Relief for parents of babies with colic

I have a several friends who recently had a new member join their family. Even with the complete change in sleep patterns, normal amounts of crying, tons of feeding and lots of diaper changing, things are going well for my friends. It's certain tougher for parents of a baby with colic.

Did you know that acupuncture can actually calm babies with colic? It’s true.  A new study shows that acupuncture twice a week for only 2 weeks can significantly help babies with colic.  Meaning babies who cry for more than 3 hours straight for at least 3 days a week.  A little sweet relief for their parents.

Here’s all the details.  Acupuncture for infants is different than adults in that the thinnest needles are used and needles are either immediately removed or only left in for up to 30 seconds.  The 147 babies in the study were between 2-8 weeks old and if they were sleeping during the session, rarely did they wake up. Of the 388 session that occurred, 200 times there wasn’t a peep from the little one and only 15 times did the little ones cry for more than a minute! In the second week of the study many of the acupuncture babies no longer meet the criteria of being colic. The difference in crying for the 2 acupuncture groups continued for 6 weeks after the acupuncture sessions too suggesting that acupuncture effects are lasting.

Acupuncture needles can bring peace to a baby with colic.

Acupuncture needles can bring peace to a baby with colic.

Dr. Erica Sibinga, chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Integrative Medicine and associate professor of pediatrics at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, says the study was rigorously designed and well conducted, “I believe this treatment sounds extremely promising for a difficult clinical problem,” she says, “and given the exemplary safety profile of the acupuncture treatments, I will be happy to recommend to patients.” 

It is important to remember that crying in babies is normal, and so the goal of the study was for the babies with colic to return to a normal amount of crying. So, if you know of any new parents who have a baby struggling with colic, let them know that acupuncture can help and recommend finding a licensed acupuncturist who specializes in pediatrics.  Most new parents are open to alternatives, especially when there are not many recommendations for colic other than eliminating cow’s milk from the child’s diet or mom’s if breast feeding, but that is a topic for another day.

Even if a new baby doesn’t have colic, it is also very important to remember that there are so many changes that occur when a new little one joins the family. Changes are physical, mental and emotional and there are changes with every relationship. If you or someone you know could use a little extra support during the postpartum period and beyond, please check out the Madison Postpartum Collective

Five Ways Star Wars Teaches Acupuncture Theory

Written by Albert W. Stern, posted with permission. 

George Lucas, the creator of Star Wars, was greatly influenced by Eastern Philosophy and culture. Many basic tenets of acupuncture can be seen in these movies. Each item below is a saying from a core acupuncture text paired with a famous statement from the Star Wars movies.

1. "Where Qi Gathers There is Life"

Obi-wan Kenobi states that the Force is the energy of all living things. Like the Force, in traditional acupuncture it is stated, "where Qi gathers there is life." This fact is true in our bodies, on our planet, and in a galaxy far, far way. 

2. “Yin and Yang Struggle to Control Each Other.”

Health depends on a balance of Yin (the cool, passive aspects) and Yang (the warm, active aspects) of the body. One cannot exist without the other. Just like the Light and Dark sides of the Force - the two are always struggling against each other. Yoda states, "There is always two. No more. No Less."

3.  "Mental Irritation Leads to Dysfunction of the Free Flow of Qi"

Yoda states, "Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering." In acupuncture anger, frustration, and fear damage the flow of Qi. The damaged flow of Qi creates poor health and spirit. Episodes 1-3 of Star Wars, show us Anakin Skywalker succumbing rather dramatically to this very fact. 

4. "Quieting the Spirit Nourishes the Qi."

Yoda and Obi-wan Kenobi teach Luke the importance of a still and quiet mind. Throughout acupuncture, it is stated that a quiet spirit nourishes the Qi.

5.  "Essence is the Root of the Body"

At the heart of both the Force and acupuncture is the notion that we are all more than our physical bodies. Yoda states we are "Luminous Beings". Acupuncture states at our root is "Essence."

Keep an eye out for more acupuncture lessons in the new movie, The Force Awakens! 

May the Force be with you! 
Albert W. Stern


Please consider following Albert's Facebook Page or signing up for his newsletter.

