What Can Chinese Art Teach Us about Healing?

By Sally Perkins

“Where the art of medicine is loved, there is also a love of humanity,” said Hippocrates, highlighting the fact that medicine is a creative as well as a scientific pursuit. Medical professionals, after all, have a range of tools, knowledge, and experience at hand but often, in order for all these to align in the correct balance, creative choices need to be made. Ancient Chinese art, like ancient writings, are a rich source of information about medical practises, some of which are still used with patients today. They are also testimony to the celebration of humanity in all its facets and an open window into the suffering and joy involved in illness and healing, respectively.

Suffering for a Higher Good

The work Moxibustion, a hanging scroll by the Song artist Li Tang, depicts an itinerant doctor conducting moxibustion - a form of heat therapy in which dried plant materials (moxa) are burned close to or on the surface of the skin, to invigorate the flow of Qi through the body and to eliminate toxins. In the beautifully detailed scroll, the man being treated contorts his face in pain and others hold onto him or try to accompany him during this difficult time. The work is not only illustrative of the importance of balanced Qi but also a symbol of the sacrifices that must be made to achieve it and the pain this can involve. In order to be healthy of mind and body, everything from one’s choice of diet to one’s breathing and exercise habits must work in unison since prevention is always better (and less painful) than cure.


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The Harmony of the Eight Brocades

The Eight Brocades are a set of qigong exercises that focus on a different meridian, once again focusing on a different meridian to encourage the optimal flowing of qi through the body. The work Illustrated Album of the Eight Pieces of Brocade, created by an anonymous artist during the Qing dynasty (1644-1911) portrays the eight exercises as well as breathing exercises. In the illustrations, both the beauty of the human form and the peace and joy that result from prioritizing health, are evident. In some postures, the subjects open their mouths to breathe but also seem to smile, their mouths turned upwards and their eyes both concentrating and enjoying the moment they are in.

Recreating the Beauty of Ancient Chinese Art

Art in itself can be a means of healing. It can inspire one to lead a healthier lifestyle and aspire to a higher ideal of health - a holistic, all-encompassing state of body and mind, one in which Qi is unblocked. If you wish to follow the example laid out in ancient Chinese art, begin by drawing the human face and body, paying special attention to proportion and perspective. If you are a beginner to drawing and you wish to express pain, joy, peace, and other qualities through the eyes, take advantage of online resources to hone the basics of eye sketching. Basic steps include making and joining curved lines, adding the iris, and adding color and details. As your skills improve, you can start to include more people in your drawings and create more sophisticated compositions.



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Following the Examples Set in Ancient Chinese Art

You can also visit exhibitions featuring medical and health subjects to enlighten you on how to lead a healthier life. From studying the different positions and breathing techniques of qi gong right through to learning more about healing herbs, diet, and traditional medicines, you can balance the vital force of energy within you and feel more invigorated. In this state, it is easier to embrace creativity in everything from your work to your leisure time.

Art and science have a strong link and nowhere is this more evident than in highly praised objects of ancient Chinese art. The latter displays suffering, treatment, and healing methods. It also shows the importance of breathing and exercise to strengthen the body and enable Qi to flow as it needs to.


Featured image photo by Lisanto 李奕良 on Unsplash - photo from Sanxia District, New Taipei City, Taiwan


Using Traditional Chinese Medicine To Heal Common Gardening Injuries

Using Traditional Chinese Medicine To Heal Common Gardening Injuries

By Sally Perkins

Gardening has become a favorite hobby worldwide as a study indicates that in 2020, over 20 million novice gardeners began planting and digging in the soil for the first time in their lives. Not only has it become a great pastime and stress-reliever, but gardening has also enabled many individuals to grow their own food in their backyard. Though gardening has multiple benefits for physical and mental health, it also comes with its own set of hazards that can lead to injuries and various body aches and pains. Fortunately, there are ancient Chinese remedies that you can use to deal with these various injuries and have a pain-free time in the garden.


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For cuts and scrapes

Getting injured in the garden is a common occurrence for both novice and seasoned gardeners. In fact, the American Society for Surgery of the Hand notes that emergency rooms treat more than 400,000 gardening-related accidents each year. Some of the most common injuries include cuts and scrapes, and while most cases may not warrant a trip to the hospital, they still need to be looked after to prevent infection. The ancient Chinese typically used a combination of four plant-derived ingredients, which are agrimony, sacred lotus, frankincense, and cattail pollen, to heal wounds. You can find a pulverized version of these four ingredients in Chinese herbal stores and apply the mixture to cuts, scrapes and wounds to speed up healing and reduce scar formation.  You may also use powdered Yunnan Baiyao to treat bleeding cuts or wounds to prevent further blood loss. Just make sure to clean the wound or scrapes thoroughly before applying the powder to minimize the risk of infection.

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For sunburn

Gardeners are at a high risk for sunburn. Not only can it lead to pain and discomfort, but constant and prolonged exposure to the sun may also cause skin aging and skin cancer. To prevent sunburn, it's important to apply sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 before going outside. Gardeners should also have a shady spot in the garden where they can rest and seek respite from the hot sun. Consider creating a sitting area under a shady tree by installing a comfortable hammock, then add a small table where you can put drinks or a bottle of water so you can hydrate while you rest. If you do get a sunburn though, there are several things you can do to relieve the pain.

Traditional Chinese medicine views sunburn to be a condition wherein damp heat is trapped in the skin, and it's usually treated with a combination of topical herb therapy, rehydration, and acupuncture to release the trapped heat. For a sunburn, TCM practitioners often recommend eating cooling foods such as celery, cucumber, watermelon, pears, and cantaloupes. Drinking a glass of water every hour, as well as some green tea and calendula tea, is also recommended to repair skin cell damage from sunburn. A topical application of aloe vera gel mixed with crushed dandelion greens is also used to soothe redness and pain.

