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Monday, January 29, 2018

4 Acupressure Points for Cold and Flu Season

Well, we are definitely right smack in the middle of cold and flu season, folks! And while I always say the best medicine is prevention, there are some really strong viruses out there that can infect you no matter how well you take care of yourself.

what can you do if you find yourself a little (or a lot) under the weather?

My first answer may be a surprise to youthat acupuncture is fantastic for colds! If you’re at the early stages of a cold, acupuncture can sometimes help you avoid it all together. If it’s already gotten into your system, you will, unfortunately, have to let it run its course, but acupuncture will move it along more quickly and prevent it from going deeper (ie., from becoming something more serious, like pneumonia or bronchitis!). 

If you don’t have an acupuncture appointment coming up or can’t get one in the near future, however, the next best thing is to try out some acupressure on yourself.

Acupressure is an ancient therapy that uses the same channels (called meridians) that are used in acupuncture. In acupressure, the skin is never penetrated, but pressure is applied to particular points that trigger responses in other areas of the body. The points are named after the areas they affect.

If you're trying to beat a virus in your system, here are a few acupressure points you can use to ensure a speedy recovery.

But first: How to do effective acupressure

If you’re new to the medicine, finding the points may prove to be a little tricky at first. Good ways to know you’re on an acupuncture point are tenderness or soreness, a slight change in skin texture (this is very slight, but if you’re well versed with energy work, you will probably be able to identify the change), or a slight depression in the skin. The points selected today are easy to find and access, so don’t put too much thought into itjust start rubbing! Once you’re on the point, begin to apply steady, direct pressure with a small massaging motion for about 2-3 minutes. Feel around for congestion (which in this case means pain) and really dig into it.

The Points

Large Intestine 4 (LI4)

Location of the Acupressure Point: In the middle of the “V” formed by the thumb and the first finger. You can feel around and find roughly half way along the first hand-bone (your metacarpal), then roll off the bone. This point can be found in a pretty large area in comparison to some other points so you do not need to stress about being exactly on the point. This will still be extremely effective even if you massage that whole area in between the thumb and the first finger (as seen in the picture). Also, this point will be tender!

Effects: Used for any type of cold, strengthens immunity, it is the command point for the face, so any issues involving the head, i.e. headache, toothache, sinus congestion, sore throat, eye problems, allergies, you get the idea. This point is very moving, so it is contraindicated in pregnancy! If you are pregnant, best to stay away from this one and try one of the other amazing points, such as Lung 7.

Lung 7 (LU7)

Location of the Acupressure Point: Holding your forearm in front of you with your thumb pointing up towards the sky, take your first two fingers and place them right at the wrist crease. This point is found in a slight hollow or depression just beyond where your fingers will land (as seen in the photo). Because of the location of this point, I tend to pinch the skin up and then massage the point in that way. This also gives you a greater surface area, so there is a better chance you will land on the point.

Effects: Treats the common cold, neck, pain, and scratchy throat, runny nose and sneezing.
** LI4 & LU7 are a powerhouse duo for colds! 


Location of the Acupressure Point: This is an ‘extra point’ and is not found on one of the traditional meridians. This point is easy to find, if you slide two fingers down the nose you will feel yourself “fall off” the bone. This is the spot where the tissue of the nose changes from hard to soft, on most people, this is a substantial change.

Effects: This point is all about the nasal congestion. Pinching this spot with a finger on each side should immediately begin to open the sinuses and help you breathe easier.

Bladder 2  (BL2)

Location of the Acupressure Point: This is found right at the medial edge of the eyebrow (the end closest to your nose). Like L14, this point will be very tender if you are having any sort of sinus issues or headaches associated with your cold.

Effects: Opens the sinuses, relieves headaches, and activates the entire Bladder channel which runs along the whole length of the back body--this is an area that often gets tight and congested with colds as well. ** Biyan and BL2 are wonderful for sinus congestion, but go ahead and massage all around your face as well; forehead, under the eyes, temples. This will really get things moving and help relieve sinus pressure.

