10 Easy Tips to Get Healthy Right Now

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac

Here is my list of 10 simple things that you can do to improve your health right now. Most of them seem obvious, but sometimes its good to have a little reminder as we are all so busy that it is hard to always find the time to take care of ourselves. All of these are based on Chinese medicine principles, but they really are excellent tips regardless of where they come from, because they really work.

1. Eat Real Food

Vegetables
This one seems like a no brainer, right? Well, eating real food isn’t always easy, especially when we are short on time. Convenience will usually win out over eating properly, especially when we are rushed, and there is a literal ocean of fast foods to choose from. They are often full of chemicals, fats and so little nutrition that you have to eat way more to feel full, which is one of the ways that people gain weight. You will find that when you are eating real, fresh foods, that you will actually eat less and feel better. My rule is always quality over quantity.

The way I would define “real food” is to say that it is food that is as close as possible to its original form, ie- when it came out of the ground, or off the tree. Staying away from packaged foods is a good way to ensure that you are following number one, as well as number 10 (avoid chemicals), as packaged foods almost always contain preservatives, flavour enhancers, fats, salt, sugars, and all of those unpronounceable ingredients that are so bad for us. Labelling laws vary from country to country, but many places do not require companies to label everything that goes into the foods they producs, so it is almost impossible to know what you are eating.

Eating fresh, locally grown foods that are in season is the best way to show your body some love. This is after all the way our bodies were designed, and our digestive systems have evolved to function best when we eat this way. At first, it does take a little more planning, but once you start eating fresh foods, you will notice very quickly how amazing you feel and soon those pizza pockets and big macs won’t appeal to you anymore and you will wonder how you could have ever eaten them! So eat real food, I promise your body will love you for it.

2. Go Outside

go outside

The ancient Chinese had an intimate relationship with nature. Life and all of its processes revolved around nature and the ebb and flow of the seasons. When I was in China, I noticed that there was no separation between inside and outside, windows were always open (I once tried to close one because I was freezing and got some serious sass in Chinese), and having fresh air is an important aspect of health. Closing up our houses causes the air to stagnate and this, when left for long periods, can lead to illness. We are constantly needing to breathe in fresh air and the simple act of going outside accomplishes this and much more.

We get energy from the earth, and we are not getting that energy if we are sitting in front of our computers. Being outside is incredibly grounding and relaxing to the body. Looking at the plants and flowers is nourishing for our eyes, taking off your shoes and walking in the grass or on the beach in the sand is you literally connecting to the planet. Being outside in nature nourishes all of your senses, and most importantly, builds up your body’s own energy, or qi, and going for walks is a very effective way to move energy and avoid illnesses caused by stagnation.

3. Breathe Deeply

breathe deeply

Anyone who has ever done yoga or studied martial arts understands the importance of the breath. It is the basis for many types of meditation and breathing is necessary for keeping us alive. The Lungs are associated with sadness and grief in Chinese medicine, and many of the ways in which we can release intense or overwhelming grief is through deep breathing exercises.

In times of stress, worry, anger or sadness a few deep breaths can dissipate those strong emotions and clear our heads. The breath is incredibly healing, taking in the new, and letting go of the old. Breathing deeply also brings more oxygen into the body and more oxygen means increased brain function and that is always a good thing. Oxygen improves the immune system, calms the mind and stabilizes the nervous system, improves concentration and memory, speeds up the body’s ability to recover after physical exertion, improves digestion, alleviates headaches and migraines, detoxifies the blood and strengthens the heart. So breathe deep, its good for your health!

4. Express Your Emotions

express your emotions

Emotional health is a big part of Chinese medicine. It is also interesting to note that in Chinese medicine, the emotions are one of the causes of disease. This may seem strange to us in the West, but think about how you feel when someone you love passes away, or a family member is in a serious accident. Those are incredibly strong emotions and they absolutely affect your health. Of course having emotions is a normal part of being human, they only become pathological when they are repressed or unacknowledged, expressed without control (wild outbursts for example), unexpressed or felt intensely for long periods without being resolved.

The most important thing for having a healthy emotional life is, if there is something happening in your life that is upsetting you, acknowledge it. This is the first step. It isn’t always easy, but it is vital to moving through it in a healthy way. Second is to allow yourself to feel it without judgement. We often judge our feelings about something which can be much more destructive than having the emotion in the first place. There is often a comparison to someone else who is in a worse situation. So feel what you are feeling. Don’t judge it. It is valid, and once you have felt that emotion, then you can let it go and move on.

Here are a couple of articles about the emotions that will give you some more information about how they are viewed in Chinese medicine and some tips on how you can deal with them in a healthy way.

Emotions in Traditional Chinese Medicine
Grief - A Chinese Medicine Perspective

5. Be Mindful

be mindful

There was never such a paradox, that something that should be so easy could be so hard. What does being mindful mean? Being present. Being absolutely focussed with all of your being at whatever you are doing (or not doing) at the present moment.

This is particularly difficult for us. We live in a culture that has values multitasking. The more you can do at once, the more valuable you are. You are a master of productivity. You are the envy of your colleagues and your friends. How do you get so much done?

Because Chinese medicine grew out of Taoist teachings and ideas, there is a big emphasis on mindfulness in everything you do and living in the present. It is not about getting as much done as possible, it is about doing a few things well and with intention. The idea in terms of health is that when you are doing one thing, your qi or energy is focussed and you are able to channel all of your energy into one thing. When you are doing more than one thing at once, you are scattering your qi, and your focus. Your qi works best when it is focussed. Constantly scattering your qi will lead to deficiency and eventually can lead to illness.

The other reason that being mindful is good for your health is that the spleen, which is the organ of digestion in TCM, is the thing that is responsible for digesting everything that comes into the body. This is not only food and drink, but information and stimulus as well. All the multitasking means that the spleen has to work extra hard to digest all that food/information/stimulus at the same time and it becomes exhausted. We live in an extremely spleen deficient culture because of this. So, being mindful is actually a way to be kind to your spleen, which is really at the core of our health.

Here is a quote that illustrates the idea of being mindful written by Lao Tzu, the founder of Taoism.

If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.

~ Lao Tzu

6. Get Enough Sleep

Man sleeping

Sleep is the body’s much needed chance to rest and heal. Sleep is necessary for the body to repair itself of any damage, right down to the cellular level. It is the body’s chance to build up its energy stores so that it can keep you awake, keep your heart pumping, your lungs breathing and you alive and healthy tomorrow and for many days to come. We are a sleep deprived culture. We often cram so many activities into our lives that we simply cannot get the sleep we need to function at optimum levels.

Not getting enough sleep saps our energy, and has a significant effect on our ability to focus, concentrate and significantly affects memory. We all function a lot better,  and feel clear and alert when we have had a good night’s sleep. There are a few things that you can do to help you sleep. Don’t eat stimulating foods such as spicy foods, coffee and alcohol in the evenings before bed. They can over stimulate the nervous system and make it hard to get to sleep. Massaging your feet before you go to bed is very relaxing and opens up the meridians encouraging the free and uninhibited flow of qi. Make sure your room is completely dark. The brain associates darkness with sleep and it is more difficult to sleep in a room where there is too much light. And finally, try to go to bed before 11pm. In Chinese medicine, there is an organ clock, each organ having 2 hours of the day when it needs to regenerate. The liver time is from 11pm-1am, and it is widely accepted that it is best to be asleep as the liver is responsible for many of our bodies processes and emotional responses.

