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Herbal Spotlight: Oat Straw

Over the last few weeks I’ve had quite a few patients coming in feeling a bit more stressed, anxious, and sleep deprived as usual.

Surely there’s a lot going on ‘out there’ both politically and economically, and the unseasonably warm weather was a bit of an adjustment to a system that’s geared for Winter. And of course come July we’ll all remember how nice San Francisco Winters are!

So taking all this into consideration, this month I wanted to shine a spotlight on one of the most effective calming herbs for the nervous system making it a great herbal remedy for stress and insomnia.
Many herbalists will say that their herb of choice for nervous system nourishment is oat straw (Avena Sativa).

Western and eastern medicine both state that oats are great for physical health, which is probably why so many diets include oats as a suggestion for a healthy breakfast.

However the oat straw (the leafy sheafs and stalks that cover the oats and which are often thrown away) is the part of the plant that contains the highest concentrations of bio-active aminos and polyphenols believed to support brain function, support sleep and reduce levels of anxiety.

Exactly how oat straw works is one of nature’s mysteries. However it seems to provide deep nourishment in a way our bodies can easily assimilate and use.

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, consuming oat straw alleviates conditions related to anxiety, mood imbalance, and sleep. Some of the many reported benefits of oat straw include: calming and strengthening the nervous system; nourishing and circulating Qi; relieving stress and calming emotions; reducing depression; enhancing clear thinking; aiding digestion and stabilizing blood sugar; reducing inflammation; nourishing the heart and circulatory system; and encouraging a deep and restful sleep.

Interestingly some of the key Western actions and medicinal (biochemical) uses for oat straw are as an antioxidant and anti-depressant; as a rich source of carbohydrates; lowering cholesterol and blood sugar; preventing heart disease; increasing blood flow to the brain (via increased nitric oxide synthesis); and stimulating estrogen.

Oat straw is a deeply nourishing herb filled with vitamins and minerals. It’s a herb that works immediately but is most effective if used regularly over time helping to strengthen those who may be sleep deprived, exhausted, weak or anxious.

If you’re experiencing a feeling of being overwhelmed or of things being too much (like many of my patients at the moment), consider picking up some oat straw at your local herb store. Here in the city, Rainbow Grocery and Scarlett Sage Herb Store will carry it.

The best way to prepare oat straw is as a tea or infusion:

To make an oat straw herbal infusion, place a cup of the dried herb into a quart mason jar. Fill it with boiling water, put a lid on it, and let it steep for 4-8 hours. (Making a herbal infusion before bed and letting it steep overnight is an excellent way to extract the nourishment from the dried herb).
If you like, you can add a pinch of mint or licorice root for flavor. Then strain out the plant material, compost it, and enjoy one or more cups of the liquid daily. Infusions are delicious warm or cold and can be sweetened with honey or any other natural sweetener. They keep for 2-3 days in the refrigerator.

Oat straw has been used in herbalist traditions for hundreds of years. No drug interactions or side effects have been reported. However some people with allergies or severe gluten sensitivity should avoid oat straw. However, typically oat straw can be tolerated by people who are sensitive to gluten, especially if the manufacturer can guarantee that there was no contact with other grains such as wheat.

Overall oat straw may be a perfect way to become more resilient to stress, soothe our nerves and help us get more in touch with ourselves and others. Enjoy!

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Fear, Anxiety, and an Imbalance of Water

In previous posts I’ve written about how the winter months are the time of Water – the element that is associated with the Kidneys and thus related to our deepest reserves and resources and energetically, the ability to flow even when things appear murky by connecting with our deepest will.

And although the weather may be getting warmer outside, the Water element is still the prevalent energy in our lives.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, Water is the essence of life. Water makes it possible for all of the other elements to function properly and is the first place to check when your body is chronically out of balance.

These are precisely the words many of my patients are choosing to describe how they are feeling at the moment – a little (or a lot) out of balance. One of my friends said to me the other day: I don’t want to get out of bed.. can’t someone else do my life today?

And relating these feelings back to the Water element, the emotions most commonly associated with an imbalance of Water are dread, fear and anxiety. When we feel anxious and our fears rule us, we begin a cycle of fear, tension, and sometimes physical pain. We may become absent minded, even isolated and detached and no matter how exhausted we feel, often these feelings transfer into the night, preventing us from having a restful night’s sleep.

Furthermore in recent months we’ve witnessed Mother Nature wreaking havoc with fires, earthquakes and mudslides. There’s been a foreboding fear of war in the world. And in this country we’re experiencing a time of great uncertainty.