Colds and flus can get to the best of us, even those who work extremely hard on their health. When a cold hits, keep these key acupressure points in mind and start doing them right away. In addition, you can try making the cold fighting tea mentioned in my Winter Warming Drinks post, drink lots of water and do your best to take the time you need to restremember, you can’t pour from an empty cup. Trust me, the people around you will appreciate you more when you take care of yourself first.

Here’s to a healthy 2018!

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

5 Tips for Staying Balanced in the Holiday Season

We all know the holidays can stir up a lot of emotion. Some good, some not so good, but all the same, no one can argue that most of us are feeling A LOT this time of year. 

I don’t know about you, but when things get busier and end of the year to-do lists pile up, the things I tend to let slip are the things that would usually help me the most: self care, time with friends, yoga, reading a good book--all the small, good things that keep my soul healthy. They easily get replaced with holiday shopping, and baking, and decorating… 

Don’t get me wrong. These activities all have their place and bring a little joy to my heart in their own way. But you get what I’m saying, right? It’s like all of our “regular routines” fall away, we lose our structure, and sometimes with that goes our grounding. 

In order to get through an emotionally challenging time of year for many of us, it is crucial that we have a firm foundation. Following are 5 tips that help me during the holidays. As always, you will need to find what works for you, but hopefully these give you a little bit of a jumpstart in the right direction!

1 - Gratitude

One of the most grounding and resetting activities I’ve found is to write in a gratitude journal. This is a simple task I do right before I go to bed. I either write a simple list of what I am grateful for, or I think of an event that went well during my day, why it went well, and why I am grateful to myself for orchestrating it in a positive way. 

I’ve read and concur that putting more specifics and feelings into the lists makes the activity even more powerful. An example of this is, rather than writing “I’m grateful for my family” but writing instead, “I’m so grateful for my father, he makes me laugh and he has such a kind heart.” This simple task that takes no more than 5-10 minutes carries so much power.

2 - Love

Take some time out and do something that you love. This time of year, our focus tends to be on others constantly, and oftentimes ends up being very materially-focused. I believe this is a big player in what contributes to us feeling so unsettled during the holidays. 

I encourage you to look deeper into your heart and ask yourself what YOU love about this time of year. If that is ice skating, take yourself ice skating! If that is binge-watching the Hallmark channel and drinking gallons of eggnog, do that. (Well, maybe not gallons...) The holidays were magical to us as kids for a reason. Look down deep and find what it is that little inner child used to love doing or maybe has always wanted to do, forget about everything and everyone else for even as little as an hour, and do your thing!


Things change. Financial burdens arise; loved ones are lost; deadlines and stress loom at work--not to mention all the things on the news that are gut-wrenching. It can be excruciatingly painful during times of joy and celebration because we cling to “what used to be.” 

Trust me, I am a very “feeling” person, and I tend to hold tightly to the memories that came before. A simple activity I’ve found that helps me a little is taking some time to myself and giving myself the gift of walking down memory lane. 

Sometimes I like to do this on a literal walk in the woods. I let myself cry, feel, laugh, and acknowledge whatever it is that comes up. Sometimes the walk is enough for me. Other times I need a little follow-up, usually journal writing. Either way, I give myself the space to feel, and then I come back to the present and do one of the things listed above such a writing in my gratitude journal or doing something that I love to remind myself of the goodness still around me.


Connect with others! I have been feeling so compelled to curl up in a ball and sleep the holidays away this year. But you know just as well as I do that this life of ours is all about connection. No matter how introverted you may be, spending time with a loved one can without a doubt lift your spirits. It can be as simple as grabbing a cup of tea, going for a walk, or taking a yoga class. This is so easy, yet oh-so powerful.


Yes. Yes. Yes. A must-have to finish off the other 4 powerhouse ideas for grounding during this busy, emotion producing, time of year is compassion. Compassion that you WILL feel lots of things, you WILL get sad, you WILL feel stress, but you WILL also feel JOY. 

Developing compassion for yourself can be extremely difficult. I like to do this by starting out in the morning with a small routine that resonates with me; I find I can foster more compassion for myself throughout the rest of the day when I stick to a particular exercise.  

