Posted by: corneliadavies | April 4, 2020

Why Liver Qi Hates Lockdown

Acupuncturists think that exercise is vital during lockdown

(Qi – pronounced chee: roughly translated as “life force.”)

(Liver Qi? Read on to find out.)

When the Prime Minister said to us, “Stay at home” on 23rd March 2020, our hearts sank. We knew it was for the best, but what an extraordinary thing.

Then he told us we could still go out to exercise, and suggested walking, running or cycling, and it all felt a little more manageable.

As an acupuncturist, I feared that what we call Liver Qi Stagnation would be made worse by weeks amounting to “house arrest” for everyone. (Qi is pronounced chee.) This mysterious-sounding term occurs in Chinese medicine, and it’s a part of each of us , which is already under pressure because of the stress surrounding the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Liver Qi? That sounds rather medieval, doesn’t it?

Yes, it does sound medieval. While acupuncturists fully take on board, and work alongside modern medicine, we do still use ancient terminology. This is because acupuncture runs alongside Western medicine in Chinese hospitals and all doctors there have some training in traditional medicine as well as using Western medicine. I think that possibly no one there has needed to update the terminology, because they all understand it.

We use translations direct from the Chinese, aware that our “shorthand” terms for what we are doing can sound a bit odd to the Western ear. We do try and remember to explain that to people, but sometimes we forget!

So, what’s Liver Qi got to do with staying in?

According to Giovanni Marciocia in his seminal text, The Foundations of Chinese Medicine, the Liver function “ensures the smooth flow of Qi”.

Here we go with another explanation of the medieval-sounding terminology: “Do acupuncturists really think that the liver controls Qi? And what’s Qi, anyway?”

This is a minefield.

No, we do not think that the actual liver, that solid, blood-rich organ responsible for cleansing toxins and producing some digestive chemicals controls Qi. But, centuries ago, Chinese doctors observed that a particular acupuncture channel routes past the liver and has a branch that leads directly to it. Therefore, that acupuncture channel is called the Liver channel. Certain acupuncture points on the Liver channel have been observed, over the centuries, to have a lot of different effects, including some pain relief, digestive help, menstrual-regulation, and what could be called stress-busting effects.

What’s Qi?

Qi, as a Chinese term, seems to be impossible to translate into English. We simply don’t have an equivalent term. When I trained, 40 years ago, we used to translate it as “energy,” but that was misleading, as people thought we were saying, “acupuncture gives you more energy.” (Well, it can do that, too!) Then we tried “life force.” That’s better, and it’ll do until modern science finds out what makes our vital essence.

You could also say that Qi is involved in the nerve impulses or signals to the brain. We know, from research involving MRI scanners, that the stimulation of certain acupuncture points has an immediate and direct effect on areas of the brain.

So, when an acupuncturist refers to Liver Qi Stagnation, they are mentioning that the smooth flow of someone’s life force and/or neurological signal to the brain are somewhat disrupted.

What’s the problem with Liver Qi Stagnation?

Good question.

Again, quoting Marciocia in The Foundations of Chinese Medicine, when Liver Qi is stagnant, some or any of a certain collection of symptoms can occur. These include a feeling of distention in the chest, irregular periods and PMS. Another possible range of symptoms are: “Melancholy, depression, moodiness, fluctuation of mental state, feeling wound up“.

Part of the big problem we face in the current coronavirus situation is that we’re all very stressed by it, and stress leads to Liver Qi Stagnation, which may also lead to us being depressed or grumpy with each other.

Is there something we can do about this, bearing in mind a trip to our local acupuncturist isn’t an option right now?

Yes! There is!

Actually, there’s a whole raft of stuff you can do to move Liver Qi Stagnation, and you’re probably already doing some of it because it makes you feel good.

The “Liver” function (not the actual liver organ, remember?) loves creativity and movement.

Many people go out for a run or a bike ride when they feel mentally stagnant or cross. Exercise is something most of us do, not just for enjoyment, but also to ease frustration. A lot people I talk to have creative thoughts when they go for walks alone, too. When I was writing my acupuncture limerick book I frequently wrote a section in my head while I was powering along the coast path.

This is why I feared a total indoor lockdown, and the effect it would have on the free flow of people’s Liver Qi, and, consequently many aspects of their health.

(I could also cite the many other health benefits of outdoor exercise, such as vitamin D production and fitness levels, but this blog is about another, specific aspect of health.)

