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Endometriosis Awareness

By Acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, Endometriosis, Fertility, Women's health

March is Endometriosis Awareness Month


What is endometriosis?

Endometriosis is a common chronic gynaecological condition, characterised by growth of endometrial tissue outside of the uterus. This ectopic tissue, most commonly found in the pelvic cavity but also other areas of the body, responds to the hormonal changes of the menstrual cycle which causes bleeding, inflammation and pain. The prevalence of this disease is estimated to vary from 2-22% of women and 40-60% of those suffering from dysmenorrhoea (painful periods). Despite its prevalence, women suffering from endometriosis often wait many years for a diagnosis or fail to receive a diagnosis at all. Sadly, menstrual pain is still wrongly considered normal, and we are often told to grin and bear it, take some ibuprofen and soldier through. However, the reality is that, for many, pain from endometriosis can be unbearable and causes significant disruption to work and personal lives. There may be pain throughout the cycle, severe fatigue and a variety of other symptoms that are often misdiagnosed or ignored.

Current medical interventions for endometriosis have limitations. Surgery to excise lesions has been found often to only produce short-term benefits, with regrowth common. Hormonal treatments such as the Merina coil or contraceptive pill are not suitable for all and often produce unwanted side effects. These are also not an option for those trying to conceive.


Endometriosis in TCM:

In Traditional Chinese Medicine theory, endometriosis is usually thought to involve a pattern of disharmony called Blood Stasis. The aim of treatment is to move the stagnant Blood, thus reducing pain, lesion size and inflammation. However, Blood Stasis is considered a branch of the main problem (the root), and each patient may have a different root cause of their Blood Stasis. TCM treatment with either acupuncture and/or herbs will aim to identify the individual patterns involved and treat both the root and the branch.


Research round up:

Giese, N., Kwon, K. and Armour, M., 2023. Acupuncture for endometriosis: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Integrative Medicine Research, 12(4): 101003.

This study examined the effect of acupuncture on pain levels and quality of life of patients suffering from endometriosis. Six studies that involved a total of 331 patients were included. Evidence for the benefit of acupuncture was found for overall pelvic pain, menstrual pain, and non-specified pelvic pain compared to usual care, and low rates of adverse effects were reported.


Wang, Y. et al., 2023. Acupuncture and moxibustion for endometriosis: A systematic review and analysis. Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 76: 102963.

Included 15 trials involving 1018 patients. Compared to sham acupuncture, acupuncture was more effective in reducing dysmenorrhea (menstrual pain), pelvic pain, dyspareunia (difficult or painful sexual intercourse), reduced size of ovarian cyst and improved quality of life.


Li, P. et al., 2023. Efficacy of acupuncture for endometriosis-associated pain: a multicenter randomized single-blind placebo-controlled trial. Fertility and Sterility, 119(5): 815-823.

106 women were randomised to receive either acupuncture or sham acupuncture treatments. They received 3 30 minute sessions a week for 12 weeks, and daily treatments during their menstrual periods. All test scores (dysmenorrhoea, pelvic pain, pain duration, depression, mood status and endometriosis health profile) were significantly improved in the treatment group compared to sham at 12 weeks. However, effect was seen to reduce at 24 weeks after discontinuation of treatment, suggesting that ongoing treatment is necessary to maintain benefit.


Lin, Y. et al. 2023. Chinese Herbal Medicine, Alternative or Complementary, for Endometriosis-Associated Pain: A Meta-Analysis. American Journal of Chinese Medicine, 51(4): 807-832.

A total of 34 studies involving 3389 participants were included in this meta-analysis. There was a statistically significant benefit of Chinese herbal medicine (CHM) on dysmenorrhoea at the end of 3 month treatment, with benefits lasting at 6 months but not 9 months after treatment was discontinued. Compared with conventional treatment a significant difference was found in levels of pelvic pain, irregular bleeding and hot flushes.


Yang, X. et al. 2023. Efficacy of Chinese Herbal Medicines on Pregnancy Outcomes in Patients with Endometriosis in Long-Term Management: A Multicenter Retrospective Cohort Study. Chinese Journal of Integrative Medicine, 29(11): 971-979.

Pregnancy and live birth rates in CHM group were significantly higher than non-CHM group for patients with endometriosis.


Gao, Y. et al. 2022. Systemic pharmacological verification of Guizhi Fuling decoction in treating endometriosis-associated pain. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, Oct 28: 297: 115540.

