What's with the Pulse?

Are you ever curious why I take the pulse throughout the treatment?

I love the pulse.

I am not quite sure how I would practice without taking the pulse. In fact, I wouldn't work with a provider who didn't practice some form of palpation - whether it be pulse taking, Hara diagnosis (abdominal palpation), channel palpation, etc. It is just too vital of a diagnostic tool to omit. Why is that?

Palpatory diagnosis is another way for the body to tell the provider what is going on and what it needs. I use the pulse as a non-verbal way to check in with my patients.

Are the meridians flowing freely and fluidly? Or is there a block from one into another?  Is one (or more) organ systems running sluggishly while another is over compensating for that weakness? Are things running too hot and too fast? Or too cold? Is there stagnation? What is the cause of that stagnation? Did the acupuncture point that I just placed improve the pulses and thus signal the body to heal? I can feel the answers to these questions (and more) on the pulse.

The pulses give me automatic feedback on the efficacy of the treatment. Many of my established patients know that I will not let them leave unless I am satisfied with the shift in their pulses.

Isn't there only one pulse? What do I feel for? How does it change?

There are over 20 different pulse positions presented on both wrists. Each of the 12 regular meridians and the 8 extraordinary meridians are shown on the pulse, plus the corresponding organ system to those channels. 

The pulses are not static and fixed. When I am feeling the pulses I am paying attention to how they relate to each other. We are a whole system, that is not separate from our environment or from other parts of our bodies. Yes, our eyes can relate to the health of our liver! A trained acupuncturist can feel that in the pulse. The season also influences the pattern of the pulse. Having a wiry (think of a guitar string) quality to the pulse in the spring is normal and healthy, but that same wiry quality is not the ideal pulse pattern in autumn. 

Classically speaking, of the 20-plus positions, there are 28 different ways to describe the pulse, ex. slippery, wiry, choppy, thready, hollow, etc. These descriptions give me information on the quality and quantity of Qi and Blood in the body. They can guide my point selection and herb recommendations. 

As for quantity, how strong is the pulse in that particular position and how is it in relation to all the other pulses? Are all the pulses weak or is just one position weak? After I inserted a particular point prescription, did the overall quality improve? Did just that particular position improve? Or (gasp) did they get worse? It can happen, in which case I immediately remove the offending point and find the correct point to promote harmony. I take all these (and more) factors into account when feeling the pulses and prescribing a treatment plan.

Is this cool or what? Pretty much I use the pulse to keep my agenda out of the picture. It keeps me humble. The pulse is my patients' way of telling me exactly what they need and if what I have chosen is aligned with that. If what I have chosen does not resonate effectively, I remove the point. I have even started to test points prior to insertion using an acupressure Qigong technique that I have personally developed. This prevents patients from unnecessary pokes. We can all appreciate that, no?

Do you want to know more about the pulse? Do you have comments about it or other topics related to health and wellness? Please ask me! Please allow me to be a resource for you. Don't be shy. 

It's Fire Season. What Does That Have To Do With Chinese Medicine?

Let's play!

We have survived Winter. We have grown towards the light of Spring, and now it is summer! We have shed our insulating layers -basking in the warmth of longer days and our full bloom.

Chinese medicine embraces the resonance of each season. As Chinese medicine evolved from Taoist observations of nature, it recognized that we are not separate from the Earth. As the environment around us transitions through seasons, we  too have seasons in our internal environment. If we align ourselves with the energies of the Earth's seasons, then we live and exist in a greater state of health.

If we are in a state of dis-ease, one of the foundational tenets of classical Chinese medicine is to discover in what ways we differ in resonance from the environment around us.

After this discovery, we ask - how can one become more harmonized in that particular season?   

We have entered the Season of Summer, the element of Fire

Fire's color is red (or gray, like ash), its sound is laughter, the odor is scorched, and its emotion is joy.

My mentor, Thea Elijah, says "The gift of Fire is lightness of being. Humor, playfulness and the ability to be silly are crucial to the health of Fire. Fire understands that in order to be truly sane, you have to be a little bit crazy - and not be afraid to let that show!"

