November 2023 TCM Practitioner Insights: Health and Wellness Trends

Each month, we want to offer practitioners the best articles and learning resources available online. In our newsletter this month, we covered health and wellness trends in the key areas of cognitive health, mental health, mens' health, and women's health. 

The Surprising Synergy Between Acupuncture and AI

We love it when Traditional Chinese Medicine gets mainstream attention. This month, WIRED magazine published an Op-Ed by Saffron Huang, a writer and co-director of the Collective Intelligence Project, on the parallels between innovative AI systems and acupuncture. The article discussed:

  1. The difficulties of scientifically proving the mechanisms of acupuncture
  2. The intricacies of past and current AI model systems  
  3. The ‘unseen’ parallels between modern AI systems and acupuncture

We loved this piece because it reminds us that we don’t always need unwavering logic for something to work well. Read the full article on modern technological systems and an ancient Chinese modality

Mental Health and Wellbeing

In the last decade, the growing body of evidence on the bidirectional connection between the brain and gastrointestinal tract (called the gut-brain axis) has developed to the point that most TCM practitioners have incorporated supporting the gut microbiome through TCM into their practices. This month, we found an amazing article that makes fascinating connections between TCM and the food people eat, affecting mental health. 

This study is the first to examine the potential regulation of the human gut microbiota through long-term deep meditation. The study found that the composition of the intestinal microbiota in the meditation group differed significantly from that of the control group. 

The control group exhibited higher gut microbial community richness and diversity. Several bacterial species were found to be significantly different between the meditation and control groups, with Prevotella and Bacteroides being enriched in the meditation group. These bacteria have been associated with the alleviation of mental illness. 

The study also found that pathways related to glycan biosynthesis, metabolism, and lipopolysaccharide biosynthesis were enriched in the meditation group, which could alleviate intestinal inflammation and improve barrier function. 

Additionally, the meditation group was enriched in pathways related to toluene degradation and adipocytokine signaling, indicating potential effects on the nervous system. The results of plasma biochemical indices showed that meditation may positively impact psychosomatic conditions. Read more on how our bacteria allies are healthy and happy with some in-depth mindfulness

Brain Cognitive Health 

“The current global prevalence of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) among people over 50 years old is more than 15%, and about 43.8 million people are diagnosed with dementia, which is expected to grow to 70 million by 2050.”

Chronic cerebral hypoperfusion (CCH) is a significant factor in cognitive impairment associated with central nervous system diseases. Mitochondrial dysfunction plays a key role in the neurovascular pathology induced by CCH. Chinese herbal medicine has been proven to be effective in improving cognitive impairment caused by CCH by addressing mitochondrial dysfunction and neurovascular pathology. 

Studies have shown that Chinese herbal medicine can prevent calcium overload, reduce oxidative stress damage, enhance antioxidant capacity, inhibit mitochondria-related apoptosis pathway, promote mitochondrial biogenesis, and prevent excessive activation of mitophagy. 

Additionally, mitochondrial dysfunction caused by CCH is also a fundamental cause of neurodegeneration pathology, making Chinese herbal medicine a potential therapeutic option for neurodegenerative diseases by targeting mitochondrial dysfunction. 

Protecting the integrity of mitochondrial structure and function and restoring mitochondrial self-regulation are important targets for alleviating CCH-induced cognitive impairment. Modern research has confirmed the precise role of Chinese herbal medicine in improving CCH status and cognitive impairment. 

Recent studies have further clarified the therapeutic mechanism of Chinese herbal medicine targeting mitochondrial dysfunction using modern technology. Chinese herbal compounds and monomers have shown promise in protecting the structural and functional integrity of mitochondria, reducing calcium overload, enhancing energy metabolism reconstruction, and promoting mitochondrial self-repair. 

Chinese herbal medicine produced based on the principles of "syndrome differentiation and treatment" has demonstrated efficacy in improving mitochondrial dysfunction and treating cognitive impairment after CCH. Standardized preparation processes have been developed to ensure consistent quality and efficacy. Further research is needed to explore the optimal herbal combinations and doses for specific mitochondrial indicators. 

