How To Be A Gardener - 1. Know Your Plot

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac

One way in which we can all live in accordance with Chinese medicine principles is to be connected to the earth. One wonderful way to do this is by gardening. When you garden you are literally digging in the dirt, and connecting to the planet. It is, for many, an incredibly healing and grounding activity.

It is not easy for some of us to garden as we may live in cold climates, or in apartments with limited or no outside space, but even having plants, life, in your home is a wonderful way to connect to nature and add life to your environment.

There is a wonderful series of shows by the BBC called - How to be a Gardener. There are eight episodes in the series and they offer practical, simple insights on the basics of gardening, and no one is more serious (or sassier) about gadrening than the Brits! So, even if you don't have a huge yard, these tips can help you to understand the basics of growing and perhaps inspire you to get out there and create something beautiful of your own.

Here is the information about episode 1 - Know Your Polt - from the BBC website.

Episode 1 - Know Your Plot

Assessing Your Plot

Just like you, your garden is unique and has character. It is this character, a distinctive set of conditions that work together, which determines what you can grow successfully.

Understand your garden’s character and you’re well on the way to becoming a blossoming gardener. That’s what we’ll be doing over the next few pages.

We’ll look at the following range of conditions and show you how to discover what they are in your garden:


Ask an Acupuncturist. - Why are you putting that point there?

Question

I have been going to an acupuncturist (who is Chinese and speaks very little English) for my terrible headaches, and I am just wondering, why he is putting needles in my legs, stomach and hands and not in my head?

Answer

Ha. Good question. This is particularly confusing to those of us who grew up in the West with the Cartesian model of medicine where we tend to treat the part that is giving us problems directly (if we are suffering with headaches, we look for problems in the head, etc..). The Chinese medical model however, has a different approach. Because it is based on a holistic system, it is the entire body that is assessed to discover where the imbalance is that is creating the headache, instead of treating the head directly. In TCM there are many, many reasons that one may suffer from a headache, and each person's headache must be flushed out and the root of the problem discovered so that it can be treated. Often, the cause of headaches can be an excess of yang or fire energy in the body which flares upwards causing things like headaches, red eyes, anger, and bitter taste in the mouth. To treat this, the yin, or water energy of the body must be supplemented which is often done with points in the lower legs, we would also often treat the lower part of the body in an attempt to draw the heat down and anchor it which would alleviate the symptoms.

So, although in Chinese medicine there are many causes for headaches, the acupuncturist is always looking for the root cause so that it can be corrected, so that often means treating points in other parts of the body and not the head directly.


Dandelion - A Gift From Mother Nature

By Vicky Chan of NourishU

Dandelion is a very common perennial herb that grows wild in fields all over the world. It has tooth-edged leaves and yellow flowers. People in Europe and Asia commonly use dandelion as food and medicine. In foods, dandelion is used as salad greens, in soups, wine, and teas. The roasted root is used as a coffee substitute. In medicine, the whole plant is used to make herbal concoctions or herbal extracts.

Clinical studies have shown dandelion has protective effects against lipid peroxidation and free radicals, both damaging products of a poorly functioning liver. Like burdock, dandelion contains a wealth of nutrients important to liver function, especially the B vitamins. It cleanses the liver and increases the production of bile. Therefore, it is often used as a herbal treatment for all liver diseases including hepatitis, cirrhosis and jaundice.

Chinese Medicine defines dandelion as cold in nature and bitter and sweet in taste. It benefits the liver and stomach. The therapeutic effects include clearing away heat and detoxifying blood. It is used as weight-loss aid because of its diuretic effects. Dandelion reduces swelling and dissolves clots and is used for treating food poisoning, inflammation of liver and gallbladder, kidney and gallbladder stones, tuberculosis and clots in the lungs.

Dandelion Cancer Prevention Recipe in Chinese Medicine

In recent years, dandelion has been found to be most effective in preventing cancer when used in combination with another herb called Radix angelicae pubescentis (du huo). It is because the main characteristic of dandelion is that it is very light in weight and can travel and spread easily. So it is used as a chaser as well to send the medicinal effects throughout the body.

The following is the recipe to make this cancer prevention tea. It is very easy to make and costs very little because you can pick dandelion for free almost anywhere. You just need to pick them from a clean and wild environment so that they have no pesticides or chemical pollution. Rinse the whole plant clean and put them to dry under the hot summer sun for 2 to 3 days before storing away.

The tea is bitter in taste but it can do wonders to our health. We should accept what Mother Nature has given us with grace and give dandelion the credit that it deserves.

Cancer Prevention Dandelion Tea

THERAPEUTIC EFFECTS

Prevents cancer by clearing internal energy blockages and blood stagnation so that the cells can breathe and function properly.

Cancer Prevention Dandelion Tea

INGREDIENTS

Dandelion 蒲公英 - 7 gm
Radix angelicae pubescentis (du huo) 獨活 – 5 gm

DIRECTIONS

1. Put the two herbs with 2 cups of water in a pot.
2. Bring water to a boil and let it cook for 2 to 3 minutes.
3. Strain and drink tea only.

USAGE

Take 1 cup in the morning and the other cup in the evening. Take regularly as tea with no restrictions.

