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.


Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

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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5 Tips for Athletes to Thrive on a Plant-Based Diet

By Luke Douglas

Over the years, vegan and plant-based diets and lifestyles have become extremely popular around the world. Naturally, this is a good thing for Mother Earth as well as our general well-being, so if you’re contemplating making this transition, rest assured you’re not in the wrong. That said, it’s important to note that sustaining a vegan lifestyle or simply a plant-based diet can be difficult at times, and if you’re a novice, it can seem completely overwhelming. Especially if you’re an active individual who cares a great deal about their nutrition.

After all, you’re eating to fuel your body and your mind in training and perform at your best, so you need the nutrition approach to match your goals. Without a doubt, a plant-based diet fits well into an athlete’s lifestyle, but only if you know that you’re doing. Let’s take a look at the five tips that will help you thrive on a plant-based diet as an athlete.

Mind your caloric intake

First things first, before we get into macro and micronutrients, we need to address the overarching question of calories. As an athlete, you probably know that calories are the predominant factor that influences your figure and performance. While it is true that not all calories are created equal, it’s also true that fueling your body with the right number of calories daily is paramount for peak performance.

Eat too much, and you will gain unwanted weight. Eat too little, and your precious muscle will start deteriorating and you will lose weight. Now, it’s important to keep in mind that a plant-based diet can often be low in calories, whereas meats, dairy, and eggs are calorie-dense.

Don’t let this catch you off-guard, and keep in mind that you will need to eat more food on a plant-based diet to compensate and get enough calories in daily. If you’re unsure how many calories you need, you can refer to Mayo Clinic’s handy calorie calculator

Understand complete vs incomplete proteins

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Protein intake is one of the most important factors that will determine your performance and progress as an athlete. Not only is protein an excellent source of sustainable energy next to carbohydrates, but it is also an essential building block of new muscle tissue. If you’re looking to add lean muscle to your frame and ensure long-term health and well-being, then you mustn’t skimp on protein consumption.

On a plant-based diet, however, you need to be very careful where you’re getting your protein from. This is the matter of complete vs incomplete protein sources, and you need to prioritize the former in your clean diet in order to get all the essential amino acids to build muscle, fuel your body, and reach your weight goals. You can find complete proteins in nuts and seeds, beans and legumes, buckwheat, seitan and soy, whole grains, and the like. 

Supplementation is more important than for carnivores

Before we get into supplementation, understand that supplements are not there to replace a wholesome diet. You still need to eat all your meals and get micro and macronutrients from whole foods, however, getting the right amount every day can be a challenge as a vegan.

Adequate protein intake can be one of the biggest challenges. So it’s important to delve deeper into the matter and go through a reliable plant protein guide where you will find out exactly how to maximize your protein intake and find the right supplement that is vegan-friendly and has all the amino acids you need. For vegans, it’s also important to supplement with vitamins D3 and B12, zinc and iodine, iron, and calcium.

Fats and carbs matter as well

Of course, it’s not just about the amount of protein you consume or if you’re getting all the micronutrients – you also have to be mindful of your fats and carb intake. Carbohydrates are your body’s primary fuel source, and luckily, the plant-based diet is rich with slow-releasing carbs that will provide sustained energy throughout the day.

Fats, on the other hand, are essential for the proper functioning of your immune system and are important for brain health. You can find healthy fats in all nuts and seeds, but also in avocados, olive oil, and coconut oil.

Ensure consistency over the long term

Photo by Ella Olsson from Pexels

On a final note, always remember that staying consistent with your new lifestyle will be the key to long-term success. This is a journey, not a destination, so you have to make sure that you’re able to adhere to the plant-based diet in the long run.

This can be a challenge if you’re new to the vegan game and haven’t yet mastered the art of meal prepping. Make sure to use a slow Sunday afternoon to prep the majority of your meals for the upcoming week, and you will have no problem sticking with a healthy plant-based diet no matter how hectic your life might be.

Wrapping up

Switching to a plant-based diet can seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be if you take a calculated approach. Use these tips to transition to a plant-based diet quickly and easily, and most importantly, to make it an inextricable part of your lifestyle.


Luke is a lifestyle blogger. He is editor in chief at blog Ripped.me and one of the contributors at blog Trans4Mind. He follows the trends in fitness, gym and healthy life and loves to share his knowledge through useful and informative articles.
Connect with him on Facebook & Twitter


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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. 

 


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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.


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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

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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

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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 the 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.

 

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Chinese Holistic Medicine Could Be The Ideal All-Round Treatment For Stress

By Sally Perkins

Western medicine has long espoused its own benefits while prescribing treatments from eastern and Chinese medicines as complementary. However, research is beginning to show that Chinese medicine can stand on its own two feet when it comes to certain conditions, including stress, as outlined in an influential study conducted by the University of Edmonton. When conducted with the supervision of experts and in a controlled manner, an anti-stress regimen lead entirely by Chinese medicine can be very effective.

