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 the 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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Nutrition for Every Season

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

He that takes medicine and neglects his diet wastes the skills of his physician.

Chinese proverb

Hippocrates also said, "let food be thy medicine" in the fifth century BCE. These two pieces of wisdom tell us that it was well understood many hundreds of years ago, in very different parts of the world that what we ate was an important factor in maintaining health as well as recovering from disease. And even today with advances in medicine and technology, food is still the best medicine and the easiest and most impactful way to stay healthy and disease-free.

Food As Medicine

Nutrition is one of the foundational elements of Chinese Medicine. The ancient Chinese understood very well that the best medicine is not the herbal remedy given when you have a cold or the salve when you scrape your knee, the best medicine is the food we ingest every day. It helps to build our immune systems, fortify us against disease, cool excess heat, drain dampness, move stagnation and warm us when we are deficient.

Our ancestors were intrinsically connected to nature, and this connection was necessary for survival. They paid attention to the seasons, but more specifically, changes in the weather, the cycles of crops, migration of animals, and the cycles of the sun and moon. They were attuned to the natural rhythms of the planet and were able to adjust their behaviours to maintain a sort of equilibrium with their surroundings. This focus on prevention was also very important and was knitted into the foundation of Chinese Medicine as it was practised then as well as today. But, the key to living preventatively is that we have to really be attuned to our bodies and our surroundings. We have to be able to hear what our bodies are telling us so we can give them what they need, and that is something that many of us have lost living in the fast-paced city life in the modern world. But this listening, this attunement is something that Chinese Medicine teaches. Your body is always communicating with you, you only have to listen.

The Thermal Nature of Foods & People

So, how does it work, to use food as medicine? Good question. Chinese Medicine has a pretty elegant system for understanding how to use food as medicine and stay healthy in every season. Foods have a thermal nature and so do people. It is that delicate balance of yin and yang. Some foods are cooling and some are heating. People also have a thermal nature. They usually have a thermal nature that occurs naturally when they are in a healthy state and knowing this is very helpful as you move forward. And then, the weather and surroundings also have a thermal nature, so it is a dynamic balance of these three ingredients that we are after. Granted, this can all get a little complex and you can get pretty deep into it (if you are a nerd practitioner like me), but there are some basics that will help you get started. Think about the seasons as a continuously fluctuating cycle of yin (cold) and yang (hot) energies. Summer is the height of yang or heat energies and winter is the peak of yin or cold energies. Summer gradually cools off and moves into fall, which cools further to transition into winter. Winter comes to an end and the yin energies gradually are infused with yang with spring, which further heats up as it moves into summer.

So, you want to balance the temperature of the season you are in with foods that are generally its opposite. Cooling foods in summer, and warming foods in winter. Gradually more warming foods in fall and gradually cooling ones in spring as those are the transitional months. You can also affect the thermal nature of the foods you eat by different cooking methods, which is why those change according to the season too. This is very very general, but it gives you an idea and a place to start. Then you can introduce the idea of constitutions and it adds another layer of complexity, but as you practice and becoming aware of the seasons and the thermal nature of the foods you are eating, it actually becomes this really beautifully nourishing and healing way to eat, and one your body will love. I will work on an article about constitutions to explain that a little bit more, but in general, a person is also a dynamic balance of yin and yang energies. Some people are naturally more yin and some are naturally more yang. When you know what you are, you work that into the equation too, which will only help you to keep all those energies balanced and this will help keep you healthy. When that article is finished, I will link it here.

The Seasons

Chinese Medicine was developed over thousands of years of observations of nature, human beings and their relationship to each other. In times past we have always had a symbiotic relationship, the earth nourished us with its bounty and we tended and nurtured the planet in a continuous cycle of loving interaction. Human beings followed the natural cycles of the planet and lived in harmony with the seasons.

The Summer Season

Photo by Nadine Primeau on Unsplash

Summer is the season associated with the heart, the colour red and the emotion of joy. In the hot summer months, people rose early and went to bed later to capitalize on the yang energy represented by outward expression and activity. They ate foods that grew in abundance, like fruits and fresh vegetables, eating salads and lighter fare, many of which are considered cooling to balance the external heat. People also took time to get together with family and friends, connecting and feeding their heart energy, as the heart is the organ associated with summer and with it, the emotion of joy. Everything we do in summer should be an attempt to cultivate the joy in our lives. Summer is the season to feed the heart energy, and in terms of foods, many red foods are good for the heart. Cooking methods should be lighter and of shorter duration to preserve all the freshness and nutrients the food has been soaking up from the summer sun. Eating should be lighter and in smaller portions and working to keep yin fluids plentiful to counteract the intense heat of the season.