7. Drink Lots of Water

drink water

How many times have we heard this one? But its true. There are many ailments whose cause is simply dehydration, and the body is 70% water, so it is vital to our bodies functioning at optimum levels. Water is purifying to the body and helps flush out toxins which can lead to illness. A good thing to do is first thing when you wake up in the morning is to drink a glass of water which will help flush out all the toxins that have accumulated during the night.

Drinking enough water is important as water aids the body in regulating temperature, keeps the skin (the body's largest organ) healthy, cushions joints, contributes to heart health, rids the body of waste, aids in digestion and protects the nervous system - including the brain and spinal cord. Dehydration is also a common cause of headaches, so keeping hydrated will help keep your entire body balanced, hydrated and happy.

According to Chinese medicine, it is also important not to drink very cold water and not to put ice in your drinks. This is because it uses a lot of the body’s energy to warm it up, and cold injures the spleen which is charge of digestion.

8. Find Love

Dog Kisses Firefighter

Romantic love is wonderful. But I am talking about the love that is everywhere and available to everyone at all times.

Love is one of the most important things for our happiness and our health. Love is everywhere, if you chose to simply notice that it is there.

Love is noticing a beautiful flower. Someone holding a door open for you when your arms are full of groceries - this is love. When your cat crawls into your lap and goes to sleep - this is love. A smile from a stranger - this is love. When a friend listens to you rant about your bad day - this is love. Someone cooks you a delicious meal - this is love. And when you look in the mirror and see the beauty instead of the flaws, this is LOVE. These are all acts of love. And that is what love is, it is action with intention. Can you see it? Can you feel it? It is everywhere. <3

*This photo illustrates a lovely story. This firefighter pulled this dog out of a burning home, saving her life. He then went back into the house to continue fighting the fire. When he came out and sat down to rest, she walked right over to him and thanked him for saving her life.

9. Move Your Body

hula hooping

Our bodies are designed for movement. We have evolved over many thousands of years to move. It is only relatively recently that our lives have become so sedentary, and a lack of movement is at the root of many of our health problems. In Chinese medicine, illness arises when the qi becomes blocked or stagnated. When there is a blockage of the flow, the whole system is thrown out of balance. The best way to circulate qi is simply to move your body around. If you sit at a desk all day, get up and walk around your office every few hours. Take a walk at lunch, and if the weather is nice, walk or ride your bike to work.

There are many ways to move your body. From simply doing some stretching exercises at your desk, to taking a yoga class, or doing tai chi or qi gong. Walking, riding a bike, playing with your dog, or getting down on the floor and playing with your children, they all achieve the same purpose, movement. If you have ever watched children, they are always moving! Every parent knows how exhausting it can be to keep up with a small child, but they instinctively know that movement is good for our health. So, keep moving, and get that qi circulating!.

10. Avoid Chemicals

hazard

This one is huge. And not easy in this day and age. Just start small and be mindful of trying to keep things as natural as possible; from what you put in your mouth, to what you use to clean your house. Have a yard? Grow a garden. Vegetables can be grown in a small plot and are relatively low maintenance and easy to grow. Live in an apartment, or a place with winter? Try an herb garden in pots, they will add so much to your cooking! Shop at the farmers market and eat as much organic as possible. If you have to eat packaged foods, read labels. Take time to cook and bring your lunches to work, this way you will know exactly what is in the food you are eating.

Make your own laundry detergent. Here is a recipe and it is chemical free and costs about a tenth of what the store bought stuff does. Instead of using harsh cleaning agents that are full of chemicals, consider using natural cleaners like vinegar, alcohol, lemon and baking soda. There are many great recipes online, places like Pinterest are wonderful resources.

Makeup and beauty products are some of the worst offenders when it comes to chemicals, and you are applying them to your skin, the largest organ of your body. You can make wonderful masks, sugar scrubs, moisturizers and lip balms with natural ingredients that you can find at the health food store. Things like almond oil, honey, beeswax, rose water, coconut oil, oats and cucumber are some of the ingredients that you can use to make your own beauty products. They are easy to make, you can customize them to your skin type and they smell delicious! You also know that you are not absorbing any chemicals into your delicate skin.

Chemicals cause the body to age prematurely. They also decrease fertility in both men and women and increase the risk of birth defects. It is especially important for growing girls to avoid toxic chemicals to avoid problems having healthy children in the future as they are born with all the eggs they will ever have.

Our bodies are bombarded by a barrage of chemicals every day. Of course, we can’t avoid them all, but if you are mindful, you can avoid a lot of them. Keeping life simple and using common sense is the best way to live a healthy and balanced life.



Causes of Disease in Chinese Medicine

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

According to traditional Chinese medicine, we are healthy, happy beings because our bodies are in a state of harmony. This harmony is between yin and yang, the different organs in our bodies and our relationship with the external environment. And yet, this harmony is constantly in a state of flux because of the activities of our daily lives; the way we treat our physical bodies, how we deal with our emotions, the changing weather, the stresses of work and family and the constant uncertainty of life itself.

When a person is healthy and an imbalance is created, it is quickly restored. If a person is unhealthy and there is an imbalance, because the strength of the body is compromised, it takes longer for the body to return to that harmonious state. When the body is in a prolonged state of imbalance, disease will occur. In Chinese medicine, it is the factors that cause the body to lose its harmonious balance that are the causes of disease.

Human beings have always struggled with external and internal threats to their health. External factors such as the weather are not normally causes of disease. It is only when the body is in a weakened state, or the external factors occur too quickly for the body to adjust that the delicate balance is disrupted and illness can occur. Some diseases are also seen to be caused by internal factors, such as problems with the organs, emotional stress, and excess sexual activity.

External Causes

Wind

Symptoms of external wind manifest with fever, chills, and sweating. Wind particularly affects the lungs which leads to coughing, stuffy, runny nose and an itchy or dry throat. Wind is said to be the master of 100 illnesses.

Heat Fire

The difference between heat and fire is temperature. Fire is not only hotter than heat, but it always flares upwards which manifest in symptoms of the upper body. Symptoms of fire include a strong aversion to heat, restlessness, irritability and thirst. Someone with fire symptoms has little sweat, a flushed face and red eyes.

Summer Heat

Symptoms of summer heat occur mostly in the summer season. Of all the external pathogenic factors, summer heat is the only one that is seasonal. It is also the only factor that is caused solely by heat from the external environment. There is no internal summer heat. Symptoms of summer heat include fever, excessive sweating, thirst, irritability, fatigue, and shortness of breath. Heatstroke is a common ailment in the summer season and its symptoms include dizziness, nausea, lack of energy. The best way to combat summer heat is to keep hydrated by drinking lots of water.

Dampness

External dampness includes the humidity in the air, and the water, rain and fog in the environment. Living in a damp environment, such as a basement in a damp climate, can cause dampness to invade the body and lead to disease. Symptoms of external dampness include chills, fever that does not improve with sweating, a heavy sensation in the body - especially the limbs and a cloudy, heavy feeling in the head. One of the main symptoms of dampness is a lack of thirst because the body is already inundated with moisture.

