4 Lifestyle Tweaks to Thrive this Spring

In traditional Chinese medical theory, one of the best ways to stay healthy is to live in balance with the seasons. Balance, in this context, means mindfully crafting your diet and certain aspects of your lifestyle based on what season it is.

An easy way to think about this is with fruits and vegetables: we are lucky these days to have grocery stores stocked year round with fruits and vegetables from every corner of the globe at all times of year. That makes it possible to enjoy asparagus into the winter months in northern climates where asparagus would never naturally grow at that time of year if at all. Chinese medical thought prescribes realigning our diets with what would be available to us in the region where we live and at each time of year. continue reading »

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Eating Well for Springtime

Traditional Chinese medicine says aligning your diet with the seasons is one of the best ways to stay healthy. Mother Nature provides exactly what we need to be healthy. Paying attention to the fruits, vegetables and herbs that grow during different seasons in the region where you live is a great way to incorporate the philosophies of traditional Chinese medicine into your own life and access greater healing. continue reading »

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Boost It With Ginseng

Ginseng is said to resemble a human body in shape, and it has been used for years in Asia.  Recently, it has become a popular item in Western culture. Many claims about this root have been advertised, such as its reputation for extending longevity and its use for stamina and endurance. Let’s look at the types of ginseng and the differences.

There are three main types of ginseng used: continue reading »

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Cupping in Chinese Medicine

Have you seen those dark purple cup marks on the upper back of your favorite celebrity lately and wondered what that was all about? That is from an ancient Chinese medicine technique called cupping, which is a wonderful and effective supplement to an acupuncture treatment.

Cupping describes the practice of Chinese medical practitioners using thick glass cups in certain regions of the body to relieve pain and for other medicinal uses. In what is called “fire cupping,” the acupuncturist takes the glass cup, saturates a cotton ball with alcohol and applies a small flame to the cotton. The cotton is then placed in the glass cup (with lightning speed and accuracy) whereby the oxygen is removed from the glass and the skin is suctioned up tightly. What the cup is doing is drawing pressure out and up. Nowadays, some practitioners use plastic suction cups or cups made of bamboo.

There are two types of cupping: one is “dry cupping” and is the most common. This is where the cup stays put for about five minutes or more. The acupuncturist may in some instances use a small lancet to draw out a tiny amount of blood from an area before placing the cup over the region in what’s called “wet cupping.” The next type is called “moving cupping” and is the most pleasurable experience. This is when oil is put on the skin before the cup is suctioned so that the cup can be moved along a large region, for example, down your back.  This feels like a massage and is very relaxing and helpful for stiffness. Multiple cups are typically used for any of these forms of cupping.

Why cupping?

Cupping promotes blood flow, eases stiffness and pain, especially in the back, neck, and shoulders and lifts tense muscles. By promoting better circulation through cupping, tissues receive vital nutrients and oxygen. Cupping releases stagnation of blood and lymph fluid and removes harmful toxins. It has been shown to help respiratory ailments and the common cold, muscle conditions, stress, arthritis, digestion and gynecological issues.

Cupping feels wonderful during and after treatment, but any bathing suit modeling or cruise vacations should be postponed a few days after therapy due to local redness or purple color and perhaps bruising of the area. You might have a small cup mark, but this is very common, it should dissipate in a couple of days, and is not harmful. Of course, if you experience any other acute complications, see your physician.

Certain conditions are contraindicated for cupping techniques and your acupuncturist will advise against treatment. These conditions include broken skin, skin ulcers, high fever, inflammation, thin skin that bleeds easily, pregnancy (no cupping on the abdomen) and bony areas of the body.

Cupping is an old therapy, and although some patients have mentioned seeing their grandparents apply cupping using glass jars, it is not recommended to self-diagnose or to try fire cupping at home on your own. It can be dangerous and you could get a severe burn or blisters. See your friendly acupuncturist to give you a relaxing cupping treatment that is both safe and effective.

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The Liver: Mental & Emotional Aspects

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the organ connected to springtime is the liver. The liver is connected to the wood element, which refers to living and growing things like plants, trees and humans. In TCM, practitioners use the mental and emotional characteristics of the liver to diagnose and treat imbalances in their patients as well as its physical manifestations.

When the emotional aspects of the liver are working as they should, you are able to stand firm in your convictions, with proper boundaries between you and others around you. The liver influences confidence and assertiveness, and the ability to make decisions and stick by them. The liver also has a lot to do with stress and anger. Physically, an imbalanced liver can create tight tendons, necks and shoulders, and emotionally  it can lead to a tightness of the spirit.

The key emotions of the liver are anger and frustration. So what would lopsided liver energy look like to a casual observer?  Imagine this: a red-faced hypertensive man waiting impatiently in line at a store, huffing and puffing because he has to wait like everyone else. He is pointedly looking at his watch and glaring at the cashier. Every once in awhile he bumps into the woman in front of him as he checks his watch, and she moves back, submitting to him and allowing him to take over her personal space. He is becoming more and more furious by the minute, because he is late for his scheduled activities. Most people would describe this guy as controlling and overbearing, but in the world of acupuncture, his liver energy is simply out of sync.

When the liver isn’t doing its job, everything in the body tends to rise upward. In these types of patients, you can often see the physical manifestations of their emotional state. These patients might hold everything in their bodies in a tight, rigid manner. They often clench or grind their teeth in anger and frustration. Their faces might be suffused with color. That doesn’t mean all people who have a liver imbalance act this way, or that the liver is responsible for creating miserable “Type A” individuals. This liver energy is necessary for keeping us on track. Without it, we wouldn’t have a sense of purpose, and we wouldn’t be able to get anything done.

The key is balance. We could take another look at that line the angry man was in, and take into consideration the woman who was bumped into. Her imbalance of liver energy in the opposite direction creates a lack of boundaries, allowing her to have a “pushover” mentality. When someone steps into her personal space, she steps back. She lacks the assertiveness that a strong liver energy can bring forth.

When kept in a state of equilibrium, the liver can move us toward our goals, allowing us to plan and follow a steady course. It can keep us on track with our plans and ambitions, and protect us from those who want to cross our boundaries and take our energetic reserves.

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