Wednesday, March 20, 2019

How does Chinese medicine relate to springtime energetics?

The origins of Chinese medicine are lost in prehistory, pre written language, but as with all models of medicine, to truly understand Chinese medicine, one must look to its foundation in the prevailing thoughts, beliefs and philosophy of its culture. The original creators of Chinese Medicine strived to be in harmony with nature. These healers looked to the natural world for patterns and extended their findings to describe the inner workings of the human body.

The first theory to appear in Chinese medicine was the Yin-Yang theory. Yin-Yang theory dates back to antiquity and first appeared in the “Book of Changes”, dating back to about 700 BC. In this theory, all of existence is viewed in terms of relational Yin and Yang.

By the fourth century BC, Chinese medical theory had grown to include the idea of the Five Phases or Five Elements. Through observation and deduction, theses early healers organized the laws governing nature into the Five-Element System, a model used to explain the functional dynamics of our bodies, our spirits and all phenomena.

Each of the five elements represents a set of correspondences  that describe the different qualities of all natural phenomena - earth, metal, water, wood and fire are like shorthand ways of referring to an energetic quality, a color, a sound, an odor, an emotion, a season, and an organ system. It’s a language that allows us to grasp and communicate a complex set of qualities and relationships.

Wood is associated with spring. At this time of year, the woody plants and vegetation of the natural world take center stage surrounding us with a sense of renewal, growth, and creativity. Wood represents birth and an uprising of Yang energy.

Here is the story of wood:

Imagine a bamboo sprout, pushing its way up through the earth's crust to seek out the sun.  Bamboo's mission in life is to reach for sunlight, and so with a burst of energy, bamboo grows straight up toward the sun. Spring weather is unpredictable and windy but bamboo is not rigid and is able to bend and yield without breaking. As the spring winds subsides, the bamboo is able to stand upright again and continue forward on its path of growth toward the sun. Balanced wood energy stays flexible and always moves forward.

Wood energy physically manifests in our Liver and Gallbladder.  The Liver is a Yin organ, and as all Yin organs, its functions relate to our inner world. The Liver is responsible for manifesting our deeper life goals by creating a vision for our future and plan of action to take us there.  The Gallbladder is the Yang of the pair and acts more externally.  It processes information about our life's situation and transmits its findings to the liver. It also actualizes whatever plan the liver sets forth.  The two work together to allow us to travel through life as a free and easy wanderer following the path of inner wisdom, facing curves in the road with creative spontaneity.  

To embody wood in balance is to remain flexible in the face of life's ups and downs, to grow up out of your roots following your inner wisdom like our little bamboo shoot reaching for the sun.  When this creative energy is not expressed qi stagnation occurs and feelings of frustration, anger and depression can arise along with a host of corresponding physical complaints.

It is very common to see Liver/Gallbladder  imbalances aggravated in the spring. In my own clinic, I see more cases of irritability, teeth grinding, insomnia, headaches, neck stiffness, shoulder tension, hip pain and eye issues.

How do you engender wood in balance? 

Maintain an attitude of detached objectivity. When you are not attached to a particular outcome or a certain way things "should" be, it's easy to be flexible and spontaneous.

Practice meditation and Qi Gong.  These practices allow you to tap into your inner wisdom and all the treasures of your internal resources.  Take the time to know yourself and let your inner wisdom guide you.

When you do face a bump in the road or some sort of obstacle, it's easy to become reactionary or just give up all together.  Instead take the time to evaluate where you are, where you want to be and decide on a plan to get there. Contemplation and meditation really help this process - so does list making and journaling.

Keep moving. Walking, t’ai chi, yoga and exercise of any sort keeps qi from stagnating and prevents many of the problems associated with Liver/Gallbladder imbalances.

Give yourself lots of fresh foods, water and time to eat well. Fruits, vegetables and herbs nourish and cleanse our bodies. Move away from eating heavier winter foods and embrace the spring by eating in tune with the season's bounty.

Take care of your physical body.  When you are in optimal health, it's so much easier to maintain the free flowing qi you need to keep moving forward.  When your qi gets stuck you get stuck and problems arise in your body, mind and spirit. The Liver is responsible for ensuring the smooth flow of qi through the body; so, give it special care especially during this season.

It's not hard to stay in balance, but in the demanding world we live in, it does require that we stay awake and aware.  Don't let stress throw you out of balance, keep up your good habits and ask for help when you need it.

