, calming the nerves and relieving muscle spasms, nervousness, anxiety, insomnia, emotional instability, pain, cramps, spasm, tremors and epilepsy. Sedatives are stronger than calmatives. They are used to alleviate nervousness, palpitations, insomnia, and irritability.
Strong sedatives: Generally minerals, these herbs have tranquilizing effects that weigh down and calm the mind to treat palpitations, insomnia, anxiety, Shen disorder, nervousness, irritability, fright and hysteria. They are typically used for more short-term acute conditions, as over time they can injure the digestion.
Regulate heart: These herbs regulate the heart function and should be used in appropriate doses.
Increase immunity: Herbs that increase immunity tend to be adaptogens that enhance endurance, energy and strength so the body handles stress better.
Herbs for the Caregiver
The following may be found as patent medicines in pill form from Mayway online, either in the Plum Flower of Min Shan brands:
Conception Vessel 4, called guan yuan or "origin pass"is located approximately two inches above the top of the pubic bone on a straight center line down from the navel. It is approximately directly opposite Governing Vessel 4 located between the 2nd and 3rd lumbar vertebrae on the spine of the back. Like Governing Vessel 4 with which it is often used, it is a foundation point for the entire body and an intersection point for the Conception, Spleen, Liver and Kidney meridians.
Conception Vessel 4 treats all deficiencies of Yin, Yang, Qi and Blood. A major point for Kidney-adrenal deficiencies, it treats low back pain, bone disorders, early morning "cock-crow" diarrhea, rectal and uterine prolapse, incontinence, and frequent night-time urination. It treats all menstrual irregularities with Deficiency, Cold and/or stagnation (pain), scanty menstruation, and pale blood. It also treats infertility, impotence, seminal emission, amenorrhea, and bleeding during pregnancy. Finally, restoring warmth and Qi to the dan tian below the navel is used for chills, profuse sweating, shortness of breath, and unconsciousness.
While it should not be used by the untrained on women who are pregnant, it is used near or during the time to ease delivery.
The last point I will discuss in this series about moxa is an "extra" point, meaning it is not on a meridian. It is called Shimian, meaning "lost sleep," and is located in the middle of the sole of the heel of the foot. This is a point where stick-on moxa is best applied. It is used primarily for insomnia. It restores the natural circadian rhythm of the body, treating difficulty in falling asleep, staying asleep through the night, and assuring sleep that is adequate and refreshing. This point happens to be in a direct physiological line with the pineal gland, enabling the production of melatonin to induce a deep, sound and restful sleep. It can be used for insomnia issues caused by stress, noise, extreme temperatures, environmental change, sleep schedule problems, jet lag, certain medications, caffeine, and general overstimulation of nervous energy.
This works as an ongoing or as needed treatment and in my experience is more effective than drugs, sleeping pills or herbal sedatives. It can be safely used in combination with either of these.
This point could threaten the profits of the pharmaceutical sleeping pill industry if more came to realize is value. Sleep is golden and is, along with food, drink and activity, one of the pillars of healing and health. This simple treatment alone, which anyone can do just before retiring to bed at night, will prove of tremendous benefit.
I sincerely hope that I’ve done an adequate job describing the value of moxabustion for self-use and clinical use. For many conditions, it is more powerful than acupuncture, and with the modern advances of smokeless moxa and stick-on moxa it is very easy to administer. Please see my previous blogs on moxa for back pain, colds and flu and moxa on Stomach 36 for energy and increased immunity (this latter blog includes links for purchasing moxa).
Following are some Youtube videos you might want to check out to see moxa applied on a live person.