Beating the heat of Summer

 

306_summer-allergies-field-of-dandlions-628x250We are in the height of summer yet the thick humidity of late summer is yet to come. This heat can feel oppressive both physically and emotionally, leading to feelings of irritability or heaviness. How can we stay cool in the summer without always relying on air conditioning or avoiding being outside? Chinese medicine gives us many techniques for sustainably staying cool through the dog-days of summer. Consider trying some of the tips below!

  • Eat watermelon. There’s a reason why watermelons are popular to eat in the summer: according to Chinese dietary therapy, they are one of the coldest foods we can consume! Eating a watermelon is like giving your insides a nice, cool ice bath. If you want to get extra cool, try cooking with the watermelon rind which is actually even colder than its insides. Check out these recipes for inspiration! Note: many people are sensitive to very cool foods. If you have digestive symptoms like bloating, loose stools, or generally low energy, you should avoid watermelon.
  • Acupressure on your third eye. If you start to feel hot-headed, give yourself a gentle massage on your forehead in the space between your eyes. This acupuncture point can calm the mind, soothe anxiety, and promote sleep.
  • Drink water with lemon and cucumber. Avoid drinking too much coffee or alcohol which are hot in nature. Instead, drink cool, not cold water. Ice cold water can actually be too much of a shock to our warm stomach and intestines. It’s best to cool off slowly and in moderation.
  • Notice if you’re doing too much. Part of why summer is so awesome is that along with taking trips and having fun, hopefully we have more time to lounge around and do nothing! If you find yourself too busy and active you may notice irritability, fatigue, feelings of being overwhelmed, and tendency to be hot. Give yourself permission to take a day off, lounge around, and do nothing.
  • Get acupuncture! Acupuncture has many techniques for releasing heat, calming the mind, and promoting the more grounded and centered qualities that are often missing from our lives during the height of summer. Sometimes all we need is an hour to relax and cool off.
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Allergies according to Chinese Medicine

This year the DC region has seen record levels of pollen in the air. Pair that with the high amount of rain we’ve experienced, many people are experiencing a variety of allergy symptoms right now: congestion, dry skin, headaches, itchy/red eyes, frustration, and fatigue. Chinese medicine generally relates springtime allergies to the liver, the organ associated with springtime in acupuncture theory.
When we come out of the depths of winter, it is the energy of the liver that pushes us to make changes, create new plans, and generally be more engaged in the world. If we are in some ways over-engaged, this can contribute to allergic reactions, causing us to be hyper-sensitive to the world around us.

Besides acupuncture, which has been proven to be effective in treating seasonal allergies, other lifestyle shifts can also help relax and cool your senses which may be hot and itchy with activity. Consider trying these tricks:

  • Create an eye compress with green tea and chrysanthemum flowers. This is extremely cooling and soothing to those hot, itchy eyes.
  • Drink “poet’s tea” – a mixture of goji berries and chrsysanthemum flowers. This tea helps bring our attention internally, calm our nerves, and cultivate introspection during the wild months of activity in the Spring.
  • Go swimming. Swimming challenges our lung capacity. By enhancing the strength of our lungs, we also support what is referred to as the “third lung” – our skin. The skin and orifices are usually quite affected with allergies; if we can strengthen our lungs, we can strengthen our entire immune system.
  • Do a Neti pot. It may look scary, but it works.
  • Look at your diet: cut out dairy, and add in foods high in Vitamin-C, D, and anti-inflammatory properties. Think kiwi, carrots, and tumeric!
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The Heart

10352344_774314499320614_880969187037184660_nThe heart holds a special place in Chinese philosophy. We could learn a few things about love by looking at how the ancient Chinese regarded the heart:

It’s the center of “mind”
The word heart (xin) is often translated as heart-mind, as the heart is thought to be the center of mental activity even more so than the brain! Ancient traditions understood that the mind is not just in the brain, but in the whole body. We may think thoughts are racing through our brain, but the mind – which encompasses thought, as well as feeling – is experienced throughout the body, and the heart is the center of it all.

It’s considered the “emperor” of the body
Ancient Chinese called the heart the emperor (or empress) of the body. Being at the center of the chest and pushing blood throughout all parts of the body, it fills us with life, awareness, movement, and action. In our western world, the brain gets a lot of attention (many might consider it the emperor of their body), but what if the heart was the one calling the shots in our day-to-day action and not the brain? Would life look different? It would probably look a little less anxious, a little more peaceful.

It’s open
The Chinese character for heart is the shape of an empty bowl. This is how our heart works best: open to the world and empty of judgement.

It understands boundaries
When the heart is sick, we may find ourselves without purpose, chaotic, and confused. With no “emperor” the body has no one to keep you on the path that is most meaningful for you.

It’s associated with the element of fire
The heart embodies the elemental qualities of fire most strongly: warmth, laughter, enthusiasm, connection and playfulness.

