Saturday, August 28, 2010

Healthy Snacks and Lunches for Back to School

By Junie Norfleet, L.Ac.

The start of school brings the challenge of a healthy snack or lunch that is easily packed. Below you will find some suggestions, but first some information on the systems of the Spleen and Stomach.

The Spleen and Stomach systems are an integral part of digestion in Chinese medicine. The Stomach system must have some "heat" to begin the digestive process. Too many hot, spicy foods can create too much "heat" and disrupt the digestive process. The Spleen system can become depleted if we consume too many "cold" items. "Cold" can be temperature cold, or energetically cold. For example, raw foods and soy products are energetically cold.

The Spleen system is strengthened by the taste of sweet. Sweet from a Chinese medicine perspective is the sweetness of rice. In our culture, many people would not recognize that rice is sweet, because we are so accustomed to the sweetness of refined sugar. Eating rice, sweet potatoes, beets, and carrots will strengthen the spleen.

From a Chinese medicine perspective, it is strengthening to the digestive system for foods to be lightly cooked. A weak digestive system will not be able to absorb nutrients adequately, so it aids the digestive process to begin the break down of foods by lightly cooking them.

Preparing a bento box can be a fun way of introducing less "traditional" foods into the lunch. Bento boxes were designed in Japan and are becoming more popular in North America recently. A bento lunch is a compact, balanced, visually appealing meal packed in a box. There are many websites that discuss bento boxes. They include ideas for taking advantage of leftovers when preparing a bento box and elaborate or simple meals that can be prepared ahead of time. This website has a lot of great ideas that can give you inspiration for lunches: click here

Fresh vegetables are great fillers for bento boxes. Cutting them into special shapes can make the food more attractive to a picky eater. Carrots, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, and green peppers are easy to add to bento boxes. Add a small container of almond butter (less oil than using peanut butter), hummus, or Lemon Tahini dressing (quarter cup tahini, 2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil, 1 clove garlic, juice of 1 lemon, half tsp tamari, third cup water), as a dipping sauce. (This recipe and the recipe for Apricot Kudzu Custard below are from Feeding the Whole Family, Recipes for Babies, Young Children, and Their Parents by Cynthia Lair.)

Healthy snacks can be made from leftovers: just mix cooked rice with leftover vegetables. For small children, a fun snack (or breakfast) can be made by warming cooked rice and sweet potatoes (or winter squash in the winter) in some rice milk and adding some walnuts or seeds to add texture. Below is a recipe for a seed mixture that is great to add as a topping for vegetables or just to eat as a snack.

Take the seeds that are the same physical sizes and dry fry or toast them. (To dry fry, just put the seeds in a frying pan without oil and heat until the seeds pop.)

Seed Mixture

Quarter cup of each of the following:
black sesame
white sesame
gold flax
brown flax
pumpkin seeds
unsalted sunflower seeds

Mix all these together after dry frying.

You can learn to use your left over rice to make sushi rolls. Cucumber, carrot, asparagus, and avocado can be added to make sushi interesting. Sushi rolls make a great addition to a bento box.

Nuts are healthy snacks. Walnuts and almonds are better choices, because they are not as oily as peanuts and cashews. Overeating oily nuts can congest the liver.

According to Paul Pitchford in Healing With Whole Foods, goat milk is more easily digested than dairy products, because the curd is softer and the fat globules are smaller. Add rosemary and/or basil (or spices of your choosing) to goat cheese and spread it on rice crackers. Berries and other fruits can be easily added to goat yogurt for a sweet snack. The darker the berry, the more it nourishes blood, so blue and black berries are excellent choices.

Fruits are also good snacks, with local fruits being better choices. Remember that fruit sugar is still sugar, and that too much sugar can deplete the Spleen system.

Another sweet snack is Apricot Kudzu Custard:
Prep time 5-10 minutes
Makes 4 servings
2 Tbs Kudzu
2 cups apricot juice (or any juice of your choice)
2 tsp tahini
1 tsp vanilla extract

Dissolve the kudzu in cold or room temperature apricot juice. Put mixture in a small pan over medium heat, stirring constantly. As mixture simmers, it becomes clear and thick. Once this happens, remove from heat. Add tahini and vanilla; mix well. Serve immediately, custard will get rubbery if allowed to cool to room temperature.

Have fun with these suggestions and invite your child to learn how to make some of these snacks, too.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Lifestyle Changes Can Cut Breast Cancer Rates

Mary Cissy Majebe, O.M.D.

This was the headline in the March 26, 2010 USA Today. As Western science evolves, it confirms knowledge handed down for centuries in Chinese medicine (CM). Western science continues to affirm CM knowledge, rather than refuting its wisdom. For example, CM linked the Kidney Qi to the bones long before Western science taught us that the kidneys secrete the hormone erythropoietin, which stimulates bone marrow to produce red blood cells, long before we knew the connection between calcium and kidney function.

These headlines lead me to reflect on the causes of disease from a Chinese medicine perspective. In Chinese medicine, diseases are generally attributed to three primary causes:
1) Internal Pathogenic Factors
2) External Pathogenic Factors
3) Miscellaneous Factors.

External Pathogenic Factors are the six environmental factors: cold, heat, wind, damp,dryness and summer heat. Bacterial conditions can be transmitted via the wind, and this wind was the "cause of 100's of diseases" based on the oldest Chinese medicine text, the Nei Jing, written in 220 BCE. I am always amazed that the Chinese knew of air-borne conditions long before access to the "scientific tools" that now confirm their knowledge.

Internal Pathogenic Factors relate to those things that we are consuming on a daily basis. This has to do with not only the foods that we are consuming, but also the emotions that we are consuming. These are the lifestyle factors that are becoming more of a focus in many of our lives.

Miscellaneous Factors include genetics and also the toxic influences that are now proliferating in our world. We know that there are onco-genes that are associated with a greater likelihood of a cancer diagnosis. I believe that we are just beginning to scratch the surface of understanding the toxicity of chemicals, pesticides and other noxious substances in our environment.

SO, HOW DO WE PROTECT OURSELVES FROM CANCER??? This question could be assigned the same answer as the question of, HOW DO WE PROTECT OUR CHILDREN FROM HURT AND PAIN? We do the best we can with what we have.

We exercise, pray, do progressive relaxation or meditate.
We eat as organically and clean as possible. Yet, we are still subjected to chemical and toxic influences daily. So, how do we negotiate this journey of life amidst all of the perils that lie ahead?

We wake each morning, knowing that it is a gift to be alive and walking and sharing this journey with each other. We acknowledge that our time here is limited, and we embrace each precious moment. We meet each other with love and hopefully learn to meet ourselves with love and acceptance.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Herbal Medicine: The Mulberry Tree In Chinese Herbology

David Treviño, L.Ac.

One of the most useful plants in Chinese herbal medicine is the white mulberry plant, Morus alba. Since ancient times, the Chinese have used this plant for raising silkworms, which utilize the tree's leaves as their main source of food. Chinese medical practitioners have used several parts of this plant for centuries to treat various health conditions. The Chinese term for the mulberry plant is sang. The plant parts used in Chinese herbology include the fruit (sang shen), leaves (sang ye), and the root bark (sang bai pi).