Treatment Without Intrusion

Chinese medicine can effectively mitigate stress without ever requiring the prescription of medicine. Stress is a serious condition that impacts countless people and while many will brush it off on the odd occasion, several flare ups of stress can lead to long term consequences. As stress can strike anywhere – the commute to work being a common place, in addition to the comfort of the home – it’s important to find methods that can be called on for relief at any time. Chinese medicine has long provided for this through routines like tai chi. One article by NBC noted studies that found tai chi could be the best way to improve sleep and reduce long term stress. Most importantly, exercises it provides can be conducted at a miniature scale throughout the day to deal with sharp rises in stress, as well as creating a lower background level.

Using Medication

Stress, when left untreated, can manifest as long term conditions such as anxiety and depression. From here, the best solution is often a mix of western medicine and psychological treatment. As a result, up to 1 in 6 Americans are prescribed with anti-anxiety drugs today. However, what if many people could tackle their stress before it develops into something more?


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It goes without saying that many people are diagnosed with anxiety and depression for reasons other than overwhelming stress, but, for those who are, Chinese medicine can be used early and effectively to help alleviate symptoms and boost recovery. Acupuncture, for example, has been found by studies to have a statistically significant reduction on stress, according to one Metro summary.

A Way of Life

If medicine is not required, then Americans can look to some core beliefs in Chinese society that can help to alleviate stress. American life is very stressful; a Psychology Today analysis found that over 57% of those surveyed reported significant levels of stress. According to Viacom, a lower percentage reported such feelings in China, and a significant amount reported being happier. While there are many factors contributing to these findings, the basics of life seem important. According to Viacom’s research, Chinese people are 60% more likely to than others globally to take simple self-care steps to reduce stress, including walks, listening to positive music and connecting with family.

Stress is a complex condition, but there are more ways to deal with it than just the one. Chinese medicine is a proven way to tackle it holistically, though medication, self-care and relaxation techniques. Try looking at your self-care routines and adjusting them, with the guidance of your physician.


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Living in Harmony with Spring According to Chinese Medicine

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

Chinese Medicine Theory

Chinese Medicine has such a beautiful way of looking at us - human beings, our place in nature and in the universe. We are part of a greater whole and are inseparable from it. In Chinese Medicine, we are healthy when we are in harmony with our surroundings, and for much of human history, we have honed the skills needed to be able to feel slight changes in our environments, so that we could change behaviours, to remain in balance. In our modern world, we seem to be losing this connectedness to both our natural environments and ultimately, ourselves. Chinese Medicine can teach us how to regain this connection by giving us some simple guidelines on how to live in harmony with the seasons.

Spring - The Season of the Liver

Spring is the season associated with the Liver and the emotion of Anger. Its energies are expansive - moving upward and outward like newly budding plants, flowers and trees. It is a time for growth and renewal. Spring is the best time to strengthen the Liver, and to deal with any unresolved feelings of Anger or frustration as they can build up and cause stagnant Qi or energy in the Liver and elsewhere. The colour associated with Spring and the Liver is green. Eating green foods in the Spring strengthens the Liver. To keep your Liver healthy, be sure to be in bed and asleep before 11pm.

The Liver is the organ associated with Spring. In Chinese Medicine the Liver has the following responsibilities:

  • Opens Into the Eyes
  • Controls Planning
  • The Flavour that Supports the Liver is Sour
  • Houses the Hun (Spirit) The Liver is the organ associated with Spring.
  • Stores Blood
  • Responsible for the Smooth Flow of Qi & Blood
  • Controls the Sinews / Tendons
  • Manifests in the Nails

Behaviours in Spring

  • Engaging in uplifting and creative activities that expand our energies and consciousness (journaling, meditation)
  • Seek personal development and growth
  • Cooking should be of shorter duration and at higher temperatures
  • Sautéing with high-quality oil over high heat, or light steaming with water is best in Spring
  • Manage Anger (and frustration) - excess, intense and unexpressed anger congests Qi in the Liver
  • Liver time is between 1am-3am - this is the best time to strengthen the Liver
  • For optimum Liver health, go to bed before 11pm (the Gallbladder time - it is the Liver’s Yin/Yang partner organ)
  • Eat green foods to strengthen Liver

Photo by Dariusz Sankowski on Unsplash

Activities in Spring

  • Engage in activities that feed your creativity - drawing/painting/writing/photography/making music/dancing
  • Making plans for the future
  • Spring cleaning of your internal environment - physical, emotional, spiritual
  • Acknowledging, processing and releasing any unresolved emotions, especially Anger & frustration
  • Any activities that push our self-imposed boundaries
  • Gentle exercises on a daily basis, especially stretching as the Liver controls the smooth flow of Qi as well as the tendons
  • Walking meditation in nature (gentle exercise, feeding the spirit and taking in the green of new Spring plants through the eyes)
  • Avoid stimulants like caffeine, spicy foods, alcohol, tobacco, recreational drugs