If upon reading this you aren't connecting with the feeling of Fire and summer, it might be a sign that an acupuncture treatment may be helpful in bringing you into balance of the season. Keep in mind that if you notice that you are feeling a heightened sense of summer in your vibe - ungrounded, scattered, and out of sorts, that could be a sign of excess Fire manifesting. Insomnia, poor attention, poor memory, anxiety and or depression, night sweats, mouth sores, and even digestive changes can all be manifestations of a Fire gone awry. These conditions and more can be brought back into balance through acupuncture and herbal medicine. 

Congee, the Healing Food You're NOT Eating

A traditional breakfast in China and one of the purest examples of food as medicine is congee. This is an ideal slow cooker meal, where your prep it at night and by morning have a breakfast that is the most healing meal of the day. A principle in congee making is the longer the cook, the stronger the medicine, so an overnight porridge is ideal.

Congee itself is said to strengthen Qi and nourish the Blood. It harmonizes digestion and is demulcent or soothing in nature. For new mommas, it also can increase milk supply because of the way it nourishes the blood. The rice is sweet and bland in flavor, which supports the middle burner, basically the Chinese digestive system.

There are some fundamental ways that Chinese medicine is different from the western perspective of the body. For one, the classical Chinese view of health cannot be separated from our external environment. Living and eating with the seasons is paramount to promoting longevity and dispelling malaise.

This time of year where the energy is moving downward and inward is our time to cultivate that stillness and really nourish our reserves. The Chinese talk about pre-heaven Qi and post-heaven Qi. The energy that we are born with, our essence, is our pre-heaven Qi. The energy that we cultivate from food and healthy lifestyle is our post-heaven Qi. By optimizing the post-heaven Qi, essentially our renewable resource, we promote longevity and health because we do not need to tap into our reserves (pre-heaven Qi).

Now, rice porridge may seem a bit boring, kind of bland. I get it. Here is where it gets fun. You can add other vegetables, herbs, grains, or even meats to not only bring flavor but to enhance the congee’s therapeutic properties. In Chinese medicine, food and herbs have an energetic. Meaning that they have a temperature (other then what you cook it on) as being warming, cooling, hot, cold, or neutral in nature. They have a directionality or movement into specific organs or regions of the body such as moving towards the interior, expressing towards the exterior, moving above the waist, or down below the waist.

That said, start with one part rice to six parts water. You can add some of the following depending on your individual need.

Ginger / Sheng Jiang – dispels cold, treats nausea and vomiting

Dates / Da Zao – give an extra sweetness and added support to the digestive system

Wolf berries / Gou Qi Zi – nourishes the blood and benefits the eyes

Walnuts – supports the brain and Kidneys* (see below)

Cinnamon / Gui Zhi – relieves abdominal pain from cold, treats diarrhea

Carrot – a digestive aid, helps eliminate intestinal gas

Chestnut – strengthens the knees and low back, supports the Kidneys* (see below)

Honey – benefits the lungs, treats constipation and dry cough

Pear – treats cough and supports the lungs


So that is the food part. Some recipe additions for specific concerns may be

Promote digestion – apple, coriander, beef (think bone broth), garlic

Constipation – walnuts (lubricates the intestines), pear, honey

Fatigue – chicken, sweet potato, licorice

Arthritis – spring onion, black bean

*An important aspect to any person new to Chinese medicine is that the Chinese organs are more of a systemic physiology versus a specific organ anatomy that has a set function. That’s a mouthful. For example, a function of the Chinese Liver is to promote the free flow of Qi and to harmonize the emotions. This is a clear distinction from the western liver that is a biochemical filtering factory located on the right side of the body tucked neatly within the ribcage. This is key, so if you see an acupuncturist or read an article, you want to be clear what liver the speaker is talking about. Is it the western liver or the Chinese Liver?

Remember, it is always best to consult with a licensed acupuncturist to determine whether you are dealing with a hot or cold condition, something that needs to move to the interior or to the exterior. A differential diagnosis is key in determining the most effective and safest method of care. The beautiful part of congee, using food as medicine, is that it is an component of a deeper healing that includes the season, the individual, and how we can live in an ecology that not only benefits the person but the world around us. Choosing seasonally available food and spices is key to the universal healing around us and of us. 