Sources: All images and quotes are trademarked by Lucas film Ltd. Acupuncture quotes are derived from Chinese Acupuncture and Moxibustion Revised Edition and Statements of Fact in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Article was originally posted on Albert W. Stern's Blog

The Power of a Smile

When we think of the holiday season, we know that we’re supposed to conjure up thoughts that will put a smile on our face.  Unfortunately, the holidays often also bring about stress.  Stress about finding the perfect gift, spending extended time with family or possibly even the feeling of loneliness.  One excellent gift we can give others and ourselves is a simple smile. 

When we feel joy and smile, a signal in our brain tells us it’s happy time. Release the stress-reducing hormone dopamine!  The dopamine allows us to physically feel good giving us another reason to smile.  And continues the upward spiral. 

But what if we’re just faking it.  You know the smile, the one that uses only the muscles at the corner of our mouth, and ignores the muscles around our eye that lend to the sparkle? Good news, that action also releases dopamine!  Also, when someone sees your beautiful smiling face, whether its real or fake, it releases dopamine in their brain too. 

The decrease in stress hormones from smiling can be equivalent to getting more sleep, the endorphin rush from exercising or eating chocolate.  And yet, it doesn’t cost money or time to smile. So this holiday season, put on your best accessory and smile.  

If you want a little extra help de-stressing this season, consider coming in for an acupuncture treatment.  Give yourself a gift of health and happiness. 

Happy Holidays!

Simple Remedies for the Common Cold

As we head into the winter months, is your immune system ready to take on the “common cold”? With over 200 types of viruses and some bacteria that are responsible for upper respiratory tract infections, the average adult gets hit with a cold two to four times a year. Kids have twice as much chance of getting sick.  And yet, most over the counter meds are not recommended for kids under 6 years old. So, what can you do to arm you and your kids’ immune systems to fight back? Acupuncture and herbs can help the body recover from illness in a timely manner and often help avoid antibiotics.  Here are a few tips and tools to have on hand this cold season that you can do at home bringing relief to you and your whole family.


1. Acupressure Massage – Chinese medical massage can be quite effective in pediatrics.  Symptoms change rapidly in kids, which means they don’t require strong treatment.  The following massage techniques can be done 3 times a day. 

2. Honey* with sage or thyme – 

A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down – well in this case, a spoonful of honey is the medicine. Both the American Academy of Pediatrics and FDA do not recommend children under the age of 6 take over the counter cough and cold medicines because they pose a risk and don’t work. Instead 2012 study showed that taking 2 teaspoons of honey 30 minutes before bed can soothe sore throat and cough and allow the whole household to sleep better.


½ cup fresh or ¼ cup dried thyme or sage
8 ounces honey

Gently heat honey in a saucepan.  Add either the thyme or sage and stir for about 10 minutes. Transfer the honey to a canning jar, seal and put in a warm place for 2-3 weeks.  Then reheat the honey in a saucepan until it is liquid. Pour the honey through a fine mesh strainer into a clean jar.  If you store the honey in a cool, dark cabinet it will be good for at least a year.

* Children under the age of 1 should not have honey due to the risk of botulism.  Consider substituting maple syrup for the honey.


3. Ginger tea – If you’ve taken a chill, ginger is a great herb that will do more than just warm you from the inside out.  Ginger’s antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties will help combat viruses, shrink nasal swelling and will soothe a sore throat. In Chinese medicine, the heat of ginger will push the pathogen out.


1 inch of fresh ginger root or ½ teaspoon of dried ginger
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 ½ cup of water

Gently boil water and ginger in a covered saucepan for 15-20 minutes. Strain, add honey and lemon juice. Sip and start to feel some relief for a sore throat or cough!


4. Humidifier / essential oils –Colds and flus tend to thrive in the low humidity of fall and winter months.  This is a time when the air is naturally drier compounded by central heat drying out the air even more. Since our nasal passages are the first line of defense against viruses, it is important to keep a good level of moisture in our mucous membranes. Using a humidifier is an easy way to ensure moisture level in the air at home.  Remember it is important to clean your humidifier with hydrogen peroxide every few days to prevent the growth of mold and bacteria and then adding that to the air you breathe!  Add a little aromatherapy with lavender, peppermint, or eucalyptus.


5. Diet – What you eat is the foundation of your immune system. A diet with probiotics and fermented foods help your gut bacteria to have healthy balance of good bacteria which will support strong immune function. If you or your kids start to feel sick, decrease the amount of sugar and white flour foods that you consume.  These foods can slow down the immune system and make it harder for the body to deal with congestion. Often the number of respiratory track infections increase after Halloween as we head into the holidays also known as "candy season".  Sugar can be hard to avoid during this time of the year, but in my experience it is essential to set limits. 