Gardening is a healthy hobby that can benefit your life in so many ways. Though it does come with some hazards, you can stay safe and have an enjoyable time in your backyard by staying hydrated, protecting yourself from the sun, and using tools carefully. Should you get scrapes, cuts, or a sunburn while gardening, consider using traditional Chinese medicine to heal your skin, and always consult a professional before using any herbal remedies.

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How Acupuncture Can Make You Sleep Better

Acupuncture is an ancient practice where needles are strategically inserted into the skin by a professional, stimulating specific parts of the body. Acupuncture is still popular today to treat many conditions, including insomnia. Therefore, acupuncture could potentially help people sleep better.

How Does Acupuncture Affect Sleep?

Many people believe acupuncture is a neuromodulator, meaning that it can tone down the perception of the brain’s sensory signals, even the pain signals. Various parts of the brain will light up on functional MRIs. Therefore, it is fairly easy to see how acupuncture influences the brain.

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How Acupuncture Can Help You Sleep

Experts are not exactly sure about how effective acupuncture is for insomnia, as there is not enough research done on it yet. However, that does not mean that it is not helpful, nor does it mean there is a lack of studies. Some physicians are skeptical of it, but there is a lot of evidence that can suggest acupuncture can be beneficial. Some doctors who specialize in sleep medicine practice acupuncture on their patients and see good results. While more research would be required to prove that it is truly effective, acupuncture could help alleviate or treat symptoms like:

  • Sleep apnea
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Sleep apnea
  • Restless legs syndrome
  • Depression
  • Pain

Many professionals like to offer acupuncture to their patients because the potential benefits far outweigh the small risks. In most professional’s eyes, they notice more benefits than side effects, and the patients at least feel calmer after an acupuncture session, helping them sleep well for a few days.

General Insomnia

Many people find it hard to sleep on occasion, but insomnia is a real condition many people deal with. It can impact how a person functions throughout the day due to poor sleep. Symptoms of insomnia can appear for several days, but they can last for months or even longer. Some common symptoms can include:

  • Waking up in the middle of the night, difficult going back to sleep
  • Finding it difficult to fall asleep
  • Waking up earlier than expected

Some common reasons why insomnia can occur include:

  • Medical conditions like sleep apnea
  • Chronic pain
  • Mental health disorders like anxiety
  • Improper sleep schedules

Many doctors enjoy offering their patients options, so offering their patients a safe alternative or addition to their medication can make them feel better, at least mentally and emotionally. Moreover, it has fewer risks compared to drug therapy. The current research suggests that acupuncture could help obstructive sleep apnea, anxiety, insomnia and restless legs syndrome. However, the evidence should not get exaggerated because they are somewhat mild to moderate, but it is still there.

Primary Insomnia

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Some evidence suggests acupuncture could treat insomnia if it does not have specific causes. While there needs to be more research before there is a conclusive answer, many patients who have insomnia can benefit from getting it done. Traditional acupuncture is when the needles do not get inserted far into a person’s skin. One study had 72 people who had primary insomnia get this treatment 3 times a week for about 4 weeks. The results found that it was effective at enhancing total sleep time, sleep efficiency and insomnia symptoms during the sessions. Another double-blind study involved 180 patients who had primary insomnia. In this study, they noticed that traditional acupuncture had good results when it came to daytime functioning and enhancing sleep quality compared to sedative medication and sham acupuncture.

Sleep Apnea

OSA, or obstructive sleep apnea, is when a person stops breathing when they sleep, which is a dangerous condition. Even if a person sleeps all night, it causes oxygen deprivation that makes them feel tired the following day. Several studies suggest that acupuncture could alleviate sleep apnea symptoms. However, the evidence is not solid enough to make it a viable treatment option for sleep apnea.

Mental Health Disorders and Insomnia

People who have depression and anxiety are more likely to have trouble sleeping. Limited research is available to state that acupuncture can help. However, one study with 90 people who had insomnia and depression found that electroacupuncture (acupuncture with electro currents) 3 times a week for about 8 weeks experienced:

  • Better sleep efficiency and quality
  • Depression
  • Total sleep time

There are no big studies that study acupuncture’s effects on people who have insomnia and anxiety. However, one review of the 20 studies of the effects of acupuncture on anxiety showed that it can improve anxiety symptoms, so it is not a complete loss.

Pain and Insomnia

Certain people can find it hard to sleep because of chronic pain. Chronic pain is pain that would last for 3 months or longer. One review was done for nine studies that had almost 1,000 participants with insomnia that was from chronic pain. The review found that acupuncture offered better results at enhancing sleep quality when compared to medication and sham treatment.

Acupuncture for Sleep: What Should You Expect

You can expect a few things when you visit an actual practitioner, which includes:

  • An hour-long session
  • A very thorough intake from the practitioner, which would include medical history
  • Around 20-30 needles were inserted in different points
  • The practitioner may palace seeds or needles in your ears

Before any session, practitioners in the acupuncture clinic diagnose what the potential root cause of the patient’s problem would be. For instance, they will try to figure out if stress causes your sleep problems so that they can choose acupuncture points to correspond to the diagnosis.

All in All

Acupuncture could help patients who have insomnia. While there is no conclusive evidence yet, it definitely has more benefits that outweigh the small risks of acupuncture.