Lately, my favorite exercise has been to stand in front of a mirror in “superhero pose” (hands on hips, chest lifted high) and repeat the mantra: “Everything happens for me, not to me.” I do it in front of the mirror because the connection with my eyes brings me back into my heart, but it can be done anywhere. 

This is just a suggestion. The key is getting into your heart. Some patients tell me they do this by watching YouTube videos of cute animals; some do it by going for a walk outside; some look at old photos. Once again: whatever resonates for you. When you are in your heart, you will know it. You soften, and you can go forward in the world with much more compassion. Compassion for others begins with yourself!

This time of year is challenging in so many ways, all of which are deeply personal and specific to each one of you. I hope some of my gentle suggestions can help you find some peace. I wish for you a season filled with whatever it is that comes up - and the compassion for yourself to know that you are doing your best. 

Warmest thoughts,

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Warm Winter Drink Trifecta

In honor of the frigid temperatures creeping in and settling upon us, I've compiled 3 of my most favorite and easiest recipes for drinks that will warm you deep down to your soul. They are super easy and really fun to make! I hope you enjoy! 

1. Golden Milk Latte

1 cup raw milk (my preference but any sort of milk or nut milk will also work) 
4 slices raw turmeric 
2 slices raw ginger
4-5 peppercorns 
1 cinnamon stick 
1 big scoop of coconut butter 

* This little cup of happiness is super easy to make! Simply put all ingredients in a saucepan and heat up gradually, stirring occasionally while it is warming. 

Why it’s good for you? 
For a more detailed description of the herbs, you can refer to this previous post where I wrote a breakdown of their actions in both eastern and western medical thought. If you just want the short of it, this delightful golden milk latte is extremely warming and nourishing. It contains herbs that are anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting. It will warm you right down to your toes during the cold winter months! 

Who is it good for? 
Those who have a lot of chronic pain in the body or who struggle with frequent colds or upset stomachs. It is also amazing for those of you with poor circulation resulting in frigid extremities, especially in the winter. This is good for anybody looking to improve their energy and nourish their soul!

Pumpkin coffee

1 cup regular or decaf organic coffee
½ tsp. cinnamon 
½ tsp. nutmeg 
½ cup raw milk (my preference but any sort of milk or raw milk will work) 
1 hefty spoonful of pumpkin puree 
1 Tbs maple syrup 
1 tsp butter (my preference is Kerrygold unsalted) 

  1. Brew up your coffee any way you like - french press or traditional drip, adding the cinnamon and nutmeg to the coffee grounds 
  2. While that’s percolating, combine the rest of the ingredients, the milk, pumpkin, maple syrup, and butter in a saucepan and gently warm on low heat 
  3. When coffee is brewed and the pumpkin mixture is warmed, pour both into your blender and blend for a few seconds. (This creates a latte consistency. If you don’t have a blender or are short on time, this step could easily be omitted. Simply stir the pumpkin mixture into your coffee mug and you're good to go!)

Why it’s good for you? 
When you add fats to coffee, your system absorbs the coffee more slowly, so you do not have as intense highs and lows when drinking it. The butter in this recipe helps with slow absorption. Pumpkin is loaded with antioxidants and fiber, and can greatly help improve immunity. Raw milk is fabulous in that you get so any nutrients from it that are harshly stripped away when it is pasteurized. Cinnamon and nutmeg taste great and help warm the extremities, and maple syrup is a nice natural sweetener. Plus? It makes you smile, because you’re drinking a pumpkin latte that has actual, real ingredients, instead of the sugary, chemically mixes you usually get when you order out. 

Who it’s good for? 
You can refer to my previous post for more detail about if coffee is something that would harm or help your health. The biggest takeaway is that nothing is either completely good or bad, what’s really important is how it makes you feel!

Chase that cold out elixir 

1 cup water 
4 thick slices of ginger
4 thick slices of turmeric 
2 cinnamon sticks 
5 black peppercorns 
1 lemon 
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar (ACV) 
1 tbsp honey 

* This is very quick and easy... exactly what you need when you’re sick!