The world is feeling unsettled. Many of us are feeling ungrounded and living each day in ‘fight or flight’ mode and if the energetic imbalance in the Water element continues, it can cause physical symptoms such as lower back pain, fatigue, shortness of breath, vertigo, dizziness, and high blood pressure.

In Chinese Medicine we don’t separate the mind and the body. By treating the Kidney energy, we correct emotional imbalances associated with the Water Element and by addressing emotional issues associated with the Water Element, we enhance the Kidney energy.

On a physical level, there are many foods that nourish the Kidney energy such as beans, as they are seeds and have new life potential. The colors blue and black correspond to the Kidney element, so blueberries and blackberries are recommended. Purple, blue and black foods are associated with the Water element, and, not surprisingly, modern research has shown that the anthocyanins that give them their color concentrate in the kidney and brain.

Also pumpkin seeds, black sesame seeds, walnuts, eggs, millet and green leafy vegetables. Since salty is the flavor that correlates with the Water element, foods such as sea salt, miso and tamari are also beneficial for the Kidneys.

The primary function of the Kidney is to store and regulate our essence – the foundation of Blood and Qi, which is the energy we have available to us in our day to day activities. Also Kidney Yin and Yang emanates from the Kidneys, energies that nourish our body fluids, lubricate our joints, and provide warmth and movement in our bodies.

Emotionally the Kidneys are the seat of our “Will” and some would say our spiritual destiny. When the Kidneys are out of balance fear will arise and we often leave our bodies energetically and find shelter in our minds. Here we feel anxious, disconnected and seek solutions to these states, rather than reconnecting to our bodies.

Deep breathing, yoga, therapies such as cranio sacral therapy and reiki, acupuncture, herbs, nature walks, ocean walks, journaling, healthy sleep patterns – all these practices can help us calm our minds and reset our nervous systems so we can feel ourselves more fully again.

I’ve been hearing many patients say “but I can’t relax with all that’s going on the world”. I would like to propose the notion that it’s the story the mind creates about what’s happening in the world that is so hard to accept. When we reconnect with our deepest selves within our bodies (the seat of our Will in our Kidneys) we don’t feel so swayed by the world – quite the opposite, we feel excited to be contributing that which is most precious within us: bringing into the world our own unique contribution and creativity!

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Winter – Everything Ends

Where did 2017 just go? It seems like only yesterday that we were ushering in the Year of the Fire Rooster.

Now it’s already December, and whilst it might not be nearly as cold as in other parts of the USA, we are aware that winter is upon us.

There’s a chill in the air. It’s the end of another year. Winter is a good time to reflect on our health, replenish our energy and conserve our strength.

If you’re feeling tired, rest assured you are not alone. It’s been an exhausting (mentally, emotionally and physically) for many people. But Traditional Chinese Medicine says it’s ok to feel like you’re lacking energy in winter in order to recharge for the upcoming spring (and summer) months.

Winter is all about storage, rest and restoration and the best way to fully enjoy the powers of this season of hibernation and introspection is to surrender to it and learn from what it has to offer us. Winter calls us to look within, to reconnect to our inner being, and to embrace the cold and darkness around us.

The colder temperatures and darkness encourage us to slow down. Winter has an impact on the human body just as it does on every other part of nature. We function differently and we respond to the change in energy whether we like it or not. But the philosophy of Chinese Medicine promotes our ability to thrive during the wintertime if we know how to observe the natural changes and work with the different energy.

Winter belongs to the Yin in Chinese Medicine – exemplified by cold, darkness and inactivity. Yin is the dark, cold, slow, inward energy compared to the Yang of the summer months. TCM believes in consolidating your Qi through the winter (early to bed and late to rise) and adapting to increasing Yang (circulation).

Winter is the season that rules the Kidneys and the element of water – the most yin of all the five elements.

In Western medicine we know that the kidneys regulate water metabolism and stabilize our heart and blood pressure.

In TCM, the Kidneys are considered the source of all Qi within the body energy. They store all of the reserve Qi in the body so that it can be used in times of stress, to heal, and prevent illness (common in the winter months when our energy can be most easily depleted). Chinese medicine also believes the Kidneys rule over intelligence, reason, perception and memory.

Rest is important for revitalizing the Kidneys, which is why some animals hibernate in the wintertime. It is also a good time to look inward, reflect on ourselves with meditation, and other soul nourishing activities. These practices help us to connect to our inner selves and help support Kidney energy.