Dryness

Dryness is associated with autumn, so it occurs most often in that season. Dryness enters the body through the nose and mouth so most effects the lungs. These symptoms manifest as dry mouth, nose, throat, skin and cough. Dryness with the addition of heat also causes fever, headaches, sweating, thirst and irritability.

Cold

Cold is the main climatic element of winter, but of course, exists all year round and can combine with other elements such as dampness and wind. When the body is exposed to cold, either from cold weather or staying in a cold place for too long, the body will exhibit symptoms of fever, aversion to cold, headaches, body aches, stuffy nose, coughing and lack of sweat. Overeating raw foods, which are considered very cold in Chinese medicine is another way that cold can affect our health. Symptoms of over consumption of cold foods are pain in the abdomen or stomach, indigestion, vomiting, and diarrhea. Staying warm when we go outside and while we sleep is a good way to keep cold making us sick.

Internal Causes

Internal Wind

The main symptoms of internal wind are spasms, convulsions, rigid neck, upward turning of the eyes and opisthotonus (a severe muscle spasm where the back is arched and the head and toes are almost touching). Some less serious symptoms of internal wind are numbness or tremors of the limbs, blurry eyes, and vertigo. In Chinese medicine, the liver is the organ that generates wind, so someone presenting with these symptoms would be suffering from liver wind.

Internal Heat Fire

Signs of internal fire are more severe than external fire and include bleeding from the nose, blood in the urine or stools, bleeding associated with hemorrhoids and eruptions, boils or rashes on the skin and cold sores on the tongue or mouth.

Internal Dampness

Internal dampness usually has to do with a dysfunction of the spleen. The spleen, when out of balance, is prone to dampness. A common symptom is difficult urination. If the dampness is in the upper part of the body like the lungs, the patient will feel tightness in the chest, dizziness and vertigo. If the dampness is in the stomach they will feel fullness and distension in the abdomen, nausea, soft or loose stools, heaviness of the limbs and have a sticky sweet taste in the mouth.

Internal Dryness

Internal dryness results in the lack of blood and body fluids, and can occur after a feverish illness, not allowing the patient to recover completely and causing their illness to linger. Internal dryness is common after someone has suffered a chronic disease as the body and body fluids are often exhausted and the body is not able to nourish tissues. Many medications are also considered very heating in Chinese medicine and can contribute to dryness inside the body. Symptoms of internal dryness include thirst, dry skin that can be coarse and flaky, dry hair, constipation, emaciated muscles and a dry tongue.

Internal Cold

Internal cold is caused by a deficiency of fire or yang energy inside the body. Yang deficiency can occur in any of our organs. The symptoms a person experiences will correspond to the organ affected. For example, if the yang of the heart is deficient the function of the heart will be compromised as we see with heart failure. These patients feel cold, have palpitations, shortness of breath and a stagnation of their qi and blood which can lead to severe chest pains. Lips and face are often a bluish or purple in these patients.

Emotional Factors

This beautiful photo by Gabriel Matula on Unsplash

It may seem strange that something like emotions could be considered a cause of disease. Of course, emotions are a normal part of being human. But feeling them intensely for prolonged periods, being unable to express your emotions, or experiencing a sudden shock or trauma is the way in which they can become a cause of disease.

Each organ is associated with an emotion in Chinese medicine. When the organ is out of balance, there will be a disturbance in its associated emotion, and conversely, if you are feeling overwhelmed by a specific emotion, it may damage its corresponding organ. Here are the organs and their corresponding emotions...

The Heart - Joy

The Liver - Anger or Frustration

The Lungs - Sadness or Grief

The Spleen - Worry or Overthinking

The Kidneys - Fear

An example would be someone suffering from the sudden loss of a loved one. The shock might cause an overwhelming sense of loss and grief which, if intense could cause lung symptoms like asthma, shortness of breath and cough. This also works in reverse, if someone was suffering from a prolonged cough, they might find that they were feeling more melancholy than usual. It is a constant cycle of interaction.

Then we have what are called the “miscellaneous factors” in Chinese medicine. These are the causes of disease that do not fit into the previous categories of internal, external or emotional.

Diet & Eating Habits

Nutrition and eating habits are necessary for the body to perform its vital functions. One of the major causes of disease is poor diet and bad eating habits. If we are not able to attain enough nutrition to keep our bodies healthy and functioning at optimal levels, then illness will occur. The amount of food and the frequency at which we eat it is also important. Many smaller meals are always better (and easier on the digestive system) than one or two large ones. Everyone is different, but we tend to live in a culture with larger than necessary portions and not enough time to eat regularly, the body loves consistency.

Eating a varied diet, full of fruits and vegetables, being careful to wash foods carefully will help keep the body strong and the immune system able to fight off pathogens from inside and out. Food therapy is a huge component of Chinese medicine, each food having its medicinal properties, temperatures and seasons when they are best consumed for health. The Chinese have used food as medicine for thousands of years and there is a wealth of knowledge on how to use food to keep yourself in the best health possible all year round.

Another thing important in TCM is being mindful when you eat. We are so often doing more than one thing at a time, and people often use their lunch breaks or dinner to catch up on work, watch tv or help the kids with their homework. One way we can relieve some of the burden on our already taxed digestive systems is to really focus and when we are eating, and just eat. The spleen, which is the organ of digestion in Chinese medicine is responsible for digesting not only the food that we eat, but information and stimulus as well which is why allowing it to digest those things one at a time will lift some of the burden. And we all want to have happy spleens right? Of course we do.

Stress

Stress is also a normal part of life. We all experience heightened levels of stress that are often beyond our control. The key to health is being able to maintain that balance and find healthy ways to deal with stress so it does not become overwhelming. Thankfully, Chinese medicine offers us many tools with which to effectively deal with stress.

Qi Gong

Qi Gong is an internal martial art which has been practiced for thousands of years in China is an ideal way to calm the mind and body with its fluid movements and emphasis on breathing.

Tai Chi

Tai Chi is another excellent exercise and way to calm the mind, body, and spirit with forms of graceful movements also with an emphasis on the breath. Both are best practiced outside, as nature has a calming, grounding effect on body mind and spirit.

Meditation

Meditation is another tool employed to help combat the effects of stress. It is amazing how dramatic the act of sitting quietly for 20 minutes can affect how you feel. It is a wonderfully simple way to pull yourself out of what is worrying you and become more centered. And, because nature is such a fundamental part of Chinese medicine, the simple act of going outside, taking a walk and taking deep breaths is an incredibly healing, calming thing for mind and body. Make sure to take the time you need to step outside of what is stressing you and give yourself the gift of healing with one of the many modalities that have been used for thousands of years by the Chinese.

Fatigue


Photo by Abbie Bernet on Unsplash

In this chaotic time, this is perhaps one of the most common causes of disease. We are a chronically under-slept culture. The incredibly healing restorative power of sleep cannot be overstated. Sleep is the time that our bodies have to heal and repair any damage. It is also a time for the mind to rest, which is an incredibly important aspect of health. Everyone knows that feeling of being run down, and how susceptible we are to illness when our bodies and psyches are exhausted. Give yourself the time to sleep. It is important for the immune system, stress and is your body’s time to rebalance itself which it really needs.

