What Can Chinese Art Teach Us about Healing?

By Sally Perkins

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

Suffering for a Higher Good

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


Photo by Jade Lee on Unsplash


The Harmony of the Eight Brocades

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

Recreating the Beauty of Ancient Chinese Art

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



Photo by volc xia on Unsplash


Following the Examples Set in Ancient Chinese Art

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

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


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


Using Traditional Chinese Medicine To Heal Common Gardening Injuries

Using Traditional Chinese Medicine To Heal Common Gardening Injuries

By Sally Perkins

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


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.

Photo by Brian Patrick Tagalog on Unsplash

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.

Photo by Jordan Wozniak on Unsplash


Featured image photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash


How Acupuncture Can Make You Sleep Better

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

How Does Acupuncture Affect Sleep?

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

Photo by RODNAE Productions from Pexels

How Acupuncture Can Help You Sleep

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

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

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

General Insomnia

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

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

Some common reasons why insomnia can occur include:

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

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

Primary Insomnia

Photo by Ashley Byrd on Unsplash

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

Sleep Apnea

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

Mental Health Disorders and Insomnia

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

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

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

Pain and Insomnia

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

Acupuncture for Sleep: What Should You Expect

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

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

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

All in All

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


Featured image photo by bruce mars on Unsplash 


Ancient Chinese Remedies To Cure Common Personal Hygiene Problems

By Sally Perkins

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

Bacterial vaginosis

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

Photo by Marvin Meyer on Unsplash


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

Bad breath

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

Excessive sweating

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

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


Beautiful featured image photo by Micheile Henderson on Unsplash


Chinese Medicine Now Used To Treat Common Oral Health Issues

By Sally Perkins

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

Rebalancing Energy To Battle Halitosis

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


Photo by Shiny Diamond from Pexels

Tooth Sensitivity And Chinese Herbs

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

Acupuncture For Dental Pain, Dental Anxiety, And Dry Mouth

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

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


Featured image photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels


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Chinese New Year & The Chinese Zodiac

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

Chinese New Year

The celebration of the New Year is the longest, most important and most anticipated Chinese holiday. The Chinese New Year is celebrated by an estimated one-sixth of the population or one billion people! Because it is traditionally a holiday spent with family, the coming New Year causes an enormous number of people to travel to be with loved ones and has been called the largest annual human migration in the world. The traditional holiday period is 23 days long and is called the Spring Festival. it is broken up into three parts. The first eight days are called Little Year. This is when the preparations for the New Year begin and go until New Year's Eve. Chinese New Year officially begins on the ninth day and runs for the next ten days, for eleven days in total. This is officially called the Spring Festival. The last four days are called the Lantern Festival. Preparations begin on the first day and the Lantern Festival is held on the last day. Below is a chart to help you visualize it.

 


Photo by RODNAE Productions on Pexels

The Lunar Calendar

The date for the Chinese New Year varies each year because the Chinese Zodiac system is based on the Chinese Lunar Calendar and not the solar or Gregorian calendar that is used in the West and internationally. Using the lunar calendar, the first day of the month begins on the new moon. Chinese New Year's day is the first day of the Chinese lunar calendar. This is why the specific date of the Chinese New Year changes every year but is always between January 21st and February 20th.

Photo by RODNAE Productions on Pexels

The 12 Animals of the Chinese Zodiac

There are twelve animals in the Chinese zodiac and they go in a specific order. Every New Year it signifies the movement to the next animal in the cycle. The really interesting thing is that each animal year has lots of personality traits associated with it, and people born in that year are seen to be imbued with those particular traits.

What's Your Zodiac Sign?

The year you were born determines your Chinese zodiac sign, but, because it is based on the lunar calendar and not the solar, or gregorian calendar. People born in January or February have to pay special attention to their birth date as well as the year to make sure they get their Chinese zodiac sign correct as the exact date of the transition between animals varies every year. Here are the animals in the Chinese zodiac in order, starting with the year of the rat.

RAT - OX - TIGER- RABBIT - DRAGON - SNAKE - HORSE - GOAT - MONKEY - ROOSTER - DOG - PIG

Rat

People born in the year of the rat are highly organized and love saving money and collecting beautiful things. They are very discerning with the people they spend their time with. Rats don't like to be the centre of attention but are highly observant and very sensitive.