Cancer Prevention Dandelion Tea


7 Most Common Acupuncture Side Effects

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac

For those unfamiliar with acupuncture, or with limited experience, there are some side effects that everyone should be aware of. This is why it is always good to do your research and make sure you have all the information before taking the plunge. Below is a list of the most common side effects of having acupuncture treatments, and some of them might surprise you.

wellbeing

1. An Overall Feeling of Wellbeing

By far one of the most common things heard by acupuncturists from their patients is that they feel an overwhelming sense of wellbeing. I believe the reason lies within the very foundation upon which Chinese medicine in built. Because Chinese medicine is a holistic system, when you come in for an acupuncture treatment, it is not just the ailment that is being treated, it is the entire person on every level. This is in contrast to the Western model which functions in more of a reductionistic way, honing in on the part of the body that is seen to be malfunctioning and treating it, often in isolation. In Chinese medicine, the entire body is seen to function as a whole and no one part can be separated from the others, it is one, everything acting synergistically. This is why people often feel a euphoric sense of calm, peace and wellbeing when receiving acupuncture treatment, as the entire being is being healed and rebalanced which is what the body really needs. The feeling of wellbeing is your body’s way of saying thank you.

2. Improved Sleep

Sleep is something that most of us don’t get nearly enough of. I have seen this over and over again in practice, we certainly seem to be a sleep deprived culture. Everyone is under pressure to get a lot done and there never seems to be enough time. Sleep, unfortunately, is the thing that often suffers. Thankfully, one of the wonderful things about acupuncture (and there are many) is that it is incredibly relaxing to the body and benefits the nervous system allowing us to have better quality sleep.

3. Feeling More Relaxed

Acupuncture is incredibly relaxing to the body. For anyone who has never had acupuncture before this may seem a strange statement. How, you may ask, could the body relax when it is full of needles? But, it is true. The tiny acupuncture needles release endorphins that cause a pleasant feeling of euphoria and are extremely beneficial to the nervous system causing the body to feel relaxed. Many people become so relaxed on the table, that they pass out cold. This is extra nice because it helps with number two - getting a bit of a nap is an added bonus.

acuface

4. Other Negative Symptoms Disappearing

The intake process is involved and great care is taken to collect both a medical history and other relevant information about the patient's health on every level. During this process there is usually a chief complaint which is the reason that the person has come to see you. After the information is collected, a diagnosis is formulated and a treatment plan put together. As treatment begins, something wonderful happens... the patient will say things like, “you know I was coming to you for my terrible migraines, but I had been having this awful constipation for years. I forgot to mention it to you, but it has completely cleared up.” It is very common for symptoms that are perhaps not the reason you sought treatment to resolve themselves, and the reason goes back to number one. Because Chinese medicine is based on a holistic system, it is not treating symptoms, it is treating the entire human being, therefore, the whole body is being balanced out meaning that symptoms that you may have been struggling with, will disappear.

5. Heightened Senses & Awareness

Acupuncture has the ability to heighten the senses and bring greater awareness to the patient. There are many people out there who are not entirely connected to their bodies and have a difficult time describing how they feel. Acupuncture helps them to reconnect with their bodies as they learn to feel the qi moving around inside them. There are many different sensations that can be felt while having acupuncture, and most are the movements of qi inside the body. For those who are more embodied, people who practice yoga, martial arts and athletes for example, this awareness has been developed and acupuncture can serve to heighten that awareness. For those who are not as connected to their bodies, acupuncture can be an introduction to their bodies and create an awareness that will help them maintain balance and health in the future.

acuwrist

6. Increased Energy

Many people come to have acupuncture for various kinds of stagnation. Stagnation is a common term in Chinese medicine and basically means a blockage of some kind in the body. It can be a blockage of blood, or of qi (the body’s vital energy). Stagnation is one of the main causes of pain in TCM, and acupuncture and herbs are excellent for moving stagnations. One of the side effects of moving blockages in the body is that it frees up all the energy that has been pooling around the blockage, and people will often find that their energy increases once the stagnation starts breaking up and things are flowing freely again. This is especially true of people experiencing pain which is very exhausting to the body. Once the stagnation, which is the cause of the pain, is moved, the body is no longer being drained and the energy stores are freed up for more constructive and pleasant bodily processes.

7. Clear Thinking and Better Concentration

A very nice side effect of acupuncture treatments is that people often report that they are able to think more clearly and are better able to concentrate. In this age of multitasking, long hours and lack of sleep we can all use all the help we can get. Acupuncture helps us to rebalance. When there is an imbalance in the body, our qi is disrupted. Often times, due to hectic schedules, improper nutrition and lack of sleep, we simply do not have enough qi to provide us with the energy we need, and the result often manifests in decreased cognitive abilities like dull thinking, forgetfulness and difficulty remembering. Because acupuncture treatments are rebalancing the entire body, it ensures that all the organs are functioning properly, making all the qi we need so we have plenty to think clearly, concentrate and remember. I think the term side effects has been sullied by the media. We are bombarded on a daily basis with commercials from drug companies that sing the praises of some new drug while quietly listing a myriad of side effects that are often worse that the symptom you are taking the drug for. This is what I think many people associate with the term side effects. But, in this case, I present to you a list of side effects which do not take away from the overall pleasantness of an acupuncture treatment, but enhance them exponentially.


High Blood Pressure? Eat More Celery.

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac

Foods are an integral part of health and medicine in Chinese culture. Nutritional therapy is a vital part of the Chinese medical model, and each food is seen to have a temperature, specific organs that it affects and healing properties making the art of food therapy an important aspect of Chinese medicine.