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Ancient Chinese Remedies To Cure Common Personal Hygiene Problems

By Sally Perkins

Having good hygiene is one of the easiest ways to protect yourself against common illnesses. Taking good care of yourself also benefits your overall wellbeing, improves your social interactions, and boosts your confidence. However, a recent study has shown that most people do not adhere to basic hygiene guidelines, and 42 percent of people admit that they don't wash their hands each time they use the restroom. Moreover, while two thirds of Americans shower everyday, some people rush through the process, and aren't cleaning themselves the right way. Bad hygiene can lead to infection and discomfort, and while medication can reverse the effect of poor hygiene habits, using ancient Chinese remedies can also help to cure the following common personal hygiene problems naturally.

Bacterial vaginosis

One in three women will get bacterial vaginosis at some point in their life. While bacterial vaginosis, or BV, isn't a serious problem, it can cause a lot of discomfort, since it causes pain or itching in and outside of the vagina, a burning sensation when urinating, discharge, and a fishy odour emanating from the vagina, which seems to get stronger after sex. BV happens when there is an imbalance in the pH levels in the vaginal area, and the disrupted pH levels may be caused by various factors such as using certain condom or vaginal douche brands, having a new sex partner, or having multiple sex partners.

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To improve vaginal health naturally and get rid of BV, you can use a gentle vaginal wash, eat yogurt, and cut back on sugary treats to restore your pH balance. You may also consider using traditional Chinese medicine, such as dong quai, which TCM practitioners prescribe to treat female health and reproductive problems. This plant grows in East Asia, and the roots are harvested to make tea, powders, drinks, and tablets. Just like yogurt and other fermented foods, dong quai is rich in probiotics, and it may help to restore the vagina's pH levels and alleviate discomfort. Drinking tea made from red clover flowers can also help to relieve the symptoms of BV. To make the tea, steep two and a half teaspoons of red clover flowers in three quarters of a cup of hot water for 15 minutes, and then drink the tea after meals.

Bad breath

TCM practitioners believe that bad breath may be the result of stomach problems. Moreover, eating too much spicy food and smoking is believed to cause halitosis, so TCM experts usually recommend eating milder foods to cure this hygiene problem. Consuming white fungus soup with honey is also believed to get rid of toxins that can cause bad breath. To prepare, simply cook the white fungus in plain water until it softens, stir in honey, and eat daily to get rid of bad breath.

Excessive sweating

Excessive sweating can lead to skin problems and body odor. Showering daily can keep your skin healthy and odor-free, but to address the health issue directly, you may want to consider acupuncture to reduce sweating. To treat excessive sweating or hyperhidrosis, acupuncturists insert needles in various areas of the body to alleviate armpit and palm sweating, night sweats, and sweating in other parts of the body. Since excessive sweating is believed to be a symptom of anxiety problems, TCM practitioners may also recommend taking xiao yao san, which is a blend of herbs that is used in ancient Chinese healing practices to reduce depression, pain and anxiety. It can be drunk as a tea, or taken in pill form for convenience.

Good hygiene can boost your self-confidence and protect you from a variety of illnesses. If you're currently dealing with bacterial vaginosis, bad breath, or excessive sweating, consider these ancient Chinese remedies to cure your personal hygiene problem, but remember to consult a certified TCM to get the best results.


Beautiful featured image photo by Micheile Henderson on Unsplash


Ancient Chinese Medicine Secrets For Younger Looking Skin

By Sally Perkins

Skin aging is a common concern among millions of people all over the world, and some people won't hesitate to spend a lot of money to keep their skin looking young. According to a survey, most people spend over 25 percent of their beauty maintenance budget on their face alone. Moreover, it was found that more women in their 30s choose to invest in anti-aging products and facial moisturizers than any other age group. Using pricey creams and serums may give your skin a youthful glow, but traditional Chinese medicine and therapies may be even better to prevent and combat wrinkles, fine lines, and other visible signs of skin aging. Here's are some ancient Chinese medicine secrets for younger looking skin.

Almonds to reduce fine lines

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Several factors, such as constant exposure to direct sunlight, lifestyle habits, and an unhealthy diet can cause skin aging. Having dry indoor air can also result in dry skin and make it look older than it really is. This is why it's important to increase the moisture in the air with a humidifier to keep your skin looking supple and young. Apart from adding humidity to your indoor air, another thing that you can do to keep your face smooth and wrinkle-free is to use almonds as part of your beauty regimen.

Almond oil has been used in ancient Chinese practices to help soothe and soften the skin. Since it contains Vitamin A, it can also stimulate the production of new skin cells and reduce fine lines. You can use a small amount of almond oil as a facial moisturizer, or use it as a makeup remover. You can also try using ground almonds as an overnight mask. Prepare an ancient Chinese skincare recipe by soaking almonds in water and peeling the brown skins off. Grind the peeled almonds and mix with one egg white. Apply to your face and leave it overnight; rinse it off in the morning with cool water to reduce fine lines.

Acupuncture for wrinkle-free skin


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Acupuncture can stimulate the body's healing responses, depending on where the needles are inserted. To improve wrinkles, an acupuncturist will insert needles in certain facial points to trigger the production of collagen in the body. Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body, but as we age, our bodies produce less and less collagen, which can result in wrinkles and older looking skin. By increasing the body's collagen stores, acupuncture can help to give you that radiant glow that you once had. Avoid reversing the effects of facial acupuncture by limiting your exposure to direct sunlight, avoiding smoking, and refraining from eating too much sugar and refined carbohydrates.