Seasonal changes affect the body’s environment. With the drop in temperature come colds, flu, aches and pains. That is why practices that relax the mind, raise our immune system and circulate our energy are so important in the Winter months.

Here are a few tips for keeping healthy and happy during winter:

Exercise: From the perspective of Chinese Medicine, it’s best to change your approach to exercise in the winter. Long, slow movements are recommended. Stretching, yoga, Tai Chi and Qi Gong are great options. It’s also a good idea to balance a physical workout with a mental and spiritual one.

Practice Self-acceptance: Rather than attempting to overcome our fears, we can learn to recognize and accept them. Self-awareness and self-acceptance burns and thaws our fears so that we become “unstuck” and can move on healthfully.

Food as medicine: Avoid raw foods during the winter as much as possible, as they tend to cool the body. During the winter, it’s best to focus on warming foods including hearty soups and stews, root vegetables, whole grains, and small amounts of meat or fish protein. If you are vegetarian, eat more beans, nuts and seeds. Give your body a balance of what it really needs – warming, grounding, nourishing foods. Other foods that are beneficial in winter include winter squash, potatoes, winter greens, carrots, cabbage, mushrooms, apples and pears.

Balance stress levels: Make sure you are getting enough sleep. There’s a reason the days are shorter this time of year. Go to bed a little earlier, and aim to also wake up a little later if you can … ideally without an alarm and after the sun’s rays have warmed the atmosphere a bit. This preserves your own Yang Qi for the task of warming in the face of cold.

Acupuncture: Of course acupuncture can help prevent colds and flu by building up the immune system with just a few needles inserted into key points along the body’s energy pathways.

So as 2017 comes to an end, prepare yourself for the year ahead. Be good to yourself. Take time out for yourself. Sit by the fire. Stay warm. Look forward to the spring and summer. Fortunately (or unfortunately) they will be here before you know it.

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Herbal Spotlight: Cinnamon

Thanksgiving may be behind us. But the holiday spirit (and fragrance) is still in the air. Walking into your favorite coffee house or bakery and taking a breath, you’d probably be right to believe that everything has been pumpkin-spiced.

But did you know that the key ingredient of this popular spice is also an important part of Chinese herbal medicine? This month, I’m shining the herbal spotlight on cinnamon and will show you how there is so much more to this versatile spice than just being the secret kick to your holiday muffins, stews and hot drinks.

Research tells us that Western medical practitioners are increasingly recommending this versatile spice to treat hyperglycemia and diabetes. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, cinnamon has been long known for its capacity to treat and prevent a much wider range of ailments.

Medicinally, cinnamon mainly refers to the dried bark of Cinnamomom Cassia – native to China. It is usually peeled in autumn and placed in the shade to dry. When the inner bark is dried, it will typically curl into a roll and look like a stick, which is how it earns its name as Cinnamon Stick – also known as Rou Gui in pinyin.

Cinnamon sticks, with their extremely pungent aroma, are often ground into powder and when added to stews or soups can help invigorate the stomach, warm the lower back, relieve abdominal pains, and reduce stomach bloating.

Cinnamon can be administered in a few different ways. Often it is decocted or steeped alongside other herbs and spices as a medicinal drink. Other times, it is powdered and taken as part of a Chinese herbal formula.

Modern pharmacological actions of cinnamon stick include its ability to dilate blood vessels, promote blood circulation, and enhance coronary and cerebral blood flow; cinnamon bark oil can increase gastrointestinal secretion, enhance digestive function, and eliminate gas in the digestive tract; while cinnamon oil also has sedative and analgesic effects.

In Western medicine, cinnamon is also used to fight off bacteria especially in the teeth. It is also a great antioxidant that can lower cholesterol.

In TCM, the main uses for cinnamon sticks include the treatment of kidney yang deficiency leading to lower back pain and knee weakness, bladder infections, shortness of breath, asthma, edema, dizziness, ringing in the ears, abdominal pain, skin infections, arthritic pain, and reduced appetite.

Cinnamon also has the ability to penetrate the heart, lung, and bladder meridians. Thus cinnamon sticks have the ability to remove painful obstructions in the body and can “lift” or unblock the Yang Qi.

It’s important to point out that long-term use (overdose) of cinnamon sticks may cause acute poisoning with symptoms including dizziness, blurred vision, swollen eyes, chest tightness, flushed face, skin rash, a tingling tongue, or mouth lesions. It should be discontinued immediately if any of these symptoms occur.

