Fall & Chinese Medicine

Photo by Jeremy Thomas on Unsplash

“Best of all, he loved the fall” Ernest Hemingway

I have seen this quote all over social media for the past week and agree wholeheartedly with Mr. Hemingway.  I do love the fall.  The weather, the leaves, the light are all changing; making their way toward colder weather and shorter days and the end of another cycle.  It is a beautiful transition period.  We experience natures beauty boldly, colorfully and quickly before it, and we, lapse into the winter months.

In Chinese Medicine, we look at things in relation to nature and our environment, and how it all works together.  This is to say, as the seasons change, our bodies go through similar changes both physically and emotionally.  Each season has significance and an association with certain meridian systems, organ systems & emotions.  This is evidenced by changes in mood, energy, and an expression of your strengths and weaknesses at different times of the year.

 

Fall & Chinese Medicine

So, what is fall all about?  In Chinese Medicine each season is associated with a number of things, including an element, emotion, organ system, color, taste etc.  The following list includes all that is associated with fall:

  • Element: Metal
  • Color: White
  • Organs: Yin: Lung / Yang: Large Intestine
  • Time of day: 3am-5am (Lung) 5am-7am (Large Intestine)
  • Tissues: Nose/Skin/Membranes
  • Emotion: Grief/Sadness
  • Taste: Pungent/acrid
  • Climate: Dry

Foods that support the Lung in Chinese Medicine: (fragrant/white/acrid)

  • Apple
  • Barleygrass
  • Broccoli
  • Daikon Radish
  • Flaxseed
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Green Onion
  • Horseradish
  • Kelp
  • Kombu
  • Marshmallow Root
  • Mullein Leaf
  • Mustard Greens
  • Nettles
  • Oats
  • Pear
  • Radish
  • Slippery Elm
  • Tomato
  • Turnip Greens
  • White Pepper

 Character Traits of the Metal Element 

In addition, each element has a unique personality style that is associated with it, which can be exaggerated or collapsed during its own season.  We each have within ourselves every element; Metal, Earth, Fire, Water & Wood; but with more or less expressions of each which make up our strengths and weaknesses and personality characteristics.  Metal includes some of the following in its most healthy state:

  • Methodical
  • Discerning
  • Scrupulous
  • Accepting
  • Neat
  • Calm
  • Disciplined
  • Honorable
  • Precise
  • Reserved

These traits can become problematic as well.  Depending on whether they are exaggerated or collapsed, examples include trouble with control, disappointment, difficulty with intimacy and authority or becoming ritualistic, prejudiced, overly strict and dogmatic (Beinfield, Korngold 1992).

Physical problems in the body could result in:

  • Respiratory disorders
  • Skin ailments
  • Dehydration

Trouble with:

  • Elimination
  • Lubrication
  • Venous &
  • Lymphatic circulation

As we all know, the fall is a season where people get sick and run down.  It’s a good time to take care of yourself and begin the necessary steps to boost the immune system, start eating warm foods (cooked veggies rather than raw/cold), & taking advantage of the shortened days getting ready for the impending cold of winter.

Advice for the Season:

  • Wear a scarf.  It will protect you, warm you up and keep you healthy.  In Chinese Medicine we see the back of the neck as a vulnerable place to ‘catch wind & cold’ and something as easy as covering up can decrease your odds of getting sick and protect the body, as well as keep it warm and stylish.
  • Learn to let things go. The role of the Large Intestine is literally to let things go both physically and emotionally. If you have trouble in this area, take a closer look at what you may be holding onto and make a practice of meditating on letting things go that no longer serve you, both materially and emotionally.
  • Breathe.  Daily meditations of listening to and focusing on the breath are especially important this time of year.  Take a few moments out of each day and recognize the patterns of your breath – is it shallow and inconsistent? Do you tend to hold your breath?  Take a moment or two each day to take 5 deep, nourishing breaths, you will feel more grounded, calm and present than you did beforehand, and it is a great exercise for healthy lungs.
    • Breathing meditation tip:  Breathe in and count to 6, pause, and out as you count to 6.  It will help you focus on something other than your monkey mind and keep you present.
  • Process your sadness & grief.  Check in with yourself and see if there is anything you may be grieving and holding onto. Grief and sadness damage the lungs and now is as good a time as any to work on it.  Emotions are healthy as long as you move through them, process them and accept what is and what you cannot change. Take from your grief what you can and move on.
  • Boost your immune system.  For more information on this check out these article’s  Tips to a Healthy Flu Season or Fight Cold & Flu!
  • Get Acupuncture.  Acupuncture helps balance the meridian systems, improve qi and blood flow and helps transition you through the seasons.  In other words, it improves your immune function (builds white blood cells), it improves blood & lymph flow which gets more nutrients, oxygen and cellular products into the tissues that need them and out of the tissues that no longer need them (think metabolic waste).  It helps transition you through the season, especially if you are feeling out of balance in general, or having any of the troubles listed above.  Acupuncture will improve the flow of qi through each meridian (they connect like a group of trail systems or roadways), in a way clearing the clutter along the trail to make for easy traveling and steady your emotions and energy as well. Thus leaving you refreshed and reset to enjoy all the things you want to enjoy during this beautiful season.

 

Photo by Sergey Zolkin on Unsplash

Recipe for the season:

Steamed asian pear with Chuan bei mu & honey to nourish the lungs and promote immune system function.

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 asian pear or any type of pear will do.
  • Chuan bei mu (or Frittilaria cirrhosa bulb) – 8-10 tiny bulbs per pear.
  • Raw local honey to taste.
  • Optional: Add a bit of Xing ren (apricot seed) or Chen pi (citrus rind) to aid in digestion and stop cough (Stropes, 2013).

For more information and directions please follow this link to Mayway Herbs recipes page.

 

 

Until next time, stay healthy & be well,

Erin

 

 

 

Sources:

Beinfield, H., L.Ac, & Korngold, E., L.Ac, OMD. (1992). Chinese Medicine Works Clinical Handbook. San Francisco, CA: Chinese Medicine Works.

Foods that support the lung. (n.d.). Retrieved September 23, 2016, from www.floatchinesemedicalarts.com

 Stropes, L., L.Ac, OMD. (n.d.). (2013) Mayway.com. Retrieved September 23, 2016, from https://www.mayway.com/chuan-bei-mu-and-pears-recipe/

Posted in Acupuncture, Chinese Herbal Medicine, Cold & Flu, Nutrition, Seasons | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Here Comes the Year of the Fire Monkey!

Photo by Cristian Escobar on Unsplash

As you may already know, this Monday, February 8th marks the beginning of the Chinese New Year.  We are transitioning from the soft, nourishing, feminine, Yin energy of the Wood Sheep into the mischievous, playful, Yang energy of the Fire Monkey.

What does that mean? 

Pretty much what you would guess, a year full of mischief, play, innovation, action, curiosity and trickery.  For some this will be a test of spirit.  The trickster personality of the Monkey will likely be harder on some than others, particularly the Tiger.  One horoscope reported:

“Do NOT, under any circumstances, be baited into leaving your cave this year. Yes I know you have to go to work, take care of commitments, and you can’t literally retreat into a cave like Milarepa. (Well if you can, then by all means do so.) But you’re going to have to symbolically take yourself out of the game and sit on the bench… (Caldwell, Narrye, 2016)

So what does this mean for others?  To answer that, let’s first understand what and who you are in the Chinese Zodiac.

How does it work?

We each have our own Chinese Astrological Animal depending on the year in which we were born.  Each animal has its own set of characteristics that are represented by the animal.  In addition, every year is associated with an element that somewhat modifies the characteristics of the year; Metal, Wood, Fire, Earth, Water. Here is a basic breakdown:

  • Rat: 2008, 1996, 1984, 1972, 1960
    • quick-witted, resourceful & kind
  • Ox: 2009, 1997, 1985, 1973, 1961
    • diligent, reliable & honest
  • Tiger:  2010, 1998, 1986, 1974, 1962
    • brave, adventurous & independent
  • Rabbit:  2011, 1999, 1987, 1975, 1963
    • gentle, quiet & clever
  • Dragon:  2012, 2000, 1988, 1976, 1964
    • enthusiastic, hard-working & confident
  • Snake:  2013, 2001, 1989, 1977, 1965
    • intelligent, calm, materialistic & communicative
  • Horse:  2014, 2002, 1990, 1978, 1966
    • active, rational & optimistic
  • Sheep:  2015, 2003, 1991, 1979, 1967
    • calm, amicable, gentle & creative
  • Monkey:  2016, 2004, 1992, 1980, 1968
    • ambitious, quick-witted & adventurous
  • Rooster:  2017, 2005, 1993, 1981, 1969
    • observant, hard-working & confident
  • Dog:  2018, 2006, 1994, 1982, 1970
    • amiable, honest & loyal
  • Pig:  2019, 2007, 1995, 1983, 1971
    • compassionate, easy-going & ambitious
For a more complete overview of each of the animals, including personality traits, best suited careers, compatibility and more fun facts check out The Twelve Animals of the Chinese Zodiac

Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images
images@wellcome.ac.uk
http://wellcomeimages.org

Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

So how will you and the Monkey get along?

  • Rat: You’re in the inner circle… you are sure to be a part of the success this year.  You provide the wisdom behind the invention.
  • Ox:  The monkey is a bit too erratic for you, but stick to your plan and the coming year (Rooster) will be yours to shine.
  • Tiger:  Like I said before… maybe you should keep a low profile and stay in that cave of yours… stay true to yourself by taking your own adventures, but keep it to yourself.  Maybe this is a year you work on Tai Chi, Qi Gong or regularly practicing yoga.
  • Rabbit:  The monkey could test your limits this year, be careful to always have multiple escape plans.
  • Dragon:  Adventures await, this is your year.
  • Snake:  The snake cannot resist the monkeys charm, but entanglement always ensues.  Practice holding back from the intrigue this year.
  • Horse:  Be careful not to get caught up in the excitement and hyper energy of the monkey. Stay true to yourself and you’ll be just fine.
  • Sheep:  Allow what you’ve created in the past year to manifest.  The monkey will do his/her best to pull the rug out from under you.
  • Monkey: Monkeys love excess monkey energy.  Go ahead and get into all sorts of lovely trouble, you can do anything!
  • Rooster:  Keep your focus and you won’t get taken by the mischievous monkey.  Just stick to the plan, your year is coming.
  • Dog:  Loyalty is your game, but this year, let loose a little.  Go take advantage of the playfulness of the monkey, just don’t get too carried away.
  • Pig:  You are trusting, it’s a blessing and a curse.  Watch out for tricksters and swindlers, the monkey can be opportunistic and see your trust as a weakness to be taken advantage of.
All information above was paraphrased from a longer article by Narrye Calvwell @ Year of the Fire Monkey

For more information on what the holiday is all about; celebrations, festivities, food and other rituals, please check out this old post:  Celebrate the Chinese New Year

Here is to The Fire Monkey!  To a year of fun, action, adventure, play, intrigue and keeping our wits about us.  It’s sure to be an exciting year for all.

Till next time ~ Be well

 

Erin R. Hill, L.Ac

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Keep Calm and Holiday On

Photo by Jez Timms on Unsplash

Happy 2014 Holiday Season!

Tips for the Holidays… Be well and stay happy this holiday season

The Holiday’s can be stressful for some.  The colder temps, lack of daylight, the many holiday parties, sugary treats and lack of downtime all add up and can lead to Seasonal Affective Disorder (feelings of depression with the changes in season), weight gain and increased feelings of stress and anxiety.

Remember to keep your best interest in mind this holiday, and use these easy steps to keep a level head.

  • Make exercise a priority – Add it to your calendar every day!  Even if it’s 10 minutes of lunges, squats and push ups in your living-room, you will be happier and more productive because of it and if you don’t believe me, check out this article.

Photo by Holly Mandarich on Unsplash

  • Get some sunshine and get outside – With the shorter days, we tend to not even see the sun some days.  Yet, vitamin D is so important for our health and wellbeing that it is ultra important to get outside during the winter months.  Even if it’s 10-20 minutes, anything is better than nothing.  Take a short walk after lunch outside, get some fresh air and turn off your phone for a little while.  The sunshine and fresh air will boost your immune system, as well as your mood and you may even get some color on your skin.  What’s not to like?

 

  • Make better eating choices – Yes, all those cookies, pies and sugary alcoholic treats are tempting, but I promise you, you will be much happier by limiting your intake. Go into each holiday party with a plan and make a conscious decision each time you reach for the cookie tray.  Grab some smoked salmon or a shrimp cocktail instead.  Have some sparkling water in between glasses of wine.  It’s a win, win… you can still stay and enjoy the party all night, and not feel like a piece of (you know what) the next morning.

 

  • Drink herbal teas and plenty of water – It’s best to get about half your body weight in ounces of H20 a day.  Stay hydrated, and drink lots of tea.  Herbal tea is super high in healthy anti-oxidants, which help with detox and keep you looking and feeling young and healthy.  In addition, proper hydration is grounding and can keep an otherwise anxious person much more stable during stressful situations.

 

  • Meditate or take some quiet time for yourself – It’s so important to learn how to breathe and relax.  It can teach you how to deal with those feelings of stress and anxiety during the hectic and hard times in your life, and practice makes perfect; the more you do it, the better you get at controlling your reactions to stressful incidents!  If self meditation isn’t quite your style, try out this app you can take with you anywhere.  
    • Breathe
    • Think you don’t have enough time?  Add a couple of minutes of down time or self-reflection post workout (like a sivasana).  Instead of just running to the next thing, take a moment and enjoy all the good feelings from your workout.

Photo by Daniel Mingook Kim on Unsplash

  • Let it go – The holidays are wonderful times; remember that when you are forced into a social setting that you aren’t super excited about (we know this happens to all of us).  Appreciate those parts of it that make you happy and let go of all the nonsense that always seems to get the better of us.  After all, you are only hurting yourself by focusing on the negative… so switch it up and let the positive win, it’s ok!  I know easier said than done, but thinking about it is the first step.

 

  • Respect your gut – Did you know most of our feel good hormones (such as serotonin) originate in the gut?  They call it your “second brain”.  There are many studies coming out linking proper gut health with your overall health and wellbeing.  Ways to improve gut health:
    • Take a daily Probiotic and eat lots of fermented foods for maintaining healthy gut bacteria.
    • Add a Collagen or Gelatin (Great Lakes Gelatin is the best brand) supplement to your regimen to heal the lining and improve collagen formation in your skin.
    • L-Glutamine is also a good alternative to heal the lining of the gut.
    • Limit refined sugars and other food sensitivities you may have.  If you aren’t sure what foods you are sensitive to, start keeping a food journal with associated symptoms like changes in digestion, mood or energy.   or see a practitioner (like me) who specializes in nutrition and food therapy.  Sugar and some foods can be damaging to the health of your gut lining and lead to other ailments; such as digestive disorders, changes in mood, skin disorders and even brain (focus) and memory wellbeing.

 

  • Get plenty of rest –  Having trouble sleeping?  Change up your bedtime routine…
    • Eat your meals earlier in the evening.
    • Drink less alcohol, & eat less sugar.
    • Remove all lights & electronics from your bedroom.
    • Consider using a natural supplement or Chinese Herbal Formula.
    • Try this app…  Brain Waves (which I know goes against the electronics in the bedroom, but it’s a good one).
    • Try meditating before bed.
    • Use an Essential Oil diffuser in your bedroom, and put drops of Lavender in it.

Till next time…

~Be Well~

Erin Resko Hill L.Ac, MAOM
208-309-0484
erin.resko@gmail.com
www.myessentialhealing.com

Posted in Acupuncture, Chinese Herbal Medicine, Clinic, Exercise, Exercise & Lifestyle, Stress Relief | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The New Science of Stretch & Alternative Medicine

Photo by Jacob Postuma on Unsplash

What is the science of stretch?  And is it related to the science of Acupuncture?  It just so turns out there was some majorly eye-opening research done recently on just what happens when we stretch and how that is similar to what is happening when you insert an Acupuncture needle into an Acupuncture point.

After I graduated from Oriental Medical school I spent about two weeks working with an MD & Oriental Medical Practitioner in Fukuoka, Japan.  We worked closely with the collegiate athletes using a method of Acupuncture that he pioneered & calls the M-Test.  The basic idea is to improve the functionality of the physical body by testing certain movements and improving them as you go.  The basic testing includes a patient coming in and moving their body through a number of stretches, assisted as well as on their own.  The goal is to find where the patient has the most trouble moving and which seems to cause the most discomfort or pain.  With athletes, you can see how this could really effect ones ability to do their sport.  An athlete’s body is their most prized tool and depending on their sport, they need to have a dialed and efficiently working machine (body) on their hands in order to excel in their game.  In the bigger scheme of things, Acupuncture meridians cover the body in a sort of highway system of energy, flowing up and down and over and through the body.  These meridians are stretched with certain movements and a trained Acupuncturist can tell which meridian (and possibly which organ system) is affected in their patient by identifying which movements are more difficult.  These meridian systems are closely aligned with connective tissue lines in the body as well, which follows a very similar concept held by Yogi’s and their practice of treating certain ailments with different asanas (stretches).

Connective tissue research is actually not very well-studied.  In these new series of studies, (you can read the entire piece here), scientists are studying the effect of stretch and Acupuncture needles of Fibroblasts; a cell that is ever-present in the extracellular matrix, a vague space that makes up much of what we consider connective tissue.  Essentially what happens when you insert and twist an acupuncture needle into the extracellular space, the tissue wraps around the needle, just like spaghetti around your fork.  This sustained stretching causes a change in the Fibroblasts surrounding the area, wherein, they flatten and ‘release’, essentially unbinding any stagnation in the tissue and along the connective tissue lines (meridians).  This small change is associated with a larger scale relaxation and release of tension in the surrounding connective tissue and there you have it, relief of pain, improvement in range of motion and therefore movement.

While this information is a large part of what is happening during Acupuncture and stretching in general, there are also a number of other things happening during acupuncture and one of the biggest is the release of endogenous opioids.  The insertion of a needle into skin, triggers a cascade of other hormonal changes, one being the release of natural pain relievers (your opioids) which also aid in the relief of pain, improved healing capacity and that wonderful state of being we like to call “Acu-land”.

To read more about this please read the whole article, though it is quite long, it is really interesting.  In the meantime, come see me for some Acupuncture for whatever ails you!

Till next time ~ Be Well!

 

 

Erin Resko, L.Ac

 

Source:  

Langeven, H. (2013, May 1). The Science of Stretch. The Scientist. Retrieved August 12, 2014, from http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/35301/title/The-Science-of-Stretch/

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How Does it Work?

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I get asked this question all the time.  After all, the practice of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine is somewhat of an enigma, a vague medicine that people either swear by or disregard as snake oil.  In fact there is a reason it works so well, and it’s not just a placebo effect.  Only recently have we been able to put studies together that help us understand why and how Acupuncture is doing the job it’s doing.  Whether it is for pain relief, emotional support or hormone balance, there are a number of cellular and biochemical reactions taking place systemically (throughout the body) at the insertion of even just one needle.  Think of it as a sort of ripple effect, anytime you contact the surface of a body of still water you can’t help but cause a ripple that affects the entire body.  It’s the same way with Acupuncture.

Recently, new research has been published on the immune enhancing effects of Acupuncture and how that modifies your pain and swelling.  Published in Molecular Neurobiology this year, the researchers investigated the effects of needling just one point on the leg. The research team found a remarkable effect.

“Manual acupuncture stimulation downregulated M1 macrophages (pro-inflammatory cells) and upregulated M2 macrophages (anti-inflammatory cells). As a result, acupuncture reduced pain and swelling”. – See more at: http://www.healthcmi.com/Acupuncture-Continuing-Education-News/1336-acupuncture-pain-killing-mystery-revealed#sthash.UAPMot53.dpuf

Looking further into the biochemistry of this reaction, we know that M1 Macrophages are an important source of Interleukin 10, a powerful anti-inflammatory.

“Acupuncture literally flips a switch wherein initial inflammatory responses are reduced and the secondary healing responses are promoted” 

Using acupuncture for muscle injury, and other tissue trauma is helpful in that it improves your healing response.  It is great for reducing pain, swelling and the duration of recovery.  In addition, if you are an athlete of any kind and deal with DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) as a result (a kind of muscle damage in itself), Acupuncture is useful in your recovery and furthermore your adaptation to training.

I hope you enjoyed this little informational article and I hope it helps you to understand even just a bit more about how Acupuncture works.

 

Till next time~ Come see how it works yourself!

Erin Resko L.Ac

Sources:

da Silva, Morgana D., Franciane Bobinski, Karina L. Sato, Sandra J. Kolker, Kathleen A. Sluka, and Adair RS Santos. “IL-10 Cytokine Released from M2 Macrophages Is Crucial for Analgesic and Anti-inflammatory Effects of Acupuncture in a Model of Inflammatory Muscle Pain.” Molecular Neurobiology (2014): 1-13.

Rafael Torres-Rosas, Ghassan Yehia, Geber Peña, Priya Mishra, Maria del Rocio Thompson-Bonilla, Mario Adán Moreno-Eutimio, Lourdes Andrea Arriaga-Pizano, Armando Isibasi, Luis Ulloa. Dopamine mediates vagal modulation of the immune system by electroacupuncture. Nature Medicine, 2014; DOI: 10.1038/nm.3479.

Wang, Ying, Rebekka Gehringer, Shaaban A. Mousa, Dagmar Hackel, Alexander Brack, and Heike L. Rittner. “CXCL10 Controls Inflammatory Pain via Opioid Peptide-Containing Macrophages in Electroacupuncture.” PloS one 9, no. 4 (2014): e94696.

– See more at: http://www.healthcmi.com/Acupuncture-Continuing-Education-News/1336-acupuncture-pain-killing-mystery-revealed#sthash.UAPMot53.dpuf

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