The Fall Season

Photo by Brigitte Tohm on Unsplash

Fall is the season associated with the lungs, the colour white and the emotion of grief. As the summer season winds down and the weather begins to cool, our behaviours go from the outward expressions of summer to the more inward and reflective activities of fall which will inevitably prepare us for winter. We eat foods that grow in abundance in this season (which varies greatly depending on where on the planet you are), but in North America, we see many foods with beautiful fall colours - squashes, gourds, sweet potatoes, carrots and pumpkins... foods that grow in the ground and have more yang properties nourishing our inner heat as we prepare our bodies and spirits for the coming cold. Fall is a time to clear out the old, making space for the new. The energy of the lungs is "letting go" so that is the focus. Cleaning, reorganizing and donating are good practices in fall and make space for all we will cultivate over the winter. Emotionally, making sure that we have let go of any emotional hurts that have lingered is strengthening to the lungs both physically and psychologically. Many white foods are beneficial to the lungs and are good to add to the diet in the fall season. Organizing life and becoming more introspective before winter is what fall is all about, checking in to make sure we are emotionally healthy and not hanging on to things that no longer serve us.

The Winter Season

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Winter is the season associated with the kidneys, the colour black and emotion of fear. Winter is the height of yin energies and even though it seems like a time of death, decay and inactivity, it is a season that is very active, just deep, deep beneath the surface in preparation for the regenerative activities of spring. It is a season of consolidation, gathering all energies and pulling them inward. Winter is the time of year to go to bed early and sleep later, profiting from the healing, restorative energies sleep offer us. In winter we eat less fresh foods as they are no longer available and eat more preserved foods we have prepared during the summer and fall. Eating warming foods, especially hearty soups and stews will help build our yang and counteract the cold. Our energies should turn inward in winter, while we focus on our fundamental energies, in Chinese Medicine, the kidneys are the source of our fundamental energy. Spending quiet time reading, writing or meditating are strengthening to our bodies and spirits. Keeping warm, especially our lower backs where our kidneys reside is especially important as they are the source of all our qi. Many black foods are strengthening to the kidneys and should be added to the diet in the winter months.

The Spring Season

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Spring is associated with the liver, the colour green and the emotion of anger. Spring represents the upward and outward energies of newly growing plants, flowers and trees. The energy in spring is expansive, so it is a good time to shake off the sleepiness of the winter months and slowly start moving our bodies with gentle stretching going for long walks outdoors, taking in the revitalizing green of new plants through our eyes, which are the sense organ associated with the liver. Spring is the best time to detox from everything we have accumulated over the winter. We can detox physically, as well as emotionally. Acknowledging and processing any feelings of anger, resentment or frustration will keep our liver energy moving freely. Many green foods benefit the liver and cooking methods should be lighter and shorter duration to the slow cooking of winter, and as things begin to thaw, we are able to introduce more fresh foods into our diet. Awakening and cleansing our bodies and spirits are what we need in spring as well as gentle exercises like tai chi and qi gong which, especially when done outside in nature nourish body, mind and spirit.

If we can become aware of our surroundings and make slight adjustments to our behaviours and diet depending on the season we will see a huge benefit physically, emotionally and spiritually.

 

Beautiful featured image photo by Marta Filipczyk on Unsplash



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The Positive Impact Of Chinese Medicine On Men’s Health

By Sally Perkins

There is an undoubted disparity in how men and women engage with healthcare globally, with the global life expectancy of men five years lower than that of women, according to The Lancet. With this disparity more present in highly developed countries than the converse, this indicates that the problems are not merely related to gender but are actually a holistic reflection of the lives men are leading. In this respect, the all-encompassing approach of Chinese medicine can have a wonderful impact on men’s health.

Mental Health

Mental health is a key driver behind many of the problems impacting men. From simple mental illness to heart disease, there are a wide range of problems in men of which the risk factors are enhanced by mental health conditions. As one influential study published by The College of Family Physicians of Canada found, the idea of being masculine and keeping a stiff upper lip contributes to this. The impacts of mental health can filter into several areas of life that you might not expect. For instance, even a relatively mild diagnosis of depression can lead to weight loss or gain, feelings of resentment for family and physical conditions such as erectile dysfunction. The spiritual basis of Chinese medicine provides a good remedy to mental health conditions; Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism all provide a philosophical and spiritual basis on which to live life and ultimately keep people feeling mentally healthy.