One of the many wonderful things about Chinese medicine is the use of ordinary things that we use in our everyday lives to combat health problems when they arise. Food or nutrition therapy is an integral part of Chinese medicine, and eating with the seasons and with foods wide array of healing properties in mind can build the immune system to keep us healthy, and also help to rebalance us when we are sick.

Celery is considered sweet, bitter and is cooling in nature. It is particularly beneficial to the spleen, stomach and liver. Celery is used to treat many conditions, but in particular, it has been used for centuries to effectively lower high blood pressure.

Blood pressure, or hypertension, is the measurement of the pressure exerted against the arteries as the blood leaves the heart. Fluctuations in blood pressure are normal, but it is when the blood pressure remains high that is can be dangerous to our health and increase the risk of problems like heart attack and stroke. One of the main concerns is that high blood pressure is often referred to as a silent killer because there are often no symptoms until the damage has already been done and it is too late, so anything we can do preventatively to keep our blood pressure at healthy levels is always a good idea!

Blood pressure measuring studio shot

Blood pressure is measured by two different numbers - the systolic and diastolic pressure. The first, the systolic, is the measurement of the pressure of the blood leaving the heart as it pumps. The second number - the diastolic, is a measurement of the pressure of the blood when the heart is at rest. A normal blood pressure reading is approximately 120/80.

Celery, a common vegetable and available at almost every grocery store is one of the best foods for lowering high blood pressure. Celery contains active compounds called phthalides (butylphthalide). These compounds naturally function to relax the muscles in and around the walls of the arteries, causing the vessels to dilate, thus creating more room for the blood to flow and lowering the pressure. Phthalides also are shown to reduce the levels of stress hormones (called catecholamines) in the blood. These stress hormones also raise blood pressure because they cause vessels to constrict. Celery has the added benefit of benefiting and soothing the nervous system and many patients with nervous system disorders in TCM are encouraged to add celery to their diets.

In a recent study by the University of Chicago Medical Centre, the father of a medical student who was diagnosed with hypertension decided to try the Chinese medicine remedy of eating celery to see if he could lower his blood pressure without medication. He ate 4 stalks a day for a week, and then taking 3 weeks off before resuming the regimen. Within a week his blood pressure fell from 158/96 to 118/82. The man and his son brought the findings to researchers at the University of Chicago Medical Center where they isolated the compound (3-n-butyl phthalide) and injected it into rats to see if they could reproduce the results. Not only did the rat's blood pressure drop 13 percent in a week, but the rats' cholesterol levels also dropped by seven percent. The high fiber in the celery helped to lower the cholesterol levels in the animal experiment. *

The common wisdom is that 4 stalks of celery a day can significantly lower blood pressure in less than a week. It is important to note however, that having a healthy diet and trying to restrict the amount of processed salt that we eat will hopefully keep high blood pressure from getting out of control, but the addition of celery into our diets is an excellent preventative strategy that we can all use to keep our blood pressure at healthy levels.

Here is a delicious recipe for Spring Greens with Shaved Celery Salad from Bon Appetit. Enjoy!

Spring Greens and Shaved Celery Salad

celery

*A note on the approach of science and how it differs from Chinese medicine. One of the things that makes Chinese medicine so effective is its view of the whole. The whole person, the relationship of the person to nature and the universe and that the body functions synergistically, as a whole, each part benefitting the other so that the entire organism may work in harmony. In my opinion, it is celery in its entirety that has the amazing healing properties it possesses, and extracting certain compounds, even if you can scientifically prove their efficacy, will undoubtedly diminish the effectiveness of their healing properties as a whole. The beauty of Chinese medicine is that it sees the symbiotic relationship between people and the food they eat to be mutually beneficial, and we are only now being able to prove with science the ways that these mechanisms function, even though they have been used by the Chinese and other Asian cultures for thousands of years.

 

 


Ask an Acupuncturist - Osteoporosis

Question

I am trying to decide if I want to continue taking Fosamax or Boniva for osteoporosis. I haven't been the best at taking it for the past 8-10 years, partly due to laziness, partly what I read about the meds and partly because of the expense. I have now been denied by 4 insurance companies because of the osteoporosis, and I wonder if you have any advice on what I should do?

Answer

This is a great question and something many women (and men) wonder about.

Osteoporosis is the gradual loss of bone density that causes the bones to become brittle, thus increasing the risk of fracture. Women are at a higher risk of developing osteoporosis because of the steady loss of estrogen after menopause. There are some risk factors that contribute to your chances of developing osteoporosis and they are:

  • Age - bone density decreases naturally as we age
  • Heredity and genetics - osteoporosis tends to run in families
  • Being thin with fine bones increases your risk
  • A diet high in sodium
  • Carbonated drinks
  • Stress
  • Dieting
  • Caffeine
  • Smoking
  • Heavy alcohol use
  • Excess sugar intake
  • Certain medications such as the birth control pill and drugs for hypothyroidism weaken bones
  • Lack of exercise - weight bearing exercises cause the body to lay down new bone, increasing bone mass
  • A diet lacking in calcium, phosphorus and vitamin D
  • Too much animal protein in the diet can leach calcium from the bones
  • If you have broken many bones in your adult life, you are more susceptible