Additionally, the silkworm fecal matter (can sha) created after the worms have eaten the leaves is an important medicinal derived from this plant. Each of the plant parts has unique characteristics and diverse therapeutic uses.

Mulberry fruit is a sweet, gentle, and cooling blood tonic that enhances the nourishing, cooling, and moistening (Yin) aspects of the Liver and Kidneys. Chinese medicine utilizes this herb to treat deficient conditions such as anemia, dry constipation, and the premature graying of hair. The ability for this fruit to treat deficient conditions may be due to the fact that it contains significant amounts of vitamin A, B1, B2, C, protein, lipids, and anthocyanins.

According to Subhuti Dharmananda, president of the Institute for Traditional Medicine (ITM), the high levels of anthocyanins found in mulberry fruit, "may improve blood circulation and other body functions to alleviate many symptoms that arise under deficiency conditions." In China today, Morus fruit is bottled as a beverage and marketed to improve the immune system, enhance general health, and promote longevity.

Morus leaves are sweet and cooling like the fruit, but also have a bitter flavor. The leaves enter the Liver and Lung meridians, where the cooling and bitter properties remove externally contracted heat conditions (as occurring with a cold or the flu) with symptoms such as fever, sore throat, headache, sore-watery eyes and cough.

Mulberry leaves are also used to stop bleeding in patients who are vomiting blood. Western studies have shown that decoctions made from fresh mulberry leaf can inhibit several bacteria including Staphyloccocus aureus, Escherichi coli, and hemolytic streptococcus. New research shows that mulberry leaf extracts may play a role in the management and treatment of diabetes.

Similar to the leaves of this plant, Morus root bark is sweet and cold in nature and enters the Lung meridian. The difference between Morus leaves and the root bark is that the latter is indicated for coughs that have hot phlegm. In Chinese medicine, hot phlegm occurs when the body's physiological fluids in the Lung are heated and congealed in reaction to a pathogen. The phlegm can then turn white, yellow, green, or even gray depending on the severity of the heat.

Morus root bark has the ability to help the body transform the pathological phlegm with a downward directing function, which settles coughs and wheezing and facilitates urination to eliminate excess fluid. In fact, this herb is commonly used for the treatment of edema, especially when it is around the eyes.

According to John Chen, author of Chinese Medical Herbology and Pharmacology, the water and alcohol extracts of Morus root bark "have a marked diuretic effect by increasing the excretion of water, sodium chloride, and potassium." Other pharmacological effects of this herb include inhibiting bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus, Salmonella typhi, and Baccillus dysenteriae.

Because of its sweet, acrid and warm qualities, the silkworm fecal matter is effective for the treatment of pain in the extremities and abdomen caused by Wind and Dampness. Chinese medicine considers this type of pain in the extremities as Wind-Damp Painful Obstructive Syndrome. Wind refers to the tight or pulling nature of the pain (like a spasm) and the dampness to the swelling in the joints, which is often exacerbated by damp environments or damp weather. The silkworm's fecal matter has a warm quality, is able to dry the damp obstruction and the acrid quality helps increase the blood flow to eliminate muscle aches and pain.

Believe it or not, silkworm fecal matter is also used in Chinese medicine to harmonize the stomach. Its sweet flavor harmonizes the stomach, and the warm and pungent properties help eliminate any fluids that may be obstructing the normal flow and function of the stomach. For these reasons, this herb can stop abdominal cramping and transform the dampness that is inherent in diarrhea and vomiting. Finally, this herb is commonly used to treat itchy skin and eczema. The acrid and warm properties help bring blood to the skin, dry the secretions and promote healing.

Morus albae is a unique plant in Chinese herbal medicine. This plant's fruit, leaves, root bark, and the silkworm fecal matter created from the leaves, all have unique characteristics. They have been used effectively for centuries and currently are important herbs in Chinese medicine. Morus albae's diverse therapeutic ability to treat a range of conditions make this a remarkable plant in the Chinese pharmacopeia.


Chen J., Chen, T.
Chinese Herbal Medicine and Pharmacology. City of Industry, CA: Art of Medicine Press, 2001.

Bensky, D., Clavey,S., Stöger,E.
Chinese Herbal Medicine Materia Medica. Seattle, Washington: Eastland Press, 2004.

Dharmananda, Subhuti, Ph.D.,
Fruit as Medicine. Director, Institute for Traditional Medicine, 2004.

Murata K, Yatsunami K, Fukuda E, et al. "Antihyperglycemic effects of propolis mixed with mulberry leaf extract on patients with type 2 diabetes."
Altern Ther Health Med, May-June 2004;10(3):78-9.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Treating Pain: Fibromyalgia

Karen Litton, L.Ac.

Various rheumatology studies have estimated that 3 to 6 million Americans suffer from fibromyalgia. That is one in every 50 Americans. Over 80% of sufferers are women over 50 years of age. The prevalence of fibromyalgia is second only to osteoarthritis among rheumatic ailments. The pervasive pain of fibromyalgia is challenging to both the patient and doctor.

Western medicine does not know exactly what causes it. There are no diagnostic tests such as x-rays or blood tests to detect it. The symptoms of it may overlap with the symptoms of other conditions. These are some of the reasons it is difficult to diagnose from a Western standpoint.

Fibromyalgia is characterized by wide-spread muscle pain and stiffness. This pain can be accompanied by fatigue, non-restorative sleep, balance issues, dizziness, and pain that is worse with stress/physical activity/and weather changes, especially cold and damp. Some degree of pain is always present. It can be in the hips, low back, shoulders or legs. The condition can be triggered by emotional stress, medical illness and trauma.

Fibromyalgia is also thought to be associated with a variety of other symptoms such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome, dysmenorrhea, and restless leg syndrome. Western medicine treats these conditions with lifestyle modifications, drug therapy and other modalities.

Numerous Western research studies have evaluated the effectiveness of acupuncture in the treatment of fibromyalgia. In June of 2006, a Mayo Clinic study found that acupuncture significantly reduced the symptoms of fibromyalgia. Because Chinese medicine takes an individual approach to diagnosis, there are numerous possibilities as to why a person develops this type of pain syndrome.

Chinese medicine does not treat a specific disease known as "fibromyalgia" per se. What it does treat is the unique expression of fibromyalgia that is particular to each individual based on their own signs and symptoms. Through a detailed analysis, your acupuncturist will consider your combined group of symptoms and how they are expressed in the body.

If an individual's sleep and dizziness issues are accompanied by pervasive pain in the muscles and joints of the body, your practitioner will design a treatment plan focusing on the underlying cause of this set of symptoms. Another individual could have an entirely different set of conditions that are combined together.

A Chinese medicine practitioner will evaluate the energy flow in the different meridians where the imbalances are thought to arise, looking for areas of deficiency and stagnation. This energy flow is known as qi, and it flows through meridians, which correspond to a particular organ or a group of organs. Too much, too little or blocked qi can lead to health problems. Thus Chinese medicine will have a different diagnosis for each individual evaluated, with an individual treatment plan for each.

