Saturday, December 29, 2012

Cabbage Pasta Recipe - Delicious!

Some of the most important vegetables to add into our regular diet are:
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Broccoli
  • Brussel Sprouts

When eaten on a regular basis and in sufficient quantity, it can be difficult to have certain cancers in our digestive system.  These incredible veggies just keep our system too clean and detoxified, and also very importantly help to cleanse our blood.

From a Chinese medicine point of view, our blood is a highly spiritual aspect of our physical body.  It is the substance ruled by our Heart – the special place that “houses our Spirit”. I like to think of it as the messenger that carries divine insight to every cell of our entire being.

When our blood is abundant and pure it is very easy for us to experience deep happiness and joy, regular belly laughter, and an intense satisfaction and wonder with life.

When our blood is deficient or impure we can find ourselves overly tired, stressed out, agitated, and restless. It’s very difficult to feel happy and full of life in this state.  Going even further, too many toxicities in the blood can engender states of cruelty, violence, and extreme acts of hate.

Here’s a very easy cabbage recipe I’d like to share.  (I’ll add a picture next time I make it).  I like to use the Juniper Berries because they go great with cabbage, and they help to heal our hearts.  The medicinal mushrooms are included because they have an amazing effect on our blood, immune system,  AND they are delicious.  Enjoy!

Cabbage Pasta

1 head green cabbage, sliced into thin strips
1 Maitake mushroom, or 8 shiitake mushrooms (reconstituted if dried), chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 Tbsp olive oil
1-2 Tbsp Soy Sauce
1 Tbsp freshly ground juniper berries
hot pepper to taste (optional)

2 cups cooked whole grain spaghetti noodles (break the noodles into 2-3 inch pieces before cooking)

In a frying pan (cast iron works great), heat the olive oil and when hot sauté the cabbage, mushrooms, and garlic.  When almost done (about 10 minutes) add the spaghetti noodles, stir, then add the soy sauce and sauté about 2 minutes longer.  Turn off the heat and add the juniper berries and hot pepper.

Use this as an alternative to regular spaghetti and top with your favorite sauce, meatballs, or other veggies.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

TuiNa Chinese Medical Massage Course

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Black Bean Soup

This soup is special for the Water Element and helps to strengthen our kidneys.  It uses several foods that are especially beneficial to the kidneys:  black beans, barley, cinnamon, cloves, quality sea salt, black sesame seeds, and kombu seaweed.  I cooked the beans in a pressure cooker because this method forces the flavor and nutrition deep inside, just like our Water Element is deep inside.  According to Paul Pitchford, author of Healing With Whole Foods, pressure cooking can be used to tap into deep core issues that we have, releasing them to enhance our spirituality.

If you don’t have a pressure cooker, this can be cooked on the stovetop – it just takes about 2 hours longer, OR you can use canned black beans.

Step 1:  Prepare the black beans by soaking 1 package of dried beans in a bowl of water overnight.  (Skip this step if using canned black beans.)

Next Day, Prepare the Soup:

1.  In a pressure cooker pot, place 1 tsp cumin seeds, 1 strip rinsed kombu seaweed, ½ cinnamon stick, 2 cloves, 2 bay leaves, and the rinsed pre-soaked black beans.  Cover with water at least 2 inches above the beans and 3 Tbsp olive oil.  Place the cover on the pot and bring to pressure (see the directions for your pressure cooker).  When pressure is reached, lower heat and cook for 10 minutes.  Remove from heat, release the steam and open.  Do not drain.

2.  Check the beans – they should be slightly soft and perfectly done.  Remove the bay leaves, cloves (if you can find them floating), and cinnamon stick.

3.  Remove the Kombu square.  Now softened, cut it up into tiny squares and re-add back into the soup.

4.  Place the pot back on low heat and add the following ingredients, preferably organic:

1-15-oz can peeled & chopped tomatoes
1 container of your favorite salsa pureed with 1 cup fresh cilantro
1 orange, peeled, de-seeded, and chopped into small chunks
1 green pepper, chopped
¼ cup uncooked barley
1 Tbsp ground cumin
2 Tbsp powdered vegetable broth
1 Tbsp powdered shiitake mushrooms
1 tsp quality sea salt, or to taste
½ tsp black sesame seeds

Cover (but don’t pressurize) and cook over low heat until the barley is soft, about 35-45 minutes.  Ready to serve!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

True Warrior Immune Boosting Soup

From my workshop tonight on 5-Element Nutrition, here is a delicious Metal Element immune boosting soup that is quick and easy to make.  If you are familiar with cooking with Chinese herbs, it would also be excellent to add one or more of the following, depending on actions desired: Huang Qi, Ren Shen, Bei Sha Shen, Chen Pi, Xing Ren.

In a soup pot, place the following ingredients:

8-10 cups water (OR 2-4 cups broth with additional water)
1 cup sweet rice, rinsed
½ lemon – sliced very thin w/ peel on
2 Tbsp Vegetable or Chicken Broth Powder
1 Tbsp Shiitake Mushroom Powder (optional)
1 Tsp quality sea salt

Bring to an almost boil, then lower heat and cook until rice is tender, about 20 minutes. Next add:

1 pear, peeled & sliced thin
1 spoonful (to taste) dried hot chili peppers

Cook another 15 minutes, remove from heat.

In a frying pan, sauté the following together until slightly crispy:

1 Tbsp olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
1” fresh ginger root, peeled & chopped
2 cups baby Bok Choy
4 shiitake mushrooms, sliced
Sprinkle of soy sauce

When done, add to the rest of soup and serve.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Meaning of Qi

Qi has many different meanings, in the Chinese language it is one of the most multi-dimensional words and concepts. The mystery of Qi is intriguing to those in the East, associated with desire and the "ultimate" in life. This is controversial in the West, as everything needs to be scientifically explained and dissected in order to exist, thus it is almost impossible to embrace the idea of the meaning of Qi.

The original Chinese explanation for Qi is that it represents life in the analogy of vapor, or steam, that rises from warm rice. This indicates the relationship between heaven and earth, which can also be interpreted as an interaction between yin (rice/grain) and yang (vapor/steam).

Roger Jahnke spent most of his life studying Tai Chi, Qigong, Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine. He taught the formalities in juncture as one of his many passions in hospitals, churches, and communities. Qi remains a mystery to him. Jahnke would have 25-35 students and be asked," What is Qi?" more than 100 times, every time the answer was different. For example, "an artist will call Qi inspiration, an athlete will call qi the capacity to reach beyond usual limits, a chemist will call Qi the energy inherent in a chemical reaction or the gases that arise as byproducts of chemical interactions. Physicians refer to Qi as the forces that both sustain organ function and are produced by the organs and glands. Physicists will tell you that Qi is the pervasive force behind all interactions in the universe from electrons and the subatomic domain to the galaxies and black holes. Philosophers declare that Qi is the essence of everything, from ideas and emotions to relationships and the field of consciousness."

As you can infer an amazing, spiritual, all encompassing "essence" that is completely unlimited. The world has become mystified by how far reaching the concept can be. For myself, I believe Qi is all energy, kinetic and potential, to be able to work with the Qi and to flow with it, not against it, brings harmony and balance to one's life, thus ultimate health and wellbeing.

Lauren Holbrook, LMT

Qi (Chi) in the Light of Ancient Daoist Science and Medicine
By Roger Jahnke
The Empty Vessel: A Journal of Contemporary  Taoism, Fall 2001

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Acne from a Western and TCM Point of View

Acne from a Western and TCM Point of View

If you are struggling for a solution to your acne, this may shed some light on what you're dealing with and possible solutions to treat it. I am writing this because an adult that I know has recently had an increased amount of acne show up on his face. He has been self conscious and frustrated that he has had to deal with acne again after withstanding a similar battle, in high school. He has searched the internet and found information that says he should drink coconut water, plenty of regular water, wash his face often, try eliminating stress in his life, and possibly see a dermotologist. He isn't too fond of the thought of seeing a doctor to resolve this issue, so that's out of the question, but he does want to try and resolve this issue on his own. As a witness to the aggravation that comes along with each bump that appears on his face I decided to do some research of my own. I hope and pray that he will be receptive to the information that I have found and that he may find a resolution to his issue.

In beginning my search, I first looked at his lifestyle; I know that he has handled what to most may seem like a stressful situation, fairly well, he eats fairly well but does tend to eat fried food a couple days a week, and he is a smoker. I figured that smoking is where the root of the problem lies, and that no matter what other preventitive measures were taken, if the smoking isn't eliminated the acne may be a continual problem, so I asked if he had thought of that and if anything he read mentioned discontinuing smoking to help with acne issues. Unfortunately, he had not seen anything on this subject. Disappointed in that answer my journey begins and some interesting information was found not directly connecting the smoke to the problem, as much as I had hoped, but interesting just the same....

First, we need to know what we're dealing with here, so I decided to look into things from a Western point of view. According to the Merck Manual Home Health Book acne is caused by an interaction between hormones, skin oils, and bacteria, which results in inflammation of hair follicles. Acne is characterized by pimples, cysts, and sometimes abscesses. Both cysts and abscesses are pus-filled pockets, but abscesses are somewhat larger and deeper.

Sebaceous glands, lie in the the middle layer of skin (dermis), and these glands are attached to the hair follicles. Sebum (oily substance that is secreted by the sebaceous glands), along with dead skin cells, passes up from the sebaceous gland and hair follicle and out to the surface of the skin through the pores.
Acne results when a collection of dried sebum, dead skin cells, and bacteria clogs the hair follicles, blocking the sebum from leaving through the pores. If the blockage is incomplete, a blackhead (open comedone) develops; if the blockage is complete, a whitehead (closed comedone) develops. The blocked sebum-filled hair follicle promotes overgrowth of the bacterium Propionibacterium acnes, which is normally present in the hair follicle. This bacterium breaks down the sebum into substances that irritate the skin. The resulting inflammation produces the skin eruptions that are commonly known as acne pimples. Deeper inflammation produces cysts and sometimes an abscess.

General care of acne is very simple. Affected areas should be gently washed once or twice a day with a mild soap. Antibacterial or abrasive soaps, alcohol pads, and heavy frequent scrubbing provide no added benefit and may further irritate the skin. Cosmetics should be water-based; very greasy products can worsen acne. Although there are no restrictions on specific foods (for example, pizza or chocolate), a healthy, balanced diet should be followed.

Mild Acne: Drugs used to treat mild acne are applied to the skin (topical drugs). They work by either killing bacteria (antibacterials) or drying up or unclogging the pores. The two most commonly prescribed antibacterials are the antibiotics clindamycin and erythromycin. Benzoyl peroxide, another effective antibacterial, is available with or without a prescription. Older nonprescription creams that contain salicylic acid, resorcinol, or sulfur work by drying out the pimples and causing slight peeling. These drugs, however, are less effective than antibiotics or benzoyl peroxide. If topical antibacterials fail, doctors use other topical prescription drugs that help unclog the pores. The most common such drug is tretinoin. Tretinoin is very effective but is irritating to the skin and makes it more sensitive to sunlight. Doctors therefore use this drug cautiously, starting with low concentrations and infrequent applications, which can be gradually increased. Benzoyl peroxide inactivates tretinoin, so the two must not be applied together. Blackheads and whiteheads can be removed by a doctor. A large pimple may be opened with a sterile needle. Other instruments, such as a loop extractor, can also be used to drain plugged pores and pimples. Moderate Acne: Moderate acne is usually treated with antibiotics given by mouth. Doctors often combine a topical treatment and an oral antibiotic. People may need to take antibiotics for weeks, months, or even years to prevent a recurrence. Women who take antibiotics for a long time sometimes develop vaginal yeast infections that may require treatment. Severe Acne: For the most severe acne, when antibiotics do not work, oral isotretioin (also known as accutane) is the best treatment. Isotretionoin, which is related to the topical drug tretinoin, is the only drug that can potentially cure acne. However, isotretinoin can have very serious side effects. Isotretinoin can harm a developing fetus, and women taking it must use strict contraceptive measures so they do not become pregnant. Other, less serious side effects may occur as well.
Hmmmm, very interesting, yet some of these treatments seemed harsh, so the next step was to look into things from a Traditional Chinese Medicine point of view.