Although some of these risk factors cannot be avoided, many can and things like diet and exercise are vital to the health of your bones. Eating a diet high in calcium and balancing that with adequate levels of vitamin D which is responsible for the absorption of calcium, are important for the strength and density of bones. Most people associate dairy products with foods high in calcium, but for those who prefer not to eat dairy, there are many foods that are extremely high in calcium. Here is a list of non dairy sources of calcium.

bone

Non Dairy Sources of Calcium

  • Tofu
  • Chia seeds
  • Almonds
  • Sesame seeds (ground or pulverized for better absorption)
  • Tapioca
  • Collard greens
  • Kale
  • Bok Choy
  • White beans
  • Figs
  • Black eyed peas
  • Broccoli
  • Sardines with the bones
  • Seaweed
  • Turnip greens
  • Oranges

sardines

Vitamin D & Calcium Absorption

Getting enough vitamin D is crucial to absorption of calcium. Common wisdom says that 30 minutes of sunshine a day is adequate for the average adult. Note that people with a diet high in animal proteins will cause calcium to be absorbed poorly, so if you are trying to build up calcium and strengthen bones, consider limiting your intake of animal proteins. It is also important to note that if we are not getting enough calcium in the diet, the body will take the calcium it needs from the bones, so make sure you are getting enough! The recommended daily amount is between 800 milligrams - 1200 milligrams for lactating women.

Fosamax and Boniva

Fosamax (Alendronate) and Boniva (Ibandronate) belong to a group of drugs called bisphosphonates. They alter the cycle of bone formation and breakdown in the body, decreasing the rate at which bone cells are absorbed. They are both commonly prescribed to postmenopausal women for osteoporosis.

Acupuncture & Chinese Herbs

Although sometimes drugs like this are a good option if your are suffering from severe bone loss and your bones have become dangerously brittle, my suggestion would be to always try to rebuild bone naturally. Medications often just treat symptoms and do not tackle the underlying problem which is what Chinese medicine is all about. Of course there are times when medications are necessary, but even so, I would always encourage a patient to be working towards balance so that eventually they did not need the drugs.

Acupuncture and Chinese herbs have been shown to be extremely effective for osteoporosis. There have been many clinical trials that show that both acupuncture treatments as well as Chinese herbal formulas that treat the kidneys (in Chinese medicine the kidneys govern the bones, growth and maturation) are very effective in building bone mass making the bones less brittle and susceptible to fractures.

Exercise

Weight bearing exercise is what the body needs to lay down new bone and this type of exercise is prescribed for people with osteoporosis. Weight bearing exercise is defined as exercises one does on your feet working the bones and the muscles against gravity. While that doesn’t mean going to the gym and pumping weights, there are many types of exercises that fall into this category and will improve bone health.

walkingstick

  • Walking
  • Jogging
  • Dancing
  • Climbing stairs
  • Tennis
  • Volleyball
  • Tai Chi
  • Yoga
  • Golf
  • Gardening or working in the yard

As you can see, these are activities that almost anyone can do. Exercise is not only good for osteoporosis, it is also vital to our overall wellbeing. I always encourage patients to try to go outside every day, take some deep breaths and spend time in nature. It is a very grounding activity and often pulls us out of our heads and reminds us of what is important.

acuisnice

In conclusion, my best advise in regards to your question on what to do about osteoporosis is to make changes to your diet, including as many calcium rich foods as possible, as well as making sure that you are getting adequate vitamin D to ensure that the calcium you are eating is being absorbed fully. Remove things like excess salt, sugar and alcohol from your diet and try to limit caffeine. Take some time every day to exercise, even if it is going for a walk to give your bones a workout which will stimulate them to lay down new bone and increase your bone density. And last but certainly not least, I would highly recommend seeking out an acupuncturist for regular treatments with the addition of Chinese herbs which are excellent for building up the kidneys and building strong healthy bones.


The Health Benefits of Kelp

By Vicky Chan of NourishU

Kelp is a kind of seaweed that has long, big and thick green leaves. It is high in vitamins, nutrients, and minerals and has many known health benefits:

1. Promotes Thyroid & Immune Functions

Kelp is high in natural iodine, which is essential to the proper function of the thyroid. A healthy thyroid is necessary in controlling growth, energy and metabolism in our body and supporting our immune system to fight infections. Iodine is used for curing goiter, the swelling of the thyroid gland.

2. Lowers Blood Pressure and Cholesterol

Kelp is high in fiber and non-fatty acids and is known to lower blood pressure and cholesterol.

3. Prevents Tumor Growth and Cancer

Kelp is extremely alkaline which keeps our body's pH balanced to prevent cancer growth. Kelp is also high in lignans, phytochemicals found in sea vegetables, which can limit the amount of cancer cells released into the blood stream and limit tumor growth.

4. Anti-inflammatory

Kelp can reduce inflammation in joints and bones which helps to alleviate pain, especially for people suffering from arthritis.

5. Promotes Women’s Health

Kelp is high in iron, calcium and magnesium. It is a good source of vitamins and minerals for women to promote healthy bones and helps to promote better sleep through menopause.

6. Lowers Blood Sugar

Kelp is low in sugar and high in fiber. It helps to slow down the metabolism of sugar therefore reducing sugar spikes commonly found in diabetics after eating.

7. Reduces Water Retention

Kelp can also be used as a diuretic, which helps the body to shed water that it might retain.

Kelp is abundantly available in many coastal countries around the world but may not be commonly eaten especially in the western diet. A daily dose of kelp may just be the ticket to get your body in good health and to lose a few pounds.