  1. Boil water in your tea kettle or on the stove
  2. Slice up your ginger and turmeric, and gather the rest of the ingredients 
  3. Throw everything in a cup and juice 1 whole lemon into it 
  4. Add the hot water 
  5. Allow to cool slightly. Then sip just like a tea and REST. (I keep all ingredients in, they sink to the bottom so it’s not a huge deal- if you prefer, you could let it steep and then strain out the ingredients but it will not be as potent this way) 

Why it’s good for you? 
You’ve got a smorgasbord of some really heavy hitters when it comes to colds: lemon, ACV, and honey are all fabulous. Then, of course, you’ve got my favorite and extremely versatile herbs in there: ginger and cinnamon that function to powerfully help your body fight the virus if you're under the weather. 

Who it’s good for? 
This can be used in the winter to warm up the body and help boost the immune system, or it can be used when you have a full on energy-sucking, head-pounding, nose-blowing cold. The ingredients are great to help you heal, they are also all quite warming which can help knock the cold out of you quicker. My “go-to” when I’m sick is to make this decoction and then cover up under a pile of blankets with a scarf and hat on my head. I even add garlic on my feet and in my ears if they are also sore (I know, seriously attractive). Then I let myself quite literally “sweat it out." If you can catch it at the first sign of the cold, this method can be extremely effective and you might avoid getting sick all together! 

I hope you enjoy these drinks as much as I do!!  XO,

Monday, October 30, 2017

3 Simple Ways to Stay Balanced During the Fall

As a New England native, I’m predisposed to fall. The air gets crisp, the trees burst with color, and pumpkin coffee draws excited crowds out to all the local coffee shops.

I’ve come to learn, however, that inasmuch as I love this season, many people are not so attached. For years I wondered how this could be; but when I entered the field of Traditional Chinese Medicine, the reason became clear. In most places across the Land of the Free, fall merely marks the downward spiral into winter--a season of short days, chilly nights, and colorless, dreary skies.

As physicists have explained time and time again, everything is energy. Energy makes up our bodies, the world around us, the food we eat, the air we breathe--everything about life and matter. The seasons, therefore, have their own energies as well. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which is very rooted in the principle of energy, sees summer as the most Yang (vibrant, hot, excited, active) time of the year, while winter is seen as the most Yin (cool, calm, dark, heavy). Fall is a hinge, a transition period out of the Yang and into the Yin. We see this in the physical changes marked by the season: the leaves changing color and falling off the trees, the animals collecting and storing food for the winter, how we start wearing extra layers and perhaps going to bed a little earlier. We, and nature are preparing for the cold, the winter, the most Yin time of the year. This transition can be seen and felt as a preparation for loss, a time of letting go of the warmth and sunshine and turning more towards a time of stillness, waiting, and introspection. 

TCM connects each of the seasons to specific meridian/channel systems in the body. Autumn correlates with the Lungs and the Large Intestine meridians. Today we’ll focus primarily on the Lung meridian system because it is incredibly vulnerable this time of year.

In TCM, the Lungs are known as the “delicate organ.” They are substantially affected by cold and dry temperatures, wind, fluctuating seasonal changes, and sadness/grief--all things that transpire in the fall. When the hours of daylight shorten, the leaves and other plants begin to die, and the temperatures get cooler, is it a very common thing for people’s moods to also drop--many people even have this diagnosed as seasonal affective disorder (SAD). 

Basically, fall creates the perfect storm against the Lungs, and they become very easily damaged. This in turn causes more sadness, colds and flus, seasonal allergies, shortness of breath, difficulty exercising or walking upstairs, abnormal sweating, and even a chronically hunched over posture that the body adapts in order to protect the lungs--often leading to upper back and neck tightness. If these ailments continue long enough and cause enough imbalance in the body, then urinary issues, asthma, and long-standing depression can develop, which can then offset other symptoms and imbalances connected with other meridian systems. So what’s the takeaway? Take extra good care of your Lungs this time of year! 

Following are 3 of the simplest ways you can ensure you make it through this transition period with an uplifted spirit and a healthy set of lungs.