Protecting the Heart

Mental health and the heart have a symbiotic relationship, and using Chinese medicine to protect against vascular disease and stress can have an all-round positive impact. Tomatoes, beef, cherry, saffron – there’s a long list of foods that will benefit the heart and also produce a feeling of wellness and content. With this feeling the body can protect against the types of stress that men will often harbor when not paying close attention to their mental health. In turn, this can provide a safety jacket against the stresses of the world as a whole and improve health overall.

Relieving the Strain

Prevention is one matter; remediation another. A powerful way that Chinese medicine can rectify issues is through acupuncture, which is noted by The Mayo Clinic to have studies showing it’s efficacy. The act of acupuncture itself is often described as relaxing and stress-relieving, and the impact after the fact is long-lived and has a great benefit on all-round health. Men can work towards all-round areas of health that intersect, like the heart and mental health, and likely feel greater ranging benefits as a result of the holistic treatment.

In holistic treatment lies the key to improving men’s health. The issues that predominantly impact men and lower their life expectancy have an impact on one another, with vascular and mental health being particularly interlinked. Reducing stress and protecting those vital systems is an ideal pursuit for Chinese medicine, and can possibly help to close that life expectancy gap wherever men are in the world.


Featured image Photo by Matheus Ferrero on Unsplash
Man image Photo by Karl Fredrickson on Unsplash
Tomato image photo by Thomas Martinsen on Unsplash



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A Brief History and the Many Benefits of Acupuncture

By Dr. Marcia Steingraber

The history of acupuncture may not be as straightforward as is generally accepted. In fact, the first evidence of the practice (which is assumed to have originated in China) can be found in passing mentions in texts from around two centuries prior to the dawn of the 'Common Era' (or B.C.). The first mention of the practice that is beyond argument can be found in the medical text 'The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine' which was published in China in around 100 BCE (around BCE - or 'Before the Common Era'). There is evidence that sharpened bone slivers from much further back in history might have been used in acupuncture - however, it is recognized that these may have been used in other ways such as the drawing or letting of blood. Whatever the case, acupuncture has a long history as a treatment for a variety of ailments.

Today the practice of acupuncture (which consists of inserting thin needles into the skin at various depths) is an important part of holistic medicine. It has been accepted by medical researchers that acupuncture can be of enormous benefit to those who are experiencing chronic pain. However, the many other benefits of the practice that are claimed by those who administer acupuncture are still under investigation. One of the challenges of the ongoing research is that those investigating the benefits of the practice are still unsure of exactly how acupuncture works - does it (as is claimed by many traditionalists) balance the bodies' vital energies and improve the flow of 'Chi' (spiritual energy) through the insertion of the needles at the various meridians (there are 350 acupuncture points) of the
body, balancing out the opposing forces of 'yin' and 'yang' or does it have a measurable neurological effect (which would fit in more neatly to the Western concept of medicine).

Whatever the reason - as far as pain and discomfort is concerned, acupuncture works - and practitioners (as well as many beneficiaries of the practice) believe that it can be used to treat a multitude of diverse conditions, including persistent headaches [2], high (or low) blood pressure, dysentery, Biliary Colic, symptoms of ulcers and gastritis and a variety of conditions that affect mood and mental wellbeing such as depression. It has also been shown to be useful in the treatment of lower back and neck pain which is increasingly prevalent in Western society as a result of a sedentary lifestyle.

The idea that acupuncture may affect neurological systems [3] is one that is attractive to the adherents of modern medicine. the meridian points that are stimulated in traditional acupuncture are, in many cases at the nexus of nerve transmission and also places where muscles and various classes of connective tissue can be stimulated. This is turn stimulates the body's secretion of endorphins - natural painkillers and can also increase blood flow (which can reduce swelling and stimulate the repair of damaged internal structures).

For those who are suffering persistent pain, acupuncture provides an alternative to Westernized medicine and its focus on drug-fueled treatments. It is a holistic approach that is growing in popularity as consumers become more aware of the potential dangers of medicinal drug use.

Sources:
1. The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine (2008);
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2287209/
2. Acupuncture for Chronic Headaches - An Epidemiological Study (2006);
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16643558/
3. Acupuncture Effect and Central Autonomic Regulation (2013);
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3677642/

Beautiful featured image photo by Lian Rodríguez from Pexels


Dr. Marcia Steingraber is a practicing acupuncturist with a Doctorate in Acupuncture, specializing in Family Medicine with an emphasis in Fertility. Her focus is treating chronic pain, failed surgeries and internal disorders. Marcia’s true passion is rejuvenating her patients by relieving them of chronic pain or injuries.


How Acupuncture Can Relieve Swimmer’s Shoulder

By Sally Perkins

Swimming is a popular activity that is enjoyed by millions of people worldwide, but it can have disadvantages one of which is shoulder impingement affecting 40-91% of competitive participants. Swimmer’s shoulder is a painful condition that has an impact on your daily activities. In addition to therapy and pain-relieving medications, acupuncture can also relieve the uncomfortable symptoms of swimmer’s shoulder. By targeting central pressure points, acupuncture is a safe and convenient method of dealing with shoulder impingement.

Swimming and Certain Risks

Swimming is a life skill that everyone should learn. It does not only save your life when you are in the water but is also an effective form of cardio exercise as it requires every muscle in your body to move. Swimming helps you keep fit and even lowers the risk of early death by 28% boosting life expectancy. Unfortunately, overdoing it can also have negative repercussions on your body such as the swimmer’s shoulder.

The condition which is common in swimmers and people who use their shoulders a lot is characterized by a sudden pain in the shoulder when the arm is lifted overhead or backward. Other signs of swimmer’s shoulder is mild to constant arm pain and shoulder or arm weakness. Its diagnosis involves a physical exam to exclude a pinched nerve condition. An x-ray may also be ordered to rule out arthritis or spur. For serious rotator cuff injuries, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be ordered.

Acupuncture for Pain Relief

Acupuncture works by releasing chemical compounds in the body to relieve pain or by overriding pain signals. It also allows Qi or energy to flow through the body. A study by Rueda and Lopez indicates that the use of acupuncture to treat the symptoms of shoulder impingement is safe. It is a reliable technique to achieve significant results and can be considered as a therapy option.

Depending on the severity of swimmer’s shoulder, the most common treatments include physical therapy and exercise, the use of an ice pack, and medication. Another alternative and effective treatment is acupuncture. Supraspinatus tendon inflammation is a common symptom of swimmer’s shoulder which can be caused by overtraining or even by poor stroke techniques. The supraspinatus muscle, one of the 4 muscles in the rotator cuff, is a common source of shoulder tendonitis.

Precise acupuncture treatment is focused on the belly of the muscle and the tendon where local needling can occur. Treatment to the infraspinatus — an adjacent muscle — also helps. The belly of the muscle is in the suprascapular fossa, which is in area of the acupuncture point small intestine (SI) 12. It is also the site of the trigger point and the motor point 3. Active trigger points in the muscle belly contribute to the pain. On the other hand, the muscle-tendon junction is in the area of the large intestine (LI) 16. Since the supraspinatus tendon must pass under the acromion which is a narrow fossa, a swollen tendon gets impinged which causes the sudden sharp pain. Pain from impingement is difficult to locate but is between LI 16 and LI 15. Hence, acupuncture is performed at the sites SI12 and between LI16 and LI15.

Swimmer’s shoulder can be uncomfortable and may prevent you from doing daily activities including swimming and sports. In many cases, you might just need to rest and do some physical therapy. The good news is acupuncture, as an alternative therapy, can assist in relieving symptoms of impingement.

 

Featured image photo by Jesper Aggergaard on Unsplash



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Treating Nerve Damage With Acupuncture

By Sally Perkins

At present, it is estimated that nearly 20 million people in the USA are living with various degrees of peripheral neuropathy. Peripheral neuropathy (nerve damage) can be caused by infections, traumatic injury, genetic disorders, exposure to toxins, and metabolic concerns. It has also been found that diabetes is one of the most common causes of the condition. Although there are a number of treatment options that exist, including a range of prescription medications, Traditional Chinese Medicine - and acupuncture, in particular - can also be used with great effect. Many individuals living with neuropathy turn to acupuncture to not only relieve their pain, but to stimulate blood flow and restore nerve damage as well.

Acupuncture can bring immense relieve

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, acupuncture is used to relieve pain and treat discomfort. When the needles are inserted into the various pressure points in the body, the nervous system is stimulated, which releases endorphins and in turn, changes the body’s response to pain. Apart from performing acupuncture, a Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner can also prescribe a range of herbs that can help speed recovery and aid in addressing pain and discomfort.

What about nerve damage caused by tattoos?

While the chance of getting nerve damage from a tattoo is very small, it is possible. Any good tattoo artist should know, however, how far the needle can be inserted into the skin to prevent damage from occurring. In order to further avoid tattoo-related neuropathy, avoid having tattoos done on parts of the body that have the biggest bundles of nerve-endings. These include the groin area, the head, the face and ears, behind the knees, the hands, the feet, the fingers, and the lips. Should nerve damage occur despite all the necessary precautions being taken, acupuncture can be used with great success to treat the underlying neuropathy.

If you have a fear of needles, don’t despair

Even if you are afraid of needles like approximately 50 million other Americans, you can still turn to TCM for relief from neuropathy. Acupressure offers similar benefits to acupuncture but without being nearly as invasive. Acupressure involves massaging or applying pressure to the various acupuncture points in the body in order to stimulate the various energy pathways. Acupressure may help to relieve many of the symptoms associated with neuropathy, including a tingling or burning sensation, a ‘prickly’ feeling, and the loss of sensation that is typically associated with nerve damage.

Acupuncture can prove to be very useful in treating neuropathy. When used alongside a selection of prescribed Chinese herbs, it can even be more efficient than many traditional courses of treatment.



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Traditional Chinese Herbs: Can They Work for People with Asthma?

By Sally Perkins

Asthma affects 1 in 3 people, and there are more than 25 million Americans living with the condition. Loss of productivity, health costs, and absences are some of the effects of asthma attacks among those who are affected. Standard treatments include corticosteroids and beta-2 antagonists, and theophylline. Unfortunately, steroids can have unwanted side effects and significant risks as they tend to be overprescribed to treat attacks. Another option is to use natural alternatives which are as effective as steroids without causing side effects.

Chinese Herbs for Asthma

Dr. Xiu-Min Li, a pediatric immunologist, and her team at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York have been studying and proving the efficacy of traditional Chinese herbs for asthma. The nonsteroidal blend of herbs called ASHMI or anti-asthma herbal medicine intervention consists of reishi, gancao or Chinese licorice, and ku shen or shrubby sophora. ASHMI has broad therapeutic effects increasing cortisol production, preventing smooth muscle contraction, and regulating the activity of immune cells.

The placebo-control trial results demonstrated significant improvements in lung function and immune function. Hence, ASHMI may be an effective future treatment and/or prevention for allergic asthma according to a 2013 editorial in Clinical & Experimental Allergy. It improves lung function, reduces the symptoms, and results to decreased use of beta2-agonist for dilating bronchial tubes or air passages. Furthermore, there are no adverse effects on adrenal function and no immune suppression.

Robina Weermeijer
Controlling Environment Factors

In addition to the use of natural remedies to treat flare-up or prevent episodes, controlling the environment is also an important factor in asthma management. First, identify asthma triggers so that you know when to stay away from them. For example, mould spores in the air can provoke allergic reactions that can set off an asthma attack as mites and mildew that may be found on walls, beddings, or furniture.

Hence, it is vital to properly allergy-proof your home from black mould and keep triggers at bay. Check if mould and spores exist in your heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC), bathrooms, basements, or other humid spots in your property. Ensure that the environment is dry and free from moisture and remove mould that you see immediately using homemade or commercially prepared solutions. Request a mould inspection visit if you suspect that your environment is contaminated.

Asthma attacks and symptoms are uncomfortable and could even cause death if not treated properly. In addition to standard treatments, natural remedies such as using Chinese herbs offer a safe future alternative to managing the chronic condition.

 



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A Simple Qi Gong for Healing

By John Voigt
(previously published on Qi-Encyclopedia)

This a simple Qigong for healing that I do for myself and occasionally teach. I hope some of you might enjoy some of it--especially the clip of Afro-Cuban conga drummer Potato Valdez with whom I had the honor of playing. His touch is focused Qi used with controlled muscular strength. It is music of power and joy that for me is full of the same combination of controlled muscular strength and focused Qi as the Fa-Jin of Kung Fu and Taijiquan.

It only takes five  to ten minutes to complete. Do it in the Morning, and before going to bed at night, or when you feel a problem or discomfort forming anywhere in the body. If any pain appears, or discomfort increases when practicing STOP DOING THE QIGONG! And see a medical professional if the pain or discomfort continues.