Here are a couple of recipe suggestions for you to increase your regular intake of kelp. But it you are high in iron, or suffering from hyperthyroidism, or you are pregnant or are breast feeding, you should stay away from kelp because too much of a good thing can be harmful.

IMG_3096 (450x338)

Kelp Salad

Ingredients (quantity as desired)

Kelp (dried or presoaked)

Balsamic vinegar or rice vinegar

Sesame oil

Soy sauce

Optional fresh ingredients: (quantity as desired)

Bell pepper of different colors

Celery

Sesame seeds

Directions

1. Soak kelp with plenty of water to rehydrate fully and rinse a few times.

2. Put kelp in boiling water to boil for about 10 minutes or to desired softness. Retrieve, rinse with cold water and strain.

3. Cut kelp into thin strips (matchstick or julienne cut) and then season with vinegar, soy sauce and sesame oil to taste.

4. Cut optional ingredients into similar strips and mix with kelp to serve.

Tips

Make a larger batch of kelp at a time, season it and keep it in the fridge to serve up to a week. Only mix in other optional ingredients when it is time to serve for freshness.

IMG_3102 (450x338)

Kelp and Wood-ear Mushroom Soup

Ingredients (quantity as desired)

Kelp

Wood-ear mushroom

Carrot

Pork / Chicken

Ginger – 2 to 3 slices

Scallion (finely cut) – one spoon

Coriander (finely cut) – one spoon

Therapeutic effects

Lowers blood pressure and cholesterol, prevents tumor growth, treats swollen thyroid gland, promotes blood and clears blood stagnation, promotes yin and prevents heart disease.

Directions

1. Soak kelp and wood-ear mushroom until fully rehydrated. Put in boiling water to cook for 5 minutes, retrieve and rinse.

2. Peel carrot and wash.

3. Wash meat and strain.

4. Cut all ingredients into thin strips using julienne or matchstick cut.

5. Season meat with adequate amount of sugar, salt, pepper, garlic powder, cooking wine, potato starch and sesame oil and put aside.

6. Bring adequate amount of water (or broth) in a pot to boil, add all ingredients except meat to cook for about 20 minutes on medium boil. Remove foam if any.

7. Add meat to cook for a few minutes more.

8. Add scallion, coriander and seasoning to taste and serve.

IMG_3105 (450x338)


Menopause - A Chinese Medicine Perspective

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac

Menopause is a time when a woman’s life transitions from one stage into another. Ideally, this is done gracefully, and without any problems or health concerns.

In reality, I see women entering menopause with dread and fear. They have been taught that menopause is a disease and that it will be a time for unpleasant symptoms and hormone therapy. Much of our culture supports this, and it is no wonder women feel this way. So why is it that women in the West react this way to a natural life process while their contemporaries in the East do not? In an interesting bit of trivia, the Western thinking on the subject it seems, was fuelled by a physician and a book he wrote on the subject in the 1960’s...

“The current medical wisdom is the product of an industrially manufactured consciousness. In 1966 Searle, Upjohn, and Wyeth-Ayerst pathologized the perception of menopause, transforming it from a transitional life stage into a chronic disease process by hiring a Brooklyn physician named Robert A. Wilson to write a book called Feminine Forever, proclaiming that estrogen would protect a woman's youth and save her from "living decay." The book injected fear by insisting that without estrogen replacement therapy (ERT), bones would dissolve, hearts clog, vaginas shrivel, breasts sag, skin crinkle, and minds deteriorate.”

By Harriet Beinfield, L.Ac. and Efram Korngold, L.Ac., OMD from their article Recognition and Prevention of Herb-Drug Interaction for Menopause

In China, women do not fear this natural stage of life. It is not part of their culture, or their experience. Menopause is not something that should cause anxiety, as it is seen as a completely natural process and not an illness that needs medicating. It is a time that a woman moves out of the reproductive part of her life and enters deeply inwards, bringing the focus to herself, often after many years of focussing on others. It is a time that is welcomed and honoured.

We are a culture that reveres youth and beauty. The transition into menopause is seen as a permanent loss of both. In China, one’s elders have great importance in both the family and social structure. As we move through life, we are seen to be accumulating something very valuable - WISDOM.

As we age, both our yin and yang energy are seen to be in a gradual state of decline. This is a natural part of life, and we are certainly able to supplement them by eating well, getting enough sleep, exercising and taking care of our bodies, minds and spirits.

Jing - The Essence of Your Being

To understand menopause, we must first understand what is called Jing, or essence - which is stored in and regulated by the Kidneys. Jing can be loosely compared to our genes or DNA. Jing is like our life force, and we are all born with a finite amount. This is supplemented throughout our lives by the food we eat and nutrition derived from the external environment, so the better we eat and take care of ourselves, the less we are drawing on our Jing or essence. A good way to illustrate how Jing works, is to think about it as a savings account. The better your health in your adult life, the less you will have to draw from your Jing account, and the more you will have when you get older (which is when you really need it).

