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Morning sickness affects well over half of all pregnant women, and often it is the first sign of pregnancy. Symptoms of morning sickness include nausea and vomiting, usually beginning around the sixth week of pregnancy and abating sometime after the twelfth week of pregnancy. Morning sickness is a normal reaction by the body to the increased hormone levels of pregnancy. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) can help alleviate the discomfort of morning sickness and encourage a healthier pregnancy.

When a woman becomes pregnant, the vital substances of her body, including the Essence, Blood and Kidney Qi, collect together to form the new life within her body. Often, this change causes an obstruction within the Penetrating Vessel (Chong Mai) meridian of the body, leading to rebellious Qi of the Stomach rising up and causing nausea. From this pathological sequence, several patterns of disharmony can result within the body, Liver Qi Stagnation attacking the Stomach causes severe nausea and Spleen and Stomach Qi Deficiency are the cause of mild nausea. Depending on which pattern the practitioner observes within the body will determine the course of treatment.

Chinese herbal medicine is one of the most popular forms of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) treatment used today. Several hundred herbs are part of the Chinese pharmacopeia and are used to create thousands of different formulas for the treatment of disease. However, when treating morning sickness, many of these formulas are difficult to use. This is not due to endangering the pregnancy, but primarily due to the fact that during morning sickness many of the herbal decoctions are too unpleasant to drink. That said, several Chinese herbs and formulas are contra-indicted during pregnancy; so always inform your practitioner if you are pregnant and only consume herbal medicine prescribed by an experienced practitioner.

Several Chinese herbs can be safely used during pregnancy, commonly used as food, widely available, and thankfully are more acceptable to the palate:

  • Ginger – Sheng Jiang – Fresh ginger is a common herb used in Chinese medicine to help digestion, though it functions of warming the stomach, and reducing the toxicity of other herbs. It is commonly used in cooking throughout the world and it can help alleviate symptoms of morning sickness. Ginger can be drunk as a tea or taken in concentrated capsule form. Readily available are ginger snap cookies or biscuits and ginger ale that contain ginger and may help with the nausea of morning sickness.
  • Cardamon Seed – Sha Ren – Cardamon is a very effective herb for treating morning sickness due to its function of calming the stomach, transforming phlegm, circulating the Qi, and stopping vomiting. Sha Ren is an ideal herb for morning sickness due to the additional function of “calming the fetus”, which means it is used for the prevention of miscarriage. Cardamon can also be ground and made into a tea, along with ginger, to alleviate nausea.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has been in practice for over 5,000 years and includes herbal medicine, acupuncture, acupressure, dietary therapy, massage, and other practices such as qigong. TCM is highly complex and based upon theories devised through observation of nature, the human body, and the cosmos. According to traditional Chinese medicine, all phenomena in the world are related by the opposing concepts of yin and yang. Yin and yang must be in a harmonious, dynamic balance to achieve optimal health. Yang refers to maleness, the bowels, heat, light, upward/outward movement, surface, and agitation. Yin refers to the opposite—femaleness, bones, organs, coldness, darkness, heaviness, downward/inward movement, and calmness. Both are necessary for life, yet the relationship between the two is in a constant state of flux.

The vital substances of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) physiology that affect the yin and yang include:

  • Blood: Blood underlies the nourishment of the functions of qi and is the physical manifestation of the woman.
  • Bodily fluids: This includes all fluids in the body. They moisten the skin, hair, tissues, joints, and organs, and allow for smooth movement of joints and other body parts. Yin fluids are thick, lining the internal organs and cushioning the brain and spinal cord. Yang fluids are thinner, such as sweat, saliva and urine.
  • Essence: This is the vital physical presence or spirit of the body and all physical elements that are responsible for determining physical growth and development.
  • Qi: This refers to energy that propels all bodily functions and is responsible for the movement, transformation, warmth, and restraint of the blood.

Acupuncture is considered the most useful form of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) treatment for nausea and morning sickness. Depending on your specific presentation of symptoms, the acupuncturist will select the most effective points to relieve nausea. Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine have a long history and success rate in the treatment of a variety of women’s disorders, including morning sickness.

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