While adjusting the circulation of qi and blood through an acupuncture treatment, your practitioner may also want you to include herbal medicine, as appropriate. Particular herbs can be chosen, which also help to relieve the pain and address your system's imbalances. Other therapies that might be included are heat, massage and cupping. Cupping is a suction technique used on muscles to move the qi or help to release the muscle groups. All of these additional modalities can help to reduce pain.

There are a number of things which you can do on your own to help with the pain in the body. One activity is to walk. Walking moves the qi in our Liver meridian, which is responsible for overall qi flow in our body. Even though the pain may tell us that moving will aggravate the symptoms, generally an even walking pace and a walk outside will do a lot to move our qi stagnation, which ultimately helps relieve some of the pain symptoms.

Your practitioner will also talk with you about changing what is stressing you in your life. Looking at your stress level and determining how to reduce it in your life is important. When we are stressed, we tighten and decrease the circulation of the qi and blood in our bodies. Stress also uses up the body's resources that could be used for healing. Yoga, Tai Chi, Qi Gong, and stretching are therefore helpful.

Specific stretches can help to relieve painful areas of the body.
If your pain is in your shoulders, for example, there is an easy stretch to help keep the shoulders open. Take a rope or a long belt and grasp it in your hands. Act as if you want to pull the rope in two, creating a tension in the rope. Then, with the rope taut, hold your hands in front of your body and slowly raise your arms overhead and back behind your body, continuing to hold the rope in your hands. Make sure that the rope is long enough, so that this is an easy motion to make. Keep your arms completely straight, without bending the elbows. Doing several of these stretches over the head, back behind the body, and to the front again will open up the flow of energy in your arms, thus helping relieve the pain.

In addition, there are a couple of
liniments available at the clinic that can be rubbed into the shoulders or hips or knees to provide some pain relief. Two of these are White Flower Oil and Dit Da ointment.

Another area your practitioner may focus upon is your
diet. You may be asked to fill out a diet sheet. This is an examination of what foods make up your meals. For example, if we eat a diet, which is more acidic (such as tomatoes, sugar, etc.), then this can add to the heat and stagnation in our joints. Eating a more alkaline diet, with more vegetables and other foods, may be suggested.

All of these different modalities can complement each other in achieving relief from this complex illness.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Relaxation Response

By David Treviño, L.Ac.

Several years ago, I had the privilege of meeting Herbert Benson M.D., research cardiologist, professor, author, and founder of Harvard's Mind/Body Medical Institute. Dr. Benson coined the term Relaxation Response. It was through his work that I learned about the scientific benefits of relaxation.

According to Dr. Benson, eliciting the Relaxation Response is extremely beneficial as it counteracts the physiological effects of stress and the fight or flight response. In his book The Relaxation Response, Dr. Benson explains that regular elicitation of the Relaxation Response has been shown to be an effective treatment for a wide range of stress related disorders. The Relaxation Response in essence is the opposite response to the fight or flight response.

The "fight or flight" or stress response was originally discovered by the Harvard physiologist Dr. Walter B. Cannon (1871-1945). It occurs naturally when we perceive that we are under excessive pressure, and it is designed to protect us from bodily harm. Our sympathetic nervous system is instantly engaged in creating a number of physiological changes, including increased metabolism, heart rate, blood pressure, breathing rate, dilation of pupils, constriction of our blood vessels, and our blood becomes more viscous and ready to clot, enabling us to fight or flee.

It is not uncommon for individuals eliciting the fight or flight response to describe such physiological changes as muscle tension, headache, upset stomach, racing heartbeat, deep sighing, or shallow breathing. The fight or flight response becomes harmful when elicited frequently, as high levels of stress hormones are secreted and have been found to contribute to a host of stress related ailments such as cardiovascular disease, inflammatory bowel diseases, and others.

Luckily, the Relaxation Response turns off the fight or flight response, returning the body and its biochemistry back to pre-stress levels. Dr. Benson describes the Relaxation Response as a physical state of deep relaxation, which engages the other part of our nervous system called the parasympathetic nervous system.

Harvard researchers have found that regular elicitation of the Relaxation Response can help any health problem that is caused or exacerbated by chronic stress such as fibromyalgia, gastrointestinal ailments, insomnia, hypertension, and others.

In a 2004 news interview, Dr. Benson explained that when the Relaxation Response is elicited "our brain waves actually change to an alpha state, our blood pressure and metabolism goes down, and any condition made worse by stress will diminish."

There are many methods to elicit the Relaxation Response including visualization, progressive muscle relaxation, acupuncture, massage, breathing techniques, prayer, meditation, tai chi, qi gong, and yoga. True relaxation is commonly cultivated by breaking the train of everyday thought by choosing a word, sound, phrase, prayer, or by focusing on our breath.

It is important to note that the Relaxation Response is a deep state of relaxation and is not equivalent to sitting with our feet up and watching television, listening to music, or reading a book. These forms of distraction are useful, yet they do not induce alpha brain wave activity the way deep relaxation does.

One of the most valuable tools we can learn in our life is to stimulate deep relaxation. The key is making an effort to spend some time every day to learn to calm our minds and create inner peace. Learning to relax is a great skill that may enable us to be better equipped to deal with life's unexpected stressors.

According to Dr. Benson, the best time to practice the Relaxation Response is first thing in the morning for ten to twenty minutes. Practicing once or twice daily is sufficient to counteract the stress response and bring about deep relaxation and inner peace. The following is the Relaxation Response technique reprinted from Dr. Herbert Benson's book The Relaxation Response.

Steps to Elicit the Relaxation Response

1. Sit quietly in a comfortable position.

2. Close your eyes.

3. Deeply relax all your muscles, beginning at your feet and progressing up to your face. Keep them relaxed.

4. Breathe through your nose. Become aware of your breathing. As you breathe out, say the word "one"* silently to yourself. For example, breathe in, and then out, and say "one"*, in and out, and repeat "one."* Breathe easily and naturally.

5. Continue for 10 to 20 minutes. You may open your eyes to check the time, but do not use an alarm. When you finish, sit quietly for several minutes, at first with your eyes closed and later with your eyes opened. Do not stand up for a few minutes.

6. Do not worry about whether you are successful in achieving a deep level of relaxation. Maintain a passive attitude and permit relaxation to occur at its own pace.

When distracting thoughts occur, try to ignore them by not dwelling upon them and return to repeating "one."*

7. With practice, the response should come with little effort. Practice the technique once or twice daily, but not within two hours after any meal, since the digestive processes seem to interfere with the elicitation of the Relaxation Response.

* Choose any soothing, mellifluous sound, preferably with no meaning or association, in order to avoid stimulation of unnecessary thoughts.

Breathe easy, and feel your body relaxing.


Benson, Herbert. The Relaxation Response, New York, NY: Harper Collins Publishers. 2000.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Treating Headaches with Chinese Medicine

By Joshua Herr, L.Ac.

