The New Year inspires change and reflection. It is a time to look at the past year retrospectively and decide what we would like to change and focus on for the upcoming year. We tend to make New Year “resolutions,” but what does a resolution mean? It is a solution to a problem. What do you see as a problem or something you would like to improve on this coming year? For me since I am kind of a health fanatic I almost always choose something impossible and then it’s easy to feel like I have failed in my attempts. So what have I learned all these years of making resolutions? I have learned to set more realistic goals and make slight changes to facilitate the bigger picture of what I have in mind. This year I decided to do more yoga and seek out more health care for myself. As a new mother and healthcare practitioner it is really easy for me to just focus on others. One valuable lesson that I am learning everyday is that the more I can give myself the more I am able to give others. I recently joined a local yoga studio, Yoga Refuge and feel so much more vibrant when I can take that time for myself to honor my body and spirit. And as far as getting more health care I am not talking about going to the hospital to get every test under the sun. I am talking about preventative health care. Getting health care and body work that is rewarding because it instantly makes me feel better. I am blessed to work at An Sen Clinic (Integrative Medicine Clinic at 4424 NE Glisan) as an acupuncturist with other great practitioners that have wholistic health care in mind. If you want to do one simple thing for yourself this coming year just come in and we can help you get your health on track.
Ok so if you haven’t had acupuncture before you are probably wondering how can getting stuck with needles help with stress? Even for me, as an acupuncturist, I don’t like to get poked with needless when I go to the doctor… but I love getting acupuncture. So in other words, I can relate to your hesitation.
For those of you who have had acupuncture before you know this is a typical acupuncture experience… coming into a nice office (obviously some serious feng shui going on), relaxing atmosphere, nice calm acupuncturist who is listening to all that I want to work on. Then after having my pulse taken I get to lay down on the treatment table getting some points done (wow, did I even get any needles in?) and then just drifting off to acu-land where I feel like I am somewhere between sleeping and floating. Then my acupuncturist does some additional body work (maybe moxa or massage) and off I go back to the world. But now my world feels much more carefree and I have more energy to deal with all that life throws my way. Ah such happiness with free flowing qi.
I hope I have painted a picture of how relaxing and beneficial acupuncture is in reducing stress. But now I want to talk about how acupuncture actually does promote relaxation and stress reduction.
How Does Acupuncture Work?
I will answer this question from a western medicine perspective since this is the perspective most of us have, unless we have been trained in Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Acupuncture works by:
- Stimulating our parasympathetic nervous system (aka the “rest and digest” system by releasing neurotransmitters and endorphins into the body).
- Regulating our immune system (that’s how it can both treat allergies/autoimmune diseases AND also boost the immune system of someone immunocompromised).
- Reducing inflammation by changing circulatory patterns (i.e. brings fresh blood to an acute or chronic injury and takes the inflammatory process away leading to pain relief and increased healing).
Another great source for explaining how acupuncture works comes from the John Hopkins Medicine Health Library.
A great Holiday Class on making all natural vegan body products for gifts or for pampering yourself! This class will be about 2 hours long taught by Genevieve Johnson, L.Ac. with snacks and tea provided. We will make: a spicy body scrub, face cream, facial toner and fresh feet salve.
When: Saturday, December 13th at 10:30 am – noonish
Cost: $30/person… you get a container of body scrub, face cream, toner, and foot salve. And the chance to personalize/decorate your containers for gifts.
Well we finally moved back to Portland, Oregon after living at the coast for the past 5 years. This has not changed my passion for all things vegan and gluten free. Especially since my daughter was born almost 2 years ago. With her arrival I have been on the quest to not only do vegan and GF, but also as many super densely packed nutritious meals with minimal ingredients.
As all of you Portlanders know we have had an amazingly beautiful spring, summer and fall! Very dry in fact. At times a little too dry with the surrounding droughts. But alas the rains have finally come and mother nature has indicated that Fall is here.
Fall in Chinese Medicine
In Traditional Chinese Medicine Fall is a time of the Lungs, which belong to the Metal Element. This is traditionally a time when dryness and wind have a factor in our health. The Lungs are associated with the exterior of our body and when we catch a cold (or wind-cold in Chinese Medicine) the Lungs have been compromised. This is evident by the chills, fever, body aches, sniffles, and cough that may be productive or dry.
What can we do in Chinese Medicine to treat a cold/flu?
First and foremost there are many common herbs you probably already have in your kitchen that are great for those beginning stages of a cold; ginger, green onion, mint, garlic.
Make a really strong ginger tea with a 2-3 inches chopped fresh ginger root in 6 cups water. Boil the ginger and let simmer for 15 minutes and add some maple syrup or honey to cut the super pungent flavor (optional). Let the tea cool slightly and drink throughout the day.
Go see your acupuncturist or get one!! They will have some great formulas on hand like, Yin Qiao San, Gan Mao Ling or Chuan Xin Lian. These are all great formulas to have on hand for the cold and flu season, but you want to make sure to get them from a trusted source. Also acupuncture can cut the time you are sick in half and who doesn’t want to feel better now.
How we can strengthen our immune system to prevent getting a cold/flu
The best way to strengthen our immune system is to eat a whole foods diet that has lots of veggies!!! This is probably redundant to many of you who would be reading a health blog. But still eat lots of veggies!!!
In TCM we look at things a little differently, our immune system has a direct link to the Lungs (remember they govern the exterior of the body to protect us).
Some simple foods to support or tonify the lungs are: nourishing soups (recipe below), pears, pumpkin, apple, brown rice, porridges, and mushrooms.
Foods that can help get phlegm out of the lungs are: garlic, fresh ginger, fennel, and seaweeds.
Foods for a dry cough (meaning the Lungs need to be moistened) are: microalgaes, pears, string beans, herbs like lily bulbs, marshmallow root, and licorice tea.
Time for Fall Soup (Nourishes the Lungs)
- 2-3 stalks green onions
- 3 cloves garlic (double with a cold)
- 1-2 inches fresh ginger (double with a cold)
- 2 astragalus roots (optional for extra immune boosting)
- 4-5 mushrooms (I prefer shiitake)
- 1 carrot
- 1 stalk celery
- 1/2 package tempeh
- 8 cups water
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1/4-1/3 cup miso
Chop the green onions, mushrooms, carrot, celery, and tempeh (the garlic and ginger can be grated ro finely chopped). Add the 2 astragalus roots whole (so you can remove them before eating the soup). Add all ingredients to the water and boil for 8-10 minutes. After all veggies are tender turn OFF heat and add sesame oil and miso. A tip for the miso is to whisk up with 1/2 cup water before adding to soup so it will be uniform in texture. Also we add miso at the end after heat is turned off to preserve all the healthy probiotics.
This soup has nourishing ingredients (astragalus, carrots, mushrooms, celery, tempeh and miso) to boost the immune system. And it has Lung opening and phlegm reducing herbs (green onions, garlic, and ginger).
Also by boiling the ingredients we preserve the nutritional elements in the soup broth and this method of cooking is seen as very neutral in Chinese Medicine. Meaning that it is great for all constitutions so enjoy!!!
It seeems that winter is finally here with all the rain, snow and wind. With all the dark stormy days sometimes it is easy to feel the wintertime blues. There are many things we can do to stay warm and happy in the wintertime. The best thing is movement and mobility. Try going to a yoga or exercise class. This will help maintain flexability and strength, while getting you moving to stay warm. Yoga and other forms of meditation like qi gong and tai chi are important because during meditation your brain enters an alpha and theta state. This is helpful for elevating mood and balancing neurotransmittors.
In Chinese Medicine Winter is Associated with the Kidneys:
The Kidneys are seen as the original form of energy that we inherit from our parents. It is imoportant to conserve this energy by taking time to get in touch with the slower, darker months and get more sleep, meditate more and even foods can be cooked slower. Foods that are great for this time of year are stews, soups, steamed vegetables, and warming herbs (such as: cinnamon, ginger, garlic, and onion). Make sure not to have too many hot, spicy foods though because too hot can burn up the Kidney energy. When having spicy foods, it is good to balance them with astringent and sour foods (such as: vinegars, saurkraut, cherries, cranberries and sour plums).
Herbs and Supplements to Keep the Winter Blues Away:
Schisandra Berry- This is a unique herb in that it has all five flavors: sour, pungent, neutral, bitter, and sweet. The Chinese name for this herb is “wu wei zi,” meaning five flavor seed. This is a great resorative herb for the kidneys.
Vitamin D- Anyone who lives in the Northwest, especially here at the coast knows we don’t get enough sunshine to synthesize vitamin D production. It is a good idea to take vitamin D to keep our mood and immune system up this time of year.
**Mushrooms are also a great source of vitamin D**
BODYWORK to Elevate Mood and Increase Circulation
Acupuncture and Massage are great ways to uplift the spirit and keep
positive through the darker months.
Acupuncture has been shown to release serotonin and stimulate your
parasympathetic nervous system ie. rest and digest mode. Most
anti-depressants are SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors), which raise the levels of serotonin in the body. Acupuncture creates a similar effect without the detrimental side effects and can treat so much more!!
Massage releases endorphins in the body to reduce chronic or acute pain that is physical, mental, and spiritual in origin. Have you ever noticed how your posture and body mechanics change with feeling depressed? Bodywork can help to create structural support. Energizing techniques are used to aliven and awaken your well-being.