Beneficial Foods in Spring

  • Lemon
  • Lime
  • Grapefruit
  • Sprouted Grains, Beans, Seeds
  • Many Green Foods Nourish the Liver
  • Radish
  • Daikon Radish
  • Tofu
  • Fermented Food
  • Legumes
  • Seeds
  • Dandelion Root
  • Milk Thistle
  • Mung Bean
  • Lettuce
  • Quinoa
  • Cucumber
  • Watercress
  • Celery
  • Millet
  • Seaweed
  • Mushroom
  • Beet
  • Carrot
  • Onion
  • Mustard Green
  • Rye
  • Romaine Lettuce
  • Asparagus
  • Alfalfa
  • Amaranth


Photo by Scott Eckersley on Unsplash

The Liver and Anger

Photo by Alex Iby on Unsplash

We've all seen that impressive display of anger. Someone losing it in the lineup at the bank, an exasperated parent yelling at a child having a tantrum, or someone, after being on a plane for a bazillion hours being told that they have missed their connecting flight and that the airline has lost their luggage. Yeah, we've all seen that. And it is most of our instincts' to back away a few steps because of how powerful that anger can be. That, my friends, is your Liver talking.

Now in the West, this doesn't make much sense. The liver, we are taught, is the body's filter, making sure that we stay clean and toxin-free. But in Chinese Medicine, each of the organs has an emotional component, which is just as important as its physical functions in the body - and the emotion of the liver is anger.

When the liver is balanced and healthy we are able to move freely because of the liver's responsibilities of governing the smooth flow of Qi in the appropriate directions. You may wonder what happens when Qi flows in the wrong direction? Well, each of the organs has a natural direction in which its Qi flows. For example, the Qi of the stomach flows downward, helping to move food and drink through the digestive system, but when the flow of that Qi is reversed due to pathogenic factors it causes belching, hiccups, nausea and vomiting. A healthy liver means a strong immune system because the liver is responsible for the body's resistance to exterior pathogens. Because the liver opens into the eyes, if you have a healthy liver your vision will be clear and your eyes moist. If your liver is in a state of balance you will have strong nails, recover quickly from physical activities, your movements will be smooth and your body flexible. Those with a healthy liver will also have great courage and resoluteness, and will easily be able to plan their lives wisely and effectively with a clear sense of direction.


Photo by Victor Freitas on Unsplash

Some Symptoms of Liver Stagnation & Imbalance

  • Frustration, depression or repressed anger
  • Hypochondriac pain
  • A sensation of oppression in the chest
  • A feeling of a "lump" in the throat
  • Abdominal distension
  • Women - pre-menstrual tension, depression, irritability, distension of the breasts
  • Belching, sour regurgitation, nausea, vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Bitter taste in the mouth, belching, jaundice
  • Contraction and/or spasms in the muscles and sinews, impaired extension/flexion, numbness of the limbs, muscle cramps, tremors
  • Dark, dry or cracked nails
  • Blurred vision, myopia, floaters, colour blindness, a feeling of dryness or grit in the eyes
  • Bloodshot, painful or burning sensation in the eyes
  • Irritability, outbursts of anger, red face, dizziness, tinnitus, headaches
  • Lack of direction in life, feeling of being stuck

Chinese Medicine gives us many ways that we can help our bodies, mind and spirits stay balanced and healthy - in every season. Eating green foods, spending more time turning inward, processing our emotions and being in bed by 11pm are only some of the ways we can live in harmony with the spring season, and keep our energies flowing freely so we can be happy, healthy beings all year long.


Beautiful featured image photo by Sylwia Pietruszka on Unsplash



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Meditation: Improve Your Health in 20 Minutes a Day

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

Chinese Medicine Says - Balance Equals Health

Chinese Medicine is all about balance. Balance in all aspects of life is what keeps us healthy and keeps disease away. In a time long ago, this balance was the normal way of life for most people, and they understood the importance of doing things in moderation - like eating, physical activity, expressing of emotions and all aspects of life. Chinese Medicine has always taught that this moderation in all things is the way to achieve balance and is ultimately the path to health. When something in life becomes unbalanced, illness can result. When this happens there are wonderful tools to help put the body, mind, and spirit back into a harmonious state - like acupuncture, Chinese herbs, moxibustion, gua sha and tui na. These are just some of the tools that Chinese Medicine has in its formidable toolbox. But ultimately, the goal is to live a balanced life so that illness never has a chance to develop, Chinese medicine is a medicine of prevention.

Losing Our Equilibrium

Now, many of us are living unbalanced lives in an increasingly unbalanced world. Finding the equilibrium that our ancestors enjoyed becomes more difficult as we live in a world that is more complex, and needs us to work more in a time where most of us are able to have less. There is a growing disparity between people who have and those who have not. Cities are growing as nature dwindles. People are being pushed, working more, sleeping less and getting sick because that balance has been lost. So what can we do? It is not realistic to quit the jobs we need to survive, and many of us live lives that we must and not the lives we would like to. One of the ways that we can get back to that balance, that equilibrium that keeps us aligned and happy is to slow down, sit and listen.