In conclusion, Chinese herbal medicine shows promise in improving cognitive impairment caused by CCH through its effects on mitochondrial dysfunction. Further research is needed to optimize herbal combinations and doses for specific outcomes. Find the full study here

Men’s Health

Over the past five years, consumer interest in adaptogens has increased by 58%— and for good reason! 

Adaptogens work with the HPA axis to balance the release of cortisol, so they’re uniquely positioned to support energy levels and encourage adaptation to stressful situations - like exercise, which alters skeletal muscle, metabolic enzymes, contractile protein amounts, and the elasticity of connective tissue. 

This month, we discovered a well-rounded review that discusses various traditional Chinese medicine adaptogens and how they improve endurance, muscle strength, and exercise recovery in men.    

In the review, researchers discussed a study where steady supplementation of schisandra berry over 12 weeks significantly increased muscle strength. While the mechanisms of action were not reported in this study, researchers referenced other studies where schisandra berry extract “upregulated muscle-specific mRNAs involved in muscle protein synthesis and downregulated the expression of those involved in protein degradation.” 

Red ginseng was impactful for highly-trained male athletes. Researchers observed that after five days of Panax ginseng supplementation, muscle excitation increased during an eccentric-based exercise. Red ginseng was also responsible for attenuating the rate of perceived exertion, and athletes taking red ginseng experienced their maximal isometric voluntary contractions (MIVCs) return to baseline 24 hours after exercise, compared to 48 hours after exercise in the placebo group, suggesting red ginseng accelerates recovery. 

An animal study observing astragalus found that oral administration of Astragalus membranaceus enhanced endurance and energy through increased hepatic and muscle glycogen content. Additionally, researchers noted that astragalus supplementation decreased weariness and the “build-up of metabolites blood lactate and ammonia caused by exercise.” Both of these byproducts of exercise are known to cause fatigue. 

You can find the full review here.  

Women’s Health

“A meta-analysis showed that acupuncture could significantly reduce menopausal vasomotor dysfunctions, including [hot flashes] and night sweats, compared to participants who did not undergo acupuncture.”

Hot flashes during peri/menopause occur due to an estrogen shift that disturbs the hypothalamic thermostat. Although severity varies depending on an individual’s constitution, hot flash frequency is known to increase significantly during sleep, causing a reduction in sleep quality and lack of sleep. 

In a recent study on acupuncture and menopausal women, researchers observed the effects of acupuncture on menopause symptoms when administered three times a week for four weeks. The treatment included the acupuncture points zusanli (ST36), sanyinjiao (SP6), hegu (LI4), neiguan (PC6), shenmen (HT7), shaofu (HT8), and a bottom abdomen point, guan yuan (CV4), which may mitigate insomnia, psychological complications, heart palpitations, and night sweats.  

At the end of treatment and after each follow-up (6 weeks and 12 weeks), the women reported a significant reduction in hot flashes and improved sleep quality. Read the full study or download this cool acupuncture patterns chart

Practitioner Resources

A practitioner is a life-long learner and educator - build your resource library! 

Explore The Hsiao Lab, an interactive platform created by UCLA that hosts Dr. Hsiao's and her team's groundbreaking research and publications on the profound origins and interactions of microbiota and how they impact the nervous system. Their recent research delves into the microbiome's influence on maternal health, gastrointestinal and metabolic disorders, fetal neurodevelopment, active neurochemical signaling, and autism spectrum disorder. The Hsiao Lab @ UCLA

“Inspiring innovation in services and products and advocating for [wellness] industry growth and sustainable practices.”

Global Wellness Institute is a non-profit organization spearheading a mission to conduct, curate, and provide accessible evidence-based, integrative wellness research for the global community. In addition to the database of quality research and analysis, Global Wellness Institute produces statistics for the wellness economy, supports global wellness initiatives, and provides select countries with “robust wellness market data.” They even have a dedicated section on TCM! Global Wellness Institute