I sincerely hope that, during this essential lockdown, we will continue to be able to exercise outdoors. Remembering that melancholy and depression are also listed as consequences of Liver Qi Stagnation makes absolute sense of the efforts made by mental health practitioners to get the people under their care to go outside and exercise. Chinese medicine has long recognised this common sense connection.

So, keep exercising and keep social distancing while you exercise, and, hopefully, we’ll all still be able to stay sane during this crisis.

What else can we do to help tackle Liver Qi Stagnation?

As I said earlier, the Liver function loves creativity, so get creative.

Make stuff, cook, write, paint, sew, knit, garden, plan big things, little things. Planning is a function of the Liver function in Chinese medicine. In this situation, one of the problems is that we can’t plan ahead, because we don’t have a reliable dateline on anything. The coronavirus/COVID-19 situation is so unknown, that if your life (or your personality) relies on planning ahead for the big picture you’re likely to be incredibly frustrated.

So plan small. Make yourself some miniature, achievable projects.

We’ve defaulted back to being a nation of gardeners, apparently. Hooray!

Some people are using their creativity to sew masks for themselves and others. Hooray!

People are writing diaries. Hooray! (I’m even sitting down to some blog writing. Hooray!)

I hope that this helps to explain why we feel so good and so relieved when we get outside for exercise. Please keep doing it.

Free your Liver Qi!

© Cornelia Davies April 4th 2020

My website, has resources relating to acupuncture.

My clinic Face Book page, is a rolling noticeboard of information about acupuncture and general healthcare.

Posted by: corneliadavies | December 14, 2019

Five Reasons I’m Giving Pukka Teas In My Clinic This Christmas

I like to give something to my patients around Christmas/Solstice/Chinese New Year. This year it’s a little pack of Pukka teas.

Why Pukka?

1 They taste great

Many varieties of Pukka tea include spices that give them a stronger flavour than some of the more traditional herbal teas, such as chamomile, or the ubiquitous “fruit teas” that are frequently offered to herbal tea drinkers in cafes and friends’ houses.

2 The depth of flavour might even be acceptable to a “builders’ tea” drinker!

If you’re trying to cut down on caffeine, give them a go. You might like one or two of them.

3 Though Pukka are no longer a small independent company, they still have some ethical values

They trade fairly and try to reduce their carbon footprint (bearing in mind many of their ingredients come a long way).


A few years ago Pukka’s two founders in Bristol sold the company, unfortunately to the big global company, Unilever. According to this Guardian article, they made sure that Unilever will continue with their ethical values for the Pukka products. It’s not ideal, though.

4 The herbs are mostly organically-produced

This is a plus for your health and a plus for the environment.

The tea bags are also fully compostable. Did you know that many teabags contain plastic, which ends up as microscopic particles in the soil? Pukka fold and tie their teabags, instead of heat-sealing them, in order to avoid the plastic component.

5 The packaging is colourful and pretty!

Here’s a link to the Pukka website, where you can read about their ethics and production:

Do buy from your local independent health food shop. Mine came from Healthwise in Kingsbridge:

© Cornelia Davies December 2019

My website, has resources relating to acupuncture.

My clinic Face Book page, is a rolling noticeboard of information about acupuncture and general healthcare.

Posted by: corneliadavies | October 12, 2019

Vitamin D… Sunshine, supplement or sardines?

Photo by Skitterphoto from Pexels

Rickets used to be called “The English Disease,” which gives you a vivid idea of how sunlight and vitamin D levels are linked. Of course, rickets was not just confined to England, and it’s not the only health complication connected with not having enough vitamin D.

How do we get vitamin D?

We’ve had a good summer in the UK, so, unless you’ve spent most of your time indoors or slathered in factor 30 sunblock from dawn till dusk, you’ve probably made a reasonable amount of vitamin D. However, the sunny days are gone now, and you can only store vitamin D for a few weeks.

We make vitamin D in our bodies, as a result of the sun turning a naturally-occurring chemical in our skin into vitamin D3, which is then transformed via the liver and kidneys into usable vitamin D. This article from Harvard Medical School is good if you want to know more about the science of production:

Here’s a diagram outlining how our bodies make vitamin D

diagram courtesty NCBI:
Creative Commons license:

In the UK we can expect to make vitamin D in our bodies if we spend a reasonable amount of time in the sun without sunblock from April to October. One rule of thumb about how long to spend in the sun to make enough vitamin D is half the amount of time that it takes each of us to become sunburned. Conveniently, this means that how long you need to spend in the sun to get adequate vitamin D is dependent on your skin type/shade. See this Vitamin D Council link for more information:

If you’re susceptible to sunburn you can always put on sunblock when you think you’ve had your ‘Daily-D-Dose’!

From late September to late March we don’t have strong enough sun in the UK for our bodies to make adequate vitamin D, so we need to rely on our stores for a while… and then what?

Topping up your vitamin D in winter

You can top-up your levels with certain foods, most notably oily fish, and to a lesser extent, beef, liver and egg yolks. Some people say that foods fortified with vitamin D are also acceptable sources. I take issue with this, because most of those foods are processed, and one of today’s big issues is to encourage people to eat less, not more processed food.

Regarding oily fish, two or three portions a week can be good, but there’s increasing concern about the levels of pesticides in farmed salmon (and other farmed fish) so I would suggest you read up on this.

The other option is to take a good quality supplement of vitamin D3, Make sure it’s D3, as this is the form that we make in our bodies.

How much vitamin D do we need?

The amount we need to take varies, and, ideally we would all have blood tests in late autumn to find out our individual levels!

However, the blood test route is unlikely for most of us and the suggested levels vary enormously. I’ll give you some ideas here. Confusingly, vitamin D supplements are measured in IU (International Units, different levels for each different vitamin) and μ (micrograms). For the sake of your sanity I’ll use μ with IUs in brackets. 10 μ = 400 IU, 25 μ = 1,000 IU. There’s a table in this link from medscape:

The NHS website suggests an extremely low supplement of 10 μ (400 IU):

Harvard Medical School says this: ” The recommended dietary dose of vitamin D is 15 μ (600 IU) each day for adults 70 and younger and 20 μ (800 IU) each day for adults over 70. To put this into perspective, 4 ounces of cooked salmon contains approximately 600 IU of vitamin D.” I find the comparison to a food source useful.

Some people are known to have very low levels of Vitamin D, and if, for instance, if you are unfortunate enough to have an MS diagnosis you are probably already aware that there’s a well-known correlation between low vitamin D levels and MS. The MS Trust says that a doctor may suggest to an MS sufferer with low vitamin D levels that they supplement with quite a high dose, of between 50-125 μ (2,000-5,000 IU):

Can we overdose on vitamin D?

This is an important question. If you think you need to supplement with a high dose of vitamin D you may need to supplement with some vitamin K2 as well. This is because very high doses of Vitamin D supplements may lead to calcification in the kidneys or heart. Vitamin D and K also work together to benefit bone health. Here’s a helpful link from the Vitamin D Council:

If you have a medical reason for using a higher level of vitamin D supplementation I would advise you to talk to your doctor, and include a question about vitamin K2, before deciding on the dose.

What health issues are associated with low levels of Vitamin D?

There are increasing numbers of research results showing that vitamin D deficiency is relevant in a range of health issues, including:

Bone and muscle health. It’s common knowledge that vitamin D is essential for bone health. There’s less widespread rickets nowadays, but there’s an increase in osteoporosis in our populations, and increased vitamin D is known to help both bone and muscle strength.

MS. I’ve already mentioned the known connection with Multiple Sclerosis.

Certain cancers. There are studies indicating a connection with low levels of vitamin D and some cancers, such as colon and prostate.

Heart health. Low levels of this vitamin are also associated with a higher risk of heart attacks.

Immunity. There’s an increasing amount of emerging research indicating that a higher level of vitamin D reduces the incidence of some strains of ‘flu and that it helps immunity. There’s an interesting Japanese study into vitamin D and ‘flu in this link from Harvard School of Public Health:

And here’s a link from the Harvard Gazette about vitamin D and its role in reducing respiratory infection:

This is from the BMJ on vitamin D in prevention of acute respiratory infection:

Depression/low mood. There’s ongoing discussion about vitamin D’s possible role in depression. We know that, for many people, a lack of sunlight can play a part in low mood, and one question is whether a lack of vitamin D is also a component in this. Here’s more from the Vitamin D Council on this subject:

Should you take a vitamin D supplement?

Some people insist that supplementation is not necessary. However, some of the more modern scientific studies indicate the usefulness of vitamin D supplements at least during the winter months.

This blog is intended to help you navigate some of the current information available on vitamin D. It is not intended as an alternative to advice from your doctor or other healthcare provider.