How difficult menopause will be for a woman is largely dependent on the physical, spiritual and emotional health she has maintained throughout her adult life. At the first signs of menopause, or perimenopause, a woman will often seek out her doctor or gynaecologist and the recommendation is often Hormone Replacement Therapy, or HRT. While this is an option for some women, there are certainly alternatives, and Chinese medicine has been treating gynaecological issues for more than 2000 years. In Chinese medicine, menopause is not seen as a disease, but merely a stage of life where the needs of the body change. If a woman has led a relatively balanced life, then she will go through menopause without incident, and yes this does happen! This is largely the experience in China. If a woman has had a lot of stress, emotional upheaval, poor nutrition and insufficient exercise, the effects will be felt when she enters menopause. When we are young our bodies are able to handle a lot more abuse and bounce back - living an unhealthy lifestyle would be constantly drawing on the Jing in our savings account, and it is when we are older, when we continue the behaviours of the past, that we notice that our bodies don’t respond as quickly or as well to our demands. In a bank account that was overflowing in our youth, we are now functioning at a deficit.

The Jing, or essence is stored in the Kidney and is the source of all our body’s vital energies. When the Jing becomes deficient we lose our capacity to remember, have vision and hearing problems, our libido is compromised, stamina decreases, bones become thin and brittle, our minds become dull, teeth and gums deteriorate, we experience vaginal dryness, have sore lower back, hips and knees and emotionally we become apathetic and prone to despair. These are symptoms of a deficiency of Jing in Chinese medicine, but, as you can see, they are also in our experience, signs of aging.

A deficiency of Jing, as it is at the core of our health, has huge consequences as everything else draws from it, leading to deficiencies of yin and yang, qi and blood. Deficiency of qi presents as symptoms of fatigue, feeling unmotivated, unable to think and concentrate, an overwhelming desire to sleep and feeling sad and melancholy. A deficiency of blood manifests as dizziness, memory problems, numbness and vision problems. Insufficient blood is unable to nourish the body’s tissues, causing it to stiffen up, losing its suppleness and flexibility, not only physically, but there is a lack of emotional flexibility as well. Yang deficiency is literally a lack of the warming energies of the body manifesting as chills, cold limbs, loose stools, and spontaneous sweating. Hot flashes are a symptom of yin deficiency, as yin is not able to anchor yang fire, causing it to rise up uncontrollably. Yin deficiency also causes anxiety, and night sweats which are so often associated with menopause.

Diet & Nutrition

Menopausal women often notice a change in the way they process food, therefore, dietary changes can be hugely helpful for dealing with symptoms. Women going through menopause often become lactose intolerant, so eliminating dairy products will help eliminate bloating and gas. Supporting the beneficial bacteria in the body like probiotics will help to normalize the functions of the digestive system.

Another dietary consideration is that of carbohydrates and insulin. Carbohydrates (bread/grains/cereal/pasta/potatoes) are broken down into sugar or glucose which causes the body to release insulin. The role of insulin in the body is to break down glucose. Increased consumption of carbohydrates leads to increased insulin levels which interfere with the cells ability to respond to hormone stimulation. Women with symptoms of liver qi and blood stagnation (sx: anger, irritability, frustration, depression, feeling emotionally ‘stuck’, lump in the throat, anxious and easily stressed, severe pain that is fixed, stabbing severe, fixed masses, dark complexion, bleeding with clots, purple lips and nails), are likely estrogen dominant and would most benefit from a limited carbohydrate intake, preferably one meal a day.

Dietary Recommendations for Menopause

Smoking - smoking is extremely drying to yin fluids which are needed to combat common menopausal symptoms like night sweats and hot flashes, so either quit or cut down and try to stay away from secondhand smoke.

Avoid foods like sugar, dairy, alcohol, spicy foods, caffeine and red meat as they aggravate symptoms like hot flashes and decrease emotional stability causing mood swings.

Beneficial Foods

Include foods rich in phytoestrogens like soy (from non processed or GMO soybeans) including tofu, tempeh and miso pastes, flaxseed, sesame seeds, hummus, dried apricots and dates, alfalfa and mung bean sprouts and pistachios. Soy is not a popular food choice in North America, but it is a staple of the Chinese diet and the highest source of phytoestrogens known.

estrogenfoods

Also including foods that are a source of progesterone is important in menopause. Those foods include yams (not to be confused with sweet potatoes), turkey, walnuts and fortified cereals. Eggs, dairy products and chicken are good sources of progesterone, but it can be difficult to find sources that have not been given antibiotics or hormones which you want to avoid.

Other Things You Can Do To Ease Menopause Symptoms

You may be wondering if you have lived a less than healthy lifestyle up until now, if your menopausal symptoms can still be treated - and the answer is definitely yes. Women with menopausal symptoms, sometimes very severe or debilitating ones, are often seen in clinical practice. Even though the basis of Chinese medicine is on prevention, it still offers us an incredible array of tools that can be used to help reduce the symptoms of menopause.

Get some acupuncture. A practitioner of Chinese medicine with their robust skills of interrogation and diagnosis will ferret out the source of the imbalance and has many tools at her disposal with which to correct it. Acupuncture and Chinese herbs have been used for thousands of years to treat gynaecological disorders and work very well to combat menopausal symptoms. As I often tell people, there is no miracle formula or acupuncture point for night sweats or hot flashes. Chinese medicine is a holistic system, and the reason that you are having the symptoms is because the body is simply out of balance. It is the job of the acupuncturist to discover the root of the imbalance and correct it, while educating their patient on things like nutrition, lifestyle, exercise and meditation so that the body will remain in balance and the symptoms will never reappear.

Menopause should never be a time for worry and fear, it should be a time for inner reflection, and many women find it is an incredibly powerful and edifying part of their lives. All stages of life are important, so if you are experiencing problems, just know that you are not alone and that Chinese medicine can offer relief.


Happy Spring-Time!

Written by Michael Margulis, Ac.

Just a few words about the spring season according to Chinese medicine.

The spring is a time of upward and expansive movement of creativity, planning a brighter future, vision and perspective; our goal as always, is to harmonize ourselves with the movement of the prevailing season. According to Chinese medicine, the Liver and the Gall-Bladder correspond to the spring and are charged of the smooth flow of energy throughout the body, storing and detoxifying the blood. Our activities should be geared towards creativity, determination and the expression of our inherent mental, emotional and spiritual intelligence. Much in same way that many of us engage in an annual spring cleaning of our external environment, our bodies do the very same thing within our internal environment; physically and emotionally.

We are now nearing the time of year when we will see the newly formed buds on the trees doubling in size daily, this is nature's expression of determination and creativity associated with the spring. Similarly, we too should engage in activities that put our determination, creativity and innate intelligence into motion. In Chinese medicine we always look at nature for insight to the energetic momentum, and strive behave similarly. Just as the buds on trees are sprouting and doubling in size daily we should also be pushing our self imposed boundaries and seek personal development and growth. We should engage in uplifting and creative activity that expands our energy and consciousness, this is why we have been blessed with the spring, the season of creativity, growth and renewal.

This is the perfect time of year to let go of stimulants such as coffee, alcohol, tobacco and recreational drugs, as the expansive, stimulating movement of the spring gives us that boost naturally. We can also take advantage of this natural boost of energy to begin to exercise moderately on a daily basis, this too helps us to feel alive and refreshed. By shaking off the “cob webs” of the dormant season (winter), sweating out toxins, stimulating serotonin and dopamine in the brain, and revitalizing our energetic, blood and lymphatic circulation.

According to Chinese Medicine the Liver houses the aspect of our spirit that never dies from one lifetime to the next and therefore contains our reason for being. This is why the Liver has the capacity of determination and vision and planning; this way we can spring into action, express our greatest innate qualities needed to realize our spiritual destiny.

The name of the game during the spring is; to face everything and avoid nothing that stands in the way of our evolution; to hide nothing from ourselves; repressed desires, emotional needs and pain should be gently extracted from our depths and brought to the surface so that we may consciously release them (spring cleaning). This is the most propitious time of year to stop procrastinating and face the challenges that emerge from deep within our being or in our day to day lives that can impede us from our primordial spiritual evolution (the summer). In order to do this we must have physical, mental, emotional and spiritual clarity and cleanliness.
Most of the pain we experience have a tendino-muscular or a neuro-muscular component and according Chinese medicine all pain involves some sort of stagnation; be it of the blood, energy, body fluids, emotion or mental. According to Chinese medicine, the Liver and Gall Bladder govern the muscles, tendons and the nerves, by promoting proper heath and functioning of the Liver and Gall-Bladder we can keep the body, mind and spirit harmonious and pain free.

The positive mental-emotional attributes of the Liver/Gall-Baldder are;
Compassion, patience, acceptance, benevolence and honesty (both within and without).

The negative mental-emotional attributes of the Liver/Gall-Bladder are;
Anger, frustration, resentment, irritability and belligerence.

Just as the body is a microcosm of our world, the body is also equipped with acupuncture points that resonate with the spring equinox and have the power to harmonize us with this very powerful time of year. They synchronize us with the ambient movement and expression of positivity, determination, expansion creativity and cleanliness that is proper to the spring.

These points and they are very often of the most important acupuncture points to stimulate on the spring equinox or during the week of the spring equinox. It's best to stimulate these points starting with Gall-Bladder 41 and ending with Liver 1.

Gall-Bladder 41 (GB 41)

Liver 1 (LV 1)

Wishing you a beautiful and abundant spring full of health and happiness!

Straight ahead!

Michael Margulis, Ac.
Clinic GEM
514-271-3963

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If you would like a downloadable information sheet that will tell you all about how to live in harmony with the Spring Season in Chinese Medicine, you can find it here - The Spring Season in Chinese Medicine.


The Raven's Warrior - Martial Arts Meets Chinese Medicine

The Writing of The Raven’s Warrior—A Novel

By Vincent Pratchett

Many people have an interest in martial arts. That interest however, is as unique as every individual who has trained and sweated through any art pursued. We bring a modern western perspective to an ancient eastern discipline. For me, the very first time I entered the dojo a new world opened up. The bowing, the white gi and the white belt I tied it with, the foreign names of the martial technique I learned, all took me to a place far different from the neighborhood I grew up in. Almost inevitably, the student at some point will turn their attention to the origins of their endeavor, both personally and historically. It is this understanding that provides the strongest foundation of who we are, and what we do.

At the University of Guelph I took a course in Chinese history, and felt once again that sense of wonder. In the library I poured over volumes of books on the science and technology of ancient China. This vast empire, isolated from the rest of humanity, developed and produced inventions and innovations that made the rest of the known world seem a very primitive place. The European world of A.D. 900 was a harsh environment. Ireland was regularly besieged by Viking raiders. Life in many places was as simple as defend or die. In contrast, China at this time was flourishing.

