Tag Archives: traditional-chinese-medicine

How to Make Elderberry Syrup for Your Lung System and Skin

Greetings Dear Readers,

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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.

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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.

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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,

Cynthia

Restore Your Nervous System

Yes you can do this! I know. You want to feel more relaxed as well as energized, more balanced some how. “Well if I could just get a week off work (every week) to lie on a beach in a tropical country I’d be great”. Yeah, I get it, our outer conditions are usually not as we would like. So we do our best to strengthen ourselves from within.

We all need a strong nervous system in modern life. Our nervous system may have taken some hits from stress, thinking too much or working too much and also from drug or alcohol abuse. Acupuncture often looks to the Heart and Kidney systems involvement when stress is the issue where there is Heart Fire (excess energy) often caused by Kidney Deficiency (weak Kidneys not controlling the heart-mind). Acupuncture can be used to calm an overactive (Yang excess) nervous system or the end result of chronic stress that often leads to is a depressed nervous system (Yang deficiency).

The way Japanese acupuncture works is to find the leaks in the system, to plug up the energy leaks in where our energy may be draining so we can keep more energy for ourselves, to live our life dreams. The acupuncturist will test reflex points using gentle pressure to find out what is imbalanced and apply what will get best results for your body. Since each person’s health history and constitution are unique, the advantage of using a more individualized approach using confirmation signs means less needling and faster results rather than applying a standardized formula for every case.

I work to make acupuncture is a deeply relaxing restorative and gentle experience for people. You have a quiet space all to yourself with some soothing music if you like, where you can rest, recharge and let the needles do their work.

Some things you can try today to soothe your nervous system are:

  1. Make it a goal.  When we do have time in our day to relax, we can set an intention to make it truly relaxing. Instead of filling our free time with too many distracting multi-tasking activities we can take it down a notch.  When eating for example, we can also create a peaceful space visually, energetically and with attention to our thoughts to allow our self to stay in more peaceful, healthy energies.
  2. Winding down before bed.  We can improve sleep through relaxing before sleep by listening to soft peaceful music, meditation, taking a bath, or journalling to help let go of concerns of the day.
  3. Breathing exercises. There are some great ones you can find here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N9jmO6xwFfs

I look forward to seeing you soon!

Yours in health,

Cynthia

 

How Much Water Should I Drink?

Greetings Dear Readers,

Often times people will tell me they drink “enough” water. Generally, we drink enough to satiate our thirst. That’s all well and good, but did you know that if you are not drinking enough water it can cause your thirst reflex can diminish? That means you drink even less, leaving you chronically dehydrated resulting in poor outflow of toxins through the kidneys and intestines, constipation and inflammation to name a few?

A better way to know how much water to drink is to take your weight in pounds and divide that in half. This number is how many ounces a day of water you will need, minimum, for healthy body functioning.

Weight in pounds i.e. 150 pounds divided by 2 = 75 ounces of water = 9.3 cups of water.

Now that may sound like a lot.

Let’s remember, 8 ounces = 1 cup of water.

Now some of you may be thinking, well, I just feel so bloated or water-logged if I try to drink that much. Yes, this can happen when you combine water with your meals. The key thing is to drink water BEFORE the meals and not after. Really important. If you drink water with or soon after your meals, you will water down your digestive enzymes and make it hard for your stomach to digest your food, resulting in poor absorption of nutrients, bloating etc. A little water or tea/coffee with meals is fine. The good things is that your water intake measurement includes soups, juices, smoothies and other drinks.

So for example, my water intake goes something like this:

2 cups before breakfast

2 cups before lunch

2 cups before dinner

2 cups before bed (at least an hour after dinner)

This may be a new habit for you and it will pay off. At first you may notice that you are urinating more, but generally this should not be a concern because your body is now finally getting the chance to flush out toxins that it wasn’t able to before because of the lack of water. Over a few weeks this should subside. You may also notice that your bowel movements are more frequent and regular. This is a good thing. Thank you water.