© Cornelia Davies October 2019

My website, has resources relating to acupuncture.

My clinic Face Book page, is a rolling noticeboard of information about acupuncture and general healthcare.

Posted by: corneliadavies | September 29, 2019

Another Tasting of Goats’ Milk Yogurt

I recently published a blog comparing St Helen’s Farm and Delamere Dairy goats’ milk yogurt.

In that trial I decided I preferred the creamy taste of the St Helen’s yogurt, and I was unimpressed that the Delamere brand uses modified corn starch to thicken the product, so, all in all, St Helen’s came out streets ahead.

Today I’m comparing St Helen’s with a local (South Devon) brand from Dartington Dairy.

Neither make is organically produced.

I’m pleased to report that neither brand uses any extra substances for thickening. However, the St Helen’s people remove half the fluid from their milk before turning it into yogurt, which, inevitably, leaves the finished product pretty thick and pleasantly creamy.

I get the impression that Dartington Dairy leave their goats’ milk as it is before adding the yogurt culture, because, though it looks nice and thick initially, once the first serving is removed it starts throwing whey. This also leaves it with a slightly sour background flavour.

That said, it’s a pleasant, rustic-tasting yogurt, though, to my taste, not as creamily delicious as the St Helen’s. Just to clarify, I’m someone who thinks rustic, skin-covered Greek village sheep’s yogurt is the most delicious thing ever, so I’m certainly not wedded to a manufactured, falsely creamy flavour, and I do like goats’ yogurts and cheeses to taste ‘goaty’.

My final decision is that both are good. To my taste, St Helen’s has the edge, flavour-wise. For us Devon people, the Dartington Dairy product clocks up a lot fewer food miles, which adds a big plus there.

Why not give them both a try and see what you think?

For those of you who are interested in starter cultures, here they are:

  • St Helen’s use a slightly broader range: Lactobacillus bulgaricus, Streptococcus thermophilus, Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium.
  • Dartington Dairy use: Lactobacillus delbruekil subsp. Bulgaricus & Streptococcus thermophilus.

© Cornelia Davies September 2019

My website, has resources relating to acupuncture.

My clinic Face Book page, is a rolling noticeboard of information about acupuncture and general healthcare.

Posted by: corneliadavies | August 18, 2019

Soy sauce: the difference between big brands and whole food brands

This photo shows two brands of soy sauce widely available in the UK: Clearspring, which is one of the smaller, wholefood brands, and Amoy, one of the big brands easily available in supermarkets. The ingredients on the dark background go with the Amoy one.

Added sugar is a big part of the difference

I’ve been known to have heated discussions with family and friends when I find big, commercial brands of soy sauce on the table. Now I’ll calm down and explain in quieter tones.

A ubiquitous ingredient in stir fries, and great for adding depth of flavour to many other dishes, soy sauce has a place in countless kitchens. But did you know there’s a significant difference in the nutritional content between cheap brands and the more traditionally-brewed versions?

The main differences are the introduction of sugar, extra salt and other ingredients such as preservatives into the cheaper ‘big’ brands, and the time taken to brew this fantastic condiment: four to six months for a traditionally-brewed product versus as short as two days for a cheaper version. You can see how this enhances the profit margin for the big producers at a cost to the consumer’s nutritional intake.

In addition to adding flavour to many dishes, soy sauce contains a wide spectrum of amino acids, so it’s good for us. Adding sugar, extra (chemically-manufactured) salt and other preservatives to this delicious source of nutrition is an insult. Traditionally-brewed soy sauce is a proper fermented food, so it doesn’t need added preservatives in order to keep for ages.

Along with many other people, I get upset by the unnecessary addition of sugar in savoury products in a society where obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer are rife. This hidden sugar is ‘sneaked’ into people’s diets. Soy sauce does contain naturally occurring sugars, but the additional sugar I’m talking about is refined sugar.

The two kinds of soy sauce widely available to us in the West are shoyu and tamari, both delicious, and both nutitious. I will happily use either. (Japanese people have clear views on the subtle differences between the two.)

Some types (e.g. the Clearspring Tamari shown in the next photo) include rice instead of wheat, which is handy if you’re coeliac or wheat intolerant.

This is one of the soy sauces that’s made with rice instead of wheat.

My photos show a ‘big’ commercial brand of soy sauce and one of the several excellent whole food brands. There are other big and small brands available, so do please read the ingredients before you buy. Most brands of soy sauce, whether traditionally-brewed or ‘speed-brewed,’ are cheap, but the very cheapest versions are more likely to be made hastily and with added sugar etc.