Ox

People born in the year of the ox are strong, quiet and very hard working. They have a strong sense of responsibility, and will always get the job done. They keep their emotions (and most other things) to themselves. If they run into difficulties, they always persevere. They don't lose their temper often but when they do, it is explosive.

Tiger

People born in the year of the tiger are highly protective, independent and are natural-born leaders. Justice is important to them and they are not afraid to fight to get it. In Chinese culture, tigers are believed to be the guardians of children so children often wear clothing, hats and shoes with tiger designs for protection.

Rabbit

People born in the year of the rabbit are gentle and kind. They are responsible and have great attention to detail. They are intelligent and excellent with their hands, making them excellent artists, craftsmen, builders and chefs. In Chinese culture, the rabbit represents the moon.

Dragon

The dragon is the only mythical creature in the Chinese zodiac. People born in the year of the dragon are mysterious and majestic. They are full of personality and love lives full of adventure. They are natural leaders and very charismatic. They will never lead a boring life. They are extremely ambitious and achieve great things. Dragons are a very revered creature in Chinese culture and represent royalty. Emperors were often seen as the reincarnation of dragons.

Snake

People born in the year of the snake are determined and devoted. They are rational, calm and thoughtful. They love solving complex problems and have many talents allowing them to be able to choose many different professions. Snakes are graceful and are loyal to all the people in their lives.

Horse

People born in the year of the horse are strong, powerful and elegant. They have great strength and enthusiasm. They love their freedom and have a strong sense of adventure. Horses are intelligent and quick-witted making them suitable for fast-paced professions as they can think on their feet and adapt to change.

Goat

People born in the year of the goat are loving, kind and gentle. They are lovers of animals, children and nature. They love to care for others because they are thoughtful and good-natured. They have many friends as they are great listeners and always understanding and kind.

Monkey

People born in the year of the monkey are highly intelligent, clever and adventurous. They are creative thinkers, have many interests and excel in many areas. They tend to be tricksters, but are good-natured. they are very sociable and humourous and are well-liked by their many friends. They make excellent leaders.

Rooster

People born in the year of the rooster are magnetic, confident and high energy. They love being the centre of attention and are charismatic, very sociable and successful. Roosters are intelligent, and organized, resourceful and courageous, they will lead an exciting life.

Dog

People born in the year of the dog are loyal, honest and kind. Because of their intense loyalty, they love to serve others. Warm-hearted, sensitive and generous, they always have many people around them who love them. They are dependable, intelligent and resilient, making them great friends and allies.

Pig

People born in the year of the pig are intelligent, generous and helpful. Sincere, romantic and generous, they have a laid back attitude and don't let things get to them. They are able to see the big picture and not get caught up in the details. They are calm and collected and are great at settling disputes.

RAT - OX - TIGER- RABBIT - DRAGON - SNAKE - HORSE - GOAT - MONKEY - ROOSTER - DOG - PIG


This cute image from cafeastrology.com

Being In Your Animal Year or Ben Ming Nian

Being in your birth year, or Ben Ming Nian in the Chinese zodiac happens every twelve years. You would think that when your animal rolls around that it would be a good thing, because it is YOUR animal so it must signify all kinds of good things for you, right?

Unfortunately, the opposite is true. It is considered a year that you have to be especially careful and where you are most predisposed to attacks from evil spirits and general misfortune. Good news though, something you can do to ward off any bad luck or calamity during your year is to wear red underwear every day. Yup, every day...

So why is it that being in your animal year is considered to be such bad luck? According to Chinese astrology, people in their animal year are believed to offend the 'God of Age' Tai Sui. Tai Sui is called a star, but is not in fact a star but roughly corresponds to Jupiter. Jupiter takes 11.86 years to orbit the earth and is an imaginary star that changes its position exactly 30 degrees each year, which means it orbits the earth exactly every twelve years.

The 'star' Tai Sui is said to bring back luck and misfortune to people in the zodiac year of the animal in which they were born. For example, if you were born in the year of the rat and you are presently in a rat year, you may be in for a rough year. Tai Sui eventually evolved into the God of Age and has been worshipped by many generations of Chinese. People offer the God of Age sacrifices to keep themselves safe from bad luck and offer blessings in their zodiac year. Thankfully, there are a few ways you can fend off bad luck in your zodiac year.

Getting Good Luck in Your Animal Year

Wear Red

Red is one of the luckiest colours in Chinese culture and is seen to ward off evil spirits and drive away bad luck. Red symbolizes prosperity, success, loyalty and happiness. Wearing red items like clothing, shoes, belts or socks in your animal year will bring you good luck and give you a better chance of having a good year. Red clothing will bring luck, but red underwear seems to really amplify red's luck producing effects. There is an important rule though to make sure that wearing red will have the desired effects - the red items (and especially the underwear) must NOT be bought by you, it must be bought by someone close to you like your spouse, family member or friend.


Photo by Castorly Stock on Pexels

Wear Jade

Wearing jade accessories like jewellery during your animal year is also seen to ward off evil spirits and encourage good luck.

Facing Away From Tai Sui

Because Tai Sui is seen to change position by 30 degrees every year, Chinese astrologers say that if you simply face away from the direction Tai Sui is presently occupying you can not only ward off bad luck, but you can bring good luck by simply facing in the opposite direction. Some Chinese take this seriously changing the position of furniture in their homes and sometimes where they live and work so they can be facing away from the God of Age and preserve their good luck for the entire year.

Origins of the Chinese Zodiac

The Chinese Zodiac or Sheng Xiao (生肖) is thought to have its origins in animal worship and dates back to the Qing dynasty, more than 200 years ago.

Legend has it that the creation of the Chinese zodiac comes from the Jade Emperor. The Jade Emperor is one of the most important deities in Chinese mythology. He is the ruler of heaven and the first emperor of China. He was renowned for his fairness, benevolence and mercy. Even in the present day, the Jade Emperor plays a significant role in Chinese life, especially during the New Year when the Jade Emperor is said to judge the character of each individual over the past year and reward or punish them accordingly.

The legend has it that the Jade Emperor summoned all the animals to his palace for a great feast, and they order in which they arrived determined their place in the zodiac.

The Chinese zodiac is extremely popular in China and the rest of Asia to this day and is an integral part of everyday life. The zodiac is used to determine what will happen during the year ahead, relationship compatibility, career and financial advice, the best time to have a baby and many aspects of daily life.

 

*Featured image by Min An on Pexels


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Welcome To The Year of the Ox!

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

The Chinese New Year arrives on February 12th this year. The celebration of the Chinese New Year is called the Spring Festival and is the longest and most anticipated Chinese holiday. It is also celebrated by an estimated one-sixth of the world's population or one billion people! The traditional holiday period for the Spring festival is 23 days and is broken up into 3 parts. The first 8 days, this year from February 4th to the 11th is called Little Year. This is when preparations for the New Year begin and go until New Year's eve. Chinese New Year officially begins on February 12th and ends on February 22nd. This is the Spring Festival. And the last four days, this year February 23 to the 26th are called the Lantern Festival. Preparations begin on the 23rd and the lantern festival is held on February 26th.

Chinese Lantern Festival takes place on February 26th in 2021.
Photo by Leon Contreras on Unsplash

Lunar Calendar

The date for the Chinese new year varies each year because it is based on a lunar calendar and not the gregorian calendar that we use in the West. Using the lunar calendar, the first day of the month begins on the new moon. This is why Chinese new year falls on a different day each year.

Chinese New Year - February 12, 2021

The Twelve Animals of the Chinese Zodiac

Each Chinese New Year is associated with an animal. There are twelve animals in total and they go in a specific order and repeat every twelve years in a continuous cycle. 2021 is the year of the ox, which is the second animal in the zodiac. Each of the years also has an element associated with it. There are five elements and they are fire, earth, metal, water and wood. 2021 is the year of the metal ox.

Ox Years: 1901, 1913, 1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009, 2021

Here are the animals in the Chinese zodiac listed in order with their corresponding year.


This image from cafeastrology.com


The Ox Personality

People born in the Year of the Ox are hard-working, loyal, trustworthy and conscientious. They are also reliable, methodical, fair and inspire confidence in others. As a result of these traits, they make friends easily and keep them for the long term. They are usually quiet and say little, but have strong opinions. They believe strongly in themselves but are also stubborn and hate to fail or be challenged. They usually have a great deal of common sense and intelligence. They are hard workers but never want praise or to be in the spotlight. In Chinese culture, the ox is a highly valued animal because of its work in agriculture. The twelve animals were chosen because of their importance to the people and the way they benefited their lives. Below are some of the personality traits of people born in the year of the ox.