1. Breathe Deep 
One of the easiest and most effective ways to take care of your Lungs is to breathe deeply. Sounds simple, right? Well, when anxiety and stress set in, one of the quickest things to go is our attention to the breath. We begin to hold our breath or take really shallow gulps of air--oftentimes through our mouths, which can contribute to the anxious feelings. To ensure deep and steady breath, begin by taking really conscious breaths throughout the day, inhale through your nose, and exhale through your nose. Fill up your lungs all the way to the top and then exhale every ounce of air out. If you find yourself in a stressful situation, start counting your breath and make your exhales slightly longer than your inhales--this doesn’t have to be substantial to make a difference, even a slight elongation of the exhale can help. Lengthening out your exhales will calm your sympathetic nervous system and instantly have a calming effect on the mind and the body. 

2. Do Yoga

Do some yoga poses to help open up the Lung meridian. The Lung meridian runs along the inside of your chest, across your pectoral muscles. This is one of the first areas to tighten when the lungs are affected, and as mentioned above, this can set off a domino affect and create a tremendous amount of pain and tension in your upper back and neck. You can work to gradually open this area every day to ensure this doesn’t happen by doing these 3 simple poses. Go deeper into each one until you begin to feel an opening or a stretch but you do not lose control and depth of your breath. Your breathing should not suffer as you go deeper into the pose. Keep your inhales and exhales long and steady. 

1. Extended Puppy Pose is a wonderful pose to open up the Lung meridian, and it has the cutest name ever! To get into this pose begin on all fours and start to walk your hands forward--your toes should stay tucked to ensure stability, and your glutes should stay lifted to allow for maximum stretch of your chest muscles and a nice elongation of your spine. An additional benefit here is that your head is below your heart so it is technically an inversion, and thus it has a great power to calm the mind. Keep your arms active and your forehead facing the floor. (If this is difficult for you, placing a blanket or block under your forehead may help.)

2. Broken/Open Wing Pose is referred to by many different names. Whatever you choose to call it, this is a must-do for your Lung meridian this fall; it is second to none when it comes to opening up your pectoralis muscles. This pose can be done with a bent or straight arm. I prefer bent and find it gets more into my pectoralis minor this way which is a huge player in poor posture. There are many different stages to this pose--get into them slowly and check in with your body and your breath every step of the way. Options to ensure neck safety and stability are to place a block under your head or to do this pose at a wall. Begin by lying face down with your arms out to the side, then simply start to open up in one direction--your top leg can bend and the sole of your foot can plant on the floor if you have the flexibility and openness in your chest.

3. Heart opener with blocks is my absolute favorite! It’s an amazing heart opener and it puts my mind instantly at ease. This is done with two yoga blocks with the block under your head being a higher height. The second block goes right between your shoulder blades level with the bottom of your scapula (the triangular shaped bones on each side of your back). If you don’t own yoga blocks, this pose can be done by stacking different books to your desired height--just ensure that your head is slightly higher than your back, this helps protect your neck. Then open your arms out the the side, palms face the ceiling and allow yourself to settle into in the pose and soak up the benefits with some deep belly breaths. 

3. Get outside.

Yes, the Lungs are vulnerable to the cooler temperatures, but there is nothing better for them than breathing deep in the great outdoors. Take short walks and make an effort to spend time in nature daily--just ensure that you are dressing “seasonably." A great thing to start adding to your fall attire is a scarf around the neck.  Who knows? Maybe you could even get a little wild and connect all 3 suggestions--take a walk outside with your yoga mat, and set up to do some deep breathing and some lung opening yoga poses all at the same time!

If we can begin to understand the energetics of each season and what imbalances and symptoms they tend to cause in the body, then we can take better care of ourselves and prevent future illnesses and dysfunctions. Staying on top of your health preventatively is the best form of medicine. 

Here’s to a nice fall and happy lungs, 

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Coffee: Good or Bad? A Point of View from Chinese Medicine

Coffee: Is it good for your health, or is it bad? Even if you’re an infrequent java drinker, you know this is a heavily debated topic. Experts from all health and nutrition perspectives have thoughts on the subject. Unhelpfully, these thoughts are usually extreme: Advocates for coffee cite antioxidant properties that could prevent cancer, while other experts say research shows drinking multiple cups a day could shorten your lifespan. How do you know who is telling the truth?

Let’s consider first that true health experts have your best interest at heart, and simply share what they can, based on their approach to learning medicine and the human body, as well as on what they’ve seen and experienced in their own lives to be true. Therefore aspects of all approaches could be true, even if the information presented by one group seems to contradict information from another.

So what’s the viewpoint in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)?

From a TCM approach, no food is considered inherently good or bad. Food--and drink--is classified by its properties. In TCM, food is seen as a form of medicine--arguably the frontline of medicine, because it is consumed every single day, and works internally to provide the foundation of fuel and fight for daily living.

In TCM, whether or not a food is healthful or harmful is determined by what your body tells you. In TCM, you can ask yourself:

  • Am I suffering an imbalance? (Indicated by feeling one thing when you want to feel something else, such as cold when you want to feel warm, pain when you want to feel comfort, restlessness when you want to feel calm, etcetera)
  • What do I need to achieve balance? (What will make me feel the way my body says it wants to feel?)

When it comes to coffee, this pick-me-up drink has properties the same way other herbs or foods do that are listed in the Materia Medica. Coffee’s thermal nature is warm or hot. Its taste is bitter and sweet. It is considered a purgative. Although these things may seem obvious, and maybe therefore unhelpful, consider that coffee may make you feel warmer as you are drinking it; it may taste bitter, causing a physical reaction; it may leave you feeling slightly dehydrated; and it might help stimulate those regular bowel movements your doctor so awkwardly wants you to have. These things are significant because coffee can be either healing or harming depending on your body’s present condition; i.e., how much it does--or doesn’t--need these side effects.
Take for example that coffee is warming in nature. When you eat or drink warm-natured things, the action of consuming them often has a warming effect on the body--it can increase your circulation and elevate your heart rate. People who “run cold” tend to suffer a variety of familiar symptoms, such as bloating after eating, cold hands and feet, edema, fatigue, and a significant lack of energy and desire to sleep. For these people, the warming nature of coffee can be helpful and healthful, offering them a little “get up and go.”

If you’re not one of these people and you tend to “run warm,” you might have any variety of symptoms consisting of hot flashes, mouth sores/ulcers, anxiety, restless sleep and vivid dreaming, a bitter taste in your mouth, irritability, heartburn, and burning urination and/or bowel movements. In this case, coffee may not be the best beverage for you.

Chances are, however, that you already know the effects coffee has on you. You don’t need a health expert to tell you the positive effects of coffee if you know you don’t react to it well; nor do you need a health expert to tell you why you should quit when you know it gets you through the afternoon slump. The key in TCM is to tune into your own body, and trust what it tells you. It is always giving you valuable feedback.

When you drink coffee, how do you feel? Do you get agitated, irritable or anxious? Do you develop palpitations, have trouble sleeping, do you have hot flashes, sweat more, or feel overly excited and anxious? If so, you may want to back off on the joe for the time being, but remember: Nothing is static. Your body is ever-changing, so you may not have to cut out the delicious goodness forever.

Optional coffee add ins:

-If you run cold with extremely cold hands and feet: try adding cinnamon and nutmeg to your morning brew! It can add just the right amount of flavor and increase the warming nature with gentle and effective herbs.

-If you run warm and coffee makes you feel incredibly anxious, but you just LOVE your morning hug in a mug, try adding dairy or heavier oils to your cup, such as coconut oil or butter. This will have a more grounding and rooting effect, and may help you tolerate the coffee a little better.

One last thought, because we can’t talk about coffee without addressing caffeine… often people follow up my soap box speech about thermal nature and properties of coffee with a question about decaf coffee.

In terms of TCM, the two breeds of coffee share the same properties. Remember that TCM is a very old medicine, and over the years, we have developed many short-cuts and alternatives to things just so we can have what we want, even though they are not especially good for us. Taking this into account, there are many other factors to consider when determining if coffee is right for you, such as extreme caffeine sensitivities or allergies. You individually may want to avoid coffee altogether regardless of the healing properties listed above if you suffer extreme side effects because of your genetic makeup.

Here’s to your health,