By Shihan Mary Bolz
Master of Science Oriental Medicine
Master Martial Arts Instructor
For those who know Traditional Oriental Medicine (TOM) or Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) (TCM is more commonly known in the USA), they know that it has a rich tradition in the diagnosis and treatment of gynecological disorders. Less is referred to in the ancient classics about the prostate. This does not mean it has been totally ignored. It was very important in ancient times, as well as modern times, for the population to produce males; in fact, the male gender was the most hoped for by any pregnant woman because of the pressure in society to have sons. Preserving and enhancing male function has been intensely studied and practiced since ancient times in China, especially for the sake of the Emperor in power. So, we still have rich resources to glean from in treating menâ€™s sexual and prostatic diseases and malfunctions. Some of the problems which TCM can deal with successfully are: impotence, premature ejaculation, low sperm count, benign prostatic hypertrophy and prostatitis.
Acupuncture and TCM is based upon an understanding of the pathways of energy flow or vital force inside the body which circulates throughout the body along fourteen major channels, twelve of which are duplicated on the left and right sides of the body. The two other major channels are located in the center of the body, one in front, and the other in the back. There are also Eight Extraordinary Channels and miscellaneous divergent channels throughout the body. These channels are also referred to as meridians in English. There are channels which specifically affect the menâ€™s genital system, through which the treatment of specific conditions can be addressed with acupuncture and traditional Chinese herbal pharmacology.
The genitals are related primarily to the Liver and Kidney channels (two of the fourteen main channels) and to the Ren, Chong and Du Mai (three of the Eight Extraordinary Channels). The Liver Luo (connecting) channel loops around the genitalia. The Du Mai (this channel wraps around the waist) flows to the external genitalia, in both men and women, and to the pubic bone, and then ascends the abdomen on the same trajectory as the Ren channel. The Kidney main channel, connecting channel and muscle channels flow through the genitalia. The Liver main channel, connecting channel, divergent channel, and muscle channels wrap around the genitalia. Having an understanding of this, you can understand why pain can be felt in multiple areas from muscle, tendon, and joint injuries or chronic pain problems that originate in skeletal muscle. Many men and women feel pain in their testicles and vagina respectively when they have strained groin muscles and even low back pain and sciatic nerve pain.
We will not go into a course of TCM here, but knowing this, one can get some small hint of how interconnected and intertwined every tiny part of the human body is. It is all like a web that a spider weaves and once studied and tracked, it totally makes sense and is not as big a mystery as it may seem. However, like trying to track a spiderâ€™s web, one must be very diligent in taking the time to study. If the spider can do it, we can track it, but it does take study, tremendous study, and then experience. The Chinese have had several thousand years to unravel and track that â€œspiderâ€™s web,â€ that channel system of Qi (life force energy) flow in the human body. Two of the main causes of male genital problems according to TCM diagnostics are phlegm and blood stagnation. In the West, people think of phlegm only as a substance that lodges in the lungs and when they have a cold, the flu, or pneumonia, they recognize that as phlegm. But in reality, this phlegm can lodge anywhere in the human body, not just the lungs. When an excess of water with waste materials accumulates it is called phlegm in TCM. In layman terms, that is exactly what phlegm is: excess water with lots of unwanted material in it. It follows then, that this can occur anywhere in the body, not just the lungs or nose. When this excess water with unwanted material in it accumulates in the nose, it is called mucus.
In Western medicine, mucus is also recognized as being present in bowel movements and could occur in urine. If you see mucus and phlegm coming from the lungs, nose, bowels, or bladder; that means it is an excess which the body is trying to remove. It comes from everywhere in the body as a result of the cleansing mechanism. When more phlegm accumulates than can be excreted by the normal excretory passages of the body, it accumulates and gets stuck in the various body organs and tissues.
Some male genital manifestations of phlegm can be the following conditions: prostatic hypertrophy, Personaeâ€™s disease (a connective tissue disorder involving the growth of fibrous plaques in the soft tissue of the penis), priapism (a potentially harmful medical condition in which the erect penis does not return to its flaccid state), impotence and sweaty genitals.