Headaches affect many Americans. The frequency can vary from daily, weekly or monthly. The intensity varies from a mild nagging headache that interferes with normal tasks to debilitating headaches that can leave an individual bedridden. Medications can sometimes resolve a headache, but don't eliminate the root cause.

A practitioner of Oriental medicine is not only concerned with alleviating the headaches when they occur, but also understanding the root cause of the headaches. Correcting the cause of the headaches can eliminate their occurrence.

Chinese medicine understands the symptom of a headache to be one part of a myriad of symptoms that creates a pattern of disharmony that is present in the patient. Whether the headache is located in the back, top, side or front of the head all point to different clinical significance.

Identifying the headache location is a beginning step in making a differential diagnosis. After collecting further information about the headaches, like medical history, diet and lifestyle, the practitioner determines a diagnosis.

Common syndromes that lead to headaches are Liver Yang Rising, Liver and Kidney Yin Deficiency, Liver Blood Deficiency, Stomach Heat, Qi and Blood Stagnation as well as others. Diagnosing the clinical syndrome enables the practitioner to create an acupuncture and herbal medicine plan that best fits the individual.

At the 56th annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology, a study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ, 2004;328:744-747) on the use of acupuncture for headaches was highlighted. The study had 401 participants with predominately migraine-type headaches, who received 12 acupuncture treatments over 3 months. At 12 months, headaches were less in the acupuncture group, patients used less medication and made fewer visits to their primary care physicians.

The above study illustrates the usefulness of acupuncture as a therapy for the clinical management of headaches. Often patients experience an immediate elimination or reduction of headaches with acupuncture therapy. The use of food diaries is another useful tool that can help to identify dietary factors that can be contributing to the occurrence of headaches. Wheat, dairy and sugar are common ingredients in an American diet that contribute to an internal imbalance that gives rise to headaches.

Herbal therapy remedies can also correct the internal imbalance that contributes to the reoccurrence of headaches, as well as treating acute episodes of headache. For mild headaches, placing White Flower Oil on the temples can resolve the pain. White Flower Oil is a Chinese medicine liniment that is great to have in the medicine cabinet. As well as treating headaches, it can also be used topically for sinus congestion, arthritic pain, sprains, strains, and bug bites. Use caution when applying White Flower near the eyes, because it can irritate them if placed too close.

If you experience mild, infrequent headaches, explore how dietary factors may be contributing to their occurrence. Try White Flower oil and/or the acupressure described in our Fall 2009 Newsletter. If the problem is more severe, Chinese medicine offers many natural therapeutic resources for you to consider.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Cupping Therapy

By Ann Wolman, L.Ac.

Many patients have experienced cupping as part of their treatment at the Chinese Acupuncture Clinic and have expressed curiosity regarding its origins and uses. Cupping has been widely used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years. In ancient times, it was known as "horn cupping" and/or "bamboo jar therapy." Now cups are almost exclusively made of glass.

Early treatments focused on swellings and purulent swellings; however, over the years, cupping therapy has been expanded to treat a wide variety of complaints including arthritis, muscle tightness, sports injuries, sciatica, the common cold, post-stroke hemiplegia, abdominal and epigastric pain, menstrual cramps, intestinal spasm and even obesity. The use of cupping therapy has spread around the world and is now commonly seen in places as diverse as Cyprus, the Philippines and Turkey.

Cupping is done by creating a vacuum in a cup or jar, usually by means of heat, and applying the cup to the skin to draw up the underlying tissue. The amount of suction can be relatively great or mild depending upon the condition being treated. Usually a cotton ball is held in a pair of hemostats and dipped in alcohol. The cotton is ignited and inserted into the mouth of the cup while it is burning. The cotton ball is withdrawn quickly, and a vacuum is created as the cup is placed firmly against the skin at the desired location.

Cups can be moved (put an oil or liniment on the skin before applying) or left stationary over a particular area, for example, over the lungs to help decongest and ease breathing. Cupping can be combined with the application of liniments and with acupuncture. To remove cups, simply press against the skin at the base of the cup to break the "seal."

There are a few cautionary measures to keep in mind while using cups. Cupping should not be applied where skin is not smooth, or where there is a lot of hair, as it may be difficult to maintain suction under cups. Cupping should also not be applied over any abrasions or cuts. Smaller cups are often used around joints because they have rounded or angular surfaces. Too many cups placed closely together may pull surrounding tissue and cause pain. Cups should not be moved over bony prominences like the spine. Cups should not be left on for long periods of time (more than 15 minutes) to avoid blistering. Cupping should be avoided in areas where it would not be appropriate to have mild discoloration of the skin, like the face. Do not try to pry cups off from the top when removing them.

Cups can create bruising depending on the strength of the cupping process. This is normal and will resolve like any other bruise, disappearing without special treatment. Be careful not to apply a second group of cups until the skin has returned to its normal color.

Cupping has several advantages. It is safe, as long as it is properly administered, simple to perform, cost-effective and can be done at home as part of a self-care program. Cupping feels good, because it warms the area, releases heat and stagnation and relaxes muscles. I have one 5-year-old patient who regularly requests that "we do that cupping thing" on his back. Cups can be inexpensively purchased at the clinic, and your practitioner will happily go over an individualized treatment plan that can include cupping at home. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to ask.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Yeast Infections, Antibiotics and Chinese Medicine

By Eric Aufdencamp, D.O.M., L.Ac.

Chinese medicine is very successful at treating yeast infections. The most effective way to treat yeast infections is to create an environment in which the yeast cannot reproduce. An overgrowth of a yeast-like fungus, called candida albicans, can result in conditions such as vaginal yeast infections, fatigue and digestive disorders.

Candida are naturally occurring cells found on the skin and on the mucous membranes. They only cause infections when they multiply due to the absence of beneficial bacteria. When found in the mouth, usually in infants, it is called thrush. It can occur on the skin in infants as "diaper rash" or in the vagina as vaginal yeast infections.

A primary cause is the use of antibiotics, which are used to kill harmful bacteria, but also end up eradicating beneficial bacteria. Other medications that contribute to yeast overgrowth include: hormone replacement therapy, oral contraceptives, chemotherapy, and cortico-steroids.

Anti-fungal medication is usually prescribed, and the use of antibiotics, as well as any medications that contribute to this condition, are discontinued during this time, if at all possible. Often, once anti-fungals are discontinued, the symptoms will recur. This illustrates the necessity to approach not just the symptom of the yeast, but also the underlying cause.

Chinese medicine always aims at treating the source of disease. Any overgrowth of heavy, thick fluids is "phlegm" or "dampness." When it combines with "heat," it is called "damp-heat" or "phlegm-heat." Dampness or phlegm is always considered a symptom, and the root cause of the dampness needs to be addressed for effective treatment.

In Chinese medicine, the Spleen transforms and transports the foods and fluids we eat. When it is weak, the normal fluids of the body become pathological, creating dampness or phlegm. If the discharge is thick and white, with little smell, then it has not yet combined with heat. If it is strong-smelling, yellowish and burning, then it has become "hot."

Acupuncture, herbs and dietary therapy all work toward strengthening the body so that heat is cleared, dampness is eliminated, and the food and fluids are transformed.

Dietary Therapy

Foods that contribute to dampness include:
alcohol, greasy and fried foods, sugar, juices, fruits (especially tropical), peanuts, dairy products, fermented foods, and wheat-based products such as pasta and breads.

Foods that help eliminate dampness include: vegetables, especially dark, leafy greens; beans like mung beans, adzuki, and lentils; grains, including millet, basmati or jasmine rice, and barley.

Herbal Therapy

Once a diagnosis is made, a formula can be prescribed to address the specific cause of your condition. Additionally, a vaginal herbal douche can be made and applied at home for more immediate relief. Yin Care wash, a pre-made herbal solution, can also be used as a vaginal douche at home.

Stress, whether chronic or acute, weakens the immune system, disrupting the natural balance of the body. This may be a contributing factor for recurrent yeast infections. Relaxation techniques and slowing down are important for strengthening the immune system.

Acupuncture, herbal medicine and dietary therapy are all important components for effectively treating and preventing yeast infections.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Gardening: What Is Cultivated By Us Is Also Cultivated Within Us

By Rachel Nowakowski, L.Ac.

After a long winter indoors, many of us are ready to reconnect with nature and get the garden started. In addition to creating beauty around us, we can use gardening as an opportunity to cultivate a balanced life. Self-cultivation comes through awareness of our daily thoughts and actions and the simple act of tending a garden can be one way to practice. Think about how you feel when in a beautiful garden: relaxed, quiet, tranquil. Gardening can help us achieve that feeling in our daily lives.

For centuries, gardens have been sacred places of meditation and prayer. In the spiritual traditions of the east, Taoist gardeners use garden design as a means of self-development through their connection with nature. The Tao Te Ching, written in the 6th century BC, discusses the cycles of yin (dormancy) and yang (action). In the garden, we see the yin aspect of this cycle as plants hold their energy inward at the roots to rest for winter. As the days warm up, the yang energy is seen in everything blooming and coming back to life. When we observe nature’s phases, we are reminded that we should balance our hectic schedules with time for rest and renewal.

Gardening slows us down so we are able to see the Five Elements in action. As we work the soil (earth) with our tools (metal) we are able to grow our plants (wood) with the help of the rain (water) and sun (fire). Early gardeners and farmers recognized that the elements we see in nature also exist inside our bodies. This idea of the body as a microcosm of the universe is the basis of Chinese medicine theory.

Gardening puts us more in touch with nature and reminds us about:
Balance. Find time to rest between activities to balance the yin and yang energies.
Patience. There are things we cannot rush. We need to slow down and let it happen.
Gratitude. Be thankful for the beauty around us, in the garden or wherever we find it.

Exercise: Breathing in Beauty
(From The Inner Garden, by Diane Dreher)
The next time you are in the garden (or anywhere outside), practice this simple exercise.
1. Pause, take a deep breath, and look around you, slowly breathing out.
2. Look for something beautiful: a tree, a flower, the sky overhead.
3. Take a deep breath and breathe in its beauty. Then slowly breathe out.
4. Smile and open your heart as you take another deep breath and release.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Chinese Acupuncture Clinic To Participate in USDA Research Project Growing Chinese Herbs in the US

By Mary Cissy Majebe, O.M.D.

High Falls Garden, one of the leading producers of Chinese herbal products grown in the United States has requested assistance from the Chinese Acupuncture Clinic for a United States Department of Agriculture Research project. M. Cissy Majebe will be on the Advisory Board for this 5-year project focusing on Specialty Crop Research.

There is a strong movement to grow Chinese herbal medicines in the United States. As one of the leading private clinics in the United States, the Chinese Acupuncture Clinic will share information and expertise guiding this project towards cultivation of herbal products in the U.S.

Yin Qiao, a basic formula that many of you may use for Wind Heat invasions, has many ingredients that you are already familiar with, as they are plants that grow in our area. Some of the ingredients of Yin Qiao are bo he, jin yin hua and lian qiao. These names may seem foreign and exotic, but when we translate them, we see that they are simply mint, honeysuckle and forsythia, which are familiar to most of us.

It is not that the Chinese have entirely different ecosystems from the U.S., but the Chinese do have a highly developed system of medicine that has developed herbal remedies over a period of thousands of years. It is our hope that by participating in this project, the Chinese Acupuncture Clinic can help to create more opportunities in the United States for the cultivation of medicinal plants.

Due to our new computer systems put in place by Joshua Herr, we are now able to track which herbs are being used the most in our clinic. We are excited about our clinic's participation, as well as Cissy's role on the Advisory Board, for this United States Department of Agriculture project. Hopefully, it can lead to more cultivation and farming of Chinese medicinals in the United States.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Balance Method

By Joshua Herr, L.Ac.

In Chinese medicine, there is a continual dialogue about how to achieve balance. One of the laws of nature is represented by the tai qi symbol, which is more popularly known as the yin yang symbol. The tai qi symbol represents a natural law of dynamic balance that is found in nature. For example, as the earth spins, there is a dynamic balance between night and day, and hot and cold, as the sun's position changes.

When you come to an extreme point of the day (the least or most amount of sunlight), the balance shifts, and the less dominant element becomes the predominating element. This is one basic concept that Chinese medical practitioners use to help patients. By assessing the state of the internal environment of the body and the balance of the meridians, a practitioner can choose the best herbs, foods, and acupuncture points to create harmony for the patient.

One common area of acupuncture study is called Microsystems. Microsystems is a term that is used to describe a unique map of acupuncture points that are distributed over a small area of the body. Microsystems use the concept of yin and yang to explain why an area of the body that has an anatomical resemblance of another part of the body can be used to treat that other area of the body.

You may have seen the ear acupuncture charts that we have around the office. In these diagrams, you can see that the points are distributed in a manner that represents the body parts of a person. The lobe of the ear is visually and structurally similar to the head. This is why acupuncture points found on the lobe of the ear effect illness of the head, including nose, ears, eyes, etc.

The Microsystem of the hand can also be seen as visually and structurally similar to the human body. In this system, the middle finger down to the wrist joint is the trunk, neck and head of the body. The 2nd and 4th fingers are the upper limbs, and the 1st and 5th are the lower limbs. The palm of the hand effects the internal organs of the body, while the back of the hand effects the back of the body and skeletal-muscular disorders of the shoulders, hips and back. There are additional Microsystems found on other areas of the body including the scalp and foot.

Another way of using acupuncture to send a message of balance to the body is by using the Primary Meridians to find which point will send the best message to that part of the body that is in distress. These points are usually very tender or sore when massaged. This technique of finding treating tender points on areas of the body that reflect illness located at another body site is commonly referred to as the Balance Method.

Primary Meridian is the term used to describe the 12 Primary Meridians that travel the length of the body, beginning or ending at the tips of the fingers or toes. These are the full body meridian charts that can be seen in the treatment rooms. When using the primary meridians to find a therapeutic balance, points along the entire arm and/or leg are used to heal other parts of the body. The practitioner first diagnoses which meridian has an imbalance (this is the meridian that travels through the area of the patient's illness). The second step is to determine which primary meridian will best balance the out-of-balance meridian by using the natural laws of yin and yang. The third task is to find points along the primary meridian chosen for treatment that will send the most effective signal to the distressed area of the body.

