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Shingles? Try Acupuncture & Herbs For Quick Relief!

By: Rachel Gorman, MAOM, Lic.Ac.

Have you seen the shingles vaccine commercial? As animated nerve cells light up across the screen in what you have to assume is terrible pain, an ominous-voiced narrator says “If you’ve ever had chickenpox, the shingles virus is already inside you.” Every time I see it, I shudder. Hopefully you haven’t had shingles, and if you have then I’m sorry you had to go through it! But most people know at least one person who’s had shingles and have heard how painful the rash is. At best, the vaccine only reduces the risk of getting shingles by 50%, and it’s only available to certain demographics (for instance, I was told I was too young to get it). But did you know that acupuncture and herbal medicine is amazingly effective at treating shingles? It’s true!

First, a quick lesson on shingles: Shingles is the common name of the virus Herpes Zoster. It is due to a reactivation of the Varicella Zoster virus, aka chicken pox. Most people have had chicken pox and as that commercial described, if you’ve ever had chicken pox then the shingles virus is already inside you. After your body fights off chicken pox, the virus lays dormant in your nerve cells. When your body’s immune system is weak (often due to periods of high stress, and/or poor eating habits, and/or other illnesses), the virus can take advantage and shows up as shingles. It is usually felt as tingling pain 1-5 days before the rash appears. The rash itself is usually unilateral, affecting one side of a person’s flanks or trunk, although occasionally it will affect the head or other areas of the body. It can range from mild to severe, and generally lasts around 3-5 weeks, even with antiviral medications. Most doctors only prescribe the antivirals if you catch it within the first few days, as after that window they are considered ineffective. Some people are left with nerve pain that lasts months or even years after the rash disappears.

I can serve as a case study for you—I’ve actually had shingles twice. Both instances followed periods of extended stress (the more recent was during my acupuncture licensing board exams). The first time I had shingles was before I had ever experienced acupuncture. The second, I was about to graduate after studying and practicing TCM for 3.5 years. There’s some amazing differences in my two experiences:

  • First Experience: It hurt for a few days before I got the rash, like something was biting me, then the rash popped up. I saw my doctor after a week and was given something to apply topically for the pain. I had the rash on my right rib cage area for the next 5 weeks. Despite being a “mild” case, it was extremely painful.
  • Second Experience: I felt the burning/biting sensation, but ignored it because I was studying, and because from time to time since the first shingles experience I would feel the “nerve-y” sensation on my ribs where the rash had been so I assumed it was just that. After a day though, the rash popped up. I skipped the doctor and opted instead to load up on a traditional herbal formula and a particular supplement I will discuss below, did acupuncture every other day, and changed my diet. The result? Within 4 days the rash was no longer painful, and within 10 days it was gone entirely.

That’s a pretty significant difference! In TCM, rashes like shingles (burning, stinging, painful, red, raised, blistered, etc.) fall into the category of Damp Heat Invasion. Interestingly, shingles almost always affects one of the two Shao Yang meridians along the sides of the body. So the TCM diagnosis is (almost always) Damp Heat Invading the Shao Yang Channels. The treatment principle for acupuncture, herbs and diet then becomes to Clear Heat, Drain Dampness, and Regulate the Channels. In addition to acupuncture and herbal medicine, I have added two western/biomedical elements to what I call my Shingles Treatment Protocol. The first is the supplement L-Lysine, and the second is dietary changes to increase lysine in the body. Lysine is an amino acid and it has a partner, Arginine. Lysine inhibits the replication of the virus, while arginine promotes it. So loading up on lysine and lysine-rich foods, while minimizing arginine-rich foods, can also make an enormous difference in your experience with shingles. Not only have I learned this myself through my own experience, but I’ve been able to treat several patients with shingles who saw their symptoms resolve within 1-2 weeks.


The Shingles Treatment Protocol

  • Acupuncture as often as possible, as early as possible. The earlier we catch it, the quicker it will clear up. Twice a week or more is ideal.
  • Herbal medicine. There is a particular traditional formula that is very effective at treating this type of rash. Again, the earlier you start it, the better. You take it in tablet or powder form until symptoms resolve.
  • L-Lysine. Available in CVS, Target, Whole Foods, Price Chopper, etc. The standard dose for Lysine is 1-3 grams daily. However, in the midst of a shingles outbreak, I suggest taking 9-15 grams daily while the rash is painful. As the rash fades, you can taper the dose back down until it is entirely gone, then discontinue use.
  • Diet: the balance of Lysine and Arginine in the body is critical in the treatment of shingles.
    • Until symptoms totally resolve, it is important to completely avoid: chocolate, coffee, nuts, alcohol, spicy food, beans/lentils/peas.
    • Until symptoms totally resolve, you can add these into your diet (this is very specific to shingles and generally not foods we advise patients to consume on a regular basis J): dairy, meat, fish.
  • Topicals: Apply directly to the affected area.
    • Yin-Care. Can be ordered on Can be used diluted or full-strength (I recommend full strength). Apply to cotton swab and dab onto rash. Can be used several times/day.
    • Anti-Viral Cream from Aroma Medica, sold here.


And there you have it! I sincerely hope no one reading this EVER has shingles, but if you or a loved on do end up with shingles, come in for treatment as soon as possible to minimize the duration and severity of the virus.



Mindfulness Meditation Series

6 Week Series, With Lisa Lopes

By now, most of us have at least heard of some benefits of meditation, such as; improved memory and attention, reduced stress and anxiety, increased energy, awareness, and compassion, boosted immunity to illnesses. In fact, a growing body of research suggests that we can’t afford not to meditate – for our own health and sanity.


Let 2017 be the year that you commit to a regular meditation practice, or even take your current practice to the next level. Join Lisa Lopes in a series of mindfulness-based guided meditations. The emphasis of a mindfulness practice is awareness without judgement. Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD, professor emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, designed the most popular form of mindfulness meditation in the United States called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). In addition to the benefits of meditation listed above, MBSR was originally designed to help patients with chronic pain manage their pain symptoms. This workshop series will incorporate MBSR, Kundalini (with an emphasis on chakra energy), and Buddhist (emphasis on breath) meditation practices.

Each class will include a guided meditation and either a pranayama (controlled breathing) or a mantra (chanting) exercise.

In addition to being an Ayurvedic consultant, Lisa completed a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction training and as a regular meditator, is passionate about bringing this incredible technique into the lives of all who are interested.

WHEN: Series begins on Wednesday, February 1st, 2017, from 7:00PM – 8:00PM, and runs for 6 consecutive weeks.


Sign-up for one or all six classes.


COST: $25 per class or $120 if you sign-up for all 6 classes in advance.  Preregistration is recommended due to space limitations.

Register Here

Helping Your Teen Manage Stress

By Rachel Gorman & Eileen DePaula

Stress is linked to so many health concerns, and I’m sure we’ve all read plenty of articles and studies about it at this point. We are seeing more and more teens with conditions symptomatic of a chronically too-high stress level: anxiety/depression, fatigue, insomnia, poor concentration, digestive problems, migraines and headaches, high blood pressure, and even autoimmune illnesses. I suppose it’s not surprising, considering most teens are juggling school full time, sports teams or exercise classes, music/art/extracurricular lessons, tutoring, part time jobs, applying to colleges…not to mention a social life. So how can we help teens manage their stress levels better? There’s good news and bad news.

The bad news: teens in general are overscheduled and often exhausted, and a lot of this is just the fact of being this age. College applications, school projects and homework all have concrete deadlines. Jobs, teams and other extracurricular activities have their own requirements and schedules. Social pressures are often at an all-time high…This is the part we have to accept.

The good news: there ARE things that can help manage stress levels, and we can help. Here’s some of the main things I recommend to teen patients or parents of teens:

  1. Make a house rule that no cell phones go to the bedroom during sleeping hours.  Many kids are staying up way too late to try to keep up with social posts, and are sleeping with them in their bed.  They are being alerted to posts and texts through the night which is very disruptive of their sleep.  Setting this rule for all members of the house will help teach them to self moderate and develop good habits.
  2. Maintain a healthy, balanced diet. The less junk-food, and the more whole, unprocessed foods your family consumes, the better. Especially when stressed, it’s important to supply your body with the nutrition it needs to function properly. Two other common teen-diet issues I see are skipping breakfast, consuming too much caffeine, and filling up on carbs at the expense of more nutritionally dense foods. There’s lots of ideas online for prepping breakfast the night before (overnight oats, egg-muffins, etc.) to make it quick and easy in the morning.  See our recipe section for more.
  3. Get outdoors! Studies show that even a short time spent in nature can have amazing effects on the nervous and immune systems. The Japanese practice of “Forest Bathing” has been shown to have amazing benefits for health and immunity. This can be as low key as walking the dog or as hard core as snowboarding. I usually recommend some kind of walking/hiking in nature for an hour at least once a week, or for 15-30 minutes a day.
  4. Similarly, exercise is important to maintaining health and managing stress levels. That said, many teens are overcommitted with sports teams, so balancing too-much vs too-little can be tricky. See my recommendation above and shoot for at least 20 minutes of movement (walking, sports, yoga, other exercise) each day.
  5. Breathe, Meditate, Stretch. Again, we know the science here- breathing and meditation practices absolutely help manage stress levels and lower anxiety. There’s some great videos/tutorials on youtube. HeadSpace is an app I often recommend that offers guided meditations ranging from 2-60 minutes and is super easy to use.
  6. Keep a regular schedule. To the extent possible, help your teen pick a time that works to go to bed and wake up, and keep it as consistent as possible.  The importance of sleep can not be overstated.  Our teens are all chronically sleep deprived these days, with little to balance the activity levels.  Being tired severely impacts our coping mechanisms in a negative way by weakening our defenses.
  7. Schedule some down-time. It’s equally important to rest, relax and restore as it is to exercise. Especially with busy schedules, this may be time that needs to actually be scheduled in the calendar. Schedule this “do-nothing” time and leave it blank, only deciding in the moment what (if any) activity to pursue.
  8. Acupuncture and/or herbal medicine-both or either of these can help balance and regulate the various systems in the body, and most people leave a treatment feeling deeply relaxed. Acupuncture and herbs can also treat the symptoms of an over-stressed body (anxiety, headaches, digestive issues, pain, exhaustion, stress,etc.).

And remember, we are here to help if you need us!

Guilt Free Blueberry Muffins

This recipe has been modified to be both delicious and diabetic friendly.  The almond flour is low carb, and the sweeteners have a zero glycemic index.  These are wonderful!

Dry Ingredients:

  • 2 Cups almond flour
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Wet Ingredients:

  • 2 Large eggs
  • 1 Tablespoon ginger paste fresh grated ginger (or from a jar)
  • ¼ cup melted ghee (clarified butter), coconut oil, or grass fed-butter
  • 3 Tablespoons Erythritol* (or 1/4 cup of honey if your not worried about high blood sugar)
  • 12 drops Stevia liquid
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract

Stir in last:

  • 1 ¼ cup blueberries



  1. Preheat the oven to 350 and line a muffin pan with paper baking cups (We like the mini muffin cups).
  2. Whisk dry ingredients together in a large bowl, making sure you break up any large clumps.
  3. In another bowl, whisk the wet ingredients being sure to not have the oil/butter/ghee too hot as it will “cook” the eggs.
  4. Gently combine the wet into the dry. Once mixed, fold in the blueberries last.
  5. Divide batter into the muffin molds.
  6. Optional: sprinkle pumpkin seeds and a couple of blueberries on top.
  7. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean from the center of a muffin.


*Erythritol is a sugar alcohol, similar to xylitol and sorbitol. The main difference is that it is processed and absorbed in the small intestine, so there are no adverse digestive symptoms associated with it. It is also granulated like sugar. It has a zero glycemic index and doesn’t cause an insulin spike. It can be substituted for sugar in most recipes, however, you will want to use less than what is called for.

NOTE: if you don’t have blood sugar issues, you can replace the Erythritol with 1/4 cup of honey.