Neil Bernardi-Wright, L.Ac., FABORM
Alana Ramey-Bernardi, L.Ac. 
 Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine

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Home Medicine Chest- 
ideas and tools every home should have on hand
    The Neti Pot
     How to use a Neti Pot- the neti pot is from Ayurvedic medicine, the traditional medicine of India.  It is very useful for cleansing the sinus passages of mucus and allergens; you can use it when you have sinus congestion or on a regular basis to help prevent problems from arising in that area, which for most of us is where the common cold takes root.  Neti pots are shaped like little teapots and are available from health food stores, drug stores, and online.  Some come with premeasured packets of salt (which requires that you buy more packets), others with instructions telling you how much salt to use.  Use lukewarm water, filtered/chlorine free if you have it, add the salt, place the spout of the pot into one nostril, lean over a sink and tilt your head down and to the side so the neti pot is going into the upper nostril.  The saline should go through one nostril and out the other.  If it comes out your mouth you need to tilt your head down more.         
     If you have a sinus infection- thicker yellow or green mucus- after you put in the salt add half that much baking soda.  The baking soda won't dissolve as easily as the salt so you will need to give it a stir. 
     During pollen season, if you are affected, we suggest using a neti pot two or three times a day to wash the allergens out of your sinuses.

Muscle Aches and Pains
      Ice vs. Heat:
     The Chinese perspective on the application of cold and heat to injured or painful muscles is similar to what some physical therapists and chiropractors advise.  With a fresh injury, cold is most likely to be the way to go, especially if there is distinct redness ("rubor"), swelling, bruising, or if the area is distinctly warm to the touch.  These are all signs that inflammation is present in the tissue and cold will help to alleviate that.  After 24-48 hours cold usually becomes less useful and heat should be used instead.  The inflammation has died down, blood vessels have been put back together, and reconstruction of the damaged tissue has begun.  To rebuild tissue your body needs a steady supply of blood; by using heat you are increasing blood flow to the affected area, and waste products will be removed better.  There are times when you may need to use cold for more than 48 hours but this is more the exception than the rule (knee replacement? do whatever the surgeon says!). 
     Using cold when it's not appropriate will slow the healing process, as will applying heat too soon. We encourage you to listen to your body- when applying either cold or heat take some time to see how it feels.  If it's not the right choice your body will generally let you know.  From the Chinese medical perspective regular use of cold on the same part of your body sets you up for problems in the future.  We are warm blooded, we're not designed to be cooled down on a regular basis; cold slows the flow of blood and other fluids (part of why it's useful for inflammation) but constantly doing this promotes congestionof blood and fluid and this can lead to arthritis.
     In a nutshell cold for 24-48 hours then gentle heat.  Cold or heat for 15-20 minutes at a time, 2-4 times a day.  Place a thin towel or something between your skin and the cold/heat pack to avoid damaging the skin.  Every year people freeze or burn themselves because they weren't careful.  Our personal preference is to use a microwavable hot pack rather than electric but use what you have access to.  It is preferable to use a dry heat rather than damp heat as cold will follow the damp right into your body once you remove the heat.
     Our nickname for these is "Bengay on a bandage".  We stock them as do many local health food stores, and we've seen them at drug stores and even Costco.  Basically it's a bunch of injury recovery herbs that have been glommed onto a bandage.  You peel off the backing and stick it wherever the pain is.  If you have a history of allergic reactions to bandage adhesives- you get a rash when you put on a bandaid- you probably want to pass on the use of plasters.  All plasters are very aromatic so most people use them at night while in bed.  After 8-10 hours they can be removed.  Some redness around the area is OK but it shouldn't be itchy or burning. 
     Plasters are generally used for chronic pain, or pain from overuse or sprain/strain.  They're fine for when you've thrown out your back or have a crick in your neck.  They're not a substitute for a treatment or medical care but can help to take the edge off until you can get proper treatment.  Most aren't for fresh injury with swelling and rubor.
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