Avoiding germs is not possible and will strengthen children's immune system.  By using the above tricks, you can help to relieve symptoms and help to kick the pathogen out faster.   If you have any questions please feel free to email me at, call 608-205-8596 

Resources: Healthy at Home by Dr. Tieraona Low Dog, Kids Love Acupuncture, Chinese Pediatric Massage Therapy by Fan Ya-Li

Five Simple Ways To Protect Against the Flu

We are fully into the flu season and there have been some nasty things going around town this year.  There are several ways to naturally help protect against illness. Advice you already instinctively know: eat a proper diet, take your vitamins and get lots of sleep... and get acupuncture.  But what specifically does proper diet look like and which vitamins help?

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Purple Aster - Zi Wan

It is officially Autumn and Purple Aster flowers are in bloom everywhere!  Ride down any bike path or walk along just about any side walk in Madison and you'll notice beautiful purple flowers.  The roots are part of traditional Chinese medicine's herbal repertoire.  

Zi Wan - madison herbalist

Purple Aster roots, called Zi Wan, treat a variety of different coughs. The plant is draught resistant and happens to do well with dry coughs.  Research studies also showed that Zi Wan has an expectorant effect (meaning it helps you get stuck sputum out) that can last up to 4 hours.  Zi Wan is also antibiotic.  Nature is providing us with just what we need in order to combat Fall allergies.  So, if you're one of many who suffer from Fall allergies, instead of taking over the counter synthetic medication, consider using a gift from nature and visit your neighborhood acupuncturist. 

What is Acupuncture Like?

“Ooh, what’s it like?” This is the question I often get once someone finds out that I’m an acupuncturist. Their question is full of curiosity as well as hesitation. Many people find acupuncture mysterious, foreign and often assume untrue things about it. Today I thought I would shed light onto what an acupuncture treatment is really like, and why people who are “needle phobic” even end up so relaxed during the treatment that they take a nap.

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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder + Acupuncture

Understanding ADHD in Children – Acupuncture offers a natural alternative to medication

It is the time of year to start thinking about going “back to school.” Those three words can conjure up long lists of supplies that need to be purchased for kids. But more important than supplies, what is on your list of things to ensure your child is healthy and gets the most out of the school year?

In 2011, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) surveyed Wisconsin parents and found that 1 in 10 children had been diagnosed by a health care provider with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). That ranked Wisconsin 15th highest in the nation for prevalence of ADHD diagnosis in kids.

Acupuncture + ADHD

ADHD is characterized by the inability to sit still, focus, pay attention and finish a task, making school quite a challenge. Often, ADHD is treated with methylphenidate drugs such as Ritalin, which are psychostimulants. The most common side effects of these medications include decreased appetite, stomach pain, headaches and sleeplessness. In some cases, medication is the best avenue for children; in other cases, there might be more natural options.

Is ADHD really to blame?

Dr. Andrew Weil recommends that parents first rule out other reasons that could lead to children failing to follow through or keep on task. For example, a child may be conveying a hearing or visual problem, allergies, or depression. It is also important to rule out a learning disability or possible boredom in a talented child.

Diet also plays a role in a child’s behavior. A Cornell University study found that sensitivity to dairy, wheat, corn, yeast, soy, citrus, eggs, chocolate, peanuts, artificial food coloring and preservatives can manifest with symptoms similar to ADHD. Other dietary considerations include iron, zinc and magnesium: Having a deficiency in these minerals has been shown to exacerbate ADHD symptoms. On the other hand, regular exercise can decrease symptoms of ADHD. Exercise on a regular basis raises norepinephrine and dopamine; these induce a naturally calming effect and increase one’s ability to focus.

How acupuncture can help

If your child has ADHD and you’re looking for a natural treatment to support a healthy diet and exercise regimen, consider acupuncture.

When a child is able to touch and see how thin an acupuncture needle is, any fear is often replaced with curiosity. Depending on the child’s age, children can benefit from acupuncture point stimulation by either needle insertion or with a needleless technique of rubbing and tapping various points.

One way in which acupuncture helps treat ADHD symptoms is by releasing endorphins and dopamine, similar to regular exercise and appropriate mineral levels. Acupuncture also boosts children’s immune, digestive and respiratory systems.

Whether your child has been diagnosed with ADHD, is a little hyperactive, frequently catches colds and the flu, or has a sensitive digestive system, consider using acupuncture as a safe, drug-free way to get ready for the big school year ahead. 


This post was originally published by Nature's Pathways. 


Acupuncture Wins the Yellow Jersey

Posted by Kathryn Coppola

This year's Tour de France winner, Vincenzo Nibali, was caught with needles.  Not just any kind of needles, but the kind of needles I work with every day – acupuncture needles.    

Joshua Robinson at The Wall Street Journal reported that, 

Throughout the Tour, De Smedt has visited with all of the Astana riders twice a day—once before stages in the soigneur’s room at the back of the team bus and once at night in the team hotel. Working quickly and carefully, he uses six to 10 needles about an inch long at key points along the riders’ legs, feet, hands and even their heads, he said, “to promote recovery and relaxation of the muscles.”
Pro cyclists use acupuncture

Acupuncture speeds up recovery by improving circulation of blood, oxygen and nutrients to the muscles and removed any lactic acid build up.  Nibali and his fellow Astana riders were able to ride each day of tour most likely with a bit less stiffness, achy-ness and swelling. " Its those little extra details that can help us" Nibali told a Belgian television station. 

So what about you?  If acupuncture is the difference between winning the yellow jersey and not, how can it help you achieve your greatest dreams and aspirations?  

Acupuncture does so much more than just work to loosen up muscles and fascia or improve blood and oxygen supply to your muscles.  Acupuncture can help you to better handle stress and anxiety, improve memory and have clearer thinking. 

Go after your "yellow jersey" what ever it happens to be.  When you need those "little extra details" consider turning to acupuncture for the boost. 

Watermelon - summer's best gift!

Summer + Watermelon

The picture of summer for me is being active outside, seeing all the American flags hung with pride, and catching glimpses of fireflies. The energy that comes with summer’s long days is contagious and can seem endless. So, what is the best way to enjoy summer without over exerting ourselves? Watermelon — one of Chinese medical theory’s best-tasting herbs.

Watermelon is nature’s greatest summer gift. Not only is watermelon fun and messy to eat, but the health benefits are also pretty spectacular.

watermelon health

Summer’s energy drink

If you’re active in the hot summer months, you’ve most likely enjoyed a refreshing electrolyte drink to replenish all the salts you’ve depleted through sweating. Consider a pure, natural drink: blend up some watermelon and add juice from a lime! Watermelon is high in potassium, which helps to maintain proper electrolyte and acid-base balance. The potassium also helps with muscle and nerve function to help prevent cramping. When your muscles start to cramp up from exercising this summer, it is often a good reminder to increase your electrolytes and potassium intake.

Nature’s coolant

Despite being 90 percent water, watermelon is much more efficient at cooling down your core temperature than just drinking ice water. Not everyone loves the heat and humidity of summertime. Other than being uncomfortable and sweaty, if your core is warmer than ideal, it can manifest as frustration, irritability and even headaches. Bringing watermelon to the neighborhood barbecue might be more of a gift than you originally imagined.

Improved cardiovascular function

Everyone is naturally more active in the summertime. That means your heart works more to make sure muscles have the blood and oxygen they need to function properly. Watermelon is high in both citrulline and arginine; both of these amino acids help to maintain blood flow, healthy arteries and overall function of the cardiovascular system.

Staying young

Watermelon is an excellent source of lycopene, a powerful antioxidant. In general terms, antioxidants slow down the aging process. The lycopene of watermelon does this by helping to slow the breakdown of muscles and all body tissues. It boosts the immune system and fights heart disease.

This summer, serve up nature’s greatest summer gift, watermelon. As the juice drips down the side of your face, be sure to smile and remember that the sweetness in your mouth is helping you stay youthful by providing the electrolytes for your muscles, boosting your cardiovascular function and helping you be more active, allowing you to keep your cool — both literally and figuratively. Happy summer! 

This post was originally published by Nature's Pathways

Personalized Medicine

There has been a lot of talk about where the future of medicine is going. Someday soon, medical doctors will be able to test your genes to determine what drug could provide you relief. While genes can help predict your risk of certain conditions, many other factors play a role. Epigenetics is a field of research that has found that your genes do not lock in the type of health you will experience, but that the type of life and environment in which you live will dictate which genes are turned on or off. Herbal formulas account for our genetic makeup, lifestyle, environment and emotional well-being to provide truly individualized medication.

