Tag Archives: Five Element Acupuncture

Awakening the Heart with Supreme Spring

Greetings Dear Readers,

heart in handHeart 1 Jiquan Supreme Spring builds energy in the Heart system allowing a person to feel less anxiety and sadness coming from  insufficient qi of the Heart.  By treating the Heart system, a person can feel greater stability and strength through connection with their authentic self and their spiritual source.

The Heart system is the centre of our being, the axis around which all of our functioning is orchestrated.  The Heart system in Five Element acupuncture aligns our thoughts and actions with our purest sense of self.  The Heart, as sovereign of all organ systems, governs through intuition, an inner knowing as though without effort.

As the beginning of the Heart channel, Heart 1 Jiquan Utmost Spring, is a source of Heart Heart 1 - JiquanYang (Yang means Fire or Heat).  When a person lacks warmth in their Heart system, this can make them feel hermit crabwithdrawn from 
others, pulled into themselves, lacking the Heart Fire with which to reach out and connect with others with warmth and love.  Such a person may also feel cut off from their spiritual connection or source causing life to feel like an endless list of dreary tasks to complete in effort to find control over the constant disorder.   This point fosters a better relationship between our own Heart system and the divine and helps us to connect with warmth and compassion from a spiritual source.  Without this Heart Yang, it can feel like an essential spark is missing from a person and this can be seen in the eyes that lack sparkle, joy and clarity.

The Heart system houses the mind, not the gross mind of the intellect but the subtle aspects of mind called the Shen.  The Shen gives rise to our sense of self.  Intuitively we feel this sense of our self in our Heart system since when we refer to our self, we often put our hand over our heart.

People with an imbalance in the Heart system often have trouble falling asleep at night.  Heart patterns causing insomnia are often either Heat in the Heart as seen from the red tip on a patient’s tongue, or a deficiency of Yin or Blood in the Heart system which makes it hard for a person to settle down and for their mind to become more quiet. As we lie in bed, the subtle energy of the mind which travels outwards towards the five senses during the wakefulness of day, then moves back inwards towards the heart as we fall asleep.  The blood in the Heart acts as an anchor for the mind, a physical basis for the ethereal mind to settle into.  When the Blood is deficient, the subtle mind cannot anchor into the Heart system and the person often feels like they are almost floating on the bed, ungrounded.

Insomnia and night sweats are often part of the picture when there is Heart Yin deficiency.  This can also be treated with Heart 1 which nourishes the Yin of the Heart and clears the Empty Heat which agitates the heart/mind and causes a restless anxious feeling at night.

Relationship stress can affect the Heart system.  The mind may be very conflicted about aheart people relationship and this inner turmoil can affect the energy in the Heart system showing up as symptoms of insomnia, palpitations, irregular pulse, panic and social anxiety.  Using Heart 1 in treatment, the Heart system gets strengthened, helping one foster emotional equilibrium, and a calm state of mind.

Yours in health,

Cynthia McGilvray, R.Ac.

Great Esteem

Greetings Dear Readers,

The vision we carry in our hearts of who we are and why we came here and what we are sight but no visionto do in this life, the vision of all of this is the domain of the Wood element, and specifically, the Liver system.  Liver 1, Dadun, “Great Esteem” activates this potential within us to find the vision for our life, a guide post around which the decisions and actions of our life revolve.  Without a vision we will feel lost, either in the sense of continuously switching from one plan or activity to another without ever finishing anything, and so our plans don’t quite manifest or materialize, or we may get lost is by following someone else’s vision, what others want for us or need from us rather than following our own vision.

When our own vision is steve-jobs-visionlacking (isn’t it so much easier to follow along with someone else’s plan?  Ah yes!  But . . ) when we do this, at first our life may be simpler, then later on we may start to develop resentment towards whomever we feel is imposing their ways on us.  And we’re back at square one.  This resentment, which is a type of anger, (and all anger creates and manifests as imbalance in the Wood element), this anger can be resolved and transformed into growth through finding and connecting to our own inner vision of ourselves and feeling as though our daily actions are in congruence with our own plan.

Acupuncturist and scholar Lonny Jerrat defines self-esteem as “the ability to stand up for the vision that emerges from the depths of self” in his ground-breaking book, The Clinical Practice of Chinese Medicine. 1  This statement offers us a lot to ponder.  Most modern talk about self-esteem is about seeing value in ourself, but what is this valuing based on?  Are we seeing value in superficial elements or are we penetrating to the valuesdepths of self?  Is our self-esteem coming from the depths of our being or from anothers’ voice that we have internalized such as the voices of our parents or the media or society?  Are we valuable only if we perform to a certain standard imposed from someone or somewhere else?  If we measure our worth based on external markers of “success” then we will experience self-worth only when we have those markers and so our self-worth will be very precarious.  “From the depths of self” seems to speak to our spiritual values.  Have we organized our actions, our self, our worth around a vision of what we hold as most high and true?liver 1

Liver 1, Great Esteem is the beginning of the Liver channel and may also be the beginning of our journey of finding our own personal vision.

Yours in health,




  1. Jerrat, Lonny. (2003).  The Clinical Practice of Chinese Medicine.

Untangling the Knots of Worry

Greetings Dear Readers,

Ever have one of those days of mental burn-out, a day when the mind feels sluggish, mental burnouttired from too many thoughts, worries, decisions, emails?  Or maybe you were up all night studying for an exam or preparing to give a speech and now it feels like your mind is saying “enough already!”.

overthinkingOr maybe we don’t even notice that our head or brain is all tied up in knots until we try to do something like meditate.  Then, we see that we aren’t in our hearts at all!  We’re up in our brain and it’s a mad jungle in there.  We look at our mind and see that many of the thoughts are repetitious, going around in circles and not leading to any productive outcome.

multitakingOr are you someone who habitually surfs the internet or watches TV while eating?  Are you taking in data from many sources at once like trying to read, text and listen to a podcast all at the same time.  Yup, I get it, done that too.  When we’re over-stimulated by so many sources of info all at once we can’t process it let alone remember what we took in.

Any of the above scenarios are all too common in modern life.  A great acupuncture point for this mental overload is Stomach 8 “Head Tied”.  This point works to unbind theST8 knots of worry, obsession, and over-analysis and release the energetic imbalance in our Earth element that causes us to keep mulling over the same thoughts without end.  In Traditional Chinese Medicine, worry is said to “knot” the qi, meaning our energy system becomes blocked and stagnant from over-thinking and this can especially affect the digestive system.  As some patients have reported, the mind can feel like a bowl of spaghetti.

It’s time to unwind from all those mental knots and come back to centre.  Contact me for an acupuncture treatment and give yourself some space to relax and recharge.

Yours in health,

Cynthia McGilvray, R.Ac.


  1. Jerrat, Lonny. (2003).  The Clinical Practice of Chinese Medicine.  Spirit Path Press.

Clearing Excess with Abundant Splendor

Greetings Dear Readers,

The body wants homeostasis, a relative balance in all areas of mind, body and spirit.   In stomach 40 picFive Element Acupuncture, the Earth element needs a balance between lack of nourishment and over-nutrition, a middle ground between Excess and Deficiency.  Acupuncture point Stomach 40 Fenglong “Abundant Splendor” supports the body in avoiding the extremes of excess Damp (which can show up as excess weight, sinus congestion, runny nose, sneezing, growths, tumors, cysts and cystic acne) and its’ opposite, a weakness or deficiency in the Stomach system whereby the Stomach official is not breaking down food and nutrients are poorly extracted leading to under-development of the muscles and flesh.

We can see this Earth element imbalance physically in Type II diabetes where obesity, a form a Damp, is present in over 80% of patients.1  With Type II diabetes, TCM explains there is also typically Yin Deficiency with excess Heat in one of the three burners (Upper, Middle or Lower).  Heat in the Middle Burner (the jurisdiction of the Spleen and Stomach systems) shows up with the patient having an insatiable appetite.  In spite of eating more and more, there is no real contentment or satisfaction.  Such a person may eat too much without satiation.  Since they are often not receiving nourishment on the more subtle spirit level of the Stomach system either, the use of food to fill this void is to no avail.  Where there is harmony in the Stomach system, a person is better able to feel a sense of contentment with respect to food and nourishment.

binge eat

All acupuncture points work homeostatically, where the body reacts to the stimulation of the point by moving away from the extreme of conditions each point treats.  Stomach 40 brings us into balance between  the opposite poles of neediness, and ingratiation and the feeling of being burdened. 2  A person can be burdened by unprocessed or undigested thoughts, feelings, or trauma from the past.  By using Stomach 40 “Abundant Splendor” in treatment a person can start to gain a release of this emotional baggage and feel greater satisfaction from the food eaten and life in general.  It becomes possible to reap a harvest from within. They can feel a lifting of the burden of weight and the emotions that weigh down on them, transforming the physical and emotional expressions of the Damp into inner nourishment.  As a result, they can start to feel a lightness in their being and satiation or fullness on the emotional plane that resolves excess hunger and promotes the feeling of abundance.


Holding on to excess that we no longer need is a theme that comes up with weight loss and is mirrored by another Earth element theme: clutter.  Earth constitutional types are susceptible to these kinds of excesses.  Once we start to break down the energetic pattern in the body that is holding them in place we can start to see these patterns of excess weight in the body, as well as clutter in one’s house start to dissolve.  A good friend of mine is a de-clutter expert.   Working with people who struggle with over-accumulation of possessions, she explains that people hold on to things often due to emotional issues that have not yet been processed or “digested”.  She works compassionately to talk clients through the sensitive emotions that come up in the process of letting go.  As the emotions are processed and digested, people feel a sense of relief, a lightness in the mind as they become ready to let go.

As Lonny Jerrat, acupuncturist and acupuncture scholar explains in his ground-breaking book, The Clinical Practice of Chinese Medicine, “dampness represents the accumulation (abundance) of all unintegrated experiences.”  By stimulating Stomach 40 through acupuncture or moxabustion the body can start to process the mental and physical dampness and come into a sense of having enough.

Yours in health,

Cynthia McGilvray, R.Ac.


1. Stephenson, Clare. (2017). The Acupuncturists Guide to Conventional Medicine.  Singing Dragon: London, UK.

2. Jerrat, Lonny. (2003). The Clinical Practice of Chinese Medicine.  Spirit Path Press: Stockbridge, MA.

3. Gumenick, Neil.  The Stomach Official.  Retrieved from: http://www.5elements.com/articles/stomachofficial.html

How to Make Elderberry Syrup for Your Lung System and Skin

Greetings Dear Readers,


Do you have a penchant for all things old-fashioned or making things from scratch with honest ingredients? I do. Maybe it’s the idea that things were some how more simple or more wholesome in the past?  Anyways, I thought I’d share this recipe for strengthening the lungs and immune system with elderberry syrup. You can find elderberry syrup in a lot of good health food stores, but you can also make it at home for much less and have some fun while you’re at it.

Recently after going through a recovery from mild acute liver failure last December (long story, but I learned some people’s livers cannot process an herb called skullcap – take note!), I’ve been going through a process of trying to detoxify my liver. My naturopath prescribed a powerful homeopathic formula which really cleared the congestion and pain, however I started to get eczema all around my eyes. My naturopath guided me to support my kidneys with herbs to help flush out my system. This makes sense in TCM because the Kidney nourishes the Liver system.

Five Element Cycle

It worked somewhat, but didn’t see great results until I realized that the Lung system was also involved. In Japanese acupuncture, eczema is often looked at as “Lungs not Controlling Liver”.  Lungs govern the skin, hence the eczema. Most of my life I’ve had a Lung weakness and some skin issues. The Lung system nourishes the Kidneys so Lung Deficiency can create Kidney Deficiency. It was early winter, a time when the Kidney system is more taxed, so I knew had to support my Lung and Kidney systems as well.


Long story short, elderberry syrup daily along with oolong tea (both are lung tonics) has really cleared up most of the eczema, and incidentally (since the Lung system deals with immunity too) I have not had a cold all winter and normally I get one. Using the Lung system to control the Liver system is a key concept for the spring season when the Liver tends towards imbalance.   Liver Yang excess symptoms such as anger outbursts, muscle tension, temporal or vertex headaches, eye issues, skin rashes, allergies etc. can be helped by supporting the Lung system.

Elderberry Syrup:

3 cups water

1/2 cup dried Elderberries

¼ cup raw honey (preferably local)

1 cinnamon stick (optional)

3-4 cloves (optional)

1 teaspoon finely chopped ginger (optional)

Put all the ingredients except for the honey in a pot and bring to a low boil. Simmer mixture on low for 30 min. Then turn off heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Strain mixture and press berries well through strainer to extract as much of the liquid as possible. Add honey once the mixture has cooled and stir. Store in the fridge.

Adding the cinnamon, ginger and cloves will add flavour but also heating properties. Avoid adding these spices if you already have a fever, or other heat symptoms such as red rashes, sore throat, or the during spring and summer season.

Happy Healing!

Yours in health,