Our family is putting a vegetable garden in our backyard. This is something we've wanted to do for a long time now and it just didn't ever seem to happen. We're super excited about it and look forward to our bounty! We're going to keep it simple this year - plants that pretty much grow like weeds - tomatoes, zucchini, beans, etc.
I'm not sure which part of it I'm most excited about.
Our backyard had been destroyed by the dogs, so we're really getting it put back together this year. That makes the organizer in me pleased. This is the metal in me.
I'm excited to get my hands in the dirt and to connect with the soil directly. I love being in the dirt. Being soild. This is the earth in me.
I look forward to watching all of our little plants change daily and to watch them reach for the sky. They're so adventurous! This is the wood in me.
The sun beating down on my back while I tend to my garden, absorbing that heat, that warmth - can't wait to bask in it! To let it empower me! This is the fire in me.
To water my little plantlings and watch the water snake its way around the garden, to watch it soak down through the earth, finding resistance, finding a way around, a way through - whatever it takes to make it to the roots of those little plants. This is the water in me.
Gardening can fulfill so many needs - exercise, sustenance, a breath of fresh air. Who knew it could also fulfill so many elemental needs as well?
Alright, if you're a little queasy, you may not want to read much further. There is no picture included today, because I couldn't find anything appropriate that would be safe for all stomachs.
Placenta was first mentioned as a Chinese herb in a Materia Medica in 741 AD. So, why would anyone want to consume their placenta? In Chinese medical theory, the process of bearing and birthing a child is very exhausting on the mother's Qi and Blood supplies. She literally gives of herself to form this new life. After birth, a mother is very deficient and will often experience symptoms such as extreme fatigue, insufficient milk-production, depression, insomnia, anemia, headaches and many more. It has been found that if a mother consumes the placenta following birth, her Qi and Blood levels will be greatly improved, improving any post-partum symptoms she may be experiencing. How many cases of post-partum depression could be avoided? How many babies could more easily be successfully breast-fed?
Some people are willing to eat their placenta raw (which is optimal). Some people are willing to eat it cooked as the meat in a recipe (do a Google search and you'll find TONS of recipes!). Now, I know what you may be thinking, "I'm not a cat/dog/cow/animal, there's no WAY you're going to get me to eat that!" For those of us who aren't likely contestants for Fear Factor, there are other options for ingesting placenta and boosting our Qi and Blood following the birth of our child that may be a little easier to stomach.
There are companies who will send you the materials to dry, grind and encapsulate your placenta so it's no different than taking your daily prenatal vitamin! One such company is PlacentaBenefits.info. They will also complete the encapsulization process for you if you're not interested in the laborious process after you've already labored enough, thank you very much!
For those of you who still can't stomach the thought of eating your own placenta, speak with your Chinese herbalist. The placentae used in herbal formulas today come from pigs and cows, which may be a bit more do-able for you!
I hear it ALL the time. "It's natural, so it's safe, unlike 'x,' 'y' or 'z' medication." Just because it's natural doesn't mean that it's safe. Many natural substances are, in fact, poisonous. Occasionally we have learned a safe dose range, but that still doesn't mean that it should be used by everyone for everything.
For example, Foxglove is a very poisonous plant - beautiful, but poisonous. It has been used for many years, in the form of digitalis, to correct some heart rhythm problems. However, digitalis has a VERY narrow range of safe dosing, and isn't appropriate for all people with heart problems.
It makes me very nervous when I over hear people talking about how excited they are that they're treating themselves with "such and such" herb, without their doctor's consent, without discussing their use with any herbal professional and often without telling any of their health care providers that they are using said substance.
Some herbs have interactions with medications and these interactions can be very dangerous. Some medications may have their effects negated. Some medications may have their effects multiplied. In both cases, imagine the consequences being equivalent to not taking the medication or taking more than the prescribed amount. The results could be catastrophic for some patients!
Some herbs are not meant for all presentations of a symptom. For example: ginger. Read my personal story of Why you have to be careful with home herbal remedies, and you'll see how the side effects can be very uncomfortable and avoidable. I was lucky that I eventually recognized the problem, but what if you weren't aware of the possible side effects? You might suffer needlessly! Some people are even prescribed medications to counteract such side effects. This is so unnecessary!
It's great to use natural products, because the chance of side effects, when used properly and under knowledgeable supervision, is greatly reduced when compared to biomedicines. However, natural substances should be considered as medications, something that is prescribed with assistance from a trained professional.
Feel free to talk with your acupuncturist about any natural substances that you are taking or are considering taking. At least, you may save yourself some unnecessary side effects, at most you may save your life.
So, you've had your first acupuncture treatment and now you're wondering, "Okay, so when am I going to feel blissfully different, like everyone talks about?"
