Blog Archives

Cupping – An Acupuncture Technique

Cupping is an ancient technique used throughout East Asia, the middle east and in many eastern European countries to treat muscular skeletal pain and in traditional cultures it is believed to help treat colds and flu’s. Cupping is one of the techniques commonly used alongside acupuncture. Cupping involves the application of a sterile glass cup to the skin, air inside the cup is heated to create an air tight seal. Cupping is incredibly relaxing and like having a strong massage, massage oils infused with herbs such as mint are applied to the skin and once the cup is on it can be moved up and down the affected area, a technique known as slide cupping.Chinese medical theory developed over centuries, through observation of nature and our interaction with the environment and as such the language used in understanding illness, pain and the cause of disease is very different from modern western medical language. Environmental causes of diseases such as wind, cold, damp and heat are very important in Chinese medical thinking. In traditional Chinese medicine the use of cupping helps to expel cold, move stagnant blood and reduce swelling and inflammation and as a result stop pain. An ancient Chinese medical saying “Where there is pain there is no free flow, where there is no free flow there is pain” sums up neatly the understanding of the causes of pain from a Chinese medical perspective.A recent study1 found that medicinal cupping reduced the level of pain and tender points in patients with Fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia is a medical condition characterized by pain and pain on pressure. Other symptoms associated with fibromyalgia are fatigue, sleep disturbance, joint pain and stiffness and digestive and bladder problems. The cause of fibromyalgia is unknown and there is no known cure.At the Breathe London Acupuncture Clinic patients come to see me for help with the symptoms associate with Fibromyalgia. Cupping is one of the techniques I often use to help with pain. However I always use the principles of Chinese Medicine to try to understand what is happening to the patient and treat the root cause of the illness rather than treat purely symptomatically. I use a combination of acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine and cupping and to treat each patient’s unique experience. Treatments are constantly modified and adapted in response to the patient’s needs.

If you are interested in learning more about how acupuncture, cupping and herbs can help you please contact Simon Plant at Breathe London. Free 15 minute chats are available if you would like to know more.

Simon Plant BSc (Hons) MSc MBAcC MRCHM
Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine
Breathe London Acupuncture Clinic



Acupuncture may reduce period pain

A recent systematic review1 has found that current evidence supports the use of acupuncture to reduce period pain. The systematic Cochrane review is recognized as one of the most authoritative and valid sources of evidence in healthcare and systematic reviews are recognized as producing the most valid and rigorous results. The systematic review critically reviewed ten clinical trials involving over 900 participants who where treated with acupuncture for period pain. 

The review found that acupuncture and acupressure reduced nausea and back pain associated with period pain and improved quality of life compared to placebo controls and medication. The research is an example of the increasing evidence base being generated through clinical trials to validate the use of traditional acupuncture treatments.

Period pain is one of the most common conditions I treat in the acupuncture clinic at Breathe London and the treatment of period pain and other problems associated with the menstrual cycle are well documented in classical Chinese medical texts.  I also combine acupuncture and herbal medicine for the treatment of period pain and from my personal experience find that the combination of the two is more effective than acupuncture on its own.  The aims of the treatments are not to provide short-term pain relief but to provide long lasting changes so that even when treatments have finished period pain is significantly reduced.

Each person’s experience of pain is different and treating period pain with traditional acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine is no different from treating other conditions with acupuncture. Although there a classical acupuncture points for treating pain, an individual diagnosis and treatment is essential for long lasting and effective results.

An In depth initial consultation is important during which a traditional diagnosis is formulated and the treatment is tailored to each patient and involves close monitoring of the menstrual cycle. The points used will also change throughout the menstrual cycle. Acupuncture may also be combined with moxibustion which involves the gentle warming of acupuncture points with the herb Artemisia vulgaris. Dietary and exercise advice are also given and a short course of herbs may be recommended.  After acupuncture treatment for period pain many of my patients report other beneficial experiences including the relief of the symptoms of premenstrual tensions (PMT) including improvement in digestion and bloating, and also mood.

If you are interested in learning more about how acupuncture and herbs can help you please contact Simon Plant at Breathe London. Free 15 minute chats are available if you would like to know more.

Simon Plant BSc (Hons) MSc MBAcC MRCHM
Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine
Breathe London Acupuncture Clinic

1 Acupuncture for primary dysmenorrhoea. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2011 Jan 19;1:CD007854.

Save The Rhino

22nd September marked World Rhino Day, organisations such as do essential work in highlighting the threat to this endangered species.  Tragically there is an increase in illegal poaching of rhino horn for use in herbal medicine.

There is a mistaken belief that Rhino Horn can cure cancer. Professional bodies representing Chinese Herbal Medicine practitioners around the world have condemned the use of rhino horn and have categorically stated that rhino horn has no medical properties.

The UK’s Register of Chinese Herbal Medicine strongly condemns the illegal trade in endangered species and has a strict policy prohibiting the use of any type of endangered species by any of its members and no animal, mineral or endangered species are used. The illegal poaching of rhinos is not only abhorrent but is also an abuse of the Confucian principles that form some of the philosophical foundations of Chinese medicine that centre on respecting nature, living in harmony with and minimising our impact on the planet.

Members of the RCHM only use approved suppliers of herbal medicine who provide sustainable and responsibly sourced herbs.  The herbs and soil they are grown in are tested at each stage from planting, harvesting to processing for heavy metals and pollutants. Only herbs passing strict quality assurance standards are used.

Much of the world’s population rely on herbal medicine as their primary form of health care and many pharmaceuticals are derived from plant species. Artemisia Annua a herb that has been used in China for centuries to treat malaria like symptoms has now been synthesised to create new drugs to combat Malaria, still the largest cause of death1. Traditional herbal formulas are constantly being researched and traditional knowledge is being supported by modern research, recent research has shown that a traditional Chinese herbal formula can increase the quality of life for sufferers of Parkinson’s disease and is suitable for long-term use2.

When going for a herbal Medicine consultation always ensure that the herbalist is a member of a recognised professional body such as the RCHM, Association of Traditional Chinese Medicine (ATCM), or the National Institute of Medical Herbalists (NIMH). Ensure that the herbalist only uses an approved supplier of medical herbs.

If you are interested in learning more about how Chinese herbal medicine can help you please contact Simon Plant at Breathe London. Free 15 minute chats are available if you would like to know more.

Learn more about Rhino Conservation by visiting:

Simon Plant BSc (Hons) MSc MBAcC MRCHM

Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine

Breathe London Acupuncture Clinic




Rhino Horn Image sourced from

Thinking yourself better – placebo explained

According to a recent article in the Economist the alternative health industry is worth in excess of $60 Billion a year.  However there is little quantitative evidence to support many of the treatments and therapies in the field.  So why do people spend so much money without supporting evidence? Are vulnerable people taken in by the therapy business?  This is of course an important issue for us at Breathe London.  We have massage, acupuncture, hypnotherapy, life coaching, yoga, mediation and many other therapies.

My own background is mathematical. I studied economics and chartered accountancy before becoming a yoga teacher, massage therapist and coach and setting up Breathe London. As a natural sceptic I avoided yoga and therapies throughout my 20s.  In my early 30s living in Sydney the combination of corporate finance work, stress and lots of gym work meant that my back often hurt.  I began to take yoga and pilates classes and get regular massages and this combination seemed to reduce my stress levels, improve the balance of my hips and shoulders and lengthen my hamstrings.

This seems to be the experience of a lot of people.  Although the hard evidence base is not necessarily there to support many alternative therapies, people have a gut feel that pain and suffering goes hand in hand with stress.  When we find therapists and therapies which help us tap into relaxation the body and mind can recover.

There are lots of reasons why it’s difficult to measure a positive effect for alternative therapies.  For example finding adequate test and control groups for research may be difficult.  People who turn up for treatment are obviously a self selecting group who are seeking help and want to feel better.  Cold double blind studies lack this positive intention.  Similarly it’s hard to quantify pain and discomfort because pain assessment is very arbitrary.

One of the many reasons why people who go to therapists feel better is the placebo effect.  As soon as I bring this up many people will then doubt the validity of the therapy.  You shouldn’t.  The placebo effect is real, powerful and little understood.  Irving Kirsch, a professor at Harvard medical school has demonstrated that giving sugar coated pills in a placebo trial for depression was almost as powerful as taking antidepressants. Belief and trust in the treatment is almost as powerful as the treatment.  If you tell someone you are dosing them with morphine compared to aspirin, but both are placebo, neuro imaging shows that the deception stimulates naturally occurring pain killers.  Those people told they are receiving morphine produce more of these naturally occurring pain killers.

The research suggests that the more trust the patient has of the doctor prescribing the treatment and the more elaborate the ceremony around the treatment, the more effective the treatment is.  For example injecting a placebo is more powerful than taking a placebo pill.  To further illustrate the power of placebo Ted Kaptchuk at Harvard medical school conducted a study where participants with IBS were told by a doctor about the placebo effect and how it was almost as effective as real pills.  They were told they were taking part in a study to demonstrate this effect and were then told to take sugar the coated pills – and it was again emphasised that they were placebo.  The study found that even though participants were aware that it was a placebo study, the overall effect was almost as powerful as conventional placebo studies.  What was important was the trust that participants had in what the doctor was saying about the placebo effect.

Karin Meissner of Ludwig Maximillians University, Cologne demonstrated that the placebo effect  was able to effect autonomic nervous system, ie heartbeat , blood pressure etc.

So it seems that when it comes down to treatment it has a lot to do with trust and belief.  In the fields of coaching and counselling research suggests that it is the quality of the relationship between the practitioner and client rather than the type of the therapy which is the most important factor.

In addition to the placebo effect there are lots of reasons why therapies such as massage have a strong positive impact.  Human touch has a powerful physiological and neurological effect.  For example Oxytocin production is stimulated, which has a positive impact on trust, empathy, confidence and wellbeing.

Maybe it’s just about being around good people.  They make us feel good, stimulate us, help us feel relaxed and confident.  If the therapist has positive intention towards you, believes in what they are doing and experience tells you they help you tap into good feelings then go with it and listen to your own intuition.  Your own observations of your own wellbeing are often as valid as cold research on participants with no interest in the process or the outcomes.



London riots and Positive Psychology

I find myself having strong, conflicting emotions about the riots.  On the one hand I feel anger sorrow and fear about the actions of these young people and on the other hand have some understanding of their frustrations.

I feel anger at the young people for their lack of moral fibre and responsibility and anger towards their parents for not giving them guidance and nurturing them.  I feel sorrow for the shopkeepers and older generation who have seen their beloved community ripped apart.  And fear of the unknown. Fear of the paradigm shift.  Fear that social networking is a powerful ally of violent crime.

It’s easy to understand why people want a harsh crackdown and long sentences for those caught.  Before doing this it’s worth taking a long deep breath and reflecting on the things we love and cherish; the freedom of our political system, the strength of our still free press, our diverse multicultural society and our legal system.  All these pillars of our community have been battered and undermined in the last four years but it is still a fair, open and kind place to live for most of us.  As has been shown by the mass mop cleanup in Clapham and Hackney our communities are strong.  Most people in London are kind, honest and generous.

Many commentators have claimed that the riots have simply been about mass violent crime, organised using smart phones.  David Cameron has said that it’s a simple issue and that “pockets of our society are not only broken but frankly sick”.  He is so wrong, on so many levels.  Violence does not have a single cause, it has an infinite amount.  We need to explore the factors in a calm, dispassionate manner.  For example:

–         Britain has one of the largest computer gaming industries in the word, earning hundreds of millions for UK PLC.  Playing Violent computer games teaches malleable young minds to sever the link between action and consequences

–         We have drastically cut training budgets for young people.  My charity, Yourstory has seen a 70% decline in its funding from local authorities.  They mentor and educate some of the most troubled, disengaged young people in Lambeth and Southwark.

–         We have trebled university fees partly because the older generation has lived the high life for the last 20 years.  We spent beyond our means and now we tell young people that they should pay for their own education.  It’s normally the role of older generations to invest in their young.

–         Positive intentions can have unintended consequences.  We decided over the last 30 years that it was wrong for parents and teachers to hit children.  As this positive development occurred we have not found ways to replace harsh discipline with strong, nurturing alternatives

–         David Cameron said that these “thugs were allowed to feel that the world owes them something”.  However many of us feel a sense of deep injustice about the way the financial service industry has ripped us all off.  Their risky practices and bumper bonuses fuelled materialism and division.  When the asset bubble burst the squeezed middle in the UK paid the price through higher taxes and the young people had their education and training budgets frozen.  Within twelve months of the bailout the bankers were back into mega bonuses.

–         There are a number of studies suggesting that more time on social media like facebook leads to less actual human contact, a reduction in empathy for other people and a feeling that we need to out do each other.  Perhaps being in a riot provides the excitement, human contact and engagement lacking in every day experiences

–         We assume that all rioters are bad people.  However the psychologist, Philip Zimbardo has investigated pack behaviour in simulated prison environments and has shown that even the most mild and gentle people can demonstrate cruelty and extreme behaviours when acting in a group and when given a sense of power.  Power in a group is intoxicating and we need to explore how social networking fuels this pack behaviour

These are just a few ideas about possible contributing factors.  There are billions of others.  They cannot and should not excuse appalling behaviour but we should remember that when something as powerful as group violence erupts nothing is simple.

We all need to look into our hearts and examine our behaviours .  We all shape the world we live in through our intentions, thoughts and behaviours.   It is the young people in this country who will provide the dynamism and energy to create a positive future for all of us.  We need to invest in them and believe in their potential.


Meditation May Reduce Pain

Meditation may Reduce Pain

Practicing just 20 minutes of mindfulness meditation a day may help alleviate pain, researchers report in The Journal of Neuroscience.

The study included 18 healthy adults who had never meditated before. The participants underwent four 20-minute training sessions of mindfulness meditation. This form of meditation involves focusing on breath and letting go of all other distracting thoughts.

Before and after meditation, the participants were exposed to painful stimuli while undergoing brain imaging scans called arterial spin labeling functional magnetic resonance imaging. To stimulate pain, a device that delivered 120 degrees of heat was placed on each participant’s leg. The device remained on the skin for 12-second intervals over a total of five minutes.
After meditation, the participants’ pain intensity and pain unpleasantness ratings decreased by an average of 40 percent and 57 percent, respectively. Meditation also reduced activation in areas of the brain linked to pain.
Earlier studies have suggested that meditation may help improve quality of life in cancer patients and help treat high blood pressure and stress.


  1. Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine.
  2. Zeidan F, Martucci KT, Kraft RA, et al. Brain Mechanisms Supporting the Modulation of Pain by Mindfulness Meditation. J Neurosci. 6 April 2011, 31(14): 5540-54. View Abstract

In the workplace we run corporate wellbeing events, emotional intelligence coaching and stress management – Breathe Psychology at Work

Keith and Andy provide Tai Chi, Yoga and Meditation courses – Breathe Yoga & Tai Chi

Jo is running Nutrition Therapy at Breathe – Nutrition Therapy

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter

Treating Insomnia


Treating Insomnia 

Wellbeing is often defined as more than just an absence of illness, and the ways in which we react to stress is often an indicator that although we are not ill we are not necessarily balanced. Insomnia is one of the main indicators of stress affecting our lives in a negative way and I often treat patients in the acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine clinic at Breathe-London for insomnia. In fact many patients come for acupuncture or herbs for different reasons but often come with chronic insomnia and have just accepted this as a normal way of being.

In the ancient Chinese way of thinking about health and wellbeing a poor sleep pattern or poor quality sleep is an indicator of an underlying imbalance in our Qi.  At night our defensive Qi circulates throughout the interior of our body nourishing and warming our internal organs, if this circulation is disrupted then over time other health problems can arise.

There is a long history of treating insomnia with acupuncture and Chinese medicine in fact there is an acupuncture point called Anmian that translates as peaceful sleep and is one of the main points to treat insomnia. If insomnia is due to a background of anxiety herbs such as licorice and angelica root, goji berries, and Schisandra fruit are used to calm the spirit.  A full case history is taken during the first consultation and patients are treated with a unique combination of acupuncture points and a bespoke formula of herbs is created to treat the insomnia and also to address any underlying imbalances that may be causing the insomnia.

In London noise and light pollution are common causes of sleeplessness and we also can get into negative patterns of behavior with our sleep including drinking too much caffeine during the day and not having enough down time to quiet the mind after a hectic day. Teaching sleep hygiene and developing positive new patterns of behavior is an important part of the treatment process.

If you would like to learn more about acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine Visit

Simon Plant May 2011

Simon Plant BSc (Hons) MSc MBAcC

Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine

Breathe London Well Being Centre

Graeme Weatherston /

Note: Do not take any herbal medicines without consulting a qualified herbal medicine practitioner.

CBT – Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

What is CBT?

CBTlooks at how our thoughts affect our feelings and subsequently our behaviour. Our thoughts have an extremely powerful effect on how we feel. If we approach a siltation with a positive mindset we are more likely to succeed than if we concentrate on the negative and everything that could go wrong.

As we grow and develop, our external influences model the way we feel and approach situations. We continue approaching life with the same mindset but often desire a different outcome. It is only when you start to challenge these entrenched thought patterns that you can change the way you feel about a situation.

Look at The Wright Brothers. Everyone thought that flight was impossible; the external influence upon their thinking was that it couldn’t be done. The Wright Brothers challenged this and saw a different way; it was only through changing their mindset and focusing on the positive that they were able to challenge the laws of physics.

Henry Ford said it perfectly: “Whether you think that you can, or that you can’t, you are usually right.”

As did Albert Einstein: “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

The thoughts that go through our minds on a regular basis, the ones that are second nature, contribute to how we feel about ourselves and situations. CBT works by understanding these thought patterns and breaking through them to challenge them and give you a different approach, allowing you to develop techniques to have a more positive and constructive way of thinking that dramatically improves your self-esteem and confidence.


Learn an amazing way to boost your energy levels

One of the most important energy centres in the Tai chi system is the “Tan Tien” (lower energy field). It is situated three finger widths below the naval and mid-way between the front and back of the body.

Try this exercise to increase awareness of the Tan Tien and to improve your ability to quickly find inner stillness whenever you need it.

Standing in the Tai Chi posture (see last issue) or lying on your back, rest your hands on your tummy and begin to just notice your breathing. Not trying to change anything about how you breathe, just enjoying watching in a calm and unconcerned way as your mind becomes clearer and more relaxed.

Next start to breathe a little deeper, making the hands on your abdomen gently rise and fall with each ‘in’ and ‘out’ breath. Imagine a place of stillness, safety and peace at the centre of your abdomen and with each breath imagine that you sink a little deeper into this comfortable place. Resting in the stillness you have created ask your “judging mind’ to be quiet for a while and know that in this moment, while you take this breath, everything is just as it should be, In this moment nothing can be added and nothing can be taken away. Each time a stray thought, doubt or worry comes into your head just think of it as a cloud and watch it float by as you gently bring your mind back to your quiet centre and continue watching each breath. Try this for 21 breaths each day and go to this place whenever you feel the need to be calmer or more centred.

To read more about Tai Chi and Yoga go to Breathe Yoga, Tai Chi and Stress Management

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter

Healthy Eating: Avocados

A few fast facts and a fab little recipe!

  • Avocados are a fruit from the Lauraceae family which also includes cinnamon, camphor and bay laurel.
  • Grown in the sub tropical regions of South America, there are two types commonly available in Britain: the Hass variety – with a darker, more nobbly skin, and the Fuerte variety – brighter green with a smooth skin.
  • They contain the super-nutrient beta-sitosterol, which naturally helps to lower cholesterol.
  • But aren’t they packed with calories? Avocadoes do have a high oil content, but it’s mainly the ‘good’ monounsaturated type, and half an average avocado only gives you 137 calories, which is less than 2 digestive biscuits!
  • What else do they give us? Weight for weight, avocados are incredibly nutrient rich, topping the charts among the fruits for folate, potassium, magnesium and vitamin E. They are also great for B vitamins and fibre.
  • Avocados are packed with lots of potentially cancer-fighting supernutrients called antioxidants such as ferulic and gallic acid. They are also rare source of pre-formed glutathione, a crucial detoxing antioxidant.

Quick serving idea: The green buttery flesh of an avocado is versatile and tasty. Why not try making avocado hummus – a nutritious snack, high in protein (from the chickpeas) and the benefits of avocado mentioned above. Serve with warm pitta bread or some fresh crunchy crudités such as carrots and celery for a snack or with a classic crispy jacket potato.

For further advice or Nutritional Therapy consultations at Breathe click here 

Madeleine, Charlotte, Erika and Andy offer Life coaching, Positive Psychology Coaching, Personality testing and Hypnotherapy – Breathe Coaching

In the workplace we run corporate wellbeing events, emotional intelligence coaching and stress management – Breathe Psychology at Work

Keith and Andy provide Tai Chi, Yoga and Meditation courses – Breathe Yoga & Tai Chi

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter