Springtime Health

April 14th, 2020

Green Seedling 300x199 Springtime Health

Spring is here now in full swing, with Nature coming alive after her winter sleep. Tree buds and blossoms on display, green seedlings poking their way up out of the garden soil, birds and other animals scurrying around tending to their nests – springtime is a period of vigorous growth and activity.

According to the Five Phases theory of Traditional Chinese Medicine, springtime is associated with the Wood phase and its related organ, the Liver. Unlike wintertime, where Nature retreats inwardly to hibernate and becomes more still and silent, springtime relates to centrifugal movement, similar to how new plant growth sprouts upwards and outwards.

This upwards and outwards movement of energy is especially important in keeping the Liver system healthy and in balance. If it becomes stuck and stagnant in the acupuncture meridian pathways, a wide variety of symptoms can be experienced, including:

  • migraine headaches
  • neck tension
  • sciatica pain
  • irritability or moodiness
  • stress
  • depression
  • PMS
  • irregular or painful menstrual periods
  • indigestion or heartburn
  • irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

Many of our lifestyle choices and habits can have a negative impact in causing this stuck energy and stagnation in our Liver system, such as eating too many refined or heavy foods including sugar and meat.

Emotional factors are also a very important aspect to the health of the Liver system, so learning how to deal with stress and let go of negative emotions is vital to maintaining a healthy balance and allowing our Liver energy to flow properly and circulate throughout our bodies.

Additional Tips for a Healthier Liver

  1. Pucker up – from the Five Phase theory of acupuncture, the sour flavour is associated with the Liver. Adding a spoonful of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar to drink in a glass of water, or using them as a simple homemade salad dressing is an easy way to incorporate more sour flavours into our daily diet.
  2. Eat your greens – again from the Five Phase theory, the green colour is connected to the Liver system. Eating a wide variety of greens, including kale, cabbage, bok choy, broccoli, rapini, mustard greens, arugula, salad greens, barley greens, wheat grass, spirulina, and chlorella can help to support good Liver health. The Daily Dozen from Dr. Michael Greger of NutritionFacts.org is an easy to use checklist that can help remind us to get our daily dose of greens and other important nutrients into our regular diet.
  3. Let go and de-stress – as mentioned, regulating our emotions is an important part of caring for our health. Learning how to let go of negative emotions, in particular anger and resentment which are both directly linked to stagnation in the Liver system, is a difficult and lifelong process but can have a profoundly positive effect on our overall health.

A Varied Diet

October 9th, 2019

Colourful Vegetables 300x198 A Varied Diet

We’ve probably all been told to eat a healthy and varied diet but what does that actually mean?

In a recent review of research articles about nutrition and health, one of the clues was that eating a larger variety of vegetables and fruits can lead to a reduced risk of a number of common diseases, including type 2 diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, a theory called the Five Phases has been used for thousands of years to analyze the human body and health but can also be used to examine food as well.

The first common method of categorizing foods according to the Five Phases is by their flavours and a healthy balanced diet should try to incorporate all of them. The five flavours, along with some examples are:

  • Sour – lemons, limes, berries, sauerkraut
  • Bitter – salad greens, arugula, dandelion greens, burdock root
  • Sweet – potatoes, yams, legumes, most fruit
  • Pungent – garlic, onions, ginger, radishes, turnips
  • Salty – seaweeds such as nori, wakame, and kombu, sea salt, miso paste

Each flavour is described as having a specific type of action within the body as well as linked to a particular organ. For example, the sour flavour is astringent and contracting and is most active on the Liver meridian system and so lemon water, with its sour properties, is a drink commonly used to help support liver health.

Another way of categorizing foods according to the Five Phases is by their colours with again trying to consistently eat some of each in our diet:

  • Green – dark leafy greens, broccoli, kale, green peas
  • Red – tomatoes, beets, red lentils, kidney beans
  • Yellow – yams, squash, carrots, chickpeas
  • White – daikon radish, white onions, mushrooms, navy beans
  • Black – berries, plums, black beans

It is interesting to note that modern nutrition is also recognizing the importance of eating all of the variously coloured vegetables and fruits. Phytonutrients such as glucosinolates, lycopene, beta-carotene, anthoxanthins, and anthocyanins are all associated with specific colours and so eating the full spectrum can be beneficial to our health.

For a more modern high-tech way of keeping track of the variety of healthy foods in our diet, Dr. Michael Greger from NutritionFacts.org has come up with his Daily Dozen checklist, also available as a free app, and is well worth checking out.

By adding a wider variety of vegetables and fruits into our daily diet, we can experience better health, not to mention enjoy tastier food and more adventurous meals, in our everyday lives.

We’ve probably all been told to eat a healthy and varied diet but what does that actually mean?

In a recent review of research articles about nutrition and health, one of the clues was that eating a larger variety of vegetables and fruits can lead to a reduced risk of a number of common diseases, including type 2 diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.

Staying Warm

February 15th, 2019

Snow Shovel Car 300x199 Staying Warm

As our winter season continues to trudge along, many people are trying to escape the cold, whether it’s by cranking up the thermostat at home or travelling on holidays to somewhere sunny and warm.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine theory, cold isn’t just something to deal with in wintertime; Cold is actually viewed as a potential cause of illness and health problems. Under normal circumstances, a healthy person is able to adapt to their natural surroundings and environment. However, these environmental factors, including Cold, can invade the body if it is in a weakened state and produce a wide range of symptoms depending on what specific area has been affected.

For example, asthma, coughing, fatigue, a sensitive or weak digestive tract, joint pain, muscle cramps, menstrual disorders, headaches, or chronic back pain are just some of the symptoms that can result from Cold entering into the body.

In order to help our bodies adapt better and stay healthier, there are some simple things that we can do in our daily lives:

  1. Warming diet – many people naturally tend to crave warming foods in the winter – soups, stews, and other similar comfort foods are ideal for this time of year. Adding some warming spices such as cinnamon, ginger, pepper, and clove can also be beneficial.
  2. Warming exercise – moderate exercise on a daily basis can improve the blood and energy circulation throughout the body. Moderate is the key word though, as too much intensity, especially when resulting in excessive sweating, can actually have the opposite effect.
  3. Warming abdomen – many acupuncture patients have experienced the benefits of moxibustion, a type of herbal heat therapy, on their abdomen to help with their health issues. Although doing moxa treatment at home isn’t always practical, keeping the abdomen area warm is still important in maintaining overall good health. In fact in Japan, a traditional type of garment called Hara Maki (literally translated as “belly wrap”) is worn to keep the lower abdomen and lumbar area cozy warm by retaining heat, which in turn has the effect of keeping the rest of the body warm as well.

Although it might not be quite the same as lounging on a tropical beach, these habits can still be useful in helping us to get through the winter and stay a little warmer.

Acupuncture and ICBC Car Insurance

November 19th, 2018

Car Traffic Light 300x199 Acupuncture and ICBC Car Insurance

The Province of British Columbia has recently released new regulations regarding changes to auto insurance coverage and compensation provided by ICBC.

These changes, which will take effect on April 1st, 2019, are an attempt to reduce legal costs while improving access to healthcare treatments and saving customers out of pocket expenses on their road to recovery.

Acupuncture is one of the treatment modalities which will be directly covered by ICBC and will include 12 pre-authorized visits within the first 12 weeks following a claimant’s motor vehicle accident, with additional acupuncture treatments being covered on a case by case basis.

More details are available on the ICBC website.

Light and Darkness – Daylight Saving Time

March 8th, 2018

Day Night 252x300 Light and Darkness   Daylight Saving Time

Daylight Savings Time (DST) is almost here, just in time to throw off our natural body clock and potentially increase the incidences of a variety of health issues, including fatigue, accidents, depression, and heart attacks.

Even though it’s only a difference of 1 hour, DST can create just enough of a change to stress our bodies and disturb our natural rhythm, leaving us feeling “off” for a few days until we readjust to the new time.

However, there are some simple changes that we can make in our daily routines to help our bodies adapt and keep us more awake during the day and get better sleep at night:

  1. Seek daylight – Our body clocks are extremely sensitive to changes in light and darkness. Unfortunately, we spend most of our daytime hours stuck inside at work, often under artificial lighting. Taking time to go outside at noon on our lunch break, even if it’s cloudy and overcast, can help to reset our body clock and make us more awake during the daytime.
  2. Less blue at night – The light emitted from electronic devices, including computer screens and televisions, contains a lot of the blue light spectrum which tends to trick the body into thinking that it’s actually daylight. If you do need to use a computer in the evening, there are various software programs available such as f.lux or Night Shift that help to reduce the amount of blue light emitted from the computer screen. For those who watch television at night, turning off the tv an hour or two before bedtime can be helpful in preparing for sleep.
  3. Seek darkness – When it’s time to go to bed, try to have as dark of a room as possible. This ideally means blackout curtains and removing or blocking out any sort of light source including LED alarm clocks or other electronics that emit light.

By making some simple and positive changes to our lives, we can get just a little bit closer to living more in harmony with Nature, or as the 2,000 year old acupuncture textbook the Huang Di Nei Jing (The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Medicine) describes it:

“In ancient times there was a type of natural people who followed the Tao (the natural way of the universe) and were called naturalists. They lived in accordance with the rhythmic patterns of the seasons: heaven and earth, moon, sun, and stars. They aspired to follow the ways of ancient times, choosing not to lead excessive lifestyles. They lived plainly and enjoyed long life.”

Changing With The Seasons – Autumn

September 21st, 2017

Autumn 300x199 Changing With The Seasons   Autumn

As summer draws to a close and we enter into autumn, it’s a good opportunity to pay closer attention to our own health. In Traditional Oriental Medicine, the transitions between seasons are seen as an important period of time in which a person’s body is trying to re-calibrate and stay in harmony and balance with their natural environment.

As the 2,000 year old acupuncture textbook Huang Di Nei Jing (The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine) explains, as autumn approaches and the weather turns cooler, a shift in Nature begins and there is a turning inwards of its energy. This shift can clearly be seen in plants which have finished harvesting and now begin to focus inwards on conserving energy into their root system, an example of how the active quality of Yang transforms into the more passive quality of Yin.

The Yellow Emperor goes on to describe how during the summertime, people are usually more physically active and their moods are more relaxed and easygoing. However, as autumn begins, he explains how this should be a time for a person to become more inwardly focused and how learning to maintain a calm and peaceful spirit is an important aspect of this inward focus.

One of the suggestions of the Yellow Emperor to assist with the transition into autumn is to practice breathing exercises. In acupuncture theory, autumn is the season most closely associated with the Lung system, which in Eastern Medicine includes not only the lungs but also other areas of the body including the nasal sinuses, skin, energy circulation, and the immune system. By helping to regulate and strengthen the Lung system, many other aspects of our health can also be improved.

As we get back into our busy regular work and school routines, it’s easy to begin to ignore our health. However, taking a few minutes every day to have some quiet time and just focus on deep relaxed breathing can be a simple way to let go of stress and bring more awareness and vitality to our lives.

Goodbye Facebook

May 24th, 2017

FB 300x206 Goodbye Facebook

In the latest of a series of moves taken by Facebook that makes maintaining a business page even more difficult, they will soon be forcing business owners to also have a personal page in order to continue using their services, under the pretense of “improved security”. Because of ongoing privacy concerns, I have chosen not to do so and will therefore be shutting down my Facebook business page until further notice.

In the meantime, if you would like to keep in contact with me please feel free to visit my Acupuncture blog and sign up for my email newsletter at:


Thank you for your continued support.

Acupuncture and MSP

March 5th, 2017

Accounting 300x199 Acupuncture and MSP

As of January 1st, 2017, the British Columbia Medical Services Plan (MSP) has undergone changes to the fee structure of premium payments.

For those lower income households who are under MSP Premium Assistance, MSP may cover $23 per acupuncture treatment, up to a limit of 10 visits per year (with the 10 visit limit being shared by acupuncture, massage therapy, naturopathy, chiropractic, physical therapy, and non-surgical podiatry).

The main change that affects acupuncture treatment is that more people may qualify for the MSP Premium Assistance plan. The new annual family income limit has been raised to $42,000 (up from $30,000). Rates are calculated on the previous tax year, so if you think you may now qualify, more info on MSP Premium Assistance can be found here.

Not So Sweet

January 23rd, 2017

Sugar 300x212 Not So Sweet

As we begin the New Year, many of us may have made resolutions to improve our health – whether it was to eat a healthier diet, get more regular exercise, or lose some excess weight.