Excess Sexual Activity

This is one that surprises people. Is it really possible that excess sexual activity can be bad for you? Yes. It is true, that in Chinese Medicine excess sexual activity is a cause of disease, and let me tell you why. First of all this problem is more relevant for men that it is for women and that is because sex for men usually ends in ejaculation. That ejaculation contains the man’s fundamental essence, called Jing. A substantial and ongoing loss of this Jing can have long term health consequences which become more severe as the man ages. A loss of Jing causes the body to age prematurely. For women this loss of Jing, the body’s fundamental essence can occur by having too many children too close together. Pregnancy is traumatic to the body and supplementing and allowing the body to heal sufficiently afterwards is important so that you are not unnecessarily draining your Jing. Also, marrying too young and engaging in excess sexual activity before your body is fully developed is another way you can injure Jing. Don’t get me wrong, having a healthy sex life is a very important factor in good health, but, like everything in Chinese medicine, it is all about balance. So, my advice to you would be moderation. :)

Injuries & Trauma


Photo by Julian Paul on Unsplash

Injuries and traumas are unavoidable and often out of our control. Broken bones, sprains, cuts, pulled muscles and animal bites and accidents happen to all of us. The damage is usually localized, and if treatment is sought right away and given correctly then there are usually no long term effects. But, if treatment is not received quickly enough or things like infections develop, they can lead more serious problems and eventually be causes of disease.

Parasites

Parasites are still a problem in many parts of the world where there is poor sanitation and health regulations. Parasites have a profound effect on the body often causing pain in the abdomen, poor appetite, and emaciation. Parasites drain the body of essential nutrition leading to deficiencies and weight loss. Children especially are susceptible to parasites and worms and should be checked if any of the above symptoms are observed.

Chinese medicine was developed over thousands of years and as a result has a robust understanding of the human body and the causes of disease which is why, there is, and always has been, a huge emphasis on prevention. The idea being that if the body is strong, healthy and in balance, disease will never have a chance to develop. There is a quote that illustrates this and basically sums up the idea that is at the core of Chinese medicine. It was written in the Warring States Period of the Zhou Dynasty by the famous emperor Huang Di.

Maintaining order rather than correcting disorder is the ultimate principle of wisdom. To cure disease after it has appeared is like digging a well when one already feels thirsty or forging weapons after the war has already begun.

~ Huang Di / The Yellow Emperor   476 - 221BC


Welcome To The Chinese Year of the Snake

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac

1905 ~ 1917 ~ 1929 ~ 1941 ~ 1953 ~ 1965 ~ 1977 ~ 1989 ~ 2001 ~ 2013

2013 is the Chinese year of the Snake, the sixth in the cycle of twelve animals that make up the Chinese zodiac. In Chinese culture, a person’s personality is said to be governed by the animal ruling the time of their birth. There are 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac, and 5 elements, so each animal year (occurring every 12 years) also has an element (which happens every 60 years). In 2013, we are in the year of the water snake.

People born in the year of the snake are considered to be intelligent and cunning, methodical in their approach to things, and successful in business due to their skills in moderating and communication.

Snakes are thoughtful, private people and not outwardly emotional. From the outside they can appear cunning and devious as they have the ability to keep their composure not matter what drama is unfolding before them and are not easily flustered. They are the most calm and collected of the animal signs. They are generally attractive, graceful and refined people with a hint of darkness and mystery that can seem both enticing and dangerous to the outside observer. Some of the most beautiful women and the most powerful men are born in the year of the snake.

Snakes are generally ambitious and material possessions are very important to them. If they decide they want something, they are willing to plot and scheme to attain what they most desire. When out of balance, the snake can become greedy, possessive and will resort to cunning and deceit to get what he wants.

Chinese Year of the Snake

The Water Snake

The last water snake year was 60 years ago, in 1953. People born in a water snake year are insightful, and good organizers. They tend to manage others well, and thrive in managerial positions in the workplace. They are ambitious and determined to be successful. They are intelligent and work hard for what they want and they believe that the goal is worth their efforts as well as the praise that comes with it.

Snakes are warm and affectionate with their families, devoted spouses, and responsible, loving parents. The snake, however, does not generally show this sensitive side to friends or colleagues.

Snakes love taking time off and going on vacation. They most enjoy just lying around and being lazy. When they take a trip, they go all out eating at the best restaurants, shopping at the best boutiques and visiting spas and health clubs, the snake loves to indulge! The snake has to be careful however, as his love of luxury can sometimes overcome his financial means, so snakes must be careful about money. Although they are ambitious and hardworking, they love to spend money, often on things they don’t need.

Snake Health

The snake personality is calm and serene, so their surroundings must be the same for them to feel relaxed and happy. The snake can become easily stressed or anxious if put in a loud, hectic or chaotic environment. To thrive and succeed, they need to lead a calm and quiet life. Some people love the adrenaline of parties, lots of people and loud music, but not the snake. The snake would much prefer a quiet afternoon alone with a good book. A snake must get lots of sleep and stay relaxed to live a long, healthy life.

Predictions for the Year of the Snake

Ahead for this snake year is a time that will be powerful for inner reflection, growth and self discovery. This year promises to bring a deeper awareness of spirituality and things whose meanings were hidden in the past, will be revealed this year. It is a year of release and renewal. So this is a good year to look deep into yourself and find the things you are holding on to, work through them and let them go, so that you can create space that you can fill with the new, wonderful and fulfilling experiences that are coming to you this year.

yellowsnake

 

Famous People Born in the Year of the Snake

John F. Kennedy
Queen Elizabeth, I
Dick Cheney
Charlie Sheen
Daniel Radcliffe
Marlon Brando
Sarah Jessica Parker
Liv Tyler
Ronan Keating
Bob Dylan
James Joyce
Pablo Picasso
Virginia Wolf
Hulk Hogan


Watercress - The New Miracle Food

By Vicky Chan of NourishU

Watercress is categorized by Chinese Medicine as cool in nature and sweet and pungent in taste. It acts on the lungs, has a cooling effect and promotes vital fluids to lubricate the lungs and relieve cough.

Watercress is commonly used in Chinese cuisine as the main ingredient for making soup, congee and dumplings or is eaten just as a plain vegetable dish. It is mostly consumed in the summer months for its cooling effect and in fall for its moisturizing properties.

In fact, watercress has its origin in the West. The Chinese name for watercress is ‘sai-yeung-choi’ which means western vegetable. Historically, watercress was used by the Romans, Greeks and Persians as a natural medicine, prescribed for migraines, anemia, eczema, kidney and liver disorders and tuberculosis.

According to modern research, watercress has been found to be the new miracle food with anti-cancer properties.

A study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in February of 2007 showed that, in addition to reducing DNA damage, a daily dose of watercress increased the ability of cells to further resist DNA damage that may be caused by free radicals. In the study, 60 men and women, half of whom were smokers, consumed their usual diet plus 85-grams of raw watercress daily for 8-weeks. Blood samples were analyzed for plasma antioxidant status and DNA damage in lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell. Watercress consumption significantly reduced lymphocyte DNA damage.

Another study published recently in The British Journal of Nutrition, the consumption of a three ounce portion of watercress reduced the presence of a key tumor growth factor six to eight hours after eating the watercress in healthy patients who had previously been treated for breast cancer. The study was conducted by the Cancer Research Center at the School of Medicine, Southampton General Hospital in the United Kingdom and concluded watercress is as therapeutic as traditional drug treatments with tamoxifen & herceptin, commonly used chemotherapy drugs.

The study also said that through regular consumption, watercress "has the potential to confer valuable protection against cancer in general. Watercress has the ability to turn off HIF1, a signal sent out by cells calling for blood supply," said noted aging scientist Dr. Nicholas Perricone. *When HIF1 becomes incorrectly regulated, otherwise harmless precancerous clusters of cells have the opportunity to grow to form invasive tumors. Scientists have been looking for anti-angiogenesis agents for years because if we can turn off the blood supply, we can kill the cancer," said Perricone. "And it looks like watercress can do that."

Since watercress is available almost year round and is very inexpensive, we should eat a lot more of it for our health. Making watercress into a plain vegetable dish is really simple. Just put watercress in boiling water with a spoon of salt and some oil and blanch it for a few minutes and serve. Putting watercress into soup makes it easy to eat a lot more of it in one serving.

We have many watercress recipes on our website - www.nourishu.com-  for your reference.

Watercress and Fish Soup

Moisturizes and promotes vital fluids

Watercress, Chicken Liver & Gizzard Soup

Clears heat and moisturizes internal systems, clears phlegm and stops coughing

Watercress, Lo-han quo and Pork Soup

Treats dry mouth and sore throat, clears toxins and phlegm.

Here is another recipe suggestion for you and your family. Other than the watercress, all other ingredients are optional and can be omitted according to availability and your liking.

Watercress, Duck Kidney and Pork Soup

watercress soup ingredients

INGREDIENTS (for about 4 servings)

Watercress – 3 bundles
Apricot kernel – 2 tablespoons
Duck kidney – about 200gm
Lean pork or pork with bone – 240gm
Mandarin orange/citrus peel – one piece
Honey dates – 2
Dried figs – 2 (cut into halves)
Ginger – 3 slices

THERAPEUTIC EFFECTS

Watercress - promotes vital fluids to lubricate lungs and relieves cough

Apricot kernel – relieves cough, wheezing, chest distension and spasms in the throat; moisturizes the intestine; and relaxes bowels.

Duck kidney – promotes kidney health

Citrus peel - regulates energy stagnation in the spleen and stomach; relieves nausea and vomiting, oppression in chest, cough and excessive phlegm; relieves chest and abdominal swelling; relieves local infection.

Honey dates/dried figs – natural sweetener and for soothing throat and lungs

DIRECTIONS

1. Wash duck kidney with some salt and rinse clean.

2. Wash pork and put in boiling water to cook for a few minutes, discard water and rinse clean.

3. Rinse watercress in plenty of water a few times, discard all small leaves fallen off and drain.

4. Soak orange peel with water for 30 minutes and scrape out the white tissue from the back of the peel to prevent bitterness.

5. Rinse other ingredients.

6. Put all ingredients, except watercress, in a pot of about 10 cups of water and bring to a quick boil.

7. Add watercress only after boiling (to prevent bitterness). Continue boiling for about 15 minutes and reduce heat to medium boil.

8. Continue the cooking for about another 45 minutes and add salt to taste to serve.

Watercress Soup for health


Loving Your Heart in Chinese Medicine

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

One of the things that made me fall in love with Chinese medicine was its beautifully poetic way of explaining the world, our universe, the human body and the nature of disease. Ancient wisdom taken from Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism all had their influence in the way this incredible medicine was developed, and so did the profound way in which they saw the world, human beings and existence.

The way Chinese medicine explains the human being is complex and yet seems completely logical. The ideas and theories were developed at a time when people lived in complete harmony with the world around them. Life revolved around nature and the ebb and flow of the seasons. People practised preventative medicine, always striving for balance, and thus, health.

In Chinese medicine, every organ has its functions or “responsibilities” . These are not all physical, they are psychological and spiritual as well. The heart has special importance in TCM as it is seen to be the “ruler” of all the other organs, and when the body is healthy and balanced, it is a kind and benevolent leader.

Heart Health in Chinese Medicine

The Heart Houses the Shen

The Shen in Chinese medicine is a difficult concept to explain. The best comparison is to say that the Shen is equivalent to the spirit or soul, but it also encompasses the mind. Shen describes our mental activity or consciousness and is seen to be at the centre of all of our mental and physical activities. It is the source of thought processes, mental focus, planning, intelligence, any thought, idea and the will to carry it out can be seen as a manifestation of Shen.

The 7 emotions - anger, worry, sadness, fear, joy, grief, apprehension and the way they are involountarily manifested in the body as laughing, sobbing, moaning, sighing, gestures, body movements and facial expressions are also considered a reflection of Shen.

Each Yin organ (each Yin organ having a Yang organ partner) is considered to have its own soul or spirit, and the Shen is seen to have a controlling and regulating effect on them all.

  • Hun refers to the self-awareness and self-control mechanism associated with the liver.
  • Po refers to the body's basic reactive instincts associated with the lung.
  • Yi refers to the ability of thinking and remembering associated with the spleen.
  • Zhi refers to the function of memory associated with the kidney.
  • Shen refers to the function of processing all incoming sensory and intuitive information and supervising the body/mind reaction to it associated with the heart.

One of the most important ways in which we can determine the state of the Shen is through a person’s vitality and can be seen especially in the eyes. The saying “the eyes are the window to the soul” is especially relevant. If one has dull, lusterless eyes, we can assume that there is a problem with the Shen.

Chinese Tongue Diagnosis

this image from tobybluewolf.com

Opens to the Tongue

The tongue is the root of the heart, therefore, problems with speech are a good indication that there is an imbalance in the heart. Symptoms like talking incessantly, speaking very quickly or laughing inappropriately indicate a heart imbalance. More serious heart disharmonies can lead to things like stuttering and aphasia (the inability to speak). In many ancient spiritual traditions around the world, speech is regarded as a powerful force and one is often urged to speak the truth of their heart which demonstrates the connection of the heart to expression via the words we speak.

The sense of taste is also a reflection of the heart’s energy, so if the heart is healthy, we will be able to taste all the flavours and enjoy our food.

Pathology of the heart is clearly reflected on the tongue, especially the tip. A tongue with a red tip indicates a heart imbalance, usually heat. Heat in the heart can manifest as symptoms such as sleep problems, palpitations, red complexion and bitter taste in the mouth. Excessive heat in the heart can be caused by excessive grief or worry, chronic stress or emotional trauma.

What Can I Do To Keep My Heart Healthy?

There are many things we can do to keep our hearts healthy. From what we eat, exercising, expressing ourselves honestly and openly and living in accordance with our true natures all feed and nourish the heart.

The colour associated with the heart is red, therefore, red foods are seen to nourish the heart. Most are considered warm in nature and are used to nourish blood, improve circulation and build yang or fire energy in the body. They are recommended especially for people suffering with cold symptoms, or a deficiency of yang or fire energy in the body. These symptoms include cold limbs, pale face, anaemia, muscle weakness and palpitations.

Heart Foodsthis beautiful image from gaiahealthblog.com

Foods Beneficial to the Heart

Tomatoes
Beef
Cherry
Saffron
Red Beans
Watermelon
Red Apple
Beets
Radish
Strawberries
Rhubarb
Red Lentils
Longan Fruit
Red Dates
Chilli
Cumin
Cow Milk
Goats Milk
Egg Yolks
Coffee
Tea - Green tea is colder in nature than black tea

Exercises for the Heart

The heart meridian starts in the axilla, or armpit, and runs along the inside of the arm, terminating at the corner of the nail bed on the baby finger. For this reason, exercises stretching and strengthening the arms are the most beneficial to the heart.

There are many ways to protect the heart. For example, going to bed later in the evening and getting up earlier in the morning; wearing lighter clothing and changing more often; eating less warm food and more sour, sweet and spicy food to make up for excess sweating; and keeping in a good mood. Here are some exercises for keeping the heart healthy:

Clenching Fists

Sit up straight. Place both arms between the thighs and let them hang naturally. Breathe evenly. Then slowly make fists, exhale when clenching and inhale when loosening. Repeat six times.

This exercise regulates the qi and stimulates blood flow through the arms. Exerting strength following the breath is beneficial to the normal functioning of the meridians through which the qi circulates. When making fists, the movements of the fingers can massage the lao gong points (the 8th point on the Pericardium meridian) at the center of the palms, which is good for heart maintenance.

Reaching for the Sky

Sit up straight. Use the left hand to wrap around the right wrist.

Breathe evenly. Raise both hands above the head as if lifting something heavy. Exhale when the hands are up and inhale when they are down. Repeat 10 to 15 times. Then put the right hand around the left wrist and do the same. Also, repeat 10 to 15 times.

This exercise promotes the normal functioning of the meridians, regulates qi and blood flow, and stretches the muscles and joints of the arms.

Knee Push

Sit up straight. Clasp the two hands. Bend the right knee, put the knee between the two palms. Exert strength against the knee, then relax. Change to the left knee and do the same. Repeat six times each. This exercise can treat ailments in the chest area. It also stretches and strengthens the muscles and joints of the limbs.

Tranquil Breathing & Teeth Clenching

Sit up straight. Place both hands on the knees naturally. Close the eyes slightly. Breathe evenly. Close mouth slightly. Sit still for a while. When the saliva accumulates, swallow it in three gulps. Then clamp the teeth 10 to 15 times. This exercise can tranquilize the nerves, strengthen the teeth and invigorate the function of the spleen.

Note - Do exercises in a quiet place with cool, fresh air. Early morning or in the evening is best. Elderly people, people suffering from weakness and those with heart troubles should do more in the summer.

Joy & the Heart : Chinese Medicine Livingthis lovely image from indianparentingsociety.com

The Heart and Your Emotions

The emotion of the heart is joy. When we experience this wonderful emotion honestly, we are feeding our hearts. When there is a lack of joy in our lives, the heart is the most affected. When heart energy is depleted, we can suffer from insomnia and dream disturbed sleep, an inability to think clearly, forgetfulness, concentration problems and poor memory. In extreme cases, we see manic behaviour or even coma. Living a joyful life and expressing emotions freely is an excellent way to keep your heart energy full, and your body healthy.

In Chinese medicine theory, the heart is at the centre of perception itself. Therefore, self-awareness, the ability to connect with others to have meaningful relationships and living a fulfilling, happy life is the essence of a happy, healthy heart. The path to joy is living with wisdom and purpose, seeking truth in all things and having meaningful connections to ourselves, others and the planet.

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .

If you suspect you are having problems with your heart and would like an expert opinion, Emma Suttie D.Ac, AP offers Skype consultations. Please email info@chinesemedicineliving.com for more info.

 

The Heart in Chinese Medicine :: Chinese Medicine Living


Recipe for Nursing Colds/Flu

By Vicky Chan of NourishU

This winter has been a worse-than-average flu season and many people have been infected. The Western medicine approach of using antibiotics to fight the cold and flu virus is “over-prescribing” because the success rate has only been around 20%. The overuse of antibiotics has caused many experts to project an imminent “antibiotic apocalypse”.

On average, adults can get two to four colds per year and kids can get as many as six to eight. This is why the ailment is called the COMMON cold/flu. Normally by treating it with enough rest and proper dietary care, the body will be able to recover within days if not a week, without having to use drugs. Usually, it is only people in poor health that can develop serious symptoms and complications that can result in death in extreme cases.

Chinese Medicine knows a lot about the common cold/flu. The renowned classic textbook called The Theory of Febrile Disease describes the different stages and manifestations of the illness. It gives a detailed explanation on what and how to use proper dietary care to speed up recovery and to prevent the illness from going deeper into the body. The key to dietary care is to know what not to eat and what to eat, and to stick to it.

For wind-cold type of conformation, it is crucial not to eat cold foods (temperature wise as well as foods that are cold in nature). This includes cold drinks and foods, fresh fruits and raw vegetables, and cooling foods and herbs. Eat only hot and warming foods and drinks. The common condiments found in most kitchens such as ginger, garlic, scallions, vinegar, pepper, chili and onion are all effective in helping the body to raise its internal temperature to drive out coldness and to kill bacteria and viruses. They are tried-and-true remedies and are suitable for most people. We just need to be mindful to not take more than our stomach can handle especially hot spices and vinegar.

For wind-heat type of conformation, using foods that have a cooling nature such as tofu, daikon, Chinese pears, mung beans, water chestnut, chrysanthemum tea and bok-choy are highly recommended.

In all cases, deep-fried foods and hard to digest foods are restricted because they are more work for the body to digest when it needs all its energy to heal. Plain, easy to digest, fluid and semi-fluid foods such as soup and congee are most suitable. Nutrient dense foods, warming and enriching foods and herbs are to be avoided because they can intensify the virus and prolong the suffering.

Here is a recipe which is most suitable for treating influenza and coughing with phlegm. Take it as many times as needed until most symptoms are gone. Please also refer to our website www.nourishu.com for many other related recipes.

Snow-Ear Mushroom, Fritillariae and Pear Soup

SYMPTOMS

Cold and flu with cough, chronic dry cough, weakened lung function with lack of energy and difficulty breathing.

THERAPEUTIC EFFECTS

Treats cold/flu with sore throat and headache, nourishes lungs, clears heat in the lungs, clears phlegm, astringes cough and promotes vital fluids.

Recipe1

INGREDIENTS

Fritillariae Cirrhosae (chuan bei mu) 川貝母 – 5 grams

Snow-Ear Mushroom – 20 grams

Chinese Pear – one

Honey – to taste

DIRECTIONS

1. Crush chuan bei into powder.

2. Rinse and soak mushroom for 30 minutes. Cut out bottom brown stem and separate into smaller pieces.

3. Skin pear, cut into halves and hollow out seeds in the centre.

4. Put chuan bei powder in the center of pear and put pear in a casserole.

5. Add mushroom and enough water to cover the pear (about 1.5 cups). Add honey to taste (about 2 spoonfuls) and cover casserole with lid.

6. Use a slightly bigger pot with water and a stand at the bottom to steam the casserole for about an hour. Add hot water regularly to the cooking to prevent drying.

7. Serve warm and be sure to eat it all for full therapeutic effect.

recipe2

USAGE

To be taken once a day on an empty stomach. This recipe is suitable for all ages.


Why We Should All Do Qi Gong

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

I suspect we have all seen the groups of elderly Chinese in parks, moving gracefully in unison, seeming to be listening to something that cannot be heard by the rest of us. I have this memory as a child, living across from a huge park I would go out to walk the dog and sit in the grass, watching them. They were so beautiful, moving all together, like a flock of birds, communicating by some unseen force, many individuals, moving as one.

I later would discover that this was Qi Gong.

A Brief History of Qi Gong

Qi Gong has been practiced in China for thousands of years. Its purpose was to build the body’s internal energy or qi to promote health and fight disease. In 1122BC the I-Ching or book of changes was one of the first books to introduce the idea of qi. People used the concept of the universe to explain the laws of nature which was seen to be an integration of three fundamental energies - heaven above, earth below and man between them, joining the two. Studying the relationship between the three was the first step in the development of Qi Gong. During the Zhou Dynasty (1100-221BC), Lau Tzu, founder of Taoism, wrote about breathing techniques in his famous book the Tao De Jing. Interest in qi was heightened, and Qi Gong became an integral part of the development of traditional Chinese medicine along with concepts like yin and yang and the theory of the five elements.

Later, duning the Han Dynasty (206BC - 220AD) Buddhist meditation techniques arrived in China from India, integrating meditation with Qi Gong practice. Buddhist practitioners worked to cultivate their qi, strengthen their internal organs and control mind, body and spirit to achieve enlightenment and avoid the cycle of reincarnation.

It was during the Liang dynasty (502 - 577AD) qi gong was integrated into martial arts. This was a powerful union, as external martial arts like kung fu with its quick, explosive movements with an emphasis on strength, power, agility and flexibility, joined with the internal art of Qi Gong which focusses on using mindful breathing to strengthen the body, cultivate the mind and spirit, prevent and cure disease and increase longevity. Qi Gong practices were also introduced from other countries including Japan, India and Korea as information passed more freely from country to country.

Qi Gong developed into many traditions, each having its own purpose and methods. Below is a brief description of each.

Buddhist Qi Gong

Aims to liberate the mind, cultivate virtue and to obtain enlightening wisdom. The human body is considered a tool for attaining enlightenment. (84000 approaches mentioned in history; most popular type of Qi Gong.)

Taoist Qi Gong

Stresses preservation of the physical body and high virtue. Many Taoist Qi Gong masters enjoyed long lives. (3600 approaches are mentioned throughout its history.)

Confucian Qi Gong

Aims to promote high moral character and intelligence

Medical Qi Gong

Medical Qi Gong emphasizes the free flow and balance of qi (vital energy) in the body. The primary purpose is to treat illness or cure a disease. Medical practitioners learn how to use the inner qi for diagnosis and healing.

Martial Arts Qi Gong

Trains the body for protection from cuts by weapons or attacks using the four limbs. It also trains the body to deliver fatal blows enhanced with qi.

There are basically two ways to practice Qi Gong. One is with a series of gentle movements, or sets, where one moves systematically through the set, smoothly transitioning from one movement to the next, concentrating on the breathing and mindful awareness. The other is to practice Qi Gong by standing, sitting or lying  also paying close attention to the breath. This focus on breathing is to strengthen the immune, digestive and circulatory systems as well as strengthening qi and gaining an awareness of what is happening inside the body and mind. It is most effective when practiced outside, being connected to nature and the cosmos, which  is why it is so common to see groups of people practicing it in parks and outdoor spaces.

The doctor of Chinese medicine learns these practices so that he may cultivate his qi, developing an awareness of both his qi and the qi in everything around him. This leads to the ability to diagnose and restore balance in his patients using all of the tools in his Chinese medicine toolkit, including acupuncture, Chinese herbs, cupping, tuina and guasha.

Qi Gong is an excellent way to develop an awareness of your own internal energy and become more sensitive to that energy if it becomes unbalanced. It is also an avenue to restore that balance when it should arise. It is a practice that emcompasses all parts of our being, helping us to become more aware and with skill, to maintain a healthy body, mind and spirit.  


9000 Needles Documentary - Review

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac

Devin Dearth looks like he could bench press a group of ten year olds without breaking a sweat. He is a championship bodybuilder and goes to the gym every morning to train. A loving husband and father and devout Christian, he and his family live in a small town in rural Kentucky and by all outward appearances, he seems to have the perfect life.

DevinBodybuilder

At 40, Devin suffers a devastating stroke caused by a bleed in the brainstem which leaves him paralyzed on one side, unable to walk, with blurred vision and  difficulty speaking. In an instant, his life is changed forever.

On top of adapting to the challenges of a serious brain injury, the Dearth family begin their difficult journey as they navigate the healthcare system trying to get Devin the care he needs to recover. They face many obstacles as they discover the frustrations and limitations of the US healthcare system.

DevinHospital

As Devin moves from rehabilitation into home care, his family can see that the progress that he showed soon after treatment began has slowed and they worry that without continuous and intensive medical care, Devin will lose his chance to make a full recovery.

Doug Dearth, seeing his brother grapple with his condition and his family struggle to take care of him and administer his care, decides he needs to find an alternative to give his brother a better chance at recovery. He finds a program in Tianjian China that offers a stroke rehabilitation program combining Western and traditional Chinese medicine like herbs and acupuncture. The brothers don’t know anything about Chinese medicine, but they are running out of options and the window for recovery is quickly closing. After proposing it to Devin and his family, they decide to travel to China to try the program.

The community, hearing about this new hope for Devin’s treatment and recovery, rally to the family’s aid and help them raise the funds they need to travel to China so he can participate in the stroke rehabilitation program. Devin and his brother Doug, who is also a documentary filmmaker, go to China and Doug documents the mysterious treatment that his brother receives using acupuncture, herbs and other Chinese medical modalities. We are witness to Devin’s treatment and the struggles he faces while he fights his way to recovery with the encouragement and support of a group of doctors assigned to his care. With their kindness, compassion and wisdom, Devin’s doctors and caregivers in China help him to face the daily challenges of treatment and rehabilitation, and the outcome teaches us that with the fierce determination of the patient and wisdom, knowledge and compassion of the doctor, there is nothing that cannot be overcome.

DevinChinaDocs

An incredibly inspiring story.

Watch the trailer.

 

If you would like to buy the 9000 Needles DVD, please click here.

 

 


Acupuncture Lays Insomnia To Rest

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

We will all, at some time in our lives suffer with problems sleeping. Whether it is trouble falling asleep or waking in the night and not being able to get back to sleep again, I think most of us have been there. Although it may not often be the reason someone seeks out acupuncture, in my experience, it is often discovered during the initial consultation. Insomnia is one of those ambiguous problems that is often difficult to treat. I am happy to say that acupuncture works wonders.

Like most things, insomnia has many different causes. This is why Chinese medicine handles it to effectively. Acupuncture treatments are so highly individualistic that things with potentially many causes like insomnia are treated with great results. I can say that it wasn't often that a patient came to see me with insomnia as their chief complaint, but I did find that many people suffer with it, both periodically and on an ongoing basis and that acupuncture always helped to resolve it.

So why is it that insomnia is something people rarely seek treatment for? Well, perhaps because its causes are so numerous. In Chinese medicine, a detailed medical history and thorough analysis of all aspects of a persons health and lifestyle are important for coming to the correct aetiology and diagnosis. In a busy world, doctors don't often have the time to sit down with a patient and really get to the bottom of what is going on. For an acupuncturist, it is an essential part of diagnosis and treatment.

Below are some of the common root causes of insomnia. There are many factors to consider and difficulty falling or staying asleep is often a combination of many factors (physical, emotional, psychological), and not just one or two, but here are some of the common physiological symptoms and their organ interactions to help you better understand why you may be having trouble with your sleeps.

LIVER HEAT/FIRE

If you are experiencing chronic insomnia and have symptoms of irritability, are easily angered, have pains in your ribs and often have a bitter taste in your mouth, it points to too much heat in the liver - an imbalance in the liver system. In TCM the liver is responsible for the smooth flow of qi throughout the body. It stores the blood and its emotion is anger. Any repressed emotions can particularly affect the liver, and excessive anger or frustration is a sign that the liver is out of balance.

TREATMENT PRINCIPLE

For extra heat in the liver causing insomnia the treatment principle is to drain liver heat, and balance out the shen, or mind/spirit. Heat often speeds up not only body processes but thoughts as well, causing the mind to race making it difficult to sleep. Acupuncture is used very effectively to remove excess liver heat and return sleeping patterns to normal.

HEAT & PHLEGM

If you have insomnia with a full, heavy feeling in the chest, have poor digestion and lack of appetite, nausea, dizziness and perhaps also a bitter taste in the mouth, this points to phlegm heat. Another diagnostic tool to use to diagnose heat and phlegm is to look at the tongue, it will often have a yellow, greasy type coating.

TREATMENT PRINCIPLE

The treatment principle for heat and phlegm in the body is to tonify or build up the spleen (a deficient spleen leads to phlegm) and to tonify qi as well so that the spleen has the energy to keep up its vital processes including digestion (it also controls the blood and governs the muscles). We clear heat and tonifying the spleen means it will no longer produce phlegm. The mind is also calmed so that peaceful sleep can be attained. Acupuncture points are chosen to achieve all of this and return the body to relative balance so that sleep can occur naturally.

SPLEEN & HEART DEFICIENCY

Insomnia usually with dreams, poor appetite, fatigue, poor memory and heart palpitations.

TREATMENT PRINCIPLE

Acupuncture is used to build up the spleen and the heart so that they have the necessary energy to perform their important functions in the body. The spleen is responsible for maintaining digestion and the heart dominates the blood and vessels, controls the mind and dreaming and its emotion is joy. If the heart is deficient, all of these functions will be diminished, and sleep will be affected. Moxa (the herb mugwort or Artemisia Vulgaris) is often burned either directly on the skin or on an acupuncture needle to help warm and build up the affected organs and the body in general.

KIDNEY DEFICIENCY

Insomnia with difficulty falling asleep or waking often in the night, a sensation of heat in the palms of the hands, soles of the feet and centre of the chest, night sweats, heart palpitations, dizziness and poor memory. Symptoms can also include a sore lower back and knees.

TREATMENT PRINCIPLE

Acupuncture as well as herbs may be used to build up the kidneys which are responsible for controlling growth, reproduction, and development, they control the body's water metabolism and govern the bones and hearing. Points to build up the kidneys are used as well as points to calm the mind and spirit. Herbs are often used for building up the kidneys as they are so fundamental to so many of the body's processes.

HEART & GALLBLADDER DEFICIENCY

Insomnia with an overall shy or timid nature, easily startled or frightened and difficulty making decisions.

TREATMENT PRINCIPLE

Acupuncture points are chosen to build up the heart and spleen, regulate the gallbladder and calm the mind. The gallbladder governs our ability to think clearly and make decisions, so it is important that it is in good health! Herbs may also be used to help these organs get back into balance so sleep can be achieved.

One of the wonderful things about Chinese medicine is its diversity. Depending on the skill and creativity of the practitioner, there are many ways to treat any problem or imbalance. There are a variety of tools at the TCM practitioners disposal - acupuncture, herbs, moxibustion, electro-acupuncture, tuina (Chinese medical massage) auricular acupuncture, meditation techniques and various martial arts. Any and all of these modalities may be used, and it is up to the practitioner to evaluate which would work best for you.

 


Recipe for Health & Longevity - Ginseng Congee

Invigorating the Qi Recipe - Ginseng Congee

This recipe is for invigorating the Qi, increasing the function of the immune system, increasing your adaptability adapt to the environment and strengthening the function of tissues and organs in the body.

Symptoms of Qi deficiency:

Fatigue, weakness, shortness of breath, dizziness, pale complexion, sweating with little or no exertion, poor appetite, stomach distention, loose or soft stools, diarrhea, cold extremities and frequent urination.

Ingredients

*Ginseng - 10g / 1/3oz

Polished Round Grain Rice - 100g / 3.5oz

Water - 3 cups

Instructions

1. Cut the ginseng into small pieces.

2. Soak the ginseng along with 3 cups of water for 60 minutes in a ceramic or glass pot.

3. Bring to a boil, then reduce and simmer for 1 hour.

4. Add the rice to the ginseng soup.

5. Boil and simmer again for 40 minutes.

6. Separate into 2 portions and take one in the morning and one in the evening.

 

*Ginseng Types

Ginseng is a sweet and slightly bitter root well known for its ability to strengthen the body. There are 3 types of ginseng, Chinese, Korean and American. They all have different natures and healing properties depending on where they are grown and how they are prepared. Wild ginseng which is collected in the mountains and forests is the most prized and most expensive.

When cooking ginseng, it is important to use only glass, ceramic or porcelain cookware rather than metal. One should avoid drinking tea, or coffee or eating radishes or turnips immediately before or after eating ginseng as they decrease its effectiveness.

Chinese Ginseng

Chinese ginseng is slightly warm and is especially beneficial to the lungs and digestive system. Its warm nature makes it excellent for treating cold conditions and deficiency syndromes. Chinese ginseng strongly tonifies the lungs and is used to treat breathing problems, cold extremities, profuse sweating and a weak pulse. It also strengthens the digestive system and is used to treat symptoms of fatigue, lack of appetite, and chest and abdominal distension. It is able to promote body fluids so it used to treat dryness and relives mental stress. It also benefits the heart and is used to treat palpitations (racing heart) insomnia, amnesia and irritability which are all due to a deficiency of the body's Qi and Blood.

Korean Ginseng

Korean ginseng is produced in Korea and has the same properties and functions as Chinese ginseng, although it is considered hot and should be used very cautiously.

American Ginseng

American ginseng is produced in the United States, Canada and France, with the best quality coming from the state of Wisconsin in the United States. It is cool in nature, , sweet and slightly bitter in flavour. It benefits the lungs, heart and kidney. American ginseng is used for strengthening the digestive system, promotes the body fluids so helps with dryness and is excellent for heat problems and general weakness of the body.