The short answer? It depends. I know, you probably don't really like that answer. But don't worry, I'll give the long answer next.
We're all different. This is the basis for Chinese medicine. We're all different, so we all get different treatments. We all heal at different speeds. Also, the speed to which we heal can depend on how long we've been experiencing our unhealth. A sore back that was caused by working too hard in the garden last weekend will heal much faster than a back that was injured 20 years ago on the job and flares up periodically.
Now, this isn't to say that a chronically injured back can't heal quickly. That all depends upon:
Your genetic make up. Some people are more prone to back injuries than others, so it will be necessary to counteract not only the back pain, but the propensity for back pain. This will take more time
How well you and your acupuncturist work together, energetically. We all have different energy patterns, and sometimes two energy patterns don't mesh well for healing. If this is the case, it may be difficult to get lasting results. This doesn't mean that acupuncture can't work, it just means that that practitioner's acupuncture may not work for you.
And at least partially, your mind set. You have to be in the mindset that you are going to get better. If you continue to tell yourself that you're never going to be healthy again, guess what, the Universe will grant your wish - you will never be healthy again. Start by telling yourself that this is just another block in the, road. You can get past it, like many others in your life. You will get past it.
Okay, but what does all of this mean in real-time? Some conditions are easily affected by one treatment and you may see results on the table. Some people don't feel any changes for a couple days after the treatment - like they have to "sleep on it" for it to kick in. Some people may require more treatments to begin feeling any differences. On average, I find that people start noticing SOME sort of change by the fourth treatment. This isn't to say that they're healed by four weeks (though some are!), they're just noticing some changes in the positive direction. With a really complex condition, it may take several months to get the desired results.
If you're wondering how long it may take for you to get healthy again, please talk with your acupuncturist. They may be able to give you a ball-park idea of how long it may take. After a couple of treatments, your acupuncturist can usually give you a better idea of how long it will take based on the early changes you experience.
Chinese medicine is a medicine that evolved somewhere between 3000 and 5000 years ago (at least that's the best guess, some think it may be even older!). This was all before the time of MRI's, x-rays and blood tests. In order to get an accurate diagnosis, the Chinese medical practitioners of ancient times looked very carefully at the body to gather as many clues as possible.
One of the methods of looking at the body closely evolved into pulse diagnosis. Now, we've all sat at the doctor's office and had them count the number of times our heart beats per minute. They commonly take this reading at wrist on the radial artery. Chinese medicine took this a step further. Not only does an acupuncturist or herbalist count the number of beats per minute, they also can get an overview of what's going on in your body by feeling the quality of your pulse.
Each wrist has three pulse positions. On the right wrist, the energy of the Lung, Large Intestine, Spleen, Stomach and Kidney Yang can be felt. On the left wrist, the energy of the Heart, Small Intestine, Liver, Gall Bladder and Kidney Yin can be felt. Each organ can be assessed by feeling the qualities of the pulse at its position on the wrist.
The qualities or textures of the pulses that can be felt at each position on the wrist are:
Wiry - This pulse feels like a guitar string is coming up and hitting your finger. You can very easily feel the sides of the artery as the blood passes through it.
Slippery - This pulse has been described as "feeling a pearl in a bowl." To me, it feels like a bubble is passing through the artery under my finger.
Soft - This pulse feels a little like the slippery pulse, but has a "mushy" feel to it. It has been described as the feeling of "pressing into a wet cotton ball."
Weak - This pulse can be difficult to find and is easily lost if you're using too much pressure to feel the pulse.
Deep - This pulse takes a lot of pressure to feel. The pulse is hidden deeply.
Thin - This pulse is very narrow and weak. You can easily lose this pulse with too much pressure.
Thready - This pulse feels kind of like a wiry pulse, but is much thinner and weaker.
Rapid - This pulse has more beats per minute than an average pulse and often feels hurried.
Slow - This pulse has fewer beats per minute than an average pulse and often feels sluggish.
Pulse diagnosis, is a valuable way to get a peek into your health or unhealth, and when combined with tongue diagnosis and the gathering of your health history completes the picture of you!
If you've been to an acupuncturist, you've heard the line "Okay, now I'd like to take a look at your tongue." If not, you may be wondering what the HECK an acupuncturist would want to see your tongue for? Our tongues mirror the health of our bodies, and by looking at your tongue, an acupuncturist can get helpful clues as to what's going on inside you.
When your acupuncturist is looking at your tongue, they're looking at several things:
1. General shape of your tongue: Is your tongue a nice "U" shape? Does it have a thin pointy tip? Does it look like your tongue is scalloped or that you've taken bites out of the edges of your tongue? If your tongue is a "U" shape, this is a pretty good sign of overall health. If you've got a pointy tip to your tongue, you probably have some sort of yin deficiency. If your tongue is scalloped, you probably have problems with dampness and Spleen Qi deficiency.
2. Color of your tongue: Is your tongue a baby pink color? Is it beet red? Is it purple? Or maybe it has pale sides? If your tongue is a baby pink color, you probably are pretty healthy with few complaints. If your tongue is red or beet red, you probably suffer from some sort of heat problems. Hot flashes often present with a bright red tongue. If your tongue is purple you're likely in some sort of pain or are very stressed out (or both!)
3. The coating of your tongue: Can you easily see the color of your tongue? Is it hidden by a thick, greasy-looking substance that you try to brush off with your toothbrush every morning? If you can easily see the color of your tongue, you probably don't have any dampness problems. However, if our tongue coating is thick and it masks the color of your tongue body, you likely do suffer from such complaints.
I'm not going to put pictures of tongues on here, because not everyone has the stomach for it. If you do have the stomach for it, ask your friends and family if you can see their tongues. You'll be surprised at how different tongues can be from one another!
Alright, all you mommas-to-be out there, I'm going to give you some ideas for things to try at home to help with the dreaded Morning Sickness (or as I like to call it "celebrating your new pregnancy in the bathroom!").
Acupressure: You may have seen motion sickness bands advertised. They're often a wrist sweat band with a little button on it to stimulate the acupuncture point Pericardium 6. This point is extremely good for easing nausea due to any cause! You don't need to find and buy these bands, though, you can simply massage the point! Pericardium 6 is located on the inside of your forearm 3 finger widths down from your wrist crease. Massage the area and you'll soon be feeling as good as new! If you need longer lasting relief, you can tape a bean to the point, and it will work just like the motion sickness bands!
Herbs: Ginger is quite the all-purpose herb to ease nausea. It's extremely useful for calming the stomach! You can include it in your favorite recipes. It can be consumed in the form of ginger ale (my particular favorite!). The Chinese medicine way to do it is to take slices of the fresh raw ginger root and steep them in boiling water for about 5-10 minutes and drink this "tea." Please be careful with consuming too much ginger, as it can cause insomnia.
Chinese Medicine: There is a lot more that can be done for nausea, but requires an acupuncturist or herbalist in order to diagnose you and then treat you accordingly.
Nausea can be one of the more uncomfortable aspects of your pregnancy, but with a little help can be greatly reduced! Do you have any other favorite ideas for easing morning sickness? Comment and share your tips!
Welcome class, take a seat and get comfortable! Today, we're going to talk about Chinese herbal formulas. There are three forms of herbs that you can take, each has its benefits and drawbacks.
Let's start with the simplest: Tea pills. Teapills are little pills (about the size of BBs) that are pre-made in standard formulas. Because the herbs are already mixed and put together into these pills, there is no room for customizing the formula EXACTLY for each patient. Don't worry, though. Tea pills are often a pretty darn good match for many people, and most people won't experience any side effects from them. The best thing about tea pills is their convenience. You can take them with you, they're not messy and there's no preparation. There have been problems with tea pill formulas coming from China that include pharmaceuticals or heavy metals so make sure that the formula you are given is made in a Good Manufacturing Processes (GMP) Certified factory.
The next step is the granular formula. Granules are a substrate (a grain of some sort) that has been ground finely and had a Chinese herb decoction sprayed onto it. These granules can be single herbs or whole formulas. Because you can mix and match granules, you can customize the formula to each patient allowing for an exact match and no side effects. Granules are either dissolved in water and then swallowed, or some people prefer to place them on their tongue and "chase" the formula with water or their favorite juice. Granules are pretty convenient. You can bring them with you so that you can take them at the prescribed times. Granule formulas tend to have an "earthy" taste to them, with the exact flavor depending, of course, on the particular herbs used in the formula. A caution for those with food sensitivities: the substrate may be an allergenic grain (corn, wheat, rye, barley) so be sure to ask your practitioner if this is a concern.
The final type of herbal formula is a decoction. A decoction is kind of like a tea that's made by boiling the actual dried herbs yourself at home. When I cook my herbs, I often find myself saying "Double, double toil, and trouble..." (and cackling. But hey, I'm an herb nerd!) However, you won't find eye of newt or toe of frog here - you'll usually find sticks, twigs, leaves, flowers, seeds, roots and berries. The ingredients are boiled for usually around 30 minutes, the herbs are scooped out and the liquid is what is consumed. Herbal decoctions are by far the strongest preparation of Chinese herbs, but they can take some time since you'll need to boil up a new batch of herbs everyday for the duration of the treatment. If you're vegetarian or vegan, and would prefer to not have animal products used in your formula, make sure to inform your practitioner, because there are occasionally animal products used in extreme cases.
No matter the type of Chinese herbal formula, make sure to talk with your practitioner about what will work the best for you. Remember, if you don't take your herbal formula because you didn't have the time to make it, that's not only money wasted, but health wasted!
So I did a search on Google for acupuncture today and was reading through some articles. Some were on the latest research. Some were on a new clinic that just opened up somewhere on the east coast. Some were written by acupuncturists who went through "Medical Acupuncture" training. This last group were the ones that caught my eye today and have spurred on this post. First off, I want to write a little bit of a disclaimer. I'm getting ready to hop up on my soapbox here, so if you're not interested, just close your browser window now ;)
And now, let the games begin!
First off, a little background on "Medical Acupuncture." Medical acupuncture is the result of biomedicine taking acupuncture and using it for their own purposes. They've seen that huge amounts of people get acupuncture done on a regular basis. They've seen that these people have had sometimes miraculous results. They've taken acupuncture and stripped it of its system (because Qi, Yin and Yang are faniciful, magical theories that can't exist) and turned it into a set of recipes. For pain you do this set of points. For nausea - this set. For diarrhea yet another set. There isn't a great amount of attention paid to the Chinese medical diagnosis, as there is to the symptoms. Biomedicine has found through research that certain points are used often in treating certain conditions and feels that all of the "magical" theory of Qi, Yin and Yang can be discarded. Sounds familiar, right? That's what biomedicine does! They want to find the active ingredient in order to turn it into a marketable pill. Forget that there may be other ingredients that are working with the active ingredient to make it even more powerful!
For the record, I don't actually have a problem with "Medical Acupuncture." People who practice this style of acupuncture get results and patients DO feel better!
However. Yes, there's a however. (You should know me by now!) This system of acupuncture has been watered down, and I think the results get watered down in the process as well. By ignoring the theories of Chinese medicine, you leave out its main purpose - to treat not just the symptoms, but the body as a whole.
Chinese medicine has been in existence for at least 5000 years. The system has been tried and true and is still used as a MAJOR form of healthcare in China. Can't we just leave it at that? Do we HAVE to know HOW it works? We know from reasearch that acupuncture releases endorphins. We know that it effects our nervous system. However, science still can't explain HOW it works. Acupuncture may effect nerves and endorphins, but it goes beyond that, and science can't figure out what "that" is!
I'm not saying stop the research. Not at all. What I'm saying is that researchers and those reading the studies need to understand that there's more working here than endorphins and neurons, and that the system doesn't work by using just one point! When you read a study that says, "this point doesn't work for that symptom," please keep in mind that no point is meant to work in isolation. Acupuncture is a system, not a pill. Also, "that point" may not work on everyone with "that symptom," because not every patient has the Chinese medical diagnosis that calls for "that point;" they may need another point that is also good for "that symptom."
When you take a system that is not based on science (though science often CAN support that it works) and try to look at it through your scientific lens, you might not get to see it for what it is. When you boil that system down to try to find what makes it tick, you lose the magic that holds it together. You lose that which makes it work. Don't ignore the stuff that makes it work. Let's not forget that Qi and Yin and Yang and all of the theories of Chinese medicine ARE Chinese medicine. Let there be some scientific unknowns. Let there be magic!
We all suffer from it at some point in our lives. Some of us more than others. It may be due to that long, hard week at work, or the 3 years you've been in college while working full-time with one more year still ahead of you and you'd really like to be done NOW so you can just sleep fatigue. No matter the cause of your fatigue, you may consider trying acupuncture to give you a little more pep in your day.
Acupuncture can help relieve the components of fatigue : Stress, unproductive sleep and lack of energy.
Acupuncture is a god-send when it comes to reducing stress. There are many acupoints that exist just to serve this purpose! (read Self-acupressure to try some of these at home, or work, or school... where ever you find yourself with a little extra time and need to relax!)
When it comes to improving sleep without the typical side effects associated with medications, Chinese medicine can't be beat! Chinese medicine reminds your body how to sleep efficiently, without the need to force it to sleep using a foreign substance. Acupuncture can help you fall asleep easier, stay asleep and make your sleep productive so that you wake feeling rested and ready to take on your day. All this is achieved without the drowsiness, "drugged feeling" or dependency that can be associated with medications.
As for the last component of fatigue, Chinese medicine is particularly helpful for regaining your energy. We've all worked ourselves too hard and noticed that we just don't feel like the energy is THERE anymore. Chinese Medicine helps your body to refill its stores of energy so that you can do all the things that you want to do in your day - and more!
If you suffer from fatigue, consider Chinese medicine. You might be surprised at how much better you feel, and how quickly that energy can be unlocked!