Perhaps one of the best things we could all do to improve our health would be to go through our kitchen pantry and look for an ingredient hidden in many of our foods without us even realizing it – sugar.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the sweet flavour is understood to help support the Spleen-Pancreas system including digestion, mental focus, and muscle tone.

In ancient times, these nourishing sweet foods took the form of unrefined whole foods such as grains, legumes, root vegetables, and fruit. However, in modern society too much of our food is highly processed and contains various forms of refined sugar which can have completely different effects on our bodies than their whole food counterparts.

A recent article looking at the health effects of sugar cited a study of common everyday food items revealing that more than 2/3 of them contain added refined sugar and that serious chronic health conditions including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer are all linked to sugar. Emotional symptoms such as mood swings, irritability, brain fog, and difficulty focusing can also be a result of excess sugar in the diet.

Because sugar can be so addictive, not only on a physical level but also as a temporary emotional comfort, it can be very difficult trying to remove it from our diet. However, small steps can be taken to reduce our refined sugar intake and help to improve our health.

  1. Read those labels – Sugar takes different forms and may be referred to by many other names, including sucrose, glucose, fructose, and corn syrup. The majority of prepared or packaged foods contain some type of added sugar, so careful label reading and comparison shopping can help us make better food choices.
  2. Use healthier sweeteners – Less refined sweeteners such as rice syrup, maple syrup, barley malt, molasses, and dates can provide a healthier alternative to refined sugar to help satisfy a sweet tooth but should still be only used in small quantities. It may take some time to get used to their less sweet flavour but eventually the sense of taste will adapt. Note: The use of artificial sweeteners such as aspartame is associated with its own set of health problems so is best avoided.
  3. Gradual change – Eating more plant-based foods that contain a good balance of complex carbohydrates and protein including chickpeas and black beans, as well as the yellow and orange coloured vegetables such as carrots, yams, and squash can help reduce the cravings when sugar consumption is reduced. Even when it’s difficult to completely stay away from sugar in our diet, it’s good to remember that overindulgence doesn’t have to be permanent and that we can choose to start back up again with healthier eating habits.

Is Your Work Affecting Your Health?

August 29th, 2016

Work Stress 300x199 Is Your Work Affecting Your Health?

As summer holidays come to an end, most people probably aren’t looking forward to returning back to office drudgery and their regular work routine. Besides the typical mental and emotional stresses that our work environments can create, Traditional Oriental Medicine has recognized for thousands of years that our day to day work activities can also have an effect on our physical health as well.

For example, a sedentary office job that involves sitting at a desk for prolonged amounts of time can cause problems with the tendons and muscles, resulting in stiffness in the shoulders, neck tension, back pain, and headaches. When the body doesn’t get enough physical movement and activity throughout the day, even the digestive system can become weak and sluggish.

For those who spend most of their day stuck behind a desk, taking a few minutes every hour to get up and walk around can be a simple habit to add to your workday. Standing desks are also becoming a popular option, allowing users to easily shift positions throughout the day.

Just as prolonged sitting and a sedentary lifestyle can negatively affect the Liver system, the opposite extreme of too much physical activity can also create an unhealthy imbalance. Repetitive strain injuries, tendonitis, carpel tunnel syndrome, and shoulder pain are some of the symptoms that can result from repetition and overuse.

Becoming more conscious of tension in our bodies can help us learn how to relax and move more efficiently. Proper stretching exercises to relax the tendons can also play an important role in reducing strains and injuries.

Finally, Traditional Oriental Medicine recognizes that overuse of our eyes can also have a negative impact on our health. Because of the connection seen in Chinese medicine between eyesight and blood flow, this overuse can contribute to a condition known as Blood Deficiency, leading to a variety of symptoms including headaches, fatigue, and insomnia.

Staring all day at computers, smart phones, tablets, tv, video games – our eyes are working overtime more than ever. Taking time to disconnect from our electronics and spending time out in nature is important for relieving eye strain. A relaxation technique known as eye palming, which involves rubbing the hands together until they’re warm and then gently cupping them over closed eyes for several minutes, can also be used to relax and refresh the eyes.

The more that we can create healthier habits and become aware of our bodies throughout the day, the more we’re able to experience better health even when at work.

Stepping Into Spring

March 14th, 2016

Spring Crocus 300x212 Stepping Into Spring

As the trees begin to blossom and spring is just around the corner, it’s a good opportunity to take some time to look after our health for the year ahead.

In one of the oldest writings of Traditional Chinese Medicine, the acupuncture textbook Huang Di Nei Jing (The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine) states that:

“The three months of the spring season bring about the revitalization of all things in nature. It is the time of birth. This is when heaven and earth are reborn.”

The Yellow Emperor then goes on to make some practical suggestions for achieving a healthier lifestyle during this time of year:

  1. Get fresh air – If going for nature walks in the invigorating outdoors was suggested 2,000 years ago, how much more are we in need of it nowadays with long hours being spent indoors at the office and workplace? Spring is in the air – literally – so be sure to breathe some in!
  2. Exercise & Stretch – Just as Nature wakes up and becomes more active during the springtime, it’s good for us to take a similar cue in our own lives. Increasing our physical activity levels, including gentle stretching to loosen up those winter couch potato tendons and muscles, is an important aspect of improving our circulation and overall health. Maybe now is a good time to dust off those old New Year’s resolutions of getting more exercise and into better shape.
  3. Regulate the emotions – Perhaps the most important but easily overlooked advice is to regulate and care for our emotional health. Any extreme emotions and stress, but in particular anger and frustration, can be damaging to our health. The two previous points of advice of breathing and exercise can be helpful in this regard due to their calming effect on the body and nervous system. In addition, the lifelong process of learning to let go and forgive can be especially valuable to our own state of health and wellbeing.

Breathing, exercising, maintaining calmness – the Yellow Emperor’s advice from over 2,000 years ago still sounds like a good way to step into spring!

Back To The Grind

September 15th, 2015

Body Mind Soul Spirit 300x199 Back To The Grind

With the relaxing days of summer drawing to a close, most of us probably find our lives busier than ever. Back to school. Back to work. Back to our everyday routines.

It can be easy to get caught up in the stress and busyness of life and forget about looking after our own health. However, in the 2,000 year old acupuncture textbook the Huang Di Nei Jing (The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine), the Emperor’s court doctor gave some simple and practical advice in maintaining a healthy lifestyle:

“In the past, people practiced the Tao, the Way of Life. They understood the principle of balance, of Yin and Yang, as represented by the transformation of the energies of the universe. Thus, they formulated practices such as Dao-in, an exercise combining stretching, massaging, and breathing to promote energy flow, and meditation to help maintain and harmonize themselves with the universe. They ate a balanced diet at regular times, arose and retired at regular hours, avoided over stressing their bodies and minds, and refrained from overindulgence of all kinds. They maintained well-being of body and mind; thus, it is not surprising that they lived over one hundred years.”

Healthy habits for the body, regulating the emotions for the mind, nourishing the spirit – it was good advice back in ancient times and it’s probably needed now more than ever.

Diagnosis – Part 2: Listening

March 31st, 2015

Listening 150x150 Diagnosis   Part 2: Listening

In Traditional Oriental Medicine, all of the practitioner’s senses are used during diagnosis in order to help determine patterns of imbalance which may be causing sickness and symptoms in a person’s health.

As previously seen in Part 1, visual diagnosis was the first of four diagnostic examination methods described in the earliest textbooks of acupuncture written 2,000 years ago.

The second method is that of listening diagnosis. Although it is probably the least commonly used of the four main methods, it can still provide valuable information especially in helping to determine a person’s constitution body type.

For example, one aspect of listening diagnosis is observing the predominant characteristics of someone’s normal speaking voice. According to the Five Phase theory of Traditional Oriental Medicine, certain vocal tones or types of speech correspond to particular organ systems:

  • Liver – brusque, commanding
  • Heart – muttering
  • Spleen-Pancreas – variable pitch, sing-song
  • Lung – whiny, entreating
  • Kidney – raspy, groaning

Most people have a mixture of all of these vocal qualities, but usually one or two tend to dominate their normal speech patterns and can provide insight into which organ systems might have a predisposition toward becoming imbalanced.

In addition, the way a person enunciates certain vowel or consonant sounds while speaking can also provide meaningful information about their natural body type.

Although never solely relied upon, listening diagnosis, when combined with the other diagnostic tools of Traditional Oriental Medicine, can be useful for determining patterns of weaknesses and imbalances in a person’s body which can then be strengthened and regulated through acupuncture and other treatment methods to help improve their health.

Medicine in the Kitchen – Ginger

October 27th, 2014

Ginger 300x243 Medicine in the Kitchen   Ginger

It’s not a secret that many of the herbs used in Traditional Oriental Medicine are valued more for their medicinal properties than for their taste.

However, there are exceptions and fresh ginger root, or Sheng Jiang as it’s known in Chinese, is one of the most commonly used herbs in both TCM as well as the kitchen.

Fresh ginger is a key ingredient in many of the traditional formulas used for boosting the immune system and treating colds and flu, especially at the early stages with symptoms such as chills and body aches, nasal congestion, and coughing with mucous and phlegm.

Ginger is also beneficial for the digestive system and can be helpful for symptoms such as nausea and vomiting, whether it be from motion sickness when travelling or morning sickness during pregnancy. Because of its antibacterial action in the gastrointestinal tract, ginger can also soothe mild cases of food poisoning or other similar digestive upsets.

A simple tea can be made by grating 1 Tablespoon of fresh ginger root and gently simmering in 1 cup of hot water for no longer than about 5 minutes, otherwise the medicinal volatile oils may evaporate and reduce the overall efficacy. Several cups of the tea may be sipped throughout the day as needed.

A note of caution: because ginger root can stimulate blood circulation, it should be used with caution during pregnancy or in people who have a higher risk of bleeding such as those using blood thinner medication. When in doubt with any herbal medicine, you can always consult with your Registered Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioner.

Diagnosis – Part 1: Looking

June 24th, 2014

Looking 150x150 Diagnosis   Part 1: Looking

Traditional Oriental Medicine is unique in that it is not just disease or sickness which is looked at during diagnosis, but also the underlying imbalances within a person’s body which may have contributed to the symptoms in the first place.

Looking, or visual diagnosis, is the first of four main diagnostic methods described in the earliest textbooks. For example, the Huang Di Nei Jing (The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Medicine), written over 2,000 years ago, mentions about observing both the patient’s colour as well as their Shin, or spirit.

This first aspect of visual diagnosis, that of looking at the colour of the patient, is a reference to observing various parts of the body but especially the face – in particular the area around the eyes, forehead, nose, and mouth.

According to the Five Phase theory of Traditional Oriental Medicine, certain colours correspond to particular organ systems:

  • Liver – blue/green
  • Heart – red
  • Spleen-Pancreas – yellow
  • Lung – white
  • Kidney – black

A predominance of one or more colours, often subtle to the untrained eye, can frequently be associated with a person’s constitutional tendency toward an imbalance in that corresponding organ or acupuncture meridian system. However, it can also be an indication of a more acute or advanced state of disease, for example in extreme cases the yellowish colour of jaundice or the dark, ashen complexion of a late-stage cancer patient.

In children, these underlying colours of skin tone are often more easily noted than in adults and in fact is one of the main diagnostic methods used in a specialized form of pediatric acupuncture known as Shonishin, especially when treating infants and younger children who might otherwise be unable to communicate their symptoms.

A second aspect of visual diagnosis is that of observing the patient’s Shin (sometimes translated as spirit, heart, or mind). This is most commonly done by paying attention to the person’s eyes and face – a certain amount of vitality, aliveness, sparkle, brightness, and strength of life force can be seen in a healthy person.

As a part of visual diagnosis, making note of the general physique, skeletal structure, muscle tone, and skin luster can also provide important information about a person’s overall vitality and health.

All of these visual observations are used, along with the other diagnostic methods of Traditional Oriental Medicine, to help determine patterns of weaknesses and imbalances in a person’s body.

Treatment, whether it is through acupuncture and moxibustion, shiatsu massage, herbal medicine, or other techniques, is then aimed to strengthen and regulate the various organ systems, to correct underlying imbalances, and to help enhance the body’s own healing abilities.

Medicine in the Kitchen – Burdock

March 12th, 2014

Burdock 300x199 Medicine in the Kitchen   Burdock

Burdock – although sometimes regarded as a nuisance weed (the spiked burrs on the seeds can get trapped onto clothing or pet’s fur if walking through a patch of burdock plants and were the original inspiration for the invention of Velcro), it’s a valuable herb in both Western and Eastern herbal medicine.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, burdock seed is known as Niu Bang Zi and is often used in the treatment of Lung system disorders, ranging from skin problems such as rashes, eczema, and psoriasis to other inflammatory conditions such as tonsillitis and sore throat.