So what's with the tongue?

Chinese medicine is a complete model of medicine. It is autonomous from Western medicine in that it does not need allopathic diagnostic methods (labs, x-rays, etc.) to fulfill an effective treatment. Chinese medicine has its own anatomy, its own physiology, and therefore its own pathology and treatment based on this Eastern science.

When Chinese medicine was translated into English, the Chinese organs and conduits (aka meridians, channels) were named the same as the Western organs. This could cause confusion, because they are different. For example, one of the functions of the Chinese Spleen is to promote the transformation of food and the transportation of its nutrients to the body. This simplified example of the Spleen describes more of a systemic physiology. As a point of differentiation, the Western spleen has a specific anatomical location and holds a surplus of blood and supports the immune system. They are clearly different.

Chinese medicine practitioners use the tongue as a map of the whole body. Different organs of the body are mapped on the tongue. For example, the tongue tip reflects the state of the Heart. The Lungs surround the tip and are backed by the Spleen / Stomach in the center of the tongue. At the tongue's root are the Kidneys, Bladder, Intestines and the sides represent the state of the Liver / Gall Bladder.

Once the map is understood, we then look at the landscape of the tongue. Is the body red, pink, pale, blue, purple (if purple is it a red-purple or a blue-purple)? Where do these colors exist in relation to the organ map? What is the tongues shape? Is it wide and swollen? Is it thin and small? What kind of moisture is on the tongue? What is the coat like? Is it thick? Is it thin? Is there even a coat? What color is the coat? Is it white, yellow, dusky, gray, brown even?

All these components represent how the body is metabolizing and using energy. Is it running hot and in excess? Or is it running hot and in deficiency? What organs are involved?

These are just some of the components that I look at when I observe the tongue. The tongue is a window into the body where I have the opportunity to see how things have been, and also how things are progressing.

Are you curious? Would you like to know more on how you can keep tabs on your own tongue? Please call or email me. I would love to be a resource for you.

So What Is Yin and What is Yang?

We've all seen those really horrible Yin / Yang tattoos. Maybe you even have one (I won't tell a soul). Yin / Yang, opposites, balance, that's it right?

Nope. It is so much more. Here are the basics.

There are 4 properties of Yin and Yang.

  • Yin and Yang Oppose Each Other

Yin is the shady side of the hill, whereas Yang is the sunny side of the hill. Yin has feminine, cooling, dark, descending, interior qualities. Yang is  masculine, warming, bright, exterior, and ascending. Yin is referred to as the "substantial" meaning it has a physical quality, like blood. Yang is the "insubstantial." It is all energy, like Qi.

  • Yin Transforms into Yang Yang and Yang Transforms into Yin

If you look at the Yin / Yang symbol, you will notice that at a point where Yang (white) is in its fullest phase there is the smallest emergence of Yin (black). This exists vice versa. The phases transform into each other. Like Summer (Yang) transforming through Autumn into Winter (Yin).

  • Yin and Yang are Dependent on Each Other

Without one, there cannot be the other.

  • Yin and Yang Exist within Each Other

Notice the little dot of black Yin within the white Yang and the little dot of white Yang within the black of Yin? That is Yin embedded in the Yang, Winter moves into Summer through Spring. Spring is Yang emerging within Yin.

What does that have to do with medicine?

Now that we know the qualities of Yin and Yang, we can translate that into the dynamics that exist within our bodies. Lets take heat for example. Say you run hot. Is the heat because there is an excess of Yang or a deficiency of Yin?

Excess Yang heat has the same amount of Yin, but more Yang. It manifests physically as the Four Bigs - big heat / fever, big thirst, big pulse, big sweat.

Deficient Yin heat has the same amount of Yang but less Yin. Yin Deficient heat manifests as dryness, night sweats, five-center (palms of hands, soles of feet, center of body) heat, a tongue with no coat.

This basic evaluation of heat gives very specific and different treatment paths - to clear excess Yang heat or to nourish Yin.

In addition to physical symptoms, we evaluate the qualities of Yin and Yang in the pulses and on the tongue. We look at how the organ systems and meridian channels are in harmony (or lack there of) in relation to Yin and Yang. This fundamental component to Chinese medicine is why each individual is treated uniquely and constitutionally.

Are You Planning Any Travel?

Ready for take off?

You've got your tickets, you double checked you have your passport, you packed a toothbrush, and snacks for the plane. Did you pack your herbal first aid kit? Do you know how to not only prevent getting sick, but what to do if you do?


Let me help.

There are 3 major things that you can do, without any additional stuff to keep your immunity up while traveling.

  • Drink Water - drink a minimum of half your body weight in ounces, for example a 140 pound person would drink 70 ounces of water daily.
  • Avoid Sugar - Like the plague. Nothing will dip your immunity like that cookie.
  • Get Ample Sleep - This is not an "I'll sleep when I get on the plane" moment. But plan accordingly so you can sleep well a couple nights before travel. This may take a bit or organization, but it is possible! Don't wait to pack the night before is a biggy!

What do you do if you already feel that little bug coming on and your have already hit the road?

Here is where I can really help and a little preparation can go a long way. Most of us know what we are prone to while traveling - constipation, indigestion, insomnia, a cold, stomach flu, injury, etc. Traveling with one or two herb formulas can not only help prevent such un-pleasantries, but treat them if they manifest. Please use me as a resource. I want to make sure your vacations are all you want them to be by helping you stay healthy!

Ok, so now you've come back. What do you do about the jet lag?

Acupuncture, acupuncture, acupuncture. Did you know acupuncture can really help with jet lag? It can!

I have recently heard a simple circadian reset button is to fast on the day of travel and to eat breakfast at the new destination.

Are You Stressed?

STRESS...It eventually gets to everyone. Sometimes it is unclear how stressed we really are. More and more studies report what we already know and experience: Stress plays a HUGE role in disease and malaise.

We all experience stress, yet it affects each one of us differently. The questions are:
How do you know when you are stressed?
What are the signs?
What can do you do about it?

For many of us, stress can manifest as:

Lack of appetite / Large appetite
Abdominal pain
Neck and shoulder tension
Headaches / Migraines
Depression / Anxiety
Increased chronic pain

Acupuncture, a drug-free treatment within the system of Chinese Medicine, is an effective method to reduce stress. Not only does acupuncture and Chinese Medicine support us when we are stressed, but they can also help prevent physical reactions from future stressors. It can directly and positively influence how we experience our world around us. Aaah, doesn't that give a sigh of relief?

Want to learn more how acupuncture can help reduce stress and improve your quality of life? Email or call me.

Introduction to the Five Elements - Wood

Spring has sprung!

The vibration is in the air. A warm breeze is encouraging the seed to burst forth and make its way to the light.

From the dormancy of Winter, the movement of Spring takes us up and out!

We have entered Spring, the season of WOOD.

Wood ’s color is green, its sound is shouting, the odor is rancid, and its emotion is anger.

What does this all mean?
Again, like in our reading on Metal and Water, it is a resonance. The color green represents the budding leaf. It is the color that reflects off of one’s skin who has a constitution heavily influenced by the Wood element. It is usually seen around the temples or sides of the mouth. It is the color reflected, not absorbed.

A Wood person’s voice will have a shouting quality independent of the content of the words. "Hey! You! Let's Go!" The sounds have a pointed direction.

The odor of Wood is rancid. Not in a bad smelling way, (again so much is lost in translation) but in the way the smell of fresh cut grass directs its way to the back of your nose.

There is an up and out to Wood Spring. Spring is our time to move from the dormancy of Winter and burst forth with change. Wood is a living element that of change and creativity.

How do we embrace the change of Spring?
We have our clarity from Autumn in what we truly value. We have conserved our energy during Winter. Spring is our time to charge forward and use the resonance of the season to evoke movement forward, towards the light.

Confucius speaks of the transformation of virtues for each element. Wood is the transformation from anger into benevolence. Anger being the acute awareness of injustice. "This isn't right and it's pissing me off!" The virtue in that fervor transforms through change. The energy of Wood is the superhero who says, "This isn't right and I'm going to do something about it." The benevolence comes from that act of change, which not only helps the person doing the changing, but when brought with Heart, benefits the whole community.

Physically, when we don't change (e.g., change our amount of sleep, of exercise, our diet, etc.), the lack of needed change can cause stagnation. This stagnation can manifest as headaches, sciatic pain, insomnia, frustration, etc. Luckily, acupuncture and Chinese medicine can effectively treat these and many other conditions.

An exercise for strengthening our Wood in spring.

I encourage you to experience change in ways we can embrace. Try re-arranging your furniture. Explore a new route to work or school. How can we be flexible with change? With a new arrangement or route, we are opening our eyes to see the same things differently. This in the comfort of our own home, our own car. This conscious and welcome change opens us to seeing the newness and possibilities of some perhaps unwanted change.

Keeping Up Our Immunity

The seasons are changing...

and in this seasonal transition we can find ourselves getting sick.

The change of the seasons can first be detected around dusk and dawn. The transition from day to night gives signs of the incoming season. Feeling a warm breeze gives a hint of spring and yet tomorrow the temperatures may drop again. No wonder our bodies don't know how to adjust to the season, the season hasn't itself adjusted! It is this time of change and unpredictability that our immunity can waiver.

We know how to keep our immune system strong:

Stay away from refined sugars
Drink plenty of water
Get enough sleep

What can we do when we feel that tickle in our throat? or the slightest bit of skin sensitivity? How do we fight the good fight and win?

Continue to avoid refined sugar and get enough sleep.
Take 1 tsp of apple cider vinegar hourly - Apple cider is a fermented food and carries valuable probiotics. The idea is to crowd out the invading bacteria or virus with good healthy bacteria.
Gargle with warm salt water - The salt water changes the conditions in our mouth (our first line of microbial defense) to create an inhospitable environment to the invading pathogen.
Get acupuncture! Yes!! Did you know that acupuncture and the correct herbal formula can help kick that viral or bacterial invader out? That it can boost your immune system to prevent getting sick and shorten the time of being sick? Well it can!

Introduction to the Five Elements - Water

Water is the seed of life.

When searching for the ability for other planets to sustain life, researchers look for evidence of liquid water.

The Taoists see water at the ultimate potential. Who we are at our most fundamental root; what is in our bones, our DNA.

We have entered winter, the season of WATER.
Water’s color is blue, its sound is groaning, the odor is putrid, and its emotion is fear.

What does this all mean?
Again, like in our reading on Metal, it is a resonance. The color blue represents the sea. It is the color that reflects off of one’s skin who has a strong Water constitution. It is usually seen around the temples or sides of the mouth. It is the color reflected, not absorbed.

A Water person’s voice will have a groaning quality independent of the content of the words (think Marge Simpson..."Oh Homey...rrmm") .

The odor of Water is putrid. Not in a “ewww this person smells putrid" (so much is lost in translation) but in the way an ocean leaves its mist in your nose or a pond makes the surrounding air moist.

There is a sinking direction to Water. Winter is a time to hibernate. Where we do less and rest more.

How do we settle into winter?
We have our clarity from autumn in what we truly value. We have purged what is not serving us and what is not important. We are left with our essentials to survive winter. How well we come through the darkness relies heavily on Who we are, as individuals. What grit are we made of? How does what we value feed our ability to sustain the winter?

Confucius speaks of the transformation of virtues for each element. Water is the transformation from fear into wisdom. Fear being the acute awareness of what we don't know.

Fear can bring us into our bones and test what we are made of. Through surrender we transform fear into wisdom. Wisdom is not an "I know more then you" or a collection of data points, but as the ability to navigate the unknown. The ability to sit in the darkness and simply be present, using our own internal light as our guide.

An exercise for strengthening our Water in winter.

"We often think of rest as something that will come when everything else is complete, like when we go on a holiday or when our work is done. We imagine that we can only find rest by changing the conditions of our life. But it is possible to discover rest right in the middle of chaos. It is experienced when we bring our full attention, without distraction, to this activity. This place of rest is always available. We need only turn toward it." --Frank Ostaseski, Alaya Institute.

I encourage you to experience rest when times are quiet and when they are busy. To reduce the multi-tasking and focus on one thing at a time. Pay attention to how we are habituated to have a gazillion things happening at once. How there may be mental, even physical resistance to the slowing down. I urge you to stick with the discomfort, a greater sense of peace and internal quiet is your reward.

Discovering What We Value and What We Don't

The Metal element doesn't just highlight what we value
but also helps us rid ourselves of what we do not.

Autumn is a time for paring down. As we bring our energy inward and downward in preparation for the hibernation of winter, we need to bring in what we value and release what we do not.

The previous exercising of bowing to beauty helps us physically identify what we value. What is beautiful to us. The outward nodding of our head, or more yet, a bending at the waist, sends a physical cue to our mind and spirit to take pause and acknowledge beauty. This effectively slows time, and brings in a sense of awe.

How do we figure out what we do NOT value?

The ability to become clear about what is important and what is not important is a liberating endeavor. Are we going to spend our time laboring over that one piece of hair that refuses to conform with the rest? Is it important if your sister approves of your children's clothing choices?

Thea Elijah, my mentor says, "Understanding what doesn’t matter to us can open up so much breathing space, so much freedom to pursue what is truly important. It’s like getting all the clutter out of the house. Bow to everything -- and then release from your considerations anything that doesn’t actually serve 'a good life.'"

What things create a "good life" for you?

Health? Love? Delicious food? Silent moments in nature? Now is the time to honor yourself and in service to your Heart, hone in on what is really worth it.

Five Elements - Metal

Though we cannot speak of the Tao...

we can speak of the Five Elements composing the Tao - Fire, Earth, Metal, Water, and Wood.

The Five Elements give us a map on how to look at the universe around us
and a language to describe it. We can speak of how external / seasonal
changes influence our internal landscape. We are able to create a
dialogue based on these elements that describe the body when it is in
health and when it has fallen out of health. 

We have entered autumn, the season of METAL.

Metal’s color is white, its sound is weeping, the odor is rotten, and its emotion is grief. What does this all mean?

It is a resonance. The color white represents the color of the metals of
earth. It is the color that reflects off of one’s skin who has a strong
Metal influence. It is usually seen around the temples or sides of the
mouth. It is the color reflected, not absorbed.  A Metal person’s voice will have a weepy or breathy quality (think Marilyn Monroe) independent of the content of the words. 

The odor of Metal is rotten. Not in a “ewww this person smells rotten” but
in the way autumn leaves begin the process of adding minerals back into
the earth. 

There is a downward and inward direction to Metal. Fall is a time to come in-doors, cozy up by the fire, prepare for the
winter to come. 

How do we prepare for winter in autumn?

Do we strip off our clothes and run around outside? Or is it time to come
in, internalize, begin the layering to keep warm. It is the time when we
determine what is important. What do we need to make it through this
winter? What do I truly value? 

Confucius speaks of the transformation of virtues for each element.  Metal is the transformation of virtue from grief to righteousness. Grief being the acute awareness of what is not beautiful, what is not heavenly. Grief highlights for us
what is important, and what is not. Through acceptance we transform
grief into righteousness. Righteousness is not, “I am more lofty and
closer to God then you” but as having the ability to see beauty in all
things (even death). It is the ability to see the divine in ALL things. 

An exercise for strengthening our Metal in autumn. My mentor, Thea Elijah, gave this exercise that I love doing and thought I would pass it on. An
attribute of Metal is to have clarity on what we value. For the next
week, whenever you see something of beauty, stop, and bow. If bowing
“randomly” in public when you see a beautiful leaf makes you feel a bit
self-conscious, simply stop and feel that sense of deep internal
gratitude. The physical act of bowing may help make those moments more
obvious, but play with doing both. How does physically bowing feel
different from an internal bow? Can you have that sense of deep heart
without physically bowing?