Confucian, Taoist, and Buddhist doctrine formed the basis of their unified society. The Chinese had weapons of steel, while the rest of the world wielded iron. They had the compass while all others navigated by wind and star. Theirs was a working cosmic understanding of the earth and the universe, while for the rest of humanity the world was still quite flat. Advances in medical theory, arts and literature, paper and printing set them apart. It was here that the discovery of the destructive power of a volatile black powder would change the nature of war for centuries to come.

I have always been a writer. I was born with an Irish soul. Inherent in this culture is a deep love and respect for both the written and spoken word. How these words come together to form stories is really the heart of the magic and the enigmatic beauty of creation. Within my family I was taught that stories surround the tellers silently like the air that they breathe. Their gift is to listen and to record, to bring tales from the ether, and give them voice. As one raised in Canada I was skeptical, but now that The Raven’s Warrior is finished, I don’t think that this explanation is without merit.

The stage was set.

In my mind’s eye I could see and hear the savage warrior of my ancestral land dropped into the advanced civilization that was theirs. The writing of the novel began with the first sentence. It came to me as soon as I sat with pen and paper. With the first complete thought inked onto paper, the process of listening and recording was underway. Like the successful application of a martial technique, writing this novel was simply creativity drawn from the heart of chaos.

A man sees the world through the eyes he has been given. The wounded Celtic prisoner of war ripped from his homeland, is liberated by a priest and his daughter in the land called China. For him, hazy images of silk, steel, herbal potions, and healing needles, can lead to only one conclusion, he has fallen into the hands of a wizard and his witch, and Arkthar fears for his very soul. Although the grueling physical journey is over, his spiritual journey has just begun. Under Death’s plotting eye, a warrior, a priest, and a healer embark on a quest to save a kingdom. I hope that you will enjoy reading it as much as I have enjoyed writing it.

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Every man’s life story begins at first breath, but this is not my story alone, and so it begins much closer to my last.

Chapter 1 – The Beginning

I soar in effortless circles around the plodding caravan far below me, gently riding the desert winds. It is not the glitter of sunlight on jewels that attracts me, for I do not covet the spoils of war, but crave only my humble share of war’s terrible outcome. The hot rising air is cradled beneath the feathers of my outstretched wings, and carries with it the tantalizing odor of sand and blood. I fly on, driven by primordial hunger and beckoned by the smell of death. Drawn closer now, I am intrigued, for I have found its source.

I can see him clearly. He is chained behind the cart laden with plunder and pulled by great horned oxen. He jerks and stumbles forward at every tug of the cattle’s methodical steps. Blood is the clothing that covers his body. Wounded and tortured, decay did not wait politely for death’s cue, and the flies have already joined the feast.

My spirit knows that this cruelty is the work of men, nature is much more merciful. I can see that the dying captive is mad. He raves with agony and fever at every near fall. Nature mercifully has removed mind from body, so his mind knows nothing of its body’s plight or pain, and by nature’s mercy I sense his journey will soon be over.

But that time has not yet come, and I fly upwards towards the heavens to banish my gloom. As clouds part and early stars move slowly before my eyes, I bite and savor simple concepts, tasting the timeless comfort of universal truths. With pain and blood they are born, they live, create life and take life, and then with blood and pain they leave through Death’s cold gateway. It is Death’s black finger that puts the final punctuation at the end of every man’s life sentence.

It was then that I heard Death laughing, and when he had finished his chuckle he began to speak. “I have heard the delirious ramblings of countless dying minds. I am amused by yours. Heavy philosophy to hapless metaphor, ‘my black finger puts the final punctuation at the end of every man’s life sentence?’ That is very funny given your circumstance. Fly down with me to see the wretch again.” As we flew lower Death continued to speak.

“Many times in many battles I came to take him, but he was elusive and agile. Even though I couldn’t reach him, he did my work well and sent me many. Did you know I have whispered to him every step of his journey and still he will not come? Yet even if he does not die along the way, he knows I wait to embrace him at the executioner’s block. Why does he resist?”

We angled closer to the man as he continued. “I know this unreasonable tenacity is testimony to the power of life and creation, and to feel life’s pulsing strength is a new experience for me, an experience for which I will always be grateful.” We flew closer still, and hovered. The stench was intoxicating. I saw the war prisoner’s wild eyes, and in a heartbeat ravenous euphoria was replaced by terror.

I saw and understood that this smell of what was once a man was me, and in panic I began falling from the sky. Death steadied me, “Do not be afraid,” he said as I plummeted towards myself. “I came once more to take you, but I am in your debt. You have challenged me, aided me, helped me hear life’s song, and finally you have even made me laugh. ‘My black finger puts the final punctuation at the end of every man’s life sentence,’” and his laughter began all over again.

We had begun the final dive of a bird of prey. There was no turning back. We were very close and flew very fast, faster than the speed of reflex. For me there could and would be no stopping. A wing tip away from impact, he flashed his final words. “No punctuation yet, your life sentence has just begun.”

Instantly my world blazed white. Like the coals of a forge it cooled, sinking steadily through a sea of red and orange. Finally it settled into the black cold depths of the night, from where I emerged and moved as a man once more.

The fever had broken. The heat and redness around the wound still remained, but my arm no longer ached at every passing heartbeat. The blood that had seemed unstoppable had slowed to a trickle and had cleaned the wound as best it could. Dead flesh was gone, and the children of the flies had also vanished. A mind forced away by the body’s anguish has returned to its temple to worship at its altar of bearable suffering once again.

I had survived, I had begun to heal, and I had forgotten everything that Death had said to me.