What is Meditation?

Meditation - Finding A Way Back to Balance

There are many ways to meditate, and everyone needs to find the one or the ones that are right for them. For some, walking is a wonderful healing type of meditation. For others, painting, cooking or writing poetry is their meditation of choice. I like to define a meditation as being in a state of complete harmony and flow. Like you are completely connected to the universe and in a state of bliss where time completely disappears. This is only my definition, but a similar sensation has been described by others in a state of deep meditation. It is like being in a complete and all-encompassing state of mindfulness.

Practical Meditation

In all my years of treating patients, I have found meditation to be one of the most effective healing tools, and one of the most empowering for patients. I often give patients a "prescription" for daily meditation to help them with their health and overall well-being. There are lots of reasons why it is such a great healing tool and why people love it so much. Here are just a few:

  • You can choose a meditation technique or practice that resonates with you - it is highly individualized
  • You can do it in the privacy of your own home
  • You do not need any special gear or equipment (although a lovely meditation cushion is so nice)
  • Meditations positive effects can be felt by doing it in as little as a few minutes a day
  • You can use your creativity to design a practice and a space that supports your meditation practice
  • The beneficial effects will ripple out into all aspects of your life
  • The positive effects will be felt by the people around you
  • With time, you will be able to handle stress and other difficult situations with more equanimity
  • Your memory, concentration and mood will be improved
  • You will have better quality of sleep
  • The power of this healing tool is completely in your hands

The list of meditations benefits is really enormous and there isn't enough room here to list them all. But for practical reasons, I can share an example of a meditation practice that can help to rebalance mind, body and spirit as well as all the benefits listed above.

Creating a Beautiful Space

One of the first things you can do, is to create a beautiful, calming, peaceful space where you will do your meditation. If you can, remove all electronic devices so that the space is quiet and you will not be disturbed. Keep the space clean and clutter free as this will help eliminate distractions while you are meditating. If you have a meditation cushion, you can arrange it so that it is appealing to the eye and when you look at the space in its entirety, it gives you a feeling of calm and joy. I am lucky to have a beautiful meditation cushion (which is from the lovely people at Chattra) - whenever I look at it, it makes my heart so happy and I thoroughly enjoy sitting on it. I don't have a lot of space, so I create a tiny space for myself with my cushion and a mosquito net which is lovely and really gives it an enchanted feel. Create your space however you desire, using objects (or the lack of objects) that make you happy and help to create a feeling of calm and serenity.

This is my lovely meditation space with my beautiful Chattra meditation cushion. If you would like one of your very own,
you can see all their beautiful designs here in their shop and enjoy 10% off (see coupon below).

20 Minutes to Health

You can choose however long you like in terms of your meditation practice, but I suggest that if it is new to you, to start slowly. You can start with just five or ten minutes a day and work up from there. I find that a good number is twenty minutes a day, or if you are ambitious, twenty minutes twice a day, morning and evening. Twice a day is ideal as it acts as a primer for the day and a bit of a cleansing of the days energies before bed to ensure a good, restful, rejuvenating sleep. If you can set aside twenty minutes when you wake up before you start your morning routine, you will find that you will set your intention for the day and be better able to focus as well as being better able to handle difficult situations. The more you meditate, the more you will find this equanimity in your life and in all things. In the evening, do everything you need to do and do your meditation right before sleep. You will find that the quality of your sleep will improve and you will wake up feeling more rested and ready to start your day with positivity and awareness.

The Meditation

As mentioned above, there are many different types of meditation, and I always recommend to patients that they find the one that feels right for them. A good way to start if you are looking for ideas is to sit comfortably in your meditation space and begin to focus on your breathing. Focus on your breath moving in and out of your body. I sometimes suggest trying to focus on breathing light into the top of your head, gathering the breath and all dark energy, emotions or experiences we are finished with, illness, pain or trauma and breathe it out with every breath. Sometimes, when you begin, it is good to have something to focus on and this one has worked for me, and for my patients.

Keep breathing deeply in and out focussing solely on the breath. Your mind will inevitably wander, but when you notice you are somewhere else in your mind, gently bring yourself back to the breath. At first, your mind will be all over the place - this is called monkey mind by the Buddhists (and here is a great definition) - but just keep bringing yourself back to the breath. This will get easier and easier the more you meditate. And try not to be hard on yourself. There are days when you will do nothing but bring your mind back to the breath, over and over again. But over time, you will find that you will have to do this less and less and that your mind will settle into a peaceful quiet which will allow you to connect to yourself in a way you may not have done before, and that is a wonderful thing indeed.

Chinese Medicine Living readers can enjoy this 10% off coupon in the Chattra shop. Visit www.chattra.com or click on the coupon below.

Chattra Meditation Cushion Review

If you would like to read my review of the lovely Chattra meditation cushion, you may do so here - Chattra Meditation Cushion Review

 



Mustard Greens & Pork Soup Recipe

By NourishU

Chinese Medicine Nutrition & The Summer Season

The excessive heat and humidity in summer can affect our health in many ways. It can cause the loss of body fluid and energy with profuse perspiration and can weaken our appetite. Drinking too much fluid to fight summer heat can dilute digestive enzymes which can lead to indigestion.

Extreme heat can lead to heat stroke with symptoms such as fainting, spasm, and fatigue. It is important not to over-expose oneself to the immense heat. Drinking excessive ice cold drinks can further damage the spleen system and cause food and energy stagnation. Eating seasonal vegetables such as winter melon and citrus fruits to quench thirst, to promote digestion and to expel heat and dampness is most beneficial to health. It is also important to eat food that can improve appetite, promote digestion and benefit spleen functions. Oily and heavy meat dishes should be avoided because they will cause indigestion.

Potassium

Potassium is the most important mineral of all which is necessary for good health. Potassium's main function is to promote cell tissue and growth. Our body needs to replace dead cells and tissue every day. There is no better source of potassium than vinegar---particularly natural apple cider vinegar. It is probably the best and cheapest agent to detoxify our body. As such, it should be considered as a critical component to the fountain of youth!

In summer months: add 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar to a quart of water. Drink this on a hot summer day, especially before working out. Your body will feel very clean. In winter months: 2 TBLS of apple cider vinegar in a mug filled with hot water 3 times a day.

Pear

Photo by Sergey Zolkin on Unsplash

Eating pear after a meal/BBQ.

The Seoul National University of Medicine Division of Preventive Medicine research team led by Professor Yang Meixi in September 2010 released a report saying that eating a pear after a meal can discharge a lot of carcinogenic substances accumulated in the human body.

The survey results indicate that smoking or eating grilled & roasted meat, the carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in the body will be significantly lower after eating a pear. The result of the findings indicated that heated pear juice contains a lot more anti-cancer substances - Polyphenol.

Mustard Greens & Pork Soup Recipe

 

This delicious image by INRTracker.com

SYMPTOMS:

Slight internal heat syndrome with symptoms such as slight constipation, red eyes, and bad breath.

THERAPEUTIC EFFECTS:

Clears internal heat and relieves constipation.

 

INGREDIENTS:

  • Mustard Greens  芥菜 -  300 gm
  • Lean Pork -  180gm
  • Ginger – 2 slices

1.   Wash mustard greens and cut into pieces.

2.   Rinse pork and cut into thin pieces, season (a little sugar, salt, pepper, cornstarch and sesame oil) and set aside.

3.   Boil about 8 cups of water in a soup pot and put in mustard greens and ginger to cook for about 30 minutes over medium heat. Add pork and cook for another 6 or 7 minutes and serve.

USAGE:

No restrictions.


Beautiful featured image photo by Masaaki Komori on Unsplash



The Most Important Qigong – III (Standing Post Zhan Zhuang)

By John Voigt

This is the third and concluding article about Standing Post, a qigong pose of stillness, complete relaxation, and no observable movement. It features two versions of Standing Post, the latter version attributed to the legendary qigong master, Dr. Yan Xin http://www.yanxinqigong.net/aboutdryan/index.htm .

A list of books, online articles, and videos about Standing Post – Zhan Zhuang will be given at the end at the end of this article.

Many masters of Chinese health, martial arts, and spiritual practices say this type standing meditation is the most important of all exercises to do. The previous two articles about Standing Post appeared in the January and February 2018 issues of Chinese Medical Living. The Most Important Qigong - Standing Post Zhan Zhuang & The Most Important Qigong - Standing Post Zhan Zhuang II

Standing Post With Seven Imaginary Beach Balls, complied by
John Voigt

This image from https://sciencekungfu.wordpress.com/tag/zhan-zhuang/

First and most important: Have the entire body and mind complexly relaxed ignoring any discomfort—but if there is any pain immediately stop doing this exercise.

The feet stand straight ahead at approximately a shoulder’s width. The knees are slightly bent and never protrude past the toes. The spine is straight. The chin is slightly tucked in. Imagine that the crown of the head is gently being pulled up by a thread to the heavens.

The tongue rests on the palate. The eyes are half closed (as the Chinese say, “Look but don’t look). Breathe softly, slowly, deeply through the nose in a natural rhythmic way down into the lower abdomen. Don’t think, but do be silently aware of what is happening internally in the body; in other words keep the mental focus on your posture and especially on how it feels.

Hold an imaginary beach ball. The picture shows a typical way, at the upper chest, but the ball can be held at a higher or lower position. The hands and wrists are relaxed with the fingers pointing at each other; the thumbs point to the upward. The shoulders and elbows are also relaxed.