Soy to increase skin firmness


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Food therapy is an integral part of traditional Chinese medicine since the food we eat can have an effect on the way we look and feel. Soy products such as tofu and soy milk have always been consumed by women in various parts of Asia, which may explain why their skin looks younger than their years. Studies show that the nutrients in soy can increase the production of elastin in the body, which can make the skin stronger, firmer, and less likely to sag. You can include tofu or miso in your everyday meals, or mix warm soybean milk with a little ground almond, and drink it in the morning to enhance your skin's firmness.

Having younger looking skin doesn't have to cost you a fortune. Try these traditional Chinese remedies to get rid of fine lines, wrinkles and sagging, and enjoy having beautiful and healthy skin as you age.


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Chinese Medicine Now Used To Treat Common Oral Health Issues

By Sally Perkins

Chinese medicine - particularly the use of traditional herbs - has been used for centuries in various Asian countries (including Korea, Japan, and the Philippines). However,  a study on Chinese parental units with children aged under 12 in Houston and Boston has found that 45.6% of parents and 19.1% of children use Chinese medicine to treat specific oral conditions. These include bad breath, gingivitis, canker sores, herpes labialis, and tooth pain or sensitivity. The most commonly used medication, researchers at the University of Texas School of Dentistry found, were watermelon frost, niuhuang jiedu pian, and honey/propolis. What are these substances used for, and how can they help preserve better oral health as a whole?

Rebalancing Energy To Battle Halitosis

Traditional Chinese medicine recommended that people adopt a healthy lifestyle so as to keep energy balanced. Halitosis can arise from a wide array of causes, however - including digestive issues, tooth decay and gum disease. Inflamed gums caused by plaque build-up (gingivitis) are often characterized by an unpleasant smell. This is because the bacteria that irritates the gums can proliferate and cause bad breath. Left unchecked, gingivitis can cause loss of bone and teeth, severely harming your oral health and wellbeing. To battle gingivitis, daily brushing of the teeth and gumline and flossing are important. Chinese medicine commonly utilizes herbs such as danpi, huanglian, and huang qin to dispel heat. Doing so can also help reduce mouth ulcers and battle constipation. When halitosis is caused by a yin deficiency in the lungs, meanwhile, liquorice, ophiopogon root, and almonds are often recommended. There are other causes for halitosis - including deficient energy in the kidney and other systematic problems. It is important to determine the cause prior to taking a specific herb or set of herbs.


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Tooth Sensitivity And Chinese Herbs

When a patient has tooth sensitivity or pain, it is important to find the cause. This can originate from the stomach, kidney, mouth (for instance, owing to a tooth infection), amongst other areas. Usually, the type of pain or sensitivity will be determined by the situation. For instance, if tooth pain is acute and aggravated by eating hot food (but alleviated by eating cold foods) then the problem may be an ‘invasion of wind-heat, which can be dispelled by clearing heat and removing toxins. Herbs used to achieve this aim can include jin yin hua, lian qiao, and jing jie sui. Recommendations are usually amended depending on the presence or absence of symptoms such as swollen gums, a headache or a cough.

Acupuncture For Dental Pain, Dental Anxiety, And Dry Mouth

Acupuncture is used in both traditional Chinese medicine and modern western medicine to treat a host of dental disorders. These include dental pain, dental anxiety and gag reflex, TMJ, facial spasms, headache, dry mouth, nerve pain, and a burning or numb sensation in the mouth. Study after study has shown that acupuncture can help reduce pain and other symptoms. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Consensus Statement on Acupuncture of November of 1998, for instance, reports that acupuncture can successfully help quell postoperative dental pain. Another study (Ernst and Pittler) showed that acupuncture can help treat acute dental pain. Additional research by Johnstone and Furness showed that acupuncture could help relieve dry mouth in patients who had received radiotherapy for head and neck cancers.

Chinese medicine is increasingly being used across the globe to treat a variety of issues - everything from bad breath to dry mouth. Specific lifestyle recommendations and herbs can help deal with issues such as excess heat, which can result in gum inflammation, pain, and other problems. Acupuncture, meanwhile, is used widely to treat everything from dry mouth post-radiotherapy to dental anxiety.


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Chinese Medicine To Support Sensible Weight Loss

By Sally Perkins

According to the CDC, around three-quarters of all American adults are overweight. With around two-thirds of these trying to change their eating habits and lose a few pounds, it’s no surprise that weight loss plans and programs are big business, with a huge range of suggestions and options touted as providing miraculous results – some with more success than others. Chinese medicine offers the opportunity for mindful, realistic and sustained weight loss, so if you’re looking for a sensible solution for an ongoing, healthy lifestyle, here are some changes you could consider making.

Food and Functionality

Traditional Chinese Medicine is based on many principles relating to food consumption, metabolism and digestion which can aid weight loss and improve your relationship with eating. Excessive weight gain is thought to relate to the accumulation of ‘dampness’ – a condition that occurs when food intake, absorption, digestion and transportation are not balanced. Take the festive season as an example – if you eat too much, or consume food higher in fat, your spleen and stomach will struggle to transform your food, and any excess will be left sitting stationary, leading to an accumulation of dampness.

Elimination of dampness is the main tenet of traditional Chinese weight loss programs, and there are a number of ways to achieve this. According to the guidelines, cultivating a diet of bitter, sour and pungent foods can aid with achieving a healthy body shape, and help you avoid fluctuating weight that can have an impact on your mood, wellbeing and budget – having to invest in different clothes of different sizes gets expensive, and has a negative impact on the environment too. Whether you’re ensuring your favorite bikini will fit exactly come the summer, aiming to eliminate health conditions exacerbated by weight, or simply want to adopt a more mindful lifestyle, changing the way you eat can make a real difference.