Classic CHM formula Guizhi Fuling decoction, commonly prescribed for treatment of endometriosis, was found to reduce size of lesions, relieve pain symptoms and reduce the serum level of pro-inflammatory cytokines along with their expression in lesion tissue.

How to Survive Hay Fever Season

By Acupressure, Acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, Hay fever

This summer is seeing a massive increase in suffering from hay fever. More people are suffering, symptoms are worse, and this hay fever season seems to be lasting longer into the summer than usual.

Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can be really helpful in relieving the symptoms, and preventing future attacks. Here are some points you can treat on yourselves using acupressure – simply massage or press each point for a couple of minutes.

Large Intestine 20: This point is found along the nasolabial groove, at the height of the widest flare of the nostril. This point is really helpful in clearing congested sinuses or runny nose

Acupuncture point Large Intestine 20

Large Intestine 20

Yintang: Between the eyebrows, over the third eye. I like to pair this with LI20 to relive the sinuses

Acupuncture point Yintang


Gall Bladder 20: This point is at the base of the skull, in a large depression that is easily felt between the muscles that run up your neck. From the dip behind your ear, simply run your hand backwards over the SCM muscle and you will fall into a likely tender dip. This is GB20. We use this point to boost the immune system to expel pathogens, and it is also great for relieving headache and sinus congestion.

Acupuncture point Gall Bladder 20

Gall Bladder 20

Lung 7: On the thumb side of your wrist. From the anatomical snuffbox at the base of the thumb that is exposed if you raise your thumb, feel along up the wrist. You will go over a little hill. As you reach the bottom on the other side of the hill, if you feel carefully there are two tiny tendons that insert there. Lung 7 sits between these tendons at the bottom of the bony prominence. We use Lung 7 to boost the immune system, expel pathogens and strengthen the lungs. Great for cough, wheezing and asthma.

Acupuncture point Lung 7

Lung 7

Large Intestine 4: If you squeeze your thumb and forefinger together you will see a mound of muscle form at the base between these fingers. Feel for the very top of the mound then relax your fingers. Press down and in towards the metacarpal bone of the forefinger and you will find a tender spot. This is LI4. LI4 is used a lot for all sorts of conditions. In the case of hay fever, like Lu7 and GB20 it helps to expel those pesky allergens that are setting you off. It is also helpful for relieving headache, and venting heat (sore eyes, any redness, congestion).

Acupuncture point Large Intestine 4

Large Intestine 4


Give these points a try at home, and if you need some stronger relief this hay fever season, or want to boost your immune system to better withstand the season next year make an appointment for some acupuncture or Chinese herbal medicine.

What makes Chinese herbs so special?

By Chinese herbal medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine

In Chinese Herbal Medicine (CHM) we do not simply use the herbs that grow in our gardens. These may be classed as food medicine but would not be potent enough for herbal medicine. In the long, rich tradition of CHM, herbs have been used that have the correct Dao Di. This roughly equates to high quality provenance. Over thousands of years of gathering herbal knowledge, the Chinese established what the best growing locations were for specific herbs, what the correct growth conditions were, and also, crucially, when the best time to harvest was to achieve the maximum therapeutic benefit:


Daodi medicinal material is defined as medicinal material that is produced and assembled in specific geographic regions with designated natural conditions and ecological environment, with particular attention to cultivation technique, harvesting and processing. These factors lead to quality and clinical effects surpass those of same botanical origin produced from other regions, and thus is widely recognized and has long enjoyed a good reputation.” (Zhao, Guo & Brand, 2012).


The earliest reference to the importance of herbal production regions in the Chinese Materia Medica was in The Divine Husbandman’s Classic of Materia Medica (Shen nong ben cao jing) from the Eastern Han Dynasty 25-220CE. The Newly Revised Materia Medica (Xin xiu ben cao) from the Tang Dynasty (618-907CE) stated “if medicinal material is not produced from its native environment, the effect will be different.” And the Song Dynasty (960-1279CE) text, Extension of the Materia Medica (Ben cao yan yi), declared that “All medicinals must be chosen from suitable production regions”.