I prefer products containing organic ingredients, mainly because then I can be reasonably certain that pesticide, weedkiller or desiccant residues won’t be in my food. Also, soya and wheat are both crops that may be produced from genetically modified (GM) seed, which I prefer to avoid.

There’s some middle ground, too. For instance, the Kikkoman brand is naturally-brewed and contains only soya beans, wheat, salt and water. Their label doesn’t specify sea salt or organically-farmed ingredients and I don’t know whether they use non-GM soya or wheat, but the better restaurants and cafes often have this one on the table and I’m happy to use it if it’s there. At least they don’t add unnecessary ingredients.

Here’s a good, clear article about how soy sauce is made, and it explains both the traditional brewing method and the cheaper commercial method, which takes a fraction of the time and uses added sugar, salt and, frequently, preservatives.

This link describes the science of soy sauce brewing if you want to read an in-depth paper:

© Cornelia Davies August 2019

My website, has resources relating to acupuncture.

My clinic Face Book page, is a rolling noticeboard of information about acupuncture and general healthcare.

Posted by: corneliadavies | July 31, 2019

Three months with my friend basil

How long to you expect supermarket grow-at-home herb pots to last? Two weeks? Three at best? That’s what I thought.

This year I sowed basil seed and it didn’t even germinate. It’s a tricky plant to grow from seed in the British climate.

In late April I bought a pot of Greek basil from a supermarket. When I got it home I divided it into five clumps and re-potted each one. By chance, the next day my friend Scarlett shared an online post about caring for grow-at-home basil, suggesting you should do what I had just done and then keep it in the kitchen, as basil produces a stronger flavour if grown in a warm environment. If I hadn’t read this my poor basil plants would have been “on their own” in the garden. In fact, I did give one of the five to a friend and it lived outside until it perished after two or three weeks.

So that left me with four little pots of plants. After a couple of weeks they were doing so well that I put one of them on my clinic window sill as a house plant, where it stayed until I finally culled all of them after three full months of vigorous growth.

During that time I routinely picked the three kitchen ones to within an inch of their lives and used the leaves in salads and garnishes. I’ve had a pretty delicious time with this little experiment!

The three kitchen plants after a couple of weeks, showing signs of having been picked

The waiting room pot, I couldn’t bear to use, as it was looking so great. Eventually those plants flowered and I really did think that would be the end of them, but they carried on blooming for several more weeks before the leaves eventually started to yellow.

So, after three months I have finally bought and re-potted the next generation. This time I’ve chosen the standard, big leaved basil, and I’m wondering how long this batch will last: even half as long as the last lot will be great.

The next generation divided and potted up

Apart from being a delicious addition to many meals, as an aromatic herb basil contains a good level of nutritional substances, such as Vitamin K, C and manganese. It also has a bit of a medicinal, mainly digestive reputation, though there’s not much research to back this up yet.

© Cornelia Davies July 2019

My website, has resources relating to acupuncture.

My clinic Face Book page, is a rolling noticeboard of information about acupuncture and general healthcare.

Posted by: corneliadavies | June 22, 2019

Not All Goats’ Yogurt Is Created Equal

Did you know that two big brands of goats’ milk yogurt in the UK are thickened in different ways?

I love goats’ milk yogurt, and I read labels. However, until recently, I had never read a natural goats’ yogurt label. Why? Because natural, healthy brands don’t have additives, do they? Oh, but wait… ! When I read the back of a Delamere goats’ yogurt pot in order to see exactly which live cultures they use I couldn’t find reference to the cultures…

But I was surprised to discover that they add modified maize starch. Why on earth would a natural goats’ milk product have modified maize starch in it, I wondered?

Delamere goats’ yogurt ingredients

So I checked a pot of St Helen’s Farm goats’ yogurt, and discovered that they do declare their cultures, and they do not add any fillers. (I did a quick taste comparison while I was at it, and, to my palate, the St Helen’s one was slightly more deliciously creamy.)

Unfortunately, neither product is organically produced (I wish… ) so I was concerned that the maize in the Delamere one might be genetically modified. I’ve since checked this with Delamere, and I’m glad to find it is NOT GM.

I asked Delamere customer services about the addition of maize. They told me that they add the maize starch to make the yogurt thicker.