With this system, like the Microsystems, it can be observed that there is a visual and structural similarity between two distinct areas of the body. For example, the inside light skin area of the elbow can be used to treat the light skin area of the knee on the opposite side of the body.

At the end of this article I have listed the names and point locations for four acupuncture points of the hands that can be massaged to relieve a headache. The best point to choose is based on the location of the headache. When using these concepts to select the best point to treat the headache, the wrist of the person represents the neck and the hand represents the head and face. Have fun experimenting with the Balance Method and the next time you hurt your ankle, search for the very tender point that can be found in your wrist on the opposite side of the body.

Acupuncture Points To Relieve Headaches:

後洗"Back Stream" Small Intestine 3 - Trace the outside border of the pinky where the light and dark skin meet. This point is found in the depression that can be found on the hand just after you trace over the knuckle. Press deep to find the tender spot and massage to treat headaches located on the back of the head where the head rests when lying on a pillow.

少府 "Lesser Palace" Heart 8 - This point is found where the tip of the little finger rests when a fist is made. Press deep to find the tender spot and massage to treat headaches located on the side of the head and face.

合谷 "Joining Valley" Large Intestine 4 - This point is found on the back of the hand in the fleshy muscle found between the thumb and the first finger. Press to find the tender spot and massage to treat headaches located on the forehead or face.

When using these points, check to see which point is more tender. Is it the point on the left or right side of the body? When pain is located on one side of the body, generally the acupuncture point on the opposite side of the body in relation to the pain will be more tender and effective for treating the pain.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Chinese Medicine for Menopause

By David Treviño, L.Ac.

Most women who live in industrialized societies experience menopause between the ages of 48 and 55. This natural transition from a fertile to a non-fertile stage in a woman's life is designated when menstruation permanently ceases. During this phase, many women experience uncomfortable symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, irritability, insomnia, headaches, lethargy, weight gain, water retention, vaginal dryness, and menstrual irregularities.

For the last several decades, western medicine has been prescribing hormone replacement therapy to help women deal with these uncomfortable menopausal symptoms. Research has found that these medications increase the risk of cardiovascular disease as well as cancer.

Fortunately, Chinese medicine has much to offer women who are experiencing uncomfortable symptoms associated with menopause. Acupuncture and herbal remedies and specific nutritional adjustments have been used for thousands of years in China to help women transition through these symptoms without the use of medications.

According to Chinese medicine, the physiological transition in a woman's life from a reproductive to a non-reproductive age occurs when kidney's yin and yang energies begin to decline. For example, when the kidney yin energies are deficient, the body is unable to cool or moisten. This can contribute to insomnia, palpitations, night sweating, constipation, tinnitus, and dryness. When kidney yang deficiency is also present, women often experience depression, hot flashes, night sweats early in the morning, cold hands and feet, fatigue, ankle swelling, and backache.

Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicines are great in helping the body balance the specific energy deficiencies and reduce menopausal symptoms safely and naturally. Most women experience a reduction of menopausal symptoms only after a few acupuncture treatments, but are best treated by combining acupuncture with Chinese herbal medicine. Most of the Chinese herbal formulas prescribed today have been used for thousands of years to strengthen Qi, Blood, Yang, or Yin and can be used on a regular basis without adverse effects.

Other lifestyle factors such as stress, lack of exercise, spicy foods, alcohol and caffeine can aggravate menopausal symptoms. If you are experiencing menopausal symptoms, try eating whole foods and increase foods rich in omega 3 fatty acids, exercise regularly, and practice activities that decrease stress and promote relaxation such as tai chi, yoga and meditation. If you continue to experience menopausal difficulties after adjusting your lifestyle, speak to one of our Licensed Acupuncturists. Chinese medicine can assist you in creating a harmonious shift and assist you in moving through this life transition.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Treating Pain: Chinese Herbs for Pain

By Ann Wolman, L.Ac.

Patients commonly seek Chinese medical care because they are in pain. Acupuncture is becoming well known for its ability to resolve pain. A growing number of studies are demonstrating its use in the treatment of painful conditions such as low back pain and sciatica.

In Chinese medical terms it is said, "where there is pain, there is stagnation." This means that pain is indicative of some kind of blockage in the Meridian or Channel System. Acupuncture has the ability to "move qi and blood" and is therefore a treatment of choice for pain relief.

What is not as well known is that there is a long tradition of using Chinese herbs internally, meaning taken by mouth, for the treatment of pain disorders. For example, some of the most useful Chinese herbal formulas fall into the category of "Tieh Tah," or "Hit Medicine." These are formulas that come from the martial arts tradition and historically have been an important branch of Chinese medical study. Many herbal formulas have pain relieving functions.

Chinese herbs have advantages over pharmaceuticals for resolving pain. While Western medications may be more quick acting, they have numerous side effects, and many patients have difficulty tolerating them. All substances that are ingested must some how be detoxified and expelled by the body. Drugs are processed through the liver or the kidneys, and some may irritate the stomach. The use of pain relievers daily can be problematic. For example Acetaminophen, also known as Tylenol, is toxic to the liver, and in high doses, taken over a period of time or in combination with alcohol, can lead to liver damage. Other NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like ibuprofen (Advil) can irritate the stomach and cause ulcers. Advil has also been linked to renal damage. Narcotic pain relievers like Vicodin are extremely habit forming, may be very sedating and cause symptoms like nausea and constipation.

The beauty of Chinese medicine is that by treating the "pattern of disharmony," presenting symptoms are alleviated. This means that if pain is caused by stagnation, pain will be relieved by herbs that regulate or move qi and/or blood. We can treat the "root and the branch" simultaneously, relieving pain and resolving the underlying disharmony.

Chinese herbs are easily administered at home. Herbs can be taken in the form of teas that are cooked at home, pills, granules or tinctures. Herbs can also be targeted to treat pain in a specific area of the body. For example, for tight muscles in the upper back and shoulder blades Ge Gen (Kudzu) will guide an herbal formula to that area. It can be combined with herbs that specifically relax spasms like Bai Shao and Zhi Gan Cao (White Peony and Baked Licorice) and medicinals like Ji Xue Teng (Milletia) that open the channels and invigorate and nourish the blood. Pharmaceuticals are broad-acting and often do not target specific areas of the body.

As an adjunct to the use of internal herbs, liniments, plasters, or soaks can be used in the management of pain. Self-massage, epsom salts baths, stretching exercises, relaxation techniques and the application of caster oil packs can also be helpful. If you are dealing with pain, feel free to talk with your practitioner about your treatment plan, home care suggestions and herbal formulas that may be helpful to resolve your condition and support your healing.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Qigong Basics: The Breath & Calming the Mind

By Eric Aufdencamp, D.O.M.

Qi is the vital life force that animates all living things. In Chinese medicine, the breath is one aspect that allows us to create Qi.