Traditional Chinese Medicine considers acne as a skin condition that is mainly associated with the pathogenic effects of Heat on the Fundamental Substances, the meridians and the Zang Fu organs. Excessive heat may result from improper diet, stress, fatigue, genetic condition or a natural increase of Yang energy that is typical in puberty.

Heat may have an effect on the Stomach or Lung Meridians and can travel to the facial skin and the skin of the chest where acne’s characteristic inflammation can occur. If the acne appears on the back, it means the Heat escaped from the Small Intestine and Bladder channel. In the Lung Meridian, the External Pathogen of the Wind aggravates Heat may also change into Toxic Heat or affect the Blood and cause lesions. Lastly, emotional wellbeing is also a factor in the formation of acne. Very intense emotions of stress, anxiety, sadness, or anger can disrupt the body’s harmony and lead to Qi stagnation, causing Heat to transmit to the surface of the skin and manifest as acne.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine theory, the Liver also has a close energy relationship with the Stomach—it "controls" the Stomach. This means that when Stomach energy or Qi is in a state of excess, the Liver's job is to bring it back into balance. A red nose is a clear signal that there is excess Stomach Qi and it has stagnated, in turn causing a lot of heat to build up. This heat is then reflected on the face and the nose in particular. People who suffer from this type of acne rosacea might first experience bad breath, heartburn and constipation. Women may experience a menstrual cycle disorder preceding the condition. These are all early warning signs of a Liver function disorder. Stress, anger, or some kind of emotional disorder has impacted the way the Liver works and now prevents Liver energy from flowing freely.

Chinese Medicine perceives that acne and rosacea may be caused by three groups of factors:
  • Lung Heat
  • - the "heat" already residing in the lung that subsequently 'fire' toxin on the face.

  • Yang Ming- this includes accumulation of heat in the stomach and large intestine, or the excess of rich and fatty food leading subsequently to 'fire' toxin on the skin.
  • Ren and Chong Channels not regulated
  • - this occurs in post-adolescent female acne. Typically it involves a mixture of pre-disposition and emotional factors, as well as coming off the contraceptive pill after being on it for a few years. The basic treatment principle for acne in TCM is to clear Heat from the appropriate meridian, Zang Fu Organ, or Fundamental Substance, thus removing the underlying energetic cause of the disease.One TCM method that can be used to relieve acne symptoms is acupuncture but the preferred modality to treat acne is Chinese herbal medication.

    To use herbal medicine, a combination of herbs will be prescribed according to the diagnosed type of pathogenic Heat in the body. An individual can take in herbal formulations, which may come in liquid, tablet or powder form, and apply a topical solution to the affected area to reduce inflammation and prevent new acne formation. Herbal medicine also lessens internal dampness and enhances the function of the intestines to prevent toxic buildup that contributes to acne.

    Since nutrition plays a significant role in Traditional Chinese Medicine, the TCM physician will also include dietary recommendations in the acne treatment regimen. A low-carbohydrate and high-protein diet is advised while fried and processed foods should be avoided. TCM also stresses lifestyle changes, resulting in not just acne treatment but the restoration of balance in the body.

    According to TCM, smoking affects the functions of the heart, pericardium, lung, spleen and stomach, especially leading to disorder of pulmonary Qi. Therefore, it only made sense that although the smoking may not be the "cause" of acne, smoking would definitely aggravate an existing heat disharmony in the body. I also found that the primary areas of his acne fell right along both the stomach (ST-3) and large intestine (LI-19 and LI-20) meridians on his face. This I found interesting because these areas were listed under the Yang Ming factor of causes, which points to diet being a large influence on the recent outbreak, according to Tradional Chinese Medicine, where Western medicine says there are no restrictions on specific foods. This is because in the West it's viewed mainly as a skin problem to be treated symptomatically. From the TCM perspective, good results come from treating the root cause of this condition, and harmonizing these imbalances for true healing to occur.

    Eventhough, acne can be stressful and aggravating there are options for treating it and it is worth looking into the best options that work for you. I hope that this information will help him and anyone else that may be experiencing the same issue, whether a Western or Traditional Chinese Medicine approach is taken.

    TCM Resources:
      TCM World foundation
      Discovery TCM
      Driftwood Acupuncture and Wellness blog

    Wednesday, August 29, 2012

    Recipe: Sweet Potato Chowder, Earth Element

    We had a lot of fun in last night's 5-Element Nutrition class on Balancing Your Earth Element.  One aspect of the Earth Element is that if you eat too much of the "sweet" flavor it becomes heavy and damp, so it's important to try and consciously incorporate some of the other flavors to balance it.  These are: salty, sour, bitter, and pungent.

    Note that the energetic "sweet" flavor is not just sugar. Sugar is an extreme sweet, so less extreme examples are whole grains, fresh fruits, and veggies like carrots, peas, sweet potatoes, and others that have a natural farm-fresh type sweetness to them.  This category also includes simple carbohydrates that break down into sugar.

    As promised, here is the recipe for the Earth Element food we tried. This recipe uses sweet potatoes which are energetically "sweet" and balances them out with celery and green peppers which are both "bitter".  It's super easy to make.  Enjoy!

    Sweet Potato Chowder

    Place the following ingredients in a crock pot, then turn on for 4-6 hours OR cook in a large pot on the stove top for about 45 minutes.  This makes about 6-8 servings, and yes - you can freeze it and take some to work for lunch here and there :-)

    1-28oz can chopped, peeled tomatoes
    1-15oz can garbanzo beans (chick peas) drained & rinsed
    3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled & chopped
    5 celery stalks chopped
    1 beautiful green pepper chopped
    2 Tbsp millet (I used millet grits)
    2 cups broth (vegetable or chicken)
    Top off with water to cover vegetables
    small spoonful quality sea salt
    Spices: 1 tsp Turmeric, 1 Tbsp Cumin, 1 Tbsp Garam Masala (or to taste)

    Wednesday, August 15, 2012

    The Way of TCM

    Traditional Chinese Medicine has greatly shifted the way that I perceive health and the human body. The basic idea is that the body is part of a togetherness of mind, body and spirit. This trifecta has the innate ability to heal itself. Any 'symptoms' of dis-ease are considered to be the bodies way of helping itself  maintain a sense of homeostasis at that certain point in the persons journey. Rather than seeing the bodies 'symptoms' in a negative way, my way of thinking has changed to a  positive curiosity about the 'clues' of the inner workings of the self, including the 'trifecta' of the bodymindspirit. 

    Five Element Theory incorporates this same type of thinking using Fire, Earth, Metal, Water and Wood, which shows us that we as humans are nature. Our body systems correspond in a complex yet simple way to the way of nature. It's an interesting concept to link your preferences of seasons, climates, etc to a sort of body profile of the self. All of this information leads to an awareness of the self, which can help immensely on the road to self discovery and evolution. 

    I appreciate this idea of health, especially in a world so full of prescription fixes. The goal is to know your body, your self, loving it throughout, so that you can be on the preventative versus the desperation of 'fixing' an already chronic dis-ease or 'condition'. In the case that you do venture on to an 'alternative' path at the point of disease, oriental medicine chooses to work with the body, rather than against it. Loving it versus, fighting it. In fact, invasive techniques are last on the list according to the Taoist Hierarchy of Methods of Healing, meditation being the first! :)

    1)Meditation 2)Exercise 3)Nutrition 4)Astrology 5)Feng Shui 6)Massage 7)Herbs 8)Acupuncture 9)Surgery 

    Of course to each her own and everything in life is situational. My favorites on the list are meditation, exercise in the form of a casual stroll, taichi/qigong & yoga, nutrition, massage (of course!), herbs and acupuncture (most recently). 

    I am repeatedly amazed at the effectiveness of even the most seemingly simple things. Just breathing properly can do wonders for us humans, we love O2!  Meditation offers me a sense of clarity, peace and connection with my soul. Qigong is just the same with an additional plus of moving energy throughout the body or even storing it for later ;). Time is an illusion with both of these practices, can feel a difference in myself even after 5 minutes and can sometimes be there for an hour and feel like I've just gotten started. Breaking the cycle of the day to day rush and taking the time for the self is key...still working on that one. Massage has helped me to make a connection to my physical body in ways that previously I was completely unaware of. Massage also has a way of putting me in a sedative state where I intuitively know my body is working towards greatness. Herbs and Acupuncture though relatively new to me have brought me some experiences that are progressive towards positive change. 

    Am always thoroughly excited to do any sort of Oriental Medicine technique. There is definitely a sense of safety and trust in the way that the person is treated. I really feel like that sense of trust/love is what allows the guards to come down and the real healing work to begin. Am a believer that the healing comes from the heart and soul. When you believe and love what you're doing in any method of healing, that can really make a difference in your health. Am grateful for so many things in regards to my journey at Oriental Healing Arts Center, now Alaska Institute of Oriental Medicine, Acupuncture and Massage Therapy, but the perception of health and self really is life changing <3 

    PS- Have to share...have been gaining a connection to my true intuitive self and of course the guides of the universe. Am so excited for progress in this department, that I love to share experiences! Have been reading all about flower essences and just started a journey with one of them. Last night I slept so peacefully and had a dream about this yellow flower with gorgeous little blooms. It had a long stem, that had tiny booms in clusters at the end of the stem that were almost flat looking. 

    Just google imaged the essence that I'm taking, Golden Ear Drops and there it was...those yellow blooms, the exact description and image I had seen in my dream! It brought me to tears to have that strong affirmation that yes! you are in the flow of life, you are in exactly the right place at exactly the right time and I am here to help you on your journey of soul evolution! Just gotta say thank you and I love you golden ear drops! 

    Lots of Love- Monica*

    Saturday, August 11, 2012

    My Dancing Moxa

    Recently, one Saturday morning, I woke up irritable and anxious, stressed out by life's everyday struggles of a busy life with family, school, bills, etc. Needless to say, by the time I arrived at the Alaska Institute of Oriental Medicine, Acupuncture, & Massage Therapy for my regularly scheduled clinic shift, I was barely able to hear myself think and wondering how I was going to touch someone else with this negative energy I was struggling to manage on my own. We had been recently introduced to moxa in our senior class, and I had positive results the first time I had used it, with a boost of energy, and an overall feeling of warmth and comforting. One of my instructors recommended I give moxa another try before beginning my interaction with clients, I agreed, but what I had encountered was amazing and unexpected. I layed down in the main class area, alone, and quiet, and placed a belly bowl of burning moxa, just below my belly button. Before, I had closed my eyes and allowed the warmth to overtake me, but this time I had an overwhelming urge to keep my eyes open. As I lay there I watched the smoke rise above my abdomen. I wanted so badly to become that smoke, flowing freely above it "all", able to maintain my "shape" and essence as the subtle wind blew me around, I imagined myself being that very smoke, not allowing any stress or any thing to keep me down, as I continue to float, dissipate, and reform. Then suddenly my smoke transformed into silouettes of women that appeared to be dancing, this drew me in even further and made me want to be the smoke even more. I watched for a few moments and then in my thoughts began to ask if my smoke could take specific form. In class we had been given individual treatment plans for bodywork and QiGong, so I decided to ask if it could do specific Qi Gong moves. First, I thought "Can you Wave Hands like Clouds?" and as the thought was complete, one would pop up and wave her hands one direction and then another would pop up waving her hands in the other direction. Awed and amazed I watched for a few moments more, then asked "Can you Draw your Bow?" as one by one they drew their bows one in each direction. Then, I asked "Can you Row on the Lake?" and again one by one they'd pop up each one moving as if they were rowing on the lake. I was overwhelmed with this gitty feeling from what I had seen, and had a revelation. My desire to become the smoke transformed into the realization that I was the smoke, able to control every move with my thoughts alone. It was empowering and enlightening, knowing that I could float above the stresses in my life, continuing to dance and move, rising above, until it passes, just by thinking it. An experience that I will never forget and can draw strength from whether I'm burning moxa or not. Hmmm, what an awesome feeling! 