So I looked on the St Helen’s Farm website and they said this:

“The fresh milk is put through a special filtration process that takes out some of the water and effectively concentrates the milk and helps to thicken it.

“Once we ferment the milk and add the live cultures it thickens naturally and means that we do not need to add any thickeners such as starches and gums you find in many yogurts.”

Aha, so that explains the difference. It may also explain why I think the St Helen’s Farm yogurt tastes better, i.e. less water and no maize starch. If you look at the St Helen’s label you’ll see that they use two litres of milk to make one litre of yoghurt. So it seems that they use twice as much milk as Delamere, which must make production more expensive… the plot (and the yogurt) thickens…

St Helen’s Farm goats’ yogurt ingredients

Sometimes I make my own goats’ yogurt and it is, indeed, thinner and more gloopy that either of the two commercial brands under discussion. It’s pleasing to make, and it tastes good, but I can certainly see that it wouldn’t be saleable because it’s just too thin, so I can understand why St Helen’s and Delamere each use their own thickening method.

I just wish Delemere wouldn’t use maize starch. I had previously bought whichever brand happened to be in the shop I was using. Now, I’ll make an effort to buy St Helen’s, with Delamere being back-up brand only if I really can’t get St Helen’s.

© Cornelia Davies June 2019

My website, has resources relating to acupuncture.

My clinic Face Book page, is a rolling noticeboard of information about acupuncture and general healthcare.

Posted by: corneliadavies | June 6, 2019

Book Review, Matthew Walker: Why We Sleep

Why dolphins sleep with one eye open… this and other facts explained.

My copy of Why We Sleep has that dog-eared look of a book that’s been read cover to cover!

Did you know that you’re hardwired as a “lark” or an “owl” and that sleep scientists know the exact, tiny place in the brain where that fact lives?

Or, worryingly, that regular sleep deprivation can put you more at risk of developing cancer or dementia?

Matt Walker’s best-selling book is rich in amazing facts from experiments in his sleep lab in Berkeley, California and from other research sources. He’s in love with sleep, and takes pains to explain to us why we should sleep more.

Though Professor Walker makes it very clear that sleep deprivation is a danger to our health, this is not a self-help book, but it is eye opening. If ever you thought that you’re fine with five hours sleep, night after night, do you dare read Walker’s explanation of why this might affect your heart health? Or why it might make a difference to how well you learn?

This book trashes the idea, rife in the Western world of business, that the most sleep deprived, earliest to arrive at the workplace is the winner.

Read the book: you won’t regret it.

Here’s a great, 20 minute Ted Talk from the author:

Review © Cornelia Davies June 2019

My website has resources relating to acupuncture, and my clinic Face Book page, is a rolling noticeboard of information about acupuncture and general healthcare.

Posted by: corneliadavies | May 24, 2019

How Can Acupuncture Help Scars? Part 2

Old Scars

In part 1 I discussed new scars and explained a little about how acupuncturists approach them.

My patient said to me, “The top front section of my thigh goes numb and gets pins and needles. I’ve recently upped my exercise classes and I wonder if it’s related. Would you be able to add some needles to help it?”

On examining the thigh I saw a 12cm long dagger-shaped scar and I asked about it.

“It’s an old scar from two childhood operations: one to put screws into the bone, and the second to take them out again. It’s healed, though, and it’s no problem.”

I notice quite a lot of scars on people coming to acupuncture for all sorts of reasons. Some scars are old, some more recent. Some are satisfactorily healed, while others are still quite angry-looking or bumpy. Some still hurt or cause tension in the surrounding muscles. If a scar is not causing problems I’ll usually focus on other things, but if there are issues with it I’ll add some localised scar work.

This scar was more than 25 years old, but, still, I thought it was worth treating. In addition to some cupping and specific needles on acupuncture points known to help with nourishment of muscles, I added surrounding the dragon needles. (See my previous, Part 1 blog on scars for an explanation of this.

In the photo you’ll see a number of needles surrounding the triangular scar, to encourage repair and production of new cells in the area.

This patient had been coming for a while, so I didn’t see her again for a month, when she said, “The pins and needles in my thigh are less, and it felt looser the day after treatment.” The following month (i.e. after two treatments on the scar) she said, “My left leg is really good. It’s very rarely numb now. It’s loosened up and the scar feels soft.” So, what she was saying was that the old, healed-up scar had actually never properly softened. This is not at all uncommon with scars, but people tend to accept that that’s as good as it can get.