May your Valentine’s Day be filled with the virtues of the heart!

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Cupping

447721_06b7f3f2-0523-46fe-b418-ebb1a1108c10Cupping is an ancient technique used by many cultures from Native Americans and the Middle East to ancient Egyptians and of course, Chinese medicine. The basic idea is that the vacuum created by the suction cup assists in the circulation of blood, bringing oxygen to the muscle tissues where the cups are applied. This helps to detoxify the area and support the movement of blood, fluids, and Qi in the body. It is indicated for symptoms that are thought of as cold and damp in the Chinese medical tradition. Some cold and damp symptoms that cupping treats very well are muscle tension, swelling, and deep or chronic pain.

What’s so unique about cupping is that it is like an inverse massage. Instead of putting pressure on the skin, it is pulling the skin and tissues up – a difficult effect to do with just hands. The application of cups leaves a superficial bruise that may last from 3 to 7 days depending on the patient’s circulation. These are indicators that blood was brought to the surface. It does not indicate tissue damage and it should not be a concern.Fire-Cupping-Orangerie-Events

Depending on the quality and the location of the bruise, your acupuncturist can make an assessment on the state of you body energetics and circulation.NY-DD407_NYCUPP_G_20140805122405

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Acupuncture for Fertility

images-9Acupuncture is an extraordinary modality for treating fertility issues or for complementing modern fertility treatments.

Here at City Acupuncture Circle, we have seen an increase in patients seeking support for a range fertility issues (pregnancy loss, infertility, PCOS, and irregular ovulation, among others). Unsurprisingly, fertility issues are increasingly common in our modern society, where stress and over-work are the norm for many men and women.

Considering that stress-relief is anecdotally (and scientifically) proven to be one of the number one “side-effects” of acupuncture, it is not surprising that more and more people are seeking alternative methods like acupuncture to help restore their body’s nature rhythms and healing abilities, which are disrupted by excessive stress, lack of sleep, and poor diet.
However acupuncture does much more than stress relief. Because acupuncture treatment aids in the body’s blood flow to the reproductive organs and stabilizes hormones levels, it can increase ovarian function in women and sperm production in men.
Based on scientific studies, the Wiell Cornell Medical Center has made some phenomenal conclusions about the effect of acupuncture on reproductive health. They have found that acupuncture:

  • normalizes hormone and endocrine systems that regulate ovulation
  • positively affects the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis (which means less stress, better immune system and digestion)
  • regulates the menstrual cycle, and increase blood flow to the uterus
  • regulates elevated follicle stimulating hormone (FSH)

Studies have also shown that acupuncture increases the rate of pregnancy in women undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF). A study done in 2002 showed that of the 80 women who underwent IVF and received acupuncture, 34 women got pregnant. That’s a success rate of 42.5%, compared with 26.3% for women who only received IVF and no acupuncture!
Our newest acupuncturist, Sarah Knaup, L.Ac, has specialized training in fertility issues, including working with a leading endocrinologist in the San Diego area, utilizing acupuncture to complement patients’ IUI and IVF cycles.

 

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Gua sha for healing

gua sha

The picture might be a little scary to some, but trust us, gua sha feels pretty good. And it’s even better for you.

Gua sha means “scrape red” and it is just that: scrapping the skin (with the help of oil and a round and hard tool – traditionally a soup spoon, coin, or horn) to create an abrasion. The result, a rash-like spotting, might look a little jarring to those who don’t know what it is, but it is actually a great sign that healing is occurring. The scrapping motion helps to release toxins, heat, and stagnation built up in the superficial layers of the body. It moves stagnant blood, qi and fluids, and boosts the immune system – making it a great treatment for inflammation, chronic pain, back pain, migraines, fever, and colds.

We’ve known for thousands of years that gua sha works, and now studies are helping to explain how. One study found that after a gua sha treatment, patients were found to have a significant increase in body temperature and blood perfusion compared to non-scraped areas, meaning increased circulation and perhaps the removal of small obstructions in the capillaries (Xu, Q., et al, 2012). Another randomized control study reported that gua sha treatment resulted in improvement in range of motion, levels of pain, quality of life, vitality, and patient satisfaction, when compared to patients who were given a heat pack and ginger instead (Braun, M., et al, 2011).

Patients can expect to feel a little tender or sore for a day or two after receiving treatment. It is important to keep the area protected away from sun, heat, or cold, so that it can heal properly. It is also important to hydrate very well following a gua sha treatment, as your body is flushing out toxins and regenerating!

Braun, M., Schwickert, M., Nielsen, A., Brunnhuber, S., Dobos, G., Musial, F… Michalsen, A. (2011). Effectiveness of Traditional Chinese “Gua Sha” Therapy in Patients with Chronic Neck Pain: A Randomized Control Study. Pain Medicine, 12, 362-369.

Xu, Q., Yang, J., Zhu, B., Yang, L., Wang, Y., and Gao, X. (2012). Effects of Scraping Therapy on Local Temperature and Blood Perfusion Volume in Healthy Subjects. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2012, 521-525.

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Ensō (円相)

The District- Juana MedinaEnsō (円相) is a Japanese word meaning “circle” and a concept strongly associated with Zen. Ensō is one of the most common subjects of Japanese calligraphy even though it is a symbol and not a character. It symbolizes absolute enlightenment, strength, elegance, the universe, and the void; it can also symbolize the Japanese aesthetic itself. As an “expression of the moment” it is often considered a form of minimalist expressionist art.
 In Zen Buddhist painting, ensō symbolizes a moment when the mind is free to simply let the body/spirit create. The brushed ink of the circle is usually done on silk or rice paper in one movement (Bankei, however, occasionally used two strokes) and there is no possibility of modification: it shows the expressive movement of the spirit at that time. Zen Buddhists “believe that the character of the artist is fully exposed in how she or he draws an ensō. Only a person who is mentally and spiritually complete can draw a true ensō. Some artists will practice drawing an ensō daily, as a kind of spiritual practice- Wikipedia
Thank you Juana Medina for such eloquent hand and gentle spirit!
-published with authorization from the artist
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Getting over the Sugar Blues

We had a great gathering last week for our first nutrition workshop, dealing with the Sugar Blues!

Holistic Health Coach Felicia Desrosiers engaged participants and gave us her top ten tips for getting over the Sugar Blues. Here we share them with you:

 

  1. Drink water. Sometimes sweet cravings are a sign of dehydration.
  2. Eat sweet vegetables and fruit everyday. Especially the sweet vegetables. The more you cook them, the sweeter they become. They gently support your spleen and pancreas and over time change your taste for sweet foods.
  3. Reduce or eliminate caffeine. The ups and downs of caffeine include de-hydration and blood sugar swings, which can cause sugar cravings.
  4. Use gentler sweeteners like maple syrup, coconut sugar, brown rice syrup, and dried fruit. Avoid chemicalized, artificial sweeteners and food with sugar added.
  5. Move your body! Find your daily minimum – it can be a ten minute walk or yoga. Once you have a rhythm going, build on it. Exercise relieves the tension that many of us look to sugar for, and it’s great on every level.
  6. Get enough sleep and rest. Accumulated late nights and early mornings and/or regular stress causes the body to crave energy – often in the form of sugar.
  7. Evaluate the amount of animal food you eat including meat, dairy, chicken and eggs. Eating too much can lead to sweet cravings. So can eating too little!
  8. Cook meals, use spices. Sometimes we eat sugar because we are eating on the run and it’s what is available. If this is happening regularly, look to build in some cooking time so you can be sure to fill up on real food.
  9. Chew your food – the savory, the sweet and everything in between. Thoroughly chewing our food facilitates digestion and forces us to slow down. A good many things get sorted out when enough time is allotted. Give your food time.
  10. Add non-food sweetness to your days! Your body does not biologically need sugar, but it does long for hugs, time with friends, time outside, exercise, massage, acupuncture, etc. Start today. :)
Posted in Food + wellness, Our blog

Ginger root and acupuncture for seasonal allergies

Autumn is a wonderful time of transition, but challenges many with allergies. In addition to regular acupuncture to help harmonize your lung qi, manage or get rid of seasonal allergies and sinus congestion, here is a recipe that helps fortify your lung energetics, warms and moistens your lungs while the cool and dryness of autumn settles in. Ginger root also helps balance the digestive system – this is very important as many allergies are rooted in digestive issues.
Ginger tea/tonic: take a piece of ginger root, smash the root whole, or slice it thinly and boil it in a large pot of water for 25 minutes. You may also add lemon juice to stimulate the liver and the smooth flow of defensive qi, and add a little honey to stimulate the spleen and the digestive system. Drink a least 3 cups of this delicious beverage a day.
While your tea is boiling, take advantage and put a towel over your head and inhale some of the steam. To help clear the sinuses even further, you can massage the muscular area on the top of your hand where your thumb and index finger intersect and apply acupressure to acupuncture points at the base of either side of your nostrils.
Posted in community acupuncture, Food + wellness, Seasonal

disengage

The proper response to conflict, whether it lies within or without, is disengagement.

Conflict provokes strong feelings of doubt, fear, anxiety and impatience to resolve the situation. If you act upon the influence of these inferior emotions, you will severely complicate the misfortune. By following the prescription of the Sage and returning to a position of neutrality, acceptance and detachment;you are able to meet opposing forces halfway: not recoiling in anger and condemnation, not pressing forward for some unnatural change in things, but waiting calmly in the center until the Higher power provides the correct solution.

The I CHING teaches us that all conflict is, in the end, inner conflict. When you see it beginning you’re obliged not to pursue it.

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