  • strong
  • reliable
  • fair
  • conscientious
  • calm
  • patient
  • methodical
  • trustworthy
  • intelligent
  • loyal
  • quiet
  • serious
  • positive
  • grounded
  • workaholics
  • inspire confidence in others
  • opinionated
  • stubborn
  • hate to fail
  • don't like being challenged

According to astrologers, the year of the ox denotes hard work, positivity and honesty and these are the qualities that will manifest in all of us over the next twelve months.

Compatability

Most Compatible with Ox

Most compatible with Ox are Rat, Snake and Rooster.

Least Compatible with Ox

Goat, Horse and Dog.

Lucky Things for Oxen

Colours: Blue | Green | Yellow
Numbers: 1 & 4
Flowers: Lucky Bamboo | Lily of the Valley

Unlucky Things

Colours: Brown | Red
Numbers 3 & 6

What Animal Are You?

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Chinese Medicine To Support Sensible Weight Loss

By Sally Perkins

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

Food and Functionality

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

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

Antioxidant Assistance

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


Photo by Kristaps Ungurs on Unsplash

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


Featured image photo by Louis Hansel @shotsoflouis on Unsplash



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Essential Oils Still Favored By Modern-Day Chinese Medicine Practitioners

By Sally Perkins

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

Essential oils have a long history

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


Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

The applications are varied

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


Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

Lavender oil is a popular choice

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

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


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How Meditation Changes The Brain, Exterminates Depression

By Tiffany Harper

Meditation is an old spiritual exercise, commonly associated with Oriental spirituality. The method involves mindfulness, relaxation, and breathing patterns. The goal is to achieve a general state of well-being, specifically a psychological one. Today, meditation is a widespread wellness practice. You can find through meditation tutorials in books, on Youtube, or by taking classes.

So, chances are you tried meditation at least once. Therefore, you can agree that meditation is undoubtedly an excellent way to relax and unwind. But does it have real scientifically proven benefits on the brain? In this article, you’ll find out more about how meditation changes the brain and exterminates depression.

Meditation Against Depression And Anxiety

Mindful meditation is just as powerful as antidepressants. According to some research, the subjects experienced less anxiety, pain, and depression after practicing meditation. The result was incredible: meditation had a 0.3 effect on the subjects (moderate), which is just as much as the 0.3 of antidepressant medicines. Moreover, meditation can help reduce social anxiety. A precise type of meditation, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), which focuses on stress, showed significant results in research. The participants took a course of MBSR for eight weeks, and the results were reduced physical and mental anxiety and stress. Furthermore, the effects lasted over the years. Lastly, meditation was found as a solution to social anxiety disorder: mindfulness reduces the activity of parts of the brain associated with unhappiness.

Meditation Improves Focus

A common problem among the global population is the difficulty to focus. Meditation was found to help increase concentration and attention. In one study, participants had meditation training for a few weeks. Then, they were tested for cognitive skills, including focus. The results revealed that they improved by 16%. This means that people who teach, work, or use their intellectual power for tasks can tackle their jobs better.

Likewise, kids were tested for their concentration skills since they are often associated with a lack of focus. In this case, meditation had a massive impact on developing minds. It can help with cognitive skills as well as emotional skills. Some schools implemented short meditation breaks, which brought an increase in GPAs and attendances, and a decrease in suspensions.

Meditation Helps Against Brain Aging

UCLA conducted a study that linked meditation to brain aging. They compared the brains of participants who meditated regularly to participants who didn’t. The results proved that the brains of the subjects who meditated still aged. However, they had more gray matter volume than the others. Even comparing old participants with young ones proved that meditation could slow the aging process of the brain while reducing the loss of gray matter.

Meditation Decreases The Activity Of The DMN

The Default Mode Network (DMN) consists of various parts of the brain that regulate self-referential and mind-wandering ideas. These thoughts are associated with unhappiness, worrying, and anxiety. A study by Yale University proves that meditation quiets the DMN. The participants who meditated could switch back to the present moment, while non-meditators would get lost in negative and worrying thoughts easier.

Meditation Positively Changes The Brain

A Harvard study showed that meditation could change the volume and dimensions of various brain parts. The research studied the participants in the eight-week program of MBSR:

  • The subjects had increased hippocampus thickness, which means that they improved their memory, emotional control, and learning skills.
  • The subjects showed diminished amygdala, which means that they are less likely to be afraid, anxious, and stressed.
  • The subjects showed a different perception of moods and emotions.

Meditation Against Addictions

Since meditation is centered around self-control, it was found to be useful against a variety of addictions. One research study proved that smoking addicts were more likely to give up smoking after meditation training. So, mindfulness showed even better results than the “Freedom From Smoking” program (FFS) after the 17-week follow-up. The reason behind the study’s success is that meditation helps people resist temptations, withdrawals, or cravings because it interrupts the connection between those and the addiction itself.

How To Effectively Meditate

Now that we know how many benefits meditation can bring, it’s time to practice it. At first, meditation can seem a challenging activity to do, or that requires special techniques and training. Nevertheless, meditation is a simple method to refocus the brain on the present moment, thus reducing stress, anxiety, brain aging, and other issues. Initially, it may seem impossible to quiet the mind. Still, after a couple of sessions, you may improve your cognitive skills.

Here is a simple guide to meditation:

  • Find a peaceful place in your home. It could be your living room, or even in your backyard. You can light up some candles or open up the window to create a pleasant atmosphere. If you’re going to focus on your breathing, you might want to have fresh or lightly scented air in your space. You also might want to play some calming music, especially if the environment you’re in isn’t quiet enough.
  • Find a good position. You can sit upright on a cushion on the floor with your legs crossed. Alternatively, you can lay on the bed or a mat and blanket. Just make sure that you’re comfortable and that your back is straight. If you’re sitting horizontally, make sure that your belly’s facing the ceiling.
  • Close your eyes. If you wish to work with your mind, you might want to rest your eyes to focus better.
  • Start to breathe slowly. You can inhale for four seconds and exhale for four. Take as many as you need to ease into it.
  • Observe your thoughts rather than thinking about them. Your brain will inevitably want to wander off and think about chores, fears, and feelings. Please don’t beat yourself up for it. Just try to observe them and gently come back to your breath.
  • Continue breathing and observe every sensation in the body.
  • Try to reach a mental state where you’re focusing on your sensation and your brain instead of thinking thoughts.

Keep coming back to your senses and breathing every time you get distracted.

  • Accept that your mind may not want to settle down. Just keep trying.
  • Once you reach a calm state, continue to breathe.
  • When you’re satisfied with your session, bat your eyelashes open and slowly return to your day.

Conclusion

The spiritual practice of meditation has a myriad of benefits, from reducing brain aging to improving mood, focus, and self-control. If you want to start meditating, find a quiet place in your home to focus on your breath with your eyes closed. The first day you may not be able to concentrate on your breath well. Nonetheless, if you keep trying, you’ll get there.


Author Bio
Tiffany Harper is a freelancer and blogger from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She specializes in psychology, natural remedies, and wellness topics. Tiffany is also a yoga lover, so every Saturday if she is not working as a consultant with an essay writer from Write My Essay, she spends her free time meditating in the local park. Please do not hesitate to contact her on twitter


Sources:
1. https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2018/04/harvard-researchers-study-how-mindfulness-may-change-the-brain-in-depressed-patients/
2. https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/how-meditation-helps-with-depression
3. https://eocinstitute.org/meditation/depression-shrinks-our-brain-how-meditation-builds-it-back-up/
4. https://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2015/02/09/7-ways-meditation-can-actually-change-the-brain/#207157b71465
5. https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/what-does-mindfulness-meditation-do-to-your-brain/
6. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/mindfulness-in-frantic-world/201110/curing-depression-mindfulness-meditation


Other Sources:
1. [http://archinte.jamanetwork.com/article.aspxarticleid=1809754]
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3. [http://scan.oxfordjournals.org/content/8/1/65.short]
4. [http://pss.sagepub.com/content/24/5/776]
5. [https://srcd.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1750-8606.2011.00215.x]
6. [http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10826-013-9784-4]
7. [http://journal.frontiersin.org/Journal/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01551/full]
8. [http://www.pnas.org/content/108/50/20254.short]
9. [http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/ articles/PMC3004979/]
10. [http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/ articles/PMC3927233/]
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