Cinnamon stick is extremely hot and TCM practitioners strongly advise against using it during pregnancy or menstruation, as well as in cases of hyperactivity of fire due to yin deficiency.

Here are some simple cinnamon stick recipes for you to try:

Cinnamon powder:

Ingredients: 3g cinnamon sticks.

Directions: Grind it into powder and take it with warm water, twice a day. Or add the powder to cooked dishes.

Benefits: the former practice can treat bloating and stomach pain; and the latter can lower blood sugar and cholesterol.

Cinnamon paste:

Ingredients: 6g cinnamon barks and 6g cloves.

Directions: Grind the two herbs into fine powder and put powder onto a plaster

Benefits: Stick the paster to a child’s navel and it can ease diarrhea in children.

Honey and cinnamon:

Ingredients: 1 spoon cinnamon powder, 2 spoons honey, and 1 glass of water.

Directions: Put the first two ingredients into 1 glass of water.

Benefits: Drink it 30 minutes before breakfast and bedtime daily. By doing so it could help prevent the fat accumulation in your body even though you are eating high-calorie foods.

Astragalus

September Herbal Spotlight: Astragalus

If you read the last blog post on Autumn and the Metal element, you will recall how the lungs are very closely associated with the immune system and control the circulation of the Wei-Qi – the defensive Qi that protects our bodies from external ‘attacks’.

For this month’s Herbal Spotlight, I wanted to feature a plant with a very long history as an immune system booster and disease fighter. Its roots are (literally!) in Traditional Chinese Medicine, in which it has been used as an adaptogen for thousands of years – meaning it helps the body fight off stress and disease.

This month’s featured herb is Astragalus – a plant within the Leguminosae (beans or legumes) family.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the herb (also known as Huang-Qi) was hailed as a protector against stresses, both mental and physical. Astragalus provides health benefits to a number of body systems and ailments due to its ability to prevent and protect cells against cell death and other harmful elements, such as free radicals and oxidation.

Astragalus contains three components that allow the plant to have such a positive impact on human health:

saponins, flavonoids and polysaccharides.

Saponins are known for their ability to lower cholesterol and improve the immune system;

Flavanoids provide health benefits through cell signalling. They show antioxidative qualities and can help prevent heart disease; and

Polysaccharides are known to have antiviral and anti-inflammatory capabilities.

There are many other health benefits derived from Astragalus, including its ability to:
reduce blood pressure;
act as an antidiabetic;
relieve insulin resistance and treat diabetes naturally;
treat kidney illness;
reduce the severity of allergic reactions by preventing the release of histamines;
help deliver uninterrupted, restful sleep;
improve airway inflammation and treat asthma.

Astragalus has traditionally been used both as a supplement/natural remedy and in cooking. In Traditional Chinese Medicine it is said to tonify the Spleen and Lungs and hence is used for fatigue linked to decreased appetite. It is also said to raise the Qi, making it a potent herbs for prolapse and weakness anywhere in the body.

It is a tough but sweet, starchy root, and can be added to soups or made in to a decoction by boiling the root in water.

Astragalus powder is also very versatile in all the ways you can use it.
Here is a very easy recipe for an excellent substitute for peanut butter (and it’s better for you too!).
Ingredients:
• 1 cup tahini (sesame seed butter)
• 7 tablespoons of almond butter
• 3 tablespoons of Astragalus powder
• 3 tablespoons sesame oil (you can leave this out to lower the calories)
• Sweetener (maple syrup or agave nectar)
• Dash of cinnamon and/or a dash of nutmeg

Note there really are no exact measurements in this recipe!

Warm the tahini and the seed and/or nut butters in a double boiler. Do not use high heat.

Stir the Astragalus powder and cinnamon powder. Add the sesame oil and stir until you get a smooth consistency.

Refrigerate and enjoy! You can also thin it out with some lemon juice and apple cider vinegar to use as a salad dressing.

And here’s an easy to follow recipe for Astragalus root immune power balls (delicious!).

Ingredients:
• 2 tablespoons astragalus root powder
• 1 tablespoon maca root powder
• 1 tablespoon ginkgo powder
• ½ tablespoon spirulina, blue-green algae, or chlorella powder
• 1 cup sesame butter (tahini) or peanut butter
• ½ cup honey
• ½ cup crushed almonds
• Your choice of shredded coconut, cocoa or carob powder, raisins or goji berries, chocolate of carob chips, and granola for flavor.

Combine the powdered herbs and mix well.

Combine the sesame or peanut butter and honey, mixing to form a paste.

Add enough of the powdered herbs to thicken, and add the almonds and the other optional stuff to your liking. Thicken to consistency with carob or cocoa powder. Roll into teaspoon size balls.
Store in the refrigerator or in a sealed glass jar. You can eat up to two per day but eat them within a week.

Disclaimer: If you are pregnant or nursing or have any medical condition, you should consult a doctor before taking astragalus or any supplement or herb. If you are taking any kind of medication or if you suffer from an autoimmune disease, you should also check with your doctor to rule out drug interaction before taking any form of astragalus.

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Autumn Season and TCM

Although it might be hard to imagine with the somewhat above average temperatures around San Francisco over the last few weekends, given that the autumnal equinox took place on September 22nd, autumn has officially arrived.

Over the coming weeks we’ll start to notice a slight chill in the air; the days will get shorter; and before we know it, we will be turning the clocks back and the summer will be over for another year.  Traditionally autumn marked the season of the harvest – when we would reap what was planted in the spring and preserve it for the colder winter months that lay ahead.

In our childhood autumn often meant us and playing among the piles of fallen leaves at the park or in the garden as the leaves fall and change color all around.  As adults we notice the cooler, drier air; we may find ourselves a little more serious and less relaxed and carefree than in the summer months; and we might even experience more clarity of vision – both externally as well as internally.

The autumn months are about slowing down the momentum of growth – it’s a time for our bodies to harvest and gather energy for the colder months ahead. During this time you might feel inclined to de-clutter, to set extra ‘fuel’ aside to ensure you are both physically and emotionally prepared for the colder, darker months ahead.

Autumn marks the beginning of the yin cycle when the daylight lasts less than 12 hours. The yang of summer surrenders itself to the growing yin energy of the approaching winter. After summer, autumn is a time to clear overactive yang from the body in the form of rest and more quiet time, and then as the temperatures drop, the time will come to start warming the body against extremes.

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, the summer is ruled by the Fire element while the autumn is associated with the element of Metal – governing organization, order, communication, the mind, setting limits, and protecting boundaries.

In nature we can see the plant kingdom transforming before our very eyes as nutrients move from the leaves deep down into the roots of the trees causing the leaves to turn from orange to brown, and eventually fall away. As the leaves change color and drop, the old ‘dead’ leaves go back to the earth, enriching it to promote the harvest of the year ahead.

In autumn we learn more about ourselves, perhaps more than in any other season. It’s a time to turn inward, a ‘falling away’ of outer directed energy. Autumn moves us to get rid of what we no longer need and reminds us of what is most precious in our lives.

The transition from summer to autumn is a time when our Qi is most unstable. If you are susceptible to “rebellious Qi” (respiratory infection; colds, sinuses, hay fever etc), it’s possible for certain acupuncture treatments and Chinese herbs to strengthen your Qi and your immune system before the onset of winter.

In Chinese Medicine, the lung and the colon are the internal organs related the Metal element and to autumn. The lungs are very closely associated with the immune system and control the circulation of the Wei-Qi (the protective Qi) which is the defensive Qi that protects the body from external attacks by viruses like colds and flu. A weakness in the lungs can lead to a weakness in the Wei-Qi, making you prone to frequent colds.

One of the best ways to strengthen the lungs is to breathe deeply. It sounds simple but most of us don’t breathe so deeply and this can also affect things like our memory, energy level and immune system.
So go for a walk outside, soak up the beautiful autumn colors and breathe in the cool air. Doing this will strengthen your lungs while also helping you achieve mental clarity and emotional tranquility. In classical Chinese medicine, the lung is described as “the receiver of the pure Qi from the Heavens”.  When the lung (Metal) energy is out of balance the body begins to stiffen up. That’s when we can become more prone to infection. Our susceptibility to allergies is more amplified and asthma and chest heaviness can appear.

The colon is the second organ in the Metal element and is responsible for eliminating what is unnecessary and toxic from our bodies. However in addition to physical garbage, we also need to eliminate mental and spiritual rubbish.

Autumn is the perfect time to take stock of all things in your life. Let go of the old, make room for the new; donate old clothes to charity; clean out your computer deleting anything you no longer need.