However, in Japan it is the root of the plant, known as Gobo, which is commonly used. Resembling an over-sized carrot and valued for its gentle cleansing detox properties, including helping to purify the blood and lymphatic system, gobo is used not only as medicine but is also eaten as a common everyday food.

Although a tea can be made from the dried root, usually the fresh format of burdock is preferred and can be found in many Asian or other well-stocked vegetable markets. Thinly sliced or grated, fresh burdock root makes a delicious and healthy addition to vegetable stir-fry or soup recipes.

A note of caution: because burdock can act as a mild uterine stimulant, it should not be used during pregnancy. When in doubt with any herbal medicine, you can always consult with your Registered Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioner.

Connecting Your Head and Heart – Creating Lasting Change

January 11th, 2014

The following is a guest blog article by Shirley Garrett and Dr. Owen Garrett, Reg’d Psychologist, of Leaps & Bounds Fitness

For many of us, making a resolution is an annual rite of passage that marks our entry into the New Year with a fresh start and a clear point of departure from the past – for a few days and weeks, there is hope that this is the year our resolutions will produce a lasting change.

Alas, for about 80% of us, whatever changes we’ve embarked upon will start to fade and be absorbed back into the old routines within weeks of the New Year. Getting started is not the hardest part to making a change – it is staying the course.

Setting Goals 300x199 Connecting Your Head and Heart   Creating Lasting Change

Here’s one thing to think about that may help you stay the course with achieving your resolutions: it starts with considering what’s in your head and your heart. What is meant here is that it’s important to identify and construct the motivation for your change in terms of Rationality and Logic (i.e. your head) and equally, in terms of Emotion and Desire (i.e. your heart). For lasting change, you must have both.

For example, if your goal is to lose weight, your logical and rational mind might tell you that losing weight is good because it will reduce your risk of developing Type II Diabetes as well as reduce the risk of having a heart attack. Those are great reasons and there’s plenty of medical research to demonstrate that loss of weight will reduce these health risks. However, if information was all that was needed for lasting behaviour change, we would all be on the road to immortality by considering how much health information we’re exposed to!

In other words, the rational mind is great for alerting us to what we should do, but information itself doesn’t give us the “oomph” to make the change and stick with it. For that, we need to challenge ourselves on a more emotional level. We need to give ourselves time to carefully answer questions like:

  • How would my life be different if I lost weight?
  • Would I have more energy? Sleep better?
  • If I lost weight, would I feel better? How meaningful would that be to me?
  • Would I feel better about myself? Have more confidence and a better self-image?

Important tip: It’s far more powerful to write down your answers to these questions rather than to just think about them.

The neuroscience of behaviour change tells us that while knowledge and intellect can point us in the right direction, it’s our emotional attachment to the change that provides the drive and energy necessary to maintain that change.

The bottom line is that we need to involve both our head and heart in order to make the commitment to change that remains durable in the face of the inevitable bumps in the road that would otherwise derail even the best of our intentions.

Happy New Year!

For more information about creating lasting change and achieving your health and fitness goals, you can contact Shirley and Owen Garrett at Leaps & Bounds Fitness


December 16th, 2013

The healing art of KoKoDo Shiatsu, like other methods of Traditional Oriental Medicine such as acupuncture and moxibustion, seeks to regulate and correct imbalances within the body, helping to restore a person to a healthier state of balance.

On the other hand, using the theory of Yin-Yang mutual opposites, its related martial art of KoKoDo JuJutsu actually creates more imbalance in a person and is a practical self-defence art aimed at neutralizing and subduing a violent attacker in a humane and non-injuring manner.

However, many of these martial art concepts can also be applied to everyday life and with continued practice help a person to become healthier.

Balance – one of the most fundamental concepts in KoKoDo JuJutsu is that of kuzushi, or creating off-balance in an attacker. More specifically, the skeletal structure of the aggressor is compromised, primarily by affecting the vertical alignment of their head, spine, pelvis, and feet. By creating these subtle shifts in balance, the attacker loses their power and can then be easily thrown with minimal effort.

Many common activities such as desk work and computer use tends to create bad posture in our body structure – we slouch in our chairs or have poor alignment as we strain to look at our computer screens, creating tension and imbalance in our necks, backs, and hips.

By paying more attention to our own body alignment throughout the day and making appropriate adjustments to our work environments, we can maintain better posture which helps to lessen the strain on our bodies and allows us to function more efficiently.

Tension – KoKoDo JuJutsu makes use of atemi-waza, or the touching, manipulation, and striking of various acupuncture meridians and points, in many of its techniques. The main purpose is to create tension, fear, and pain in the attacker’s body and mind which then facilitates locking, controlling, and subduing them.

As anyone who has experienced Shiatsu massage knows, areas of tension in the body can be quite painful and sensitive to the touch when being worked on. Learning how to relax these tight areas, whether by shiatsu, yoga, stretching, or other similar methods, can be useful for relieving tension and pain as well as allowing for more circulation of blood and energy to help promote the body’s own healing abilities.

Breath – students of KoKoDo JuJutsu spend half of their time taking ukemi, or receiving techniques, getting tossed around the mats with painful wristlocks and throws. In order to practise and receive these techniques safely, students learn how to relax when getting thrown and part of this training is knowing how to breathe properly in order to absorb the pain and force without being injured.

Most people tend to unconsciously hold their breath and create tension in their abdomen and ribcage when concentrating on a work task at hand or when under stress.

Learning how to pay attention to our breathing patterns throughout the day and becoming more conscious of proper deep abdominal breathing helps to relax the body, calm the mind, and allows us to be better able to deal with stress whether it’s physical, mental, or emotional.

For more information about the Traditional Japanese art of KoKoDo, you can visit Hombu Jikimon Sadohana Dojo

Smelling Disease

November 26th, 2013

Many of the diagnostic methods used in Traditional Japanese acupuncture are based on the practitioner using their physical sensory organs to detect changes and imbalances in their patients.

For example, diagnosis by smelling body odours is a fundamental technique and was recorded in medical textbooks over 2,000 years ago.

Certain odours were linked to particular organs according to Five Phase theory:

  • Liver – rancid, like raw meat
  • Heart – scorched, like burnt cooking
  • Spleen-Pancreas – fragrant, like sweet incense
  • Lung – fleshy, like fish
  • Kidney – rotten, like fermenting food

Nowadays, even with the widespread use of perfume, deodorant, toothpaste, and other hygiene products which can mask the body’s natural odours, observing scents can still provide useful information for diagnosis and acupuncture treatment.

It is interesting to note then that modern medical science is attempting to also make use of smells in diagnosing disease. For example, there is new research into odour-based early detection of ovarian cancer using high-tech sensors to capture the signature “smells” of certain cancer-related cells taken from blood samples of patients. It is hoped that someday these types of screenings might provide earlier warning and detection than is possible with current conventional testing.

Perhaps on closer examination and study, many of the time-tested concepts of Traditional Oriental Medicine aren’t so strange after all.

Medicine in the Kitchen – Cinnamon

October 22nd, 2013

Cinnamon1 300x183 Medicine in the Kitchen   Cinnamon

Cinnamon – it’s one of the most familiar spices in our kitchens, especially this time of year as the weather turns colder. It is also one of the most commonly used herbs in Traditional Chinese Medicine.

The outer bark of cinnamon is called Rou Gui in Chinese and is the form most people are familiar with. In TCM, the inner part of the branches is also used and is known as Gui Zhi.

Although there are some clinical differences in the usage between the two forms of cinnamon, they are both used primarily for their warming effect on the body.

For example, it is one of the main ingredients of a cold and flu herbal formula commonly prescribed when the person is experiencing chills and body aches.

Cinnamon can be used to warm up the digestive system for symptoms such as pain, cramps, and coldness of the abdomen and is also an important herb when the Kidney system is weak, with symptoms including lumbar weakness and lower back pain, fatigue, and coldness of the body and extremities.

A typical dosage of cinnamon would be 1 – 2 grams. Adding a pinch to your food or beverages is a great way to warm up the body, especially after being outside exposed to cold and windy weather.

A note of caution: because cinnamon stimulates the blood circulation, it should be used with caution during pregnancy or in people who have a high risk of bleeding such as those using blood thinner medication. When in doubt with any herbal medicine, you can always consult with your Registered Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioner.