As a Chinese herbalist, I am often asked “which herbs are good to eat?” Well, that is a very broad question. First, different herbs are good for different things. We all have unique energetic imbalances and require different treatments. If we eat an excessive amount of “warming” or “cooling” herbs, this can lead to a severe imbalance in the digestive tract! Also, many Chinese herbs are not so commonly found in your local grocery store. (I have yet to find fresh rehmannia root or even white peony) However, diet and digestion is so important in Chinese medicine, that there are a few herbs that can be used across the board to support good health! [Read more…]
Cinnamon has been all over the wellness-news lately for a plethora of health benefits. From blood sugar regulation to anti-inflammatory properties, Cinnamon is the current “it” herb. Gui zhi, as I like to think of it, has been in the Chinese medical materia medica for thousands of years and has always been an important part of Chinese herbal medicine. [Read more…]
Over the last 20 years, we have become more aware of the many challenges couples face in getting pregnant. Individuals are marrying later in age and couples are waiting longer to have children. In addition, Environmental toxins and our own diet can have direct impact on our health and trying to conceive. From a western medical viewpoint, advanced age and ovulatory dysfunction, PCOS, thyroid issues as well as male fertility can all play a part in having difficult conceiving.
There are many ways to take care of our bodies and support a successful pregnancy. During these times, many couples turn to integrative medicine as an alternative or in complement with western medicine.
Acupuncture has many benefits for women trying to conceive including increasing blood flow to and relaxing the uterus, improving egg quality and quantity, and increasing the thickness of the uterine lining. A study done in Germany found that acupuncture can increase the chances of pregnancy for women undergoing and IVF cycle. When we are under stress from dealing with fertility, our nervous system activates the “fight or flight” response and can cause a myriad of health issues. Acupuncture is very effective in calming and balancing the sympathetic nervous system.
Nutrition and Supplements
The essential fatty acids in flax seed has been known to lengthen the follicular phase and delay early ovulation, increase the frequency of ovulation in women who do not ovulate regularly. L-Arganine, an amino acid, taken in high doses, has been shown to improve fertilization rates in women who had previously failed cycles. Bee Pollen and its close friend Royal Jelly are both rich in nutrients, vitamins and minerals and have also shown to increase fertility. Antioxidants such as OPC’s (which are bioflavanoids) stimulate our body’s own natural antioxidant defense and clean free radicals from the blood stream. [Read more…]
Most of our clients who come to the office bristle at the thought of having their tongue diagnosed. When we first ask to see the tongue, most are embarrassed. “I did not brush my teeth before I came in” or “I ate blueberries” are common responses. We are often asked to explain what we are looking for and what changes we have noticed. With this in mind, I thought I would to explain the importance of Tongue Diagnosis in traditional Chinese medicine.
Like other diagnostic methods in TCM, the skill and intuition of the acupuncturist is an important part of tongue diagnosis. It is not uncommon to have 5 acupuncturists each have a different take on the tongue. . An experienced practitioner will be able to give a more accurate interpretation.
First off, it is important to understand the relationship of the tongue to the inside of the body. The color and shape of the tongue reflects the quality of the circulation of qi and blood in the body. A pale tongue, for example, may indicate that the body is lacking some of the qi/blood nourishment it needs to flourish. The tongue coating is indicative of the body fluids (or lack thereof) in the body. The tongue is a very important diagnostic tool for the digestion – a coated tongue, for example, can reflect a sluggish digestion. A geographic/red tongue can reflect heat in the stomach which may manifest as Acid Reflux. [Read more…]
In early January, on a beautiful winter day, I broke my collarbone while enjoying an afternoon of snowshoeing. What I learned after visiting the ER is that the collarbone cannot be casted or set. It is in a precarious place with interdependency on many other bones and ligaments. It has to heal by itself. I was given a necessary prescription for medication and told to rest and come back in 3 weeks.
Fortunately I knew better and knew, through a combination of modalities, I could do a lot better than “just resting”. Don’t get me wrong – rest is critical when you are recovering from an injury! However, I knew it alone would not be enough help me heal. [Read more…]
I recently held a seminar with Dr. George Nicoloff, who is board certified in Integrative Holistic Medicine. We were so excited to have over 60 people attend! We agreed to speak on the connection between the gut & immune system, as we know how deeply interwoven they are. We shared a lot of information in just a short time. So although this is not comprehensive, here is a portion of our presentation:
In Chinese Medicine, the relationship between the Lung (immune) and Large Intestine (gut) meridians:
Ways to care for the Large Intestine:
- Maintain regular bowel movements through diet and exercise (and if needed, acupuncture & herbs)
- Eat foods that are warm and easy to digest (temperature is important to gut) Steam vegetables as opposed to eating them raw (only eat raw in spring and summer)
- Be careful with food combinations: Protein, fat, complex carb at every meal. Protein the size of your palm, carbs the size of your fist, fats the size of your thumb. See “Game On Diet” by Krista Vernoff
- Eat slowly & intentionally. Chew thoroughly.
Lung Meridian =
- Practice deep breathing
- Avoid toxic substances that are inhaled (toxic candles (lead and paraffin which is a petroleum biproduct), fumes, toxic household products)
- Cardio exercise (strengthen lung and increase capacity)
- Break a sweat (releases toxins)
- Keep neck covered in wind/cold/rain
Good foods: Rice, carrot, sweet potatoe, ginger, garlic, seaweeds, fibrous foods such as apples & oats
Not so good foods: Heavy dairy, excessive citrus
From Dr. Nicoloff’s slides:
Healing Leaky Gut
There is a simple solution to help transform unhealthy intestinal function back to health:
L. acidophilus NCFM / B. lactis BI-07 = Reinoculate with probiotics to balance immune function, combat microbial overgrowth, improve lactose digestion, reduce bowel distress.
Nutritional & Botanical Therapeutics=
I feel so fortunate to have found such a great doctor who takes time with each of his patients and has a background in holistic medicine. And between acupuncture visits and supplements/herbs, the immune & digestive system can be truly repaired.
Those who think
they have no time for healthy eating will sooner or later have to find time for
(1826-1893) from The Conduct of Life
I recently attending the Center for Mind/Body Medicine’s conference entitled “Food As Medicine”. The conference was inspiring, to say the least. It made me think about diet in general and how it affects our health. According to the many speakers, diet can be the difference between living a long, healthy life or not. One speaker asserts that by eating a healthy diet can affect the expression of genetics, specifically in the case of cancer! No matter the presenter’s background, all agree that our diet and food choices are ultimately our best medicine or worst poison. If you want to talk about preventative medicine, diet cannot be ignored. After 4 days of lectures, the amount of information can be overwhelming but I have come up with a few dietary basics that are good “food for thought” as we prepare our next meal. [Read more…]
Working in healthcare, I’ve found that people often assume that when someone is skinny, they must be healthy. By the same token they assume that when someone is overweight, they must be unhealthy. In TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine), we know that there are many different body types and ways that people manifest health as well as disease. Oftentimes, looks can be deceiving.
Personally, my family tends to be thin. But, we also tend towards heart disease and diabetes. Although we don’t gain weight, we manifest disease with other symptoms and pathologies. For example, when I eat poorly one of my eyes gets red and swollen. In TCM, the Stomach meridian travels through the eyes. Therefore, red eyes would be classified as stomach heat (red and swollen = heat).
Western Medicine might treat the symptom (branch) using eye drops or other medication. However, TCM is able to see that the issue arises from a deeper internal imbalance and treat the underlying condition- the Stomach heat (root) with acupuncture, herbs and diet/lifestyle changes. This is a reminder that I need to focus on eating well and taking better care of myself.
In TCM, Spleen and Stomach “Qi” are responsible for transforming food and drink into Qi energy. Qi energy is used for all of the body’s functions – from digestion to immunity to hormonal regulation. The Spleen and Stomach become overtaxed with inappropriate eating habits, excessive worrying, and limited physical activity. In order to keep the Spleen & Stomach functioning properly, it is best to limit the following foods: greasy foods, processed sugars, spicy foods, and excessive amounts of raw, cold foods.
Modern holistic medical approaches are starting to recognize the strong connection between digestive health and overall wellbeing. This news is especially exciting for the Chinese medical community because it is something that has been understood for thousands of years!
Natures First Aid Kit
Our health food and grocery stores shelves are lined with many different supplements and medicines – trying to determine what to take can be overwhelming. There are many choices that extend beyond the supplement aisle! There is much to learn about the food universe – even plants, herbs and spices have medicinal benefits!
Tea Tree Oil is an essential oil. Essential oils are the oil of a plant from which it is extracted from. The usually carry a specific scent or “essence” of the plant. When used topically, tea tree oil is thought to have anti viral, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial benefits. To this end, tea tree oil can be very helpful in treating fungal infections (athlete’s foot), acne, dandruff (when added to shampoo), and yeast infections. I experienced the benefits of Tea Tree Oil personally during a recent beach trip. My legs were bitten over 100 times by sand flees and I found recently found the topical application of tea tree oil to be very effective in reducing itching and swelling. Tea Tree Oil is also good for inflammation and as an assistant in recovering from injury.
Turmeric , a spice (often used in curry) has widespread use in preventative medicine. According to the American Cancer Society, “Some proponents believe turmeric may prevent and slow the growth of a number of types of cancer, particularly tumors of the esophagus, mouth, intestines, stomach, breast, and skin.” Turmeric’s active ingredient is curcumin and both are thought to have anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties. In addition, the American Cancer Society’s web site states that “ Early research has suggested that curcumin may help lower “bad” cholesterol, reduce inflammation, help ulcerative colitis, and reduce arthritis symptoms, although more reliable human studies are still needed”. Turmeric can be used liberally in one’s daily diet and can also be taken as a supplement at a dose of 500 mg 1-4 times a day. [Read more…]