What you eat also greatly affects the health of your lungs. During autumn, eat less cooling foods (like salads and raw foods). Heartier soups and stews are better at this time of the year. You should also try to include more sweet potato, cabbage, pears, walnuts, rice, cinnamon, leeks, beans, asparagus, broccoli, greens, apples, plums, grapes as well as moderate amounts of pungent foods like garlic, onions, ginger, horseradish and mustard into your diet as they are also beneficial to the lungs.

You might want to consider doing a gentle cleanse by fasting to give your body time to eliminate toxins. Don’t fast for too long, but rather eat healthy fruits and vegetables. Also remember to drink plenty of water. As autumn is associated with dryness, it’s important to hydrate. Water will promote healthier bowel movements.

The lung and the colon work hand in hand – one taking in the pure, the other eliminating waste. But if waste keeps building up and we can’t take in purity (when our Metal energy is out of balance), we are more likely to feel stubborn, depressed, isolated and unfulfilled – feelings commonly associated with autumn and winter.

Sleep is another important aspect of staying healthy in autumn. However, if you can’t find enough hours for more sleep, at least try to make time for stretching, meditation and relaxation. Traditional Chinese Medicine says that this is the time of the year when the spirit is more accessible so just take a few minutes to do nothing at all.

Close your eyes, breathe and just be present feeling your chest and belly. Breathing exercises (which naturally strengthen the lungs) increase energy, still the mind, and lift the spirits. It’s time to build up your immune system for Winter!

Dandelion seeds in the morning sunlight blowing away in the wind across a clear blue sky

Herbal Spotlight: Dandelion

I remember going to the park as a kid. Sure my friends and I would have fun on the swings and slides. But sometimes during the springtime we just went to the park to have dandelion blowing competitions. We’d pick as many as we could and then we’d just huff and puff until we were all left just holding the stalks.

Who would have thought that three decades later I’d be featuring the dandelion as the ‘herbal spotlight’ on my blog?

When most people think of dandelions, a sea of annoying yellow flowers invading their lawn usually comes to mind, but there is more to this unassuming flower than meets the eye. For thousands of years, dandelions have also been used in a variety of herbal preparations to improve health.

In Western herbology, dandelion is often labelled as a “natural antibiotic”. It is rich in vitamin A (dandelion leaves contain more vitamin A than carrots!), vitamin C, iron and calcium and detoxifiers explaining its common inclusion in medicines.

Coincidentally, in Traditional Chinese Medicine it has long been used as an anti-inflammatory and an antidote to heat toxicity. So both western and eastern medicine seem to have reached a similar conclusion on dandelion’s medicinal uses.

Historically, dandelion (which literally translates into ‘lion’s tooth’ in French) has been used to relieve liver disorders, diabetes, urinary disorders, acne, jaundice and anemia. It also helps in maintaining bone health and skin care. Dandelion leaves and root have also been used to treat constipation, indigestion, heartburn, and to remove water from the body, while the root is used to increase bile production in the gallbladder and to treat liver problems.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine dandelion is referred to as ”Pu Gong Ying’ and is considered to be energetically bitter, drying, and cooling. According to TCM, dandelion clears heat from the liver and has a beneficial effect on the stomach and lungs. Its leaves can also ease acute mastitis, lung abscess, skin abscesses, swollen eyes, cold and fever and ‘stomach fire’ (gastrointestinal issues).

Dandelion flowers can be used to make dandelion tea which has the best effect when consumed in the morning. Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners will prescribe dandelion tea to help detoxify the liver and get their body back on track. It is a powerful diuretic, which helps the body eliminate toxins more rapidly and promotes healthy kidney function. Dandelion tea also increases the concentration of certain detoxifying enzymes in the liver.

If you’re feeling run down, prepare yourself a cup of this healthy tea, which is made quite simply by steeping the flower petals in boiling water.

The rich blend of antioxidants found in dandelion tea can all help the body eliminate free radicals and minimize oxidative stress, which is a major cause of chronic illness, including cancer. By neutralizing these free radicals, this tea can help strengthen the immune system and improve your overall health and wellness.

The nutrient-rich roots can also be used to brew dandelion coffee. The coffee requires the dandelion roots to be dried, chopped, roasted and then ground down to be brewed into the powerful coffee substitute.

Both beverages have similar health benefits, and are becoming more and more popular.

My patients are often quite surprised when I tell them that the whole dandelion plant is edible. Leaves can be stir-fried or sautéed like spinach or used to make dandelion salad; dandelion root can also be consumed as a vegetable. Just be careful not to overdose on the herb and patients with stomach ulcers or gastritis are generally encouraged to avoid too much dandelion, as it may stimulate overproduction of stomach acid.

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Total Solar Eclipse 2017

On Monday August 21st, the so-called Great American Total Solar Eclipse will darken skies all the way from Oregon to South Carolina along a stretch of land about 70 miles wide.

Whilst the eclipse won’t pass directly over us here in San Francisco, I wanted to share my thoughts on this cosmic phenomenon as well as some of the spiritual and mystical elements behind it.

A total solar eclipse occurs when the disk of the moon blocks out the last sliver of light from the sun in the sky. The moon orbits an average of 239,000 miles from Earth — just the right distance to seem the same size in the sky as the much larger sun. However, these heavenly bodies line up only about once every 18 months.

During what  ‘sky watchers’ refer to as totality, the area inside the moon’s shadow is cloaked in twilight. At most, the moon will completely cover the disk of the sun for 2 minutes and 40 seconds.

During totality, when the sun’s disk is completely covered by the moon, it is safe to view the eclipse with the naked eye. But you should never look at a partial solar eclipse without proper eye protection as this can cause blindness.

Solar eclipses always take place during a new moon. In astrological lore, la lune represents the mother, the divine feminine and the archetype of the nurturer. She is the governess of our emotions and deepest desires — and she has a dark side we’ll never see. New moons are times for planting seeds; for conceptualizing and initiating.

Astrologically speaking, eclipses usher in a time of change. Like any new moon, a solar eclipse represents the end of one cycle and the beginning of a new cycle. It means that all possibilities are on the table and you can rightly put yourself in the forefront of new plans for the future. It is the ideal time to make a fresh start and write down a to-do list on a blank sheet of paper.

A solar eclipse asks us to balance our head with the heart.  The heart offers guidance and truth while the head gifts us understanding and communication.

Ancient cultures tried to understand why the sun temporarily vanished from the sky, so they came up with various reasons for what caused a solar eclipse.

In many cultures, the legends surrounding solar eclipses involve mythical figures eating or stealing the sun. Others interpreted the event as a sign of angry or quarreling gods.

For example in Vietnam, people believed that a solar eclipse was caused by a giant frog devouring the Sun, while Norse cultures blamed wolves for eating the Sun.

In ancient China, a celestial dragon was thought to lunch on the Sun, causing a solar eclipse. In fact, the Chinese word of an eclipse, chih or shih, means to eat.

Korean folklore suggests that solar eclipses happen because mythical dogs are trying to steal the Sun.

The Pomo, an indigenous group of people who live in the north-west tell a story of a bear who started a fight with the Sun and took a bite out of it. In fact, the Pomo name for a solar eclipse is Sun got bit by a bear.

Meanwhile the Tewa tribe from New Mexico believed that a solar eclipse signified an angry Sun who left the skies to go to his house in the underworld.

Fear of solar eclipses still exists today. Many people around the world still see eclipses as evil omens. People in many cultures will get together to bang pots and pans and make loud noises during a solar eclipse, since it is believed that loud noises scare away the demon causing the eclipse.

However not all superstitions surrounding solar eclipses are about doom. In Italy, it is believed that flowers planted during a solar eclipse are brighter and more colorful than flowers planted any other time of the year.

Even though we won’t see the total solar eclipse first hand, if you look up on August the 21st , you may still see the sky appearing a little eerie … and now you know why.

Peppermint 1

Herbal Spotlight: Peppermint

This month we’re shining the herbal spotlight on Bo He … or what you would more commonly recognize as peppermint with its refreshing taste and strong aroma.

As a representative member of the aromatic plants, mint herb (also known as mentha) comes with more than 500 species, almost all with a cool and refreshing scent and is most commonly harvested in batches when the stem and leaves are flourishing during summer.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, mint is considered to have pungent, aromatic and cooling properties. It is associated with the Lung and Liver meridians, and is used to expel wind heat, relieve headache and dizziness, improve eyesight, relieve sore throat, clear up rashes, relieve itching, and soothes anxiety and stress by clearing liver qi stagnation.

When taken orally, mint is typically used to dissipate body heat and to calm the nervous system.
Bo He is often combined with other wind-heat dispersing herbs or heat-clearing and toxicity-relieving herbs to reinforce the function of expelling exterior pathogen (bacteria and viruses) and toxic heat, such as in the formula Yin Qiao San which many of you may know to take for the onset of a cold.

Mint should be used in moderation for those diagnosed with yin deficiency (dryness) and those with sensitive digestive systems, who may in fact suffer moderate stomach disorders by ingesting too much mint.