    Tuesday, July 31, 2012


    Moxa, also known as Mugwort is a Chinese herb that is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Moxa is considered the mother herb and is very nurturing in nature. It is used to warm what is cold, free what is constrained and not flowing, to soothe what is frustrated or tense and to eliminate what is damp. On a basic level it strengthens the yang of the body; meaning the strong, powerful, warm and awake. Moxa also has the noted ability to ward off disease, is a very strong immune builder of the body.

    Treatment with moxa comes in two methods, direct moxibustion and indirect moxibustion. Direct moxibustion is done on the skin and can be either scarring or non scarring, whereas indirect uses a medium between moxa and the skin. Indirect moxibustion is one that I'm more familiar with and the only one we experienced in class, thank Buddha! 

    With indirect moxibustion, it can be burned on top of salt, garlic or ginger to individualize treatment; for example, garlic for immune system and ginger for digestive. There are belly bowls which can be used on the abdomen, when placed above navel it is helpful for digestion and when placed below navel it is good for uterine cramps, cysts or simply to tonify yang. Moxa poles or sticks are larger and can be used to follow over an entire meridian line. Moxa irons are usually used for low back area, to warm kidneys and tonify water element. There are also moxa cones that are small enough to place directly on acupressure points, perfect for making a path for your qi (energy) flow. :) 

    As a student, almost graduate, here at Oriental Healing Arts Center I have had the opportunity to try moxa and have had a wonderful experience with it, using the belly bowl, cones and sticks. I feel very comforted while receiving the treatment. It's almost like the big moxa energy mom is giving me a hug! 

    My favorite method by far is the belly bowl! When using it my abdomen is filled with warmth. At the end of the treatment, a yellowish brown resin is left on the tummy. It is suggested to rub the resin long as you're not wearing white! I am grateful to have my own belly bowl at home so that I can continue moxa after this school year is over. 

    While doing moxa treatments I felt myself more at ease and sort of in this comfort cloud. I remember sleeping deeply and having very meaningful dreams. One of the dreams was definitely linked to an inner wisdom of mine. I was with a little girl and being chased by a wall of fire. I told the girl to hide in the corner of the ceiling and as she did, I proceeded with her. I cocooned myself around her, protecting her from the fire. I can remember thinking, it's coming (the fire) then I woke up with a sinking/shocking feeling in my legs. I realized later that the little girl was my inner child and I was protecting her from an intense fire (heart feeling)...what am I protecting her from? The feeling in my legs screams water element, so there is a connection there that is locked in my consciousness, yet being freed by this warming experience.

    So yah, moxa gave me some precious information for my journey of life. Am very grateful to it and look forward to continuing my work with the lovely energy mother herb, Moxa!

    Sunday, July 15, 2012

    Cleansing Vs. Building Foods

    In 5-element nutrition consulting we see a lot of people who want to change their health, know that eating better is a way to do that, but find it really difficult to "give up" the food they love.

    I know how attached we are to the food we eat, and most people, including me, won't change their habits unless there is a huge motivating factor - like a severe medical diagnosis (diabetes, heart attack) or an emotionally passionate reason (new romantic love, high school reunion).

    Pasta is a Building food. Balance it out
    by adding a mixed green salad
    and cutting the portion size of the pasta.

    Here's an easy 5-element nutrition tip to consider:  Foods are either building (Yin) or cleansing (Yang).

    Building foods add to your body, make it larger.  These are most foods that are NOT fruits and vegetables. If you exercise a lot that might translate into muscle.  If you don't exercise a lot, we all know that it turns into the "other muscle", fat.  Building foods in moderation are great for someone who needs to put on weight.  BTW, regardless of what congress mandates, pizza is not a vegetable.

    Cleansing foods clean your internal organs and make your body lighter. These are mainly fruits and vegetables. Which is better - cooked or raw? From a 5-element nutrition point of view, it depends on what you need, and we suggest both are important.

    • Cooked is going to be on the milder side of cleansing, better for someone who tends towards being weak, deficient, feels cold, or has frequent colds/flu.
    • Raw is going to be on the harsher side of cleansing, better for someone who tends towards being robust, loud, feels warm or hot, has high blood pressure from stress, and may tend to get gall or kidney stones.
    The ultimate goal is to find an appropriate BALANCE between cleansing and building foods. An appropriate balance is different for each person, so it depends on what you need in order to reach your ultimate weight goals.

    If you want to lose weight, or you love pasta and don't want to "give it up", start by realizing that pasta is a building food. Balance it with a cleansing food of equal or greater proportion and decrease the serving size of pasta you would normally have eaten. Cleansing foods are the only realistic way to lose weight, and you can use them in a way to still enjoy the food you love.

    This is going to be the same for all other building foods. If you have pizza, maybe have just 1 or 2 slices and eat a raw carrot with each slice. Yes, that is a whole beautiful raw carrot with each slice.

    Steak? Have a nice juicy piece no bigger than the size of your palm, cover it with a medicinal mushroom saute and fill the rest of the plate with lettuce and chopped raw veggies like radishes, broccoli, green peppers, topped with hemp oil and balsamic vinegar & fresh ground black pepper.

    This is a good place to start, by adding some balance. Once you get used to doing this and enjoy it - which you will because your body and blood will love more balance - then take the next step and refine what you're eating a little more.  We like lasting changes that are enjoyable, not quick or extreme diets that you can't wait to end.

    "Everything in Moderation, Everything in Balance"
    ~Taoist principle

    Thursday, July 12, 2012

    Blood Building Syrup - Herbal Recipe

    If you like this recipe, also try our Blood Building "wine" for Spring and Eyes - it's a lighter version that is not so warming and invigorating.  The syrup below is better suited to Winter and colder months.

    Back in March one of my Twitter friends posted this recipe, and finally today I spent a glorious morning making it!  I think it's worth sharing with you - enjoy!

    Who needs this?
    The original author, Todd Caldecott, lists from an Ayurvedic perspective that this is "an excellent preparation to help build up the blood in anemia, infertility, exhaustion, and immunodeficiency, or when recovering from chronic disease, medical treatments (e.g. chemotherapy) or surgery."

    Additionally, from a Chinese medicine point of view I would add someone feeling weak and tired, loud creaky joints, after child birth, pale complexion and feels cold, very dry skin, poor vision, and chronic muscle pains that don't respond to massage.

    To explain this very basically, blood is a major resource of our body.  It's one of the main substances that helps to re-build or re-generate our physical being.  We make blood from the food and drink we ingest, however if our diet isn't sufficient or we're so stressed and exhausted that our system is too tired to build blood we can get too low on our resources.  

    It's a good idea to also drink lots of water - because our blood is made up of about 83% water. Herbs that build blood will require extra water, and they may even make you more thirsty to ensure you drink some. Please note I did not say drink more liquids, such as tea, soda pop, etc., I said water - pure and simple.

    It's also a good idea to add some blood building foods into your diet, such as leafy greens, beets, cherries, blueberries, and strawberries.

    Last of all, because this will help you to have more resources, you'll start to feel more energized, get more accomplished, have amazing motivation, and you might want to spontaneously dance or even just walk more outside in nature. Do it!

    Disclaimer: It is not recommended to take herbs if you are also taking other herbs or medications, or if you question whether any of the symptoms above apply to you. Please consult a qualified health care provider before consuming this product.

    After feedback from people who have tried this recipe, I wanted to make a video demonstration to show some of the nuances that make this really good.  I recommend watching the video first, then following the written directions below.  Enjoy!

    Blood Building Syrup - click on title for the original site this is posted on, Food As Medicine

    Step 1:  Gather the ingredients.  You will probably need to visit a Chinese herbalist (such as The Oriental Healing Arts Center, or your local acupuncturist), and maybe a specialty spice shop (such as Summit Spice & Tea) for a few items, so take some time to get it all together.

    1/2 cup chopped dried figs

    1/2 cup dried goji berries (Chinese herb: Gou Qi Zi)
    1/2 cup dried prunes, also called dried plums
    1/2 cup Chinese red dates (Chinese herb: Hong Zao)
    1 oz. asparagus root (Chinese herb: Tien Men Dong, Ayurvedic herb: shatavari root)
    1 oz. prepared rehmannia (Chinese herb: Shu Di Huang)
    1 oz. astragulus root (Chinese herb: Huang Qi)
    1 oz. American ginseng (Chinese herb: Xi Yang Shen)
    2 quarts water
    2-3 tbs ghee (Indian clarified butter)
    2 tbsp Long Pepper, ground (Ayurvedic herb: pippali powder)
    1 tsp cardamom powder
    1 tsp cinnamon powder
    1/2 tsp clove powder
    1/4 tsp pink salt (Himalayan)
    1 cup organic molasses (approximately)

    This is the Long Pepper (Pippali Powder) I was
    lucky enough to find at our local Summit
    Spice & Tea. I just ground it to a powder in
    a little electric spice grinder.  Taste is peppery,
    but much milder and a little earthier than
    black pepper.

    Directions and my notes:
    Dry fruit-herbs

    Add the dried fruit and herbs (first 8 ingredients) to a pot along with 2 quarts of water, bring to a boil and simmer until it is reduced to a syrup-like consistency and the fruit and herbs are squishy. (NOTE: the original recipe says this takes about 1 hour, however it took me 2.5 hours - maybe because it's cold in Alaska?)
    After reducing to a syrup
    Allow the fruit-herb decoction to cool, then mix in a blender until smooth.  Strain the liquid through a mesh strainer into a measuring cup, taking note of exactly how much liquid you are left with.  (NOTE: Per original recipe I was expecting to have 1 cup liquid, however I ended up with about 2 cups still left after straining.  It was quite thick.)

    Blended & Strained
    In a separate pan, melt the ghee on medium heat and add the pippali, cardamom, cinnamon, clove and pink salt.  (NOTE: The ghee heated up so fast that I ended up turning the heat down to very low because it kept bubbling and popping up.)

    MMM....spices - the large pile on bottom
    left is the ground Long Pepper.

    Spices cooking in ghee
    Cook for a minute and then add the fruit herb decoction to this, along with an equal part molasses.  (NOTE: because the recipe called for approximately 1 cup molasses but I had ended up with 2 cups fruit herb decoction, I only added 1 full cup of molasses. When pouring, remember the saying "slow as molasses".... this is where it comes from.)

    Cook on low heat for about 10-15 minutes, stirring frequently.  Pour into a clean, dry glass bottle, seal and store in a cool location.  Dose is 1-2 Tbsp twice daily, with warm water.

    NOTE: Cooking this smelled herby and delicious! I took a dose when it was finished, and the taste is very spicy but pleasant - not really sweet at all the first day, but developed a really nice sweetness overnight.  The energy was warming, went to the center and spread out. Felt very nurturing. I'm really happy with this recipe!

    Cynthia McMullen is certified in Taoist Herbology and teaches the 5-Element Nutrition Workshops at Alaska Institute of Oriental Medicine, Acupuncture and Massage Therapy.  Follow her on Facebook TouchOfTao

    Thursday, June 28, 2012

    5-Element Nutrition: Balance Your Wood Element - Recipes

    As requested, from my recent workshop, these are the 4 recipes we ate to balance our Wood Element (Liver/GallBladder).  Unless noted, recipes are my own.

    1) Kindness Water

    In a 1 gallon water pitcher, combine the following:

    Organic lemon slices
    Organic lime slices
    Organic grapefruit slices
     - remove any seeds, but leave the peel on all of the citrus fruit to intensify the sour flavor that benefits the Liver.
     - use 2-3 thin slices of each.
    1 sprig fresh mint leaves

    Fill with purified water, let sit for at least 15 minutes, serve.
    From a Chinese medicine point of view, water is best served room temperature.  Ok to refrigerate this up to 3 days.

    2) Green Apple Salad
    Tart green apples are excellent for the Liver.  In addition, this salad is light and refreshing, making a great Spring side dish.

    Combine in a bowl:

    3 organic Green Apples, peeled, sliced into small pieces
    4 stalks organic Celery, rinsed, chopped into small pieces
    ¼ cup toasted Walnuts, bake at 250 degrees for 20 minutes then chop
    ½ cup Raisins, I used organic Sunview brand green seedless, which are really plump and sweet.

    Drizzle 1 large spoonful honey over the top.  I used Wee Bee Honey, naturally raw with pollen, propolis, and honeycomb bits in it.

    Add 1 cup plain yogurt.

    Stir everything together and serve.

    3) Potato Cauliflower Curry (Aloo Gobi)
    This is a recipe I tried from a great book, The Healing Spices by Bharat Aggarwal, PhD, 2011.  I included it because it highlights Turmeric which is a spice that is incredible for the Liver. It's also very important to find delicious ways to get anti-cancer vegetables into our food as often as possible (cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, kale, brussel sprouts).


    2 Tbs vegetable or olive oil
    2 tsp turmeric
    1 tsp cumin seed
    1 shallot, finely chopped
    3 cloves garlic, chopped
    1 28-oz can diced tomatoes
    1 medium head cauliflower, cut into florets
    1 ½ lbs. russet potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
    ½ tsp diced fresh ginger
    ½ tsp chili power
    ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
    1 Tbs garam masala (Indian spice mixture)
    Salt, to taste
    ¼ cup chopped cilantro (optional)

    1.  Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Add the turmeric and cumin seeds until the spices render their aroma, about 30 seconds. Add the chopped shallot and garlic and sauté, stirring frequently, until the shallots are soft, about 8 minutes.

    2.  Stir in the diced tomatoes, cauliflower, potatoes, ginger, chili powder, and ground pepper.  Reduce the heat, cover partially, and cook for 40 minutes, stirring frequently.  If the curry appears too dry and the vegetables start to stick to the pan, add some water.

    3.  Add the garam masala, simmer 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and keep covered until ready to serve.  Sprinkle with cilantro, if using, and serve.

    4) Millet & Maitake Mushroom Curry
    I thought the above recipe for Potato Cauliflower Curry needed something to go with other than plain rice, so I made this dish as a similar complement.  Millet is a delicious yellow earthy grain that benefits the Liver, and Maitake is a medicinal mushroom which strongly supports the Liver.  This recipe also highlights turmeric, “guardian of the liver”.

    1.  Put the millet on to cook.  Use 1 cup millet to 3 cups water, bring to a boil, turn down heat and simmer until done – about 20-30 minutes.  Remove from heat and let sit covered when done.

    2.  Make the Maitake Mushroom Curry.


    1 Tbsp olive oil
    1 fresh Maitake mushroom, rinsed and chopped.  Ok to substitute a re-constituted dried Maitake if fresh is not available.  8 Shiitake mushrooms (fresh or dried) would also be a viable substitute.
    1 28-oz can peeled, ground tomatoes
    2 cloves garlic, chopped
    1 inch fresh ginger root, peeled and chopped
    1 tsp ajwain seeds
    1 tsp turmeric
    1 tsp ground cumin
    1 tsp garam masala
    2 tsp curry powder (I used a Madras Curry variety from Summit Spice & Teas)
    Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

    1.  In a cast iron or other skillet, heat the olive oil.  When hot, add the ajwain seeds and turmeric.  Wait about 15 seconds then add the chopped garlic and ginger.  Stir.

    2.  Add the chopped Maitake mushroom and stir until the mushroom is starting to brown, about 5-8 minutes.

    3.  Add the can of tomatoes, turmeric, ground cumin, garam masala, and curry powder.  Stir.  Add salt and pepper to taste, stir again.

    4.  Add the millet 1 large spoonful at a time, stirring in, until desired consistency is formed.  Ok to add a little more water if needed.  I like this to be slightly on the wet side, rather than thick and dry.  Serve.

    Keep any unused millet refrigerated for 4-5 days.  Add to a soup like rice, or even mix with oatmeal in the morning.

    Cynthia McMullen, Program Director at Alaska Institute of Oriental Medicine, Acupuncture & Massage Therapy, teaches a very popular 12-chapter series in 5-Element Nutrition.  Workshops are held once each month, open to the general public.  For more information:

    Wednesday, May 23, 2012

    Cooking With Chinese Herbs

    As promised, here is the recipe for the soup I made at tonight's 5-Element Nutrition workshop on Chinese Herbal Healing Broths.

    This soup is delicious and gives a good idea of how you can play around with edible Chinese herbs.  The purpose was to give workshop participants a sample of how easy yet deeply satisfying herbal broths can be, and also how strongly you can "feel the Qi" from them!

    Step 1:  either make your own broth (vegetable or meat), or use an organic pre-made broth of your choice.  I usually use 4 cups of broth and add additional water as needed.

    Step 2:  Get the herbs ready to add to the broth. For this recipe I used Huang Jing, Kombu, 1 dried Maitake mushroom, Hong Zao, Ren Shen, Gou Qi Zi, & Huang Qi.  In this group, only the Huang Qi (stick-like root at the bottom) is not edible and will be removed after cooking.

    HINT:  I have found it much easier to add most herbs as they are, and chop them into small pieces after they have softened from being cooked in the broth.  The Hong Zao (red dates) however are extremely soft after cooking, so I usually cut them while still dry, as below:

    Step 3: Begin warming the broth in a stainless steel pot on the stove. Add the herbs, cover, bring to a gentle simmer for 30-minutes.

    Step 4: Remove from heat and strain the herbs out.  You'll have a nice container of herb broth that you can now use as is - keeps for up to 7 days in the refrigerator & you can freeze it.


    Step 5: If desired, chop the edible herbs into small pieces and add back into the broth.  They are very tasty and add a somewhat exotic quality to whatever you cook them into.

    HINT:  If using both edible & non-edible herbs, be sure to place non-edible herbs in a muslin bag or cheesecloth so you can easily separate & remove them.

    Here you can see how the same herbs from the 1st picture have plumped up and softened.  They will now be very easy to cut into little pieces.

    Step 6:  In a food processor, shred 1 large potato, a bunch of carrots, and 1 small green cabbage.  

    Step 7:  In a large soup pot, heat a spoonful of coconut oil and a dash of olive oil.  Once hot, add a healthy shake of "Panch Phora" Indian seeds.  This is a great combination of fenugreek, brown mustard seed, nigella, cumin, and fennel. If you're in Anchorage, I get mine at Summit Spice & Tea.  I also added about 1 Tbsp fresh chopped ginger root.

    Step 8: Once the seeds release their scent and begin to lightly pop, add all of the shredded veggies.  Then add the herbal broth.  Add additional water if needed to make a nice soup consistency.

    Step 9: Cover and simmer for about 30-minutes, until veggies are cooked well.  If desired, add a small amount of curry and salt to taste.

    HINT: When cooking with Chinese herbs, it's best to keep additional spices to a minimum.  In this soup, I added about 1/4 the amount of Panch Phora and Curry that I would normally use.

    Step 10: Remove from heat and allow to cool for 10-15 minutes.  Then add 1 can Coconut Milk, stir well, and it's ready to serve.  Enjoy!!  (Makes about 8-10 servings)

    Thursday, May 17, 2012

    Natural Help for Bladder Infection

    Making a Semi-Homeopathic Dose of Essential Oils
    can be a safe way to ingest them in many cases.

    This is an extremely quick & effective way to treat Damp Heat in the Lower Burner, or mild symptoms such as:  

    • frequent and urgent need to urinate with little to no urine coming out (frequent usually means multiple times per hour)
    • mild burning sensation when urinating
    • mild pain in the lower abdominal / bladder area
    If symptoms are severe or a high fever is present please consult your doctor.

    I only recommend using organic quality essential oils internally.  If you do not have organic quality or are not sure about what you have, best to err on the side of caution and do something else.

    For adults:

    1 drop of organic quality Tea Tree essential oil in an 8 oz glass of water.  Ok to add 1-2 drops Stevia herbal sweetener to the water if you don't like the taste.

    Drink this once per hour until symptoms are gone.  Many times just one dose will alleviate all symptoms, and usually about 4 doses at 1 per hour is the most someone would need.  This works very fast.

    For children 4-12 years old:

    Make an adult size dose as above.  

    Then add 1 tsp of that water to another glass of water to dilute it down further, and have the child drink this milder dosage.  Ok to add a drop of Stevia herbal sweetener to the water if the child doesn't like the taste.

    Again, drink once per hour until symptoms are gone, up to 6 times/day.

    Semi-Homeopathic Variation:

    For elderly, children, someone taking multiple medications, or someone who is weak from being ill

    • Two 1-oz dropper top glass bottles (available at many health food stores)
    • brandy, vodka, or vegetable glycerin (about 1 Tbsp)
    • Stevia herbal sweetener (optional)
    Fill the 1st bottle with filtered water.

    Add 6 drops of organic quality Tea Tree essential oil.

    Shake well.

    Label the bottle "Mother Bladder Infections" with today's date

    This bottle will need to be stored in the refrigerator.  It will keep for up to 1 year so you can make re-fills as needed.

    Fill the 2nd bottle with 10% brandy, vodka, or vegetable glycerin (about 1 Tbsp).  This acts as a preservative and also helps the essential oil to mix better.

    Fill the remaining 90% with filtered water.

    Add 10 drops of the "Mother" blend to this, and 2 drops Stevia herbal sweetener if using.  Shake well.

    Label the 2nd bottle "Dose Bladder Infections" with today's date.  This is the one you will actually use to take.

    This bottle does not need to be refrigerated, but can be if you want.  Using the Dose Bladder Infections bottle, shake, and add 3 drops to a glass of water.  Drink this dosage every hour until symptoms are gone, up to 6 times/day.

    If you make the semi-homeopathic dosage you may be very surprised to see how amazingly effective this natural remedy is - even at the extremely diluted dose!

    If symptoms of bladder infections are a chronic issue, there may be other health issues that need to be addressed to get to the underlying nature of why this happening so often. Please consult a qualified health care practitioner.

    Learn tons of great information from my On-Line Essential Oils Course series. You can study here at our school in Alaska from anywhere in the world!