The Treatment of High Cholesterol with Chinese Medicine and the Tam Healing System

Many patients who seek help from Chinese Medicine practitioners are coming for high cholesterol treatment or have already developed related complications. High cholesterol, or hyperlipidemia, is a significant risk factor (along with smoking, high blood pressure, inactivity and obesity) for cardiovascular disease and related issues. While public health efforts and natural health practitioners of all persuasions have encouraged dietary and lifestyle change to remedy the situation it continues to be a significant problem, particularly in developed countries.

Even for those who heed our collective recommendations about dietary and lifestyle change there are some who still have cholesterol issues that no amount of dietary wrangling appears to control. Just like many systems in our body, once they have been pushed into an excessive state for a long enough period of time they will stay unregulated even when the underlying contributors are changed. This is generally where we, as practitioners, come in.

While there are a few diagnoses within Chinese Medicine that can correspond with high cholesterol, in general it is considered a liver yang excess syndrome. The excess aspect of the diagnosis is due to the fact that the body produces its own cholesterol. For patients that cannot control their cholesterol through their diet, the production mechanisms can be "stuck" in an excessive state. Studies from Harvard Medical School and others have shown that a combination of excessive dietary intake and lack of exercise can essentially put the cholesterol production system into overdrive, leading to high cholesterol regardless of the changes patients may make.

This aspect is somewhat outside of the HDL/LDL balance which is also important and can be significantly altered with dietary change. In effect HDL removes cholesterol from the arteries that is not needed and LDL puts it back in where it collects and causes problems.

Within the Tam Healing system, which we utilize within our center, we use the following protocol in addition to points that help to balance their overall pattern within TCM terms. All of the points listed are first utilized within Tong Ren Therapy, a form of Medical Qi Gong, then brief tuina done in part to treat and in part to diagnose, needling, and followed by deep tuina in the related areas:

Tam Healing Protocol:

The huatuo points at T7, T9 and T10. T7 on the left side controls the spleen and the right side controls the abdominal blood vessel. T9 on the left side controls the stomach and the right side controls the liver. T10 on the left side controls the gall bladder and on the right side controls the bile duct. The "blockage" can be on either side with high cholesterol so the side that ellicits the most pressure pain upon palpation should be focused on.

GV 22 - we use to effect the pituitary gland which influences cholesterol production and the endocrine system generally.

The Window of the Sky Points, TH 16, TH 17, ST 11, ST 12 - these are used to positively influence the freedom of circulation to and from the brain. This provides that the brain is properly nourished in order to provide the correct regulation.

Patient Recommendations:

Two good (and easy) things your patients can do are listed below. These self-help recommendations are outside of the many well known dietary and lifestyle changes which are extremely important to adopt.

Green Tea - Green tea appears to raise HDL and lower total cholesterol according to clinical studies. The quality of the tea is likely to matter in its effectiveness and some growing locations appear to also contribute to the effect.  In addition to our selection of green teas, we offer our patients another tea from Hainan Island (Ku Ding Green Tea) that has a very positive effect on cholesterol levels. The tea has green leaves and is very bitter due to the growing location and the way it is cultivated.  While Ku Ding is technically not a green tea, it is extremely effective.

Apples - A University of California, Davis study showed that having as little as 2 apples each day reduces the oxidization of LDL cholesterol which effectively slows the buildup of plague within the arteries. A large finnish study also showed that the flavanoids in apples (and onions incidentally) appeared to significantly lower the risk of coronary mortality. Apples contain phenols which reduce LDL and raise HDL levels.

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