The photo was taken recently, not when the scar was at its worst. I continue to work on it as and when she comes for an appointment.

Now it’s a year since we first decided to include the scar protocol in the treatment, and she says this, “I was just so surprised that after so long of being used to the hardness around the scar the acupuncture sorted the area, and the scar has become much less visible now. Someone asked if it was a stretch mark when I was on holiday whereas before it would have very obviously been an operation scar.” 

What you see in the next photograph of a heel is not a callous from a shoe rubbing. It’s a scar from where a post-operative screw was removed. After several years this scar has been hurting again, so here I’ve added six surrounding the dragon needles along with two needles in major acupuncture points on the ankle. The acupuncture channel point needles will have a neurological effect on the heel area (the message will travel via the brain).

The patient reported that the heel pain was much improved following the treatment.

The surrounding the dragon needles around the scar are in position to elicit micro-trauma locally to “awaken” the normal cellular healing process in that specific area. (Please see my previous, Part 1 blog on scars for more information re: scars, generally. )

These mini stories are just a taster of what acupuncturists do with scars. Other examples of scars treated are from caesarean sections, missing bits and pieces (eg Gall Bladders), knee, hip and back surgery, and encounters with kitchen knives and woodworking equipment (yes, OUCH!)

I love adding scar protocols to more overall treatments because they so frequently ease up something which has been impacting on someone’s life for a while.

With thanks to the patients who have given permission for photographs and words about them to be included here.

© Cornelia Davies 2019

My website has resources relating to acupuncture, and my clinic Face Book page, is a rolling noticeboard of information about acupuncture and general healthcare.

To find a fully-qualified traditional acupuncturist near to you go the British Acupuncture Council website and use the search feature, or ask people locally for recommendations to a good practitioner.

Posted by: corneliadavies | May 17, 2019

How Can Acupuncture Help Scars? Part 1

New Scars

A mother asks, “Could acupuncture help my seven-year-old’s scar? It’s from an operation to fix a broken arm. It’s been just over two years now, and it’s still causing discomfort. We’re also anxious because it’s remaining unsightly.”

Though this scar is relatively new, it’s technically past its natural healing time. Orthodox medical opinion is that scars go on improving and fading for about two years.

After three treatments the mum said, “She loves coming to see you and I’ve noticed a big difference in the appearance of her scar.” (It’s also getting less sore, despite being tested with enthusiasm during games of rounders!)

It may surprise you that a seven-year-old loves coming for acupuncture and having several needles in her arm. The needles are tiny and initially some are put in acupuncture points on the arms and legs, and then additional ones are put around (not touching) the scar. Immediately after I took the photograph I showed it to her and she said, “Cool!”

This technique is called surrounding the dragon, a typically Chinese name. Acupuncture originated thousands of years ago, long before modern medicine, and thousands of years before all the wonderful diagnostic aids we have nowadays. In ancient Chinese philosophy dragons were a big deal, so perhaps it’s not surprising that something a little irregular that caused irritation would be described as a dragon!

A modern scientific explanation of why this helps is that putting tiny needles just under the surface of the body causes micro-trauma to the tissue, therefore triggering the body to bring more repair cells to the relevant area.

Here’s what the NHS website says about scars:

The next picture shows acupuncture needles surrounding a scar following elective hand surgery. This patient had had acupuncture in preparation for the surgery and decided to come back for more acupuncture afterwards with the intention of speeding up recovery, reducing inflammation, helping mobilisation of the hand and reducing the scar tissue from early on. Obviously, in this case we didn’t have the experience of seeing an old, unresolved scar to compare results, but I’ve included the image to give you an idea of how tiny, cosmetic grade needles can be used in this situation. The copper-handled acupuncture needle is stimulating an important acupuncture point renowned for its anti-inflammatory action.

This link takes you to a research article explaining the neurobiology of needling via known acupuncture points (as opposed to needling on non acu-points, such as the surrounding the dragon scar needles).

As yet, we need more research results in this area of acupuncture specific to scars, but there’s already good anecdotal evidence that frequently even, old, apparently dormant scars re-start self-repair after one or two acupuncture sessions. More about old scars in my next blog, “How Can Acupuncture Help Scars? Part 2.”

With thanks to the patients who have given permission for photographs and words about them to be included here.

© Cornelia Davies 2019

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To find a fully-qualified traditional acupuncturist near to you go the British Acupuncture Council website and use the search feature, or ask people locally for recommendations to a good practitioner.

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