Here is the Practice:
Be Seated. Relax. Breathe softly, fully, deeply, gently, silently into the lower abdomen.
No forcing. Relax, empty your mind - [don't force, be natural.]

Feel yourself as a physical being.

Feel yourself as an energy being—and/or be aware of your breathing. Qi means life force energy and also breath/breathing.
Be aware of just being aware. Like Zen Mind. No words in the mind, when the words pop up, just let them pass and float away; or keep silently repeating 1-2-3-4-5.

Smile like the Mona Lisa.

Smile to the places that may need it. Do this 3 to 15 minutes once or twice a day. Visualize yourself as totally young, healthy and strong. An Amazon Angel perhaps? Or a Daoist Warrior-Scholar? Or you could just imagine a calm body of water, or beautiful mountains. Or a night time sky. Use whatever works to bring you to a place of silent but alert peacefulness.

Tap with love or at least send compassion to the situation muscles. Try tapping like Patato Valdez on your body, Notice how he is drawing the power out of the drum, not beating it. Do not tap on the top of the head. Or eyes, etc. This is a demonstration how to tap: (knifepoint qi sent in – explosive sound released out) Even though it is Afro-Cuban, I suggest the tapping techniques resemble certain ancient Asian trance-shaman percussionists. And in light of that, carefully experiment with your own dance free-form improvisations using the qigong and taijiquan moves you know and like to the video clip given here.

BATACUMBELE CON PATATO VALDEZ. "MI GUAGUANCO"


Can Chinese Medicine Help People with Autism?

By Sally Perkins

Around one in 68 children in the U.S. have autism, and following a diagnosis of their child, parents consider a wide range of options that includes educational interventions and, at times, alternative approaches. Among the many natural approaches utilized with autism, one of the most often discussed is Chinese medicine. Relatively few studies have been conducted on the efficiency of this approach, but those that have been carried out show promising and positive findings for specific symptoms and behaviours.

Herbal Medicine Treatment for Children with Autism

Parents of children with autism often turn to traditional therapies, including behavioural treatments such as applied behaviour analysis (ABA), occupational therapy, and the Early Start Denver Model. Each child or adult with autism has unique talents and challenges, though, and for some parents, combining one or more of these therapies with Chinese medicine has been useful. A 2017 review of existing research on the efficiency and safety of herbal medicines for the treatment of autism found that when used alongside conventional therapies, the use of Chinese medicine in relieving symptoms led to a significant improvement of the patient's Child Autism Rating Scale (CARS) score.

Commonly Used Herbs

Some of the herbs which are commonly used to reduce autism symptoms include Poria cocos, Panax ginseng, Acorus gramineus, Schisandra chinensis, and Glycyrrhiza uralensis. These herbs have been studied in different settings. For instance, Acorus gramineus has been found to have a sedative effect, as has Poria cocos. Researchers have stated that these herbs may aid in the reduction of some behaviours as well as inattention. However, they added that further research would be required to demonstrate the specific behaviours that each herb could address, and to see if polyherbal formulations could wield similar benefits.

The Use of Ukgansangajinpibanha Granule in Children with ASD

One small trial currently being led by S Haeng Lee is focusing on the efficiency of Ukgansangajinpibanha (UGSJB – a legitimately prescribed herb for nervousness, insomni, and night crying) in the treatment of children with ASD. The trial is set to conclude at the end of this year. Currently, the trial has already established that this herbal treatment can reduce aggressive behaviour by suppressing the excess activity of a particular neuron type in the hippocampus. It has also been found to successfully reduce anxiety and insomnia.

Acupuncture for ASD

A review report by academics at Cochrane has found that needle acupuncture might be linked to an improvement for people with ASD, specifically in the area of communication, linguistic ability, cognitive functioning, and global functioning. Other small studies have limited the success of acupuncture to cognitive and global functioning alone. Two additional studies, on the other hand, showed no benefits for acupuncture when compared to conventional treatment, yet acupressure did seem to lead to small improvements.

Although herbs and acupuncture are considered ‘alternative therapies’ for autism, few studies have been carried out on their efficiency. Those that have been carried out seem to indicate the utility of some herbs, and one current trial is seeking to discover that of UGSJB. Acupuncture does not seem to be too effective overall, but as stated by the Cochrane scientists, this may be because we have only a small number of studies to rely on, and all of these have been carried out on children. Further research, therefore, needs to be conducted to see whether or not acupuncture can make a positive difference in the treatment of ASD.

Featured image photo by:

S. Laiba Ali



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