Because Bo He (mint) helps to promote perspiration, it should not be taken by people who tend to sweat profusely. As with any Chinese herbal remedy, it’s always best to check in with the Clinic before adding mint into your herbal regime.

When applying mint oil directly on to the skin, the mint causes a cold sensation while inhibiting and benumbing the sensory nerve ending. This means it can have an anti-allergic effect on skin itch. Mint products also have a desensitization and anti-inflammation effect on insect bites and are also said to relieve upper respiratory tract infection.

The cool, refreshing, and pleasant scent of peppermint is also often used to cover and improve certain Chinese medicinal herbal formulas with a peculiar smell or taste (for example mint is often used in conjunction with lonicera, forsythia and arctium).

Peppermint is also an excellent source of vitamin C and vitamin A. Peppermint is a very good source of magnesium, folate, dietary fiber, calcium, iron and vitamin B2.

The edible parts of the mint are its stems and leaves, which are often used when preparing fresh juices and teas. Personally I love to make fresh mint tea. There’s a bit of an art to making it taste really good, so consider following the steps below:

• For each serving of tea you plan on making, pick 7-10 peppermint leaves from the stem of the plant. Try to pick leaves that are green and unblemished.

• Rinse the peppermint leaves. Even if you picked the peppermint from your own garden, you still want to make sure to wash off any dirt or impurities from the leaves.

• Crush the peppermint by rubbing the leaves in between your fingers. This helps to release the flavor and aroma of the herb. The leaves should look crumpled and slightly greener, not mashed to bits.

• Put the freshly crushed peppermint leaves into a mug. For every serving of tea, place 7-10 leaves in the mug, depending on how strong you like the tea.

• Boil water. Instead of pouring the boiling water into your mug, wait a couple minutes for the water to cool slightly. Peppermint tea is better when brewed in hot, but not boiling, water.

• After you have let the water cool for a few minutes, carefully pour the water over the peppermint leaves. Make sure that all the leaves are submerged in the water, then cover the mug. Let the tea steep for 7-12 minutes before removing the leaves.

Enjoy your fresh cup of peppermint tea!

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June 21st 2017 Summer Solstice Blog

Wednesday June 21st is the longest day of the year – the summer solstice – marking the first official day of summer and the turning point after which the sun starts rising later and setting earlier.

“Solstice” comes from the Latin solsitium, or “sun stands still.” On the solstice the sun will indeed appear to stand still as it reaches its highest point in the sky. This illusion occurs because the earth is tilted as far as it can toward the sun.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, Fire is the element associated with summer and it has the power to illuminate our inner being as well as our external world. Summer is also associated with the energy of the Heart. Fire represents the energy of yang, strength, courage, passion and rejuvenation. Its power is felt most intensely in the summer months.

During the summer I encourage you to focus on the connection between the Heart and  the Kidneys, located on either side of your spine, on the edge of your lower ribs. The Kidneys represent the element of Water and can help balance excess fire, which is the element associated with the Summer solstice.

Have fun this summer by exercising outdoors, hiking, engaging in social events like BBQs etc and remember to offset these activities with meditation, relaxation, and generally recharging your batteries. When we don’t seek out balance we may feel  typical “summer symptoms” related to heat/yang such as excess body heat, sweating, feeling parched, skin dryness, the inability to focus, agitation, nervous exhaustion, heartburn and insomnia and general restlessness.

Here are a few tools to balance Fire:

• Consider getting up a bit earlier and make the most of exercising in the morning sun before it gets too hot; Try to walk fast enough to break a bit of a sweat, but don’t overdo it. The heart is more vulnerable in the summer, so build up your exercise routine gradually.

• Walk barefoot on the grass!

• If you’re staying up later, make sure your bedroom is cool and dark enough to help you sleep.

• Eat well. Choose cooling foods that will nourish the yin. Fruits like watermelon, peaches and oranges; vegetables like asparagus, broccoli, corn and cucumbers; (For anyone with a weaker digestive system, lightly steam, stir-fry or grill your vegetables).

• Drink plenty of fresh water. You need to keep rehydrated. Your body will give a sigh of relief, thanking you.

• Breathe through stressful situations, and come all the way down into your belly and Kidneys with your breath.

• Get regular acupuncture treatments in the summer. An old Chinese medical text states that when you get treatments in the summer you will stay strong and healthy in the winter months.

Enjoy the longer summer days and bring the joy, love and happiness that’s inside you to life!

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