Qi from a Chinese Medicine perspective:

1. Provides warmth
2. Keeps blood in the vessels and organs in their proper place
3. Acts as the catalyst for the production of blood
4. Protects the body from external influences (i.e. bacterial and viral influences)
5. Provides movement for the fluids in the body

Qigong means to acquire benefit through being in harmony with one's life energy, or Qi. Exercise and relaxation techniques are ways you can regulate the flow of Qi in your body. If you tend to be tense and always on the go, then relaxation practices are very important. If you tend to have a sedentary lifestyle, movement practices such as tai chi, yoga, swimming, and other low-impact exercises, are important.

Regardless of your activity level, quieting the mind is an essential practice for better health.
  • To begin your practice, first sit and simply observe your breath. Is it shallow, rapid, slow, or constricted? Do you breathe only in your chest or do you breathe deeply into both your chest and abdomen?
  • Next, breathe through your nose with your mouth closed and the tip of your tongue gently resting on the border of your upper teeth and palate. This creates a circuit in the body that assists the movement of Qi. Breathe from your diaphragm, or from the area around the middle of your torso. As you fill up the area of the diaphragm, your chest may slowly rise as a natural consequence.
  • It is best to breathe from deep in the belly, because chest breathing may cause you to feel anxious or lightheaded. When inhaling, breathe deep in order to fill up the entire cavity in a 360-degree radius. Feel as if there were a balloon in the center that is being filled up in all directions. Remember that breathing should always be gentle and not forced.
Over time, your breathing will become slower and deeper without effort. Eventually, you can let go of the focus on your breath and just notice the sensations in your body and the sounds surrounding you.

It is ideal to not shut out sounds, but instead make them a part of your practice. It is a practice of accepting or surrendering to what is both in our bodies and our minds. This practice is excellent for reducing anxiety, promoting restful sleep and slowing down our thoughts.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Reading The Research Regarding Supplements

By Mary Cissy Majebe, OMD

Each month I receive a newspaper entitled, Family Practice News. It refers to itself as “The Leading Independent Newspaper for the Family Physician.” I look through it as a way of keeping myself up to date with Western medicine, as well as with what the Western medical press may be reporting about alternative or complementary medicine. During the week of December 1, 2008, on page 32, the headline at the top of the page read:

“Prescribed Drugs, Supplements Tied To Liver Injury”

It went on to state: "Single prescription medication was the likely cause of the liver injury in 73% of cases. Multiple prescription medications or a combination of prescription medicine and dietary supplements were the cause in 18%. Single or multiple dietary supplements were the cause in the remaining 9%.”

Needless to say, I was distressed, so I sought out the research citation: “Causes, Clinical Features, and Outcomes From a Prospective Study of Drug-Induced Liver Injury in the United States.” Gastroenterology 2008: 136: 1924-1934. After reading this article, I had a much different picture.

The article’s headline listed both pharmaceuticals and supplements. However, of the total 300 patients in this study, 270 of these liver injuries were linked to either one or multiple pharmaceuticals. Only 30 of these liver injuries were linked to a supplement, and 2 of these 30 were linked to a pharmaceutical and a supplement. In other words, 90% of the liver injuries in this study are associated with pharmaceuticals and 10% to supplement usage. Of the 10% with liver injuries due to supplement usage, 65% of these were using supplements for weight loss and muscle building.

Furthermore, 73% (217 patients) of the liver injuries were due to pharmaceuticals, while 18% (55 patients) were linked to multiple pharmaceutical and supplement usage. Of these 55 patients, 2 of them used a supplement that was also listed as a probable causative agent, including Cell Tech, which is a muscle-building agent for body builders, and a Source of Life multivitamin supplement. For 53% of the 55 patients, they were using multiple pharmaceuticals. For 9% (28 patients), they were linked to supplements. Of these 28 patients, 19 were using supplements geared towards body building or weight loss.

All of the liver injuries that resulted in death (11% or 18 patients) were attributed to pharmaceuticals. No liver injuries in these 18 patients were attributed to supplements. Eight of the patients who were in this study received a transplant. One of these was attributed to an over-the-counter weight loss supplement, CVS Spectravite.

My concern with this type of reporting is that often, I, like many other health care professionals, only read the titles and highlights. Of the total 30 patients who were taking supplements, there were also no indications whether they had been prescribed to them by a Licensed Health Care Practitioner or a Trained and Educated Health Care Practitioner.

I find the article in Family Practice News to be reflective of the bias in the media and in allopathic research, which often highlights aspects of wholistic medicine, rather than focusing on the consequences of an over-medicated society. A point of interest is that all liver injuries due to Acetamenaphin were excluded from this study. I wonder how much smaller would the percentage have been for supplements, if all Liver injuries were included in this report.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Cooking With Chinese Herbs To Stay Healthy During The Winter Months

By Ann Wolman, L.Ac.

In Chinese Medicine, the winter is associated with the water element and with the energetic organ system of the Kidneys. It is the time of maximum yin. These are the cold, quiet, contemplative months. Kidney energy holds our deepest reserves and provides the basis for our constitutional strength. This is a perfect time of year to incorporate nourishing and warming medicinal herbs into your cooking.

Foods and herbs have flavors, temperatures and energetic qualities. The Kidneys are nourished by the flavor of salt and other astringents. The Kidneys benefit from cooling or warming foods depending upon an individual’s constitution, but generally speaking, the Kidneys prefer warm natured herbs and foods. Some foods that nourish Kidney Qi are root vegetables like potatoes, yams, parsnips, and small beans like kidney, aduki and black beans and seeds.

One of the best ways to utilize Chinese dietary and herbal therapy is to cook with Chinese herbs. You can put raw herbs into soups and stews. This is often done with herbs like gou qi zi (lycuim fruit), dang shen (codonopsis), fu Ling (Poria), ren shen (Ginseng) and da zao (Chinese Dates).

It is also traditional to make congee, a kind of grain soup, with herbs. These congees are tasty, nutritious, and cost effective. They are particularly comforting on a cold winter morning. All of the herbal ingredients mentioned are available at the clinic and your practitioner can make more specific recommendations regarding those, which would be most beneficial for you.

Below are a couple of simple congee recipes.

Both of these congees can be varied based upon your taste, and as your practitioner recommends. You can use rice, millet, barley quinoa or amaranth as the base. Spices include cinnamon, bay leaf allspice, rosemary, ginger, nutmeg, cloves and fennel. Try walnuts, almonds or pumpkin seeds, and include different vegetables like sweet potato, pumpkin and squash. Experiment a little and enjoy.

If your practitioner suggests a more Kidney yin nourishing recipe, try the Mulberry Congee Recipe.

Basic Herbal Congee Recipe (warming)

½ cup white rice
8 cups vegetable or chicken stock (5 cups stock to 1 part grain if using a crock-pot)
10 grams astragalus root (huang qi)
6 grams codonopsis root (dang shen)
5 grams pueraria root (ge gen)
5 grams lotus seeds (lian zi)
8 shitake or black mushrooms, slivered
1 carrot, diced
1 strip seaweed

Place the astragalus in a bag or tie with string. Cover the codonopsis and pueraria with boiling water for 20 minutes, and then cut into ¼ inch lengths. Simmer all ingredients except carrot for 60 – 90 minutes, or cook overnight in a crock-pot on a low temperature setting. Add the carrot for the last 12 minutes. When done, remove astragalus and serve. This recipe can be varied using other grains like barley and warming herbs like fennel seed and dried ginger.

Mulberry Congee Recipe (cooling)

30 grams fresh mulberries
20 grams dry mulberries
20 grams dried lycium fruit (gou qi zi)
1 /2 cup walnuts
1 cup rice
4 – 7 cups water (7 cups water if using a crock-pot)

Cook mulberries and rice in water preferably overnight in a crock-pot on low setting. Add lycium fruit and walnuts. Serve warm each morning on an empty stomach.

It is even more important in the winter months to follow the basic principles of Chinese dietary therapy, as this will help to protect us from the bad effects of cold natured foods that tend to predominate the American diet. It is suggested that one avoid raw fruits and vegetables and cold or chilled foods and beverages (especially ice cream). Bon Appetit!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

DAO YIN Exercises for Health

By Junie Norfleet, L.Ac.

In the book Daoist Health Preservation Exercises, it is reported that Dr. Tissot, a famous French doctor from the 18th century, said, "As far as the role of movement is concerned, it can almost replace any kind of medicine. But no medicine in the world can replace the role of movement."

For many years the Chinese culture has recognized the importance of using movement to maintain and support the health of the body. The type of movement that the Chinese culture uses is not the aerobic and weight lifting types of movement that are so much a part of the culture in the United States.

Dao Yin movements are gentle and yet very effective for moving the energy (qi) of the body to help maintain health or to help cure illness. Following are some Dao Yin exercises that will help to maintain a supple, energized body. (As with all exercise, do only what your body feels comfortable doing.)

1. Lie on your back. Relax. Notice where your breath is in your body. Put your hands on that area. Relax. Gently guide your breath to the lower body. Breathe into the lower body several times. Place one hand on the upper body and one hand on the lower body. Inhale into the lower body and hold the breath. While holding the breath, force the breath into the upper body and then back down to the lower body. "Pump" the breath between these two places until you can no longer hold your breath. Release the breath through the mouth. Repeat several times. Relax and notice where the breath is now.

2. Stretch both hands over your head and spread your legs so that your body looks like an "X." Relax. Now you are going to "crawl on your back." Stretch the right hand higher over your head, then stretch the left leg out; then the left hand higher and the right leg out. By letting the hips shift as you reach, a "crawling" motion will be created when you do it at a fairly rapid pace. Once you have done it several times, relax and notice what feels different in your body. Where is the breath?

3. Lie on your back with your arms out to the sides as if the body is a cross. Pull the knees up and place the feet on the floor. Cross the right leg over the left leg so the knees cross. Inhale and let the weight of the right leg push the left leg to the left as far as it will go and release the breath. The head should naturally turn to the right. Let the left leg do the work of bringing both legs back up. Repeat this several times. As you repeat the exercise again, this time let the legs flop over to the left and release the breath rapidly. Repeat several times. Now lie on your back again. Notice what feels different in the body. Which leg feels longer, heavier? Where is the breath?

4. Repeat exercise 3, but cross the left leg over the right.

Doing these gentle exercises helps to lubricate the joints, stretch the sinews, move the qi, and relax the body. As you do these exercises more and more, you will begin to notice that you feel more centered and comfortable in your body, and that your body can stretch more each week. And remember, there is no medicine that can take the place of movement!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Setting a Good Example through Healthy Eating

By Rachel Nowakowski, L.Ac.

At Thanksgiving dinner, I noticed how some kids are willing to try new foods while others reject anything unfamiliar. Like adults, children develop a natural preference for what they eat most often and enjoy. One way to get kids to make healthy choices is by setting a good example. Because the childhood impulse to imitate is strong, you can encourage your child to eat nutritious foods by being a role model.

Spleen qi is responsible for transforming and transporting food essences and absorbing nutrients. In Chinese medicine theory, children are born with underdeveloped Spleen energy. Considering this theory, we must carefully introduce new foods to children. Overindulging in sweet foods will only lead to further Spleen qi deficiency. Because Spleen qi is associated with the sweet flavor, when it is out of balance, we usually crave sweet foods. (Perhaps this is why so many kids seem to be born with a sweet tooth!)

When your kids ask to taste what you're eating, it helps to have your plate filled with nutritious selections. But healthy eating is not just about what we eat, but also how we eat. Eating while under physical or emotional stress can be harmful to the digestion, even if we are eating a perfect diet. Do you eat while in a hurry? While standing up? While under stress? Stress negatively impacts Liver qi. When this excess energy overacts onto the Spleen, digestion will suffer.

We can teach our children healthy eating habits and take special care to protect Spleen qi if we:

Sit down to eat together. Studies show that children and teens, who eat frequent meals with their families, eat more fruits and vegetables (even dark green ones) and drink fewer soft drinks.

Knowing that dinner is served at about the same time every night and that the family will be sitting down together is comforting, which also enhances appetite and digestion.

Relax. Sitting and taking the time to eat slowly and digest helps Spleen qi to break down food properly. When we eat on the run or rush from the table after eating, it sends qi to other parts of the body when we need the qi in our stomachs for digesting. Taking time to give thanks and enjoy the company of your family and friends during meals also sets a good example for children.

Limit mealtime conversation to pleasant topics. Eating together provides time for your child to share what's on his/her mind. Make mealtime an enjoyable experience by avoiding upsetting topics while at the table.

Chew well. How many times have we heard this? Yet many of us tend to speed through meals, barely chewing our food. Digestion begins with chewing. Chinese medicine says the digestive qi works to break down food into a "100 degree soup". If we chew well, food gets broken down before it reaches the stomach and leaves less work for the digestive qi.

Avoid excess fluids while eating. Don't put out the digestive fire by drinking too many fluids. It is best to drink a little at the beginning and at the end of the meal. Not between each bite. Limiting drinks for kids will also keep them from getting full before they've eaten their vegetables!

Other tips to encourage healthy eating:

Get kids involved. Let them help with the grocery shopping. It's a great time for you to teach them about the nutritional values of different foods, and how to read food labels. Let your child help with dinner by washing or peeling the vegetables. Start a vegetable garden at home so your kids can eat what they grow!

Keep only healthy snacks around. Kids are bombarded by messages that counteract your best efforts. Between peer pressure and junk food advertisements, getting your child to eat well might seem like a lost cause. They may choose poorly when they are out of the house, but you can decide what is available to them at home.

Your children are looking to you for direction on how to eat well. Show them how and help your own health at the same time. Research shows that it takes the average child 8-10 presentations of a new food before he/she willingly accepts it. So don't give up.

Have the kids help with this fun and yummy recipe:

Butternut Squash Fries. Peel and remove seeds from squash. Cut into long, 1/2-inch wide strips. Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with sea salt. Toss the fries to make sure they are evenly coated. Spread fries on a baking sheet. Bake 30-45 minutes, turning to ensure they are crispy on all sides. Enjoy!