Tag Archives: Acupuncture

Food and the Sun’s Daily Rhythm

Greetings Dear Readers,

Just as the year has a seasonal cycle – spring, summer, fall and winter  – so too does each day have a cycle.  Early morning, when the sun is rising, is the most Yang (warming, energizing, invigorating) part of the day.  Later morning and early afternoon are Yang with some Yin while late afternoon and evening are Yin with some Yang.  Late night is the most Yin (cool, calm, quiet).  In TCM, health is about harmonizing with the Yin-Yang energy rhythm of the day and night which in Western terms is called the circadian rhythm. I10-67-circadianclock So what does this all mean in terms of diet?   By matching your food choices with the sun’s energy phase, i.e. Yang foods during the Yang part of the day and Yin foods during the Yin part of the day your overall energy, digestion and stamina will increase.  Plenty of research on shift workers has shown that living outside the normal rhythm (i.e. sleeping during the day and working and eating at night) increases the incidence of breast cancer, colorectal cancer as well as gastrointestinal disorders, mental health problems and preterm deliveries in pregnant women.1  This is a good reminder for our modern age when people are working more according to the rhythm of their work place or their technological devices rather than their bodies’ circadian rhythm and the sun.

On a side note – a set of acupuncture points called “Horary points” can also be used to horary-pointsadjust your body to the sun’s rhythm in cases of jet lag or shift lag.  Shift workers often develop an excess on Yang and deficiency of Yin because they are not getting sleep at the most Yin time which is night, so they lose out on this Yin energy.  If you have heat signs such as dry mouth at night, sore throat, feeling of heat, try eating more Yin foods such as sesame, lotus seed, water chestnut, white fungus, lily bulb, seaweeds, pears, wolfberry fruits, red dates, lotus root, tomato, water chestnut, soybean sprout, and Chinese cabbage.

Early morning as the sun rises, it is most Yang.  This is the time to eat more Yang foods.  Interestingly many people already do that.  Many people like to drink coffee first thing in the morning.  This is not surprising at all as Chinese Medicine says that coffee is Yang and warming.  For those who would like an alternative to coffee for their morning Yang tonic, there is ginger tea or, if pressed for time, you can nibble on a piece of ginger pickle which you can make yourself using the very simple recipe below.

In the West, many people start their day with cooling Yin foods such as cold milk and dry cereal with a glass of cold juice.  Others who are trying to be quite health conscious may drink a fruit smoothie with bananas and yogurt.  The problem with these breakfasts is that they are too cold, or Yin.  Bananas and dairy are Yin and cool in TCM and are best eaten later in the Yin phase of the day, late afternoon or evening.

A Chinese friend of mine recently gave me this ginger pickle recipe below that is used for strengthening the Yang energy and digestive fire. It is a perfect thing to take first thing in images-1the morning to give you stronger energy all day provided that you are not over-heated (it’s all about balance!).  Ginger benefits the spleen, stomach and lung channels.  Ginger disperses cold, wind and damp-phlegm.  This recipe is also traditionally used to prevent the common cold virus because ginger clears “Wind” which is the external pathogen that carries the virus into the body.  Fresh ginger is warm while dried ginger is considered hot.  If the Spleen is deficient and causing blood to leak out of the vessels as in for example, menorrhagia, ginger can strengthen the Spleen’s astringing function to hold the blood inside the vessels and stop the excessive bleeding.

How to make Ginger Pickles

Ingredients:

8 oz ginger sliced finely

1 cup apple cider vinegar**

1/3 cup unpasteurized honey

1. Chop up fresh ginger into bite-size pieces.

2. Place ginger pieces into vinegar (organic apple cider vinegar is the healthiest kind)

3. Let ginger “pickle” by letting it sit and absorb the vinegar for 1 week or more.

4. Start each day eating one or two pieces of ginger pickle.

**Using high quality rice vinegar instead will cause a slight pinkish colour change to the ginger if that is preferred.

Yours in health,

Cynthia

References:

1.Institute for Work and Health. 2005. Shift Work and Health.      http://www.iwh.on.ca/topics/shift-work

2. Health Tips for Shift Workers and TCM Remedies. Shen-nong Ltd. 2002-2005. Taken from: http://www.shen-nong.com/eng/lifestyles/tcmrole_sleep_shift.html.

Liver Qi Gets A Move On

triangle
triangle (Photo credit: daniel.julia)

Greetings Dear Readers,

Liver Qi Stagnation is a very common condition.  The Liver is responsible for the smooth flow of qi (energy) in the body.  One famous quote in TCM “Where there is movement, there if life, where there is no movement, there is no life”.  Acupuncture is an excellent way to move qi that has become stagnant.  Between treatments there are many additional ways to help your Liver system with this process.

Lifestyle:  Liver energy is the energy of Wood.  It is likened to young plants in spring pushing their way through the earth and bursting with new life on the surface.  This pushing upwards energy is similar to a healthy assertiveness on the mental level.  When Wood energy is low there is timidity and lack of action and decisions to make things happen.  When Wood energy is stuck or too strong there is aggression, anger or irritability. 

500 year old green tea fields, Boseong, Jeolla...
500 year old green tea fields, Boseong, Jeollanam-do, South Korea (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Diet: The colour green is associated with the Liver and the Wood element.  Eating green foods such as lettuce, kale, green tea, dandelion leaves, broccoli, sprouts, artichoke hearts, asparagus, olives, etc. is especially helpful to do each day.  Sour foods such as all citrus (oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit), vinegar, cranberries, also assist the Liver system.

Exercise:  A stretch for the Liver channel is wide-angled forward bend.  Triangle pose and Fish pose also open and release energy in the Liver channel.   Walking is associated with the Liver system and walking in a lush green forest is even better.    

English: Finger Painting.
English: Finger Painting. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Helpful thoughts:  The mind has a powerful influence over the body.  The mental/spirit side of Liver energy is called the “Hun” which is related to our ability to create visions, have dreams and perform visually creative activities such as art.  Here are some thoughts or affirmations that relate to balancing Liver energy:

“I can see my dreams coming true.”

“I am free to make my own healthy choices.”

“I allow myself to express my creative spirit.”

Acupuncture is also an excellent way to move Liver Qi and results are felt quite quickly in most people.

How’s your Liver Qi doing? Love to hear your comments and questions.

Yours in health,

Cynthia

Strengthening the Spleen Qi

Purple Carrots
Purple Carrots

Greetings Dear Readers,

Now that we are entering Earth season, also called “late summer” in TCM, here are some seasonal tips to support your Earth energy and Spleen.

Lifestyle:The Spleen is about nourishment, mothering energy and feeling grounded and connected. It’s about the way food is eaten, ideally sitting down, chewing thoroughly, enjoying regular meals eaten mindfully in a peaceful setting.  The mental side of the Spleen is the Yi (say “yee”) which means intellect.  Students, people who study a lot, or anyone doing a lot of concentration and difficult mental tasks are using Spleen energy which can be supported by these tips here.

Exercise: The Spleen governs the muscle tissue of the body.  Massage is excellent for the Spleen system.  A balanced amount of exercise, neither too much nor too little is ideal.  Listening to your body is important.  Regularity is best, a little each day, even 10 or 20 minutes of walking, dancing, stretching, or weights is great. A stretch for the Spleen channel is a yoga pose called “Reclining Hero Pose”. A Qi Gong exercise for the Spleen can be found at: https://cynthiamcgilvray.com/2013/02/07/5-yin-organ-exercises/

Diet: The Spleen belongs to the Earth element in TCM.  Earthy things are round and have earthy colours such as brown, orange and yellow and as such Spleen foods include grains, squash, carrots, potatoes, and beets (esp. good for women).  The Spleen is associated with naturally sweet foods such as dates, grapes, maple syrup and molasses.  The Spleen needs Yang (warm, dry) energy to function at best so adding some warming foods such as ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, pepper and clove to foods will help with digestion and strengthen Spleen Qi.

Happy Earthiness!

Yours in health,

Cynthia

Ear Acupuncture for Yin Deficiency

Greetings Dear Readers,

Today I’d like to share with you some of the benefits of the 5-point ear acupuncture protocol called “NADA”.

NADA, which stands for National Acupuncture Detoxification Association, works by increasing the Yin energy of the body thus promoting an internal sense of peace which improves concentration and sleep, and reducing the need to find “peace” through external substances such as cigarettes, drugs, and other behaviours that may become addictive such as over-eating, gambling, etc.

The ears are associated with the Kidney/Water element in TCM which is Yin.  Similar to foot reflexology, the ear is a micro-system of the entire body so for every body part there is a corresponding ear point to stimulate it.  Below you will find a description of how each acupuncture point addresses Yin deficiency to calm the system physically, mentally and spiritually.   You will also find a recipe for Sleepmix tea, the herbal formula developed by Michael O. Smith to support this treatment.  Also, please note that acupuncture treatment can be used concurrently with prescription medications.

In modern times, our nervous system and mind tend to get too Yang due to our fast-paced living, busy schedules, mental distractions, lacking connection to Yin things such as the Earth, silence).  Too much Yang “burns up” the Yin and so Yin deficiencies are extremely common.   NADA is now being successfully used for various Yin-deficiency conditions such as insomnia, improving concentration for students and those suffering from ADD, stress reduction, night tremors, various behavioural disorders including suicidal ideation as well as recovery from traumatic events such as war and crises.

Sympathetic point:

Body – regulates the sympathetic nervous system, controls pain, relaxes tension in internal organs, dilates blood vessels.

Mind  – lowers epinephrine/norepinephrine causing relaxation

Spirit – quiets the spirit, promotes feelings of serenity

Shen Men:

Body  – pain relief, tension reduction, lowers hypertension

Mind –  quiets the mind and brings relief from anxiety, depression, restlessness, insomnia

Spirit – improves spiritual connection, opens the Heart to loving self and others

Kidney point:

Body – activates hormonal and physiological functions

Mind – promotes courage and will to overcome fear, improves mental state

Spirit – helps strengthen intentions, seeing the positive in situations

Liver Point:

Body – activates hormonal and physiological functions, reduces tension in muscles

Mind – improves mental clarity and decision making, helps to clear away anger, frustration, depression

Spirit  – helps one connect to one’s creativity, dreams, intuitions and life goals

Lung Point:

Body  – used for expelling toxins from the lungs, regulates defensive qi (immunity)

Mind – helps relieve sadness and grief, restores sense of integrity and self-esteem/ self-respect

Spirit – for Heavenly inspiration, stronger connection with one’s Higher power

Recipe for Sleepmix Tea

This tea is a Western herbal formula used to reduce insomnia, improve digestion, lower stress, aid in detoxification, and increase feelings of relaxation.

3 parts chamomile

1 part peppermint

1 part yarrow

1 part hops

1 part skullcap

1 part catnip

Use 1 Tablespoon of herbs per cup of boiling water.  Let steep for 5 minutes.  Can be used long-term and won’t cause morning drowsiness.  It contains no caffeine.

Yours in health,

Cynthia