Health care and herbal medications being tailored specifically to you, the patient, has been around for a long time. Think about when you take honey to help deal with local allergens or use evening primrose to find relief from night sweats. Holistic medicine does the same thing, just on a larger scale.

Herbal Medicine

Trained herbalists are taught to look holistically to understand that everything going on with a person’s health and life is a piece of the puzzle that makes them a beautiful individual. We can and should honor that uniqueness through our health care.

Traditional herbal formulas can be constructed anywhere from two to 20 herbs. Depending on an individual’s constitutional makeup and current condition, herbs can be added, subtracted, increased or decreased in order to find the best combination. If only a portion of your symptoms are relieved, or there are some side effects, again the formulation can be tweaked or modified so that it is the best fit for you.

The beauty of herbal formulas is the fact that each combination of herbs can be tweaked to exactly how a condition is manifesting for you. Ted Kaptchuk, professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, provides a great example of how a standardized application of Western medicine doesn’t always fix the problem. For example, there are two patients diagnosed with peptic ulcers. The first patient has pain when pressure is applied, as well as after eating. He has a robust constitution, reddish complexion, is constipated and has dark yellow urine. His symptoms are relieved with cold compresses. The second patient is frail and reports that pressure, massage, heat and eating can alleviate some of his pain. He wants to sleep a lot and has frequent clear urination. Peptic ulcers are often treated with the same medication, but this is a great example of when the same drug might not be best suited for both parties.

The Wall Street Journal recently ran an article highlighting one of America’s top hospitals, Cleveland Clinic, which now offers herbal treatment for patients where Western medications haven’t provided relief. Leslie Mendoza Temple, medical director at NorthShore’s Integrative Medicine Program, said they are receiving more and more physician referrals for herbal formulas. When the general go-to drug doesn’t work for everyone, it is a perfect opportunity to see the power of tailored herbal formulas.

Individualized medication has been around for a long time. The good news is that it is slowly being incorporated into our current medical system. If you are interested in learning more about how an herbal formula can be tailored to help you lead a healthier, happier life, please consult a trained herbalist. Herbalists can be trained in Western herbs, traditional Chinese herbal medicine and/or Ayurvedic.

Chinese Herbal Medicine

As an acupuncturist, I have seen firsthand the benefits in my patients who have incorporated herbal formulas into their health plan. While I believe that a holistic approach is a key for a healthy life, I am not advocating that you stop taking prescription drugs without consulting your doctor. I believe Western pharmaceuticals are crucial in many instances and have been life-saving for thousands. 

Written by Kathryn Coppola
Originally published in Nature's Pathways. 

Are you a doctor?

Are you a Doctor?
An open letter the medical community by Stephen Thompsen, LAc

Throughout my career, I have been asked over 500 times if I was a medical doctor. And, for many years, I proudly said, ‘no, I am an Acupuncturist; how can I help you [eyebrow raised]?’ As though I was some kind of super doctor; a stronger, better, faster version of a medical practitioner. Over time, though, I started to change my answer as I began to understand the significance of what they were asking me. Those potential patients weren’t asking me if I was necessarily an allopathic medical doctor, but was I a practitioner of health qualified to practice within the medical field. Did you have to go to medical school? Do you have to have a degree before going into TCM school? Are you licensed or governed by professional board? All of these questions and many more are/were asked of me almost on a daily basis by people unfamiliar with TCM which number in the hundreds every week. Yet, these questions are not asked of a Doctor of chiropractic, physical therapy, dentistry, or pharmacy, though our scope of practice is larger, our treatment of disease more refined and inclusive.

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Spring Allergies

It’s the end of March, which means seasonal allergies are right around the corner right? So maybe that’s wishful thinking here in Madison this year.  However, it really is the time to start protecting yourself against seasonal allergies, especially if you are one of the 35 million Americans who suffer from sneezing, wheezing, congestion, runny nose and itchy watery eyes due to seasonal allergies. 

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Benefit to Athletes

There are many aspects to being a good athlete.  Sticking to a training schedule, carefully planning your diet, and consciously planning time to rest and recover play a major role in your performance.  However, an often overlooked element, and one that can have a dramatic effect on your next event is actively listening to what your body needs and providing for it accordingly.

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