Some general manifestations of phlegm in the body are: dull-looking spirit of the eyes, dark eye sockets, sallow complexion, swollen body, puffy face, obesity, greasy skin, sweaty external genitalia, axillae, or palms and soles, enlarged fingers and toes, thick thumbs, corners of the eyes having very slight cracks with exudates or growths. Some general manifestations of stasis of blood in the male genital system are: stabbing pain in the lumbar region, pain in the perineum, hypo gastric pain, pain in the testis and/or penis, impotence, premature ejaculation, priapism, prostatic hypertrophy, premature graying of hair, itching or pain in the public region, abnormal sperm, Personaeâ€™s disease, purplish-colored tongue, choppy or firm pulse.
From a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) perspective, the muscular tissue around the prostate, testic-seminal vesicles controls the outflow of urine from the bladder and into the urethra. The prostateâ€™s fibro muscular tissue is about 30% of its total tissue mass. This role is more properly that of an organ than that of a gland. The seminal vesicles produce their own seminal fluid which nourishes and gives volume to the sperm. The prostate adds its own prostatic fluid to this mixture. Almost all of the prostateâ€™s mass develops during puberty in response to hormonal changes associated with maturation. The prostate literally doubles in size during puberty. Testosterone is at its peak during adolescence. It decreases thereafter; and the rate of decrease sharpens by about age 50. During male menopause there is an increased ratio of estrogen to testosterone, just as in women passing through menopause, the ratio of testosterone to estrogen increases.
In benign (non-cancerous) prostatic hypertrophy (enlargement), the primary effect is a decrease in the ability to empty the bladder as the prostate enlarges and applies pressure to the urethra. Retained urine from this obstruction can at first interfere with sleep, as the sufferer wakes up in the middle of the night. At other times, pressure may make it impossible to properly control urine flow (urinary incontinence). Retained urine in the bladder can allow bacterial growth and infection. Urine may flow back up the tubules to the kidneys and cause infection there. In severe cases of retention, urine can even find its way into the blood with toxic consequences.
The clinical manifestations of benign prostatic hypertrophy are: sensation of not emptying the bladder completely, frequent urination, micturition (urinary stream) stopping and starting, difficult to postpone urination (incontinence), weak urinary stream, a need to push in order to urinate and nocturia (a need to urinate during the night). All of these conditions could even lead to prostatic cancer. The good news is, acupuncture and Chinese herbal therapy are very powerful in treating these conditions so that the symptoms can be alleviated and reduce the chances of cancer.
For treatment, see your Oriental medicine practitioner/doctor; leave the acupuncture and professional prescription of herbal therapy to them. Remember this medicine has a very long, successful history even to this day and is used daily by millions in Asia with or without Western medicine adjunctive treatment. For you, what can you do to help yourself if you have any of these conditions or if you want to prevent any of them? Diet and exercise, of course. As Hippocrates has said, â€œLet food by thy medicine and medicine thy food.â€
In general, a whole-grain-based diet is more balanced. This means that a range of 40-60% of the food consumed should be whole cereal grains such as brown rice, whole corn, whole wheat berries, whole oat groats, whole buckwheat groats, etc., 5% of the diet soup, 25-40% of the diet land vegetables, 3-4% of the diet sea vegetables, 5-10% of the diet beans, and 5% seeds, nuts, fish, (other animal food may be permissible, but not necessary for optimal health), seasonings and condiments. Food should be cooked, and very little raw food, as it is difficult to digest and creates dampness and excess phlegm inside the body. That is why you see many obese people eating lots of salads and they are still overweight. Salads are not the answer to a slim body. Consumption of animal food and sweets also create excessive phlegm and blood stasis inside the body. Foods especially to avoid when having prostate problems are dairy products (phlegm producing), alcohol (produces damp-heat stagnation in the prostate), refined salt, excess salt of any kind, shellfish, fried foods, excess fat from animal food and non-organic foods (pesticides are poisons and unwanted hormones are in many animal products).
Sea vegetables are really good at clearing up excessive phlegm everywhere in the body. Foods which are especially good at moving blood and energy through the prostate are: pumpkin seeds, anise, tangerines, cherries, figs, litchi, mangos, and of course sea veggies, including kombu and kelp, wakame, and nori. You can roast pumpkin seeds and boil them into a tea. You may also make rhubarb tea, winter melon, Jobâ€™s tears, and azuki bean teas. The quality of our health and lives depends on what we think is possible for us. Everything is possible. Seek it, it will likely be there. One medicine sorely overlooked in this country is TCM. Look into it, it can offer you a whole new view of possibilities for your health and life.