Antioxidant Assistance

Many Chinese people drink tea every day, and it is thought to have a number of health benefits. Polyphenols are an antioxidant found in tea and may help to maintain a healthy metabolism whilst you lose weight, repairing cells and easing digestive issues. Green tea, Jiaogulan tea and Oolong all have a soothing flavor and a good level of antioxidants, and just one cup a day is enough to make a difference – something that can be easily incorporated into most daily routines. There are also various herbs known to support weight loss by suppressing appetite, burning fat, and boosting metabolism. He Ye (lotus leaf), Fu Ling and Huang Qi are some of the most well-known, but there are others that may also be suitable, depending on your lifestyle, goals and commitment to weight loss. Consulting a Chinese medicine practitioner can help you to tailor an individual treatment plan based on your personal needs.


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Changing the way you eat and drink and supplementing with appropriate herbs is not just about losing weight; it’s about improving your overall wellbeing and health as well. Making one or two small changes at a time can support you to develop positive food habits that’ll balance your body and leave you feeling fit and functional – as well as helping you to stay that way.


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Essential Oils Still Favored By Modern-Day Chinese Medicine Practitioners

By Sally Perkins

The use of essential oils continues to skyrocket in popularity, with an increasing number of people embracing the power of these oils to not only address various health concerns but improve general well-being as well. While the effectiveness of essential oils is still often questioned, they have been used for centuries in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) with great success. Even today, Chinese medicine practitioners make use of various essential oils when administering acupuncture, aromatherapy, and other treatments.

Essential oils have a long history

Essential oils are representative of the essence (jing) of plants and have been used in Chinese medicine for over 2,000 years. According to ancient belief, essential oils can impact the physical, mental and spiritual realms of the body, as the jing of the plants resonate with the body’s own jing. When used in TCM, essential oils can impact an individual in one of five ways. They can aid in healing and relaxation. They can boost healing in non-healing wounds. They can enhance nobility and improve self-esteem, and they can be conducive to a milder temperament.


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The applications are varied

The use of essential oils in Chinese medicine is very diverse. Topical application is used during cranial-sacral work to address a range of health concerns. Essential oil is also commonly placed on various acupuncture points to affect the nerves, blood, or lymphatic system of the body. Additionally, a range of essential oils can also be used to increase the effectiveness of a Tuina massage. In recent times, the use of candles scented with essential oils has also become increasingly popular among Chinese medicine practitioners. Scented candles not only help create a therapeutic atmosphere but can also help address a range of concerns, including unhealthy food cravings. Burning a candle that boasts a scent with hints of vanilla can, for example, make it much easier to stop snacking on sugary treats, contributing towards healthy body weight and improved overall health.


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Lavender oil is a popular choice

Although there is a wide variety of essential oils utilized in Chinese medicine, lavender oil is among the most popular. One of its primary functions is to promote the smooth flow of liver Qi, while also calming the Shen and cleansing it of heat. As a Yin nourisher, lavender essential oil can calm the mind and help protect the heart. It is known to ease depression, reduce stress levels, and even neutralize a frantic state of mind. Lavender oil is often used with great success to alleviate headache-causing tension, reduce the prevalence of inflammation in the body, and ward off various viral and bacterial infections. Other essential oils that are very commonly used in various applications of Chinese medicine include geranium, lemongrass and bergamot.

Essential oils have been used extensively in Chinese medicine for centuries. With all the potential benefits they boast, it is no surprise that the Western world has also started to embrace the power of essential oils in recent times.


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5 Tips to Help Fight Colds & Flu This Winter

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

I know that we are all pretty worried about COVID-19 right now and that it has been dominating the news, our psyche's and our thoughts for almost a year. Viruses seem to be a part of the human experience and have been around for a very, very long time. Without going into an in-depth discussion about viruses and COVID-19 in particular, let's focus on the fact that we will still have to think about how to manage colds and flu's this season. Below are some of the best ways that I know to help us stay strong and healthy so those nasty viruses can never take hold, and if they do manage to sneak in and make us sick, there are some ways to flush them out as quickly as possible and get back to a healthy state.

A Virus. A microorganism that is smaller than a bacterium which is unable to grow or reproduce outside of a living cell. Viruses invade living cells and replicate themselves by using their host cells' chemical machinery to keep themselves alive.

What's the Difference Between A Cold & The Flu?

A good place to start the discussion is to talk about the difference between a cold (common cold) and the flu (influenza). What is the difference?? It's often hard to tell, but both colds and the flu are caused by viruses. Someone with a cold generally has milder symptoms, that come on more gradually, and someone with the flu generally has symptoms that are more severe, are more systemic and come on quickly. Influenza can be more dangerous as in people with compromised or weakened immune systems they can lead to complications like pneumonia. Below is a chart that lists the difference in symptoms between influenza and the common cold.

This fancy chart was made by Chinese Medicine Living. Yay!

As a mother of two small children, I am acutely aware of the realities associated with influenza and the common cold. There are many factors to consider like climate, the changing of the seasons, staying hydrated, dressing warmly enough, eating well, getting enough sleep and proper hygiene to name a few. In our hectic world, it is near impossible to stay on top of everything and ward off illness all the time, but there are certainly things you can do to keep your immune system built up and keep yourself as healthy as possible in these challenging times. Below are the things that I use, and have found to be the most effective for prevention, or at the first signs of a cold or flu, helping to push it along quickly, shortening its duration and severity.

1. Diffuse Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree, also known as melaleuca, is an essential oil that comes mainly from the Australian native plant Melaleuca alternifolia. Tea tree oil has been widely used throughout Australia for its medicinal properties for at least the last century and is well-known for its powerful antiseptic and antibacterial properties as well as its ability to kill many strains of bacteria, viruses, and fungi.

Tea tree oil is very versatile - it can be used to make homemade cleaning products, diffused to kill toxic mould that’s growing in your home, and applied topically to heal acne, cuts, and scrapes and treat skin infections. Tea tree’s natural antiseptic and anti-inflammatory actions make it one of the most beneficial essential oils for health and healing making it a powerful addition to your medicine cabinet. If you would like to learn more about Tea Tree Oil, its health benefits and recipes, you can read this article - Tea Tree Oil - Benefits, Uses & Recipes.

Tea Tree Oil Steam

This is one that I have used for as long as I can remember, long before I ever became an acupuncturist. At the first signs of a cold or flu, get a large bowl (metal or glass), put 6 drops of high quality, organic tea tree (melaleuca) essential oil into the bowl. Boil some water (filtered if possible as you will be breathing in the vapour). Get a towel. Put the bowl with the tea tree oil on a table, and sit in front of it. Put the towel over your head. Pour the boiling water into the bowl. Put your face over the bowl - be careful as the steam will be very hot and the tea tree oil will be strong - cover your head with the towel and breathe deeply for about 20 minutes. If you do this early enough, the cold/flu will not progress.

Tea Tree Oil Diffuser

When anyone in our house is sick - especially my children - I diffuse tea tree oil. You can also add other essential oils depending on what is happening - I often use lavender as it is soothing and helps my children sleep. You have to be careful in children under 2 years old as essential oils are extremely concentrated, but diffusing 4-6 drops of high-quality tea tree and 4-6 drops of lavender essential oil will often stop a cold or flu in its tracks, especially if you react early enough. If you have a full-blown cold or flu, diffusing tea tree will also help with congestion, cleaning out your sinuses as well as purifying the air in your room and lessening the length and severity of the illness.

2. Acupressure

**There are certain points in the body that are strongly moving and are contraindicated if you are pregnant as they can induce labour. Both Spleen 6 and Large Intestine 4 are in this category so not for pregnant mamas.** 

Acupressure is basically acupuncture without the needles. Awesome, yes? There are hundreds of acupuncture points on the body, and there are a few that are particularly good for giving the immune system a boost as well as treating symptoms if we do come down with a cold or flu. I have chosen 3 powerful ones that I think will be the most beneficial, and have included images so you can find them. When using acupressure, you apply pressure to each point with your finger or thumb for 30 seconds to a few minutes and then rotate to the next point. Most acupuncture points are bilateral, meaning they are on each side of the body except for the ones that are on the midline that runs up the front and down the back of the body. All the points below are bilateral - located on each side of the body.

Large Intestine 4

Large intestine 4 is an extremely powerful and versatile point. It is located on the fleshy part between the thumb and first finger of the hand. The best way to locate it is to put your thumb and first finger together so they are touching and the point is at the top of the mound that is created. If you press on it, it is often quite sore. Large intestine 4 is the pain point for the entire body. Whenever there is pain, you use large intestine 4. It is the command point of the head and face, so any problems in this area, this point is appropriate. Its other functions are that it builds qi, strengthens the immune system, stops pain and induces labour - so please DON'T do this point if you are a pregnant mama! (see note above).

Below are some symptoms that large intestine 4 can help to alleviate.

  • headaches, dizziness, congestion, body aches, nosebleeds, toothaches, swelling or pain in the eyes
  • aversion to cold, fever
  • painful periods, lack of periods, difficult/painful labour and childbirth
  • gastric pain, abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhoea
  • pain anywhere in the body and especially in the head/face
  • excellent point for the flu (releasing wind-heat in Chinese Medicine)

LARGE INTESTINE 4

Acupressure for Large Intestine 4

Apply pressure to large intestine 4 with your finger or thumb for 2 minutes. The point is usually quite sore, so apply as much pressure as to activate the point (you can feel it) but not so much as to cause pain. After 2 minutes switch to the other hand. Then move on to the next point in the group - spleen 6, then stomach 36.

Spleen 6

Spleen 6 is also extremely powerful and versatile, which is why it is on this list. It is located on the inside of the lower leg, about 3 inches above the ankle bone or medial malleolus. The way we measure the three inches above the ankle bone is to put the 4 fingers of your hand together and place them on the ankle bone and the width of those 4 fingers is approximately where spleen 6 is located. It is just behind the tibia or shin bone. A good rule of thumb is to feel for the tibia and then just roll off and the point is located just behind it. This point is also often tender, especially on women, and even more so when they are menstruating. Because this point crosses the liver and kidney meridians, it can treat many conditions related to all three organs. Spleen 6 is a powerful point to treat gynaecological issues, digestive problems and problems with the emotions. **This is a strongly moving point and is contraindicated in pregnancy so do not do this point if you are pregnant.**

Below are some symptoms that spleen 6 can help to alleviate.

  • irregular, painful or lack of menstruation
  • masses in the abdomen, prolapse of the uterus, infertility and nocturnal emissions
  • impotence, premature ejaculation, hernia, testicular atrophy
  • digestive problems of the spleen and stomach
  • diseases of the skin
  • insomnia, headache, dizziness

  SPLEEN 6

Acupressure for Spleen 6

Apply pressure to spleen 6 with your finger or thumb for 2 minutes. The point is often sore, so apply as much pressure as to activate the point (you can feel it) but not so much as to cause pain. After 2 minutes switch to the other leg. Then move on to the next point in the group - stomach 36.

Stomach 36

Stomach 36 is perhaps the most powerful point in the entire body for strengthening blood and qi and fortifying the body to boost overall health. The point is located on the lower leg, about 3 inches below the kneecap. To locate it, place your 4 fingers starting just at the lower border of your kneecap. This is the level of stomach 36, then it is located about one fingerbreadth on the outside, or towards the outside of the tibia or shin bone. The image below illustrates its position.

Stimulating stomach 36 is said to give you energy equal to eating an entire chicken or to walk another three miles (its name zusanli translates to leg three miles). It is command point of the abdomen therefore many problems in the abdominal area are treated with this point. Whenever you can feel a cold or flu coming on, start doing acupressure on this point as it will boost your immunity and help build your external defences which are called our wei qi in Chinese Medicine.

Below are some symptoms that stomach 36 can help to alleviate.

  • vomiting, diarrhoea, constipation, abdominal distention, abdominal pain, acute mastitis
  • heart palpitations, shortness of breath, low energy, dizziness, insomnia
  • cough and asthma
  • calms the spirit
  • stops pain

STOMACH 36

Acupressure for Stomach 36

Apply pressure to stomach 36 with your finger or thumb for 2 minutes. The point is also often sore, so apply as much pressure as to activate the point (you can feel it) but not so much as to cause pain. After 2 minutes switch to the other leg. You can do this set of 3 points, on each side two or three times a day when you are sick, or once a day or week for building immunity and general health.

3. Wear A Scarf


Photo by Kiyun Lee on Unsplash

Now, this one may seem a bit overly simplistic, but according to Chinese Medicine, wind is the master of 100 diseases and it tends to enter the body the most easily at the neck. So, the simple act of wearing a scarf in windy, wet or cold weather protects you against an invasion of wind-cold. It is basically the same as bundling up and staying warm when the weather is cold, wet or windy because these are ways that we can easily weaken our immune systems which make us more susceptible to colds and flus. And we don't want those. I think I may always have been destined to be a practitioner of Chinese Medicine because I have always loved scarfs, and I always seem to have one with me just in case I get chilly. I find it makes a big difference and is like always having protection from external invaders. I have also instilled this love of scarfs in my children, and we try to make it fun, finding scarves that they love (dinosaurs!!) so they WANT to wear them.

4. Eat Warming Soups & Bone Broths

Photo by Hanxiao on Unsplash

If you know anything about the spleen in Chinese Medicine, you know how important it is and how many responsibilities it has. If you don't, then you can read these articles to learn a bit more about it -

Loving Your Spleen with Chinese Medicine

How to Strengthen Your Spleen in Chinese Medicine

Worry and the Spleen

Dampness and the Spleen in Chinese Medicine

What is Spleen Qi Deficiency?

Digestive Health & Nutrition in Chinese Medicine

In a nutshell, the spleen is the main organ of digestion, and it uses digestive "fire" to power all the work it has to do to break down the food we eat and turn into the energy we need for our bodies and minds to function. But, it doesn't stop there. The spleen is also responsible for "digesting" all the stimulus that comes in from our sense organs, and, in a culture of multitasking, heavy mental work, long hours and little sleep, the spleen is a hard-working little organ. To put it simply, when we are compromised and our immune systems take a hit, we need to be gentle with our bodies. Because all that digesting that the spleen is doing requires energy, eating soups that are already well cooked and take very little energy to digest, they take some of the burdens off of the spleen. And that way your spleen, and all the other hard-working organs in your body can focus on fighting invaders and getting well. But when you are healthy and want to fortify yourself against an external (or internal) attack, then eating soups and bone broths, in particular, is an excellent way to build the immune system, warm your system and strengthen your body so that colds and flus don't have a chance.

In Chinese Medicine, the bones are associated with the kidneys, our bodies' most fundamental energy and the source of our yin and yang. Therefore, eating bone broth is strengthening to both the bones and the kidneys, whose element is water, emotion is fear and whose season is winter which is the best time to tonify the kidneys for health and longevity.

5. Good Hygiene

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Wash Your Hands Often & Don't Touch Your Face

If the recent proliferation of COVID-19 has taught us anything, it has brought our awareness back to the basic importance of good personal hygiene. There probably isn't anything better you can do to keep yourself healthy and stop the spread of germs, bacteria and viruses than simply washing your hands often and trying to be conscious not to touch your face. With two small children around it is frightening to see how unaware they are of things that are logical to adults like not putting dirty things into our mouths, not always washing their hands after going to the washroom, picking random things up outside, just to name a few. So teaching them to wash their hands, not to touch their faces but most importantly WHY we need to do these things is a huge step in the prevention of preventable illnesses like colds and flu. Things like showering often especially when you or someone in your house is sick, wiping surfaces, changing clothing and doing laundry often are also ways to reduce our exposure to germs and help us stay healthy all year round.

 



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Emotional Healing In A Time of Crisis

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

We are living in unprecedented times in our world. We have just lived through a global pandemic of COVID-19 and the world we knew no longer exists. Anger and frustration are coming out in so many ways all over the world as people struggle with the new reality and many struggle to survive. 

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To me, it isn’t the physical challenges that the virus presents that worry me, it is the emotional state of our global population. In the US we see riots, campaigns to defund the police, racial tensions, destruction of property and businesses and unprecedented violence. No matter how many of us may want to politicize what is happening, I think it points to something much deeper that has been brewing for much longer than many people realize. People are angry. They are frustrated. Life is getting harder. People work more for less money. There is so much uncertainty about the future. Many have lost their businesses. Their jobs. Their abilities to support their families. People are exhausted and scared. And they see more and more corruption at every level of business and government - which only feeds the anger and frustration that a few profit at the expense of so many. 

 


Photo by Tito Texidor III on Unsplash

I can’t offer a solution to the problems we face as a global community, but I think that we need to be honest about what is happening and be able to express those feelings. We have a right to be angry, frustrated and afraid. And we need to give those feelings a place to go. There is so much “political correctness” that people these days feel that they can’t say anything for fear it will offend somebody. We need to be able to have honest discussions about what is REAL and TRUE. And yes, it might offend somebody. In the present climate, the truth seems to have become a dirty word. The truth might hurt someone’s feelings. The truth might not be what someone wants to hear. And this is part of the problem. Because the truth is what is going to save us. 

For most of my life and career, I have been very conscious of focussing on the good. The positive. Practising kindness. Being loving. Having compassion. But I don’t insulate my life and not let anything negative come in. That would be delusional. When you are healing, people come and they need those things. They are hurting so they need love, kindness, compassion and your positivity and light. Those are the things that start the healing process, and support it until the end. But now I see that we seem to be having a reality problem. Some people are unable or unwilling to accept what is happening in the world. I understand this, as often, the reality is dark. It’s hard. There are things that are difficult to accept. And they hurt. 

There have been a lot of difficult truths coming to the surface lately. And if you don’t know what I am talking about, then you aren’t paying attention. This has been causing a lot of pain and a lot of grief. The new reality, for many, is difficult to accept. 

Another theme I see that is contributing to a lot of pain is that there seems to be a conscious effort to divide us. Break us apart and make us fight with each other. This breeds fear, fear of the “other” and only compounds the feelings of grief, depression, anxiety and isolation that have exploded since this all began. They want you to feel that you are alone. But the truth is, that you are not alone. There are more than 7 billion of us on the planet. We are a global community, and we have the intelligence and creativity to solve any problem we may face. But we can’t solve problems when we are angry, sad and afraid. You cannot focus your energy on solving problems when you are fighting an enemy.

I have been thinking about how we might go about trying to heal from so many of the powerful emotions we are dealing with right now. Both ones that have been building up for years, and the ones that are a result of this new situation that we find ourselves in. Chinese Medicine is really unique in how it looks at our emotions and how important they are to our health and wellbeing. As many of you know, each of the emotions is associated with an organ or an organ pair and when that emotion is healthy and in balance, it is strengthening to the body and that organ in particular. But when that emotion is out of balance, in excess or unexpressed, it is depleting to the body and its respective organs, causing problems in all aspects of your life and health. Generally in our culture, we are not taught that emotions can make us sick, but I think that most of us instinctively know that this is true. How does your stomach feel when you worry? Or how about those headaches when you are angry and stressed? How does your heart feel when you are grieving?

The good news is that because emotions are built into the system of Chinese Medicine, it also offers solutions and practices we can use to keep emotionally healthy. Each of the seasons, for example, offer us an opportunity to really work to clear old emotions we’ve been holding on to and balance and strengthen the system. I have been thinking that this wisdom is so needed right now. 

The emotions - things that hurt us, cause us grief or stir up anger can be an opportunity to learn something about ourselves. Why are we having these reactions to things that are happening? Why does one person respond to a situation in anger when another might feel grief?

Treating Emotions in the Real World

Helping us to manage the tsunami of emotions we are all feeling right now is the understanding that we must first become aware of the emotions, and then work to change not WHAT we are feeling but how we REACT to those feelings. Read that again. It's so simple, but it will likely change the way you think about how you may be feeling.

In my work with patients, we often start with simple awareness. Let's use an example.

If you are struggling with a particular emotion, let's say grief. Usually (but not always), the person is aware of the grief. The cause is the death of someone close to them, their loss is causing the grief. The lungs in Chinese Medicine are associated with grief, so there might be lung symptoms as well- shortness of breath, asthma, dizziness (not enough oxygen), coughing, etc. Their grief can literally be causing the lung symptoms because intense or excessive grief weakens the lungs' Qi. The person is describing how they are feeling, saying they feel consumed by their grief, out of breath, have no energy and are anxious and stressed because the grief is making it difficult to function because they still need to go to work and look after their young children. And this is it. The grief is a completely natural result of someone important in your life passing away. But the reaction is an increasing feeling of anxiety and panic because there is no space for the grief in their life because they have to keep going to work and looking after children.

So, we look at those feelings first - the anxiety and panic - and we figure out a way to help to manage them. Are you able to take some time off? Could the children go to stay with a grandparent for a few days? Can you take some time to allow yourself the space to grieve? Do you have someone you can talk to about everything you are feeling? All of these things will help release some of the pressure that can make these emotions so overwhelming. Just the acknowledgement begins the healing process. We start with the reaction - the anxiety because of the pressure to keep going normally while you are suffering - and work backwards to the grief itself.

When we get to the grief, there are a few ways that we can help reduce its intensity. We work to strengthen the lungs and build up their Qi, which very often helps lessen the grief's potency. We create a space for the grief to be felt, fully allowing those feelings to be expressed. In Chinese Medicine, the way emotions can be causes of disease is if they are repressed or unexpressed, leading to a stagnation in the body and eventual toxicity. Anyone who has a secret or something in their past they have been holding on to for years can tell you. It has an effect. Holding on to emotions isn't good for you, so finding the proper avenue for their expression is an important part of the healing process.

We are living in challenging times that are unprecedented in our history. Our struggles are multi-faceted right now. People are struggling to find their way in the new reality we face as a global community. The good news is that human beings have incredible intelligence, adaptability and resiliency. If we are able to stay positive, stick together and express what we are all feeling honestly, we can come out the other side of these difficult times stronger and with a new appreciation for everything good that still exists in this world.

If you need help working through what you are feeling right now or healing in general, I am here for you. My information is below.


Featured image photo by Mitchell Griest on Unsplash - Thank you!



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