Sunday, August 30, 2009

BLCU Classes

We took an intensive class in Chinese language. Hannah was a beginner in Level A3. I started in a "C" level class but dropped to "B4" level the first day because it was too difficult for me. Two days later I dropped from B4 and ended up in B3 level which was just right. Class levels range from A-F and there are intermediate and advanced classes within those levels. We spent 30 hours a week in class and probably another 4-5 hours a day studying and preparing for the next day. We both learned more than 300 new words in Chinese (Average 25 new words a day. Many days we had to learn much more).

This was my second time at BLCU. Almost ten years to the day I was in the beginning level class there. It was fun to go back and see how the University has grown.

Top: Hannah at the entrance to our building, The College of Intensive Chinese Studies. (Making a "V" sign is very popular there when taking pictures. We have fun adopting that pose.)

Top left: My class. Zhao Laoshi (teacher) (blue shirt) is just right of me and Jiang Laoshi (teacher) (white & blue dress), our grammar instructor, is next to her. Both were excellent teachers. We also had two other teachers for listening and conversation classes. Students came from many countries including Sweden, England, Iran, Russia, Japan, Spain, South Korea, and Malaysia to mention a few.

Bottom: Speaking teacher Zhao Laoshi and student. She was very nice and very patient with us as we stumbled over the words and pronunciation in text we had to read outloud. The blackboard in the background is typical of our class work. Zhao Laoshi never spoke English and it was very rare for the other teachers to speak in English also.

China Studies

Yesterday, Hannah and I left Beijing at 12 noon, flew 11 hours, then arrived in San Francisco at 8:30 am the same day. We saw the sun rise and set twice this day. I had to wait at the San Francisco airport until 5:00pm until my plane left on my final leg to Redding.
It is now Sunday, 2:00am and I'm wide awake. There's a 15 hour time difference from Beijing and my body says I should be up - so I am.
What follows are some pictures and video clips from our Language Study trip at Beijing Language and Culture University.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

China 2009

On Wednesday, my daughter Hannah and I will fly to China. We have enrolled in Beijing Language and Culture University (BLCU) for a one month intensive in Chinese language taking place in the month of August. Classes are five days a week, six hours a day. We are looking forward to living in Beijing as residents instead of as tourists.

Monday, March 16, 2009


Q: I am trying to find the formula Jianpiling which I read about online. The article is entitled " THE USE OF JIANPILING IN TREATING ULCERATIVE COLITIS"
by Subhuti Dharmananda, Ph.D., Director, Institute for Traditional Medicine, Portland, Oregon.
Can you help me find it?

A: I don't know when this article was written but the most recent reference in the bibliography is 12 years old (1997).

If you go to the Institute for Traditional Medicine website they say:
"The articles on the ITM website are reviews of literature and not descriptions of work done at ITM; that literature may include traditional Chinese medical reports as well as modern medical reports...."
"The claimed results in Chinese medical journals are often attained through treatment strategies that are unacceptable or impractical here..."

It is my understanding that Subhuti Dharmananda, Ph.D., Director, ITM, has no formal training in Chinese medicine. His PH.D. is in biology. He is not licensed to practice medicine and is primarily a researcher.
His bio on the website reads "Subhuti Dharmananda received his Ph.D. in Biology from the University of California in 1980. He traveled to China several times, the first visit in 1977 and most recent in 2001, and has collected a large library of books and journals involved with traditional medicine."
Smart man with an interest in Chinese medicine, yes. A doctor, no.

So, the point is that many authors like to get people excited about something that is next to impossible to obtain and as I mentioned before, the information is very old.
The article does not give dosage for the herbs, only vague reference to the amounts of each one. It's possible that the herbs could be mixed up for you but you would have to boil them and drink as a tea. I think that's the best you will be able to do and the results the same as in the article.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Mystery Herb

Q: Can you identify this herb?

A: This herb is not commonly used and probably not found in most references on Chinese medicine. The herb is Tian Xian Zi or Hyoscyamus niger, or henbane (Stinking Nightshade) and is toxic. I do not believe it is commonly available and even if it was I would not recommend using it.

For more information, see this Wikipedia article:

Friday, February 6, 2009

Natural Compounds Alleviate Insulin Resistance in Mice

Compounds increase production of an insulin-sensitizing hormone from fat cells

THURSDAY, Feb. 5 (HealthDay News) -- Two compounds isolated from herbs used in traditional Chinese medicine increase the production of an insulin-sensitizing hormone from fat cells and improve hyperglycemia, glucose tolerance and insulin resistance in obese mice, according to study findings published in the February issue of Endocrinology.
Aimin Xu, Ph.D., from the University of Hong Kong, and colleagues screened 50 herbs used in traditional Chinese medicine for compounds that enhance adiponectin production by adipocytes.
The investigators identified two structurally related compounds, astragaloside II and isoastragaloside I, from the medicinal herb Radix Astragali. Both compounds increased adiponectin production by adipocytes without affecting other adipokines and had an additive effect on adiponectin production when given with rosiglitazone, an insulin-sensitizing drug, they found. Chronic administration of either drug in obese mice was associated with higher serum adiponectin and improvements in hyperglycemia, glucose tolerance and insulin resistance, the researchers report.
"In conclusion, our results suggest that pharmacological elevation of circulating adiponectin alone is sufficient to ameliorate insulin resistance and diabetes and support the use of adiponectin as a biomarker for future drug discovery," Xu and colleagues write.

Here's a source of Astragali (astragalus):

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Tonic wine may pose health risk

From Viet Nam News:

HA NOI — Consumption of medicinal liquor is on the rise as an alternative to home-made wine, despite concerns over the quality and health benefits.
Medicinal liquor, which has origins in traditional Chinese medicine, is believed to treat disease and improve health. The wine is a mixture of alcohol fermented with herbs, including ginseng and jujube. Seahorses, snakes and termites are also used.
Because of the perceived health benefits, many consume more units than the daily limit recommended by doctors.
Vu Quoc Quan, 62, is a dedicated medicinal liquor drinker. He buys his booze from a shop on Ton That Tung Street. Today, he is washing down his lunch with bee wine.
"This wine is good for you and I can drink as much as I want without worrying about being poisoned," he says.
Shop owner Nguyen Thanh Huyen backs him up: "This wine is very tonic. I made it at least five years ago. The ingredients include rare herbs, gecko, deer horn and snake soaked in alcohol. The wine can help cure many diseases and is very cheap, only VND30,000 (US$1.8) – 60,000 ($3.6) per bottle."
She points behind her to six big glass jars full of snake wine, saying this is more expensive, but good for different diseases.
"I choose the ingredients very carefully and make it myself," she says. "The alcohol comes from a well-known distillery in Nam Dinh Province, so there’s nothing to worry about."
According to the statistics of the Ministry of Health, out of the approximately 20,000 distilleries nationwide, only 10 per cent meet quality standards.
The director of Bach Mai Hospital’s Detoxification Centre, Pham Due, says although the number of people suffering alcohol poisoning is small, patients usually arrive in a critical condition.
"The two most recent cases of alcohol poisoning were due to medicinal wine," Due says. "One drank bee wine, the other termite wine. They both recovered."
Nguyen Dang Bao, owner of traditional medicine shop named Bao Thuan Duong on La Thanh Street, says tonic wine usually has a hallucinogenic effect.
"I myself don’t believe tonic wine is good for your health," he says. "Animal organs disintegrate after fermenting for three years. You would be lucky if the wine didn’t make your health worse."
According to traditional medicine practitioner Nguyen Van Duc, from Binh Duong Traditional Medicine Hospital, every animal or insect has different toxins which alcohol can kill but only over a certain length of time.
"In some cases tonic wine has health benefits. However, like any kind of medicine, users must choose the right wine to suit their ailment, or they could risk doing themselves harm," Duc says.
Only knowledgeable wine-makers should sell medicinal liquor, says the head of the Toxic Centre, Due. "It’s difficult to control the quality of medicinal liquor. A wine-maker who has little knowledge of herbs, could mix the wrong combination or make other mistakes in the wine-making process."
Can Tho City’s Market Management Department recently confiscated over 700 litres of medicinal wine produced by Long Giang Company after it was found contaminated with formaldehyde. Herbs and certain animals were also sold without a hygiene certificate. The company were fined VND4 million ($243). — VNS