It is well understood that plants and their bioactive components are influenced by environmental factors such as topography, climate, soil conditions, light and humidity. The ancient Chinese people said that “tangerine plants grown south of the Huai river produce tangerines, but if they grow north of the Huai river they produce bitter oranges; the leaves are similar but the flavour of the fruit is different.” As Zhao, Guo & Brand note, “Ancient observers recognized that different environments not only produce changes in appearance, they also produce differences in medicinal nature.”


In modern times, we can measure this in labs and ensure that only the highest quality medicinals with the correct levels of active constituent chemicals are used. The approved suppliers of the RCHM all adhere to stringent quality testing to ensure both therapeutic benefit and safety. Herbs are safety-checked for any potentially toxic constituents, adulterants, substitutions or misidentification. We can be sure that the herb is what it claims to be, is of clinical medicinal standard and is safe for human consumption.


But even with our modern quality-controls, in CHM we still adhere to the old traditions of Dao Di. A study from 2003 used high-performance liquid chromatography and spectrophotometry to establish whether there was any difference in the main chemical constituents of San Qi (Panax notoginseng) depending on regional and seasonal variations (Dong et al, 2003).  They found that the best quality San Qi was to be found in the southwestern parts of Wenshan and that the best harvest season was September-October which are in line with the traditional Dao Di for this herb.


Further research into Dao Di medicinal material is ongoing: (1) the application of quantitative genetics methods to explore the genetic material basis in order to reveal the molecular mechanism of the formation of Dao Di medicinal material; (2) the application of omics and systems biology to elucidate the contributing factors of Dao Di medicinal material; (3) the application of geographic authentication and protection of the intellectual property rights of Dao Di medicinal material based on its biological, chemical and pharmacological features (Pan, 2011), and this research is one of the key projects sponsored by the National Natural Science Foundation of China.




Dong, T. et al., 2003. Chemical Assessment of Roots of Panax notoginseng in China: Regional and Seasonal Variations in Its Active Constituents. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 51: 4617-4623.

Pan, F., 2011. Doadi medicinal material is the essence of Chinese medicine—a review of the 390th session of Xiangshan Science Conference. Science Times, Feb 28, 2011. Beijing, China.

Zhao, Z., Guo, P. and Brand, E. 2012. The formation of daodi medicinal materials. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 140: 476-481.

Acupuncture for Menopause: a round up of recent research

By Acupuncture, Women's health

In light of the recent problems with HRT shortages, it is even more important that women are aware of the alternative drug-free treatments available to them.

Acupuncture has long been used as an effective treatment to help menopausal and peri-menopausal women navigate the array of symptoms they experience – including hot flushes and sweats, headaches, difficulty concentrating, insomnia, depression, reduced sex drive and vaginal dryness.

Recent studies have found acupuncture to be effective in reducing these symptoms [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7] without severe side effects [4]. Studies also showed acupuncture increases oestrogen, especially estradiol, progesterone, prolactin, and other hormones [5].


[1] Chien, T et al (2019) The maintenance effect of acupuncture on breast cancer-related menopause symptoms: a systematic review. Climacteric.


[2] Palma, F et al (2019) Acupuncture or phy(F)itoestrogens vs. (E)strogen plus progestin on menopausal symptoms. A randomized study. Gynecological Endocrinology.


[3] Kargozar, R et al (2019) Urtica dioica in comparison with placebo and acupuncture: A new possibility for menopausal hot flashes: A randomized clinical trial. Complementary Therapies in Medicine.


[4] Lund, K et al (2019) Efficacy of a standardised acupuncture approach for women with bothersome menopausal symptoms: a pragmatic randomised study in primary care (the ACOM study). BMJ Open.


[5] Ko, J. & Kim, S. (2018) A Literature Review of Women’s Sex Hormone Changes by Acupuncture Treatment: Analysis of Human and Animal Studies. Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine.


[6] Li, S et al (2018) A Multicenter, Randomized, Controlled Trial of Electroacupuncture for Perimenopause Women with Mild-Moderate Depression. BioMed Research International.


[7] Fu, C et al (2017) Acupuncture Improves Peri-menopausal Insomnia: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Sleep.

Migraine Awareness Week 2019 – How does acupuncture help?

By Acupuncture, Headache & Migraine

This week is Migraine Awareness Week. Despite migraine being the third most prevalent disease in the world, affecting 1 in 7 people, there is still a great deal of misunderstanding surrounding migraine. A migraine is more than just a bad headache.

For the majority of migraine suffers, attacks happen frequently. More than three-quarters of suffers experience at least one migraine a month, many so severe it causes severe physical impairment. Migraine is ranked globally as the 7th more disabling disease and the leading cause of disability among neurological disorders [1]. Symptoms include throbbing headache, sensitivity to light and noise, nausea, vomiting and fatigue. Some sufferers also experience auras (visual disturbances including but not limited to dark spots or flashing lights, dizziness, vertigo, numbness and tingling, confusion and weakness and sometimes partial paralysis), and some even auditory hallucinations. For some sufferers, attacks may not last even an hour, but for others is could be several days, with another couple of days of recovery [2]. Unsurprisingly, migraines can have an enormous detrimental effect on work, social and family lives.

Shockingly, despite the prevalence and severity of migraine, a mere 4 hours are committed to headache disorders in undergraduate medical training, and still only 10 hours for specialists worldwide [3]. Less than 50% of migraine sufferers are happy with their current treatment and the majority choose to self-medicate with over-the-counter medication rather than seeking medical help [4].

There is a growing body of research in recent years into the efficacy of acupuncture in both preventing and treating migraine [5,6,7,8,9,10]. Acupuncture has been found to be effective in both prevention and treatment, and in one study was found to be more effective than the current favoured medication Propranolol in reducing migraine episodes and caused fewer adverse events [6]. Other studies have shown acupuncture to be at least as effective as other interventions, and enhancing quality of life in migraine patients better than other medication [10].

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends that patients are offered a course of up to 10 sessions of acupuncture to prevent migraine if the medications topiramate or propranolol are not working well for them [11].

So what can acupuncture do to help treat and prevent migraine? It provides pain relief, through the action of stimulating nerve fibres which leads to the release of endorphins and other neurohumoral factors, and changes the processing of pain in the brain and spinal cord [12, 13]. Acupuncture reduces inflammation by promoting the release of vascular and immunomodulatory factors [14, 15, 16]. It reduces the degree of cortical spreading depression (CSD), an electrical wave in the brain that is associated with migraine, and plasma levels of calcitonin gene-related peptide and substance P which are pain-signalling neuropeptides implicated in the pathophysiology of migraine [16]. Acupuncture also modulates extracranial and intracranial blood flow which contribute to migraine pain [17]. Serotonin levels in the brain are affected – serotonin may be linked to both the initiation of attacks and the relief of acute attacks [18], and there is an increase in local microcirculation which aids the dispersal of swelling [19].



[1] Steiner et al (2013) Migraine: the seventh disabler. The Journal of Headache and Pain, 14:1.


[2] Migraine Trust (2019) Symptoms and stages of migraine.


[3] World Health Organization (2111) Atlas of headache disorders and resources in the world.


[4] All-Party Parliamentary Group on Primary Headache Disorders (2010) Headache Disorders – not respected, not resourced.


[5] Doll et al (2019) Acupuncture in adult and pediatric headache: A narrative review. Neuropediatrics.


[6] Chen et al (2019) Acupuncture versus propranolol in migraine prophylaxis: an indirect treatment comparison meta-analysis. Journal of Neurology.


[7] Kowacs et al (2019) Consensus of the Brazilian Headache Society on the treatment of chronic migraine. Asociacion Neuropsiquiatrica Argentina, 77(7): 509-20.


[8] Trinh et al (2019) Systematic review of episodic migraine prophylaxis: Efficacy of conventional treatments used in comparisons with acupuncture. Medical Acupuncture, 31(2): 85-97.


[9] Wells et al (2019) Complementary and integrative medicine for episodic migraine: an update of evidence from the last 3 years. Current Pain and Headache Reports, 23(2): 10.


[10] Jiang et al (2018) The effect of acupuncture on the quality of life in patients with Mmigraine: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Frontiers in Pharmacology, 9: 1190.


[11] National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (2015) Headaches in over 12s: diagnosis and management.


[12] Zhao, C. (2008) Traditional and evidence-based acupuncture in headache management: Theory, mechanism, and practice. Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain.


[13] Pomeranz, B. (2001) Acupuncture analgesia – basic research. In: Stux, G., & Hammerschlag, R. (eds) Clinical Acupuncture, Berlin: Springer, 1-28.


[14] Kim et al (2008) Low-frequency electroacupuncture supresses carrageenan-induced paw inflammation in mice via sympathetic post-ganglionic neurons, while high-frequency EA suppression is mediated by the sympathoadrenal medullary axis. Brain Research Bulletin, 75(5): 698-705.


[15] Kavoussi, B. & Ross, B. (2007) The neuroimmune basis of anti-inflammatory acupuncture. Integrative Cancer Therapies, 6(3): 251-7.


[16] Shi et al (2010) Effect of electroacupuncture on cortical spreading depression and plasma CGRP and substance P contents in migraine rats. Zhen Ci Yan Jiu, 35(1): 17-21.


[17] Park et al (2009) Effect of acupuncture on blood flow velocity and volume in common carotid and vertebral arteries in migraine patients. Medical Acupuncture, 21(1).


[18] Zhong et al (2007) Effects of acupuncture on calcitonin gene-related peptide gene expressions in the brain of migraine rats. Modern Rehabilitation.


[19] Komori et al (2009) Microcirculatory responses to acupuncture stimulation and phototherapy. Anesthesia & Analgesia, 108(2): 635-40.

Join the Sunscreen Revolution

By Tropic Skincare

As you are probably aware, I am a Tropic Skincare Ambassador. You’d be forgiven for thinking that I’m biased when it comes to the choice between natural, cruelty-free skincare options and those more often found on the supermarket shelves. Let me share with you some of the reasons why I am so passionately advocating a switch from your old usual sunscreen to a healthier alternative.


Sunscreen protects our skin, right? It blocks harmful UVA and UVB light preventing sunburn, skin damage, skin aging and cancer. Those things are true, but depending on what type of sunscreen you are using, it could be doing a whole lot of other damage – to your body and to the environment.


The vast majority of sunscreens on the market are chemical sunscreens. This is because they are cheaper and easier to formulate and soak into the skin easily. They work by coating the skin in a chemical that reacts to UV rays. However, once it has reacted, this chemical is now spent and you will need to reapply. And you also now have a chemical reaction occurring on your skin which causes the formation of free radicals – a major cause of skin aging and skin damage. So let’s get this straight – we are using sunscreen to prevent skin aging and skin damage, but sunscreen is actually a cause of skin aging and skin damage? What’s the point in that?


What makes this even worse, is that the majority of chemical sunscreens (about 70%) contain a toxic chemical oxybenzone – around 3,500 brands worldwide. A study by the Centres of Disease Control and Prevention showed this chemical to be present in 97% of Americans (Calafat 2008). Oxybenzone is absorbed through the skin into your bloodstream, where is then acts as a hormone disruptor. It is also found to be present in breastmilk and urine. The good news is that researchers at UC Berkeley discovered that oxybenzone levels and those of other chemicals of concern reduced dramatically when an alternative chemical-free sunscreen was used instead (Harley 2016). Experts caution that the unintentional exposure to and toxicity of active ingredients erode the benefits of sunscreens (Krause 2012, Schlumpf 2010).


Researchers from Denmark and Sweden investigated the hormone disruption caused by the chemical UV filters oxybenzone, homosalate, octinoxate, Benzophenone-2, PABA, OD-PABA, 3-BC and 4-MBC (Krause 2012). They reported that these chemicals affect reproduction and development by altering reproductive and thyroid hormones.


As if it wasn’t bad enough that a product we use to protect ourselves is actually causing untold damage – chemical sunscreens are responsible for enormous damage to the environment. They are putting our oceans and marine life, in particular, at risk. According to the Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, between 6,000 and 14,000 tonnes of sunscreen ends up in coral reef areas each year from swimmers, scuba divers, and snorkelers. Chemical sunscreen has been found to be killing off coral, especially around tourist areas. The Caribbean, Hawaii and the Great Barrier Reef have been dramatically affected. Similar to how it is damaging to human health, oxybenzone alters coral DNA, makes coral more susceptible to potentially fatal bleaching and acts as an endocrine disruptor, causing baby coral to encase itself in its own skeleton and die, according to the findings of the Haereticus Environmental Laboratory in Virginia. Nor does it take much of this chemical to do damage – the damaging effects were seen in coral in concentrations of oxybenzone as low as 62 parts per trillion, which is equivalent to a drop of water in six and a half Olympic-sized swimming pools.

It only takes a matter of months to bleach and kill off coral


So, what are the alternatives? Do we have to burn our skin to save the environment? Thankfully, there is a healthier, environmentally friendly alternative and that is mineral sunscreen. The active ingredients are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Mineral sunscreens work by forming a barrier on the skin. They reflect the UV rays back into the atmosphere and remain completely inert on the skin. It is n0t absorbed by the skin. Mineral protection isn’t used commonly by sunscreen manufacturers as these ingredients are very difficult to formulate with and often leave a white sheen after application. But Susan Ma at Tropic Skincare has been working for the past couple of years to design a range of natural, vegan, cruelty-free sun care. And boy, has she done a great job.


Last year Tropic introduced its first mineral sunscreen in SPF 30, and such was its popularity one of the ingredient suppliers couldn’t keep up with demand and we had to discontinue until we found a new supplier. In this time, Susan has not only improved the formulation and removed essential oils to make it suitable for even the most sensitive of skins, but come up with three entirely new formulations: SPF 15, 30 and 50. The first two are oil-in-water lotions which are very light in texture and blend into the skin within seconds, while the SPF 50 is a thicker water-in-oil cream which still blends in perfectly leaving no white streaks. They have been tested against all other sunscreen hands on the market and has beaten them all hands down. They offer the highest protection levels and water resistance, are kind to your skin and to the environment. Good job Susie!

Alongside the 3 standard sunscreens Tropic have also introduced an SPF 50 Sun Balm, an oil-based balm to add extra protection to those particularly burn-prone spots and is great for all over use on babies and small children. And we have the Tinted Sun Shade which is a 3-in-one moisturiser, BB cream and sunscreen. It is really water resistant so your make up doesn’t wash off in the water.


I hope that after reading this you feel inspired to rethink your sunscreen choices this summer. While natural, ethical mineral sunscreens are more expensive, they offer better protection, you don’t need to constantly reapply and I feel that knowing what I now know, I can’t in all good conscience continue to pollute my body and the oceans.


For more information on Tropic Skincare and to take a look at our range visit my Tropic shop

How can I improve my sperm quality? 10 simple strategies

By Acupuncture, Fertility, Male health

Male infertility accounts for 40% of couples’ infertility (40% female factor, 20% unknown) and affects 1 in 20 men. The average male sperm count is dropping 1% a year and men with extremely low sperm counts have tripled from 6% to 18% since the 1940s. Yet, surprisingly, in my experience very few men seek help while women frequently seek treatment to improve their chances of conception, even when the cause is unknown. It takes two to make a baby! It is a shame that I see so few male partners as there is much acupuncture can do to improve

  • sperm count
  • volume
  • motility
  • morphology
  • vitality
  • libibo
  • erectile dysfunction
  • energy and endurance

There is also a great deal you can do through simple lifestyle changes to improve the quality of your sperm.

Unlike female eggs that are created when she is still in the womb herself, the life cycle of sperm is relatively short – allowing you to make significant positive changes in just a few months. Men produce 1500 sperm cells per second. 200-300 million are produced each day, though only 100 million become viable sperm. Only! Millions are released in a single ejaculation.

Sperm live only briefly and are constantly replaced – development takes only 100 days to mature and become part of the ejaculate. So, every 3 months you have entirely new sperm – can you see how making positive changes can quickly affect your fertility?

So, what can you do?


Sperm health is compromised by

  • paternal age – declining semen volume, testosterone and quality of erections, increased chance of chromosomal and semen abnormalities
  • sexual related problems – low libido, infrequent intercourse, erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, retrograde ejaculation
  • varicocele – abnormal dilation of testicular veins causing warmer testes
  • seminal tubes blocked or damaged eg. through sports injury, vasectomy reversal
  • previous surgery to correct undescended or twisted testicles
  • fever or infection, especially prostatitis (becoming common in young men, sat all the time), epididymitis, orchitis or chlamydia
  • genetic or hormonal abnormality
  • antisperm antibodies caused by injury, surgery or infection – these cause sperm to stick together so they can’t swim
  • environmental pollutants – endocrine disruptors such as plastics disrupt hormones due to the oestrogen-like compounds they contain which disrupt testosterone. A commonly used herbicide, Atrazine, causes impairment of sexual development in men by causing over-production of oestrogen


10 Simple Stategies to Improve Sperm Quality

  1.  Improved nutrition
    • diets high in chicken, fish, fruit and veg (preferably organic to reduce risk of environmental pollutants) are beneficial
    • diets high in saturated fat and salt, especially ready meals, deplete sperm count
    • include Omega 3 from organic dairy
  2. Optimise weight – BMI 20-25. Both high and low BMI cause poor quality sperm
  3. Keep testes cool – optimally 1-8 degrees below body temperature. They are cleverly designed to hang away from the body, so give them some room! 24 hours of raised temperature is enough to cause sexual malfunction in rats. Keep the temperature down by
    • don’t keep phones in pockets or laptops on lap
    • avoid saunas and hot tubs
    • avoid prolonged sitting

      Prolonged sitting reduces sperm quality

  4. Take good quality pre-conception supplements for at least 3 months. They are essential for the micronutrients that have been stripped from the soil such as zinc
  5. Cordyceps mushrooms not only improve sperm quality, but also help physical endurance. These are available as a food supplement from health shops
  6. Stop smoking and taking recreational drugs. You will see a massive 50-800% improvement in sperm count
  7. Stop or reduce alcohol consumption, especially before IVF as it can reduce succes markedly. Drink a maximum of 5 units a week
  8. Check for STIs and low level infections
  9. Check any medicinal drugs you are taking are not contra-indicated for conception, as some may cause sperm abnormalities or reduced sexual function
  10. Have regular acupuncture treatments to improve sperm count, morphology, motility and libido!


With thanks to Jill Glover, whose lecture “It Takes Two” at the BAcC Conference 2016 informed this post

2016 – Year of the Clever Red Fire Monkey

By Traditional Chinese Medicine

Chinese New Year is almost upon us. This falls each year on the New Moon between 21st January and 21st of February and this year is celebrated on 8th February. Traditionally, this festival is a time to honour ancestors and deities. It is a time for families to gather together, then cleanse the house – ridding it of any ill-fortune and making room for good luck.
According to legend, the tradition of the Chinese New Year began when a mythical beast called the Nian troubled villagers, eating them and their children. They would leave food on their doorsteps at the beginning of each year to keep him away. One day a god visited the village and advised them to place red paper on their houses. The villagers realised the Nian was afraid of the colour red so they wore red clothes, hung red lanterns and set off fire crackers to scare him away. The Nian never troubled the village again.


Fire monkey
2016 is the year of the Fire Monkey. In Chinese astrology, each year is assigned one of the Five Elements (water, wood, fire, earth and metal) and one of the 12 animals. The Monkey is intelligent, inventive and a good problem solver. He is witty and social in groups but also independent. The Monkey is playful and youthful and symbolises curiosity and creative energy. He represents the unfettered mind freed from inhibitions and guilt. He can also be cunning, opportunistic and untrustworthy.
The year of the Fire Monkey, then, is one in which anything can happen. There is little point in storing things up or making plans this year. The social aspect of the Monkey, his cheeky nature and enthusiasm help us to deal with stresses through open communication and good humour. The Monkey is fast and active and we should follow his lead this year by increasing our activity levels. Help the body to discard its stresses by moving – take up a sport or try walking, yoga or dance.
The year of the Fire Monkey is largely optimistic and should see upturns and growth. However, in our financial concerns, we need to be wise and vigilant to outsmart the monkey and look after our investments. The status of events can change very swiftly this year and we should take care before making changes that may affect our finances, career, family or relationships. Insecurity and trickery abound this year and decisions should be made carefully, using logic rather than emotion.
This year is especially auspicious for inventiveness. This is a time to take risks with new ideas and embrace rebelliousness, guts and bravado. But only for those who can outsmart the trickster Monkey – the slow and dull-witted will struggle.
The year of the Fire Monkey is one in which to enjoy and live life to the full. Happy New Year everybody!

Five Elements: Are you a Fiery one?

By Traditional Chinese Medicine

Summer is the season of the Fire Element. The energy is of outward radiation like the sun in full force, and is known as “Radiant Yang”. According to Gabriel Mojay, Fire is energy at its “most refined and sensitive, it is associated with both conscious awareness and self-identity”.

The organ of Fire is the Heart. The Yellow Emperor describes the Heart “like the minister of the monarch who excels through insight and understanding… it is the root of life and causes versatility of spiritual faculties”. The Heart governs and circulates the Blood and also houses the Mind, or Shen. The Shen encompasses all mental-emotional activity, thinking, feeling, imagination, memory and is the source of self-awareness.

It is no coincidence that we speak of the Heart as a place of emotion. When we feel anxious, we often feel palpitations, when we are in love a fluttering in our hearts. Our hearts feel full with love, broken hearted when we suffer loss. The Heart is the organ of love and affection – the giver and receiver of love. The root emotion of Fire is joy. The Fire element is one of open communication and enjoyment of social activities.

As the Heart houses the Shen, it will be involved in most psychological issues. When the Fire element is imbalanced, emotional and psychological problems can occur. Fire can blaze out of control or can burn out. Fire may not burn hot enough or be doused out.

Here is a checklist of typical Fire prsonality traits. The beginning of the list represents a healthy, balanced Fire element. You can see as the list progresses how Fire can become imbalanced or out of control. How fiery are you?

I am empathetic towards others
I am enthusiastic
I laugh loudly and often
I am talkative
I enjoy emotional intimacy
I am optimistic
I can get over-excited
I talk too much
I wear my emotions on my sleeve
I care what others think about me
I am easily hurt by others
I can be absentminded and scatter-brained
I need lots of support and praise
I lack excitement and enthusiasm
I can be self-centred and selfish
I tend to be apathetic and despondent
I have poor self-image and low self-esteem
I may lack compassion for myself and others
I am often anxious
I suffer with insomnia
I can become hysterical


Here are some physical signs and symptoms of a Fire imbalance:

Red, blotchy complexion / ashen complexion
Tendency to blush
Tongue problems – ulcers, swelling, etc
Cold hands and feet / poor circulation
Varicose veins
Dizziness and fainting spells
Skin eruptions
Rapid or irregular heartbeat
Palpitations especially when anxious
Sleep disturbances – insomnia, vivid / disturbing dreams
Speech problems – slurring, stuttering


If you suffer with any of the above symptoms or feel your Fire element tipping out of balance, an acupuncturist can help to bring you back into harmony. You can help yourself at home using the following essential oils: Jasmine, Lavender, Melissa, Neroli, Palmarosa, Rose, Rosemary, Spikenard, Ylang Ylang. Fire and the Heart respond well to floral fragrances in particular – the scents of love and joy.





Essential Oil Profile – May Chang

By Aromatherapy

Botanical name: Litsea cubeba

Family: Lauraceae

May Chang is a personal favourite of mine. Its fresh, sweet, lemon-like fragrance takes me immediately back to my honeymoon in South East Asia. The oil is steam-distilled from the fruit of the May Chang tree – a small tropical tree that grows in Eastern Asia.

Chemical composition: The lemony fragrance is due to the oil’s high concentration of citral (about 75%). The two isomers of citral, geranial and neral make up 41% and 33% respectively. Limonene (8%) myrcene (3%) and smaller amounts of α-pinene, β-pinene, nerol, geraniol, linalool, linalyl acetate and caryophyllene constitute a typical May Chang chemical make-up.

Therapeutic action: Antidepressant, antiseptic, astringent, carminative, galactagogue, insecticide, stimulant, tonic.


In Traditional Chinese Medicine, May Chang is used to alleviate cold painful conditions – muscular aches and menstrual pain that improves with the application of heat or pressure.

Studies have concluded that the high concentration of citral in May Chang oil is responsible for this oil’s effectiveness in treating cardiac arrhythmia, as citral has been seen to increase blood flow and improve ECG profiles in rabbits (Tisserand & Balacs, 1992). Thus, May Chang may be used in the treatment of cardiovascular problems such as coronary heart disease and high blood pressure.

May Chang is astringent and therefore of use in the treatment of oily skin and acne. It reduces excessive perspiration and is a good natural deodorant.

May Chang is an extremely effective antiseptic and makes for a very pleasant oil to vapourise around the room during cold and flu season.

The beautiful and uplifting citrus aroma makes this oil perfect for alleviating stress and anxiety.


Blend recipe:

May Chang 4 drops
Lavender 2 drops
Sweet Orange 3 drops
In 30ml carrier oil

This is my lemon fondant fancy blend! It always cheers me up and is deeply relaxing and comforting.



Battaglia, S. (2003) The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy. The International Centre of Holistic Aromatherapy.

Davis, P. (1999) Aromatherapy: An A-Z. The CW Daniel Co.

Tisserand, R. & Balacs, T. (1992) May Chang. The International Journal of Aromatherapy, 4(3): 25-27.