I answered a post recently on supplements, a lady had commented that she couldn't take any as she was on heart medication. It led me to thinking about the differences between vitamins and herbs, and what they're doing to the body, how they support you alongside Shiatsu and in many areas can enhance your treatments. So let me delve right in!
Those that know me and know Shiatsu know that though my therapy is based on Traditional Chinese Medicine this is not the same as Traditional Chinese Herbal Medicine. I'm not going to be able to diagnose or even comment on individual herbs for conditions, this blog is about the energetic affect that herbs generally have. The one thing I have realised in recent months (and I've just bought a fabulous book called the Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine) is that a British Medical Herbalist uses the same ingredients as a Chinese herbalist, they just have different names and they diagnose from different modalities; but I digress!
SUPPLEMENTS WORK ON DIFFERENT LEVELS WITHIN THE BODY
The starting point is to understand how minerals, herbs and amino acids work on different levels within your body, and this is where you can separate out minerals from herbs when you take western medication:
Vitamins - short for vital minerals, whether it's a B, C, or D or iron / magnesium these are all elements that your body needs to function. Most are created from the food that you eat and metabolise. A few of them got categorised as 'vitamins' but that's just a short name for them, and easier to remember than something like Hydroxocobalamin (yes I had to look that up) AKA vitamin B12. Vital minerals are what your body needs to function, in fact the first thing you're put on if you go into ITU is a Magnesium drip, it's the #1 mineral deficiency in the western world, closely followed by Vitamin D3. In taking vitamins you're giving your body what it needs to function. The liver performs over 300 functions in your body, Magnesiums plays a role in 300 hundred functions in your body, so that's a lot of reasons to take Magnesium, and look after your liver.
Vitamins top you up, and most are 'water soluble' so that you wee out what you don't require. A few , like vitamin A are 'fat soluble' this means that they can be retained more effectively in your body, they act more like fats (the main 4 are - A,D,E, K. Vitamin A is the main one you can have too much of so you don't even tend to find it in a multi vitamin, it's one you'd take separately if required. Vitamins don't tend to be contraindicated with western medicine , the exception being Vitamin K if you're taking blood thinners, but apart from that vitamins are pretty safe. I know a lot of people worry that they may 'over dose' on these but you'd have to go to extremes to do this. With vitamins C and D you can go way above the current recommended daily allowances. These were set in the 1930s-50s and are now being considered as out of date. For example vitamin D3 is recommended at 400iu (international units) a day, and now you can safely take 4/5000iu - that's 10 times the amount and it's not only completely safe but also encouraged in the northern hemisphere, living about the 35th parallel!
Alongside vitamins and minerals, sit Essential Fatty Acids. We can't create all of them from food so we have to take some in as supplments (especially in menopause - Evening Primrose/Starflower). Known as Omega 3,6,9 these drive so many body and brain functions it's unbelievable, you've been told to eat 2 portions of oily fish a week - this is so you get your Omega 3's. They come in nuts and seeds as well; so many 'aging symptoms' are a lack of EFAs.
For years I believed we had all that was in us to help us rebalance our health but my years in menopause research and understanding the depletion a body can go into led me to realise that mineral supplements are critical to helping a woman back into balance, and men/children. If you'd like to know more about relieving menopause symptoms have a look at my sister website cotswoldmenopause.co.uk
To summarise, we add vitamins in daily, we use them up, we wee them out, they come and go, we take what we need, they top up our nutrition. This works so well with Shiastu, as it's especially good for chronic conditions, as these are the depleted ones, I will often suggest what you can take to help support you if you come along for a treatment.
When you have chronic health conditions, like long term fatigue, gut health issues or organ imbalances then you need to go below the covers and this is when we step into the energetics of herbal medicine.
Herbal medicine has been around for millenia and is very effective, but also you may say 'well we didn't live very long before western medicine came along'.... and yes, that is true so let's break this down.
Herbs have an energetic effect on organs/blood/fluids within your body. From regulating temperature, sedating inflammatory responses, tonifying chronic/deficient issues, they work to rebalance the body in many different areas, and are combined to be more effective as they'll then work energetically on many parts of the body. A single herb may not do it, but a blend or a series of herbs will work to rebalance underlying issues - energetically. And this is where the importance of the word comes in. Working energetically (as Shiatsu does) is to rebalance issues within your body that are out of kilter whilst it stills in an early stage. This is when you feel unwell, or off colour but it isn't enough to seek out tests. In fact if you do get to the testing stage, your results maybe clear, and this is a good thing though frustrating. This is because a lot of western testing can't pick up ailments this early on. Cancer screening is working on this, but the cells still need to have evolved for the testing to pick up traces. However if a pestering heat issue had been rebalanced/resolved with herbs/ treatment at an earlier stage then cells may not have mutated; this is an example of how herbs work.
They warm up cold chronic issues, like Kidney Yang deficiency which leads to fatigue. They cleanse and rebalance a liver that maybe causing Liver Yang rising or supporting Liver Yin Blood deficiency. In catching imbalances early then major health issues may not arise. In this country we lost a lot of our everyday herbal medicine (around 400 years ago) and so life expectancy along with the toxicity of the environment that the average person lived in for hundreds of years (everything from mold to industrial pollution) did shorten life expectancy in this country, but this is not so in other parts of the world. To be healthy with herbal medicine also takes a mindset, which sadly many people do not have, they want an instance fix, or are just too impatient to wait out the subtle effects of rebalancing. Though not costly, there is a cost and so the poor in the past wouldn't have paid, so there are many reasons for a shortened life in a world that was once only herbal medicine.
For those that are proactive in their health, this is where Shiatsu fits beautifully with herbal medicine, receiving it regularly means you become more in touch with your body and you notice small differences and changes. Shiatsu will go a long way to resolving these imbalances in the first place, especially heat based ones as it dispels the heat issue (a blockage or buildup where there shouldn't be!), and regular shiatsu will support the chronic issues which take time to rebalance, and along with the help of mineral supplements will get you feeling back to normal again.
Herbs are the supplements that you need to check contraindications with western medicine, for example Turmeric is not allowed if you're on blood thinners and St Johns Wort also has a list to check. All herbal medicine should be checked against medication before use.
To summarise - herbs work energetically on rebalancing the organs and functions of your body. This could be strengthening your quality of blood, cleansing the liver, clearing phlegm from your lungs, strengthening your core constitution with your kidneys, relieving imflammation, easing menstrual cramps, the list goes on. I diagnose in Shiatsu treatments with the same understanding as Chinese Herbalist, firstly though I aim to rebalance you with the physical treatment. If you have a condition that requires herbal medicine (whether British or Chinese) I will let you know.
BUILDING BLOCKS OF THE BODY
We can then go deeper into the body to the very cellular level of health and this is where you may hear amino acids being mentioned, and to read they always start with L-, like L-Theanine, L-Glutathione and L-Lysine.
Amino acids are working at the very root of how our body works, they form proteins and are involved in the biochemical structure of hormones, enzymes and antibodies. There are 2 types: Essential (can't be synthesised within the body) and must be obtained from food and Non-Essential (can be synthesised within your body). A lot of auto immune disorders are down at the cellular level and therefore amino acids are used in conditions to do with rebuilding gut health, mitochondrial health, mental health (producing happy hormones) and brain functioning, and powerful cleansing of the liver and blood (Antioxidant), creating bile, plus aiding the actual healthy growth and cellular repair on the body. It's like rebuilding you from the molecular level up!
One of the most powerful amino acids is L-Glutathione, this is the one I take daily now. This is a power house - It's the strongest anti-oxidant you can produce in your body , cleansing your liver, producing stronger blood cells, cleaning out dead and toxic cells that are loitering around your lymph system and undermining your immunity. When 2 months after having covid I felt my energy levels hadn't come back up this is what I started taking, and it made a real difference. I now use a combination supplement with L Glutathione, a powerful bioflavonoid/antioxidant called Lonicera (berry - Japanese Honeysuckle for the horticulturalists), blended with a punch of Vitamin D and essence of plant minerals (more readily absorbed), it's taken me a few years of research and settle on a supplement that I feel is working at the very core of my health. Then I take Minerals and Herbs as I feel an imbalance appear.
To summarise, if you're completely serious about your health, vitality and longevity then it's supplements at the cellular level that you can turn too, the building blocks of your mind and body, just add in Shiatsu to keep your body supple , your energy flowing and your mind calm and you're set for great health for now and for many years to come.
Don't treat an ailment/ illness as it appears, prevent ill health, be proactive and enjoy all that Shiatsu can offer, and get free supplement support from me too when you book in for a Shiatsu for Health treatment.