Next imagine that your elbows are resting on smaller beach balls, and that you are holding a smaller ball in each of your underarms, and one between your upper thighs.

Now imagine a super-sized beach ball and sit back on it (like sitting on the edge of a bar stool). Be careful—seriously, don’t fall over, this is imaginary after all. We want the weight of the trunk, head and upper limbs to rest on the thighs; and the weight of the body to be evenly distributed on both feet.

At the end of doing the Standing Post pose do some mild stretches, and it’s also good to take a walk.

Dr. Yan Xin on Zhan Zhuang

Image from www.china.com

The legendary Qigong master Dr. Yan Xin (born 1950 - ) http://www.yanxinqigong.net/aboutdryan/index.htm (pronounced “Yan Shen”) wrote the following: Now we talk about Standing Post (Zhan Zhuang). You always need to stand in the correct and relaxed way, then the movement is very easily learned; with just one "stand" you'll get it. But if you stand in your old incorrect way, that will easily produce or make you feel irritable and bored. Then you will loose any interest in learning it or doing Standing Post. It will be difficult to get started and gain any significant progress or results that way. Therefore, for those who say that they want to do this practice, we must nurture and cultivate their interest, and their desire to learn. How is this done? By having them recognize the importance of qigong and become aware of its many benefits. [From Eighty Characters: The Essentials of Qigong Practice. http://www.yanxinqigong.cn/fali/temp_lifa_yaoling_80zi_01.htm ].

[John Voigt speaking:] In the early 1990s my Chinese language tutor, Ms. Sheng Xue, learned Standing Post in Beijing from Dr. Yan Xin, or at times from his teaching assistants. (Dr. Yan moved to California in 1990, but made many trips back to China to do healings sessions with the then Premier.) She kindly gave me the following description of what he taught :

Preparation: “In the morning face east; during the night face north. Relax and the energy comes. [Note: In the profound words of Ms. Sheng, “You don't ‘have it,’ (if you think that) the qi-energy (will) go away.”] Have fingers not too tight—just a little bit open. Arms go up horizontally at sides to palms over the head to guide qi into the crown of the head (baihui). Then have palms gently and slowly come down in front of you which by itself—and without any word directions or mental will power—will cause the qi to flow inside through the face, eyes, lungs, into the dantian. Don't direct qi after its entrance in the baihui; just mentally focus on being aware of your dantian[the life energy storage center in the lower abdomen] and allow the qi to flow naturally down into the dantian. End by placing the hands over the dantian; then palms face the ground; drop hands slowly—that way the qi that has been built up is not lost.” [Note: this preparation is an example of the widely practiced Daoist qigong form, “Drawing (or “Pulling”) Down the Heavens.”]

Ball Holding Stance: More from Ms. Sheng: “Next slowly go into ‘Ball Holding Stance.’ Take three deep breaths, then [sit] down on the horse. Just standing you feel qi in the arms and hands—then it going into the bones. Then into shoulders; then upper legs, lower legs and feet; then shoulders and neck. Feet [pointed slightly in] helps keep knees from overlapping the toes. Think happy thoughts like family, [or being in beautiful] nature. Slowly go into ‘Ball Holding Stance.’ Take three deep breaths, then [sit] down on the horse. Feel hot qi in the arms. Do not go to thighs parallel with ground [i.e., extreme deep knee bends] unless [under the direction of a experienced] teacher. Expect to get hot [because of qi buildup] as well as working up a good sweat—this is a muscle exercise after all. Stand Pole [sic] has large quantities of life energy—qi power arms, legs and body.” End the same as beginning [with Drawing Down the Heavens] . . . then slowly place hands above dantian; then hands slowly return to the sides.

Concluding Odds and Ends

Zhan Zhuang in Chinese characters is站 ,and pronounced Jan [sinking tone] Jwong [high tone].

About Dr. Yan Xin. See: Yan Xin Qigong at http://yanxinqigong.net/
Many believe him to be one of the most outstanding qigong masters of all times in both in scientific experimentation, teaching, healing, and exhibiting paranormal abilities.

Highlights as a Healer: After a three year exile to the United States, he returned to Beijing to help heal the Chinese premier Deng Zhou Ping, who was dying of advanced metastasized cancer. Both Eastern and Western medical doctors had given up on Deng's survival, and the enemies of Qigong brought Dr. Yan back to China in the hopes of discrediting him and Medical Qigong. Deng Zhou Ping did not practice the qigong that Yan Xin asked of him, but at least Yan Xin was able to keep the Premier alive for another year and a half, essentially by his living off of Dr. Yan's bioenergy (Qi). This precipitated the "legalization" of Qigong in China under the [auspices of the] government controlled Chinese "Sports Authority."
http://www.michaelshaman.com/dr-yan-xin.html

He also went to the U.S. White House eight times to give energy treatments to President Bush, Sr., which gives some explanation to Bush’s paratroop jump in his 80s!
https://www.mind-energy.net/archives/246-the-highest-technology-of-all-technologies-the-yan-xin-secret.html

Since the 1990s, Yan Xin's main activities of teaching, writing, and participating in scientific research on external qi used for healing have been in the United States, and Canada.