Maciocia, Giovanni. The Foundations of Chinese Medicine. London: Churchhill Livingstone, 1989.
Kaptchuk, Ted J. The Web That Has No Weaver. Chicago: Contemporary, 2000.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Featured Formula: Bright Eye Rehmannia (Ming Mu Di Huang Wan):

Featured Formula: Bright Eye Rehmannia (Ming Mu Di Huang Wan):

Bright Eyes Rehmmania is the Chinese medicine go-to formula for a wide range of eye conditions. We use it for red, itchy, allergy eyes, eye strain and fatigue, floaters, night blindness, blurry vision, glaucoma… in other words almost all things eye related!
The eyes are the sense organ connected to the Liver. If the Liver has Heat, the eyes will be red, painful or burning. If it is Wind Heat, there will also be itching. If the Liver is Yin deficient, it can not moisten and nourish the eyes, vision can decline, floaters can appear and the eyes may feel dry or gritty.

Derived from one of Chinese medicine’s most important Yin tonics, Bright Eye Rehmmania supplements the Yin of the Kidneys and Liver, nourishes the eyes, supports healthy vision and provides a grounding force for Liver Yang. It is an elegant formula that combines the six ingredients of Liu Wei Di Huang Wan with six ingredients that focus the action on the Liver and eyes.
Because it is such a powerful Yin tonic, we can use it whenever foundational Yin becomes depleted, showing up as occasional low back discomfort, sore legs, frequent urination, dizziness or light-headedness. When any part of a person becomes dry, withered, brittle, rough, shaky or unstable, Yin has the power to moisten, soften and stabilize. We need Yin in order to be graceful, still and quiet, and we need Liver Yin in particular to maintain our capacity to turn inward, to envision our path and to organize our actions to follow that path. Yin deficient patterns often arise when we participate in a hectic, pressured lifestyle that drains us. Bright Eye Rehmannia is used to restore inner calm and resilience when one is under pressure, agitated, unsettled or nervous and uneasy.

Key words: Yin tonic, Liver, Kidneys, eyes, vision, moisten and nourish

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Guayusa ~ Night Watchman's Tea

I have been challenged to write my dreams down every morning for a month.  I love this practice because it connects me to thoughts and concerns that lurk below the surface of my conscious mind. The only problem is that I often have a hard time remembering my dreams

One of my girlfriends mentioned that she has the same difficulty and turned me on to guayusa for help with dream recall. I did a little research and found a wealth of info on the web. Guayusa is a holly tree native to Ecuador whose leaves are brewed like tea. It's in the same family as herba mate.  Indigenous peoples in the Amazon use the tea in a morning ceremony in which participants arise in the early morning hours, brew and drink the tea then share their dreams with one another. It is known as a dream aider that helps you cultivate intuition, connect to the spirit realm and recall your dreams. It is a healer plant used for many purposes and is considered a tonic. It's high in antioxidants and contains caffeine, theobromine and l-theanine. It could it be a great addition to a dream recall practice and is available locally in the tea section of stores like Natural Grocers and Whole Foods. 

Read more about the morning guayusa ceremony:  

Because of its caffeine content, guayusa is contraindicated for use with these conditions: High Blood Pressure, Recent Heart Attack, Abnormal Heart Rhythm, Ulcer from Stomach Acid, Inflamed Colon and Small Intestine with Some Tissue Death, Severe Liver Disease, Seizures, Chronic Trouble Sleeping, Moderate to Severe Kidney Impairment

Wishing you the best,

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

August Recipe - Baingan Bharta

One of my clients shared this recipe for Baingan Bharta with me, and I just can't get enough. Besides being inexpensive and easy to prepare, it's flavorful and hearty, dairy free but creamy and absolutely scrumptious. Serve it with rice or naan, and you're in for an epicurean delight!

Baingan Bharta

serves 4-6


  • 1 large eggplant
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 chopped yellow onion
  • 1 chopped jalapeno pepper
  • 1 inch minced piece of fresh ginger
  • 1 15-oz can diced tomatoes
  • 3 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 bunch cilantro


  • Preheat oven to 400.
  • Half eggplant lengthwise.
  • Rub both sides with olive oil.
  • Sprinkle the meaty side with salt.
  • Roast, skin side up for 25-30 minutes until tender.
  • Set oven to broil and roast an additional 5 minutes.
  • Saute chopped onion in olive oil until tender.
  • Add chopped jalapeno and minced ginger and saute another 5 minutes.
  • Add spices and stir until you begin to smell the spices.
  • Scoop out the flesh of cooled eggplant into a bowl and discard the skin.
  • Add the eggplant and diced tomatoes to the onion spice mixture and stir together.
  • Cook together for another 5 minutes.
  • Puree in a blender or food processor until smooth.
  • Top with cilantro and serve.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Nepal Vegetable Curry

Late summer is definitely here. It's easy to attune with this season through diet. Eat simple, well cooked meals that are easy to digest. Choose foods like millet, carrots, cabbage, garbanzo beans, squash, potatoes, string beams, yams, sweet potatoes, rice, amaranth, peas, chestnuts, filberts, apricots and cantaloupe.

I love this simple Nepal Vegetable Curry from Paul Pitchford's Healing With Whole Foods:

1 onion, chopped

1 tablespoon oil

1 bay leaf, broken

1 green chili, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

1 inch ginger grated

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

sea salt to taste

1 pound potatoes or carrots, cubed

1/2 cauliflower, broken into florets

1 cup green peas

1 teaspoon each coriander and cumin seeds

1 cup hot water or almond milk

  • saute onion until golden brown
  • add bay leaf, chili, garlic, ginger, turmeric and salt.
  • stir in potatoes and saute until brown
  • add remaining ingredients and hot water
  • cook gently on medium heat until vegetables are tender
  • serves 4 - 6
If you're interested in more information and recipes, check out the book through the "I Recommend" widget in the right hand column of this blog!

Late Summer

According to the principles of Chinese medicine, we have just entered Late Summer, the time of year that corresponds to the earth element and the organs of the Spleen and Stomach. This season lasts approximately from late July through mid-September. Now is the time to nourish your earth element and protect your Spleen and Stomach to keep them strong.

In Chinese medicine, your Spleen is responsible for the assimilation and transportation of nutrients. In other words, it is responsible for metabolism. The absorbing and transporting function of your Spleen produces Qi and Blood and is directly reflected in the development of your flesh and muscles.

Spleen Qi is responsible for holding your organs in place and your Blood in vessels. Its lifting quality holds your organs in place, and just as rivers and streams are contained by an earthen bed, the body's blood is contained in the channels by the yin organ of the earth element. Weak Spleen Qi can manifest as prolapsed organs, easy bruising or irregular menstruation.

Mental processes like thinking and remembering are attributed to your Spleen because it houses Yi, the spirit of the intellect. A person with poor digestion may have a hard time thinking clearly, and if a person thinks or worries too much, it can easily lead to digestive disturbances like poor appetite, diarrhea, or constipation.

The flavor associated with the earth element is sweet. Sweet refers not just to plain sugar, but also sweet tasting foods like sweet grains and potatoes. A little sweet strengthens the Spleen while too much weakens it.

The best way to protect your Spleen and Stomach is through diet. Think of your Spleen as a small camp fire. Your camp fire needs fuel. If you skip a meal, you deny it that fuel, and it will dwindle - skip too many and the fire will go out altogether. Your Spleen needs fuel that is easy to burn. Eating foods that are difficult to digest and overeating in general is like throwing a huge log onto your campfire which will smother the flame. The best way to support your Spleen is to eat small meals of easily digested food. Foods that are cooked and warm are most easily assimilated. Raw foods, salads, juices and fruits should be limited and balanced with garlic, black pepper, cardamom or fresh ginger. Likewise, iced drinks and cold foods like ice cream should be limited and balanced with warming spices to protect digestion. Eating like this will promote good digestion. Although these tips are especially important during late summer, it's a good idea to protect your Spleen and Stomach all year long.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Mystic Music To Set The Mood

A Record Review

I was at a yoga workshop when I first heard Jai Hanuman. The song started with the sound of dolphins singing as water pushes against a shore. By the time the instruments came in, I was no longer sitting on the on the cold hard wood floor surrounded by a hundred other yogi's. I had been transported to a place beyond the relative world of time and space. I felt my heart open in a way that only great art can initiate. I fell in love with the song and knew I had to hear more.

The artists, Shaman's Dream Music Collective, has been described as "a group of musicians, artists, and producers dedicated to creating peace and unity through music, dance, art and ritual. Be it yoga, meditation, ecstatic dance or just the act of daily living, the music of Shaman's Dream is an ideal accompaniment that supports the path towards wellness and joy."

The album is called Kerala Dream. It is 71 minutes of undulating beauty that infuses environmental sounds, rich ambient textures, and gentle pulsing down tempo rhythms. The vocals are both exotic and familiar at the same time. These layers entwine with flutes, sitar, bass, and hand drums to invoke a state of inspired introspection. I use this album to set the mood for all types of yogic practices, massage, and anytime I want to feel soft, open, and creative.

For more information, check out Shaman's Dream Music Collective's website. To purchase Kerala Dream, please use the I Recommend widget in the right hand column this blog ! Enjoy!