Yes, you can thank your water. There are many places in the world where people have to walk for miles to find water or where water is contaminated. So if your water is easily available, abundant and fairly clean, thank your water today.

Yours in health,

Cynthia

Easy Qi Gong Exercise to Strengthen Immunity

Greetings Dear Readers,

Here is a simple Qi Gong exercise that you can do to wake up your cells, invigorate your body, and strengthen your immunity.  It’s called “patting” or “slapping”.  You’ll really enjoy this exercise and feel the effects quite quickly.  Use it any time you feel a bit tired and sluggish and need an energetic “wake-up”.  It’s like a mini acupressure treatment you can do on yourself anywhere.   You simply use your hands to slap the outside and inside channels of the arms and legs, hands and feet, the buttocks, ribs, face and top of the head.  If you have a cold, and especially if you feel like you are just starting to get a cold, apply this technique vigorously to push the cold out completely.  I personally know of one guy who had been biking in the cold weather for an hour and started to come down with a bad cold.  He did this technique forcefully for one hour and the cold symptoms disappeared that day.

In TCM terms this exercise strengthens the “Wei Qi”, also known as the “Defensive Qi Layer” which is the energetic layer that resides between the skin and the muscles, what’s known as the “Cou Li” in TCM.  The Wei Qi is formed by the Lung system, so people who have a Lung weakness will tend to get colds and flus more easily.  The Lung system is strengthened by the Spleen system because in the Five Element acupuncture, the Spleen is the “Mother” of the Lungs, meaning the Spleen sends it’s energy to the next phase, or “child” in the 5-phase system, which is the Lungs.  The tips in my post Strengthening the Spleen Qi will further build up your Defensive Qi.

Wishing you a happy, healthy winter season.

Yours in health,

Cynthia

Cookies for Kidneys

Greetings Dear Readers,

RAW cookies
RAW cookies

Cookies for Kidneys.  If it sounds like a charity campaign for your organs, well, it is.  Actually the Kidneys are the most depleted organ in modern people.  It’s extremely rare to meet anyone with very strong kidney system even if they eat all the right foods and meditate daily.  In grade school, our school had a campaign to raise money for the Kidney Foundation of Canada. We had to sell little snack size bags of roasted peanuts to our family and neighbors.

Now if only we were selling sesame seeds instead, then according to Eastern Food Therapy, we’d really be

Dry sesame seeds
Dry sesame seeds

doing the kidneys a huge favour.  Sesame (hei zhi ma) is warm and sweet and  a tonic for the Kidneys and Liver.  It is said to strengthen Yin, Jing and Blood as well as “blacken” grey hair  (use black sesame) and build the spirit (Shen).  Yes, you can eat cookies for a good cause.

The Kidney system is in fact the most charitable organ of our bodies.  Whenever one organ is deficient in Yin or Yang, eventually it asks the Kidney system for an energy loan.  The Kidney is like the savings account of the body so it always needs to be replenished for those “rainy days”.  The Kidney system includes the adrenal glands in TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine).   The World Health Organization recently (2010) recognized adrenal fatigue as a disease, calling it “21st Century Disease” a condition whereby frequent, prolonged and intense stress caused the adrenal glands to release cortisol which over time leads to burn-out of the adrenals or “Kidney Yang Deficiency” in TCM speak.

The Kidney system is associated with the emotion of fear in TCM.  In this “Age of Precariousness” as some are calling this time of economic and job insecurity, fear is rampant.  The stress toll on the body is evident as people often wake up feeling tired in spite of a long sleep, using caffeine to stimulate their adrenal system which is not strong enough to provide the energy boost and motivation (Yang) for the day ahead, having frequent infections, environmental sensitivities, and doing aerobics (which further depletes the adrenals – do weights/sit-ups instead) to eliminate the excess fat around the waist or “spare tire” which is actually caused by the adrenal insufficiency in the first place.  There are a whole host of symptoms and conditions that have adrenal insufficiency at their root.  I highly recoomend Dr. Wilson’s adrenal fatigue quiz as well as his book .

Now, let’s get on to those yummy cookies!

Ingredients  (Makes about 20 small cookies)

  • 1 ¼ cups almond flour (can grind almonds into flour using food processor or coffee bean grinder)
  • ¼ teaspoon Celtic sea salt
  • ⅓ cup pitted dates or agave syrup
  • 1/2 cup sesame seeds(un-hulled has double the calcium than hulled)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon natural vanilla extract
  1. Grind almonds until finely crumbled in a food processor.
  2. Mix in sea salt, dates, sesame seeds, olive oil and vanilla.
  3. Blend until fairly even.
  4. Place mixture in fridge for a couple of hours to harden.
  5. Form dough into small cookie shapes with a cookie cutter or small glass jar (just improvise!)
  6. You can also roll the formed cookies in whole sesame seeds for decoration.

Enjoy!

Yours in Health,

Cynthia

Eating in Peace

Greetings Dear Readers,

新年好 Happy Ratty New Year

What is meal time like for you?  Do you sit down and enjoy a calm atmosphere and allow time for the food to digest?  Let’s get into the subtleties of food energetics.  It’s not just the food itself, or the vitamins and minerals it’s also the atmosphere and our mind.  The energies of our body and mind and the environment we are eating in that play a huge role in how our food is digesting and what we are absorbing.

Ever notice that being around close friends or nice environments, the food always seems to taste good and you feel healthy and nourished even if the food quality isn’t so great?  Why is that? It’s all about the dining experience.  We’re not just absorbing nutrients from food, we’re also absorbing energies through all five (or six) senses.  Everything we hear, see, smell, touch, it’s all coming in to us on some level, leaving some sort of impression in our body-mind.  The energies in and around us are all felt on some level like having antennae which pick up messages from the outside and relays them in.  In fact, our gut contains an abundance of nerve fibres which shows that our gut really is our second brain and shows us why our eating atmosphere affects our digestion.

Here’s a check list of things that Traditional Chinese Medicine finds important to your dining experience:

1. Sitting down.  Eating while standing or moving about creates Liver Qi stagnation according to Traditional Chinese Medicine.  If you’re drinking a smoothie, it’s not such a problem, but with heavier food, help your stomach out and grab a seat.

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2. Eating mindfully.  This means close the book/newspaper/magazine/computer/TV/ phone/internet and pay attention to the food.  Appetite and hunger are also mental experiences so being mindful of the experience helps to bring satisfaction from having eaten the meal. Look at the food, enjoy the colours, textures, flavours, savour each morsel and feel the satisfaction as it satiates your hunger and nourishes the cells of your body.

3. Eating in peace.  Keep the conversation calming. Talk about what you’re grateful for, hopeful about and what you’re enjoying in life rather than getting into talk about work, having arguments or debates.  Avoid being too intellectual at meals because the Spleen’s job is to digest both thoughts and foods.  So let your Spleen focus on the food.  Once upon a time (not that long ago) going home for lunch was the ideal scenario, a luxury for those going to a day job or school.  Somewhere around the 80’s came the “power lunch” the idea of having business meetings with co-workers over lunch.  Can be fun if you’re on good terms with your coworkers but can cause digestive problems if you all sit and talk about the stressful job during your lunch break.  The same goes with having dinner.  Try to create a peaceful, light, joyful atmosphere and avoid bringing work concerns to the table.

4.  Give time for the food to digest.  After eating, especially a larger meal, most of the body’s

Martel and van Over have friends for dinner an...

energy is working on digesting that meal.  If you push yourself to do other taxing things like working, doing chores,  mental work like studying or writing then your digestion will be compromised.  It’s good to give your body at least 5 minutes of rest after the meal to just sit at the table and digest.  Don’t be in such a rush to do the next thing.  Slow down a wee bit.  It’s good for your Yin energy.  In TCM, health is a balance of Yin and Yang.  Yang is active, Yin is restful.  Our world has been becoming increasingly Yang and many people are becoming Yin-deficient.  Just relax and feel grateful for the food.  Remind yourself to cultivate some Yin.  There’s a TV channel in British Columbia, Canada where I used to live that during the Christmas season plays a video of a fire place, 24/7.  That’s it, just logs burning in a fireplace for hours and hours, days and weeks.  So relaxing and healing for the Yin energy.  Not surprising, it’s the most popular channel at that time of year.

Bon Appetit!

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

Strengthening Kidney Yin

Greetings Dear Readers,Do you have issues with night sweats, low back ache, dry mouth at night, dizziness, nocturnal emissions, poor memory, ringing in the ears, or fatigue?  If so, you may have signs of Kidney Yin deficiency.  You can check with your acupuncturist or TCM practitioner to be sure.  In the meantime, here are some tips on how to strengthen your Kidney Yin.Lifestyle:

The Kidney in TCM is like the savings account of your body’s energy.  It’s important to find ways to conserve and restore your energy.  Simplifying life by focusing on the essentials and letting go of non-essential tasks and concerns will help you conserve energy.  Making a bit of time each day for meditation can increase calm and focus.  Connecting with your Source can help bring in energy from a higher plane which can be very restorative.  Kidneys govern the feet and ears so massaging the ears and feet will be helpful.  It’s also important to get enough rest or “down time” as well as sleep.  When a person experiences too much stress and overwork without rest it begins to weaken the adrenal glands causing caffeine cravings.

Suribachi (small) and surikogi (medium) with b...

Exercise:

It’s important to not over-do aerobic exercise with this condition.  Hatha yoga (not fast or power yoga), Tai Chi, Qi Gong or weight lifting in moderation are exercise choices.  “Seated forward bend” is a yoga posture that strengthens the kidneys.  Yin yoga classes involve many postures which open the Kidney channel and restore to the Kidney Yin.  “Yi Jin Jing” (please see the video I posted on this “Yi Jin Jing and What is Bone Marrow Washing?”) is a qi gong set which builds Kidney strength.

Diet:

Kidney Yin tonics include: pomegranate, potato, pears, aduki beans, wheat grass juice, barley grass juice, parsley, black sesame seeds, nettle tea, vitamin B12, spirulina, chlorella, almonds, rhemmania tea, berries, seaweed.  Many green drink powders available in drug stores contain several of the above ingredients.  Yin by nature is fluid so it’s important to drink enough water, juices, soup/rice congee meals to build the Yin up.

Kidney Yin deficiency is a condition which takes some time to heal.  Steady effort using the above tips will pay off.

Yours in health,

Cynthia

Tasty Asian Kelp Salad

Greetings Dear Readers,

If you’re anything like me you may find the taste of kelp a bit too much to bear.  Knowing the health benefits of kelp, I’ve tried to all kinds of ways to get it down, from kelp powder pills to kelp pieces in soup to raw kelp noodles.  None of these are very appetizing to me.  This recipe really does kelp some justice.  Here we have the tanginess of the rice vinegar that subdues the kelpy taste into palettable proportions, the  sesame seeds and sesame oil brings a rich nutty taste and a little Braggs or soy sauce enhances the flavour.

The trick I learned from a Chinese friend (whose parents insist she eats more seaweed), is to buy kelp that is very light and thin, almost brittle.  You may need to shop around and ask in Asian markets to find it.  The kelp I’ve seen in health food stores is quite thick.  After it’s soaked it’s rather chewy and rubbery and not so fun to eat.  So think thin and flakey when buying kelp pieces.

TCM Benefits of Asian Kelp Salad

This dish benefits the Kidneys and Liver systems.  In TCM the Kidneys are the “Mother” of the Liver so strong Kidneys suport a healthier Liver.  Kelp is known as the “vegetable of long life” and is very rich in minerals such as iodine and is indicated for hypothyroidism.  Like other seaweeds it removes Phlegm and Damp, softens hard masses such as cysts, tumours, and fibroids and is used in the healing and prevention of cancer.  Kelp is cooling and helps clear Heat toxins such as the effects of radiation therapy, promotes urination and strengthens the Yin (moisture) of the body.

Sesame strengthens the Liver and Kidney channels.  Sesame helps with Kidney deficiency issues such as weak legs, early greying of hair, cold feet, dry stools, infertility, poor memory, poor milk production in women, paralysis and dizziness caused by deficiency.

Vinegar enters the Liver and Stomach.  It breaks up stasis, speeds up blood flow, clears toxins, stops bleeding and kills worms.  The sour flavour in vinegar moves Liver Qi and is indicated for Liver Qi Stagnation issues such as frequent sighing, cold hands and feet, anger or irritability, and headaches and painful menstruation.

Asian Kelp Salad

1. Soak kelp pieces in water overnight.

2. Using 3 cups of soaked kelp, drain place in bowl with 1/4 cup of black sesame seeds.

3. Mix in 2 Tablespoons of sesame oil and 2 Tbsp. vinegar.

4.  Add Braggs liquid aminos/tamari or soy sauce to taste.

5.  Mix all ingredients together and let stand for an hour or more before serving.

6. Enjoy!

Yours in Health,

Cynthia

The Five Fabulous Flavours of Foods

Greetings Dear Readers, 

Whole foods grown in nature provide us with a delicious variety of colours, textures and  flavours.  The interesting thing in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is that each flavour has specific effects on the body’s energy, channels and organs.

TCM outlines 5 flavours: sour, bitter, sweet, pungent and salty.  Each flavour shifts the energy of certain organ systems.  Using TCM Dietary Therapy you can tailor your diet for medicinal purposes. “Let food be thy medicine” as Hippocrates said.   For example, if my appetite is weak, I can eat pungent foods which stimulate the appetite.  On the contrary, if I have Stomach Heat, I would avoid pungent foods and instead eat sweet foods because the Sweet flavour clears toxins and bitter flavours because bitter clears Heat.

Flavour balancing is important to health and the enjoyment of food, especially for those starting out a raw food lifestyle.  A meal consisting of all five flavours often leaves us satiated and prevents overeating.  For example, if I’m making a raw tomato sauce, because tomatoes are sour, I can throw in some sweet food such as a few raisins to a create balanced, pleasing taste.  Here is five flavour food chart to guide you in medicinal eating.  

Flavours Organs Actions Foods
Sour Liver/Gall Bladder Astringes and consolidates, stops abnormal discharges of fluids and substances, i.e. stops diarrhea, heavy bleeding and sweating, focuses the mind Lemon, tomatoes, olives, vinegar, peaches, oranges, grapefruit, strawberry, pineapple, pickles, tamarind, cranberries, raspberries, pomegranate, plums, mango, grapes, pomelo, tangerine
Bitter Heart/Small Intestine Clears Heat, Dries Dampness, increases appetite, purges, moves Qi downwards to promote urination and bowel movements Asparagus, arugula, broccoli, coriander, bitter gourd, lettuce, vinegar, tea leaves, turnips, gingko, collard greens, kale, spinach, alfalfa, rhubarb, dandelion leaf,
Sweet Spleen/Stomach Increases energy and mood, calms mind, reduces pain, neutralizes toxins, moistens and nourishes, balances the elements Dates, raisins, sweet potato, pumpkin, carrot, grapes, apple, pears, corn, peanut, shitake mushroom, potato, peas, rice, sugar cane, cherry, chestnut, longan fruit, beans, nuts, dairy, honey
Pungent Lungs/Large Intestine Moves qi and blood, disperses accumulations such as mucous, increases Heat, expels toxins, increases appetite, promotes sweating Fresh ginger, onion, leeks, green onion, chives, radish, cayenne, cinnamon, mustard, citrus peel, fennel, spearmint, celery, coriander, peppercorn, chili, nutmeg, jalepeno pepper
Salty Kidney/Bladder Dissolves masses, softens hardness, moistens intestines to promote bowel movements, nourishes Blood Seaweed, kelp, soya sauce, celery, Braggs liquid aminos

What flavours do you like best? Love to hear your comments and questions.

Yours in health,

Cynthia