A short biography exists on the Encyclopedia of Chinese Culture. https://contemporary_chinese_culture.academic.ru/907/Yan_Xin

As an example of his qigong superstardom, including some improvisational spontaneous standing meditation go to严新气功功理功法精选 1 [Yan Xin Qigong power law selection 1] on YouTube - [only in Chinese].
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pvdet8nmSOw

For Further Study: Books – Articles – Essays - Videos
Kenneth S. Cohen. The Way of Qigong; pp. 133-143. Ballantine Books, 1997.

Michael P. Garofalo. “Standing Meditation," research by Michael P. Garofalo [at]
http://www.egreenway.com/taichichuan/wuji.htm

Karel Koskuba. Zhan Zhuang. [at] http://www.yiquan.org.uk/art-zz.html

Master Lam Kam Chuen. The Way of Energy. Simon & Schuster, 1991.

John Voigt. “The Ultimate Energy Exercise: Zhan Zhuang – Standing (Like A) Post. Qi Journal, vol. 23/n.2; Summer 2013. https://www.qi-journal.com/store.asp?-token.S=qi&ID=3319

“Wang Xiangzhai.” [at] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wang_Xiangzhai

Wang Xiangzhai: Entering the Quiet State; [at] http://mitqigong.blogspot.com/2011/03/wang-xiangzhai-entering-quiet-state.html

Wang Xiangzhai. “Seek Fullness of Spirit and Intention.” [at] http://mitqigong.blogspot.com/2011/04/wang-xiangzhai-seek-fullness-of-spirit.html .

Wang Xuanjie & John Moffett. Traditional Chinese Therapeutic Exercises: Standing Pole; [text in English]. Foreign Languages Press, 1994. [Has seven standing forms, five seated postures, four lying postures, and three moving postures. Master Wang said that Zhan Zhuang can even be adapted and used by people without arms or legs.]

Grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit. Stance Training and becoming a Scholar-Warrior
[at] http://shaolin.org/general-2/stance-training.html .

Yiquan: Collection of Essays 1996-2010, (e-book); published by Andrzej Kalisz. Yiquan Academy International Network. [at] http://www.scribd.com/doc/44719012/Yiquan-essays .

Yu Yong Nian. “Still Life,” Metro Beijing, March 23, 2011. https://www.scribd.com/doc/145816955/Still-Life-Yu-Yong-Nian-on-Zhan-Zhuang .

Videos on the Internet
Ken Gullette. Zhan Zhuang: Standing Stake Tai Chi Lesson. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cnckgTx3-rE .

Standing Meditation Basics - Yiquan Masters Demonstrate. YouTube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rtUKTd2WKsc&feature=related .

Zhan Zhuang Lineage and Memorial. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5OIcCTrLsCA

Sources of Pictures
Holding The Ball. https://sciencekungfu.wordpress.com/tag/zhan-zhuang/
Dr. Yan Xin. http://news.china.com/history/all/11025807/20161226/30114727_all.html


Essential Oils for Health & Wellness

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

A Brief History of Essential Oils

Essential oils have been used by traditional cultures for thousands of years, and were some of the most highly valued possessions of traditional peoples, along with jewels and precious metals. Essential oils are considered to be the distillation of both the intelligence and spirit of the plants they come from. They have been used throughout history for their medicinal, emotional, aromatic and spirit enhancing effects. In recent years there has been a revival in the use of essential oils, many people use them in their homes, healthcare practitioners use them to offer patients an alternative to conventional treatments like medications, and companies are using essential oils in their products as natural alternatives to chemical ingredients.

My own experience with essential oils goes back as far as I can remember. Long before I became an acupuncturist, I used them in my home for things like cleaning, for making skin and hair care products as well as aromatherapy, and in my medicine cabinet to help heal a wide variety of problems. When I began treating patients as an acupuncturist, essential oils were a vital part of my toolbox. I have always loved the versatility that essential oils afford the person and certainly the practitioner. They have been an invaluable part of my practice, and I am always humbled at how powerful they can be to correct a huge number of imbalances and heal on a multitude of different levels.

Essential Oils At Home

I think that many people may not be aware of the enormous versatility of essential oils that you can use in your home to make everyday products. In an age where we are bombarded by toxins (you can read more about this here - 5 Toxins to Avoid for Better Health - essential oils offer the ability to make these products knowing they are pure, health-promoting and toxin free. You can make household cleaners, skin and hair products (some of the worst offenders in terms of toxicity), soaps and lotions as well as using a diffuser to gently release certain oils into the air to detoxify, cleanse the air and for health reasons - like certain oils that act as decongestants when you or your family are suffering with a cold. There are oils for relaxation and stress, you can add them to the bathtub to help calm - I use this often for my very high energy 2-year-old baby boy, and it works smashingly. Oils can also be put into laundry soap, on rags in the dryer instead of dryer sheets, and a drop or two placed onto a pillow or bed sheets to help freshen things up or aid with things like insomnia, stress or depression.

This lovely photo by Amy Treasure on Unsplash

Essential Oils In Health Care

I use essential oils every day in my clinic with my patients. They are simply another tool that I have in my healing toolbox. There are many ways in which to use essential oils for healing. In Chinese Medicine theory heat and cold are properties that contribute to health and disease. Essential oils also have heating and cooling properties, as well as having affinities for certain organs and meridians, so with this knowledge, I am able to use them on patients depending on both their constitution as well as what is ailing them. There are many ways that I use them - sometimes I apply them to specific acupuncture points, sometimes I mix them into massage oil to massage into certain points of areas of the body and sometimes I put oils into the diffuser for a more subtle effect. I often prescribe their use for patients at home, suggesting adding them to a bath, or massaging them into specific points when certain symptoms appear. For patients to participate in their own healing is the goal and essential oils are a wonderful way to help the process.

Using Essential Oils with Children & Babies

Since I have had children - and I have two, a two-year-old and a six-month-old - I have found that massage and essential oils are the most useful things I have to deal with everyday health matters. They also serve calm an excited child before a nap or sleep at night, dealing with anxiety, excessive crying in a colicky baby, and just keeping a chaotic house as relaxed and delicious smelling as humanly possible. Acupuncture is difficult on small children mostly because they have a hard time sitting still, so essential oils have been my go-to for everything that has to do with my babies, from their overall health, the state of their emotions and their wellbeing.

But, because they are so small and their systems so delicate, dosages and dilution are very important. You would always use way less of an oil on a child compared to an adult, and a good rule of thumb is to put any oil you are using medicinally into a carrier oil (I use coconut oil most of the time) and apply it to the feet as they are the farthest away from important organs. When my son gets a cold, I use various oils in this way which always helps clear his congestion, makes him more comfortable and I find that he gets over things a lot faster. With my baby girl, I tend to put a few drops of various oils into the diffuser when she isn't feeling well and I always find this helps her feel better, calmer and helps her sleep (which when you have 2 babies in your house is vital!!).

The other thing I have found is how powerful our olfactory senses are and the connection they have to our health and emotions. I find that just a drop of my favourite scent on my pillow after a long, intense day with 2 small children has a hugely calming effect on my nerves and psyche. A few drops on the sheets freshens up the room and makes for better sleeps. Some lavender on the temples helps you relax and all that tension you had in your jaws, neck, and shoulders, seems to just melt away. The therapeutic effects of essential oils are really limitless, and I know I am so grateful to have an arsenal to help me keep my children healthy without toxic chemicals while also being kind to the environment. Win/win!

Essential Oil Safety

It is important to remember that essential oils are medicine, and need to be used with caution. Like herbs, they can be very powerful and it is important to educate yourself about the oils properties, as well as any contraindications before using them therapeutically. Most commercially produced essential oils are used in the food and perfume industry (about 95%). However, when using them in your home for cleaning, skin or hair products or anything that will come in contact with your body, please be sure that you use high quality, therapeutic grade oils, that are extracted in a clean way and not using toxic chemicals. Here are some very good safety guidelines for using essential oils. When using essential oils directly on the body (and the best advice is to never use them directly on the body without diluting them or using a carrier oil) is to be careful of how much you are using or how much to dilute them. This is especially important when using them with children. You can find useful information at the link above about how to dilution ratios.

Natural Medicines

I am a firm believer that the cure for every disease that exists on this planet is available in its forests, rainforests, and jungles. Natural medicines have been healing human beings since the beginning of time. So many cultures have the wisdom to cure using these natural, plant-based medicines. This wisdom has largely been forgotten by Allopathic (Western) medicine that chooses to use petroleum-based pharmaceuticals to treat symptoms that are the result of our modern diseases.

This beautiful photo by Trần Anh Tuấn on Unsplash

From everything that I know about Chinese medicine, and indeed many of the wisdom traditions that have been around for thousands of years, the key to staying healthy is to live a healthy and balanced life. This has been increasingly difficult because many of us live in an unbalanced, toxic culture. For us now, I believe that living in the most natural way possible is the key to health. Eliminating toxins, eating clean, natural, fresh foods, drinking clean water, getting enough sleep and when we do become sick, using natural medicines to get us well again. Acupuncture, herbs, exercise, a healthy diet (using food as medicine) as well as things like essential oils are the best ways I know of to keep us all healthy, and if we fall ill, to bring us back to health again. Incorporating as many of these into our lives and our homes will ensure that we stay as healthy as we can, and empower us to heal ourselves when we are sick.

This beautiful photo by Vero Photoart on Unsplash

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Featured image photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash